Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The police, excessive force, & unions

John OliverThe June 7 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver chose, very understandably, to focus on the police. It’s been the subject of headlines over the past several weeks, and the incidents in Minneapolis and elsewhere are just the tip of the iceberg. There are systemic issues that have been widespread for quite a long time now, and we have no clear indication that these issues are going to be stopping anytime soon.

Yet, examining the problems with the police is the first order of business. Oliver started his main segment by focusing on the oft-exalted nature of policing in America, whether it be it being glamorized in the media or their historical purpose of preying on the disadvantaged — a tradition that goes back centuries. He really took viewers on an incredible history lesson, one that we think helped to introduce a lot of viewers to some parts of the past that they weren’t altogether familiar with.

Beyond just that, Oliver took on another important part of policing in America that gets lost — unions. This can lead to prolonged delays before punishment and making it hard to go after certain officers for incidents of wrongdoing. It’s also hard to slow down unions when they hold so much power. There’s also the issue of qualified immunity, which complicates a number of cases further. Eventually, the Supreme Court could make a decision on it, but there is no guarantee of it.

Finally, Oliver closed things off by talking about the issue of defunding the police — an idea that often gets misconstrued and misrepresented. It doesn’t mean that we “succumb to the purge” (as Oliver put it), but rather that we take money from policing and then move it over to other aspects of communities that matter more. Basically, ways to make it to make communities happier and healthier. These are ways to ensure that the police are not always needed. There would be resistance to the idea, but change is not always easy. You have to fight for what you believe in to make it happen.

If you haven’t seen this episode yet, be sure to find it and watch it. You may learn something, even if you don’t agree with Oliver’s point of view.

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