I listened to the June 12, 2020 episode of the podcast It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, and what I found to be most interesting from this podcast is the matter of police unions. Whether you listen to that podcast, the So Y’all Finally Get It episode of Still Processing, or make clear observations from the news in events that are still occurring today, the point is clear and obvious that history is repeating itself. The issue of racial injustice within law and order toward Black communities is also evident. What makes this even more concrete – terrifyingly – is the police unions’ abilities to forgo and completely dismantle any misconduct a certain officer could have done. Regardless of citizen complaints or being fired by a police chief, the unions formed have provisions that can overrule wrongdoings done by an officer and put him back in a uniform with a badge. It seems as though without the reforms within these unions and within these police departments, the police brutality will always have an excuse to persist. Separate from the predominantly white unions, there are smaller unions within departments of black and brown officers that preserve their rights and help to protect themselves. I mean, hearing that there are affinity union groups made for protection within their own police force departments? How does this then translate into communities — to the communities and people of black skin that are not in a uniform? Is this just another mechanism to be more fearful of their lives?
We can take action, we can try and dismantle these unions and rebuild these contracts that enforce provisions that enable misconduct from officers, but these facts of life within law and order make it so hard to see the potential of hope in these circumstances.
Something that allowed for some reassurance was a union contract that citizens in Austin, Texas had negotiated. The end result allowed the public to have more access and knowledge about police officers’ disciplinary procedures. Before coming to this conclusion, this contract was rejected and they had to work toward meeting both sides…why is it that there even are two sides? It seems difficult to instill a sense of empathy for some people… because that is what is really put into question here, right? Empathy?
A voiceover was played from a protest that quotes: “it is as if the police are infallible and untouchable” and quite honestly yes, they are untouchable. With uncharged officers of completely wrong, inexplicable, appalling murders of black bodies, what other explanation is there? These union contracts?
It is heart wrenching to hear the conversations black mothers have to have with their sons about police encounters, heart wrenching to hear that black mothers and families have to fear each time their sons, brothers, fathers, etc.walk on the street. There is “a laundry list “ of precautions that black boys must be educated in, specific to these encounters with police officers. This is a lick of what white privilege consists of. I can say as a white woman that I will never understand this worry, this talk with my son that consists of “Don’t wear your hood. Don’t put your hands in your pocket. If you get stopped, don’t run. Put your hands up. Don’t make a lot of moves,” as quoted by Kenya Young, a mother of three black boys. The truth of racism is so prevalent in an array of places dispersed throughout our country. Change within the police system is prevented by these police union contracts, so what now? How do we dismantle the system from within the police force to bring more justice in accusing and charging those guilty of murder and abusing their power?