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WZZM 13 airs story about what to do if cops pull you over, but say nothing about what is wrong with the police

April 15, 2021

On Wednesday, WZZM 13 aired a story from one of their sister stations in Washington, DC, about what to do if you are “Black and Brown” and the police pull you over.

The story is centered primarily around knowing your rights when being pulled over by cops and features someone from the Alliance for Safe Traffic Stops. The story even promotes an app from the Alliance for Safe Traffic Stops, which is essentially a tool to help aid drivers during traffic stops called ‘Not Reaching.’

I am all in favor of people knowing what their rights are and having any resources that might reduce the possibility that the police won’t harass, intimidate, beat or kill people that they pull over.

What’s instructive about this tv story is that it is prefaced by the reporter talking about the Black/latinx military man who was pulled over by a cop and the police lynching of Daunte Wright, both stories that have been dominating the news this week. However, there is no discussion in this story nor commentary from experts and community organizers about what is wrong with the cops!

Telling people what to do when cops pull you over is centering the behavior of motorists. It’s like how the news often reports on rape and sexual assault. The news instructs people what to do to stay safe or how to defend yourself, but doesn’t talk about why so many men in this culture commit rape or other forms of sexual assault against women, children and other men. 

When news agencies focus on the behavior of victims or those who are potential victims, it allows us to not think about the behavior of those perpetrating the harm. In the case of the story aired by WZZM 13, the focus should be on getting people to think about what is wrong with policing in the US. Why is it that the police disproportionately pull over Black and latinx people? Why is it that the police disproportionately murder Black people? Why is it that the police who kill Black people rarely are held accountable? Why are news agencies critiquing police funding and the massive movement to defund the cops that is happening all across the US? Stop victim blaming and shaming! Defund and Abolish the Police! 

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