Richmond, VA — Virginia police are expressing concern and outrage about a BMW bearing a hand-written bumper sticker that reads “shoot a cop.” The imag has been circulating around on social media. Kevin Carroll, president of the Virginia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the bumper-sticker “very dangerous.”
However offensive some may find the message, legal experts agree that it constitutes “protected speech” under the First Amendment, making it illegal for police to stop, harass, or otherwise retaliate against someone for displaying such a bumper-sticker.
Carroll predicted that officers would take the message in stride and would not infringe on anyone’s free speech rights in response, saying, “You can’t let all these things get to you.” However, given how often police have shown ignorance or disregard for the laws they claim to enforce, retaliation by police would hardly be surprising.
The bumper-sticker is just another illustration of the growing resentment and hostility many feel towards those in law enforcement. But when it comes to explaining that phenomenon, some police and police supporters are eager to blame criminals, protests, bumper-stickers—everything except the police.
For example, Virginia FOP president Kevin Carroll stated, “Officers make mistakes, I understand that, but I did not know that it now has become fashionable to hate the police.” Such a dismissive statement basically amounts to characterizing cold-blooded murder and sadistic brutality committed by police as “making mistakes.” He also stated, in reference to the bumper-sticker, “We already have enough trouble as it is getting good recruits and training people. This just makes it harder.”
It seems police unions and police departments are quick to complain about how they are viewed by the public, but slow to accept that the primary cause of resentment of the police is: the police.
Conspicuously absent from the list of solutions proposed by law enforcers in their efforts to give people a more positive view of police, is actually reducing police brutality and holding abusive cops accountable. However offensive or unjustified the advocacy of violence against law enforcers may seem—such as the “shoot a cop” bumper-sticker—such expressions are likely to continue, and increase, as long as examples of police brutality continue to surface.
Yes, placing a bumper sticker on your car that can be perceived as a threat towards law enforcement is probably not the best decision. However, shooting an unarmed man in the back and killing him is far worse than any sharpie spawned message on tape.