John Oliver tackles police accountability: Ingrained mistrust between law enforcement and community "so f**king depressing"

Oliver called proponents' "bad apples" refrain "weirdly blasé ... because bad apples can erode trust fast"

By Brendan Gauthier

Published October 3, 2016 12:05PM (EDT)

"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver on Sunday devoted his main segment to police accountability in the wake of countless fatal police-involved shootings of unarmed black men.

"As the police will tell you, they have a difficult, dangerous, challenging job," Oliver said. "No reasonable person would disagree with that. But that's all the more reason for insuring that it's done to the highest standard."

"The police will also argue that what they have is less an institutional problem than it is an individual one," he added, referring to a common refrain among #BlueLivesMatter activists that a few "bad apples" have given police that reputation. "That is a weirdly blasé attitude because bad apples can erode trust fast."

Oliver further refuted the "bad apples" defense by laying out some of the "bad laws and policies that good officers are made to enforce."

"Misconduct is often investigated internally by an officer's colleagues, which does not inspire confidence," he explained. "But police accountability doesn't just suffer from an unwritten code of silence; that code can be enshrined within state laws or union contracts as well."

And even when cases go to trial, officers have a major advantage, which is that juries tend to have a natural predisposition to trust them," he continued. "Many people see a police uniform and automatically think, 'trustworthy.'"

In communities with heavy police presences, however, mistrust between officers and community members is so ingrained that at least one inner-city school teaches its students how to interact safely with law enforcement.

"That is so fu__ing depressing," Oliver responded. "Especially when you realize that's probably the only class where nobody will raise their hand and say, 'When are we ever going to use this?'"

Brendan Gauthier

Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer.

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