Minneapolis Cops Pretty Sure They’ve Got PTSD From All The ‘Cops Shouldn’t Kill People' Protests
It's hard to write about the police these days without getting full Madeline Kahn "flames on the side of my face" enraged, so bear with me when I share this latest story. At least 150 Minneapolis police officers claim they're "suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other injuries" as a result of the protests that started after fellow peace officer Derek Chauvin choked the life out of George Floyd.
Black people across the nation watched as a thug with a badge murdered Floyd, who begged for his life and said he couldn't breathe more than 20 times while three other cops just stood and watched. (They apparently weren't trained to identify and stop crimes in progress.) But what really spoiled the police's summer is that people don't seem to love them enough. They're now filing “disability claims" so they can comfortably retire from the force and torment Black folks in the public sector.
From the Washington Post:
Half of those officers are no longer on the job because they have exhibited symptoms of PTSD, according to Ron Meuser Jr., a Twin Cities personal injury attorney who is representing the officers. The other half likely will quit working in coming days as they formalize disability claims with the city, Meuser said Friday.
"While law enforcement is a high-stress career, the last two months in Minneapolis have pushed many officers to their breaking point," Meuser said.
You know what's also high stress? Having cops burst into your home while you're asleep and fatally shoot you. Your nerves are a wreck after that. You could also use some couch time with a shrink after cops kill you when you're just walking home from a convenience store. Richard Wright, in his memoir Black Boy, called this the “White Death," when Black lives can just end without justification or recourse.
Our national reckoning has “deeply affected" police officers, as it should, but we guess a lot of them don't possess the empathy to consider how protesters feel. Instead, they showed up at protests in riot gear, declaring war against people exercising their constitutional rights to not like them very much. They attacked reporters and even partially blinded a photojournalist.
Photojournalist blinded in left eye by police projectile in Minneapolis www.youtube.com
Dealing with law enforcement is like talking to a teenager: "Yes, of course we love you, but you can't have wild parties when we're out of town. Yes, we love you but you can't total the family car after taking it on a joyride. Yes, we love you but can't set the neighbor's house on fire." Trying to set any boundaries sends them into a fit of adolescent rage.
Betsy Hodges, who was Minneapolis mayor from 2014 to 2018, described an officer's temper tantrum over recent protests in a blistering, must-read op-ed for the New York Times.
I remember clearly one officer, a middle-aged white man, who is now a sergeant with the department, looking me dead in the eye and cursing me out in front of the entire room. I needed to take a walk in their shoes, he said, peppering his insults with profanity, so that I could "know what that's like." He complained of protesters' "calling us names, getting in our faces" and throwing objects at officers. And "you're letting them," he said.
It takes gall of steel and less than subtle misogyny for a cop to believe he can read the mayor for filth. He had no problem "getting into" the mayor's face and screaming obscenities at her. I don't encourage violence against anyone, but the cops are in riot gear. Breonna Taylor wasn't sleeping in a bullet-proof vest.
Lots of people have jobs where the public is unappreciative and abusive. But waitresses don't retire with cushy pensions. They also don't kill people. If you are part of an organization whose members viciously execute people in the street for the crime of “looking suspicious," you're not gonna be popular — no matter how many speeding tickets you give out.
As Alec Baldwin's character said In Glengarry Glenn Ross, “You don't like it, leave." You can take off your blue uniform. I can't take off my black skin.
Police officers don't leave. They just stay and complain. This is rooted in their egomaniacal belief that they're all that stands between us and anarchy, or more to point they are all that stands between white people — and their precious property — and people like me. Vox's Zack Beauchamp described law enforcement's depressingly cynical view of the world.
The ideology holds that the world is a profoundly dangerous place: Officers are conditioned to see themselves as constantly in danger and that the only way to guarantee survival is to dominate the citizens they're supposed to protect. The police believe they're alone in this fight; police ideology holds that officers are under siege by criminals and are not understood or respected by the broader citizenry. These beliefs, combined with widely held racial stereotypes, push officers toward violent and racist behavior during intense and stressful street interactions.
Officers might as well “thank God for the rain" before their shifts.
Taxi Driver - Thank God for the Rain... www.youtube.com
If you're tempted to think Beauchamp isn't fairly representing the police's views, let me point out that Ron Meuser Jr., the attorney representing the Minneapolis officers, claims police thought they would die when protesters targeted the 3rd Precinct.
At least 13 officers were inside the building at the time, Meuser said, and some wrote what they thought were final texts to family members and loved ones fearing they would be killed. Ordered to stand down to protesters, some of the officers had fearfully counted their ammunition to make sure they would have a bullet for themselves to avoid being beaten to death, he said.
I regret that anyone would ever feel so frightened, but the police can't see outside their own view. They don't bother to imagine how Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, or George Floyd felt when they died. They also don't consider that the French Revolution wasn't banging at their door until after one of their own murdered Floyd and days dragged on before he was held accountable.
If you show no mercy to the people you are sworn to protect and serve, you will naturally believe they will never show mercy to you.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."