22
Oct
14

FIVE MYTHS ABOUT THE POLICE

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I have long despised what I see as the rise of “list journalism”. It seems that nearly every news story now is broken down into bullet points. Which I guess makes sense because it’s rare that I actually read an entire news article anymore. So, long story short, I’m in my underwear and I’m going to write a list. Fucking sue me.

I have watched with mixed emotions the recent spate of police shootings in America. Mixed in that I am saddened and enraged but also kind of unsurprised. I know cops pretty well. I almost became one. I have a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. I was taught by cops. I was surrounded by soon-to-be cops. I spent hundreds of hours riding around with cops. I have cops in my family. So, you know, when I write somewhat authoritatively on the subject it’s not because I have a friend whose cousin is a cop or some shit like that.

The problem isn’t whether or not I know cops but whether or not the average person does. And I think the answer is no. The American public at large has an understanding of police and police work that is formed largely by decades of movies and television. Reality, like pretty much anything with Bette Midler in it, sucks and sucks hard. So here are the five biggest misconceptions that most people (white people in particular) seem to have about the police.

COPS ARE HERE TO PROTECT US

This is one of those things everyone kind of has to say. Like telling your prom date how beautiful she is or saying you liked your grandma’s cooking. They even write it on the side of the fucking cop car. However, the official job description of a cop is “law enforcement”. It doesn’t say anything about protecting anybody.

Consider that cops generally don’t get bonuses for helping people. Or for busting criminals. They get bonuses for writing tickets. Add to that the fact that your average cop probably hates you and would just as soon kick your ass for wearing sunglasses. Or a puffy shirt. Or whatever the hell it is that makes these people so upset.

BEING A COP IS ONE OF THE MOST STRESSFUL JOBS THERE IS

This is an old chestnut that keeps cropping up. Watch an episode of LAW AND ORDER or COPS and you’ll probably buy into this one. But, in reality, the vast majority of police officers will spend the vast majority of their careers sitting at speed traps and writing tickets. Or driving around for hours on end talking to themselves. This is neither stressful or demanding. It also doesn’t require very much physical skill or intelligence.

The more I think about it the more I realize that we really don’t need the police to do this. Surely some kind of retiree reserve force could enforce traffic laws and the like. This way, the average cop’s time would be freed up so he or she could bust actual criminals like drug dealers and pedophiles. Then they can tell me how stressful their fucking job is.

WE HAVE THE MOST MODERN POLICE FORCE IN THE WORLD

No, we don’t. Not even close. We have been living in the 21st century for almost 15 years now but we still have a 20th century police force in America. And, when I say 20th century I mean the fucking 1950’s. Today’s American police officer leaves training horribly unprepared for the realities of the world they will be policing.

Most of these people became cops in the first place because they already saw themselves at war with black people and immigrants and gay people and women who go to college, etc. And they actually think they’re going to bring back the 1950’s. Deep down every single white cop in America actually believes he will see the day when all the non-white, non-hetero and non-Christian people are somehow purged from our society.

But, year after year, there are only more and more of these people. The world is moving further away from the 1950’s not back to it. I think these spasms of police violence we see more and more of are a result of intense frustration. And that brings me to the next myth…

COPS HAVE ALL THE POWER

I’ve always found this to be an interesting one. And from the civilian point of view it makes sense. Cops can hurt or kill people with impunity. However, while this is true, the one common sentiment I have found in every single cop I have ever met is a sense of powerlessness. As I said, most of these people became cops because they were already at war with society. But, even though they drive around with the power of life and death over the rest of us they still aren’t winning that war. They’re losing. Badly.

And what the average person does not see is that a cop’s career is actually a long nightmare of regulations, lawsuits, politics, civilian oversight, depression, alcoholism, an increased risk of suicide or early death, PTSD and generally being feared or hated by every non-cop they come into contact with. It’s not the most rewarding work.

COPS ARE NOT “GOONS” OR “THUGS”, THEY ARE EDUCATED PROFESSIONALS

The police force is a paramilitary organization. In a paramilitary organization the ability to follow orders is the only thing that matters. Smart, educated people don’t follow orders very well. That should give you some idea what kind of people are and aren’t making it through the screening process of your average police department.

Further, in a paramilitary organization you never put your best and brightest on the front lines. That’s where you put people who are expendable. Expendable people include, but are not limited to: Those with below average intelligence. Those who are prone to violence or violent thinking. Those who see the world through a lens of almost childlike simplicity. Those who react with irrational anger at the slightest provocation. Those who believe everything they are told by those in authority.

In other words, goons and thugs. Those are the people you want out front where everyone can see them. Because if something happens to them it’s no big loss. We can’t expect these types of people to reflect our values and our intelligence. Their distinct lack of those things is what put them in that police car you see in your rear view mirror to begin with.

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2 Responses to “FIVE MYTHS ABOUT THE POLICE”


  1. 1 Anonymous
    October 22, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    I love your McDonalds propaganda ads at the end of your blog… reminds me why I love Murica so damn much!


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