In the leadup to our next episode, as yet without Question, I thought we’d try something a little different. An occasional feature on Vice Games takes the form of correspondence between two or more writers working out an idea, just the publication of an email thread. Because I need your help with some preliminary thoughts, I felt this format might suit us here. Also, it hearkens back to the very origin of our podcast, if you remember how we traded ideas on the first Google doc. If this ends up going nowhere or you’re not feeling it, obviously we can keep it published to Gmail, but otherwise I’d like to open it to our audience. I’ll take any perspective, and as much experience/expertise as possible. To the business — I need you to poke holes in a frantic theory.
I’ll be honest with you, the national tragedies have hit me slowly, and this is a direct and unfortunate consequence of disconnection. I recently “solved” Twitter — you don’t have to delete the app and miss the infrequent DMs, you just have to train yourself not to open the damn thing. I think my welling disgust at liberal discourse (almost just the rhetoric, not even the ideas) helped still my thumb, but this leaves me bereft as anyone who scans above the “fold” of CNN at lunch every day. Now missing that color commentary, I read the recent shootings and protests as just another fucking day at the office. Hence my rather glib Facebook comment on your post the other day, as well as my inability to speak to this at all. It was only in hearing the sound of your voice on Skype Wednesday night, you trying to shape these events toward action and finding that we’ve exhausted our retinue and maybe our already limited powers. It’s different this time, even if it’s so much the same.
But this is worrying: I can feel the desensitizing in me. This is around the 228th police shooting this year and maybe the fifth I’ve heard about in 2020, on top of the seven years it’s been since BLM started. I’ve watched movies dramatizing police shootings; it is “a thing,” and that’s numbing. Now, the only difference between myself and so many I know is that I actually have a Proverbial Black Friend (though let me just say you’re more than that to me — cue Randy Newman music?), and so to put myself in the proper mindset, I just need to think about you in a situation like this, no matter how morbid that is. And perhaps unlikely — the way you talk about issues of race puts you at once above the fray and inside it, which I think sets the people around you at ease.
So much to say, the question didn’t come right away, but it’s here now: “What can I do?” and that’s a frustrating question because we don’t imagine there’s an answer. Instead, I’d rather begin with: “What must be done?” First, “What changes need to be made / What does an ideal system look like,” before “How do we get there?” So, if we could go back in time, how do we prevent Derek Chauvin from murdering George Floyd? Does he make a different choice? Does a black officer show up instead? Does no officer show up? Whether or not these would’ve saved him, again I want to redirect the focus, onto what institutional changes translate to those outcomes. The training that results in the different choice, the hiring policies that result in a black officer being there that day, the culture of policing (see: Anne Cooper) that reduces the 911 calls in the first place. Usually, that’s where the conversation ends: “institutional change.” We say that like it’s “Bingo,” and move on, until the next tragedy. Part of that is, of course, that people like you and I have absolutely zero sway on how “the police” operates. Even the institution is too abstract — how could anyone interface with it?
The thing that stuck out to me, and the reason I’m even writing this, is that Chauvin had a history of complaints filed against him. So I decided to look and see if this was true for the other high-profile killers. If it is, my mind immediately goes to Moneyball. It sounds idiotic (and then too simple), but what if we could use “a history of complaints” as a predictor of bad behavior (what the fuck else would it be used for?) and then separate out the infamous “bad apples”? To use a phrase I hate dearly, “That’s it. That’s the tweet.” Alongside better training and my thing — that cop shows are state propaganda and should be illegal to produce — reducing the bad actors would work, right?
So that’s one problem — I don’t know if that’s true. It sounds too easy. And then the other problem is that there’s no way to know who these bad actors are, right? We can’t access police personnel. Civil complaints however, are a matter of public record:
- Jerame Reid: Braheme Days — no complaints filed / Roger Worley — no complaints filed
- Antonio Marin: Unknown police officer
- Akai Gurley: Officer Peter Liang — no complaints filed
- Laquan McDonald — Jason D. Van Dyke: Since 2001, some 20 citizen complaints have been filed against Officer Van Dyke, but none resulted in disciplinary action
- Ezell Ford: Antonio Villegas — no complaints / Sharlton Wamper — one of two officers accused in a 2011 lawsuit of assaulting and pepper spraying members of a South Los Angeles family in 2009
- Tamir Rice: Timothy Loehmann — no civil complaints / Frank Garmback — In 2014, the City of Cleveland paid US$100,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit brought against him by a local woman. The settlement does not appear in Garmback’s personnel file.
- Dontre Hamilton: Officer Christopher Manney — no complaints filed
- Eric Garner: Daniel Pantaleo — Pantaleo was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 where plaintiffs accused him of falsely arresting them and abusing them (graphic details) (Also, other officers were involved: Justin Damico first approached him)
- Oscar Grant: Johannes Mehserle — After the shooting, a Bay Area man has reported to the media that Mehserle had beaten him on November 15, 2008; Mehserle’s police report said that four officers grabbed the man after he yelled threats and assumed a fighting stance. The accuser was taken to the hospital for chest and facial injuries; he was later booked into jail for resisting arrest. He has not filed a formal complaint against BART.
- Michael Brown: Darren Wilson — no complaints filed
- Freddie Gray: Lieutenant Brian W. Rice — The Guardian reported that, in 2012, Rice had allegedly threatened to kill himself and the husband of his former partner. He had been hospitalized, reportedly, for a mental health evaluation and given an administrative suspension. (However, five other lower-ranked officers were involved and have no complaints)
- Sandra Bland: Brian Encinia — no complaints filed
- Philando Castile: Jeronimo Yanez — no complaints filed
- Alton Sterling: Howie Lake II and Blane Salamoni — had both been previously investigated and cleared by their department for allegedly having used excessive force. Lake was also involved in a previous shooting of an African American male, where the fleeing suspect crashed his car into a house and then began firing at the six officers pursuing him.
(Side note, “According to CNN, “the Chicago Police Department has about 12,000 officers. Like [Jason] Van Dyke, 402 officers have 20 or more complaints on file in the database. The most complaints against any officer, according to the database, is 68. The database shows that of the 20 complaints against Van Dyke none resulted in discipline. Five complaints in the database were “not sustained,” five were unfounded, four resulted in exoneration, five had unknown outcomes and one resulted in no action taken.”” So that’s 19 out of 8040 (lowball estimate) complaints that we might call “false accusations,” or 0.23%)
This was a depressing trip through history, to say the least, and most of them were only the incidents from 2014. Certainly, I was disappointed to learn that many of these officers did not have complaints filed (based on what was written up on Wikipedia, and sometimes with a quick google search). Either way, we obviously can’t use it as a 100% predictor, but certainly, let’s get rid of these guys who have these complaints on file. And so the question becomes: why haven’t we? Why didn’t we? What’s the point of these complaints if they don’t do anything? I understand that the burden of proof is citizen against cop, and that’s an uphill battle, but how aren’t bad actors a liability on the system once the’re already a financial liability?
Again, why is the system set up that there’s no disruption when “to protect and serve” is violated? Why did the city of Los Angeles pay four million dollars to settle the abuse of Operation Hammer? Why can they always settle their way out of accountability? The only ones who can hold the police accountable are other police. And within the police, there’s a military-like insider culture of brotherhood — outside the police there’s a sacredness (thanks in part to police procedurals and some run-off from “Support the Troops”). The police are essentially good, and if we criticize them, we’re ungrateful or what if we need them? And if they’re convicted, cops get it bad in prison — this we also understand. It’s like everything fell into place to create the perfect protection mechanism, a system that perfectly erases crime and feeds on that most implacable thing — all our racism.
Here’s what I have so far: is there a public database for civil complaints filed against police officers? And how could we apply that data? What other data might we apply, possibly instead? Is the application of data even the right approach? I really just want to apply data somewhere, but you knew that already.
Included is an excerpt from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic article “The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration“, Chapter IV: ‘The Crime-Stained Blackness of the Negro”. This is a key – I think the key – of the issue of inequality when it comes to Black Americans and Police: The argument of an inherent pathology in black people, birthed in thought primarily thanks to the Moynihan Report which argued that the black family household suffers under forced matriarchy from a lack of black fathers, asserting that it was the government’s responsibility to provide basic income to black family’s to keep them afloat over the icy depths on their inherent lack of morality.
Most/Many people understand this to be patronizing, condescending bullshit, but its effects in the minds of Americans reach far and wide. Childish Gambino has a lyric in his Camp album:
“This one kid said something that was really bad/
He said I wasn’t really black because I had a dad/
…I think that’s kinda sad/
Mostly ’cause a lotta black kids think they should agree with that/”
But more than that, I’ve really been stuck on the “Black-On-Black Crime” retort, which I haven’t seen bandied about SO much this past weekend but I’ve been bracing for as the eventual meteor to prepare for when it hits (I also may still have FF7 on the brain). Because it keeps coming up, to the point that respectability politics is an old favorite of the old guard. My dad goes back to it all the time, and he’s furious at the riots and looters. It’s such a signifier though, where one’s foremost interest are at. If you state sympathy for George Floyd first, and follow up with “But” – you’re uninterested in radical change. If it’s reversed, condemning the rioting and looting but following up with “But” before getting into racism, that’s where your head is at. Only understanding that these are a domino effect without needing to understand precisely how or why gets us where we want to be. But we need the backup of specific, literal, actual factuals to combat this. “Systemic Racism” and “History” are too shorthand that they fall into platonic vagaries.
Check out the doc I sent, and if you have a lot of time, feel free to go through the entire Atlantic article. I’ve read the whole thing as it was included in We Were Eight Years in Power, but it’s been a couple of years. It’s essential text nonetheless, and I recommended it to a Young Black Man at work yesterday who was searching for The New Jim Crow (we couldn’t find it for him at first but eventually did and he snatched it right up).
I just hate how this…thing has become a cliche’, become routine, unless something happens. I was really shook when people came at the White House the other night, and my grandest hope is that the country has a full powered turn on the president. Publicly, support for the police and criticism of BLM seems to be pretty low, so I want that to produce something tangible. Last night downtown Nashville (12-15 min from our house) caught fire, with the Capitol Building set on fire and the Honky Tonk area destroyed. One of my cousins was apparently arrested. Almost a dozen cities had riots and protests Saturday night, and that has to mean something more than getting caught up in aggressive millennial energy that goes away one month from now. It doesn’t matter who’s president, this has to mean something.
Let’s make it mean something with what we’re working on here.
Here’s something I came across today: “The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.” Following the shooting of Michael Brown, a task force of academics, law enforcement officials, and civil rights activists was commissioned and released a report with data about police shootings and civilians’ attitudes toward the police. “However, because there are 18,000 police departments in the United States, some members of the task force, as well as President Obama himself, have expressed frustration with the slow rate at which its recommendations have been adopted.” This is what we can’t do, and it’s a model the country needs to step away from — sounds like action, but a report can be ignored. We all saw The Report, I hope.
In the excerpt you included, Coates talks about the origins of anti-black sentiment, and what it required is itself storytelling. Much like the central analogy drawn in The New Jim Crow (and broader parallels often made between modern police and the KKK), the pervasive assumed criminality of blackness has a basis in the crime of slaves escaping. Mythology is built up around this, pressing villainy into an entire race. It’s worthwhile for us to think about how this mythology continues to prosper, even if the mechanisms holding it in place are not the same; Rupert Murdoch is likely racist, sure (you don’t become a billionaire without being a shitheel, so why wouldn’t racism be a part of that makeup?), but mostly he’s looking to profit, just like the “cash-strapped suburbs” ramping up policing cited by Coates. And just like Dick Wolf and Shane Brennan and these creative types upholding the equally mythologized status of police — regardless their motives, the consequence is the same: we don’t think about this shit critically enough. It’s all normal, but paradoxically we accept that Fox News and police procedurals are fundamentally absurd. Too absurd to do harm, perhaps.
“The end of enslavement posed an existential crisis for white supremacy, because an open labor market meant blacks competing with whites for jobs and resources, and—most frightening—black men competing for the attention of white women. Postbellum Alabama solved this problem by manufacturing criminals. Blacks who could not find work were labeled vagrants and sent to jail, where they were leased as labor to the very people who had once enslaved them. Vagrancy laws were nominally color-blind but, Kennedy writes, ‘applied principally, if not exclusively, against Negroes.'”
As we understand it, all of this is what’s thrumming in the cop’s head when faced with a black suspect. Coates quotes Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library: “From the 1890s through the first four decades of the twentieth century, black criminality would become one of the most commonly cited and longest-lasting justifications for black inequality and mortality in the modern urban world.” What’s interesting, too, is how there’s a cutoff at 1950, which is when, I assume, overt racism became euphemism, which is what we still have today — “handout nation,” “welfare queens,” which are obvious dogwhistles but perfectly deniable. In this conversation, selling that connection between the present and the past is paramount, but difficult — kind of the final mile in a “post-racial society.”
“In Douglass’s time, to stand up for black rights was to condone black criminality. The same was true in King’s time. The same is true today. Appearing on Meet the Press to discuss the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani—in the fashion of many others—responded to black critics of law enforcement exactly as his forebears would have: ‘How about you reduce crime? … The white police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70 to 75 percent of the time.'”
I agree, too, that while what’s going on right now feels so weighty, downright apocalyptic, it won’t be a factor in the daily discourse one month from now, and that’s a liberal estimate. The streets will clear, people will recycle the same talking points betraying their priority of property over human bodies, and Netflix will drop another hot title. I don’t want this to be just another one of those Big Chapters, either, like Parkland was for school shootings. “Wow,” we thought. “Something’s happening here.” We love a moment! In reality, as someone on Twitter pointed out, the elementary school shooting was the real moment — should’ve showed us that if no action was taken then, no action would ever be taken. No further line to cross. As much as we understand that history incrementally unfolds, through the inertia of institutions and movements rather than the Hollywood-like travails of individuals, we have to try everything we can as individuals and not simply pass the buck to BLM or the progress inherent to the passage of fucking time. And if someone beats us to the goal? Goal achieved.
To that, the day you sent me your response, I saw on Twitter that Julián Castro was also thinking along the same lines: “We need a national database of decertified police officers. No more dangerous cops getting a new job two towns away.” It was nice to see but also frustrating, again, as part of a larger pattern. I don’t know why politicians, active or otherwise (Castro doesn’t currently hold office), post things like this and then do nothing. Or rather, if they’d like to do the thing they said, why is it they can’t? Regardless, his tweet differs from our idea here — he’s talking about major red flags in “decertified” officers, which is a term I’d never even heard before (and why the fuck is that?). I’d rather shoot for any officers with complaint(s) on their record, and only then settle with decertified officers. Part of this is also asking for a higher standard in police, something Shaun King advised how many high-profile murders ago (again, I’ll take ideas from anywhere)?
(As a note on the logistics of that database — obviously it wouldn’t be a product of the police, so who might construct and maintain it? The FBI? The Census? Harvard? That I’d like to know)
I’m gonna take a look at the history of the LAPD and scan for structural changes, even reforms, and try to trace them to specific authors — who is it can actually say, “Change this,” and the police listen? That’s who we need to be talking to, rather than tweeting into the void. And hopefully in doing this, our audience can do the same for their respective police departments, provided there’s a pathway to that dialogue with whichever governor or mayor or civil rights organization.
I know it’s big talk, but theoretically, if we could establish a workflow for action, it might help people know what to do with themselves. I had a conversation recently with a non-black friend who felt the same sort of anxiety I do during a national tragedy — “What do I say?” Even as I’ve recently resolved to say nothing, silence feels wrong. So the same day I made donations to two of the orgs listed on QNA right now, I also made a post on Twitter. (For the record, that hangeul character means “justice,” because there’s no way I was gonna brave a translation of “black lives matter” with Google. I like to think it’s a beacon for any Korean people who see me — it’s okay to be on this same page, and we must be. I did the same thing when protesting that war with Iran we came inches from fighting earlier this year).
List of Structural Changes
So of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and yes, it’s pulled mostly from Wikipedia. What I’m primarily looking for is change within the institution (LAPD) that was brought on by an external actor, so that we can have a look at those actors. Those are the kinds of people who can provide the data access needed for our database (more on the database later, still steeped in hesitant theory).
|1909/1910||Alice Stebbins Wells is appointed as the nation’s first policewoman||Social worker Alice Stebbin Wells, petitioning Mayor George Alexander and the City Council for an ordinance|
|1938||Ousting of dozens of city commissioners out, as well as more than 45 LAPD officers. Appointments of first African-American and the first woman to the Police Commission.||Mayor Fletcher Bowron|
|1939||Current badge created, denial of City Council the privilege of using police sirens (Chief Arthur C. Hohmann)|
|1974||School Buy Program (basically 21 Jump Street)||Chief Ed Davis|
|1978||Proposition 13 reduced the department’s budget, cutting police numbers to less than 7,000 in seven years||Howard Jarvis (businessman, lobbyist, politician), Paul Gann (conservative political activist)|
|1983||DARE program||Chief Daryl Gates, Los Angeles Unified School District|
|1983||Emergency Command Control Communications System||Chief Daryl Gates, I assume|
|1992||First African-American officer to hold office as chief of police, came about after the Rodney King incident and the L.A. Riots. With Willie L. Williams, the Department of Justice granted the LAPD $607,000 to makes changes within the department|
|1997||LAPD subsumed the MTA Transit Police|
|1997||Appointment of Assistant Chief Bayan Lewis to Interim Chief||Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners|
|2002||Rejection of Chief Parks’s application for another five-year term. Parks appealed to the City Council who refused to take up his cause.||Mayor Hahn, Board of Police Commissioners, LA City Council|
|2002||Proposition Q, a $600 million bond program included replacement of the West Valley, Rampart, Hollenbeck, and Harbor Police Stations; adding a new Emergency Operations Center; replacing the Parker Center Jail; adding a new Operations Valley Bureau/Valley Traffic Division; and adding two new Area Police Stations—20th (Olympic Area) and 21st (Topanga Area) Police Stations.|
|2006||A longtime goal of the Department, to replace Parker Center, began moving towards fruition with demolition of the old Caltrans building at 2nd/ Spring Streets to make way for a new Police Administration Building.|
|2006||Gradual increases in trash collection fees paid by property owners to hire about 1,000 LAPD officers over the next five years.||Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa|
So where the last list was depressing and disappointing, this one is “fun facts” and disappointing. It’ll remain a work in progress. Seems that most change happens from within, and personnel otherwise aren’t anything surprising: the mayor, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners. The first woman police officer came about by a concerned citizen through an ordinance (which I think would require a lawyer?), and the Unified School District was somehow involved with DARE. Things to keep in mind, but again, reform happens from the top-down, with the chiefs of police. As such, we can’t rule them out, but the question becomes: who can put pressure on the police chief to enact change? (Like, aside from the mayor).
Like with Castro before, I’m also just now seeing a viral tweet from journalist Kelly Diamond with resources on contacting the people who fund the LAPD:
LA City Council President Nury Martinez, who is required to count your calls and emails.
Chair of Budget and Finance Committee Paul Krekorian
For now, let’s call on these people: the mayor, the police chief, LA City Council, and whatever civilian oversight organization (for LA, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners). And what are we calling them with? Well, I kind of got ahead of myself, two ideas colliding at once. It’s important to know who to talk to, but we’re also constructing a database. At this moment, I think we’d be calling on them to implement the database? But I think it’s: access to data on officers.
So in the first email, as specific as I got was “complaints,” but that’s only a pointer toward the objective: what I think we need, as a country, is a database that can predict which cops are most likely to murder black men, and before anyone can say “Orwell!” it’s not necessarily about firing them — if we know who these people are (and we can even designate them with some sort of PC speak, like “Race Rookies” if you like — holy shit), we can pair them with black partners (which would then give us a good measure of hiring practices) or maybe even a watchdog group who has access to a live bodycam. This laughable, rough sketch is what the database will look like. The question is: what sorts of factors exist that determine the likelihood of a race-related killing?
|Non-white population within 20 square miles of childhood home||Non-white population of middle school, high school, college||Household exposure to Fox News?||History of citizen complaints on the job|
|Jimmy McNulty||47%||31%, 40%, 56%||Y||12|
|Harry Bosch||70%||45%, 57%, 67%||Y||3|
|Olivia Benson||51%||21%, 34%, 53%||Y||0|
|Sam Hanna||60%||52%, 63%, 84%||N||0|
And maybe this could be used as a screener for applicants — part of a background check. So, of course, let me know if you have revisions, suggestions, etc. If there are any statistics people reading this, how do we best structure this data? And the big question for everyone is: how do we get this data in the first place?
There’s a comment I read on SCIENCE reddit regarding BLM, saying “If all racism were to cease, there’d still be police brutality. If Police Brutality were to cease, there still would be micro-aggressive harassment of black people, but everyone would still be alive.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about our task of seeking reform, but there’s also been so much increased videotaped violence from the police that I’m re-thinking the whole utility of them in the first place. Of course, around the world there are ideal police systems, and to suggest throwing out the entirety of the cops in the US is pretty much impossible. But the fact that the central subject is police brutality, and there’s been a severe doubling down on it…it’s like so many fucking cops out there have been unmasked and they’re rolling for it whole-hog. I know Trump called them pussies and said they need to be even more assholish, but we’re now into some extremely troubling territory here. Journalists, children, the elderly, the defenseless are getting pulverized on camera every hour for literally nothing. It’s not an imagined liberal complaint, this has gone beyond parody, beyond imagining. People crossing the street, walking down the sidewalk, sitting in their cars are getting slaughtered en mass, on camera, and the response isn’t coming fast enough. The firings and admonishments aren’t coming fast enough. We’ve got the response to the disregard for black lives, but the PO-LICE in and of themselves as a full-on terror squad…it’s not that no one is talking about it, but I feel it should be, now, THE topic of the moment.
Because this is real: If you ally yourself with an underclass, be they black or the poor, you’re going to get treated just the same.
So I’m really waffling on reform, because I’m not seeing enough pull from the cops to begin with. Yes there are police speaking out against this, and yes there are some cops even marching with the protesters for, like, an hour. But way more unendingly, these people have turned into all out Storm Troopers. What can we do about that, just change the rules? Because with the best will in the world, the rules seem to be coming from Trump, and those who think like him.
As a side note, for three years there’s been confusion on how Trump voters don’t acknowledge or see him for what he is, but this week has shown me. They know, they just don’t care. They’re just like him. 40% or whatever the percentage is of his approval rating that he’s hovered over his entire administration, those consistent numbers are people who share his spirit. It’s not about convincing people right now, it’s not about changing minds or winning arguments. 40% of Americans are, flat out, unambiguously, bad people. This idea that knowledge and reason can make one’s morals, clearly that requires more numbers. With the GOP Senators who dodged the question on their thoughts on his horror-show Monday to the governors and mayors even agreeing with him, calling peaceful protesters “terrorists”, there’s a lot of dark hearts out there who are fully aware of what’s going on in the world, and we’ve been fooling ourselves to think we could shift the numbers further than we have.
It’s a week since we started emailing, and I’ve been trying to measure this moment in history — initially, I imagined it would be like all the other protests (or riots, depending on who you ask; I think that’s how the 1992 incident is classified), but we’re seeing what might actually be real change. It’s one thing for Ben & Jerry’s to use such direct language, a taboo term like “white supremacy,” and another for politicians and money people to look into police funding. That book we sometimes reference on the show, Rise of the Warrior Cop, lays out where a lot of the money goes, and has gone since the 1960s — it’s appalling, but again, has been normal for a long time. I think it would be worthwhile to study international models of policing, at which point the objective would be to clear the obstacles the U.S. typically develops for learning from foreigners on anything (healthcare, education, the list is endless — except for business, I suppose).
And the problems we’re seeing now during the protests I think stem entirely from the militarization, and that comes from Trump but also the ghosts of politicians like him through history. One of the books I’m reading right now is a philosophical approach to Henry Kissinger, using his Harvard thesis about taking action as a thesis for his career — why the creep of science/data and bureaucracy into government so bothered him, why he committed war crimes in Laos and Cambodia — a suggestion being it’s a masculine problem. Is this also the case with the architects of the militarized police? Does it all trace back to castration anxiety? And as you can see, the problem with a conversation like this is a temptation to scale with the depths of the discovery — at the end, we’ll be working out how to “solve racism,” and that’s not where I want to be right now (“there’d still be police brutality.”)
I don’t know what our podcast episode will be about, but this thread is about bad apples. I believe those bad apples are constructed by circumstance (like being deployed into “enemy territory” as we’re seeing now — this is an environment that can turn people into villains, but especially those predisposed to villainy by Dave Grossman-like conditioning), and I also believe in the possibility that a predictive model can identify those bad apples. And yet, I am, too, thinking about the Drew Brees situation. Jemele Hill said on Twitter that he’s proof that growing up around black people doesn’t guarantee you won’t be a flagturbating tin soldier, which strikes one the factors from the table. (Then again, does that necessarily mean Drew Brees would be violent in a deescalation scenario? Yes, probably, but this is why we’d need more data, even for our theoretical database).
Look, I don’t want to distract you with some white-guilt allyship project — I’m in a position where it’s “I got to do everything I can, even if it’s more like ‘try everything I can.'” I’m not going out to protest. I redirected a spare $1,200 of taxpayer dollar I had, and then there’s this. But that’s my predicament. This isn’t on your shoulders (especially if it ends up being as silly as I fear), but I also know you’re too nice to tell me “This is dumb, stop.” Either way, we are drawing to a close. What I want to end up with is a model we present to an academic who can a) tell us what we’re doing is wrong and this is how you do it, and b) provide us the clout to find this model a useful home (whether that be a mayor, a police chief, Slate or Vox). And if we can’t find that home, we simply have to continue building our own audience and publish it ourselves. To that, if you have a final thought, follow up and then I’ll make the post in anticipation of a recording next week. If anyone reads this, please send us some feedback via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Contact form in the link on the header. Thanks, everyone.
I’m sure by now you’ve watched the Last Week Tonight ep, which goes after the history of reform and what stands in its way, be they Unions to working relationships with prosecutors to the federal government/president running the federal government. I’m still feeling extremely low on reform, and Defunding Police is – at the time of this email – the suggested solution, which entails examples like Camden, New Jersey which dissolved their entire police department.
I believe I’m trusting where my head’s at ATM in terms of where to go and what to do. We need to get into this soon. Let’s get to work.
(Correspondence elapsed between May 29 and June 8, 2020)
Resource for action, and an example of a database, for the most powerful actors in America’s justice system, prosecutors: “The prosecutor accountability movement has developed a winning approach to ending the most unjust, unconstitutional, destructive and racist practices of prosecutors: money bail, over-charging, over-sentencing, over-policing, the drug war, attacking immigrants, sending our kids to adult prisons and keeping secrets about what’s really happening in their offices and in police departments.”