Roorda – The Cops’ Sharpton

1 Feb

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:

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?


3 Responses to “Roorda – The Cops’ Sharpton”

  1. Anonymous February 1, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Great post!


  2. shortstop February 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    I have never met Jeff Roorda (which may seem unusual since I was a PO for over 30 years). And though I have legitimate concerns about a Civilian Review Board, I don’t think allowing himself to be the lightening rod in this issue is going to help the officers’ cause.

    There is enough information available to have a serious debate about some of the tactical decisions the officers involved made in some of the instances without Roorda essentially saying “police- always right”. Agreeing that an officer was limited by his training does not make the action criminal (see the MSHP water patrol incident).

    If Darren Wilson had truly thought about it- and not told what to say by his lawyers- I bet his answer to the question of “could you have done anything differently” would have been different. Like, better interview position (not from the seated confines of your car), taking cover (a form of tactical withdrawal), when to disengage, calling for back up quicker, use of less than lethal weapons (oh he didn’t take the taser with him), or simply playing a seemingly routine contact too cheaply (no encounter is routine- you never know who you are stopping). Not to mention driving himself to the station, booking his own weapon, and washing the blood off without taking photos (where were his supervisors?). That might need to be done differently.

    The Civilian Review Board is probably a done deal. Roorda needs to work within the confines to get the best practices and the right people installed instead of stirring the pot.
    If Roorda truly thinks he is a Darren Wilson than obviously he must need much more training.



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