Part Four: Media & Policing-Selling Fear
“They shootin’, look in the barrel / Then he made the front page of the Miami Herald / Or the Chi Tribune, nozzles with silent doom / We in that A-Town Jornal-list, violent goons / You should print my information, quote my rhyme / And keep me in between these New York and L.A. Times / I’m just a victim of society..”Nas (Ludacris): “Made You Look (Remix)”
“I grew up on the crime side, The New York Times side / Stayin’ alive was no jive”Wu-Tang Clan (Raekwon): “C.R.E.A.M”
You never want to be the headline news. Ever. Nothing good comes out of it. If you’re a bad guy, it means you got caught, made the newspapers and you’re on the evening news doing the standard perp walk, or perhaps you have a white sheet over your decomposing corpse while cops are huddled around your body checking their texts from side chicks or sports updates, you know; the important stuff. If you’re a uniform and you make the news, you probably done fucked up..the media loves that! Sadly, cop shot headlines dominate the news feeds when it does happen which unfortunately is a stark reminder that your nine to five is nowhere as dangerous as their daily routine. I know, I know, they signed up for it. Once you take that blase oath to honor and defend the constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic and to serve and protect the citizens of your state/city/prison/jail/farm (maybe not a farm..but, you knowwhatimsayin!) then, as Ivan Drago once stated: “If he dies, he dies”. Look, police killed in the line of duty is horrible shit. Horrible. I’m not making light of it by any means, but the media? There is a difference between headlines and sensationalism. The news coverage of police matters borders on obsessive and ridiculous. The negative coverage does no favors for the profession, but as I have referenced throughout this series, police themselves carry some of the brunt and blame for their universal scorn. It is no wonder that certain populations in this country view police through an Ivan Drago lens.
The influence of social media cannot be understated. It’s gotten to the point that I stumbled across an actual business card for a drug dealer who advertised his hustle on his card with his cell number and all of his social media handles. “I got that good-good, holla any time” in bold text is printed on the card. This is the type of stuff that is mind-boggling. Eventually, the street pharmacist will be collared, and he will have the nerve to fight his charges cause he can. The problem here is that the streets will scream the police are “hating on him” and he will use the tired “I’m just trying to eat, its hard out here” argument, and this guy will gain a slew of vocal sympathizers. But when a cop is shot or killed, their death dealer is sometimes hailed, and often immortalized in rap verse. Man listen, I would have never heard of Assata Shakur (formerly Joanne Chesimard), or Mumia Abu-Jamal if it wasn’t for Public Enemy and Krs-One rapping about them. A quick search of their names will yield plenty of articles linked to their crimes of murdering police officers. Shakur is currently living in Asylum in Cuba. She is still one of the FBI’s Most Wanted. I’ve covered how the culture of cops and robbers makes for a thick foundation of Hip hop content throughout this series. It is still fascinating to see as technology evolves, how the media parlays their influence into the culture. Certain street figures such as the late Larry Davis who shot six NYPD officers in my hometown of the Bronx in 1986, and beat the case, and Pappy Mason who had his Bebos drug dealing crew murder NYPD Officer Ed Byrne in Queens in 1988 are deities in street lore. Kinda strange I tell you.
“New York streets where killers’ll walk like Pistol Pete and Pappy Mason Gave the young boys admiration / Prince from Queens and Fritz from Harlem / Street legends, the drugs kept the hood from starving”Nas: “Get Down”
Most people point to a few high profile incidents over a couple of years ago such as Trayvon Martin in 2012, and Michael Brown & Eric Garner in 2014 as the nucleus of the recent discord between minority communities and law enforcement. The Black Lives Matter movement became prominent in the midst of several marches and protests nationwide amid the backdrop of what seemed like never ending media clips of videos of police captured shootings of Blacks nationwide. The optics could not have been worse. I always tell my friends who are not employed in law enforcement that footage of police shootings, no matter how damning they appear to be, never show the encounter in its entirety (Most of the time). As someone who was captured on cell phone footage fighting on a subway platform years ago while attempting to make an arrest, I can sit here and tell you that the video footage I was a part of was not a good look for me, but it was only a snippet of what had actually transpired before it got to that point of physicality. The use of force scale can escalate from verbal exchanges to a fatal shooting in a moments notice. Those fatal encounters are the incidents that the media capitalizes on. Look, the 41 shots that ended Amadou Diallo’s life in The Bronx in 1999 and the 50 shots that took out Sean Bell in Queens in 2006 are outliers. There is no way, let me be clear..no way I am defending those shootings or the officers involved in those incidents, but what if the sometimes irresponsible media coverage either unwittingly or knowingly pours gasoline on an already volatile relationship between the community and police with provocative coverage? Perhaps those “41 shots” and “50 shots” headlines contributed to the future killing of a uniformed police officer. Fast forward to policing in America during this decade. In the aftermath of the aforementioned incidents and the troubling footage of several police involved shootings, this decade has also seen the executions of uniformed police officers by the hand of men consumed with a hatred of law enforcement, perhaps encouraged by the incidents of the last several years. In 2014, two NYPD officers were gunned down in Brooklyn while sitting in their marked vehicles on a street corner. In 2017, an NYPD officer was shot and killed while manning a mobile patrol command RV in The Bronx. In 2016 in Dallas, 12 police officers were shot, 5 of them killed “as payback” for police shootings of blacks according to the official report of the incident. Just last week in Davis, California, 22 year old rookie police officer Natalie Corona was executed while tending to motorists involved in a car accident. All of these incidents echo the bad old days of cops and robbers. The cycle just keeps churning. Taking a knee to protest perceived policing injustice only brought more unwarranted and skewered media analysis. More ammunition for the media to forward political agendas at the chagrin of those trying to actually fix the issues instead of exploit it.
“And now there’s blood on my Tims, snitches calling 1-800 crime stoppers when they see me they like (ooh ooh) / Cause they want that thousand dollars / and not only that, police will die to catch a fuckin’ collar”Mobb Deep (Havoc): “Get Away”
I stated in part one of this series that there could not be a worse time to be a police officer in America. The comedy of absurd headlines seems like they were leftovers from a Saturday Night Live staff meeting. The NYPD which constantly finds itself making headlines due in equal parts to the spotlight of policing in the center of the universe, but also due to their sometimes brutal style of publicly shaming its own officers, made headlines last week by taking the guns and badges of 4 officers because they were all cheating on each other with the others significant others, and they were scared there would be a crime of passion. This could have been handled in house. Instead, we get this doozy of a headline: “Cops & Throbbers”. Also currently in the news; a Brooklyn detective is being forced by the department to submit to treatment from psych services due to his lawsuit against his former supervisor, his female sergeant who he claims stuffed her panties in his mouth during an argument about her leaving her underwear laying around in their co-ed locker room. If the streets already harbor resentment for police and hardly respect law enforcement, headlines such as these won’t go a long way toward improving relations. Maybe I shoulda been a fireman. They save cats in trees.
“He dropped the gun, so went the glory / And this is the way I have to end this story / He was only seventeen, in a madman’s dream / The cops shot the kid, I still hear him scream”Slick Rick: “Children’s Story”
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