WHY WE SAY ACAB:
A MESSAGE FROM A COP'S DAUGHTER
July 11, 2020
“He was crying he couldn’t breathe. He was already handcuffed on his stomach!” Two days after George Floyd was viciously murdered, I sat on a stool in my dad's house relaying what I watched in the almost 9 minute video.
Even after tirelessly explaining that we did indeed know the full story, as there was video evidence of before, during, and after the incident, my father was still certain we couldn’t demonize the officer that knelt on Floyd’s neck. He was still certain that he could find a way to justify it. My father never knew Derek Chauvin, and never will, yet he was willing to defend him: because they wear the same uniform.
"MY FATHER NEVER KNEW DEREK CHAUVIN, AND NEVER WILL, YET HE WAS WILLING TO DEFEND HIM BECAUSE THEY WEAR THE SAME UNIFORM."
As I finished elementary school, my dad made the decision to quit his sales job and go to the police academy. After under a year of education, he was excited to be following in my grandfather's footsteps, who had also been a cop. Many men and women become police officers because their parent or grandparent was. This could be a sweet family tradition, if it wasn’t for the cultures and ideologies that exist in many of these families. My father is from East Texas, and grew up hunting and fishing and doing hard labor in the country. These tasks could have shaped him into a well rounded, respectful man. However, it would be ignorant to pretend that this lifestyle isn’t accompanied by racism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry. Hate is taught. When you have multiple generations of cops growing up in the same close minded communities, this hate festers and manifests into violence against marginalized groups: with few people to check these actions.
"When you have multiple generations of cops growing up in the same close minded communities, this hate festers and manifests into violence against marginalized groups"
"I remember feeling gross listening to them talk about the force they used on people. Neither of them were ashamed. Both knew it was wrong by the way they talked about how they avoided being caught."
Not only do cops come from cops, they also find other cops to associate with. One night, I went with my brother to hang out with my father, my father’s girlfriend, and her dad. Her dad was a retired police officer, and she worked as a dispatcher. They spoke about their experiences all night, and my dad said multiple things that stuck with me. One was the repeated use of the phrase, “If it’s them or me, they’re going down first. I’ll always shoot first.” But that paled to the stories they told. I vividly remember sitting on her dad’s pool table as the men joked about how they could “use their baton,” and “actually get the job done,” before their departments required the use of body cameras. I remember feeling gross listening to them talk about the force they used on people. Neither of them were ashamed. Both knew it was wrong by the way they talked about how they avoided being caught. My dad’s girlfriend laughed along with them. And in that moment, I realised how corrupt the whole system was.
From that point on, I became hyper aware of the way my father talked about policing. I realized that when my dad told stories of when he was on the job, he used terms like “the bad guy” to explain the person he would ultimately have to take into custody. While this seems trivial when we look at instances of murder and excessive force, it’s important to note how police see people that need help. The bad guy could be anyone, even if they aren't a criminal: a man suffering from a schizophrenic episode, a man threatening to kill himself, or an old woman acting violently due to her dementia. Defining people that are having a mental health crisis as “the bad guy” is the first step towards the outcomes of these situations, which ranged from rubber bullets, to tazing, to arrest. For people of color in a crisis, the outcomes only worsened, as men taught to hate generally did not treat them with kindness.
"He always let me know the race of the offender- unless they were white...Our law enforcement are not color blind. Our law enforcement are even aware of some of their implicit biases. They just don’t care."
We can’t act like every “bad guy” was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Some were committing crimes. But it still was uncomfortable to listen to him talk about fighting parents while their kids watched. Or tazing men even after they had been tackled by multiple other officers. Or dragging people out of their cars for simply refusing to exit. And weirdly enough, he always let me know the race of the offender- unless they were white. He would be sure to let me know it “was a group of hispanics,” or “a black dude.” Our law enforcement are not color blind. Our law enforcement are even aware of some of their implicit biases. They just don’t care.
The conversation with my father about George Floyd ended as he asked me if I thought race was involved in Floyd’s murder. I assured him if the victim was white, we wouldn’t be chanting his name in the streets. My father disagreed. In 2014, he disagreed that 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot because of his skin color. In 2015, he disagreed that the 15 year old African American girl that was slammed to the ground in our very own city was because of her race. In 2016, he used the shooting of the Dallas Police officers to demonize the Black Lives Matter movement. In that same year and in all the years to follow, he continued to justify the murder of Black Americans by the police. He continues to stand by and watch not only national injustice, but the people in his own department use excessive force. When I hear people say “not all cops,” I want to make them sit on that pool table with me. I want them to sit at my fathers countertop, or in my grandfather's kitchen and listen to the way police speak. Not every cop is a bastard. But every cop helps a corrupt system. Even men like my dad.