In the aftermath of the tragic murder of New York City police officer Brian Moore, some media figures, including conservative commentator Sean Hannity, have made snarky comments about whether people will march to protest the murders of police officers — drawing a faulty comparison to the protests over police use of force after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Should Mayor @BilldeBlasio lead a march in support of police because of what happened to Brian Moore? #Hannity— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 6, 2015
And the protests start when? NYPD Officer Brian Moore dies from injuries http://t.co/KpFSIMyi2h via @BostonGlobe— Kevin Cullen (@GlobeCullen) May 4, 2015
Another #NYPD officer has been killed… Will protesters come out to seek justice for him? That discussion now on #TheFive— The Five (@TheFive) May 4, 2015
To the extent that any of these comments can be taken seriously, they totally miss the point of protests over police use of force, which are demonstrations against not just the tragedy of individual deaths but broader systemic problems, as well: reforming the justice system to hold police accountable for using force when it's not necessary, and ending huge racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
By contrast, a demonstration against the murder of a police officer wouldn't have much to protest — the public widely supports police, practically everyone already agrees that people should be punished for murder, and the criminal justice system is already built to prosecute people who kill police officers to the full extent of the law.
The person accused of killing Brian Moore, for example, has already been charged for the murder — as he should be. By contrast, there haven't been charges or convictions in multiple police killings of black men in the past year — Michael Brown in Ferguson; Eric Garner in New York City; John Crawford in Beavercreek, Ohio; and Darrien Hunt in Saratoga Springs, Utah — and getting trials against the officers involved in these men's deaths has been a key goal of the protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, and across the country.
People can reasonably disagree on whether police officers unjustifiably kill black men at disproportionate rates, whether cops should be given less legal latitude to use deadly force, and whether the criminal justice system really does disproportionately hurt minority communities. But trying to set up false equivalencies between the murders of police officers and killings by police officers fundamentally misunderstands what the Ferguson and Baltimore protests are about — and it undermines the legitimate tragedy of Brian Moore's death by cheapening it into a political talking point.