In a number of cities around the country, both police chiefs and police acted in ways we are certainly not used to seeing. The police chief of Minneapolis said the four cops involved in Floyd’s murder should all be arrested and charged. He and several police chiefs in other cities went and kneeled at protests and expressed understanding and empathy for protesters out in the streets. Some police marched in the demonstrations and expressed sympathy for the pain and rage that so many people are feeling after Floyd’s murder.
Certainly we can understand that some police had a human response to watching the brutal execution of George Floyd, killed by asphyxiation with a cop’s knee on his throat for 9 minutes. And certainly there are people with different life experiences who become cops. Some view themselves as trying to serve the community. But those cops are part of a military force and are trained to follow orders. And, as long as they wear the uniform and carry their weapons, they are part of that disciplined military force maintaining the order of this system.
It isn’t just a question of what any individual chooses to do, even if they choose not to follow orders. The police are an institution created to preserve the law and order of those with property, money and power.
Over and over again, there have been efforts at police reform, with civilian review boards, new rules and regulations and body cameras. But these attempts at reform do not change which side the police are on. Over and over, they have been the force used against strikers, or to attack civil rights or anti-war demonstrators. The role of the police has been to keep order, not to enforce justice.
Leopards can’t change their spots, and a few kneeling police officers can’t change the role of the police.
featured image credit: Bryan R. Smith / AFP