Police are killing unarmed teens, and demanding apologies from critics. Here’s the only way they will ever change
“We’re not apologizing to anybody.” This is how Cleveland police union chief Jeffrey Follmer answered a question about whether the city’s police department regrets demanding an apology over Andrew Hawkins of the Cleveland Browns’ on-field protest, but he might as well have been talking about Tamir Rice’s parents. Or John Crawford’s family. Or the protesters who have been filling the streets night after night and shutting down police precincts in a show of focused and necessary rage.
Because the cops aren’t sorry. We know they’re not sorry when Follmer goes on national television and calls the killing of a 12-year-old black kid (a “male”) holding a toy gun “justified.” We know they’re not sorry when they explain away the use of deadly force against an unarmed 18-year-old by calling him a “Hulk Hogan” who grew stronger as each bullet entered his body. We know they’re not sorry when they try to ban a public official from attending police funerals because he didn’t fall sufficiently prostrate in defending the officer who choked a father of six to death because he had the audacity to say, “I’m tired of it. It ends today.”
But the cops should be sorry. Not just because remorse is a human and healing emotion and a signal that law enforcement recognizes when it has done harm. But because it’s the last hope they have for credibility with a public that is increasingly aware that the police act with impunity, and that there is nothing brave or honorable or just about the regular murder of unarmed children in playgrounds and dads on street corners and guys in their own buildings and the bathrooms of their own homes. The facade of “to serve and protect” is falling away, being replaced by the more stark and violent reality of how policing really works (or, really, doesn’t work) for people of color.