The Wednesday night brouhaha at a St. Louis aldermanic committee hearing over a proposed civilian oversight board for city police provides further evidence that police union business manager (and former JeffCo politician) Jeff Roorda is not interested in fixing racial relations or improving the public perception of police. In fact, he seems to thrive on police-community division, much like Al Sharpton benefits personally from racial discord (see the Rams’ “Hands Up” gesture incident). This is despite Roorda’s laughable claim in August that “I’d like us to think about building bridges between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect. I think I could help with that process.”
Whether or not Roorda shoved a woman at the meeting is up for interpretation, as video of the incident is not clear. I think this CNN interview (halfway down the page) with Bishop Derrick Robinson is interesting, and is perhaps the most reliable eyewitness account of the incident that you will get. But we do know that he did not go to the meeting with peace and understanding on his mind:
Look at Roorda’s pose….the bracelet. Pushing that woman was not the first fight he was looking for tonight. pic.twitter.com/fdfm3GbG67
— Jillian Hurley (@BeautyBind) January 29, 2015
Roorda says that free speech gives him the right to wear the bracelet, and he compares it to others wearing “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” shirts, but he should know that this gesture is inflammatory, and he probably does, but he doesn’t care. As the Post-Dispatch‘s Bill McClellan writes, “He takes great pride in being tactless.” McClellan compares Roorda to prominent protestor Anthony Shahid, who has been called a “local professional agitator.”
Roorda refers to anyone who thinks police reform is needed as a “violent protestor” – though one could argue he was the only violent protestor Wednesday night. But as the Post-Dispatch editorial board writes:
So let us postulate that it’s possible to be “pro-police,” and still believe that police officers must be civil to the communities they serve and be held responsible for their actions.
The flip side of that is:
Let us posit further that it’s possible to have street cred and still thank cops who honorably do a dangerous and necessary job and that people who endanger the lives of police officers do so at their own peril.
But Roorda does not appear to be interested in “honorably doing the job.” He is threatening a bout of “blue flu” if the civilian review board comes to pass:
Jeff Roorda, a police union official, said on Thursday that St. Louis police officers will quit the department or do only the bare minimum on patrol if the city creates the kind of civilian oversight board currently being proposed.
“They’d answer their calls when they got them, but as far as interrupting criminal behavior on their own, why in the world would they do that when their employers aren’t even supporting them?” Roorda said.
So much for wanting to protect and serve. Civilian review boards can be found in most major cities, and the P-D ed board calls the proposed St. Louis version “inadequate, but a start.” But still, Roorda, whose main duty appears to be defending bad cops, continues to fight angrily against any kind of police oversight, including body cameras.
Bad police officers give the whole profession a bad name. But when the system refuses to punish these offenders (I don’t include Darren Wilson here, but there are many other examples), and people like Roorda continue to back them up, the whole justice system loses the confidence of the public. The first step towards reconciliation is to hold police accountable, and it is clear that that won’t happen in the St. Louis region without body cameras, civilian review, dismantling of North St. Louis County micro-departments that act as revenue generators, and the removal of bad officers. On that last point, how about the St. Louis police union starts with Roorda?