The New York Police Department Sergeants Benevolent Association is catching hell—deservedly so—for a YouTube video titled Blue Racism.
The union's video is exactly what its title suggests it is. It suggests that mass criticism of police behavior is akin to actual racism, judging people on the basis of wearing a blue uniform. The video quotes a part of the "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr.—except it alters the quote so that it no longer says that King wants his children to not be judged by the "color of their skin." Their version of quote just says "color."
This video is not about trying to forge better relationships between officers and the community. It's about a police union holding itself completely blameless for any and all problems between officers and the citizenry they allegedly serve. It's a police union asking us why we are causing such a problem for them.
One hardly knows where to begin a response. The news accounts of the backlash are almost funny. The stories are relatively short, because the awfulness of the video barely needs an explanation. Even Vox sort of throws up its hands in its explainer of why blue isn't a race and what the actual source of the problems are between law enforcement and citizens, particularly actual racial minorities.
The video's "It's not us, it's you" mentality perfectly encapsulates the mindset of police unions. These unions have used their power to prevent individual officers from being held accountable for misconduct, making it much harder for police departments to get rid of bad cops. This is one of the top drivers of conflict between police and their communities.
How tone-deaf is the Sergeants Benevolent Association to this problem? At about 1:30 into the video, while the narrator complains that police are being "vilified" for their work, it shows a clip of Sgt. Hugh Barry being indicted for homicide for fatally shooting a mentally ill woman last year. (Strangely, the video mislabels the indictment as Barry's "sentencing." He has not yet even been convicted.)
That is to say, it shows a police officer being held accountable for conduct that resulted in a person's death and being held accountable in a way that respects due process and his right to a trial. And it presents this as an example of the outrageous abuses police face. Just the process of holding a police officer accountable for his behavior is wrong, according the video.
The union's president told CNN that his "goal" in calling criticism of police "racism" was to "create dialogue, to lead credible people to bring solutions to the forefront."
Here's a credible solution for you: Stop protecting bad cops from the consequences of their behavior.