When Americans of different ages and ethnicities took to the streets in June 2020 to protest the death of black citizen George Floyd, suffocated by a white policeman in Minneapolis, outrage spread across the world and inspired racial justice movements in dozens of countries.
A year later, the country faces a worsening security crisis – killings have increased by at least 25%, according to FBI estimates, but there are those who speak of a 40% increase, the biggest increase since 1960, when this type of statistic started. to collect.
In New York alone, the international showcase of the fight against crime for three decades, shootings have increased by 80%. And security, now, is the second priority cited by New Yorkers who will elect a new mayor in November.
Outside of Minneapolis, where Floyd’s memory is inscribed in local history, the country emerging from the pandemic is struggling to reconcile the revolt with the homicidal violence of already convicted police officer Derek Chauvin with fear for safety. The appetite for reform has cooled. The city of Los Angeles, after cutting the police budget in 2020, will reverse the decision, with the increase in gun crimes.
For the first time since 2009, Los Angeles recorded more than 300 homicides in 2020, an increase of 20%. In the first quarter of this year, there were 46% more homicides than in the same period last year.
The first striking modern racial violence that is in American police DNA was the video of the beating of black Rodney King. When the four accused police officers were acquitted in 1992, southern Los Angeles caught fire and the city experienced six days of revolt that left 50 dead.
It was in this rowdy Los Angeles Police Department that, at the age of 22, future black sergeant Cheryl Dorsey joined. “I grew up suspicious of the police,” she tells Folha. At 16, Dorsey witnessed a murder and was forced, under intimidation, to testify in court.
But the police career, which is entitled to a pension after two decades of active service, attracted the divorced mother with a son. Dorsey noticed early on the racism that she says is alive and well in former colleagues. As a rare black woman performing paired uniform patrols, however, she claims to believe her partners were being held back in their dealings with black suspects because they feared she would cross the so-called “blue wall,” the code of silence among the police. .
Dorsey was never involved in an incident of police violence and had an “honorable dismissal” from the force in 2000. Shortly before retiring, she reported a captain for sexual harassment. “There was not even time to return from where I had registered the complaint, and he had already been alerted,” he recalls.
She sees the hypocrisy in the wave of piety from police commanders, including black officers, after the death of George Floyd. “Each commander was once a policeman, he knows his department well,” he says. And he cites the example of Derek Chauvin, who was already notoriously violent, with 18 complaints registered before the murder as it approached Minneapolis.
“Commander Medaria Arradondo, who testified against Chauvin in the trial, knew exactly who he was and did nothing,” Dorsey says. This is the same Arradondo, who, still a police officer, years before his promotion, won a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department.
A dramatic episode disturbed Dorsey and motivated her, in part, to write the first of two volumes of memoir, in 2013, under the title “Black and Blue – A Creation of a Manifesto” (black and blue – the creation of a manifesto, in free translation). In 2013, former black agent Christopher Dorner died after a police siege. He was tracked down for murdering four people, in a campaign for revenge for being fired from the police years earlier for disciplinary issues he has denied. “Of course, I was shocked by the violence, but I knew the injustices Dornan had denounced were real,” she recalls.
In 2014, when the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police sparked protests, Dorsey stepped up her campaign for racial justice, speaking in public and counseling the families of the victims, “as the mother of four boys that I am ”.
She says she doesn’t think cutting police services is the answer – as groups that suggest less funding for police have suggested. He advocates a regular psychological assessment of police officers and the admission that the problem of systemic racism is real.
After all, he recalls, 15 years ago the FBI completed a study into the infiltration of white supremacist advocates into the nation’s police force. Dorsey says Los Angeles Police are aware of 17 secret groups of sympathetic white supremacist officers or Latin gangs. “They even have initiation tattoos.”
Psychological assessment should be a top priority, according to the former commander of the Detroit Michigan Police Department. Isaiah McKinnon, now a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, began by force in 1965, at the height of civil rights struggles, having already been beaten by police as a teenager.
He suffered from constant discrimination and knew colleagues who kept the Ku Klux Klan robe in the trunk of the car. After a race riot in 1967, he was still in uniform when he was arrested by two white police officers. McKinnon identified himself, but one of them responded, “you’re going to die today,” using racial slurs. The policeman started shooting and McKinnon escaped because he accelerated the car. He left the department in the 1980s, but returned in 1993 with an invitation to take charge.
McKinnon’s case is not uncommon. Black Americans join police academies knowing what they will face and confident they can make a difference. “I am an eternal optimist,” McKinnon told Folha. He saw in the June protests a multiracial membership similar to what he witnessed in the 1960s. “There was, in fact, a problem with the militarization of the police, who went out to buy heavy equipment. They don’t need tanks.
In addition to a regular assessment, McKinnon says police need to better cope with the increase in incidents involving the mentally ill. “They have not been trained to act in these emergency situations, they need specialized personnel,” he argues.
The other major obstacle to the reform of the American security forces is the police unions, recalls McKinnon. There are organizations that defend police officers who commit crimes with fanatical corporatism. “On the day of Derek Chauvin’s verdict on the murder,” he reports, “a young black officer told me that his white colleagues had exploded in revolt at a police station.”
In the New York branch of the century-old ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Association, lawyer and advisor Michael Sisitzky is leading a project to promote police transparency. He confirms to Folha that the police unions, well funded and having significant electoral influence, are an obstacle to reforms. “An example of the nefarious influence,” he explains, “is the power they have to interfere in the stages of disciplinary proceedings against the police.”
Sisitzky cites a turning point in the government of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is ending his second term and cannot be reelected. De Blasio, a politician with a profile to the left of the Democratic Party, was elected on a racial justice platform in the police force. In December 2014, two officers were killed in an ambush in the Brooklyn neighborhood. There was a sea of officers at the funeral. And they turned their backs on the mayor when he spoke, in a challenge that made headlines across the country. “De Blasio was intimidated, he hasn’t had the same reformist will since then,” says Sisitzky.
The reference to the incident reminded this reporter of a time when she had a fixed number and address listed in the New York phone book in the 1990s. She received periodic calls from the PBA, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. , a union representing 24,000 of the city’s 36,000 police officers.
The calls were always at dinner time, and the rep asked for donations from the PBA in a pushy tone that gave me a chill down my spine. Last week, New York State Attorney Letitia James announced a bill to curb the use of violence in police departments, which includes tougher sentences for police officers. The PBA, which has been beating the prosecutor since the racial protests last June, immediately attacked the law and will not be surprised if it uses its financial stamina to support a potential rival of James in the 2022 campaign.