Interesting story over at Buzzfeed about the rise of police departments making their own Cops-style videos to highlight a positive view of the police.
A fast-moving situation. An officer with a drawn weapon. A Black man suspected of a crime. Bystanders screaming at the police that the man behind the wheel has a mental condition. And a video broadcast on social media. Time and time again the world has seen these videos end in tragedy.
But no one is shot in this video. At the tensest moment, a soundtrack amps up music that would fit in a Fast & Furious trailer. Without incident, the officer gets the driver out of the car and takes him to a hospital for mental health treatment.
Here’s the actual video from the Miami PD queued up to that moment.
Buzzfeed is quick to point out this is all a response to Black Lives Matter:
The massive protests that erupted after police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, were the catalyst for not just Black Lives Matter but for police departments to realize they needed to embrace these new methods if they wanted to be heard, Stevens, the founder of SMILE, said.
“Ferguson was a huge, huge, huge event, Charlottesville was huge, Baltimore, all of them were big in the whole social media policing [uptick]. But Ferguson was a real peak in police social media,” said Stevens.
“The Ferguson Police Department were doing zero with social media when the whole ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ situation went down,” Stevens said. “Now they’re very much in support of using social media and understand that they have to use social media, because they get how social media was their undoing that day.”
So now lots of major departments are making videos like the one above on a regular basis. Here’s a series the NYPD is doing on neighborhood policing. The LAPD has a YouTube channel which is a mix of videos seeking public help solving crimes and also videos meant to humanize the force like this one:
And since I’m talking about dramatic police videos, I have to include this one from earlier this week. LAPD officers pulled a pilot from a crashed plane seconds before the wreck was hit by a train.
The most interesting part of the article focuses on a black officer working for the Kansas City PD who has become their in-house video producer. Officer Malcolm Whitelaw decided his department needed to start making videos after his time policing BLM protests.
He was a patrol officer before he started making videos for the department at the beginning of 2021. The videos were his idea, inspired in part, though maybe subconsciously, he conceded, by his experience patrolling last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.
“As I was standing there, there were some girls, like, yelling at me, and I kind of got confused because this is a young white girl telling me that I don’t understand what it means to be Black,” Whitelaw said, sitting at a conference table with his two white bosses, who were nodding along. “And I’m like, I have more experience in this field than you.”
In fact, when he was a teen he was once pulled over and held at gunpoint by police who later realized he merely fit the description of someone they were trying to arrest. But for a long time he had a negative view of police officers. Even now he says, as much as he loves his job, it’s more of a job than an identity for him. But his videos have been a hit locally, to the point where some people now recognize him on the street. He is in some sense becoming the face of the KCPD. How does that feel? “If you have to be the face of something, at least it’s being the face for the right reasons, or good reasons, things that are positive,” he told Buzzfeed.
Here’s Officer Whitelaw’s promo video for the KCPD YouTube Channel. From what I can see, he’s pretty good at his job. I think more police departments need to think about finding someone equally talented to help them present a positive face to the community because BLM activists and the media definitely won’t do it for them.