Though police brutality has always been a pressing issue, its visibility in the media has increased dramatically in the past two years. Cases of police brutality may result in the severe injury or death of the suspect or perpetrator, many of whom have been minorities.
In the city of Ferguson, Missouri, this resonates on an intense level. This intensity is similar in the urban areas of Baltimore and New York City—sometimes exemplified by peaceful protesting or devastating riots.
No matter where someone stands on the issue of recent police actions, they usually agree that something needs to be addressed. The founders of the Black Lives Matter campaign recognized this and now there is another campaign offering its own prescription: Blue Lives Matter.
New York Police Department sergeant Joseph Imperatrice started Blue Lives Matter, a nonprofit organization supporting the sacrifice and hardships required of law enforcement workers. Though the officers of this organization say that their cause is not against Black Lives Matter, it is hard not to notice the call-and-answer in their stances or even the play on their name.
Though many progressives today remain sided with Black Lives Matter, it should be noted that Blue Lives Matter has numerous compelling arguments. Though minorities in the United States are statistically incarcerated more than in any other country, many of the police officers in the recent cases were in “grey” areas of the law or even within their jurisdiction.
In the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Brown had allegedly shoplifted from a convenience store and physically harassed its owner. According to CNN, the preliminary police account from former Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson stated that when Wilson requested that Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson “get out of the roadway,” Brown turned aggressive and slammed Wilson’s door shut when he tried to open it. A confrontation then ensued in which Wilson’s gun became un-holstered, the weapon discharged and Brown started to run off. Wilson chased Brown, who then turned to run at Wilson and was shot numerous times. Johnson’s report, however, differs greatly and explains that Wilson was the main aggressor, not Brown.
The details and legality of the actions that occurred during infamous police brutality cases can be argued for years. If American citizens truly want change, however, we must look to the representatives of the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter campaigns.
Black Lives Matter stands on solid ground—it is no coincidence that the vast majority of these cases involved black males—and change is needed. Perhaps it isn’t in the hands of the law enforcement officials, though. Cops cannot simply look over a minority committing a crime, just as a cop can’t arrest every minority on the street who may commit a crime.
The American people should look at the underlying facts of these cases such as poverty, lack of a decent education and solid employment; all attributes which can affect the chances of incarceration but are out of police control. The Black Lives Matter campaign works to end anti-minority sentiments in America, especially in law enforcement and the courts. These, however, may be a smaller enemy in comparison to those underlying factors.
Contrary to progressive ideas today, Blue Lives Matter is a much needed movement—as long as it continues its website’s listed mission of “providing police officers and their families with comfort and support as they go through hard times.”
As much as we can speculate on police officer motives or unspoken prejudices, citizens everywhere should recognize that cops who wear blue immediately become potential targets for criminals. Officers of the law will put their lives on the line on duty and often do not receive any gratitude for their work. They deserve to be seen in a much better light, but should be asked to hold themselves in a higher conduct standard as well
-Christopher Waters, columnist
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important to remember who is disadvantaged and oppressed—people who genuinely need public support.
Created by three black activists, the Black Lives Matter movement aims to gather support for black victims of police brutality in reaction to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and many other victims within the past few years. This movement is important because it prioritizes the voices of people of color and emphasizes how institutional racism plagues our country in extremely harmful ways.
Blue Lives Matter emerged in late 2014 to support the families of two New York Police Department officers killed in the line of duty. Since then, the movement has expanded to support the lives of all police officers and their work.
Police officers already have a huge amount of power and privilege. They are not a small, oppressed group of people who are victims of any unjust system. Police officers have a lot of leeway to break their own rules and regulations without consequence—as exercised in instances of police brutality. Even officers who were caught on camera using illegal methods and brutal practices often do not receive severe punishment or a prison sentence. Police officers have the backing of an extremely powerful notion of “justice” that is able to protect officers in whatever ways it can—even if it is not necessarily legal.
Victims of police brutality are victims of this powerful institution. Involving corrupt courts and biased media, the institution blames the victims for causing their own deaths by claiming they are “thugs” or that they committed petty crimes. Often, these claims of criminality aren’t completely true and are only meant to defame the victim.
Even so, if a victim of lethal police brutality had committed some sort of crime, that crime does not fit the punishment of being killed by a cop. We have a court system in America—a corrupt system, but an important system nonetheless—that is supposed to ensure that people are innocent until proven guilty and receive a fair trial.
White offenders such as James Holmes, who murdered 12 people in a Colorado movie theater and Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church, were never met with intense police brutality or force. These murderers were calmly apprehended by police and specifically kept alive and treated well so they could survive to go to trial.
When people treat black victims of police brutality as criminals for allegedly stealing from convenience stores, fighting back or even just looking suspicious, they are wholly feeding into the criminalization of black people. They ignore the fact that police officers treat horrifying white mass murderers better than people of color who might be innocent or who commit petty crimes.
Police officers are greatly supported and beloved by our country. American patriotism is built upon the trust and allegiance to our military and police force. There is no noticeable lack of appreciation for the police or military in our country. Almost anyone can name someone they know who is a police officer or who is in the military and it is important that we recognize and appreciate the personal work of our loved ones.
As a whole system, however, police officers do not need a social movement like Blue Lives Matter. This movement mocks the Black Lives Matter movement and diverts attention away from oppressed people. We can still support our friends and neighbors who risk their lives as police officers, but at the same time, we must acknowledge that there is a large and corrupt system at play that supports unjust actions at the expense of American lives.
-Emily Holdgruen, Opinion editor