As part of tolerance training, NYPD cadets required to view stage play based on whose lives?

As part of tolerance training, NYPD cadets required to view stage play based on whose lives?

“The New York City Police Department” the Associated Press reports, “is turning to a new tool in its effort to teach its future officers about tolerance and understanding drama.” It’s unclear why police cadets need to understand drama, which as used here seems to be a synonym for or “the legitimate theater.” My assumption proceeds from the fact that a stage play is the vehicle whereby the cadets will learn to become more tolerant.

The title of the one-act play “Anne & Emmett,” and it features “an imaginary conversation between Anne Frank, who died in a Nazi concentration camp, and Emmett Till, who was killed by racists in Mississippi in 1955.”

Anne Frank Emmett Till

It seems like a curious idea, not because there weren’t parallels between Frank and Till: Both were teenagers at the time of their deaths and both were victims of oppression. The question, rather, is what what does any of this have to do with the police?

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The playwright, Janet Langhart Cohen, sheds some light on that question:

If the play can reach one man or woman with a badge and a gun, I’m happy. Their training can take them only so far. The body cams will only cover so much. At some point, I’m hoping their humanity will kick in and hopefully this play with revive that humanity.

So the underlying assumption is the popular myth that police are intrinsically racist, and that even in this era of body cams, their inclination is to shoot first and ask questions later, at least when the suspect is black (or Jewish?).

The article acknowledges a “rising mistrust” of police in New York but jumps to the conclusion that that mistrust is justified. The author, AP’s Mark Kennedy, writes that “the death last year of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, helped fuel a national public outcry over how communities of color are treated by police.”

Wherein lies the problem with the play. An effort to see Garner (or by extension Michael Brown or even Trayvon Martin, who was also a teenager at the time of his death) as a parallel to Till rings false. Emmett Till by all accounts was an innocent victim of the place (the Deep South) and time (the 1950s) in which he lived. Garner, in contrast, died accidentally, and in part because he was resisting arrest.

The play and the requirement that cadets watch it are stains on Emmett Till’s memory.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.