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Wanted: Better Police Education


by The Editorial Board - 1937

ACCORDING to the unimpeachable authority of the American Civil Liberties Union, 24 strikers, one police officer, and no non- striking workers (i.e., "scabs") were killed in industrial disputes in the United States from January 1 to July 31, 1937. This is a sorry picture and suggests that the prejudice aroused against organized labor based on alleged acts of violence is largely without foundation. The figures imply that far greater violence is used against strikers, especially on picket lines, than by them.

ACCORDING to the unimpeachable, authority of the American Civil Liberties Union, 24 strikers, one police officer, and no non- striking workers (i.e., "scabs") were killed in industrial disputes in the United States from January 1 to July 31, 1937. This is a sorry picture and suggests that the prejudice aroused against organized labor based on alleged acts of violence is largely without foundation. The figures imply that far greater violence is used against strikers, especially on picket lines, than by them.


Through the courtesy of Dr. James Mendenhall of the Lincoln School, we are able to reproduce below the percentage answers given by 360 teachers in attendance at the Columbia Summer Session who saw the film of the most disastrous clash of the year. The questionnaire and data here reported were handled by competent research workers.


There has been much public controversy regarding the battle between the police and the picket line near the Republic Steel Corporation plant in South Chicago last Memorial Day. Police and pickets blame one another for the violence that occurred.


The American public must depend upon testimony by eyewitnesses of what takes place in strike situations. The Paramount Newsreel of the Memorial Day encounter offers all citizens an opportunity to lee for themselves what happened.


After seeing this film, will you please answer the following questions?


(All Figures in Percents)

1. Did the police appear to be armed?

Yes, 98

No, 0

Uncertain, 2.

 

2. Did the pickets appear to be armed?

Yes, 7

 No, 80

 Uncertain, 13.

 

3. Did the advancing picket line appear to threaten injury to the police?

Yes, 2

No, 88

Uncertain, 10

 

4. Who appeared to start the fight?

Pickets, 1

Police, 60

Uncertain, 39

 

5. Did the police appear to be brutal in their attack on the pickets?

Yes, 96

No, 2

Uncertain, 2

 

6. Did it appear necessary for the police to shoot into the picket line to disperse the crowd?

Yes, 2;

No, 87;

Uncertain, 11.

 

7. A Chicago coroner's jury has termed the killing of ten workers in the Memorial Day battle as "justifiable homicide." Do you consider this a just verdict?

Yes, 3

No, 91

Uncertain, 6

 


8. Through which medium do you believe you got the most nearly accurate account of what took place during the battle?

The newsreel, 76

The radio, 0

The reporter's story of the film, 12

Your local newspaper, 5

9. Should the Paramount Company have permanently refused to release this newsreel to regular movie theatres?

Yes, 6

No, 90

Uncertain, 4

 

10. Should local censorship agencies such as the police ban the showing of this newsreel in regular theatres?

Yes, 5;

No, 90;

Uncertain, 5

 

11. Would you show this film to senior high school students?

Yes, 77

No, 11

Uncertain, 12

 


12. To college students?

Yes, 89

No, 2

Uncertain, 9

 


While the ratios are probably higher than one would obtain with an "unselected" lay audience, they are of such a magnitude that they leave little doubt concerning the culprits in this tragedy. The indifference, which such situations generally arouse among comfortable apologists for property privileges, makes us wonder whether our fellow citizens are brutes or humans. Apparently, no American state has seen fit to follow the enlightened Mexican example of closing a factory by public decree whenever there is a labor dispute and not opening it again until the strike is settled by agreement between the employers and employees. This system is a perfect preventive of bloodshed since violence is the normal accompaniment of the management's efforts to operate the plant with strikebreakers.|


But what of the police—those visible guardians of our vaunted 'law and order"—and their unenviable role in the business of killing workers seeking a higher standard of living? What fiendish impulse to slay unarmed persons prompts the cop to pump his revolver into the backs of fleeing men and women? What creates the sadism revealed by the clubbing of defenseless people and the peculiar addiction of police to that quaint system of torture that goes by the euphemism of the "third degree"?


Some involved psychoanalytical mechanism may underlie these phenomena. Terman found in his test of masculinity-femininity that his police subjects were distinctly and consistently more "feminine" (in the psychological sense) than the mean of his adult male population. Is it possible, that our burly cops are seeking to compensate for a weakened sense of masculinity by overdoing the dominance and brutality responses of the traditional male? Or is it a simple case of being rough because such conduct wins the approval of powerful figures above and behind the simple bluecoat?


Certainly our schools should be concerned about the brusque militarization of our police forces. Their many useful functions in traffic, fire and other emergencies should not be marred by murder in behalf of profiteering exploiters. Ignorance alone makes the cop assume that Negroes are crooks, aliens suspicious characters, and strikers a gang of lazy cutthroats. Some elementary instruction in social psychology and related topics is imperative if communities are to have the type of police service to which they are entitled. Send the cops to progressive schools—and send them fast!






Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 4 Number 28, 1937, p. 6-6
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 13566, Date Accessed: 1/21/2022 8:58:10 AM

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