By Christopher Harper
Over the past few years, my students’ attitude toward the police have changed dramatically. Even though a few of the students still profess some trust in cops, the vast majority have a distinctly hostile attitude, primarily based on recent reports about brutality rather than first-hand experiences.
“It doesn’t take much to see the absolute racial injustice with the police, so, if I were to cover a story with the cops, calling out that racial injustice might seem biased because I would be highlighting the negative, but it really is just shining some light on the cruelty and brutality that has been caused by the police,” one Black woman wrote on the class discussion board.
A white woman responded: “I hear a lot about the ‘bad apples’ metaphor or people stating that there are good cops. My question is, if there are these good apples, what’s eventually going to happen to them when they are hanging around the bad apples? You turn into the people you surround yourself with. Again, the whole system is corrupt. There are no good cops in a racist system.”
Interestingly, a Black woman from an affluent neighborhood was one of a few students who defended the police. “My attitude towards cops is respectful. In general….I think highly of police because they have made it their purpose in life to protect others and to uphold the law. I know that at the end of the day if I am in trouble, I am calling 911 to help me.”
Not only is it troubling that many of my students don’t respect the police, but somehow the budding journalists think they can get past their biases if they had to report about crime. Nearly all of the students think they should be fair and balanced in their reporting except when it comes to the police.
One woman justified her bias. “I would be reporting on police-adjacent topics through the lens of historically documented racism, corruption, and hyper-toxic masculinity,” she wrote.
Historically, cops and journalists haven’t mixed well together. Cops don’t trust reporters to get the story right; journalists think the police try to cover stuff up.
Now, however, a new chasm has occurred—one that I have been unable to bridge despite my best efforts. In the past, I’d bring in a police officer to talk to the class. But few students no longer want to listen.