'At a loss about what they're supposed to do': Police take on their own kind of protest
The Miami police are in formation during a protest on May 30. (Wilfredo Lee / Assocaited Press)
The entire SWAT team in the Miami suburb of Hallandale Beach resigned this month, complaining of "contempt" for the work of the locals.
In Winchester, a city in central Tennessee with 8,500 inhabitants, a ten-year-old police officer did the same after posting a video of himself in tears on Facebook while accusing a "crusade" against the police.
They joined dozens of officers across the country - including law enforcement officers in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Buffalo, New York - who quit their jobs as colleagues on the streets and in town halls, who were subjected to severe criticism for being arrested and assaulted on demonstrators killed black citizens during the recent demonstrations.
A protester is arrested in Los Angeles on May 30 when nationwide demonstrations broke out over the death of George Floyd. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
As the national police reform and racial justice movement grows, more and more police officers are pushing back, saying that they too are victims of a public that has painted them with a brush that is too broad. At the same time, officials have given up their own profession and called for reforms in a job that involves the raw power to kill.
Settlement is based on frustration over generations of systemic racism, often embodied by the police treatment of black residents and other colored people. Anger has increased in recent years as videos that record deadly encounters have gone viral and messages from movements like Black Lives Matter resonate across racial and political borders.
"After George Floyd's death, we see an important moment to rethink and improve the police force," said Sam Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Omaha, who specializes in police accountability. "Some police officers don't want to follow the new rules or think they're unfair, so they're fighting their own fight."
At least eight policemen left the squad this month in Atlanta, where tensions rose after a video showed a white policeman shooting a black man who had beaten a policeman and fled with a taser in a Wendy's parking lot.
Then, on Wednesday, the day the now released officer was charged with murder, the Atlanta Police Union reported officers who were unemployed in "almost every zone and special unit" in the city. The action, which was not organized by the union, was seen as retaliation for the charges against the official and his partner.
"All officers are afraid to do their job at this point," said Vincent Champion, regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers in the Southeast, and said they felt "nobody has their backs." The union represents more than half of the city's officials.
"Yes, we signed up to protect and serve our communities. We understand the danger. We didn't sign up because we were wrongly accused or were unable to go through the hearing of the same people who we arrest and deploy. " in prison have the ability to go through. "
On June 3, police surrounded Seattle City Hall. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Unions like Champion's, which are among the most powerful among the working groups, have portrayed the police as under siege and are exposed to threats and false information that are quickly spreading on social media. Some police officers have used social media to push back.
In Delaware County, Pennsylvania, a union leader posted on Facebook this month and said to critics, "If you speak out against the police or our members, we will do everything we can to not support your business." The union later apologized.
Stories can also get out of hand. In New York, the Detectives' Endowment Assn. Union tweeted this week that three officials received "deliberately poisoned" milkshakes in a shake shack. It later turned out that the mishap was unintentional, possibly due to incorrect machine cleaning.
Images of a public that is directed against the police do not always correspond to reality. Surveys show that the majority of Americans have confidence in the police force, although confidence in the black community is declining dramatically. Surveys have also shown that most Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement and demand police reform. While numerous police officers are injured and shot while on duty, including in recent protests, fatal police shootings are far more common.
In Dallas, where at least 100 officers held a "Blue for Black Lives" march this month, scars remain from an incident four years ago when a man shot five officers who were patrolling a Black Lives Matter rally.
Sgt. Michael Mata, president of the 4,000-member Dallas Police Assn., Feared that cities would change police systems too quickly in response to the recent unrest. He was amazed at the police morale.
After protests broke out in the city last month, the police banned Chokeholds and created an "obligation to intervene" when officials saw colleagues use excessive force. A similar policy existed in Minneapolis, but was not followed. Officials are increasingly concerned that their departments will not receive support if they draw their weapons or tasers.
Still, he said, Floyd's death "woke up" the police. "We have committed serious violations of human rights and human dignity and we need to remedy the situation."
Thousands have gathered in Dallas, including a minority that has broken shop windows and stolen property. While police in St. Louis and Las Vegas dodged bullets in protests - including an incident that paralyzed a Vegas officer - those in Dallas were hit with bottles and stones by angry crowds.
In Minneapolis, at least seven officials quit and reported lack of support after Floyd's death, while more than 50 resigned from a specialty team in Buffalo, New York after two officers were suspended for knocking down a 75-year-old protester . Mata said such defects were anomalies.
"I don't think you will see a" blue flu "," he said. "I think you will see in all departments in the country that officials don't know what to do."
The conversation temporarily took place across racial boundaries. While cities are adopting the "Defund the Police" protest mantra by cutting police budgets and drastically redefining the role of officers, some black police groups have issued targeted statements criticizing the police, although their white counterparts are sometimes resilient or were less energetic.
"It is clear that the humanity of black people appears invisible to law enforcement," said the National Black Police Assn. said after Floyd's death.
"Not a single incident should define an agency or profession," said the International Assn. from police chiefs where the president is white said the same day.
At Fort Worth, the rift is personal to Tiffany Bunton, 38, a black officer.
The past few weeks have brought painful memories of her late uncle, who died in the back of a police car two years ago when he asked for help because he couldn't breathe. 55-year-old Christopher Lowe repeatedly told officials that he was dying when he was detained. He died after 13 minutes.
Of the seven white officers involved, three are still working. Bunton, a 15-year-old member of the group, called this a "slap in the face".
Police arrest a man during a march on June 2 in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
The black police are subject to more public pressure and control than their white counterparts, she said. Seeing officers kill black men and women makes it difficult to put on the uniform, but she also wants to improve her job.
"Being a black officer right now could be more difficult than ever," she said. Some protesters "question your motives [and] say we're traitors, we're there for the wrong reasons, they can't trust us."
Some officials, she said, "don't want to recognize that there is a problem. If nothing changes, things will only get worse. I would like to see some of these bosses as a whole have a little." More backbone, get up and do what's right, even if it's not the most popular decision. "
In many cities, change came from above and not from within.
Larger cities like Los Angeles and Boston, as well as smaller cities like Norman (Oklahoma) and Rochester (New York) have pledged to cut police funding by tens of millions, though the numbers are a fraction of the current departmental budget. Cities have announced that they will pass the money on to education, mental health and poverty reduction programs, and to non-police officers who can respond to non-violent incidents.
In Portland, Oregon, where the city announced that it would cut the police budget by $ 15 million, the president of the police union scoffed and said the police were already thin.
"We are often the last step on the ladder when everything else fails," said black officer Daryl Turner.
"Most Americans won't say," Get rid of the police, "he said." What they're going to say is, "Let's reform."
Floyd's death and national fallout will make police recruitment more difficult, Turner said. "If we have one or more officials who interfere with our work, it's harder to persuade someone to do the job."
Mike Solan, a Seattle official and president of the local police union, said part of the blame was on the police themselves.
"We have not successfully explained police work: why do we have to and do certain things when we get in touch with the public," said Solan, who represents 1,300 officers in the city.
An officer appears to be pushing a man who went to the police on June 4 in Buffalo, New York (Mike Desmond / WBFO via Associated Press).
Solan said police officers often do social workers instead of crime fighters. After voting for the ban on tear gas and pepper spray this week, the city council asked how the police would protect the districts if the marches became violent again.
To the east of downtown, a six-block area, originally called Capitol Hill's autonomous zone, surrounds an abandoned area where protesters and police recently clashed. It has become a national symbol for supporters of police removal from communities. Visitors are greeted with signs that read: "You are entering free Capitol Hill" and "No Cop Coop". Many shops in the area, which are part of a lively entertainment district, are open and the area is filled with speakers, music, and art during the day.
Solan, who said officials limit themselves to target crime victims on the fringes of the zone, described this as a sign of lost police influence. He believes most Seattle residents still support the police, but said the Minnesota shootout and the uprising that has spread to the US have made it more difficult to get the job done.
"Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Department found it difficult to overcome an outrageous act in Minneapolis and get back in touch with the community to regain their trust."
Kaleem reported from Los Angeles and Jarvie from Atlanta. Times authors, Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston and Richard Read in Seattle, contributed to this report.
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