The police force’s choice of cadet reading illustrates the orientation towards the violent tradition
A year ago, Cambridge Police Department Commissioner Branville G. Bard Jr. described George Floyd’s death as “The result of depraved indifference.” This is not a universal opinion among the police in the United States – for example, there is Lt. Randy Sutton, formerly of the Las Vegas police. Sutton is a media personality: spokesperson for Blue Lives Matter, columnist for Police Magazine and frequently interviewed on television news channels.
Here’s what Sutton told BBC News about Derek Chauvin’s trial for Floyd’s murder:
It’s quite frustrating to be a police officer or a police veteran these days. It is presumed guilt before innocence… The testimony that George Floyd did not have a carotid artery injury was very convincing to me. This would indicate that he was not choked on the neck.
Here in Cambridge, we heard from Lt. Shawn Lynch of the CPD, who views Black Lives Matter as a violent hate group and applauded the violent attacks on protesters. He shares these views with Sutton, who in a column in Police magazine described BLM as terrorists, warned in the New York Post that holding police accountable for violence would lead to lawlessness and tyranny and last summer on Fox News called on police to use deadly force. against the demonstrators.
Lynch served with the Cambridge Police for many years. He is unlikely to be the only one to adopt Sutton’s perspective. So what does the CPD really believe?
To answer this question, we can turn to the CPD Cadet Program, which trains potential police officers before they even begin the standard application process. As such, it can show us the policing worldview that our police department is trying to instill.
This year’s cadet program is open for applications. Applicants must read a book, “True Blue: Police Stories From Those Who Have Lived Them,” which has been compiled by none other than Sutton. Although the stories are from many different police officers, he chose the stories, categorized them, and wrote the introduction. The book was shaped and structured by Sutton’s views on the police.
I wrote to our police department about his choice in August; he had seven months to find a replacement book and chose to stick with Sutton. The message is clear: Even though his leadership may disagree with him on specific incidents, our police department still embraces Sutton’s point of view. It is therefore not surprising that whenever the CPD is involved in an unnecessary and violent incident, they will never admit wrongdoing: as long as officers follow procedures, violence is not a problem.
The wide acceptance of Sutton’s views, including by the Cambridge Police, reflects the police service’s fundamental orientation towards violence, embedded in everything from procedures to training. As a result, meaningful reform of the police seems unlikely.
Even if reform were possible, policing would remain ineffective and futile. Evidence of this can even be found in Sutton’s book: Stories of more self-aware agents bemoan their inability to help the victims they encounter and the little they can do to prevent future tragedies.
It’s time for better alternatives. We need to cut the bloated police budget and spend that money on more efficient and humane institutions.
Itamar Turner-Trauring, Oxford street