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2020 Protesters were right: police reform isn’t enough

By Seth Tamarkin

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Two weeks ago, the Justice Department released its assessment of Minneapolis police, an ongoing investigation since George Floyd’s murder. If you don’t want to read the whole report, here’s the summary: the Minneapolis police department is just as racist, criminal, and corrupt as 2020 protesters alleged. Police brutality was so flagrant that officers even used excessive force while a DOJ investigator was on a ride-along.

Unsurprisingly, the DOJ found a culture of corruption in the Minneapolis police department, too. “In one case,” according to the DOJ report, “an officer tased a man eight times without pausing even as the man protested that he was doing ‘exactly’ what he was told. The supervisor found no policy violations and told the man after the fact that if he hadn’t been resisting, ‘they wouldn’t have had to strike you.’”

As a result of the investigation, the city will now have reforms overseen by an independent monitor and approved by a federal judge. The kicker to all this? That arrangement already had to be implemented in Seattle, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Ferguson, Missouri. 

Despite these widespread abuses, Republicans have ramped up efforts to demonize protestors since 2020. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law an anti-protest bill that “increased penalties for participants in violent or disorderly assemblies.” On its face that doesn’t sound unreasonable, until you see how Republicans interpreted “violent or disorderly assemblies.” As Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee explained after blocking part of the bill, DeSantis’s offices “conflated a community celebration of a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery with a protest.” That was in 2021. By 2023, Republican congressmen don’t just defend corrupt police officers, they defend violent vigilantes like Daniel Penny. 

Meanwhile, police departments in every region in the nation continue to abuse their authority. It continues in cities like Atlanta, where police shot an unarmed protester 57 times and in towns like Stoughton, Massachusetts, where police are embroiled in a scandal involving statutory rape and much worse. 

And who could forget the small town of Uvalde, Texas and the horrors their community suffered last year? 

Among the terrifying details were the stories of bravery. Teachers risked their lives for their students, and students risked their lives for their peers. Parents rushed into the school to save their kids despite danger.  

But America’s #1 home team in domestic violence, the local police department, didn’t seem so quick to serve and protect. Instead, they stood outside the perimeter, tackling and threatening to tase parents as they begged for the police to go inside and do something.  

Eventually, about 19 police officers entered the school, but they proceeded to sit on their thumbs for 40 minutes despite being right outside the room the killer was in. That day was awful enough, but victims’ families have been in a year-long legal battle against the Uvalde police department, as well as the district attorney, to force them to release public documents related to the school shooting that they withheld.

There is some good news with that case though. Just this week, a state district judge ordered the Uvalde police to release the documents. As wonderful as that is, withholding the documents in the first place shows how little the police think of the community.

While some may hide public records from the public, other police departments use a new tactic to stop accountability: they don’t do their jobs.

In Kansas City, KCPD allegedly refused to investigate a break-in, saying, “I’m sorry you had that experience, but many citizens are going to have that same experience but it’s kind of out of the police’s hands until that judgment is overturned on appeal so that we can go back to our business to keep citizens safe, you take care, buh-bye.” 

The judgment they’re referring to is a conviction last year of former KCPD detective Eric DeValkenaere for killing Cameron Lamb, a black man backing into his garage. According to KCUR, “DeValkenaere and his partner had entered Lamb’s property without a search warrant while investigating a high-speed car chase that had occurred earlier in the day.” 

Slate has compiled a long list of similar cases, writing, “It sounds like a threat, and it might have been one. Other big-city politicians who have tried to oppose police priorities have found themselves with undeclared work stoppages on their hands. After two NYPD officers were murdered in 2014, police took some time off, with arrests falling by 66 percent and traffic policing all but suspended. In May 2015, the month after Freddie Gray died in the back of a police van in Baltimore, the number of arrests in Charm City fell to 1,117—from 3,801 in May 2014! After two Buffalo police were suspended for shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground in June 2020, sending him to the hospital for a month with a traumatic brain injury, the entire emergency response team resigned. And in San Francisco, residents and politicians suspect police started slacking off during the tenure of the progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin. Sure enough, in the months after he was replaced in a recall election, police stepped up enforcement by double digits.” When politicians complain that no one wants to work, I wouldn’t have guessed they meant the police.

The “threat” mentioned at the beginning of the quote refers to Chicago Police Union head John Catanzara saying there’d be “blood in the streets” if progressive mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson won office, which he later did.

It’s self-evident that 2020 protestors were right about the police, and we’re past the point of simple reform. What we need is a complete overhaul of these problematic police departments across the country. When a police department engages in wide-scale abuse, their union should have to pay the lawsuits, not the taxpayers. When the higher-ups withhold public records or refuse to hold other cops accountable, they need to get fired, too. 

It shouldn’t just end with them losing their jobs either. When a police officer is fired for excessive force or other brutality, they should lose their right to be a police officer anywhere in America. If lawyers can be disbarred, cops should be too. 

More needs to be done to reign in increasingly authoritarian police. These are just a few ideas to weed out the “bad apples.” At the very least though, politicians need to look objectively at the police problem in America instead of criticizing protesters.

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Seth Tamarkin

Townhall Editor

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