Thank you, Jen, for your as always well-considered and astute observations. You know, I don’t enjoy slamming the police because I do know that most of the time they are out there doing a job, a demanding, dangerous, and thankless job, and that usually the only time the public hears about them is when they are alleged to have done something wrong.
If you think about it, maybe it’s like a referee at a football game or a waiter in a restaurant. If you remember only the game or the meal, it means the ref or waiter did their job well. If you remember THEM afterwards, it’s usually because the ref blew a crucial call or the waiter screwed up the order.
In this light I will tell you something, word for word (the language is NOT meant to offend but I refuse to edit it on artistic grounds !!) which remains among the great pearls of wisdom I have ever received. An old military guy told me this: (His name was Jerry Eliot and I was working for him at a business school but had got drunk and told my class a bunch of filthy jokes. Everyone had roared laughing — probably because it was the ‘professor’ telling the jokes — but of course some conscientious and offended Christian went and complained, so I got canned.) Said Jerry, admonishing me to remember that you have to maintain standards ALL the time, not just most of the time: “Eric, if you build a THOUSAND bridges and suck ONE cock, do they call you a Builder of Bridges?”
I hope you see the point. So public (especially if deadly) police errors are going to go “viral” every time. We also know, however, that the police cover their tracks awfully well. I don’t think it’s as bad as in many countries (Russia might be a good example; Bolivia a better one.), but I am sure that, once they have their prisoners out of sight, they can be pretty nasty. Moreover, it has been reported too many times to be considered false how they browbeat, threaten, and lie to people being interrogated. Anything for a confession.
And if, as you admit, the police are widely hated by the public, my question would be WHY? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? If I am frightened of being a possible victim of criminals, why should I hate my saviors? It leads me, reluctantly, to the question: If the police are so loathed, are they themselves not responsible for creating such a negative image? When it comes down to the race issue, it does not take a genius to understand that black people being arrested by white police is a perfect recipe for discontent; however, it goes further than that. It’s not always about race, and besides, there ARE black people on the force also. Moreover, there are SO MANY cases of overkill-minded SWAT teams breaking down the doors of innocent people (some guilty of course) to be taken lightly. The feeling one gets is that a rather extraordinary number of cops are out there who are just ITCHING for confrontation, to administer a beat-down, to Taser or shoot someone. They can arrest you at any time for any reason and then lie their way out of it. The public knows this, and — though some NRA types happily advocate such tactics — many (most?)people will call the police ONLY as a last resort.
Maybe it is an unavoidable, inevitable consequence of the mammoth size of our cities. That’s why we no longer even call them cities; they have become ‘mega-polis’. Do you realize, Jen, that the forecast is that within just a few more years, 70% of the earth’s population will be living in just 3% of its available land area? It’s scary. I just looked up the following:
The 150 Largest Cities in the World. The largest city in the world by population is Tokyo, Japan, with a population of 38,001,000. Tokyo is followed by Delhi, India (population 25,703,168) and Shanghai, China (population 23,740,778).
The population of Mexico City in 2017 was 21.2 million.
Can you imagine the life of a police officer in cities that size? Of course, no cop is expected to police the whole goddamn city all by himself — it is true that in practical terms most big old cities, including New York and London (maybe not somewhere like Dubai), really amount to no more than a vast collection of neighborhoods intersected by huge thoroughfares and roofed by fly-overs with exits; nevertheless, that number of people can cause a LOT of trouble on any given day or night, and the police have to be ready. And, if we are speaking of 38,000,000 people, how many (ballpark figure please) can be expected to be crazy and even dangerous in one way or another? That cops have to move amid these human minefields 24/7 without doing a Lieutenant Calley (remember Viet Nam?) and just opening fire on the whole village, is actually more amazing than you might think. It is on that basic at least comprehensible that cops feel as alienated from the people as the people do from the cops.
So the problem is how to bridge that gap. The cop needs to remember that he is supposed to be a hero. Sounds corny? But when I was a kid the cop WAS a hero. Not RAMBO, but a hero nonetheless. Of course, I didn’t live in NYC or Chicago. I lived in a small town without a lot of ethnic stuff swirling around me, no street gangs, no dirty old men handing out candy — and ok, so it may have been a neighborhood full of ‘benevolent racists’ (hey, if there can be ‘benevolent sexism’, then there can also be ‘benevolent racism.’). My folks told me that I should be nice and polite to ‘colored’ people and respect them. But not get too close. And don’t bring one home for dinner. In summary, to me the teacher, the preacher, the policeman, the fireman, and probably the fucking mayor if I had thought of it, were the good guys.
Time has taught me that they are NOT the good guys. At least not simply by virtue of their position, their title, and their uniform. It has been a rude awakening. I still believe in Santa. I still believe in the Easter Bunny. But not in those cocksuckers. And that is THEIR fault.
The police are YOU and ME in the end. They reflect US and OUR values. (Black people would disagree.) It’s the same as with those who complain all the time about what is shown on TV. Look, the TV producers don’t care what they put on, as long as it sells. If the good citizens all wanted to watch gardening shows and episodes about nice old librarians to whom nothing ever happens, then that’s what we would see on Prime Time every evening. We could sit and watch some Old Dear filing the books away into their proper places — now wouldn’t that be a gas? (“You see that the Geography books go in 2034.67 and the Accounting books…”) For 60 minutes, minus twenty for the commercials.
Instead we see guys getting their heads blown off and sexy women in mini-skirts. Why? Because it’s what WE really want. (Forget what we pretend to want; we are just lying to ourselves.) We want to see sexy girls and guys getting beat over the head and blown away — and so the big favor the boob-tube execs do us every evening is to keep shoveling the shit down our grateful throats. We choose from the menu and they cook the dinner.
So it’s the same with everything else. We the People receive what we ask for. Therefore, it is hard to escape the conclusion that we get the Police we deserve as well. The problem the police have now is, therefore, principally about public relations. They should learn to act like they are part of the rest of us, even learn to smile while they cram a night stick up our ass. After all, lawyers and politicians learned how to do this a Long Time Ago. In America it’s all about customer service and PR.
The former tennis player Andre Agassi told us years ago in a TV ad for some camera brand he was flogging that “Image is Everything.” The cops need to remember this and to ‘’make nice’’ a little and stop intimidating everybody. They should, above all, learn — as they used to be fairly good at — to DEFUSE situations of tension instead of trying to be hard-asses all the time and adding to the problem. This, in conclusion, is my main beef. Increasingly, the cops seem to WANT confrontation instead of trying to alleviate stress and calm people down. Sometimes, people are drunk and out of control and the cops have to get tough. Point taken. But what turns up on the videos that go viral all too often tell a different tale. And it makes people wonder just what the hell was going on before they started making videos.
Last point. When I was in America I used to love watching programs like “Cops” (“Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, when they come for you!!!?”), “Forensic Files,” “Law and Order” and “America’s Most Wanted”. I used to eat that stuff up. The cops were always the good guys. And nobody wants to see a bad guy hanged more than I do. So why do I of all people…often dislike (what a tactful bastard I am!)…the police??? Isn’t this a question worth asking, especially if it can be repeated a million times by other people just like me? I mean, why shouldn’t I LOVE the police?