In an interview with The New York Times, comedian and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart spoke on the role of police departments in America amid the civil unrest that has gripped the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death. According to Stewart, the role of United States law enforcement groups is to enforce segregation of black Americans.
“The police are a reflection of a society,” Stewart said. “They’re not a rogue alien organization that came to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation. Segregation is legally over, but it never ended. The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, they patrol the border between the two Americas.”
According to Stewart, police brutality is an “organic offshoot” of the “dehumanization” of society’s power structures. He claims that providing people with authority will always bring consequences and argued the importance of “greater accountability.” However, Stewart stressed that individuals can still respect and admire the sacrifice given by law enforcement while also calling for more accountability.
“But I still believe that the root of this problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it, because we’ve outsourced our accountability to the police.”
Stewart also suggested that although policing is a significant issue, it’s the least important matter that must be addressed. The former Comedy Central host claimed that the critical issue is that America uses law enforcement as “surrogates” to “quarantine” the issues of racial and economic inequality so they don’t have to be addressed.
Floyd’s death at the hands of Derek Chauvin has sparked calls for police accountability across the country. As reported by WZZM 13, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash is one U.S. lawmaker pushing for reforms that address police accountability. In particular, Amash introduced a bill to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers from civil lawsuits and makes it difficult for plaintiffs to take such legal action. The legislation has received the support of over 1,400 professional athletes as well as many of Amash’s colleagues, including Reps. Ro Khanna, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib.
Others, including Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, are in favor of tearing down the infrastructure of problematic police departments — such as Minneapolis’ — and starting anew. Omar pointed to the history of the Minneapolis police department — which allegedly includes cases where officers have destroyed rape kits in rape cases — and suggested it is beyond reform.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has echoed Omar’s calls for reform and is pushing for diverting of police department funds into social programs that support a healthy community.