“Humanity at its worst”: John Oliver takes on the “bad apples” in the US police

In the wake of a seemingly endless stream of fatal police shootings, the common refrain heard from law enforcement is that every profession has “a few bad apples.” But John Oliver isn’t buying it.

On HBO’s Last Week Tonight on Sunday (Oct. 2), the comedian tackled police accountability, arguing that you can’t excuse an epidemic of police violence by insisting that it’s not, well, an epidemic.

“The trust between police and the communities they serve is clearly a cornerstone of civilized society,” said Oliver. He argued that such trust has been eroded by high-profile episodes of police brutality, and that police can’t just dismiss those episodes as “bad apples.”

“That is a weirdly blasé attitude because bad apples can erode trust fast,” said Oliver. “Snow White wasn’t afraid of apples before she took a bite out of that one really bad one, but I’m telling you, the next time an old lady comes at her with a piece of fruit, Snow is gonna get the f— out of there.”

There are nearly 18,000 police departments in the United States, but no comprehensive data on how many police shootings occur each month, said Oliver, pointing out how hard it is know just how many “bad apples” there are. He also pointed to the unspoken rule in police departments that cops don’t speak ill of their own.

The result is a rightfully frightened public, he said, and showed a clip of high school students receiving a lesson on how to interact with police to minimize the chance that they would be shot.

The phrase Americans should be using, he said, shouldn’t be, “It’s just a few bad apples, don’t worry about it,” but rather “A few bad apples spoil the barrel.”

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