Across North Carolina, Police Face Backlash For Racist & Violent Statements

Photo: LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images
In Wilmington, North Carolina, three police officers were fired over racist, anti-Black statements that were accidentally recorded on a patrol car camera, The Washington Post reports. The police officers, 44-year-old Officer Michael “Kevin” Piner, 50-year-old Corporal Jesse Moore, II, and 48-year-old Officer James “Brian” Gilmore discussed the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and how the movement would lead to a civil war. 
“We are just going to go out and start slaughtering them,” said Piner, who added that he planned to buy assault rifles. “Wipe ‘em off the f------ map. That’ll put 'em back about four or five generations.” Their conversation was made public after a sergeant found the footage while conducting routine video reviews. After alerting a superior, an internal investigation was underway. 
Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams said that in addition to firing the three officers, he would alert the North Carolina Education and Training Standards Commission. “These individuals should not be allowed to practice law enforcement again,” Williams recommended in a department report of the incident. 
But the disturbing news comes in conjunction with another major instance of racism among police officers in the same state. In another North Carolina police department, about 100 miles north of Wilmington in New Bern, an officer’s racist Facebook posts were being reviewed this week. 
“If you think the Atlanta shooting is anything other than a justified use of force, I have a uniform and a gun you can wear. Let us know if you prefer burial or cremation. You won’t make it,” Officer Nick Rhodes wrote on his Facebook page about Atlanta police shooting and killing Rayshard Brooks. New Bern Police Chief Toussaint Summers, Jr. said the department was looking into Rhodes' comments, which were turned over to its Professional Standards division. 
"I continue to ask the communities’ patience as we review this situation," Chief Summers, Jr. said in a statement, following massive unrest over the disturbing position a police officer publicly took.
In the last month, a national movement has taken hold in response to police killings of Black people, as organizers and their communities bring attention to the systemic racism that is both protected and perpetuated by law enforcement as an institution. Calls to abolish policing have even become an international rallying cry as people fight for a more just future free of racist policing. 
At a time when movements to abolish the white supremacist violence ingrained in modern policing are gaining international attention, these instances of racism in two separate police departments in North Carolina are disturbing examples of what these calls are really about.  
“When you realize racism is endemic in an industry predicated on the surveillance of Black bodies, you also realize that these ‘few bad actors’ are performing just as their roles were intended,” said Donovan Livingston, an educator from North Carolina. 
In Wilmington, despite the clearly anti-Black sentiments of the three officers being caught on video, they all denied being racist, and pointed to “the stress of today’s law enforcement environment” as the reason for their conversations. When reached for comment, a public affairs and diversity and inclusion officer for the Wilmington Police Department (whose email signature included a quote from the civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) again emphasized the officers' morale.

While the comments made by these officers happened to be caught on tape, it begs a larger question about all the racist actions of the police that aren’t.
"There are certain behaviors that one must have in order to be a police officer and these three officers have demonstrated that they do not possess it," said Chief Donny Williams in a statement. "When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened and disgusted. There is no place for this behavior in our agency or our city and it will not be tolerated."
But it’s not just words. The sentiments have material consequences, as police officers in departments across the country routinely kill Black people with impunity. This is the reality that led to the current national uprising to abolish all the systems that allow this to continue because, as Black liberation organizers have said for years, reform is clearly not enough.  

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