While reading We are Respectable Negroes today, I found myself drawn this to excerpt from "'Police are Heroes': The Cultural Mythologies that Enable Police Brutality Against Black and Brown Americans" (bold emphasis mine):
Police violence is justified and explained away by the following tropes.*bows*
"Police work is a dangerous job." While being a police officer may involve some level of risk, it is largely mitigated by training and equipment. On the macro level, in the United States police work is not included in the top 10 most dangerous professions. Sanitation workers, truck drivers, forestry workers, and professional fisherman are far more likely to be killed or injured on the job than police.
While the mass media and police unions are invested in projecting an image of police work as highly dangerous, thrilling, and adrenaline-filled, the number-one cause of death for police officers are vehicular accidents.
"Police have a difficult job that involves making split-second decisions." As research on implicit bias, racism and police use of force has demonstrated, cops are much more likely to make “split-second decisions” to kill black men. Yet, somehow the perils and fears that loom over police and their decision-making processes are suspended and lessened when they interact with white people.
Cliven Bundy and his armed group of marauders did not face a “split-second” decision by the police to shoot them. White men walking around neighborhoods with guns displayed in plain sight are not preemptively killed by the police. White men who have actually shot at firefighters and police are somehow miraculously taken into custody unharmed and alive. White teenagers who bring arsenals of guns and knives to their high schools are arrested and given bail.
Police selectively make split-second decisions about who to shoot and kill in America. Blackness is a trigger for violence; whiteness and white skin privilege are signals to deescalate.
"Police are heroes." Heroism involves a selfless act by a person who is not trained for such duty, or who cannot be reasonably expected to act in such a manner. Police have chosen their profession. They are trained and equipped for the task. Police officers are also well compensated both on the job and in retirement. They also benefit and receive support from a huge and powerful social apparatus that is designed to protect them from the consequences of their actions.
A given police officer may have a moment of bravery or courage. By themselves, neither of those deeds rises to the level of heroism.
The police who killed Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and who participate in a system that harasses and targets people of color for unjust punishment and harassment are most certainly not heroes in the best and most authentic sense of the word.
Instead of holding police (and others who are empowered by the state to kill) to a higher standard, America’s civil religion deifies police and simultaneously lowers their bar of accountability to one far below that of the average person—in all, what is a perverse paradox.