(This ain't gonna start with an apology. It ain't gonna begin by begging forgiveness from the vast majority of law-abiding cops. It ain't even gonna start by blowing cops for their hard work. We all know that shit. And if you don't, then you're too fucking dumb or blind to participate in this conversation.)
Every day, every day, every day, it seems, we get new video of police officers gunning down and killing someone who, at most, is armed with a knife. The shooting victim isn't charging, isn't attacking anyone, isn't really doing anything but standing there or walking, sometimes after committing a crime, sometimes for no reason at all. (Compare and contrast how British police handle the knife-wielding guy who just stabbed someone in the "You ain't no Muslim, bruv" video.)
The immediate aftermath has been, generally, a circling of the blue wagons around the cop that shot the suspect. Often, statements by police departments and unions seek to spin the killing as justified or, occasionally, an error in judgment in the heat of a moment when a quick decision had to be made. And then, generally, people who would dare criticize the police are held up in the right-wing press and by some cops as objects of derision and contempt. "They don't know" is the general tenor of the attacks on Black Lives Matter or any groups of people who think the police shouldn't be so quick to shoot perps to death, followed by "They hate cops" or "They're tying our hands with their political correctness."
This isn't even getting into the random brutality, the suppression of evidence, or the planting of evidence in order to get convictions, things that ruin lives. Or the complete ignorance of cops who seem to think we still live in a pre-iPhone world where they aren't constantly being filmed.
We've heard bullshit about the so-called "Ferguson effect," where cops do their jobs in a too-cautious way because people might get upset if they end up shooting someone down or beating them to death. As Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, "[I]t was the video, the public objection, the protesting, and not the actual brutality, which threatened the legitimacy of law enforcement." Too many (white) people in the country are historically invested in the idea that the police must be supported, blindly and generously. It's as if the notorious blue shield of silence applied to the general public.
The problem is, as it always has been, that it shouldn't apply to anyone. If cops break the law, especially if they do so on the job, they should be held to account, just like the rest of us are. Community-based oversight bodies are great. Justice Department inquiries are a good start. And the too-rare firing of a blatantly bad cop is helpful. But, truth be told, at the end of the day, nothing will change unless and until the rank-and-file cops themselves are willing to call out the violent and corrupt assholes in their ranks. Right now, though, as if to offer a complete counter-example, the police union in Chicago collected donations to help post bond for the officer charged with the first-degree murder of Laquan McDonald.
If you're so inclined, you can talk all you want about the necessity of absolute trust between officers or whatever other bullshit excuse you wanna toss into the garbage heap of avoidance. But the real trust that needs to be emphasized is that between the police and their communities, and if that trust is broken with a segment of the population because some cops framed people or murdered them, then cops better fucking be ready to step up and say, "Yeah, Officer Fucknut has a twitchy trigger finger and is scared of the blacks."
It's so fucking easy. In fact, cops tell us the solution all the time. It should go doubly for them: "If you see something, say something." Implied in that is "And if you don't, you're part of the problem."
(Look up the book or film Serpico to see what it's taken to break that blue shield.)