- Taking A Stand
In this interview, ex-officer Greg J. Ingle tells his story of nearly a decade in a broken system—and why he left to advocate against it.
“I couldn't do the job knowing that there was the expectation that I would be willing to do something like that which I couldn't do.”
Image: Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press
“I can’t breathe,” begged Eric Garner. “I can’t breathe,” cried Elijah McClain. “I can’t breathe,” repeated George Floyd. “Stop killing us”, they have been screaming, united in angry harmony. Yet, a heartbreaking study by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showed that “about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police” .
The killing of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, marked the umpteenth Black individual killed by police. For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Derek Chauvin dug his knee into the neck of Mr. Floyd, arrested on suspicion for attempted usage of a counterfeit banknote. With the murder causing rightful public uproar, I, along with many others in the global community, have been further exposed to the detrimentality of the blemishes within law enforcement.
Upon enlightening myself about the Black Lives Matter movement, I came across the story of Greg J. Ingle, from Oklahoma. He was an officer, who retired in response to the killing of George Floyd. While he initially entered law enforcement in hopes of reform, in realisation of the severity of the brokenness of the system, he became unwilling to adhere to it. Now a political activist, his social media platforms highlight the flaws of law enforcement with his personal stories as testimonials.
Compelled by his story as an officer-turned-activist, I reached out to him through his Instagram account and was able to conduct an interview in which we discussed his resignation, protests, and the necessary reform.
Leaving Law Enforcement
Before George Floyd’s murder, Mr. Ingle recalled seeing the use of excessive force by law enforcement. “In some cases, it went totally out of control and force was used. I saw cases of excessive force used more than once to enforce these ‘rules’ that were made by circumventing the proper way to make a law.”
“Then George Floyd happened on Memorial Day.” He remarked that the tragic event, a violent death in response to a non-violent suspected crime, coerced him to resign. “(It) rocked me. I knew that I couldn’t do it anymore and that it was time to speak out.” On June 3rd, 9 days after Mr. Floyd’s death, he submitted his resignation papers.
“During the last 6 months or so, I've felt as well as noticed that my job had lost any semblance from what I thought it was when I started.”
“The events of Mr. Floyds’ death, in particular, was the 'straw that broke the camel's back' because I had stomached watching excessive use of force for years but that, over a counterfeit bill, just broke the wall. I couldn't do the job knowing that there was the expectation that I would be willing to do something like that which I couldn't do.”
Revealing what happens behind the police’s closed doors
The murder of George Floyd was fairly public in nature as video footage was documented, which provoked me to wonder the extent to which injustice overwhelms the justice system: how many incidents of corruption remain unpublicized?
“I have witnessed supervisors telling me to lie on reports, other officers intentionally harassing a family due to one member of the family, other officers making very sexual comments in private about females as young as 15,” Mr. Ingle stated.
One of the primary reasons I reached out to him was to enlighten myself and perhaps others about the injustices that often fail to be uncovered in mass media. The injustices that I’ve seen exposed have appalled me and I was curious to know the way that these are perceived and accepted, within law enforcement.
The realities of systemic racism
The systemic racism within the police force appears to be a plague constituted of various issues: misuse of power, police corruption, dangerous racial prejudices and stereotypes, and to quote Mr. Ingle, how the legal system is “slanted against those in poverty due to a lot of petty crimes being a monetary punishment, (and) a large portion of those in poverty are minorities & people of color.”
Similarly, Paul Butler, a renowned law professor at Georgetown University specializing in race relations testified at the House Oversight Hearing on Police Practices and Accountability in June, that what is needed is to “realize equal justice under the law, is for selective enforcement and police brutality to end,”
In a 2017 piece published in The Guardian where he speaks of his book Chokehold: Policing Black Men, Butler explains that “a chokehold is a process of coercing submission that is self-reinforcing. A chokehold justifies additional pressure on the body because the body does not come into compliance, but the body cannot come into compliance because of the vise grip that is on it.”
Racial profiling and the consequent brutality and murders based on the unjustified, dangerous perception that Black individuals are inherent threats is one of the factors that has counterintuitively turned armed enforcement into a force feared by Black people.
“Every Black man in America faces a symbolic chokehold every time he leaves his home,” cites Butler.
Police officers are also given inherent advantages, essentially permitting misuse of power. Qualified Immunity, a legal doctrine, states that, in Mr. Ingle’s words, “a police officer cannot be held liable civilly for violating someone's civil rights during an on-duty encounter unless the incident was identical (to another involving the same officer) to a previous incident which is impossible”. Identical implies, in this case, factors as unmanageable and irrelevant as the weather. The irrationality and potential harm brought about by this doctrine speak for itself.
His podcast, named after the doctrine, which was started upon his resignation, delves into the brokenness of the legal system, politics and the economy. Using both his platform and his unique view as someone that has insight on the attitudes within law enforcement, little-known dangerous circumstances such as Qualified Immunity are exposed.
On the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and fostering change
With the saddening list of Black American lives taken by police growing perpetually, we question if the seemingly unchanged tragedies will ever end. As protests persist, the plethora of propositions from defunding the police or ending for-profit policing, to demilitarization or the decriminalization of non-violent crimes has proven that much of the population are adamant on creating positive, sustainable change.
For Mr. Ingle, “we need a massive reduction in laws and regulations….law enforcement can only enforce the laws on the books”.
At present, the system that was built upon the apolitical ideal of keeping peace is tainted by acute political, racial, and socioeconomic prejudices that counterintuitively put peace and safety in jeopardy.
“I would like to see law enforcement return to the days of being more 'peace officers' than 'law enforcement'. It's going to take a lot of work but I believe that together we can make it happen”
In the past months, Black Lives Matter has (luckily!) become a household name for many. With protests surfacing globally, it is crucial to remember why we protest, why we speak up, and who we fight for.
Since the start of the protests, amongst various promises countrywide, Minneapolis City Council has committed to defunding the police department, while mayor Jacob Frey pledges to “full structural revamp” (NPR).
In spite of his direct exposure to the degree of maltreatment at the hands of law enforcement, Mr. Ingle believes that “consistent peaceful protest will make a change. If people stay at it long enough and stay peaceful about it….we can directly affect the government to choose a different path heading forward.”
As a non-Black, sheltered individual born and residing in a country where I conform to the homogeneous racial group, I will never be able to fully empathize with the generational trauma, inherent injustice, and systemic suffering experienced by the Black members of our international community. With that, the good fight is one that should not be fought alone, and in a day and age where (credible) information is abundant, ignorance and silence are active, harmful choices.
The necessity for a just system is simple in general objective: without justice, there is no peace. Yet, the depth and myriad of injustices within each individual case complexifies the road to peace. Correspondingly, this article does not depict the gravity of the situation—I’ve linked numerous resources, including Greg J. Ingle’s podcast, Qualified Immunity, which I would like to admiringly recommend.
Qualified Immunity Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/show/0KRJsNIIWXGh16faiB0Kby?si=HobK3yhtQOC9x_Fy9Sa4cw
Educational Resources to Learn and Understand about BLM:
TIME Magazine: 12 Movies to Watch to Educate Yourself About Racism and Protest History, Recommended by Experts
Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler (Amazon Japan link)
Campaign Zero. "Solutions — Campaign Zero." Campaign Zero. n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2020. <https://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions>
Frank Edwards. "Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex." PNAS. National Academy of Sciences, 20 Aug. 2019. Web. 17 Jul. 2020. <https://www.pnas.org/content/116/34/16793>
NPR.org. "Minneapolis Mayor Wants 'Full Structural Revamp,' Not Abolition Of Police Department." NPR.org. 10 Jun. 2020. Web. 1 Aug. 2020. <https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/06/10/874210961/minneapolis-mayor-wants-full-structural-revamp-not-abolition-of-police-departmen>
N.a. "Photos From the George Floyd Protests, City by City." Nytimes.com. 30 May 2020. Web. 3 Aug. 2020. <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/30/us/george-floyd-protest-photos.html>
Paul Butler. "US justice is built to humiliate and oppress black men. It starts with the chokehold...." the Guardian. 11 Aug. 2017. Web. 18 Jul. 2020. <http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/11/chokehold-police-black-men-paul-butler-race-america>
- Social Justice