This column was adapted from a section of our Monday newsletter, the Monday Mix. To sign up, visit here.
“Copaganda is a form of propaganda used to describe depictions of police in a positive light while obscuring negative qualities, most often through mass media, with the intent of swaying public opinion for the benefit of law enforcement,” according to Wikipedia. And it happens all the time. Examples include feel-good cop shows and perpetuation by news media of one-off cop stories. One recent example is ABC45’s story about how the High Point Police Department is publishing a children’s book. Cute, right? Not so much.
According to the news report, HPPD is publishing Little Eli and the High Point Police Department, which tells the story of a real-life kid named Eli who befriended members of the police department when they were out investigating a crime scene. More details about the book weren’t included, but it’s not hard to see how this falls into the category of copaganda. The story itself perpetuates the narrative that law enforcement are our friends while the book aims to sell that narrative to children from an early age. And it’s insidious to say the least, especially when you consider that FOX 8 recently did a story about how HPPD has been justifying traffic stops to curb violent crime.
In that story, the news outlet quotes HPPD Deputy Chief Anthro Gamble.
“Traffic stops are the key to reducing our violent crimes,” Deputy Chief Anthro Gamble said.
It’s a proactive approach to policing.
“Our officers are out there actively looking for crime taking place,” Chief Stroud said. “It can’t be all calls you get in.”
Of course violent crime is an issue. But what this kind of reporting does is perpetuates the idea that more traffic stops, more “officers… stopping vehicles for reasonable suspicion and probable cause to get criminals and guns off the streets,” is the solution. It takes a convenient anecdote about how one of these traffic stops led to seizing five firearms as justification for the method. But the data doesn’t bear out.
In fact, multiple studies have shown that “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” is often used by police to pull over people who end up becoming victims of police brutality. I mean, Tyre Nichols JUST DIED, because of something like this. In that incident, the officers involved said that they pulled Nichols over for reckless driving. In the end, the police chief found that there was no evidence to that and stated, “We’ve taken a pretty extensive look to determine what that probable cause was and we have not been able to substantiate that.”
That’s why this kind of journalism is irresponsible at best and extremely harmful and racist at worst. And it’s time that we all demand better.
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