There Are No ‘Good Apples’ In The Police Force

Problems with America’s police are systemic, not localized.

Photo by Randy Colas on Unsplash

Buffalo Police Officers Assault an Elderly Civilian

The video below is a graphic representation of modern police brutality.

I’m sure you’ve seen it — it went viral in a matter of minutes after being posted online. In it, an elderly man approaches police officers dressed in riot gear, attempting to return on of their helmets, when he is assaulted.

Martin Gugino — the victim in this cause and a long-time peace activist — slams his head into the ground. He lies there as blood pours out of his ears.

Thankfully, he survived, no thanks to the police officers who are sworn to protect his well-being.

The first time I watched the video, I was overcome with a vicious horror. How can any human being treat someone else this way? How police officers treat an unarmed elderly man like a pesky gnat that landed on their cheek? How can they scream at him as he bleeds?

The second time I watched the video, I was overcome with a seething rage. I noticed something small — something I missed the first time. Right around the 19-second mark.

Do you see it?

One of the cops bends over to examine the man, to see if he is okay, presumably to provide assistance. But his partner, his colleague, his fellow security enforcer, his friend grabs his collar and physically pulls him away. The cop prevented the other cop from helping.

The “good apple” cop could do nothing.

“Good Apples” Cannot Enact Justice.

There is no such thing as a “good apple” cop. Their actions are meaningless in the grand scheme of police brutality. This video is indicative of a larger problem.

A cop tried to help Martin, but was prevented from doing so. Even after the incident, there was a cover-up, intended to protect the officers who assaulted him.

The official police report stated he “tripped and fell”, a clear lie if you watch the video. The official report was intended to deflect blame off the individual cops who assaulted Martin.

If there was no video, there likely would be no crime. In America, police officers are arbiters of truth more than protectors of civilians.

This is something known as the Blue Wall of Silence — essentially, an informal rule that cops don’t snitch on each others’ illegal or unjust actions. Within police social circles, breaking the Blue Wall is taboo, cruel even.

In a rebuke of the Blue Wall, former FBI agent Philip Hayden testified against another officer for unjustly opening fire on a black 15-year-old boy. The officer was subsequently sentenced to prison.

Right away, his colleagues began to view him with distrust and suspicion.

Access to certain corners of the law enforcement world that had always been open to me was curtailed. It hurt to be seen as disloyal. — Philip Hayden

Even if there are good officers across this country who try their hardest to enact justice, they are prevented from doing so by their fellow officers. If they speak out, they are silenced. The Blue Wall incentives cops to enact injustice. Without punishment, what’s the point?

Cops don’t protect the public. They protect each other.

“Good Apples” Cannot Implement Systemic Change.

Not only can police officers manipulate fellow officers’ individual actions, but police unions can prevent police reform from ever taking place.

After the Buffalo incident, the two police officers were suspended, pending investigation. Subsequently, 57 other members of the Buffalo crowd control unit resigned in protest of the suspensions. They were still on the normal force and retained pay. Their police union immediately supported them.

“Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square,” — Buffalo Union President John Evans.

This statement is unfortunately correct — these police officers were indeed following orders, albeit to an extreme extent. But these orders prioritize regulation over human life. These “orders” caused an assault.

Police unions do their damndest to protect members from civil lawsuits, firings, suspensions, and demotions in the wake of infractions on the job. They also prevent regulation from taking place, regulations that may have prevented this assault.

Indeed, historically in the U.S., police union contract negotiations have been used as vehicles for rolling back accountability, transparency, and civilian oversight. In doing so they have further damaged relationships with community members, whom the police are meant to serve. — ACLU

Police officers continue to behave as if their consequences don’t have consequences. In a way, they’re right. Without the current outrage against police brutality, these officers would be getting off scot-free.

Police unions protect cops more than any riot gear ever could.

“Good Apples” Don’t Exist.

When the entire system is flooded with legal loopholes, police union contract negotiations, and officers defending their friends from punishment, the actions of a “good apple” cop are meaningless.

Of course, there are cops who kiss their spouses when they leave for work and help their students with math homework after dinner. There are cops who are gay, black, female, trans, and Hispanic. There are cops who signed up for the sole reason of bettering their community.

But no matter how badly individual cops try to help, they accomplish virtually little. Widespread police reform, widely supported since the Ferguson protests, seems like a pipe-dream.

Police continue to murder innocent civilians, largely Black Americans, without cause. And they continue to get away with it.

There is no such thing as a “good apple” cop.

There is no such thing as a “bad apple” cop.

The tree itself is rotten.

A queer, herbivorous, leftist Viking. I write about society, justice, and popular media. UChicago grad. Based in Iceland.

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