Police Academy Three And The Dream Of Commandant Lessard
So I called the cops the other day because this was the third time that a pack of feral griffins were bugging my dog. I’m sure they are sick of hearing from me. I can be verbose, insulting, and at times, obtuse. Which is why they sent the tank this time. I didn’t know Brunswick P.D. had a tank. I knew about the helicopter. That’s what they sent the last time.
So tank boy gets out of his vehicle and comes up to my door. I think it was a boy. Kinda hard to tell since he (she?) was covered in body armor and what amounted to an astronaut’s helmet. He moved slow, and I could hear the whir of the hydraulic pumps on the body armor as he took each step. With a vacuum seal gasp, the visor opened and now I could speak to my protector.
It was a boy.
“Where’s the stealth fighter?”, I asked.
“In the shop,” he replied, without missing a beat.
“What about the helicopter?”
“On another call.”
I told him about the griffins. There were quite a few words bandied about, like “waste of time”, “this is not a proper use of 911” and other vague threats, but I wasn’t really paying attention, since his partner began toying with his shoulder-mounted bazooka as the wail of an air raid siren came from within the tank, coupled with a message:
“All units respond. Gang of teenagers loitering at Rite-Aid. Use of excessive force approved.”
“I don’t have time for your nonsense,” Body Armor hissed at me as he leapt off the porch, “Swarm. SWARM!” he shouted as he sprinted back to the tank. The turret spun around to face the downtown, and hurled a warning shell towards Rite-Aid, the booming echoing off the buildings. I could hear additional gunfire, and a faint voice from a loudspeaker further away, “YOU ARE ORDERED TO DISPERSE BY THE BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT. THIS IS A NO LOITERING ZONE. YOU ARE ORDERED TO DISPERSE.”
The tank sped up the hill, spitting pavement and diesel smoke.
It didn’t have to be this way, you know. Police Academy Three gave us a vision. Police Academy Three gave us a road map. Police Academy Three gave a choice, and we made the wrong one.
We are living in Commandant Mauser’s world.
Police Academy Three is a tale of two academies and two visions of what the police should be. On one hand, we have Commandant Lessard’s academy. Like Lessard himself, who has all the guileless affability of a golden retriever, his academy is a place where the misfits can find safe purchase. It is open, inclusive, and democratic. We have women, African-Americans, White Trash, Street Toughs, Jewelry Store Owners. All are welcome. Even the Japanese. We’ll get to the Japanese later. To put it simply, Commandant Lessard’s academy is one vision of America.
And on the other hand, we have Commandant Mauser’s academy. Rigid, militaristic (they all wear black berets). All white. No girls. No foreigners. And that’s the key: NO FOREIGNERS. In 1986, it was a foregone conclusion that the Japanese were going to eat us alive. They had sleek efficient production. They saved more than we did, they made better cars, they made better T.V.s. They were just better. So when Tomoko Nogata shows up in Mauser’s academy, Mauser will have nothing to do with it. Since none of his cadets “need to know how to use a wok”, Nogata is shipped off to Lessard’s academy. At least he wasn’t a girl, that way we were spared a sexist/racist remark rather than just a racist one. And just as Lessard has one vision of America, Mauser has another. Xenophobic, white, and fascinated with the trappings of military authority.
We’re gonna drift away from satire here for a moment. It is hard to understand what crime in America was like from the late ’60s to the early ’90s, but suffice to say it was almost common knowledge that American cities were on the verge of social collapse. When John Carpenter made “Escape From New York” he turned Manhattan into a prison. In “Death Wish”, Charles Bronson is a good old bleeding-heart-liberal, but when his wife dies at the hands of street toughs, he goes on a one man crusade to clean up New York City, and in Death Wish 2 he goes to Los Angeles to clean that up. Moreover, these films were not thought of as fantastical. It simply made sense that Manhattan would decay into chaos. It was not a question of if, only a question of when.
So who will save us from social decay? The only line of defense we have left. That thin blue line: the police. So then the question becomes, what shape will this savior be? If only the police can save us, then what should the police look like? And it is here where Police Academy Three becomes a deeply political statement. We have Lessard’s police force, integrated cleanly into the society that they have been tasked to protect. And we have Mauser’s police force, a wall of weaponry and ruthless efficiency. Lassard’s force creates safety by making common cause with the citizenry. Mauser’s force creates safety through fear.
Somewhere near downtown, Mauser’s tank force is at Rite-Aid, clearing the parking lot of troubling teenagers. They will not seek compliance or consensus, they will not ask anyone to leave. They will order them, at the point of a tank turret. When we give the police the weapons of war, the enemy is us.
But I’m with Lessard.