A Rebuttal to Law Enforcement Today’s Article on Livermore’s Equity and Inclusion Working Group

A+Rebuttal+to+Law+Enforcement+Today%E2%80%99s+Article+on+Livermore%27s+Equity+and+Inclusion+Working+Group

(Disclaimer: This article was not written to attack Pat Droney or Law Enforcement Today. It was simply written as a means to combat misinformation and present a different side of the story than was presented in the original article.) 

Over the weekend, I saw an article on Facebook gaining significant traction amongst people in Livermore. 

The article, produced by the website Law Enforcement Today and written by staff writer Pat Droney, revolved around Livermore’s Equity and Inclusion Working Group

The piece was written in response to the subcommittee’s decision to take inventory of the “artwork, artifacts and other symbols throughout the city that represent and signify systemic racism as well as the symbols that signify equity and inclusion”, as explained in an article by PleasantonWeekly.com. This action was decided upon in one of the subcommittee’s meetings in October, which can be read all about on the city of Livermore’s website

One of the symbols included in this statement was the Thin Blue Line flag, which is the main reason for Droney’s criticism of the subcommittee. 

Droney begins his article by describing Livermore as a “‘woke city’…jumping on the ‘systemic racism’ bandwagon’”.

Based on data and analysis that proves the existence of systemic racism in the United States, Livermore is doing this for good reason. Systemic racism is very much an evil that still plagues our society, even today. The idea that our city is attempting to take action in order to combat that evil is, objectively, a very good thing. 

The author goes on to explain the origin of the Equity and Inclusion Working Group, and its decision regarding both racist and inclusive symbolism or artwork in the community.

“So, our Law Enforcement Today readers, what do you suppose is included among those ‘artifacts and symbols throughout the city that represent and signify systemic racism?’” Droney asked his readers.  “If you guessed the Thin Blue Line flag, you would be correct. Oh, and of course Confederate flags are also included in that group.”

The flippant tone of this line, in particular, demands a response. Droney’s dismissive tone insinuates that the subcommittee is wrong to include Confederate flags and the Thin Blue Line flag as possible symbols of systemic racism. 

The truth is that these flags are in fact racist symbols, which can be proven by their origins. 

The Confederate flag is one of the most prolific symbols of racism in this country’s history. The army that fought under that flag fought for the rights of the states to enslave Black people. This is incredibly clear when you read the Confederate States’ own declarations of their causes of secession — all of which mention slavery as their main cause for wanting to secede from the Union. 

Moreover, post-Civil War, the Confederate flag became the symbol of the Dixiecrats, a political group which is explained here by Kari Frederickson, a University of Alabama history professor. The Dixiecrats’ main political goal was to maintain segregation and racial discrimination in the United States amidst the rising Civil Rights Movement. 

I’m not sure about Droney, but I am of the opinion that flying a flag that stood for the enslavement and, later, the legal segregation of people on the basis of their skin color is pretty racist. 

I’ve heard the argument that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of racism, but rather a symbol of “Southern Pride.” However, I would ask if the flag is a symbol of “pride,” what is that pride directed towards? What pride is there in losing a war fought on the basis of preserving racism? If the flag symbolizes “Southern Pride,” why would it be necessary for a Californian to fly it? Last I checked, California was on the side of the Union in the Civil War.  

For both of these reasons, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which a Californian flying the Confederate flag is not racist. 

Droney was correct in saying that the Thin Blue Line flag wascreated as a way of honoring fallen police officers. However, the Thin Blue Line symbolism has associations with racist ideology just as the institution itself has roots in the systemic oppression of people of color. . 

The Thin Blue Line is often seen as a reference to the idea that police officers are the people who protect citizens from chaos, disorder and crime. However, that idea has incredibly racist origins, considering the fact that police forces, over the course of American history, have been used as a means of “protecting” the “freedoms” of white people while restricting the rights of Black Americans, indigenous people, and other people of color. 

From being used as slave patrols in the early United States, to restricting Black people’s voting rights during the Jim Crow era, the United States police force doesn’t have a record or history worth being particularly proud of. To use a symbol that encourages the rationale behind those origins makes it particularly hard to deny the racism embedded in the flag. 

To be fair, it is important to mention that symbols change over time. The problem, in the context of the Thin Blue Line flag, is that even now the flag isn’t always used as a way of honoring fallen officers. Instead, it’s often used in very problematic racial contexts, as the flag is consistently flown in retaliation against Black Lives Matter protests (as seen here in Utah) or flown at the rallies of far-right extremist groups, like the Proud Boys.  

The Black Lives Matter movement was founded after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013. The movement’s goal, as detailed on its website, is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”  

The movement has also taken to addressing police brutality, which disproportionately affects black people.  

The Blue Lives Matter movement was officially founded in December of 2014, following the deaths of two New York police officers at the hands of Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley. The murders were apparently “revenge killings” following the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both of whom died at the hands of police. 

The truth, though, is that before Blue Lives Matter was an official organization, police officers already had a very distinguished group fighting for their justice — it’s called the United States criminal justice system. 

When a police officer is murdered or assaulted while on the job, there’s no question that whoever carried out the crime will be punished accordingly. If you look at virtually any police officer who has been feloniously killed in past years (granted police officer deaths while on the job have gone down significantly over the last five decades), you will find that their killer is served with the harshest of sentences — usually first degree murder. When a black person is murdered by the police, however, it’s highly unlikely that victims will ever see justice in the eyes of the law. 

In fact, Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green University, found that between 2005 and 2014, 110 law enforcement officers nationwide have been charged with murder or manslaughter in an on-duty shooting, while around 1,000 people are fatally shot by police annually. Of those 110, only 42 officers were convicted. Fifty were not and 18 cases are still pending. Only five of these officers were convicted of murder (and did not have that conviction overturned), while others were convicted of a lesser offense.

“None of these cases, cases involving police shootings, is ever easy or exactly the same,” Stinson told NBC. “But today, an officer gets on the stand and says, ‘I feared for my life,’ and that’s usually all she wrote. No conviction — more often than that, no charges at all.”

The reasons why it so hard to convict a police officer of murder, even when it is seemingly legally justified, is due to a variety of reasons — two of the main ones being the existence of police unions and the legal principle of qualified immunity.  

Police unions are notorious for protecting the interests of officers over communities. This article by the New York Times goes into great detail on the power of police unions and their harsh opposition to reform and change within police departments, even when it is completely justified and popular amongst citizens. Additionally, Oxford University did a study proving that the extent of police unions’ protections in police contracts positively correlates with police violence and abuses against citizens. 

Police unions have played a large role in protecting qualified immunity, as well. As explained by Jay Schweikert, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, qualified immunity is “a judicial doctrine that protects public officials from liability, even when they break the law.” 

Schweikert went on to say, “Qualified immunity is one of the most obviously unjustified legal doctrines in our nation’s history… Unfortunately, the environment in which most members of law enforcement operate today can best be described as one of near‐​zero accountability.”

In addition to the fact that officers are protected by the criminal justice system and unions, “blue lives” don’t need an organization or a slogan to protect them because they simply are not real — not in the way that Black lives are. 

What I mean by that is that at the end of the workday, a police officer can come home, take off their uniform, and live a normal, safe, life. They can also quit their job at any time. When taking off  their uniform, an officer’s “blue” life is stripped away, and they remain the person they were before putting on their uniform. Black people, however, can not simply quit being black. And, unfortunately, the color of their skin makes them more likely than members of any other race to be killed by law enforcement — that warrants an organization, a slogan, and an honest look at the way our criminal justice system works. 

“Black lives matter” as a statement is pretty cut-and-dried — it simply acknowledges the idea that black people, like people of all other races, matter and should be valued. So when people, police officers and alike, use the term “blue lives matter” accompanied by the Thin Blue Line flag as a rebuttal to “black lives matter,” it’s hard to believe that isn’t a dismissal of the basic human dignity of Black people. 

I truly believe that if officers and their families want a symbol to commemorate fallen officers, they should probably pick a new one that doesn’t  frequently accompany a slogan used to delegitimize black people’s very real concerns of being murdered by the state. 

With all of that being taken into consideration, the author is completely (although inadvertently) correct in saying, “So clearly, Thin Blue Line flags and confederate flags — bad; inclusive signs — good.” At last, Droney succinctly expressed my very thoughts on the matter.

Droney’s concluded by  criticizing the subcommittee’s decision to ask members to take photos of different symbols and signs in town, along with their location, in order to assess the “meaning of the symbols based on history, placement, personal perspective, etc. of the symbol,” and “develop the actions to take in response, such as education, policy changes or persuasion to address symbols that reflect and perpetuate systemic racism, while promoting symbols that reflect and perpetuate equity and inclusion.”

I can not speak for anyone but myself, but I see no issue in people, especially city officials, acknowledging and actively fighting against the presence of racism while attempting to make efforts to promote equality and inclusion in the community. 

This effort by the working group was not an “attempt to ostensibly dox those who have items such as Thin Blue Line flags or Confederate flags displayed at their homes,” as Droney suggests. Rather, it was an obvious attempt by the subcommittee to gain a deeper understanding of different symbols, both racist and inclusive, and how and where they present themselves in the Livermore community. 

In fact, due to backlash from the original article, leaders of the subcommittee issued an addendum to the transcript of their Nov. 17 meeting, clarifying the inclusion of the Thin Blue Line flag and saying, “The overall project idea was meant to canvass the range of symbols of Livermore that not only reflect systemic racism but also symbols that signify equity and inclusion, and symbols of Livermore’s culture and heritage to better understand how different cultures are represented in the community. While this was stated in the notes, it could have been more clearly delineated.”

The addendum went on to clarify that the subcommittee does not intend to tread on freedom of speech or dox anyone, saying, “No identifying location information is intended to be collected and if inadvertently collected no identifying information will be retained.”

Droney concludes his article by saying, “So, there you have it…another woke city calling the symbol which historically represents fallen police officers a racist symbol. Just another example of the war on police.”

The only “war” (although I find that term to be a bit dramatic) that I see being waged by Livermore’s Equity and Inclusion Working Group is against systemic racism, and racism as a whole. If that effort is perceived as a direct attack against the police, then that says a lot more about how you view the profession than them.

If you have a problem with racism being addressed and combatted at its root in the communities within which Americans live, you might want to take a look at your character and address why you take so much offense at attempting to reach racial equality. You may learn a lot about yourself.   

 

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