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Police officers need to be held accountable, Ben & Jerry’s founders say

Kristin Myers
·3 min read
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Pushing for racial equity is a white problem, according to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

“You know, I think the reality of our country is that white people have the power,” Ben Cohen told Yahoo Finance Live. “We are the huge majority. And so, when we have police acting in our name and with our money that are abusing and brutalizing and shooting Black Americans in the back, it's our problem.”

Cohen said Black Americans are the ones that are suffering, but “we are the guys that are tacitly allowing it to continue. And we have to stand up and say, no, we're not going to do that anymore.”

His co-founder Jerry Greenfield echoed the sentiment: “This is not just a Black problem... for things to get any better, white people need to be out front.”

Greenfield acknowledged that it is not always comfortable, it is not always easy, but white people have to "do the right thing."

In fighting against police brutality, the ice cream company co-founders have focused on ending a policy known as “qualified immunity.” And note that ending the policy would not be an “anti-police” move, instead it is a "anti-bad police" policy.

"The only people it will hurt are bad cops,” said Greenfield.

Qualified immunity, according to the Cornell Legal Information Institute, “protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff‘s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a ‘clearly established’ statutory or constitutional right.”

“We've been very clear throughout the campaign that we support, in general, the amazing police officers that are going above and beyond the call of duty to protect and serve,” Cohen said. “The reality is that policing will never work effectively if there is not trust between the community and the police. And trust is a two-way street.”

Accountability, Cohen said, was necessary in order to have trust in the police. But Cohen said he has been told that if officers were held accountable, police forces would have difficulty in recruiting new officers.

Businesses are 'a powerful force'

Though Ben and Jerry were told to focus on running a business instead of social justice activism, Cohen explained that their activism helped them form a “very strong bond” with their customers based on “shared values.”

And business, he explained, has an important role and responsibility in American society, describing it as “the most powerful force. You know, if business wants something to happen in our government, it happens.”

If businesses only cares about their bottom line and their profits, he said, “you’ve got a society that is screwed because you've got the most powerful force that's saying we're not going to be a responsible member of the society.”

“And so, at Ben and Jerry's, we're saying we are a member of the community,” Cohen said. “And when there's people in our community, mostly Black people and people of color that are getting brutalized and killed time after time after time, and the police, the rogue policemen, who have committed these crimes are not held accountable, that's a time when that most powerful force in our country — business — has to finally take a stand.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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