Even the most stalwart defenders of America’s police forces would concede that bad cops are still out there wearing the badge. Efforts have been stepped up in recent years to root them out, but Americans need look no further than videos of bad cops in action — in Florissant, Minneapolis and Buffalo, to name a few — to confirm that much work remains to be done to root them out. It won’t happen until the good officers out there take a stronger stand for what’s right.
Because Blacks are disproportionately the target of police abuses, they must take extraordinary measures to avoid encounters that could lead to harassment, retaliatory arrest, injury or even death. Parents must deliver what is commonly labeled The Talk, warning their children of all the things they must do and not do whenever encountering an officer — even though most officers provide essential services and perform admirably. Nevertheless, no one knows whether the officer being encountered is there to protect and serve, or is the one who mistakes his badge as a license to hassle and provoke so he can administer a personal form of street justice.
A bad cop is a monster. Far too many videos are out there to prove it. The videos, along with an ever-growing narrative of experiences passed from one generation to the next, explain why the Black community is so distrustful of law enforcement. It’s those monsters who drag down the entire profession’s reputation.
When kids go to bed at night, the darkness often plays tricks on the imagination. A shadow or a creaky closet door can become a lurking monster. Parents calm them down with soothing words: No, there aren’t any monsters under the bed. Last week, syndicated editorial cartoonist Daryl Cagle played off that theme by depicting a Black father assuring his frightened son that there were no bad cops under the bed.
The cartoon never implied that all officers are bad. But Cagle clearly captured the fear that motivates The Talk.
Numerous readers reacted with outrage after we published the cartoon, though Cagle tells us he received not a single complaint, nor did any other newspapers that published it. If the local complainers were daily readers, they would know that our editorials regularly stress the importance of not blaming all officers for the actions of a few.
Cagle’s cartoon focused not on the profession but on the few who abuse the badge. It was spot on, and we stand 100% behind our decision to publish it.
Instead of exploding with outrage, those readers might consider slowing down and listening to those on the receiving end of police abuses. No parents should ever have to deliver The Talk to their children. They do it not because of imaginary monsters hiding under the bed but because of real ones hiding behind the badge.
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