The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace & Ron Harris, US $27.00, Pp 256, Hachette Books, US $27.00, Pp 256, August 2018, ISBN 978-0316440080
We come across short video clips that show white policemen beating black and people of color every now and then. In most cases, the police have no or a flimsy reason to resort to violence against people of color who include old or crippled people and women. Some of these beatings and shootings become politicized and widely known such as events in Ferguson, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Chicago. Police brutality against people of color has given birth to a rights movement known as Black Lives Matter. In The Black and the Blue, Matthew Horace looks into reasons why police resort to illegal violence against people of color that is clearly racism. Matthew Horace has served in federal, state and local police for about 28 years. During his police career, once he found himself face down with a gun pointed at his head by a fellow police officer.
Horace says that we cannot pretend that the racism, prejudices, and biases we – black, white, men, women, native-born, or immigrant – all carry are not issues within our society and, hence, law enforcement. But the issues go much deeper. He argues that the cases of police misconduct, inappropriate police shootings, racial profiling, and police “mistakes” point to much broader, systemic issues, rather than just a few bad apples. Too often, they reflect a culture of disregard among police for the people they are paid to serve. Horace says that it is an us-against-them mentality that affects us all. In many cases, unacceptable tactics and procedures are woven into the fabric of local policing by our elected officials, who provide tacit and, in some cases, explicit approval of discriminatory, unconstitutional police conduct. Practices that are ingrained in most of our departments lead to encounters that put the public and police officers at risk.
Horace says that very often police officers aren’t adequately trained in the real day-to-day requirements of the job. Moreover, we send officers into the nation’s cultural and racial divide without the proper tools. As a result of this, they make errors in judgment. They chase a suspect down an alley when they shouldn’t, and somebody ends up getting shot. Officers use force that wouldn’t have been necessary if they had used their heads. What should have been a routine thing sometimes results in a tragedy. Horace argues that we welcome men and women into law enforcement who should never be there. He writes, “I have worked with men and women we all knew were time bombs waiting to explode. Then there are scores of officers who, despite their track records of misconduct and malfeasance, manage to go from one law enforcement agency to the next.”
Horace says that misconduct by officers at every level of the police hierarchy is tolerated or condoned often by a cop culture that places loyalty between cops ahead of our sworn oath to serve and protect the public. This is often referred to as the “blue line.” Officers fear the dangerous consequences of being ostracized by other officers. When officers’ bad acts are revealed, rarely are those officers held accountable. Horace says, unfortunately, we are so acculturated by police mythology embodied in movies and television shows (one-quarter of the top 100 television shows are law-enforcement dramas) that we rarely find fault in what officers do. Even when police department wants to get rid of bad cops, when they decide an officer should be prosecuted in the death of a civilian, the police rarely places blame on the police, regardless of the brutality, regardless of who gets killed.
The Black and the Blue is an insider’s account of what has gone wrong with the American police. It is equally an indictment of our justice and police system. With his long experience in the police departments, Horace has the right credentials to write about one of the most important issues in America. He shows that racism survives in the police departments across the country even after the last racist law was struck down decades ago. He powerfully argues that a large number of ill-trained and racist officers in the police force show that America’s police system is archaic. The Black and the Blue is a meticulously researched and brilliantly written book that requires no previous knowledge of the problem or a college degree to understand. This is one of those few books every American needs to read.