When I heard noted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino had participated in a rally devoted to opposing police brutality, I thought that was cool.
When I heard that the police unions were encouraging people to boycott his upcoming movie, The Hateful Eight, I thought that was funny.
But when I heard that the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the largest police unions in the United States, told Tarantino they had a “surprise” for him, I took that as a thinly-veiled threat.
On October 24th, Tarantino joined a New York protest that advocated on behalf of the many victims of police. The deceased victims were mostly young black men, including La-Reko Williams who was shot and killed in 2011. His mother, Temako Williams, had been given $500,000 but said, “It wasn’t worth the price of my son’s life. It’s a wound that won’t heal.”
Tarantino’s quote which started the controversy took place during the protest: “When I see murders, I do not stand by … I have to call a murder a murder and I have to call the murderers the murderers.” This led to police unions in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles publicly denouncing him.
Craig Lally, the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League went so far as to say, “there is no place for inflammatory rhetoric that makes police officers even bigger targets than we already are.” But as Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, wrote, “Policing has been getting safer for 20 years. In terms of raw number of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for cops since World War II.”
Lally also called for a boycott of The Hateful Eight, saying “hateful rhetoric dehumanizes police and encourages attacks on us. And questioning everything we do threatens public safety by discouraging officers from putting themselves in positions where their legitimate actions could be falsely portrayed as thuggery.”
It’s worth noting that Tarantino wasn’t being hateful towards police or questioning everything the police do. He questioned suspicious elements of police conduct in spacific situations. Tarantino even said that a recent officer’s death was also a tragedy during the original protest.
If Lally is so concerned about the dehumanizing of police, perhaps he should encourage other police stations to reconsider their policies towards young black men. But that’s not the point of these threats. They aren’t a call for reform. As Tarantino said, the point of these threats are to, “…[S]hut me down… discredit… intimidate… and send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”
Jim Pasco of the aforementioned Fraternal Order of Police, clarified that the threats were not of a physical nature but an economic one. However, the wording of these quotes makes it sound a lot more dangerous than that. They border on the sort of threat a gang would make.
That’s not very surprising given the cops often act like a gang. They have their own outfits, guns, internal cultures, and they issue threats (physical or economic) to those who disagree. They exaggerate the rhetoric of anyone who even mildly criticizes them. And of course, they have ways of “taking care” of people who disobey them. But unlike gangs, they also have an air of legitimacy around them. Hence their ability to kill people and often get off either entirely unscathed or at least much easier than normal individuals would.