Tuesday, February 9, 2016


So, apparently, in response to Beyoncé Knowles-Carter's Super Bowl show, which I haven't seen for myself, this popped up today on LinkedIn.

It sparked a debate, which quickly descended into smug self-righteousness, accusations, threats to report to moderators and even a couple of invocations of innocent until proven guilty.

But for me, it was the text at the bottom of the picture that stood out. "Confidential for law enforcement use only." Now, I don't know what the rules are for releasing High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area information to the general public, but this profile dates back to 1999, so I don't think that Detective Erbis actually released classified information, in that I suspect that whatever classified status this had has long lapsed. And, one will note, the Social Security Number has been redacted and there doesn't seem to be anything else sensitive on the form. But a few people did mention the "Confidential" label at the bottom of the page.

Taken at face value, it certainly appears that Detective Erbis released confidential information about Jay-Z in order to discredit Beyoncé, apparently because he was upset that Beyoncé's halftime show was a show of support for Black Lives Matter. Now, whether or not Black Lives Matter is correct in their understanding of the interactions between the Black community in the United States and the institution of law enforcement, part of what motivates them is the idea of a double standard - that the rules of engagement with White people are one way, and the rules of engagement with Black people are another. And an officer appearing to flout confidentiality laws to take political potshots at a Black person in the public sphere plays into that. Taken at face value (which, again, I don't) it seems as though the detective simply doesn't care that the profile is labeled "Confidential." It's of use in making his point about hypocrisy, and so he posts it publicly.

Black Lives Matter isn't about beating up on law enforcement. It's a statement of fear that an institution specifically charged with protecting the public is selective about which segments of the public it wants to protect. Just as Deterctive Erbis takes Beyoncé's marriage to Jay-Z as an indicator that she's not serious about protecting the lives of other Black people, his public release of a document clearly marked "Confidential" can be taken as an indicator that he's not serious about the rule of law. Likely both sides will find their supporters. The court of public opinion, I have found, has lax standards for evidence, and doesn't guarantee a right to counsel.

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