The Policeman is Not Your Friend

After writing so many columns on police issues, I suppose I should make the disclaimer that my dad was a cop. I’m morally certain he was a good man, and that — however much we might differ on politics were he still alive — he was scrupulously just by his standards.

But when I see a cop in my rearview mirror, I don’t like having to hope it’s a decent person. And there’s good reason to assume any cop you see is a bad person.

The town where my dad worked as a cop topped out at under 20,000 people when he retired in the 1970s. The kinds of people who chose to work in small towns, policing their neighbors in communities where everyone knew everyone else, were a lot different from those who find police work appealing today.

Urban police forces are disproportionately attractive to people who get off on wearing black uniforms and making displays of force to terrorize the local population into submission (er, “compliance”). They appeal to people who enjoy stomping around in loud boots and kicking in doors at 3AM, terrorizing children and shooting pets.

They appeal, in short, to sociopaths.

Here’s a quote from a Cato study on police militarization: “We send out two, two-to-four-men cars, we look for minor violations and do jump-outs. …  After we jump-out the second car provides periphery cover with an ostentatious display of weaponry. We’re sending a clear message: if the shootings don’t stop, we’ll shoot someone.”

In 2009 Homer, Louisiana’s police chief stated: “If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names. I want them to be afraid every time they see the police …”

In that context consider the recent arrest of Emily Good, in Rochester, NY — while standing in her own front yard — for filming cops making a bust. The arresting officer claimed she was “interfering” with the arrest and he “didn’t feel safe” with her back there. He initially told her it wasn’t legal to film him from the sidewalk, but he escalated matters after she stepped back onto the grass.

Now, in most jurisdictions, there is — as civil liberties advocates have made themselves hoarse repeating — no law against filming public servants in a public place performing their official duties. They have, in the phrase so dear to police statists, “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” The police chief, after the fact, claimed the arrest wasn’t about filming the officer as such. He was lying.

Ms. Good was arrested, quite simply, because she didn’t properly cower and abase herself, didn’t show proper deference and submission (er, “compliance”) before an Alpha Male. So like a Rottweiler with his adrenaline up, Officer Friendly went off on her. You’ve got to expect that sort of thing — it’s in the breed.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what the “law” is about recording cops. If you’re spotted doing it, be prepared to have your face smashed into the concrete and your phone stomped to pieces.

What was the local police reaction to the controversy? Did they respect Ms. Good’s legal right to challenge the arrest, to speak her mind on public policy? Did they agree, as public servants subject to civilian authority, to abide by the outcome of any official inquiry? Does the Pope in Rome run a madrasa?

During a public meeting in support of Ms. Good, police carefully used a ruler to determine which cars were parked more than a food away from the curb. Do you think they enforce deviations from the parking regulations so scrupulously when ticketing random cars downtown?

This was retaliation, pure and simple. One of the sheep defied a beast of prey, and his pack turned on her.  Likewise, in other cases where cops are recorded in the commission of similar wrongdoing — like public drunkenness and urination, abusive behavior toward the public, etc., during Police Week celebrations — members of the Brotherhood react by leaving threatening messages on websites where the footage is posted.

On occasion, some cop’s instincts toward decency cause him to violate the code of silence and report misconduct by another member of the Brotherhood. This is the unpardonable sin for which there is no forgiveness, either in this world or in the next.

So next time you interact with a cop, don’t stand on your rights. If you film him, make sure it’s as unobtrusive as possible. Say “yes, sir,” smile an ingratiating smile, and act properly intimidated. By all means, make an example of him — memorize his badge number — but do it after the fact. Otherwise, you may wind up explaining your “legal rights” to Saint Peter.

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