Williams: Slurs from cops are unacceptable, even the 'n-word' between two African American officers
State Sen. Anthony Williams thinks people just need to shut up sometimes — especially if you're a cop with a gun.
He’s speaking in reference to his latest policy proposal, which is more like an addendum to the 91 federal recommendations given recently to the Philadelphia Police Department. Williams' says he would ensure that cops who use slurs based on race, gender, or sexual orientation would be fired “without arbitration.”
The idea has been met with some opposition and skepticism. Last week, Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby told Newsworks that the notion was “absurd,” and that the police would benefit better from a “progressive disciplinary system.”
“We understand that people make mistakes,” McNesby said. “We would lose a decent amount of police officers if that was the case.”
Thursday, Williams affirmed in a press conference that this was one idea he wouldn’t back down on.
What happens if someone makes a mistake? What happens if someone is videotaped at a party uttering a word or phrase that could get them fired with no recourse? He responded to McNesby’s and other similar remarks with his own accountability check:
“The same thing that should to me if I’m on videotape and I say those things. I should be fired. You would not the mayor of Philadelphia saying those things and being mayor of Philadelphia. Nor should you have a police officer with an armed pistol on their side being able to do it.”
Williams added that his no-slur standard would “forgive past sins,” but going forward after implementing the policy there would be zero tolerance.
A reporter asked Williams who would define what constitutes fireable slurs, and asked if it would be acceptable for the “n-word” to be said between two African Americans, but not by an outsider of the group. Williams, who is African-American, fervently shook his head.
“I don’t say that word,” he said. “I don’t care what race you are, I don’t care what your gender is, you shouldn’t use it. It allows for a moment of slippage. What you put into practice is what you put into play.”
Williams used the example of his two African American friends, a lawyer and a doctor, who use the n-word between each other. He said that he doesn't join in with them, even if it is considered a form of "bonding" between Black men.
“You’re using a word that’s making you bond, but it’s opened up Pandora’s box for people across America who think lesser of you,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s ‘cool.’ It’s not cool. It doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t help them. It doesn’t help folks who are friends of theirs. We’re specifically talking about the n-word. They have white friends. They’ll say it in front of their white friends, and the moment their white friend says it, it’s like ‘what are you doing?’ ”
Regarding whether this was a progressive system of justice, Williams said he believes it would add discipline to the police force.
“Everything you think doesn’t need to come out of your mouth. Sometimes you just need to shut up,” he said.
Williams said he would not apply the same policy to other city employees, but only those who are equipped with firearms whose jobs are to protect all of Philadelphia.
In another anecdote, Williams said he was walking home six or seven years ago at 1 a.m. in West Philadelphia. A hooded African-American male crossed the street toward him with “the affect of an African-American kid that we describe in stereotypical terms.” Williams braced himself for a mugging, but the kid merely walked by and said, “Anthony Hardy Williams, you’re doing a great job for our community. Keep it up.”
Williams says he himself struggles with certain biases, and that is partly why he is taking this new policy so seriously.
“All of us do. And we need to be forced to grow beyond ourselves. You get a better cop if we do this, and more importantly, you get a better citizenry, because you recognize there is value in all of us.”