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FBI Director James B Comey recently offered some insights into policing in the United States as a result of increased media and public scrutiny of police.
“Comey’s remarks also bore a strong resemblance to a theory some law enforcement officials have referred to as the “Ferguson effect” — that increased scrutiny on police departments makes officers less pro-active and increases crime.
“They told me, ‘We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of cars,’”
What we are now seeing the proof that cops have had it way too good way too long. We’re now seeing the evidence that cops are apparently the only group in the world which decides when it will and won’t do a good job, irrespective of their job description and the reason they get paid.
They’re telling us that if we watch them, if we monitor them, if we closely follow how they do their jobs, well…that’s just too much for them to handle, and so they might not “feel much like getting out of cars”.
This doesn’t worry me folks. This is all part of the cleaning-out process. We have apparently been hiring cops who consider themselves to be GI Joe’s who get to play army but don’t have to go into war zones. They think that working for us is tantamount to doing us a favor, and that we should always trust them to do the right thing, all evidence to the contrary.
Over time, these self-important, camo-wearing Rambos will be caught, hopefully terminated and relegated to the after-hours security staff at their local Target, and their ranks will be filled with real cops who actually want to “protect and serve” something other than themselves and their jobs, as well as enforce laws.
At that time, the ranks of these police will start to once again gain the respect of the populace which signs their paychecks every week, and we won’t have to hear dime-store psychobabble about “Ferguson effects” and other such drivel.
When I see how modern cops use symbolism like their uniforms, medals, weaponry and comments about “brotherhood” and standing up for one another…
When I see how they defend one another at all cost, right or wrong…
When I see the vehemence directed at anyone who would say anything negative about cops, as well as the defensiveness directed at anyone who would point out one of their many shortcomings…
When I see the above traits it reminds me of the biker gangs of the 1960s and 1970s. Tough, arrogant, often racist and tribalist, self-assured and convinced of their infallibility and entitlement to their power they wield. Thoroughly convinced of their superiority to others, as well as the smirking confidence that they will likely get away with anything they do.
Just something I’ve been thinking about.
I heard that Rosie ODonnell’s daughter, who had been missing for a few days, was found alive and well and is in police custody. Then I thought about what “police custody” is supposed to mean.
It is supposed to mean that she’s safe. Not safe only if the cop didn’t “feel threatened”; not safe only because she’s a white female; safe because she’s with the cops.
Where did that go?
I wrote a bit of a tome about racism and my apology for being a member of the group that is primarily responsible for it. I wrote it yesterday. It has apparently struck a nerve because I’ve subsequently seen it quoted in Huffington post and The Nation, among other places.
I’ve received hundreds, literally, hundreds of comments such as “you are my brother” and “we consider you to be a member of our family” and “thank you for having the courage to say what we’ve been hoping someone would say”. The response has been overwhelming. And it woddint jus from black folk.
I’ve heard from India, China, Japan, Denmark, Holland, most of Europe, South America and all over the United States. Not all agreed with my sentiments. Some said things like “speak for yourself”, proving that they really hadn’t read it very carefully since I spoke for only myself. It was me who apologized.
But of the black people who did respond, (at least those who identified themselves as such), not a single one argued with me. Not a single one said anything like “you should be ashamed of yourself”. No one admonished me. Those who identified themselves as black spent more time telling me not to fret, not to be ashamed, not to blame myself.
These people, the people who are genuinely in mourning over this tragedy, told me stories of friends and family members who have been lynched, beaten, shot, arrested and hated for their skin color for their entire lives. They told me stories of fear of the police and how they have to speak to their teenage children about how to act when there are cops around, for fear that they might get arrested or shot just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They told me many, many stories. And then they mostly did something else…
Then, the great majority of these people, those who identified themselves as black and were feeling severe pain over this most recent racist attack, these people tried to console ME. Some invoked Gods will, some reminded me that it wasn’t me who pulled the trigger, that the fact that I felt the need to apologize proves that I’m part of the solution. Some spoke eloquently, some spoke in halting English, some sounded as if they didn’t write very often and weren’t very good at it. Some of the best responses contained the worst English. But the messages got through.
Not a single one spoke of retaliation, of hatred for whites, or of the incredulity that they must be feeling over the perpetuation of these incidents.
But almost invariably, these people who have suffered this fate for centuries spent more time trying to console me than feeling sorry for themselves. They expressed more sympathy toward me than they did for their dead brothers and sisters. They, with their gracious, sometimes misspelled words, patted me on the head, put their hands on my shoulder and offered to hug me if they ever met me.
I’ve written hundreds of posts with thousands of words on this blog, but can’t find the words to describe how that feels.
I blog, I post on Facebook and Twitter. I argue, I fight, I lose friends and acquaintances, and yet I continue the struggle. And I have failed. So I’ll just apologize.
I’m sorry, black people. I’m sorry that some of my most educated contemporaries haven’t the apparent intellectual wherewithal to understand anything that doesn’t affect them personally. I’m sorry that they are so in fear that you would treat them as badly as they’ve treated you if you “took over”, as if you’ve got a secret plan to turn the USA into a predominantly black country.
I’m sorry that so many of them think that your goal is life is to rape a white woman and steal her husband’s money. I’m sorry that they think that they see you everywhere, even though you are less than 14% of the population. I’m sorry that their personal, pathological cowardice is the primary driving force behind their racism. I’m sorry that they believe that as long they have one black acquaintance who they treat like everyone else, they couldn’t possibly be racist.
I’m sorry that white people justify the deaths of black youths by pointing out that they stole a pack of cigarillos, smoked pot in high school, or refused to be handcuffed when they’d done nothing wrong. I’m sorry that black lives have so little value to them. I’m sorry that you’ve had to carry signs to remind them that your lives matter. That you love your children. And that you aren’t all thugs.
And I’m sorry that your home country, the place of your birth, the country of which you are a resident, a citizen, a taxpayer, a neighbor, a friend, a voter, a civil participant and, in some cases a church goer-I’m sorry that that country treats you like a guest who has stayed too long.
I am at work and have had to lock my office door numerous times today so that others won’t see that I’ve been in tears over what happened in South Carolina the other day. I can’t think of anything to do but apologize to you for being a member of the group who fostered it, committed it, and will likely make excuses for it.
I’m just really, really sorry and ashamed that it was us who did this to you. And keeps doing it to you. I’m just sorry…
I saw one more in a long line of videos of a cop screaming at a kid in a car for filming him as the cop pulled the kid over. One curious thing that this particular cop mentioned or demanded was that the kid “respect my authority and stop filming”. This made me start thinking about things like respect, where it comes from, and who is entitled to it.
I’m not going to go into platitudes like “respect has to be earned” and all that banal garbage, but I am going to comment on those kinds of concepts.
It seems that, when I was growing up, cops were local guys, men (mostly) from the neighborhood. No different than the mailman or the guy who worked in a grocery store. He was a guy with a family who needed a job to support them. The job he had chosen was that of a cop. When he wasn’t working, we’d see him around the neighborhood in his street clothes and treat him like anyone else in the neighborhood. If we liked him, we were nice to him. If we didn’t, we avoided him. Just like everyone else.
His uniform, like the uniform of the local garbage man, was not something that demanded respect. They were simply his work clothes. When we saw him in his uniform, we didn’t respect him any more than before. We just knew that he was on his way to work. If we respected him, it was he, not his uniform, that garnered that respect.
What seems to have changed is that now cops seem to be anonymous control machines. who claim some entitlement to respect. And many members of the public appear to have consented to this entitlement. After 9/11, particularly, “first responders” were held in disproportionately high esteem due to the sacrifices made by those who were climbing up while others were climbing down. This is not hard to justify, as there was apparently a great deal of bravery displayed on that day, and the credit should be given when it is due.
The difference, however, between those cops and every other cop in the world is that they demonstrated their entitlement to respect through their bravery. Most would agree that demonstrations of extreme bravery entitle the demonstrator to a higher level of respect than others of his ilk. And so it is.
The fact that other cops may identify and feel some comradeship with those who climbed the World Trade Center that day does not mean that the rest of the public feels the same way. Nor should the average cop on the street feel any entitlement to any degree of respect for that reason alone.
What many of the public refer to as respect when being confronted by a cop is actually fear. We all know that cops have an enormous amount of power over us. Between their weaponry, their training, the fact that they can fabricate violations and likely have their brethren back them up, the fact that they can find out where we live, what we may have done wrong in the past, who our friends are, who we called on our mobile phones, in addition to, potentially, where we will be sleeping that night, is something that makes most people, justifiably, nervous. They display deference to cops for the simple reason that they know that if they don’t, they could end up in an uncomfortable predicament through no fault of their own. That’s not respect-it’s self-preservation.
So, to those cops who believe that they are entitled to respect simply because they wear a uniform and a badge, I will say, no. I am perfectly willing to respect what people do, assuming that those actions are worthy of respect. I refuse to respect them because of what they wear or based on any misplaced assumptions of un-demonstrated bravery or ostensible authority.
Sorry, not gonna do it.