That dismissiveness is perverse.
Yes, there are lots of good cops, and no one should be prejudged just for being “blue.” But consider that Bongiovanni was hired in 1999. Even if he were actually the only bad cop in his department, that “one bad apple” would have encounters with thousands over the course of his career. How many did he abuse without getting caught?
Employing a “bad apple” for two decades and promoting him to sergeant is not a small error––not in a profession empowered to wield deadly violence and cage people. In a profession like that, identifying and terminating the worst cops should be a priority.
But the Gwinnett County Police Department didn’t have just one bad apple. During the same stop, another cop was called to the scene, after the 21-year-old motorist was already lying on the ground handcuffed. That second cop, Robert McDonald, exited his vehicle, ran up to the handcuffed 21-year-old, and kicked him in the head.
That was caught by a different camera.
What do you think is more likely, that this traffic stop just happened to bring together the only two bad apples on the Gwinnett County police force? Or that there is a larger problem in its culture, illustrated by the fact that a young officer hired four years ago expected no consequences for needlessly kicking a handcuffed guy in the head in front of a sergeant? If I were the U.S. Attorney General, I’d dispatch someone to study whether civil rights are routinely violated in Gwinnett County.
The actual attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is aggressively ratcheting down federal oversight of local police departments, even as President Donald Trump leads a coalition that is actively hostile to Black Lives Matter, the policing reform movement.
I support praising good cops for the dangerous, sometimes heroic work that they do; and I acknowledge that they are frequently put in almost impossible situations, only to be second-guessed by legions if anything goes wrong, even when they are not to blame, or error in a way that millions would. What’s more, I don’t always agree with the tactics or the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter, a diverse movement that attracts both impressive, sensible reformers and less responsible fringe elements.
But the Black Lives Matter movement is portrayed wildly inaccurately in conservative media outlets, which focus on the most extreme, unrepresentative rhetoric from the coalition, and all but ignores the actual policy demands that it has put forth.
That reform agenda doesn’t get the attention it deserves, as I’ve noted before.
Dubbed Campaign Zero, it draws its strength largely from the fact that many of the policies that it recommends are “best practices” taken from existing police agencies.
“They’re practical, well-thought out, and in most cases, achievable,” wrote Radley Balko, one of the country’s most knowledgeable law-enforcement-policy journalists. “These are proposals that will almost certainly have an impact, even if only some of them are implemented. The ideas here are well-researched, supported with real-world evidence and ought to be seriously considered by policymakers.”