The Viral Videos of Lip-Syncing Cops are Incredibly Tone Deaf
Guest Post by Logan Hesse
When I woke up this morning, I went through my daily ritual of checking my phone for overnight Tinder matches (nope), further batshit craziness from the current administration (*sigh* – yep) and videos of cats acting like humans (always – thankfully). And there, between comedians’ show announcements and people asking for recommendations for podiatrists in Boise, was a link to a video from the Norfolk, VA police department. In it, a handsome, dark skinned police officer leads a group of smiling cops, firefighters and support personnel in an elaborately choreographed rendition of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.” It was charming and funny and exuberant.
And it kinda made me sick.
This one’s for them hood girls – you mean the ones who get body slammed by police for attending a pool party? Don’t believe me, just watch – yeah, well, that’s why you have to wear body cameras.
Over the last week, police departments all over the country have been posting their own entries into this lip sync challenge, including CHP San Francisco and the SFPD. They generally feature diverse groups of officers, usually led by the most thirst-trappy cop in the shop, awkwardly shaking their booties as only people who grow up to become cops can. It’s a pretty clear attempt to humanize police departments in an effort to improve their public image by showing that they know how to have fun, too.
Here’s the thing, for people of color, the soundtrack to a group of advancing officers is vastly more likely to be gunfire rather than upbeat retro-funk. And when they say they “gonna give it to ya,” you can be pretty sure they aren’t referring to a beat drop.
That’s the reason why the cops have such a huge PR problem. It’s not that people think they’re boring and stuffy (okay, maybe a bit), it’s that police officers all over the country are killing unarmed black men at a truly terrifying rate. And worse than that, there seems to be an institutional culture of shielding individual officers from any actual repercussions of these shooting incidents murders.
What makes this all the more horrifyingly ironic is that many of the songs being performed are by black artists, members of a community who have disproportionately suffered at the hands of bad actors in law enforcement. According to a study from the University of Southern California unarmed black men are three and a half times more likely to be shot than whites on average, and as much as twenty times more likely depending on the county.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to fun police the police. I’m no anarchist. I believe in the principal of the Rule of Law with all my being, and law enforcement personnel are a vital part of that ideal. I’m not saying that all cops are bad. I love the idea of law enforcement attempting to build trust in their communities and embracing diversity. Hell, “More Dancing, Less Shooting” pretty much sums up my political position in general.
To be fair, many police departments across the country are making real efforts to change their practices, but far too often we see institutional resistance to any practice that would make the police more accountable and thus build real trust. Here in California, AB 931 (otherwise known as the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act) is currently making its way through the state legislature. The law would change the legal threshold for a justified shooting from “reasonable force” to “necessary force.” Check out this podcast for more details on what the current standard means and how we ended up with it, but the short version is that, under current law, only the perspective of the officer involved is considered in cases of police shootings and the police only need to establish that ‘a reasonable officer’ would be afraid for their safety in the situation. This law is opposed by the California Peace Officers Assoctiation, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the Law Enforcement Managers Association as well as numerous individual Sheriffs and police chiefs.
So no, law enforcement community, I will not allow your high school air band auditions to distract me from the fact that you have not only done too little to combat a culture of violence against people of color. You want to improve your image? Admit wrongdoing and work with the community to address their concerns instead of fighting us at every turn. On that day, I solemnly swear to borrow a pair of sequined hot pants from Stuart and post a video of me twerking my skinny white ass off to some Toby Keith.
Don’t believe me? Just watch.