Column

Cops Are Not the Victims Here

Officers are broadcasting petty grievances, showing their indifference to protestors’ calls for police reform

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Milkshakes, McMuffins, and tampons, oh my! Over the last few weeks, police officers across the country have claimed their food orders are being tampered with by service workers with anti-cop biases. But the efforts to distract from police violence have largely failed — if anything, the fact that cops are painting themselves as victims while they simultaneously refuse to empathize with protestors brings more attention to how little they seem to care about deadly racism.

A Los Angeles cop told a reporter on Monday that he found a tampon in his Starbucks frappuccino (the reporter then tweeted out a picture of something that looked nothing like a tampon); a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia went viral earlier this month after she posted a video of herself crying outside a McDonald’s because she feared employees would do something to her Egg McMuffin; and in New York, police accused Shake Shack employees of poisoning their milkshakes — a claim proven to be entirely fabricated.

It is not a coincidence that cops are trying to paint themselves as victims right now. Protesters across the country are demanding police officers be held accountable for their violence against Black people, and a majority of Americans agree with the demonstrations. And as calls to defund or abolish the police gain traction, it’s becoming clear public opinion is not on cops’ side.

In the same way police hope that images of white officers kneeling with protesters or hugging Black children will humanize them even as they shoot rubber bullets into peaceful crowds, the spate of (sometimes invented) anti-cop harassment is meant to make Americans feel as if the victimizers are the real victims.

Officers are angry they’re not being given the unearned deference and respect that cops are taught they are entitled to.

That’s why NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea claimed protesters were strategically placing bricks across the city to use against cops, tweeting a picture of what was actually debris from a nearby construction site (apparently, Shea was less concerned with an instance of actual, police-propagated violence: This week, he defended the police officers who drove a car into a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn earlier this month, saying the officers didn’t violate the NYPD’s force policy), and why cops in New York falsely claimed concrete mixing samples were being disguised in ice cream containers so that demonstrators could throw them at police.

Police officers would like Americans to believe the protests are violent, and that, despite all the videos showing cops pepper-spraying, hitting, dragging, and shoving peaceful protesters, it’s the police who are the ones in danger.

But it’s not just a PR strategy that is driving the police to sometimes lie about anti-cop incidents. It’s more than that: Officers are angry they’re not being given the unearned deference and respect that cops are taught they are entitled to.

When the sheriff’s deputy in Georgia cried about her McDonald’s order, for example, she didn’t just say she was afraid about her food being tampered with. She was upset over the general shift in people’s opinions of officers.

“I don’t know what’s going on with people nowadays, but please give us a break,” she said. “If you see an officer, say ‘Thank you,’ because I don’t hear ‘Thank you’ enough anymore.”

It’s an outrageous request — to show appreciation, of all things, as Black people are being killed in the street by those meant to protect them, and as protesters are being tear-gassed by the government meant to uphold their free speech. The police officers complaining about missing food orders or fretting over bad-tasting milkshakes are demonstrating just how out of touch they are with the heart of what these protests are about.

No one is poisoning police officers. No one is tampering with their food or writing “pig” on their coffee cups. Americans just want the racism to stop. And when white cops spend more time whining over largely fake fast food controversies than they do listening to the real grievances of Black Americans, it lays plain just how warped their priorities are.

If police are afraid of what the public thinks of them, they don’t need to cry in their cars or stop eating out — they just need to stop killing people.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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