Fellas, is it discrimination to make fun of a cop?
Hi all! Long time no ACAP—I’m “back” from being busy on other, non-writing projects and I’ve got a few announcements before we tuck in.
First, I’m beyond excited to announce that I’m now a part of Discontents, thee premiere lefty Substack writers collective that’s made up of some really high-qual work—“like and subscribe” if you’re interested in smart, sharp, critical coverage of healthcare, electoral biz, labor, foreign policy, immigration, the broad misery of American life… etc etc! I’m gonna be dropping an original piece over at Discontents instead of here for the newsletter’s 6/21 edition.
I’ve also published a couple of relevant (if buttoned-up) things since I last summoned the energy to post here—read me on the Defund movement in VICE and check out my review of Rosa Brooks’s mommy issues Let’s Be Cops-ass memoir in The Nation (I didn’t get to call it that in the real deal, but I did get edited by the always-great Kevin Lozano).
OK! Good! I’ve been wanting to write about the cops and Pride and posting ever since my editor and friend Rachel Wilkerson Miller put me on with a simple screenshot that made me say “Oh rachel I just gasped” on Slack. This is that screenshot:
I was intrigued for all of the obvious reasons—especially because this wasn’t the first time I’d seen a potent fusion of Cop Identity and queer identity is recent memory. That’s thanks to an op-ed published in an obscure little quarterly titled ‘A Misstep by the Organizers of Pride.’ (Not gonna link—A. G. Sulzberger wishes!) In case you missed it, the NYT op-ed opens like this:
Back in the closet as a cop… right! Right! Lauren Theisen over at Defector eviscerated this whole spectacle of degradation in the laugh-out-loud funny ‘It Is Unconscionable That The Gay Community Has Ostracized Me Simply Because I Was Born A Cop.’ Uh oh, another case of like and subscribe! I also had my little take, as I am wont to do.
Katie Way @k80wayLeading with a woman who considers "NYPD sergeant" to be as critical to her identity as her sexuality is not making the point the Times thinks it is making https://t.co/B37udpMUZm
Aaaaaanyway, I expected to find the #gaycopsoftiktok bristling with the same kind of outrage/accusations of discrimination that’ve been directed at NYC’s Heritage of Pride organizers in the wake of their decision to keep uniformed officers from marching until 2025. I fully anticipated the same kind of venom Cop TikTok has been directing at LeBron James for a single, now-deleted tweet calling for accountability after a cop shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in April.
But after surveying the landscape, what I found was honestly… kind of weak.
Mostly, it’s standard, music cue TikTok cop thirst trap fare (oh, surprise surprise, a little handcuff prop work).
There’s the occasional “Nobody can believe that I’m gay and a cop!”
And then, after all of that, I could only find one woman cop upset about the Pride ban—and honestly, she doesn’t even care enough to really sell her outrage beyond a few canned “inclusive community” cracks. It’s almost as if she can’t wait to stop recording so she can make a video about something that actually matters to her, like some kind of zoning dispute whatever she thinks “critical race theory” is.
No matter how loudly police officers argue that they’re integral to the “history” of Pride, there’s another history there that makes the position of #gaycop, on TikTok or otherwise, a lot harder to defend. The history of cops and the queer community is one of ignoring hate-fueled violence against gay men during the AIDS epidemic. It’s one of treating queer and trans people as less-than or non-existent when they are hurt or killed, especially when they aren’t not white. It’s one where queer and trans people disproportionately experienced (and continue to experience) police harassment and police violence. Literally Google Stonewall! Google Reclaim Pride NYC 2020! Policing exists to uphold a status quo that is diametrically opposed to queer and trans liberation. And anyone doing an honest accounting knows that almost all of those strains of hate and fear and repulsion are very much alive and well and veined through the heart of cop culture today, too.
Totally unrelated to how cops at large might regard the queer community—check out a 100,000-member strong, pro-cop Facebook group reacting to one of the NYPD’s Pride cruisers, re-shared just after the 5th anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting:
(And for more information on how shitty the NYPD is specifically, I’d recommend another brilliant Rachel recommendation: Last Call by Elon Green, New York cops actively fuck up the hunt for a serial killer who targets gay men who frequent a Midtown Manhattan bar.)
Blocked and Reported
Here’s the latest in cops felled in the line of duty by their own insatiable need to post.
On May 5, Sara Erwin was fired from her position as a Hopewell Township, New Jersey cop for calling BLM protesters “terrorists” in June 2020, and Sgt. Mandy Grey was suspended for six months for commenting on Erwin’s Facebook post.
On May 6, an unidentified cop in Birmingham, Alabama was put on desk duty after calling Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and all Democratic elected officials “socialist enemies” of the United States in a Facebook post. Uh, buddy, I wish!
As of May 19, LAPD chief Michel Moore declared his intention to fire the still-anonymous cop who circulated a George Floyd-themed Valentine on Instagram. Still no word on why Moore spells his first name wrong.
On May 28, Deputy Marshall Nate Silvester of Bellevue, Idaho was fired for making fun of LeBron James on TikTok. He got to go on Hannity about it. Cancel culture strikes again,,
On May 30, the Rocky Mount, North Carolina police department fired officers Joshua Bobbitt, Patrick Pipkin and Sara Smith over offensive TikTok content.
On June 1, Captain Jay Huard was suspended for “accidentally” reposting a tweet in the wake of the Chauvin verdict on the official Fall River, Massachusetts Police Department Facebook page. The tweet: “Chauvin immediately stood and calmly placed his hands behind his back. Imagine where we’d be had George done the same.”
On June 3, Officer Ta’Lor Payne of Cleveland, Ohio was suspended for 20 days without pay for posting raunchy TikToks in uniform.
And, of COURSE, hero Shake Shack manager Marcus Gilliam is SUING our friends over at the NYC PBA and the Detectives Endowment Association for defamation after they accused him of dumping bleach into three cops’ milkshakes in May 2020—accusations they blew up on Twitter. Get them, king!
Questions, comments, corrections? (“You don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer” is not a correction.) Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, send “business” “inquiries” to email@example.com, or DM me on Twitter.