One Bad Apple Came From A Tree




We have often heard people say when talking about the state of policing in America, and the steady rise in the number of complaints, and disturbing criminal cases alleged and filed against law enforcement and police departments around the country, that it’s just “one bad apple.” Unfortunately, when people use that particular analogy , they don’t take the rest of the phrase that completes the sentence into consideration. It goes like this: “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.” This was popularized and rephrased by Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Almanack” in 1736. Ben Franklin paraphrased it this way, “The rotten apple spoils his companion.” In sermons of the 19th century, pastors preached the following, “As one bad apple spoils the others, so you must show no quarter to sin or sinners.” The Bible also speaks of “A little leaven leavening the whole loaf.” Apples do not grow independently but are the fruit that is born from a tree usually planted in an orchard, grove or group of other trees. These trees have roots planted in soil and this root system is responsible for supplying the trees with both nutrients and hydration in order that the tree can produce the apples that are identified as the fruit of the tree. Therefore, claiming that the “problems” in policing and criminal justice in America are the result of the “one bad apple” theory or even a few “bad apples” is not only confusing and misleading but absolutely false.


What we have in America is not one or two or three “bad apples”, what we have is an entire justice and law enforcement system infected by the disease of racism, injustice, and inequality that has been built on the foundations of white supremacy and oppression. The entire system is infected and must be dismantled. There is no other way. The continuous violence, killing, and trauma that is being inflected upon Black, Brown and Indigenous communities by a failed justice system and corrupt law enforcement agencies across the United States of America is criminal. It is a violation of human rights. It is a violation of the civil rights to which ALL Americans are entitled. It constitutes what would be called in the world court “Crimes Against Humanity!” Shame on you America! Within hours, days, even before a week has gone by since the guilty verdict was rendered by a jury in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, the unabated killing of unarmed Black people in America continues.


Police officers are supposed to be public servants. They are hired by communities to “protect and serve”. Black, brown and Indigenous communities are tax paying citizens in this country. The sick and disgusting irony that is being played out in the streets and communities of America right now is that we, the aforementioned Black, brown and Indigenous communities, are literally funding our own deaths, our own stalkers, assaulters and executioners. The viscous cycle of death, excessive use of force, abuse of power and depraved indifference cannot continue. As this column is being written the US Department of Justice is opening probes into the “patterns and practice” of the police departments and criminal justice systems in both Louisville, Kentucky and Minneapolis, Minnesota. These may the first investigations launched in the new Biden Administration, but they most definitely won’t be the last, if the current plague of police violence and abuse of power continues. There is no evidence that, there will be any relenting by rogue officers or rogue police departments, county sheriffs or criminal justice agencies around the country. This is true no matter how much “hope” was generated by the guilty verdict handed down last week in Minneapolis. Even though we all had a momentary breath of fresh air in the form of some level of accountability for the torture and cold-blooded murder of George Floyd, we will, once again, be holding our breath and waiting to exhale. There’s no such thing as one bad apple, the entire orchard is infected, and it needs to be cut down, uprooted and re-planted in different soil with new seeds.


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