Defensive statements by Police Union hurt Police credibility

Posted on June 10, 2015

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With its instantaneous response that race was not a factor in the McKinney, Texas debacle, the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police did a disservice to the credibility of defenders of the police.

Police officer with gun

We’ve probably all seen the video out of McKinney, Texas – a white police officer verbally and physically abusing black teenagers at a pool party, even to the point of pulling out his pistol in a implicit threat to shoot them.

After officer David Eric Casebolt resigned from the force, the chief of the McKinney PD called his actions indefensible. Casebolt was “out of control” from the beginning of the encounter, the chief said.

The whole atmosphere was racially charged. Witnesses said that some white adults, who felt that the black teens had no right to be at a pool party in that neighborhood, not only hurled race-based insults at the children (“go back to your Section-8 housing”), but in at least one case, confronted a teenager physically.

Once Officer Casebolt arrived on the scene, he seemed to make his determination of which teens belonged there and which didn’t strictly on the basis of race. Brandon Brooks, the young man who took the video that has now been seen by thousands around the world, says “I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening. You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down.”

“Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic,” Brooks continued, saying that Casebolt “didn’t even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible.”

But the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) didn’t see any racial component to what happened. They said in a statement, “The McKinney FOP assures that this was not a racially motivated incident and can say without a shadow of doubt that all members of the McKinney FOP and McKinney PD (police department) do not conduct racially biased policing.”

Think for a moment what that statement really says. The FOP has no way of knowing what caused Officer Casebolt to feel so threatened by a group of bikini-clad black teenagers that he treated them all as hostile and menacing, even pulling his gun. Therefore, the FOP can’t be claiming that based on the particular facts of this case, it has knowledge that there was no racial motivation involved in the policeman’s “out of control” actions toward the young blacks. So, the FOP’s claim can only be, as they explicitly state, that it’s simply not possible that any members of the McKinney PD ever, under any circumstances, treat black people differently than they would treat whites in similar circumstances. That, according to the FOP, is not a possibility that should even be considered.

But does anyone believe that a blanket statement that every police officer is colorblind is credible? Is such a claim more consistent with a reasoned and fair evaluation of what transpired, or with a blind, knee-jerk defense of their fellow officer no matter what the eye-witness testimony and the videos reveal?

There used to be dolls with a string in the back, and when you pulled the string, the doll would say, “Mama.” What the FOP’s reaction seems to say is that no matter what a police officer does, the police union will pull the string that says, “It wasn’t unwarranted force, and it wasn’t racism. Just leave these police officers alone and let them get back to policing the way they’ve been doing it for years.”

The FOP is presumed by most people to speak for the police. But based on their own automatic and unreasoning defensive reaction whenever officers are accused of “out of control” behavior toward members of minority communities, statements by the police union have no more rational meaning than a doll saying, “Mama.”

And that’s a disservice as much to the police as it is to the rest of us.

Ron Franklin

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