I have been watching the ongoing police/#BlackLivesMatter/Social Justice strife unfold for the last near year and a half. Of course on something this big, it would have to become a political issue. The Democrats have (officially) sided with BLM. The Republicans, to be contrarian, have sided with police.
Police vs. BLM is a false dichotomy that fails to recognize the major problem and therefore prevents them from being corrected. Polarizing politics being what they are, America is being pushed headlong into this and the result will be absolute disaster.
I have been accused of being anti-cop. I’m not. I’m anti-bad cop, there is a difference, a difference that it seems many Republicans don’t want to make when opposing the pro-BLM Democrats. I recognize the need for police in a civil society. The lack of police presence has resulted in a crime wave in major American cities following anti-police protests, like one one in Baltimore that subsequently cause the murder rate to jump.
Pro-cop conservatives will make the excuse for any police misconduct with “he was a bad apple.” Yes, and there is the old expression “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” It’s true. In 1971, a psychologist at Stanford named Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment that became known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. He took a bunch of students, separated them into two groups – guards and prisoners – and locked them in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. In less than two days, the guards were physically and emotionally abusing the prisoners.
The results of the experiment were (in a nutshell): When people in positions of power are given unchecked authority, a handful of people will very quickly begin to abuse that authority. This creates an Us vs Them mentality between the groups. If people in group with authority try to stand up to the abusers, they will be ostracized by the rest of the “Us” group. In effect, the culture of the group with authority will be driven by the attitude and behavior of a minority of abusers.
This group psychology explains how, for example, run-of-the-mill young German men could carry out the mass executions and torture at Concentration Camps. Or how some National Guardsmen could sexually abuse prisoners in Iraq. Because a handful of sadists set the culture (and no I’m not say Abu Ghraib and Auschwitz were the same, just that the psychology was).
If you think I’m just picking on law enforcement and military, I’m not. I have a very good friend who works on Wall Street. I asked him one time how so many smart, Ivy League educated people could be so blind when creating a bubble and the resulting financial crisis. He explained that a minority of greedy managers set the culture. The traders and financial managers who were more concerned about long term sustainability over short term high profits weren’t promoted and saw their bonuses reduced. If they spoke up, they were fired. A group of greedy managers set the culture on Wall Street that caused the financial crisis.
The good news is, that proper oversight can fix this. By identifying the bad apples that set the culture and firing them is a start. Identifying good officers and promoting them will create a new culture. This type of oversight was one of the demands made by BLM.
So, what kind of culture are we talking about and why do we need to get rid of it? Well, in NYC police on slow down were told to get back to work because the lack of tickets and citations being issued were causing a cash flow problem in NYC. Think about that for a minute… the NYPD was not being used to serve and protect but to generate revenue. Can anybody say “perverse incentive?” How about a culture that allows an officer to back over a 101 year old woman with a squad car, killing her, and getting away with it? Or perhaps blowing the face off a toddler with a stun grenade and justifying it at collateral damage.
I disagree with the BLM movement that police shootings are motivated by racism. I’m not going to deny that racism exists and that there may be some racist cops. But the Us vs Them mentality is enough to cause a police officer to shoot when he shouldn’t.
Then the police do themselves no favors when they encourage this abusive, warrior mindset. Below is not acceptable.
The ultimate problem this causes is a lack of trust and mutual respect between the citizenry and the police. Policing through fear and intimidation might seem like an effective strategy, but in the long term it doesn’t work. My sister lives in Baltimore, where snitches get stitches. Yes, snitches get stitches is a problem with the criminal culture in Baltimore. But it is also a problem with the Baltimore PD. When the people don’t trust the police, they don’t call them. They don’t expect the police to protect them and so they let a criminal culture dominate.
Trust in police is at a 22 year low. Good, professional law enforcement recognizes the need for trust and how a lack of trust makes law enforcement more difficult. The thing is, the behavior that encourages trust is not difficult to understand. It is a matter of attitude.
Now I know some in the black community might say “but J.Kb., you’re middle class and white, what do you know about fearing cops? People like you don’t get shot when unarmed.”
My answer is Canton, Ohio police officer Daniel Harless. Harless was caught on camera, on multiple occasions, threatening to murder concealed carry permit holders.
Then there is Chicago Chief of Police, Gary McCarthy who said that is officers will shoot concealed carry permit holders on sight.
The good news is that Harless got fired. The bad news is that he only got fired after the video of him went viral. The previous complaints against him went unheeded.
This is where proper civilian oversight, government transparency, and a good law enforcement culture helps protect a citizenry and the reputation of a department from a bad apple. This is one of the good demands being made by BLM. But because Republicans have to Republican they can’t acknowledge that civilian oversight, along with ending police militarization and civil asset forfeiture, are not just reasonable but good positions to take.
Don’t think I’m letting BLM off the hook, many of their demands and the anti-cop culture they are pushing have resulted in crime waves and the deaths of police and regular civilians alike. Their histrionics aren’t generating them any sympathy either. Law enforcement killing of black suspects is genocide? Um… no. Members of my family were gassed at Treblinka. The father of one of the women who helped raise me, floated over to Miami from Cuba after much of his family was stood against a wall and shot by the
mass murderer darling icon of the Left, Che. That’s a genocide. BLM showing solidarity with the Palestinians ain’t helping their cause either.
What I am pushing for is recognizing that protecting or not punishing bad officers sets a bad culture in law enforcement. That bad culture causes problems breeding anger and resentment withing the community. That anger and resentment makes it harder for cops to do their jobs. This can be fixed, and the fix is to improve the culture of law enforcement, and do it publicly.
I didn’t think it is an extremist (liberal) position to want my law enforcement to obey the law. I want my civil servants to serve the public trust. I don’t want my police department to patrol the streets of my city like it is Fallujah and see everybody without a badge as an enemy combatant. I want to trust the police in my city and to be able to call them without the fear that they will show up at my house and shoot my dog or shove several feet of fiber optic cable up my ass.
I support good police. I am anti-bad police. Wholesale anti-cop politics causes crime waves. Supporting the police with a blind eye to misconduct and abuse turns police into jackboot thugs. I want neither. We have to take reasonable (dare I say, bipartisan) action that fosters good, positive policing, to restore mutual trust and respect civil society.
This is not a new concept by any means. As was said by the Roman powet Juvenal, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
“Who watches the watchmen?”