John Oliver is perhaps best when he’s able to take the long view on a particular issue, examining exactly how the problem he’s describing came to be. In his segment on the accountability of police, Oliver did just that. In the segment, Oliver looked at the systemic forces that have shaped police departments and at the reasons why explaining away police shootings by saying that there are just “a few bad apples” is so unsatisfactory.
In his main story for Last Week Tonight, Oliver acknowledged that the jobs of police officers are among the hardest out there. “That’s all the more reason for ensuring the job is done at the highest standard,” said Oliver.
Oliver continued by examining the “few bad apples” claim. “That argument—it’s just a few bad apples—has some real problems,” the host said. “For a start, it doesn’t address bad laws and policies that good officers are made to enforce, which we’ve touched on multiple times before. Criminal justice is kind of our signature bit. It is to us what assessing the shape of your poop is to Dr. Oz.”
The segment also reveals that police departments aren’t very good at keeping data, and that some officers are even encouraged to destroy their own disciplinary records. Oliver also finds it troubling that investigations into police shootings are often conducted by colleagues of the officer in question, which seems like an obvious problem.
Check out Oliver’s full 20-minute segment above to learn more about the flaws in the system that often keep police officers from doing the best job possible.