Brow Beat

John Oliver Explains Why Police Accountability Is About More Than Just “a Few Bad Apples”

John Oliver is no stranger to exploring some of the knottier aspects of the criminal justice system, whether he’s explaining the problems with municipal fines or calling for an overhaul of civil asset forfeiture. But on Sunday night, the Last Week Tonight host tackled a much more mainstream issue: police accountability. Though it’s difficult to pin down exactly how many people have been killed by police in the U.S. so far this year—some calculations put that number at more than 800, while others suggest it’s closer to 700—Oliver explored the reasons there are so many unnecessary police killings in the first place, as well as why so few officers face consequences for their actions.

As Oliver points out, it’s not enough to dismiss incidences of police violence as the work of “a few bad apples,” especially since, as the original proverb goes, a few bad apples spoil the bushel. The problem is systemic, argues Oliver, “and we currently have a system which is set up to ignore bad apples, destroy bad apples’ records, persecute good apples for speaking up, and shuffle dangerous, emotionally unstable apples around to the point that children have to attend fucking apple classes.”