“Officer, is this what you really think about us?

I have been reading through the years a number of on-line comments allegedly posted by police officers. It got me thinking then (as now) the core of police education must be education in the humanities and strong emotional intelligence. The task of policing can easily be taught to competent candidates but important core of the role and values of police a democracy cannot.

Now I know our nation has an assortment of police officers and a great range in their preparation and supervision; at last count about 600K police operate in our nation.

And I know about the “only a few” argument (mainly brought up after a questionable shooting by police) as well as the “bad apples” argument (a few can spoil the barrel).

But what puzzles me as a former chief of police for 25 years is the silence that follows  revelations of police misconduct – often only after a journalist poses some uncomfortable questions.

The below article is such a journalistic effort (as was finding a significant undercounting of persons killed by police in our nation by journalists from The Washington Post and Guardian newspapers).

After reading the various comments on social media by active duty police officers just adds to the negative perception many people have of our police.

This article found: “Of the pages of officers whom the Plain View researchers could positively identify, about 1 in 5 of the current officers, and 2 in 5 of the retired officers, made public posts or comments that met that threshold — typically by displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language. The officers mocked Mexicans, women, and black people, celebrated the Confederate flag, and showed a man wearing a kaffiyeh scarf in the crosshairs of a gun” (my emphasis).

They also found that experts in race and criminal justice were alarmed at the data.

“This blows up the myth of bad apples, by the sheer number of images and numbers of individuals who are implicated.” — Nikki Jones, an associate professor of African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

“This is the kind of behavior that confirms the worst suspicions on the part of communities about the police… it fuels and cements the convictions of people in distressed communities have that the police are not to be trusted. — David Kennedy, a criminology professor at John Jay College.

Yet in defense, “Peter Moskos, a sociologist and former Baltimore police officer, argued that among the police rank and file, such comments may just be expressions of officers who recognize the dangers of the profession. ‘I think a lot of that language serves a purpose. It implies, ‘We’re all in this together.’”

I will argue that these kind of behaviors publicly posted by police are dangerous and undermine the very nature of policing a free and diverse society! They most certainly do not build needed trust and support.

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CHICAGO — When an armed, would-be robber backed out of a liquor store after the clerk pulled a gun on him, the surveillance video was posted on Facebook with a comment: “Should have shot him.”

Another commenter responded, “I would of pulled the trigger.”

These comments weren’t from your everyday Facebook users. They were the words of Philadelphia police officers.

Local law enforcement departments across the country have grappled with officers’ use of social media, often struggling to create and enforce policies that restrict offensive speech.

Here’s the full article from BuzzFeed News.

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Various screenshots compiled by Plain View.

Various screenshots compiled by Plain View.