As the movement for justice against police brutality and to remind people that black lives matter intensifies, so do the “All Cops Ain’t Bad” viral videos.
You might have seen them.They are the viral videos and news stories about police officers doing wonderful things in the community, like giving homeless men shoes or break dancing with small children out in the street. These videos usually start popping up on social media after incidents involving alleged police brutality start making national attention.
One of the most recent examples of this phenomenon involves this adorable little munchkin named Arlillia, who was featured cuteness at a Shop With A Cop event at a Target in Houston, Texas. According to the video posted on the My Fox Houston YouTube channel, Arlillia takes the microphone from the reporter, and while covered in make-believe police shields, makes a bunch of cute comments about her Christmas list and says, “Santa Claus, you need to put me on your good list.” Afterwards, she gives the mic back to the reporter and runs to hug Santa, who for whatever reason, decided to forgo the traditional red velour pajama tracksuit and instead, rocked an all blue velour that day. And then everyone’s hearts melt.
Not to be outdone by the lil’ bodacious Arlillia, out of nowhere comes the equally endearing viral story of the Alabama cops who made national headlines for not arresting a woman caught shoplifting eggs from a grocery store. Tarrant Police Officer William Stacy and Helen Johnson also ended up purchasing the eggs for the woman, who said that she, nor her two children, her niece and two granddaughters, had eaten in two days. According to Addicting Info.org, after the story went viral, people from across the country called the police station asking for ways in which they could help.
To collect money, the police set up a fund for Johnson at People’s First Federal Credit Union. People have been more than eager to donate to a good cause, inspired by Officer Stacy’s generosity and compassion. Tarrant Police Chief Dennis Reno said:
“It’s growing and growing and growing. A guy called me from New York and just broke down. He said for two months he’s been angry with police, and he said this has totally changed his mind.”
Well, just as long as folks ain’t mad at the police no mo’…
And that’s the underlying point of these stories that’s interesting. It’s not to remind us of the disease of poverty as well as the charity of complete strangers. No, the subtle aim here is to remind us that everything isn’t all that bad. More specifically, that all cops aren’t that bad. Better yet, that all cops are not against Black people (as demonstrated by the racial dynamic of the white cop/savior and the black person being saved, which is always presented in these feel good stories), and that there are cops who care and regularly show they care through acts of compassion.
And there is truth to this reasoning. But there is also another truth that the misguided cliché of “not all cops” misses. It’s not that people hate the police or think that all police are bad. Okay, there are some folks who totally hate authority of all forms. But the grand majority of people don’t hate the idea of policing. Let’s face it: Some folks need to be separated from the rest of society for some time or even indefinitely.
Not to mention that many of us even have police officers in our families. I know I do, and a few of them at that. I have a cousin who is a detective working in the Philly PD Union Crimes Division. I have an uncle in upstate Pennsylvania who works in the Sheriff’s Department and almost won the election to be the first Black sheriff in his community. My recently deceased uncle, who was a firefighter, was married to a woman who worked in the Department of Drug Enforcement. I have a couple of girlfriends whose fathers are retired cops. And in my former profession of community organizing, I regularly came across police officers who were great stewards of the community, including one officer who volunteered both his time and money to help young kids go to summer camp.
It goes without saying that we as Black people have integrated ourselves into all facets of society, including law enforcement, so the idea that our communities are natural enemies of the police is a bit of a red herring. We know there are good cops. And Black people, like most on this planet, understand fully that law and order is central to any organized society. The problem is not that most people don’t like cops. The problem is that when we need them, some cops don’t always show up. Sometimes, when they do show up, they don’t always follow the laws that they are supposed to uphold and protect equitably.
Even with all my intimate knowledge of law enforcement, I don’t feel like I, nor the people around me, always get treated with respect from law enforcement. My claims of victimization, along with other people’s claims, are not always taken seriously. However, any perceived criminality on my part, including minor traffic violations and even parking tickets, have been met with the harshest of scrutiny and heaviest of enforcement.
There are so many instances to illustrate this feeling that it is hard to narrow it down to one. There was a time when I went to the police station and tried to alert them to a sexual deviant in the community, who was walking up to random women (i.e., me) and jerking off in their faces. The listening officer didn’t even take my name or inquire about where I might have seen him – just in case they wanted to make a file in the event that he did this again or something worse.
Then there was the time when police showed up at my door to verify if I was the one who had made the anonymous call to police about a nuisance drug dealer and his illegally parked car in the neighborhood. Or the time when an elderly resident in the neighborhood I was organizing in came to a meeting to yell her frustrations at police for not acting on the numerous calls she personally placed to 911 about the dealers, who claimed her front steps and porch as their hangout spot. She said she left her name and all.
In none of those instances was anyone beaten, tasered, shot at, sexually assaulted or even murdered by police. But even within those mundane interactions with the boys in blue is the same indifference to Black people, which we see in the more prominent and deadlier interactions. It is that indifference to crimes against us, and also to the idea of deserving equal protection under the laws, which is at the heart of what is so wrong with policing in this country. And it’s that attitude, which treats the lives and quality of life of black people indifferently, that needs to be weeded out. Likewise, it should be called out without having to provide a disclaimer about “not all cops.”
And not to be callous because I know that cops do have a hard job, but if those instances of charity and compassion were as common as they make them seem in these viral videos, folks might not be so willing to broad stroke over every cop with a single brush. But the reality is that there is a problem. And instead of going out of their way to highlight the good cops, departments should be figuring out how to make that same level of charity and compassion seen in viral stories, more reflective in their daily interactions with people.
Good cops understand that. My uncle, a former cop, once stood alongside and supported my cousin, a former felon, who had been beat savagely by local police the night of his 22nd birthday party. Because not all cops…