Police Celebrate Black History Month by Getting Themselves New Cars

The police departments in Miami and Columbus have faced online backlash after announcing the purchase of new cars to celebrate Black History Month.

The Columbus Police Department in Ohio made the announcement on Twitter on February 1 with a video that has since gone viral. The clip has been viewed more than 220,000 times so far.

The video has background audio of a speech made by the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. while cutting to spray-painted words including "dreams," "freedom," and equality."

Black History Month police
Police departments in Miami, Florida and Columbus, Ohio unveiled new cars to celebrate Black History Month. The departments have faced backlash on social media with many questioning why the police felt this was appropriate. Miami Police Department/Columbus Ohio police department

The vehicles can be seen partly spray-painted with the Black History Month flag colors of red, yellow, and green.

The vehicle featured a Martin Luther King Jr. quote on its back: "Be the peace you wish to see in the world."

The Columbus Police Department captioned the video: "Introducing 'History 1' - our newest cruiser to celebrate the achievements of African Americans & recognize their roles in our history.

"Be on the lookout for History 1" in your neighborhood & at community events during February."

The Miami Police Department in Florida unveiled a similar vehicle on February 2, and the footage of the cruiser launch has also gone viral with 2.3 million views.

The Miami Police Department vehicle appears to be more decorated, with outlines of the African continent and words stating it supports Black History Month painted over the car.

Many critics online questioned why either police force felt it was necessary.

Sports journalist Jemele Hill tweeted: "Why is this a thing????"

New York City physician Stella Safo tweeted: "These people are really playing in our faces. Outrageous."

Others deemed it offensive due to the police's history of poorly managed interactions with people within the Black community.

Author Craig Calcaterra wrote: "Columbus, Ohio Police - who have killed and maimed so, so many Black people with virtually no consequences whatsoever.

"Now have a Black History Cruiser. I am not making this up. They're quite proud of it."

New York Times reporter Jane Coaston noted that this was not what was being asked of the police by the Black community. She tweeted: "'We would like some police reform please'. 'I hear you, here's some SEO MLK quotes on some cop cars'"

Public Engagement Manager Danny D. Glover highlighted how the money could have been better spent and tweeted: "They could have invested that 5-10k in community organizations or grant program...anything other than this empty gesture."

Andrés Antequera, a public relations specialist for the City of Columbus Division of Police told Newsweek that they have "a cruiser that is used to commemorate numerous holidays, events, and awareness campaigns" as part of "community engagement."

He said: "Over the past several months, this same cruiser has been wrapped for LGBTQ Pride month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Veteran's Day, and the holiday season—with plans to recognize several upcoming holidays and campaigns in 2023.

"This cruiser is already owned by the City and was decommissioned from use as a patrol vehicle with the sole purpose of being used at community events throughout Columbus. The cruiser is designed and decorated in-house each month, with the only expense being the cost of the decals.

Stating that the department is proud to celebrate African American history, Antequera said: "In the days after unveiling 'History 1,' we have already been approached by members of the community to have this cruiser be part of several upcoming Black History Month events."

Newsweek has contacted the Miami police department for comment.