Mugshots of the Baltimore Police Officers who killed Freddie Gray.
A regular refrain from politicians who speak on the issue of police brutality is that bad police officers, be they corrupt or brutal or racist or sexist, are rare. If by rare, we mean that it is rare for a police officer to be convicted for brutality or corruption or anything else, then yes, you are right, convictions are outrageously rare
. Only about 1% of police officers who kill someone are ever convicted for misconduct of any kind, even though the evidence routinely and overwhelmingly shows that police misconduct far outpaces convictions.
I'd like to suggest three new ways for you to consider just how widespread police brutality and corruption and ugliness truly are in the United States.
1. The ugliness knows no geographical or political boundaries. It's truly nationwide.
Not including police departments that are currently being investigated, such as the Baltimore Police Department, the Justice Department currently has enforced agreements in which it was forced to intervene in widespread problems with police departments and jails and juvenile detention centers in almost every state in the country.
Often thought to be the most liberal big city in America, the San Francisco Police Department, while being investigated for corruption, was also found to have a deep and horrendous problem with racism.
The same thing happened in Ft. Lauderdale.
And in Miami.
And Baton Rouge.
And New Jersey.
And, of course, Ferguson.
If you click any one of those links above, you will find police officers routinely and freely speaking with one another in the ugliest, most violent, hateful manner toward African Americans as if it's no big deal.
Few things, though, show just widespread and truly nationwide killings are by police than this disturbing animated infographic as it grows like the plague across America these past 18 months.
And to be clear, it's getting worse. Last year by May 14, police in America had killed 380 people. This year, in 2015 by the same date, that number is 423.
Clearly, we're not talking about a Democratic or Republican problem here. It's nationwide.
2. Corrupt, racist, violent, sexist police officers aren't just low-level newbies, but chiefs and captains.
All across the United States, as police departments become embroiled in controversy and corruption, the investigations are revealing a disturbing trend. It's not the new recruits that continue to be implicated, but the highest-ranking officers within the departments.
In the current San Francisco racism scandal, thousands of cases are now under review and some cases are being dismissed outright, after a captain and highest-ranking sergeant of the San Francisco Police Department were found to be overtly racist.
In Ferguson, Missouri, the exhaustive Department of Justice investigation could not determine if Darren Wilson acted on racist instincts when he shot and killed Mike Brown, but it did fully determine that his supervisor, Sergeant William Mudd, and the captain of the entire force, Richard Henke, were overtly racist. They resigned in shame, as did the chief of police, after the report was release.
In Dayton, Ohio, the popular captain of the Montgomery County Police Department, Thomas Flanders was found to be sending texts like "I hate niggers. That is all" back and forth between his top detective.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the second and third highest-ranking officers in the department, Majors Tom Huckeby and Tim Albin, just resigned in disgrace over corruption within their department, which directly led to the shooting death of 44-year-old Eric Harris.
This Georgia police chief resigned in disgrace after he was caught calling African Americans "niggers" in text messages.
In Miami the racism was so widespread that more than a dozen officers have been implicated and hundreds of cases are having to be reviewed.
In St. Louis, the spokesman for the police union, Jeff Roorda, was actually fired as a police officer for falsifying reports.
This police chief was arrested for raping underage boys.
This police chief and his assistant were just arrested for violating their oath of office and submitting false reports.
This Tennessee police chief was just arrested for stealing.
This Alabama police chief was just arrested for stealing.
The Port of Los Angeles police chief was just arrested for corruption.
This police chief was just arrested and fired for prostitution.
This Columbia, South Carolina police chief was just arrested for domestic violence.
This Arkansas police chief was just arrested for selling drugs.
This Fresno, California, police chief was arrested for selling drugs.
Hundreds of other high-ranking officers have been arrested in the past few years alone on every charge you could imagine.
3. Collectively, police departments in the United States have spent billions of dollars settling hundreds of thousands of lawsuits.
Police brutality and corruption is expensive and it's expensive for two primary reasons.
a. It causes great and irreparable harm to its victims
b. So many cases exist
As it shuts downs schools and cuts public services all across the city, Chicago just admitted it has paid over $500 million in settlements because of police misconduct.
In 2010, the NYPD announced that they had spent nearly $1 billion settling cases of police misconduct in the previous 10 years.
They spent an additional $428 million in the five years that followed.
Since 1990, Oakland has paid $74 million in settlements for police misconduct.
Los Angeles has paid $54 million in settlements for police misconduct during the past few years.
Philadelphia has settled more than $40 million in police misconduct cases the past few years.
It was just announced that the Boston Police Department, in just the past 10 years, has settled more than 2,000 cases of misconduct that cost the city $36 million.
In six years Minneapolis paid $14 million in settlements for police misconduct.
Baltimore has paid millions.
Mind you, none of these costs include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on legal fees by departments all over the nation as they attempt to defend their officers against an hour-by-hour stream of misconduct charges and work through the exhaustive settlement agreements with thousands of families. Not only that, but cities like Chicago recently admitted that they have an outrageous backlog of over 500 pending settlements to families who've been affected by police brutality and misconduct in their city. Police abuse has been so widespread in Chicago that the first reparations fund for torture victims from its police department has been created.
These problems aren't rare, they aren't isolated, and they are taking an enormous human and financial toll on our country. If we are to ever properly address this problem, we cannot do so if we do not honestly admit its expansive size, scope and depth.
A rare problem will get a tiny solution. That's what we're getting right now, but the United States is facing a true moral human rights crisis with police brutality and corruption in our country. The United Nations just sharply criticized our country for our police brutality crisis. For the first time in its history, Amnesty International is sending human rights monitors to the United States to monitor American police and is issuing scathing reports on what it is finding.
For millions of Americans, this issue is the most important issue in our nation. It's time we act like it.