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Op-Ed: Every Cop is a Criminal. All the Sinners Are Saints

Robert Lestón Jun 8

In the eyes of the state, any violence is permissible in order to maintain control. The law is the method by which violence can be continually propagated, and it is the representatives of the law, the attack dogs who have put themselves above the law, who have made the politicians beholden to them.

As sovereign, the state has the power to violate the law and suspend one’s rights during a state of emergency. This happened with the Patriot Act of 9/11. But there are also whole groups of people who are effectively placed in a permanent state of emergency. This is particularly true of the undocumented. 

Whether or not an individual police officer commits a crime, all so-called officers are complicit in the crimes of their fellow pack members.

By definition, border crossers are outside citizenship and thus denied rights. Under the cloak of “prevention through deterrence,” countless migrant bodies fall dead crossing the Sonoran Desert each year seeking U.S. jobs, their bodies picked away clean by turkey vultures, leaving behind no traces that they ever existed. Sick children die in detention cages. Few express outrage. Fewer have attended to the crimes of humanity being committed by border agents. The news moves on. There will be no accountability.

The permanent state of emergency also applies to entire communities who have suffered slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and continual murder at the hands of the police state. 

Insofar as it deals with the population, those who are alleged to uphold the law have, through their pledge to brotherhood and fraternal order, taken control of how they will execute the law. 

When an attack dog is let free to roam the entire city with a pack of 40,000 others, that dog becomes emboldened. It knows that with so much support at the back and at the flanks, any crime can be justified. These attack dogs function as organized crime, like the mob, with numbers, militarized weapons and capital that is virtually unlimited. 

Some politicians may want reform, but the NYC police force with its 52,000 employees, drones, military equipment, helicopters, high-tech tracking tools and a white-supremacist union, is a force too large to be controlled. 

Everyone saw the police brutality in multiple forms during the recent George Floyd protests. The comments from Mayor Bill de Blasio openly praising the NYPD are the perfect case in point. The NYPD is too formidable and has too much free reign to be controlled by politicians. They are a state-sanctioned criminal organization too big to fail. 

To paraphrase the Mick Jagger lyric, “every cop is a criminal, every sinner a saint” — quite apt when it comes to analyzing how the police function in the city. 

Whether or not an individual police officer commits a crime, all so-called officers are complicit in the crimes of their fellow pack members. Police belong to the Fraternal Order of Police, “the Brotherhood,” and pledge to always back up their fellow cops. Not doing so, reporting on the crime of a fellow cop, would ensure an outcast status, a very precarious and dangerous position for an individual officer. 

Aside from the numerous prosecutable offenses from prostitution to racketeering that they have historically committed, today’s NYPD regularly shows aggression and commits the crime of assault upon community members on a daily basis. Right before the George Floyd protests, cops in NYC were assaulting and arresting young black men in the name of social distancing. 

Terrorizing communities of color is what they have always done. 

This systemic pressure and internal compact ensures that all cops in the city are complicit in the crimes committed by their fellow cops, and so all cops are not just bad: They are criminals, accomplices and deserve to be prosecuted. As Tamika Mallory said in her recent “You’re the Looters” speech: “Charge the cops. Charge all the cops.” 

The police are clearly above the law, and yet they systematically and regularly break the law every single day. 

Not only are they criminals, they also have the power to enforce the law. During an interaction with a police officer, the citizen involved must comply with every command an officer makes. “Step to the side.” “Get down.” “Move back.” “Clear the street.” 

And yet, countless cases result in arrest, injury and death even for those who do comply. As we have seen in the recent protests, police draw batons, launch tear gas, wield firepower and use vehicles to run over protesters. At their own whims, they are capable of holding entire groups of people hostage. 

The idea that peaceful protests are permitted in the city is outright naïve. Seen through the eyes of the police, you are allowed to protest as a privilege, not as a right — regardless of the NYPD’s rhetoric and regardless of their empty symbolic postures, such as taking a knee. 

A protest is a turf war. Protesters must be subjugated not to ensure peace but because they simply must be subjugated. “Domination,” as the White House says. When they have had enough of you, they will end the protest, and they may well try to end you as well. Eric Garner’s killer, Daniel Pantaleo, roams free as do so many other blue killers. 

City residents have the highest income tax rates in the country, paying federal, state and city taxes and enduring a gentrified way of life that for many is near impossible to afford. And yet, the services for which residents pay are returned by being victimized by a criminal organization that is massive in scope, with endless resources and personnel. 

Not only must people endure the unrelenting brutality, but they themselves — struggling, brutalized, out-of-work, suffering from COVID — must also do the impossible labor of attempting to seek justice in an upside-down system.

The cops are not sovereign. They may be a state-sanctioned criminal organization, but they are not gods, kings or masters. In New York, as in much of the country, they are afraid of what is coming. Like the child running our country, they know that our numbers can easily destroy their foothold on power, which is why they hide behind the language of “domination” and the military firepower only they are permitted to wield. The solution? 

Listen to Tamika. Defund the NYPD and charge all the cops. They’re the criminals. 

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