The media has been quoting a few transparently cherry-picked persons, as well as toying with headlines, to the effect of “who marches for dead police officers?” As if law enforcement casualties are ignored by the public. The fact is that every time a police officer dies there is a parade, there is a protest. (Admittedly, it’s rarely a grassroots protest, but instead a manufactured one. More on that below.) In most cases there is an extravagant funeral, paid for by American taxpayers. Police unions and lobbyists use dead cops as leverage for policy change, both internally (within police departments) and legislatively. Flags are ordered to be flown at half-mast outside of government buildings. There is well-oiled machinery in place to take efficient advantage of every cop who dies.
We couldn’t ignore law enforcement deaths even if we wanted to. Even if we didn’t care, or if we secretly rejoiced at dead cops, we’d be forced to hear a repetitive pro-cop, “wounded hero,” narrative at every rare incident of a police officer getting hurt. And because of those who don’t form opinions on their own, persons who allow the media to dictate what they think and feel, a false consensus is created.
When a police officer dies, well-financed institutions partially dedicated to propaganda step in. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is one of these: it took advantage of Moore’s death to place a billboard. This perpetuates the “hero” cop myth, and the “fallen” myth. It perpetuates authoritarian ideology and is an unabashedly one-sided direction of discourse. These billboards are up there with anti-abortion and anti-homosexual billboards found in the rural areas of southern states.
The entire town of Farmingdale, in Long Island, was virtually closed. The police blocked off streets. Public schools were closed for the day. Approximatley 30,000 police officers in dress uniform – imported from all over the state – lined the roads. This, for one funeral.
No impromptu parades happen, because those parades are already planned and funded on the public dime. There is no alternative media advocating on behalf of dead cops, because dead cops already carry the full attention of the mainstream media. No grassroots leadership has to carve out a legislative niche, or scrap together funds for lobbying efforts, because police lobbyists are already well-funded, established and carry the attention of a majority of legislators.
It’s probably also the case that we don’t see parades and protests because, at the community level, most people don’t relate to the police. The police are an exclusive and highly-privileged group. They’re also a highly insular group, in the context of their social relations and their values. Many actual people can relate to a person being arrested unjustly, or being wounded by a police officer, because many people have experienced it themselves or know people who have. Most people, on the other hand, do not know any police officers who have been wounded or killed.
(And this stands to reason, given that even if police officers were not incredibly insular, even if police officers had regular social relations outside of the law enforcement community, it is actually rare that police officers are wounded or killed.)
What happens, then, is that grassroots protests – the kinds of protests we see when the police kill someone (and 400 people have already been killed by police in 2015, so take your pick) – are underrepresented. These protests are stifled by curfews. They’re hindered by intense scrutiny in the mainstream media. Many people are afraid to attend, due to frequent arrests. Many more people support protesters, vigorously, than those we see protesting.
It’s the opposite with law enforcement. Very few people outside of the law enforcement community feel outrage at a dead cop. (And this is how it should be.) They don’t need to: the system itself manufactures more outrage, more of a response, than any grassroots movement can. When you see a pro-police parade, keep in mind that it is filled primarily with law enforcement officers. And they are expected to be there. The extravagant funerals of dead cops are orchestrated by powerful private, semi-private and legal interests. And the mainstream media, which is heavily reliant on good relationships with law enforcement for its own livelihood, has a virtual mandate to report on dead cops in a way that doesn’t even pretend to be without bias.
The end result, the overall picture, is that we tend to view actual grassroots protests against law enforcement (not only against law enforcement violence, but against the police themselves) as being more fringe than they are, and support for the law enforcement narrative as being more common than it is. The image, in turn, shapes reality. Individuals who would otherwise have no opinion, or form an educated opinion, instead merely consume the police narrative they hear on the television.