Sunday, September 13, 2015

On the Police


With the caveat that my demographic tends not to have problems with the police, let me say that I've met good cops and bad cops. Some jerk stole my wallet when I was in high school. A cop found the guy and got it back for me. In college, a dorm-mate was being beaten by her boyfriend. Campus police responded to the call immediately and saved the young woman, peacefully. I also saw New York's Finest willfully drive away as a group of drunk asshole frat boys beat the living hell out of a drunk hispanic man on New Year's Eve. And I saw police harass a poor dude who fell asleep on a subway during rush hour after a long working day.
Police work is actually safer than many other professions. Sanitation workers and farmers are more likely to be killed on the job. When our culture decides to honor a policeman who falls in the line of duty, we send a dangerous message that police are soldiers in a war that occurs on our city streets. Such a message instills fear in the police, which affects the way they serve the public.
I don't hate cops. I cringe when I hear protesters -- white, middle class jackasses who've read the first chapter of a Chomsky book and consider themselves experts in the way government functions -- scream Fuck the Police. But instead of honoring police who die in shootouts, calling them the best of the best, I would prefer we think of the more humble duties they serve. If we celebrated the police who behave as professionals in their minor duties, the ones who de-escalate situations, the way we should celebrate teachers who teach good classes or bus drivers who drive buses safely, we might be able to change the conversation for the better. 
I'm not going to play the game of false equivalency. Yes, it's true that a relatively small number of black men who are murdered are murdered by police officers. Those murders draw more attention than "ghettocides", because they are committed by those with state power. I would phrase it a little differently. I believe those murders earn so much attention because they represent the extremes of bad policing that black people experience almost daily. The chances of a black man being murdered by police are higher than a white man being murdered by police, but are still very small. With that said, they suffer harassment, false arrests, beatings and negligence at a very high rate. A policeman who murders a black man is an encapsulation of a larger systemic issue that is all too real. 
I don't see how the murder of a policeman, as disgusting as it may be, encapsulates a larger systemic issue. I just don't.

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