Lately I’ve been watching Lucifer. Before that, I’ve enjoyed shows like Bones, Dexter, The X Files, Marcella, and Wallander. Law and Order has been running for as long as I can remember, must be at least 20 years now! We hear Trump call for Law and Order over and over again, while sowing the seeds and outright supporting chaos and cruelty. Then there’s COPS, a show finally canceled this year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement.
COPS perpetuated racial stereotypes while giving a highly-edited look at what police face every day, perpetuating the stereotype that cops are good. Although they billed the show as giving a “real” look at what cops deal with, I can tell you as a former documentarian, you see exactly what they want you to see. In this case: cops = good. They are the protagonists. Not to mention it was one of (if not) the earliest reality show. They are produced. They are staged. They are loosely scripted. …and so was COPS.
Nonetheless, Americans tuned in for 32 years to see “real” cops keeping the dangerous criminal element at bay, never thinking about what was on the cutting room floor. Police can’t buy such great PR, not to mention 32 years of it. Scores of officers who became police claim it’s because of COPS that they joined the Blue Line.
Then take into account the cop dramas, too. As I said before, I love them! Marcella, Luther, Lucifer, Bones, The X Files, and others, these are cops / feds who are likeable, even loveable, and relatable. They are highly intelligent, kind, and compassionate. They are the good guys. Whenever we see a “bad” cop, they are usually dealt with swiftly, and if not, they are at least characterized as “the bad guy” or someone not worthy of trust, whatever their reasons.
So, when we people about police brutality in the streets, their cognitive dissonance kicks in. They can’t believe it because our cultural script teaches us that cops = good. Period. We tell our children to find a police officer if they’re lost: someone safe who they can trust. Have you been robbed? Call the cops. One of the things I’ve heard most in response to the cry to “Defund the Police” is: Who are you going to call after you’ve been raped?
Police and legal dramas, the criminal is caught and successfully prosecuted, except in the rarest instances. In reality, no suspect is arrested in nearly 40% of murders. For rape, the figures are very heartbreaking. Only 14% of rapists will ever see the inside of a courtroom, and only 3% will ever spend a single day in jail. Whereas the FBI/DOJ claims that 33% of rape cases were “cleared,” notice that interesting word, that figure doesn’t take into account the misfiled rape/sexual assault reports. Through countless stores, as well as my own experience, rapes reports are not filed under rape or sexual assault. Cops coerce the victim to recant. They victim-blame and question the survivor in a way that causes secondary trauma, and then when they know there isn’t enough physical evidence (which their rarely is) to even possibly get a conviction, they file it under “Miscellaneous Incident” so it doesn’t further skew their “cleared” rate for sexual assault.
In the aftermath of my assault in 2012, I read everything I could on Rape Culture and other survivors stories in order to try and understand or process everything. It was then I read a chilling article called “I Am a False Rape Allegation Statistic,” and even to think about it today—8 years later—makes me sick and so very angry. This article makes me realize how easy I got off with the police when I reported my assault, because not only was mine filed as a “Miscellaneous Incident” after the police suggested I was “crying rape” to cover up an affair from my husband, but they also didn’t even question the rapist. However, this survivor’s story is even more horrific. She tells her story of how reporting her stereotypical stranger rape, not even someone she knew like over 85% of sexual assault, turned into a nightmare. The police made her re-enact her rape with one of the officers playing the role of rapist, then they threatened her with jail time for false reporting, even though there was physical evidence.
Traumatized even further, she recanted out of fear and exhaustion, and they filed it under a false allegation. Yep. Still… the cops are “the good guys.”
Now that we’ve established why we think the cops are the “good guys” with a tiny few examples of how they’re not, let’s move onto “Police Brutality Bonds”
Vice News reports, “New York City issued more than $237 million for NYPD payouts on legal settlements and judgements in 2018 alone. When faced with big legal bills or settlements, cities have lots of ways to come up with cash. Some have dedicated funds, some have insurance policies. Others finance their legal obligations by selling bonds, just as they would to raise money for infrastructure or public parks. And that’s where Wall Street makes bank, with next to no risk.”
These “Police Brutality Bonds” (aka general obligation bonds) pay out millions in fees, so big banks are falling over themselves to underwrite them. These bonds “quite literally allow banks and wealthy investors to profit from police violence,” according to a 2018 report from the Action Center on Race and the Economy. While taxpayers normally foot the bill for police settlements, the added interest on the bonds can nearly double the costs.
In other words, when an investor buys $10 million in bonds, he collects almost $8.5 million in interest over the bond’s lifetime, while taxpayers will be paying off that interest until the bond matures in a decade.
“In the first four months of 2020, Chicago had already paid out $17 million to victims of police violence,” and that was before the BLM protests began at the end of May. … and there will be much, much more.
Since George Floyd’s murder-by-cop, over 10,000 protesters have been arrested and 17 people have been killed by police. Legal action taken by these victims of police violence often result in settlements rather than any kind of real punishment or any sort of repercussions for the officers committing the violence. One of those arrestees from Chicago—Damon Williams—said, “It feels intentional. They’re choosing to take money from us, our schools, our public housing, and give it to Wall Street…Meanwhile, there’s a lawless, militarized force being used to surveil Black people.”
The police are indeed lawless. They have such a strong union, that they can get away with anything—and they do. Not only unprovoked, nightly, video-captured assaults against unarmed American citizens, but they also get away with rape and murder. 40% of police officers abuse their spouses, sometimes including rape and ultimately muder, The Atlantic reports.
So many say these are just a “few bad apples,” but two points there.
- 40%—nearly half!! (and those are the reported ones)
- If the others are the “good apples,” the kinds of cops we love on TV, then why are they letting the “bad apples” get away with such brutality at work and at home?
Doesn’t that make them “bad apples” too?
SOURCES & RESEARCH
Vice News: Wall Street is Making Millions Off Police Brutality
USA Today: Municipal taxpayers foot the bill for police brutality with interest-collecting bonds
CNN: How ‘Cops’ shaped public opinion about police and people of color over the last 30 years
NPR: TV Cop Shows Affect Real-World Policing, Study Says
Deseret News: How shows like “Cops” and “Law & Order” affect our views of the police
The Washington Post: TV shows shape how law enforcement is viewed
The Guardian: How does the reality TV show Cops stack up against real-life crime figures
The Intercept: NYPD Cops Who Raped Brooklyn Teen in Custody Get No Jail Time
The Atlantic: Police Have a Much Bigger Domestic-Abuse Problem Than the NFL Does