All Lives Matter

I’ve seen a bunch of memes online with counterprotesters or police holding up signs saying All Lives Matter.  Or Police Lives Matter, or Blue Lives Matter, which positions police force membership as similar to a racial identity.  Here are some examples. 

Setting up two “sides” where one is cops under administrative rule and union leadership and the other is all black people + protesters + vandals + dangerous criminals + a man who was clearly a psychopath is wrong. Police officers are not endangered by protests, and protests are not crime. (They haven’t been harmed by these protests, even though the protests have been described as “riots.”)

They are implicated by a policy that allows all officers to commit police brutality with zero penalty even on a professional level. That really is an indictment of everyone in law enforcement: it really does damage the credibility of every single cop, just like impunity for pedophile priests damaged the credibility of every administrator and priest in the Church.

Police officers already have recognition for the dangerous work they do, out of proportion to the risk they face, because – rightly or wrongly – we do see them as heroes, different from roofers and electricians. They already have a huge amount of leeway in law and policy for self-defense and deadly mistakes. They already have law and policy that emphasizes their safety and professional mission over the safety and civil liberties of the public. They aren’t endangered by callous indifference to their lives, because no such indifference exists.

This meme not only hides the racist devaluing of black lives as a specific problem, it pits accountability for the police against police safety. Police lives matter, of course they do, but they’re not threatened by the insistence that black lives shouldn’t be sacrificed on the altar of law and order.