Indications of a “Bad Attitude” Among Some American Police?
Ed. Note: I have been concerned by what I have described in the past as a “bad attitude” among some police officers that thwart overall efforts to rebuild community trust and support. The following piece is from “The Plain View Project” founded by Attny. Emily Baker White. It also links to Prof. David Harris’ interview with her on “Criminal Injustice.” For me, these outrageous comments by police officers is one of the manifestations of a negative police subculture that is a result of poor selection, “boot camp” recruit academies, and failure of leadership across the ranks from first-line supervisors to chiefs of police.Try to look at it this way, if you were a person of color and you found out that a number of physicians within in a local hospital were posting racist social media comments would you choose to go there? Even if it was only 5 or 10% of the physicians?
“In the summer of 2016, a team of attorneys in Philadelphia learned that numerous local police officers had posted content on Facebook that appeared to endorse violence, racism and bigotry. In some of these posts, officers commented that apprehended suspects—often black men— ‘should be dead’ or ‘should have more lumps on his head.’ In other Facebook conversations, officers advocated shooting looters on sight and using cars to run over protestors. Numerous posts deemed Islam ‘a cult, not a religion’ and referred to Muslims as ‘savages’ and ‘goat-humpers.’ And, in still others, officers appeared to joke about beating and raping women.
“This discovery inspired the creation of the Plain View Project (PVP), a research project that has identified thousands of Facebook posts and comments by current and former police officers. We believe that these statements could erode civilian trust and confidence in police, and we hope police departments will investigate and address them immediately.” [From The Plain View Project website.]
I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. After 25 years leading two Episcopal Churches in Portage and North Lake, Wisconsin, I now serve as Associate Pastor in a growing, dynamic, and Spirit-filled Lutheran congregation in nearby Black Earth. After losing Sabine, my wife of 40 years to cancer, I met Christine, a retired nurse and widow. We were blessed to find love again and married in 2021.
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