I was more than a little disgusted to read a self-serving screed in the Washington Post from Prof. Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security and a serving police officer. It was headlined: “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.” Here’s an excerpt.
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
There’s more at the link. It’s nauseating, but I do urge you to read it in full, if only to understand the utter stupidity of current US police perspectives.
Such attitudes are, of course, completely unacceptable. As Ken White (a lawyer and former prosecutor) points out:
Would we accept “if you don’t want to get shot, just do what the EPA regulator tells you”? Would we yield to “if you don’t want your kid tased, do what the Deputy Superintendent of Education tells you”? Would we accept “if you don’t want to get tear gassed, just do what your Congressman tells you?” No. Our culture of individualism and liberty would not permit it. Yet somehow, through generations of law-and-order rhetoric and near-deification of law enforcement, we have convinced ourselves that cops are different, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be able to order us about, at their discretion, on pain of violence.
It’s not acceptable. It is servile and grotesque.
Again, more at the link.
Prof. Dutta, apart from obvious emergency situations, I will challenge you if you’re in the wrong. I’m getting to the point that I’m seriously considering installing cameras and recorders in my vehicles and around my home, because of the growing likelihood of encountering police misconduct and needing to prove it in court if necessary. I’ve seen far too many police officers try to intimidate citizens rather than treat them with respect. I know I’m law-abiding – since coming to this country almost two decades ago, I haven’t had so much as a traffic ticket. I’ve also served as a duly sworn member of the law enforcement profession. I will not permit, and I will not tolerate, the kind of attitudes I’m increasingly seeing on the part of jackbooted thugs masquerading as police officers. Treat me with respect and politeness, and you’ll receive a similar response. Treat me like dirt and I’ll respond in kind. I do not and will not respect your authority if you prove yourself unworthy of it. Your badge doesn’t impress me in and of itself – not when so many of those wearing it think nothing of shooting dogs at the drop of a hat, or injuring babies during drug raids (and then refusing to cover their medical expenses), or conducting illegal searches, or threatening to kill a journalist, or whatever.
To camouflage oneself in the jungles of suburban America, one should be clothed in Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell packaging. A soldier wears green camo in Vietnam to blend in. A policeman wears green camo in Ferguson to stand out – to let you guys know: We’re here, we’re severe, get used to it.
This is not a small thing. The point about “the thin blue line” is that it’s blue for a reason. As I wrote a couple of months ago:
“The police” is a phenomenon of the modern world. It would be wholly alien, for example, to America’s Founders. In the sense we use the term today, it dates back no further than Sir Robert Peel’s founding of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Because Londoners associated the concept with French-style political policing and state control, they were very resistant to the idea of a domestic soldiery keeping them in line. So Peel dressed his policemen in blue instead of infantry red, and instead of guns they had wooden truncheons.
So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it’s not a fashion faux pas, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these “policemen” talk. Look at the video as they’re arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: “This is not up for discussion.”
Really? You’re a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you’re a constable. And the fact that you and your colleagues in that McDonald’s are comfortable speaking to your fellow citizens like this is part of the problem. The most important of the “nine principles of good policing” (formulated by the first two commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and thereafter issued to every officer joining the force) is a very simple one: The police are the public and the public are the police. Not in Ferguson. Long before the teargassing begins and the bullets start flying, the way these guys talk is the first indication of how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing.
Another aspect of this, as Karl Denninger rightly asks, is: why have the police who behaved in a blatantly felonious and unconstitutional manner in Ferguson, Missouri, in recent days not been arrested and charged? The fact that they’re police is irrelevant. If I behaved like that, I would (rightly) be in custody right now. Why aren’t they? If they can get away with such crimes, why should we have any respect for them when they try to give us orders? They’re nothing but felons on the hoof!
Prof. Dutta, I don’t care how you see yourself, or how other cops see themselves. I know there are good ones out there – I’m privileged to call some my friends, and I share e-mail correspondence with others whom I’d trust with my life. Unfortunately, I know how badly too many other so-called ‘law enforcement officers’ behave. I find it sickening and completely unacceptable. I swore the same law enforcement oath of office as you (and they) did, and I have upheld that oath. Why have so many of them abandoned it? And since they have abandoned it, why should they be entitled to the respect that a real peace officer should receive? They haven’t earned it and they don’t deserve it. Let them prove they’re worth it by treating us with the same respect they want from us.
(There’s always the obvious exception that in emergencies, there may not be time for courtesy and consideration up-front; but explanations can follow, and apologies be made. Sadly, in many cases of which I’m aware, no such explanations or apologies are ever offered – yet another black mark against US law enforcement.)