Are Cops Just Too Broke, Stressed Out To Avoid Killing Black People?

Are Cops Just Too Broke, Stressed Out To Avoid Killing Black People?

Tyre Nichols’s savage killing is the predictable outcome of modern law enforcement. So, naturally, most Americans struggle to find an alternate explanation that blames anything but the system itself. Friday, on his HBO vent fest, Bill Maher suggested we're focused too much on race, which conveniently aligns with his own personal obsessions.

"And I just thought it was very interesting that this week, Asians were killed by Asians [in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park, California]," he said. "Two Asian men who were, you know, 66 and 72. And then this week, we just got this video of the Memphis Five. A Black man is brutally beaten in Memphis by five cops. They’re all Black. I guess what I’m asking is America’s culture of violence — it does go deeper than race. Right?"

This man actually conflated mass shootings in California with a straight-up lynching in Memphis. We've already discussed how Black people, especially if they're cops, can still actively enable a racist system. Some of the "overseers" on antebellum plantations were also enslaved Black men known as "drivers." They weren't able to give their people an easy day in the fields with more coffee breaks.


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Maher claimed that "this mono-focus we have on race is short-circuiting us trying to fix some of the realer problems." Look, if you let the water in your tub overflow, you'll eventually have all sorts of problems in your home, but they still have a single source. Unfortunately, when it comes to race in America, few people want to admit the tub is overflowing. Let's just fix the drywall and repaint.

Former Democratic House Rep. Tim Ryan seemingly agreed with Maher and said there are "definitely deeper concerns here. And this is an opportunity for us to have that conversation. The conversation about mental health, the conversation about guns, the conversation about ... "

Oh, we're going to discuss how policing in America steadily escalated into a militaristic, occupying force that regardless of an individual officer's race overtly treats Americans of color and their communities differently than white Americans? And how politicians, including Democrats, promote "tough on crime, let's all fund tanks for the cops" policies that don't actually make anyone safer but inevitably lead to the latest trending hashtag for a dead Black person?

No, instead, Ryan suggested the problem lies with "the cops and the stress, and the stress the cops are under."


"And I’m not defending these guys, of course," he said while defending cops. "This is a tragedy."

It's not a tragedy. It's a homicide. It's not even tragic in the Greek drama sense. No one who dared watched the snuff film footage of Nichols's beating experienced any accompanying catharsis, a "pain [that] awakens pleasure." (At least I hope not.)

Ryan continued, "They should be prosecuted, full extent of the law, the whole nine yards. But if we don’t at some level realize that it’s not a white cop or a Black cop, it’s a cop who’s under stress, who’s underpaid. I had cops in my congressional district, Bill. They were getting paid $14 an hour."

Ohio's minimum wage is $10.10. It gets pretty stressful during the lunch rush at a Cincinnati Buffalo Wild Wings, but the waitresses don’t beat people to death. The cops in Columbus enjoy a generous benefits package that includes affordable health care. Life is a lot less stressful when you can afford to take your kids to the doctor.

Ryan’s former congressional district includes Youngstown and despite the cries of poverty, about one-third of Youngstown police made more than $70,000 in 2020 when overtime and bonus payments are included.

The most senior patrol officers make $58,320 annually, about $28.03 per hour, in base pay.

In 2020, 30 of the union’s 95 members made more than $70,000, including 11 who received more than $80,000, according to data provided by the city finance department at the request of The Vindicator.

The additional pay is for overtime as well as hazardous duty pay, bonus payments for working a certain number of years (called longevity pay), a uniform allowance and extra money for things such as having a college degree, working a late shift or out of rank.

Teachers are legitimatelyunderpaid. With a master’s degree and 10 years of service, a teacher still makes less than $70,000. Given the number of school shootings and the risk of a gun-toting student popping a cap in them, they should probably also qualify for “hazardous duty” pay. Republicans never make excuses for teachers and suggest they’re so overworked, they can’t help but poison young minds with CRT. I appreciate that Ryan is more empathetic, but there’s a limit. Let’s focus more on the actual victims here rather than the supposedly horrific working conditions of the people brutalizing them. We’ve tried offering back rubs and medals to cops if they can avoid killing Black people for at least a full year … or even a whole month, and it’s just not working out.

I watched those cops beat the life out of Tyre Nichols, and they don’t look very stressed. They were angry and belligerent, like grizzly bears without compassion. Before he opened his mouth, Ryan should’ve watched the entire video himself, Clockwork Orange-style if necessary. Every politician should, and then we can start those long overdue “conversations."

[Mediaite / Vindicator]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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