Propaganda might tell you attackers lie in wait to pick off police at every opportunity, but the fact remains there simply is no war on cops — and while special protections and charges await anyone using violence against authorities, that hasn’t stopped 32 separate so-called Blue Lives Matter bills from being introduced in 14 different states. In just the first two months of the year.
Yes, last year unofficially saw the deaths of 64 officers — the highest tally since 2011, and well above the 41 who died in 2015 — but the figure more accurately proves the lack of an underlying agenda against police, given there were 134 officers killed in 1973. That in no way is meant to dismiss or lessen the tragedy of those deaths, of course, but to illustrate the inanity of claims cops are under siege.
In other words, choosing the occupation of police officer still won’t automatically put someone in mortal danger — no matter what the pro-police propagandists wish you would believe.
Rampant violence against police — however factually unsound — has provided the impetus for some of the most absurdly redundant, unnecessary, and rights-stripping legislation in a growing number of states.
Known as Blue Lives Matter laws, such legislation cements the armor of protectionist policies granted to an individual who, by free will, decides to become a police officer — offensively conflating an occupation with traditionally marginalized segments of society who face quite real prejudice and have endured violence en masse historically.
An assault undertaken because someone is black, gay, or Jewish, for example, would, of course, be considered a hate crime. Cops — an occupation taken by choice — are now being given the same protected status.
According to Huffington Post, which analyzed legislation passed, proposed, and failed in various states, “Last year, Louisiana became the first state to loop law enforcement into its state hate crime statute, with its so-called ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill. Several states soon followed. The Mississippi state Senate advanced a similar bill on Jan. 26, and the Kentucky House of Representatives advanced its own version on Feb. 13.”
Sharp and bitter division between police and civilians has worsened, in particular, since 2014’s hotly contentious police killings of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and unarmed Eric Garner in New York City — and what is widely considered an epidemic of violence by police.
As far as bridging the chasm between cops and the communities they’re tasked with policing, imperiously claiming the choice to wear a uniform and badge should grant someone an additional shield of legal superiority isn’t the way to go.
Further, Blue Lives Matter laws aren’t needed.
“[C]ritics say adding police to hate-crime statutes is unnecessary because there are already laws mandating longer sentences for those convicted of attacking police. Unlike hate-crime laws, those laws do not require prosecutors to prove the motive for an assault,” Pew reports.
“Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also worry that expanding hate-crime laws to cover police or other professions would dilute their original intent: ratcheting up the punishment for acts designed to intimidate whole communities.”
As senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Potok, explained for HuffPost, “In the vast majority of states, you will get life or considerably less in prison for murder; but if you murder a police officer, you are almost certain to get death. So the truth is that including police in hate crime laws is merely a political statement ― and an unnecessary one at that.”
Unnecessary and, thus, also a passive-aggressive thumbed nose at the communities who experience greater violence, profiling, and general harassment by cops — particularly African Americans, given the pompous usurpation of the phrase begging for a level playing field in the first place, Black Lives Matter.
Remember, police aren’t under siege at all — but that mythos has so inundated popular culture and is parroted by authoritarian politicians intent on molding a compliant populace slavish to the rule of law, that it’s generally blindly accepted without necessary questions.
Ardent police supporters will undoubtedly point to the increase in duty-related deaths last year as an admonishment to get serious about protecting officers — but that would be a mistake, according to Northeastern University criminologist, Jack Levin, who told HuffPo this is “hardly a long-term trend.”
“Police officers are doing better as victims of crime than they have for many decades,” he continued. “This is, hopefully, a short-term blip and not a trend. If we see that the number of ambushes of police officers continues to rise, then it may be worth taking another look at the possibility of including them in hate crime laws.”
Incidentally, police protectionist law often makes holding police accountable for wrongdoing an even more Herculean task than it already was — particularly for those marginalized by both police and society.
“These movements to hold police accountable are not about targeting individuals, but they’re targeting a system that is highly trained, highly weaponized, and has a great deal of power over some of the most marginalized communities that exist in society,” explained Shelby Chestnut, director of community organizing and public advocacy with The New York City Anti-Violence Project.
In fact, many members of such communities have called cops’ bluffs, saying police protectionism isn’t a misinterpretation of current law nor necessary to alleviate a war on police — but instead intends a snide message on the absolute power held by the badge.
“Any legislation for a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bill seeks to instill intimidation and fear,” Mike Lowe, a San Antonio area Black Lives Matter activist, told HuffPo. “These protections make it easy to silence the voices of those seeking justice and accountability. I will not be silenced by it. All we want is justice and accountability, and law enforcement officers must be held accountable.”
Sadly, Police State provisions like the military giveaway, 1033 program, and legislation granting cops privileged status — not to mention pervasive impunity, given officers actually charged and found guilty of wrongdoing are a rarity — virtually guarantee police accountability will go by the wayside.
Blue Lives Matter laws constitute a slap in the face and a demand for respect — but respect has to be earned, not cajoled. Training officers not to use excessive and deadly force on a whim, and lengthy sentences for misbehavior, would go orders of magnitude further to win over civilians than any privileged status law ever will.