Episode 56 - Don’t worry, they found the Barbie Doll box.

Transcript, Web links and Credits below.

Transcript: Like millions of you, this past weekend I saw a horrible video of police brutality that emerged out of Phoenix. I’ve read the police reports. I’ve studied all of the videos. And I want to unpack and explain why justice is so hard to come by in cases like this. Like you, I’ve called for those officers to be fired, but it’s more complex than you think. The injustice is clear, but the path to justice is murky. Let me tell you why. Let’s dig in. This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)! ---- On Monday, May 27th, a young Black couple, Dravon, who is 22, and his fiancé, Iesha, who is 24 and visibly pregnant, went to a Family Dollar store in Phoenix, Arizona with their 4-year-old daughter, and 1-year-old baby. And when they left, their 4-year-old walked out of the dollar store with a Barbie Doll. Every single parent has had something like this happen before. Criminally, 4-year-old children are not capable of theft. They don’t understand economics, price points, ownership, criminal codes, ethics, or social responsibility. Every parent has had a young child walk out of a place with something they didn’t pay for.But when the Phoenix Police were called, they didn’t treat this like a petty theft call. At the most we’re talking about a misdemeanor. We’re talking about under $50. Instead, they treated the call like it was a strong-armed robbery. They treated that Barbie Doll like the nuclear codes had just been stolen. And it’s clear why. I’ve read the reports.

The police knew it was a Barbie Doll. They knew the car. They knew it was full of children. But they also knew one fact that made all the difference in the world. They knew they were looking for a Black family. And here’s what I know. And here’s what every reasonable person listening to this podcast knows.No white family – from any zip code; from any background; from any social status –with little kids who stole a Barbie would EVER be treated the way this young family was treated. From the moment the police arrived, until the moment these young parents were handcuffed and assaulted, having their baby snatched away, these police [officers] were belligerent, vulgar, violent, crass, and out of control. I watched the video with a few different people and some wondered if the officers were having what’s called ‘Roid Rage.’ Studies show that more police officers use illegal steroids than any other profession in America – and the steroids often cause people to scream and yell like out-of-control maniacs.

It was so outrageous – police were threatening to shoot the parents in the head and kill them straight away – that it was the extreme nature of the arrests that really caused the video to go super viral. It may very well be the most extreme, most angry, most out of control non-lethal arrest I’ve ever witnessed. And I’ve seen thousands. It’s 107 degrees outside, and police are trying to rip a 1-year old baby from the mother’s arms, demanding that she sit the baby, who cannot walk, on the scorching hot concrete so that she can be arrested.Many of you have seen it. For a moment, I want you to hear it, without the visuals, to just remember how utterly outrageous the whole thing truly is. (Audio Clip) And at the end of the police report, one of the officers on the scene documented, “I retrieved and secured the Barbie box from the back seat of the vehicle.” And guess what? After they did all of that – guess what happened? They couldn’t even arrest Dravon or Iesha. They didn’t even file charges. All of that was for sport. The officers, of course, told the same lies they always tell about being afraid for their lives. Afraid that Dravon & Iesha had guns, but again, all of that is code for their fear of Blackness itself. American police have effectively weaponized Blackness. Because NONE of that would’ve happened with a young white family over a Barbie Doll. And so the Mayor of Phoenix apologized. And the Chief of Police kind of apologized.

But yesterday, Dravon and Iesha said what we wish we’d hear more often. They said they weren’t accepting the apologies. That they were hollow. That an apology without a termination or consequences means nothing. And they’re right. I agree completely, but I need to break something down for us. (BREAK IT DOWN MUSIC) Police officers are among the most difficult people to fire in all of America. Even when they openly violate policy. Even when they have clearly done wrong. And it took me years to understand this. And mayors and city councils don’t like to talk about it because it’s a dirty little secret.

The United States has 17,985 police departments. That’s the most of any country in the world. And each of those departments have created complex contracts and union agreements with the cities and counties they serve in. And those contracts are literally the most ridiculous contracts of any profession in the nation – giving police almost complete autonomy from any real supervision. They investigate themselves. They can only fire themselves. Misconduct records are sealed. Investigations are allowed to take years and years. But then those same departments often have in their contract that employees can only be fired within a certain period of time of when misconduct took place. They are the worst negotiated contracts and do more to protect bad police, violent police, corrupt cops, racist and bigoted and sexist cops, than any person in any other profession in the nation.

And just as we must elect new District Attorneys county by county, we must review and renegotiate each of these 17,985 contracts. Because they are at the root of why police, like the officers in this clear case of misconduct in Phoenix, can’t be fired immediately. That needs to change – and change right away. In the months ahead, we’re going to announce and build a new institute on police misconduct that begins doing this type of hard work and I can’t wait to tell you more about it. Because right now, lawsuits are our only consistent recourse, and this family is suing the City of Phoenix for $10 million (as they should). But what we’ve seen across the country is that cities are willing to write those checks – with our tax dollars [and] without ever addressing the underlying policies that caused the misconduct in the first place. We have to fight hard, but we have to fight smart as well. ----- Thank you all for making it all the way through this episode of The Breakdown! If you haven’t already subscribed to our podcast, we’ll be right back here every single weekday, breaking down important news stories and issues, and we’d love for you to subscribe on your favorite podcast apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Our next goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers and we won’t get there without you! Have you left a review yet? On Apple Podcasts we now have over 8,000 5 star reviews, but we’re aiming for 10,000 – so we still want to hear from you so please leave your best review when you get time. Thank you so much to the nearly 30,000 founding members of The North Star whose generosity even makes this podcast possible. Love y’all and appreciate you so much. If you love this podcast and want to support our work – or want to see the show notes and transcript for each episode – we’d love it if you considered becoming a founding member of our community at TheNorthStar.com. There we not only have our podcasts, but hundreds of original articles and stories and commentaries from some of the leading scholars and thinkers and journalists in the world. Lastly, a shout out to our Associate Producer Lyssandra and Podcasting Director and Senior Producer, Willis, for their hard work on this and every episode. Take care everybody. ----- Credits: Produced by Willis Polk II