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When some workers get laid off it’s front page news

December 30, 2009

Yesterday the Grand Rapids Press ran a front page story about five GR police officers who are being laid off because of city budget cuts. How nice to see the faces of working people and a personal profile for each one who lost their job.

The question is, why doesn’t the Grand Rapids Press do this every time working people lose their jobs? Why don’t we see pictures and profiles of teachers who lose their jobs, service workers, health care workers, factory workers or even migrant farm workers? Are these other workers less valuable?

As I have written before, it seems that the news media in this community treats police officers with a different standard than other workers. When a police officer dies it receives much more attention and is viewed as a much larger tragedy than when any other worker dies.

Beyond the double standard of how news tends to report on police versus other working people, this type of coverage also fails to question the function of police in our society. Modern police forces evolved out of the desire of economic & political elite’s desire to manager public outrage at growing economic inequalities in the US. (For an excellent review of this history see Kristian Williams book, Our Enemies in Blue.)

This is not to say that police officers do nothing positive in their daily duties, but when coverage of police officers receives special treatment in the news media it makes it all the more difficult to have an honest assessment of their role and function in society.

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