Police union video quotes MLK to condemn “blue racism”

August 21, 2017, 6:35pm

“Because I am blue, increasingly I am vilified,” declares the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, one of New York City’s major police unions, in a new video.

The video, titled “Blue Racism,” seeks to raise public awareness about what union members see as rampant discrimination suffered by law enforcement, framing the lived experience of police officers as a civil rights struggle. But the presentation, which critics say appropriates the language traditionally used to describe the struggle black people in America face and uses a quote from Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech, has rubbed police reform and civil rights advocates the wrong way.

(The video also features images of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose support for Black Lives Matter has made him unpopular among police unions and footage of Black Lives Matter protests and shots of Dunkin’ Donuts, which the NYPD is boycotting after an employee at a Brooklyn location refused to provide service to a cop.)

“It’s absurd, and problematic in so many different ways,” said Karlos Hill, an expert in race relations and professor at the University of Oklahoma. “What makes me the most angry is the way it tries to distract from the issue of police brutality. It tries to suggest that the reason cops are vilified is because they are cops. That’s not the issue. The reason why police officers are being condemned, not all officers, is because of the ones who shoot unarmed black people.”

It’s not first time that the law enforcement community has tried to flip the script — when “Black Lives Matter” became a rallying cry against police brutality following a spate of high-profile cases where police officers killed unarmed black men, law enforcement groups accused them of advocating for violence against police officers. And the killing of several officers last summer inspired a flurry of “Blue Live Matter” bills in state legislatures calling for increased punishments against people who commit violent acts against cops.

The video, which was published Sunday, comes on the heels of a particularly deadly weekend for law enforcement. Six officers were shot, two fatally, in three separate incidents in Florida and Pennsylvania late on Friday.

These deadly ambushes on police officers are amplifying fears that it’s becoming increasingly more dangerous to be a cop, and law enforcement advocates, including now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions have also correlated an apparent uptick in police line-of-duty deaths to the Black Lives Matter rhetoric. But crime data experts note that police killings often rise parallel to crime rates, which have soared in the last two years in a handful of major cities across the U.S. In 2016, 146 police officers were killed in the line-of-duty, which is up from the 127 recorded in 2013, but significantly less than the 206 deaths recorded in 2007 — about seven years before the Black Lives Matter movement caught fire. While there is no centralized authority reporting civilian deaths by police officers, independent projects such as Fatal Encounters, the Guardian’s “The Counted” and the Washington Post’s police shooting database have suggested that officer-involved killings have risen over the last two decades. Fatal Encounters, which is a database operated by an independent journalist, counted 359 police killings in 2000, compared to 739 in 2015.

“If they had done a different video and called attention to how police officers are increasingly under attack in the line of fire, that’s something we could rally around,” said Hill. “But this is an attempt to undermine or discredit people who critique police brutality.”

The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association did not return VICE News’ request for comment.