Transcript, Web links and Credits below.
It’s not a mystery that racism and bigotry are a problem with American police. We know it from their actions. We know it from who they target. We know it from who they shoot and who they take in alive. But a brand new study, the first of its kind, taking a deep dive into the social media posts of thousands of police officers, confirmed what we knew with hardcore data. American police are stone cold bigots. They aren’t the exception. They are the norm. And as a few police departments have started offering what we call implicit bias training, this study proves that implicit bias training won’t work, because hundreds of thousands of American police aren’t implicitly biased, they are explicitly biased. There’s a big difference.
Let’s dig in.
This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)!
Journalism is so important. Without journalism and social media I don’t think we’d know even a fraction of what we know about the brutality, corruption, and bigotry of American police. Now we’d know it personally, because of our lived experiences, but without journalism and social media, we never would’ve heard about the corruption and brutality of police in a town called Ferguson. We likely never would’ve learned we were wrong that American police were killing people every 2-3 days like many of us thought. But, they are, to this very moment, killing at least 3 people every single day. The databases that were created tracking this violence helped us understand the magnitude of the problem.
And I am grateful for what I am about to share with you, because journalists and data scientists and activists, partnering with Buzzfeed, put in the work to make this happen. On Friday, Buzzfeed released a detailed report that they created in partnership with Injustice Watch, a non-profit newsroom that focuses on inequity and injustice in America, and it’s really the first exhaustive study of its kind ever done. They could win a Pulitzer for this work. And I want to credit Emily Hoerner and Rick Tulsky, the two lead Buzzfeed contributors behind this report.
It’s called “Good Day for a Chokehold” and if you Google those words, Buzzfeed and Good Day for a Chokehold, you’ll find this piece. I want you to find it and read it and understand it for yourself.
Those words, “Good Day For a Chokehold,” were written and posted on Facebook by a police officer from Phoenix named Reuben Carver III. And that’s what this study was all about. They studied the Facebook posts from thousands and thousands of police officers and catalogued each one that was racist, bigoted, violent, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-woman, and more. What they discovered is what millions of us have always known. American police don’t have a few bad apples. They have hundreds of thousands of bad apples.
In just a moment, I’m going to share some of the posts they found from current police officers, and when I do, if you have children in the room, you might not want them to hear this. Or maybe you do. It’s up to you.
But before that — I need to break down the difference between implicit bias and explicit bias.
(PLAY “Break-it-down” TRACK)
Few government systems have been as deeply resistant to change as America’s police departments. They are resistant to change because they have a mission. It’s not public safety. It’s power. More than anything else, America’s police departments protect white power and do so at all costs. America’s police departments are derivative of slave patrols. And those patrols had a clear mission. When slavery as we knew it ended, the slave patrols became police departments, but their mission never really changed.
And so when we fight for reform, they fight back. And one of the few reforms that we’ve seen start to take hold in a few police departments across the country is something called implicit bias training. The thought is this: some police officers, particularly white police officers, are biased in their habits and practices against certain people, particularly Black people, but their bias is not overt. It’s not explicit. It’s implicit and comes out in ways that are subtle, but problematic. An example would be this: when white officers pull white people over, they let them go without a ticket 50 percent of the time, but when they pull Black people over, they let them go without a ticket just 8 percent of the time. Or when white people are pulled over, police may only opt to search their cars in the most rare of circumstances, but when Black people are pulled over, searching the car is the norm.
And those police officers, and I’ve seen this, may very well be truly unaware of their habits and how strongly they fall down racial lines. Implicit bias training is designed to help officers be universally fair to all people, across race, class, nationality, sex, etc. I won’t even get into whether or not implicit bias training works, but here is what I do know.
Implicit bias training will not work, ever, with police officers who are explicitly biased. Because think about this for a moment. The study I am about to share with you discovered that 20 percent of all current officers had been openly bigoted and racist and violent on Facebook and that as soon as they retired, the number doubled to 40 percent. Think about that for a moment, first off, how racist do you have to be, and how comfortable do you have to be in your racism, and in the reality that you will never be held accountable for it, to post it on Facebook? And what we see is that while 20 percent of officers are racist while they are active cops, it appears another 20 percent just holds back from Facebook until they retire, and starts posting as soon they leave the force.
We’re talking about nearly half of all police.
Let me read you some of what they are openly posting on social media. And I want to give a shout out to Emily Baker-White of the Plain View Project for compiling all of this data.
In St. Louis, a police officer named Thomas Mabrey posted, “F— these muslem turd goat humpers.” His Facebook page is full of anti-Muslim hatred. He’s still on the force.
In Lake County, Florida, Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Williams shared a meme, along with the comment “love this!!!!!!” showing a truck smeared with blood with the caption “JUST DROVE THROUGH ARIZONA/DIDN’T SEE ANY PROTESTERS.”
Another sheriff’s deputy, Cpl. Robert Bedgood, posted a photo of a vehicle with a decal reading “1-800-CHOKE-DAT-HOE,” with the comment “my new motto.” In a comment below the photo, he wrote “A choke, is the new; i love you.”
In Philadelphia the study found that a third of their police had made bigoted Facebook posts. Philadelphia Officer Christian Fenico is among the worst. The city has already paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims of his violence. In a post about refugees, he wrote, “Let them starve to death. I hate every last one of them.”
Also in Philadelphia, Officer Robert Oakes who is regularly called to investigate domestic violence and sexual assault posted that he really doesn’t believe victims, “Oh baby, oh baby, PLEAsE DONT!!!!! stop!!!!! resisting!!!!!” and “no means yes!!!!! They just don’t know it….”
The city of Philadelphia has paid out multiple lawsuits because of his violence.
And it’s not just new officers or low ranking officers. Buzzfeed found that at least 64 of the Philadelphia officers with bigoted posts online have leadership roles, serving as corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, or inspectors.
And here’s the thing, if you are a bigot, you can’t be a police officer. If you hate Muslims, you can’t be a police officer. If you hate Black people, or immigrants, or refugees, and hope they die, you can’t be a police officer. That sounds obvious.
But they are police officers. From coast to coast. And I’ll close today with a thought, then one action step for you. The thought is this — cities, counties, states, and the federal government have continued to allow these departments to run amok. Hard, firm, clear zero-tolerance rules on racism, bigotry, sexism, and hate need to be established. But police departments will not do this on their own. Cities, city councils, Mayors, Governors, and others need to make this happen.
And that leads me to our action step for today.
(ACTION STEP MUSIC)
I have some homework for you today. I simply want you to call your local police department, ask to speak to a supervisor, and ask for their rules on racism and bigotry in the department. Ask them to send you those rules. Ask them how you can make a formal request. And then email me what you find out at TheBreakdown@TheNorthStar.com
Thank you all for making it all the way through this episode of The Breakdown!
If you haven’t already subscribed to our podcast, we’ll be right back here every single weekday, breaking down important news stories and issues, and we’d love for you to subscribe on your favorite podcast apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Our next goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers and we won’t get there without you! Have you left a review yet? On Apple Podcasts we now have nearly 8,000 5-star reviews, but we’re aiming for 10,000 — so we still want to hear from you so please leave your best review when you get time.
Thank you so much to the nearly 30,000 founding members of The North Star whose generosity even makes this podcast possible. Love y’all and appreciate you so much.
If you love this podcast and want to support our work — or want to see the show notes and transcript for each episode — we’d love it if you considered becoming a founding member of our community at TheNorthStar.com. There we not only have our podcasts, but hundreds of original articles and stories and commentaries from some of the leading scholars and thinkers and journalists in the world.
Lastly, a shout out to our Associate Producer Lyssandra and Podcasting Director and Senior Producer, Willis, for their hard work on this and every episode.
Take care everybody.
Produced by Willis Polk II
Extra Production by Christian “Idrys” Shannon
Additional Instrumentation by Christian “Idrys” Shannon & Lance “Lance Fury” Powlis
Additional Engineering by Amond “AJ” Jackson for Salem Psalms Library
Additional Vocals by Garnett “Natti” Bush & Jason Coffey
Scratches by Kenny “DJ FlipFlop” Vanderberg