A former St. Louis Police officer revealed over the weekend that he discovered that many officers were “deeply racist” after joining the force.
In a column for The Washington Post, NAACP Ethic Project head Redditt Hudson explained that he joined the St. Louis Police Department in 1994 because he wanted to help his community, but he soon learned “just how racist and violent the police are.”
“I grew up in an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis. It was the kind of place where officers routinely roughed up my friends and family for no good reason,” Hudson recalled. “I hated the way cops treated me.”
But a family friend who was a cop told Hudson that he could make a difference he if he became an officer.
“I quickly realized how naive I’d been. I was floored by the dysfunctional culture I encountered,” the former officer wrote. “I won’t say all, but many of my peers were deeply racist.”
Hudson said that he regularly saw officers targeting minorities, and referring to innocent bystanders as “thugs.”
“They would respond with force to even minor offenses. And because cops are rarely held accountable for their actions, they didn’t think too hard about the consequences,” he noted.
In one case, he saw an officer beat a teen boy because he would not allow police to search for a robbery suspect in his home. They later found out that the boy had been on crutches and unable to walk when he answered the door to talk to police.
Hudson’s sergeant denied his request to report the misconduct.
“I could not, in good conscience, participate in a system that was so intentionally unfair and racist. So after five years on the job, I quit,” he noted. “The problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police.”
According to Hudson, officers know that they will only face friendly investigations at worst if they are accused of misconduct.
“My colleagues would laughingly refer to this as a free vacation. It isn’t a punishment. And excessive force is almost always deemed acceptable in our courts and among our grand juries,” he observed. “Prosecutors are tight with law enforcement, and share the same values and ideas.”
Hudson argued that the solution was to appoint a special prosecutor in cases of excessive force, and to back that up with robust independent oversight.
“The number of people in uniform who will knowingly and maliciously violate your human rights is huge,” he warned. “At the Ferguson protests, people are chanting, ‘The whole damn system is guilty as hell.’ I agree, and we have a lot of work to do.”