Opinion: There is no such thing as a ‘Good Cop’

By JEAN R. PATEMAN 

This controversial opinion seems to be growing in popularity as the Black Lives Matters protests gain international momentum following the murder of George Floyd. Since the increase in police violence and murder of black lives, there has been a spike in support for Black Rights movements due to social media and the ability to record black murders and everyday racism. The Black Lives Matter movement has gone global with protests in every state in the U.S. and in multiple countries around the world. It is widely accepted that many cops out there are racist and abuse the system to kill Black Americans, however many would say there isn’t enough to call all cops bad. I would define a good cop as someone who upholds both justice and fairness while serving and protecting the people of this country. You need to understand that the statement saying all cops are bad does not mean that a cop cannot be a good person, but rather they cannot be a good cop, because the American policing system is deeply rooted in racial injustice. 

In 1981 the decision of Warren v District of Columbia ruled that police officers are not obligated to serve or protect. Two men, Marvin Kent and James Morris, broke into the house of three women and a four-year-old girl. Kent and Morris, unaware of two of the women’s presence, sexually assaulted one of the women while the other two called the police and escaped to the rooftop of their house. The police arrived and the two women watched as they drove around the house. They later claimed to have knocked on the door, when there was no response they left. The two women called the police once again and said they needed immediate assistance due to the ongoing burglary. This time no police were dispatched but the two women assumed the police had arrived. This resulted in the two women alerting Kent and Morse to their presence. All three women were forced to go to Kent’s apartment where for 14 hours they were raped and beaten. In this case the courts ruled that the police officers have no specific obligations to individuals and cannot be held liable for failing to respond to a crime adequately. 

This case brings up the question: “but isn’t that the point of the police to prevent crime?” The answer to that would be no. The origins of the police can be traced back to two groups: Slave Patrols and Night Watches. According to the National Law Enforcement Museum, these groups evolved into the modern day police department. They originated to police the enslaved populations across the U.S. and especially to arrest runaway enslaved people and return them to the enslavers. 

It would now be easy to point out that our laws have developed and that the system has changed, but in reality it has not. In America there is a huge racial disparity between the rate of Blacks and Whites being incarcerated. According to The Sentencing Project (thesentencingproject.org), ⅓ of  Black Americans born in 2001 can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. At a national rate Blacks are incarcerated 5.1 times more than Whites while only making up 14 percent of the population — this means that for every White American in jail, there are also at least 5 Black Americans also in jail.  While crime statistics, such as drug use, are roughly the same between Black and White Americans. 

Despite all of this, at least we have the 13th amendment in place to prevent black americans from being forced into slavery, right? Wrong. There is a loop hole in the 13th amendment that allows for slavery as a form of punishment. Many corporations such as McDonalds, Starbucks, WholeFoods and many more use prison labor. According to multiple organizations such as prisonpolicy.org, stand-together.org, humantraffickingsearch.org and multiple others, the for-profit prison system allows corporations to legally pay workers little to nothing.  In Ohio inmates make on average anywhere from 10 cents to $1.23 per hour depending on if they are working in industry or non-industry jobs. That’s a lot of money compared to Florida where inmates make anywhere from 0 cents to 55 cents per hour. 

This system exists in every state and is fed into by every police officer. Not even mentioning the other atrocities that exist in prisons. Every single police officer effectively supports the disenfranchising of Non-white Americans. Including Hispanics who make up only 19 percent of the population are incarcerated 1.41 times more than White Americans. 

In 2014 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing outside with a toy gun, and he was shot within seconds of police arriving on scene, yet the police officer was not punished. Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy who was shot on his way home, for “looking suspicious.”  Aiyana Jones was only 7 years old when she was shot while asleep in her home. Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd: police officers are constantly murdering Black Americans and not being punished. And even vetting our every single racist police officer is not enough, because the system itself is corrupt. 

Steven Madder, on May 6, 2016, refused to shoot a Black suspect. This is what one would call an example of a “good cop.” The man had been holding a gun and after he refused to put his hands in the air. He asks the cop to shoot him. Madder assessed the situation and learned the man had an unloaded gun and was not a threat. After this Madder was fired. Hundreds of Black Americans are murdered and the police officers receive no punishment, yet Steve Madder was fired for not killing someone.

All these factors add up to one thing — a corrupt system that encourages the murder of Black Americans, or forces them into corrupt for-profit prisons that have no duty to protect the people. That is the policing system in America. And if a police officer does not conform to that system they are fired. It isn’t possible to be a good cop because every part of the system is made to oppress. 

America doesn’t just need reform. We need a new system, with new courts, and new prisons, with new police officers. We need a system where the police really do serve and protect. Where they are held accountable when they don’t. We need a system where police officers have no choice but to be good cops.