410,757,864,530 DEAD COPS
Hey all! Happy belated President’s Day!
Somber edition this week on something that’s been rattling around in my head for a while: Death! Specifically, what happens when a police officer dies.
If Indigenous teenagers and Black trans sex workers and homeless people are the less dead—marginalized to the point that when they die violently, it’s par for the course—then cops are the more dead, because every cop’s death is reflexively treated like a tragedy. That’s why every officer flatlining on a ventilator because he didn’t want to comply with his city’s Nazi vaccine mandates dies “in the line of duty.” A cop’s death automatically matters, and the only decent response—according to his fellow cops and the God-fearing Americans who love them—is to show unwavering respect to both the deceased cop and the institution of policing in the wake of this profound loss.
And the institution of policing knows how to make its losses unignorable—by making its grief spectacular. Take the funeral processions for two NYPD officers, Wilbur Mora and Jason Rivera, killed in January 2022 after responding to a domestic disturbance call in Harlem. NYPD cops in their dress uniforms mobbed the streets of New York City for Rivera’s wake, then Mora’s, blotting out whole blocks of pavement in the middle of Manhattan with a swarm of navy blue bodies. The resulting scenes were best viewed from above.
Cops as far as the eye can see! Evocative, huh? Obviously, not every police department has NYPD’s headcount (or budget), but smaller-scale funeral processions, memorial displays, and annual remembrances for “fallen officers” are typical. So are similar commemorative acts, in public and online, on days like 9/11 or when some other patriotic loss is going viral—check out this inexplicably dramatic offering from the Kissimmee Police Department when 13 soldiers were killed in Kabul in 2021, and bear in mind that none of those 13 soldiers were even from Florida.
Police departments and other pro-cop associations use these extravagant displays in order to do three important things:
1) Valorize and deify the cop as a warrior-hero by showing that he is worthy of such a public grief performance.
2) Reassure police sympathizers that police still have “the power” by parading cops in front of cameras armed and en masse.
3) Make police deaths hyper-visible to reinforce the danger imperative, that get-out-of-jail-free card that empowers LEOs to hurt anyone who might even be thinking about hurting them, like sleeping men, children, and dogs. Those officers had no choice but to shoot! Don’t you see how they’re massacring cops these days?
The Blue Lives Matter crowd treats any attempt to downplay or qualify blue grief, even online, like a full-on bodily assault—anyone who expresses anti-cop sentiment in the face of blue grief becomes almost as morally bankrupt as an actual cop killer, and deserves to be punished accordingly.
Three New York City residents lost their jobs because of pro-cop backlash against things they posted online about Rivera’s funeral procession. A teacher, Chris Flanigan, made a joke on his Instagram story that commenters interpreted as a threat. On an aerial shot of the cop crowd: “5/30/20: NYPD SUV drives into a crowd of protestors. Ideal conditions for reciprocity.” (Flanigan later told the New York Post he “was really just trying to show the vulnerability of all of these police officers being in the same place at the same time which seems like a dangerous situation for anyone that would be that gathered together,” which is clearly not true and a funny thing to say.) Flanigan’s school fired him four days later.
Another teacher, Laura Lynne Duffy, tweeted criticism of her private school’s official “dress down” day to honor Rivera and Mora, adding “#BLM” and “#Abolition” to the tweet. She was fired the next day after the school conducted an “investigation.” And an actress named Jaqueline Guzman was fired from her position at a theater company for posting a 16-second rant on TikTok asking why Lower Manhattan was getting a single cop’s funeral when victims of police violence don’t see the same.
How are these situations different from the firings (that have rapidly declined, FWIW) that I recap in the “Blocked and Reported” section of this newsletter? On the surface, it’s the same story: Someone posted themselves into deep shit and out of a job. The key is the power imbalance, exemplified in the case of Anna Kochakian, a 26-year-old woman living in Chicago.
Kochakian was arrested in February for something she tweeted a video of herself doing in August 2021: She tore a photo of Ella French, a (young, female) Chicago Police Department officer killed on the job, down from a memorial and threw it in the trash. When Kochakian initially posted the video on Twitter, it inspired the usual wave of outrage and hate messages, searches for her employer on LinkedIn, reactionary blog write-ups, and Andy Ngo tweets—but now, she’s also facing felony charges for “defacement of a police memorial.” And the CPD got to do something extra theatrical when they arrested Kochakian, something they were proud to announce on social media: in an act of ritualization, CPD restrained “the offender” with handcuffs that belonged to Ella French’s partner, wounded in the same shooting that killed French.
The cop foaming at the mouth while he writes Facebook statuses about running over BLM-Antifa criminals with his personal vehicle has a shot at acting on his fantasies. At the very least, a cop who isn’t afraid to make threats online has the power to police people according to those internet grievances. Did the teacher shitposting on Instagram even own a car? Would an un-crumpled photo of Ella French resurrect her? And would she be half as valuable to the institution of policing if she was still alive?
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.