A second lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Rickia Young, a black mother who last fall, in spite of breaking no laws, was ripped from her car, beaten, and separated from her toddler for a deceptive photo-op used in a propaganda social media post.
Last October, Young was driving home through Philadelphia with her two-year-old son and 16-year-old nephew when she accidentally found herself at a protest against police abuse. Just hours before, Philadelphia police had fatally shot 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., a black man whose family had called for mental health help. As Young attempted to make a three-point turn to get away from the crowd, she was pulled over by police, who smashed in her vehicle’s windows before pulling her out and assaulting her. Young was “violently yanked from the vehicle” and beaten, “causing significant injuries,” her lawyer, Riley Ross told CBS.
After the beating, she was handcuffed and forcefully separated from her toddler and teenage nephew. Two days later, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the nation’s largest law enforcement union, posted a picture of her son on Facebook in the arms of a white female officer with the following caption:
“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness. The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child. We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”
The post falsely painting Young as a neglectful mother has since been deleted, but not before it was shared over 700 times. Despite already having been paid $2 million by the city for being beaten and separated from her son, Young is seeking an additional $50,000+ from the FOP for the Facebook post. Her complaint accused the union of portraying her son as a “neglected and abandoned child” in order to “promote its own political propaganda” of police as the child’s savior, when in fact they were the ones that separated the child from his mother. Her attorneys claimed that she endured “harassment, anxiety, depression and a damaged reputation as a result of the social media post,” to NBC. According to the lawsuit, the FOP’s Facebook followers were outraged and demanded authorities take Young’s child from her based on the dishonest caption.
“This was a picture of a white female police officer holding this Black boy. It’s not lost on us the symbolism that they tried to highlight with that post, as if she was the savior of that Black child and the only one who could save him,” said Ross, Young’s lawyer, to NBC. “The fact that the child was only in that police officer’s arms because of what the police themselves did to his mother and him makes that post all the more despicable.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw released the following statement on the incident:
“The behavior that occurred during the interaction between Rickia Young, her nephew, her son, and some of the officers on the scene violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department. As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned, and instead of fighting crime and the fear of crime, some of the officers on the scene created an environment that terrorized Rickia Young, her family, and other members of the public.”
Two of the officers involved have been fired and an additional 14 officers are awaiting disciplinary hearings.
Corruption is Fostered by Public Sector Unions
According to a FEE column by Charles Baird, a professor of economics emeritus at California State University, public sector unions are “nothing less than a conspiracy between politicians, bureaucrats, and unions to create and sustain a fourth branch of government specifically designed to increase the cost, size, and power of government.” In this case, law enforcement bureaucrats conspired with the union to create propaganda to help the police gain more credibility and respect, a strategy to increase the power of government.
This unfortunate incident is a vivid example of police departments and unions working together to create a culture in which common folk allow and praise the monopoly that law enforcement has on violence because they’d feel unsafe without it. The Philadelphia Police Department took advantage of an already chaotic situation to sow more division, and then the FOP capitalized on that division even further by turning their actions into propaganda. It’s not difficult to figure out what the intentions were behind posting a picture of a supposedly abandoned black child in the arms of a white officer in the midst of a protest against the department.
The racially-charged photo that stoked the flames on social media at the expense of a mother and her family’s safety and reputation was caused by taxpayer-funded government employees and promulgated by a dishonest public sector union. Why should our money be used, not only to fund this corruption, but to also bail them out when victims like Young (rightfully) sue for millions of dollars?
These settlements come from taxpayer dollars. Ultimately, the problem with police unions stems from public sector unions in general. The lack of accountability that these unions face because of their protection from the government is at the root of the problem.
Rule of Law vs. Lawlessness
The rhetoric used in FOP’s Facebook post was meant to juxtapose the “lawlessness” of black Philadelphia residents to the anarchy-fighting heroes, the police. However, police only act as protection from lawlessness when they hold themselves accountable to the rule of law, which they all too often fail to do. When law enforcement tramples on the rights of those they’re meant to protect such as in the case of Rickia Young, that is perpetuating the very same “lawlessness” that the police unions claim to oppose. The Philadelphia Police Department acted as an agent of chaos, not order.
When the government attempts to aggressively impose order in the name of protecting liberty, it often results in injustice. In this instance, the Philadelphia police attempted to halt the chaos in the streets by cracking down on protesters and anyone who happened to be at the scene. Obviously, this just resulted in more chaos.
This is exactly what Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a 19th-century French politician and one of the first popular thinkers to promote civil liberties, would have predicted. He famously characterized liberty as "not the daughter, but the mother of order." Liberty begets social harmony and spontaneous order, whereas violations of liberty in the name of order begets chaos, conflict, and the lawlessness of tyrants.
Police unions are not advancing law and order when they shelter lawless behavior and attack liberty, which is the ultimate source of order.