Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"From His Royal Highness, the Grand Juror of Justice, His Most Esteemed Eminance, to the Plebeians"

In which I comment on the most terrifying horror story I've read this year. I've included the quotes I'm responding to, and you can read the wholething here. I've skipped some parts, but I tried to note them when I did.

"From His Royal Highness, the Grand Juror of Justice, His Most Esteemed Eminance, to the plebeians"

"It is also a terrible calumny; cops are not murderers." Wrong, cops who murder people are murderers. Being a cop doesn't suddenly imbue you with some kind of divine diplomatic immunity.

"Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority." This is the paragraph that convinced me I was reading satire until my Twitter feed fed me humble pie by revealing that holy fucking shit this op ed is supposed to be serious.

"Challenges to my authority?" Wait, whaaaa? OMG, how dare someone possibly challenge your authori-tah, Most Revered and Infallible Peace Officer. Here's the kicker, your authority is vested in you by the citizens of the city, state or nation. You have no absolute authority. You enforce the laws of the people. When they disagree with those laws, they can actually change them. It doesn't happen often, obviously, what with the money all going to gigantamous class action suits and celebrity binge-drinking. But it could.

It is the height of arrogance and ego to look at the people you serve and say, "you all need to put yourself in my shoes" instead of "cops need to remember that they are human and aren't vicars of Christ and should probably put themselves in a citizen's shoes before they act."

Read it as satire, I promise the whole thing becomes a lot better.

I'll skip over the Checkers speech.

"Sometimes, though, no amount of persuasion or warnings work on a belligerent person; that’s when cops have to use force, and the results can be tragic. We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety." You know, uh, in the overwhelming majority of cases, whenever anyone--not just cops--uses force, they're defending their safety. Actually, you can just substitute any other noun for cops and take out the reference to Darren Wilson's title, and this paragraph is still completely accurate.

"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?" Or, or, and I know this is a crazyradical idea, we could make sure that cops don't, hear me out, get to fucking shoot, taze, pepper-spray, strike or throw people without having a really good fucking reason. I mean, it's ludicrous, I know, but, I mean, we could try it. I'll even throw in an extra idea for free.

Sometimes, we won't know ahead of time if the cop's reason was good enough. There are split-second decisions that have to be made, and we have to trust police training and experience is enough to result in the right choice.

So what do we do? In the aftermath, if it turns out the reason was bullshit, we prosecute the cop immediately.  We respect due process, but no dallying, no clandestine IA case-building. Nope. Cop gets locked up like everybody else and goes into the justice system. Easy-peasy.

"And you don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go." I get into this more a little later on, but this is a wonderful paragraph describing an imaginary place bearing little to no semblance of reality. My favorite part is where he specifically provides an exception for groping.

"Finally, cops are legally prohibited from using excessive force: The moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officers must cease use of force." This doesn't deserve anything more than a derisive, if hearty, LOL. But, I'll add one thing: this doesn't even make sense. If all a criminal had to do to make the cops stop was "submit" and cease "resisting," it'd be like the easiest fucking cheat code in existence.

I hate to gloss over it, but I'm going to go ahead and skip commenting on the paragraph where he makes everyone else's point for them without a trace of irony.

"An average person cannot comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of a cop’s job." Huh? Yes they can. It's not that hard. Also, policing is important and honorable work but it isn't coding in Java or running a foley studio. It's far more likely that cops have an over-inflated opinion of their job than "average" people lack "true" understanding.

"Hollywood and television stereotypes of the police are cartoons in which fearless super cops singlehandedly defeat dozens of thugs, shooting guns out of their hands." No they aren't. "Fearless super cops" who take down enormous mobs of baddies while sniping pistols from the criminal's hands? Those are rarely actual cops (I couldn't find any, but I'm hedging my bet). They tend to be, like, superheroes. You see the real cops around all the time, they're the ones sitting on the sidelines or holding up the yellow tape for the real star of the show.

"Real life is different." Oh, it so definitely is. Where you live, we've learned, cops don't regularly illegally stop or detain people, and if you ask them if you're free to go, they have to tell you. Oh, and they can't use excessive force. Sounds like a pretty cool utopia. Hollywood would probably love to hear about it.

"An average cop is always concerned with his or her safety and tries to control every encounter. That is how we are trained. While most citizens are courteous and law abiding, the subset of people we generally interact with everyday are not the genteel types." Okay. Full agreement here. The bad guys aren't courteous or law-abiding. They probably also don't recognize the word genteel. You showed them.

"You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive?" Uh, I hope I know what's in your mind when you stop me. Presumably it's whatever offense you just saw me commit. I assume you're considering the full ramifications of what you're doing, how it will impact a citizen of the city, state, or country you police for. You know, things like that. If you're supposed to looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive, I would hope that you'd be, I don't know, doing that maybe? Instead of stopping me for no reason since, keep in mind, I'm not the murderer or armed fugitive.

"For you, this might be a 'simple' traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is."  Okay, I get it. I could be the murderer or fugitive, so that sucks for you. How do I help make your job less difficult?

Is this the list?
·         Don’t argue
·         Don’t call 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
·         Don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me

I'm actually fine with most of it. But, uh, one thing. That falls apart as soon as we get to the whole protesting thing. As a human being, I can and should do everything on that list in the court of public opinion if a cop fucks up and then an entire police department massively fucks up.

What follows is a series of what I call, "duh" statements. It's pretty obvious why.

"Community members deserve courtesy, respect and professionalism from their officers."

"Every person stopped by a cop should feel safe instead of feeling that their well-being is in jeopardy."

"Shouldn’t the community members extend the same courtesy to their officers?"

But, oh shit, the sentence didn't end there, did it? "…and project that the officer’s safety is not threatened by their actions?" Uh, what? WHAT? You are wearing body armor and carrying a fucking gun. You also have a shit-ton of training that the writer of the op ed kept referencing as if the instructors were angels beamed down to pass on their halos to the exalted officers walking this earth. Unless I am considerably more well-armed than I have ever been in my life, there is no action I could possibly take that would truly threaten a cop's safety.

If I tackle you and start punching your face, okay, a reasonable person would concede the point. Heckling you? Calling you a racist pig? Telling you that you can't stop me? Screaming that I pay your salary? Even, god forbid, walking up to you? You notice what all of those things have in common? Not a single one of them could possibly be interpreted to threaten the safety of someone paid to carrying a fucking gun and authorized to use it for apparently any fucking reason according to this piece.  

Nope. None of them. Not threatening at all. Not even a little bit. Not even if I was black.