I like cops. I once tried to help control a high school riot — we needed the cops to restore order. I will forever be grateful for their presence that day. My father wrote a book on the history of modern police. (Sorry it’s out of print).
But cops and the entire criminal justice system need to change.
Police academies spend a lot of time teaching cops about weapons, fighting, physically controlling suspects and self defense. They lift weights, build muscle and practice shooting.
They need to spend more time on empathy, leadership, judgement, de-escalation and communication.
Instead of beefy boys with guns and batons, we should be hiring people like Bob Marley and giving them bongs to calm people down.
Only 1 percent of police interactions end in an arrest. Most arrests don’t require physical restraint. We are training an army to defeat an enemy that has already surrendered.
Cops are taught to control every conversation. They see any delay in following their orders as disrespect. Disrespect is quickly met with physical violence.
Sure, there are times of great restraint. Times cops are taunted and teased and don’t respond. But that never seems to last more than a few minutes, hours or days — usually dependent on the number of cameras involved. The more cameras and witnesses, the longer the restraint.
I’m not saying it’s an easy job. Most people would react to the bullshit they face with a stick or stun gun or shooting “citizens” in the face. But cops need to have more training, patience and skills than most people.
They need the time and resources to deal with 99.99 percent of their interactions without it ending in a wrestling match, beating with a stick or firing a weapon.
But today’s police look like soldiers. With bullet proof vests and helmets — helicopters and tanks. Gilbert, my little wealthy suburb, and one of the safest places to live in America has two “urban assault vehicles.” Up-armoured humvees designed for war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most popular crime in Gilbert is vandalism. We are fighting spray painting “artists” with humvees.
Stun guns and tasers came out of an Arizona company. It was a fucked up idea. Don’t need to kill people with bullets if we just stun them with enough electrical shock to keep their muscles from working. A less lethal solution than hot lead fired at the speed of sound.
But most cops don’t use the stun gun or taser instead of a gun. They don’t wait for the situation to get threatening — they just “taze” to subdue people who don’t immediately submit. Videos all over the internet show it’s just a form of punishment. Street justice at the end of an electrode. “Don’t taze me bro.”
My father’s book showed even after the Civil War there was a ton of resistance to a uniformed and armed force walking the streets of America. It took more than 50 years before cities would adopt uniformed cops.
Those original Americans remembered the British Army taking residence in their homes. The Third Amendment seems silly to us, but it was a real fear with early Americans. There’s no liberty under an armed invasive force living in your house or walking your streets.
But fear led people to compromise.
We put up with armed police hoping for peace and be rid of crime. But only 25-percent of “reported” crimes end in an arrest. Most arrests are for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest or possession of small amounts of pot.
Immediately after uniformed cops were started, the problems of stress, alcoholism, police suicide, corruption and cops killing people appeared. Seems to be part of the job.
Like soldiers, cops quickly form a bond. That thin blue line of unity, silence and “fighting” for each other. They will lie or be silent when it benefits the group.
They quickly forget they work for us, and believe they work for themselves or some self-defined concept like “justice.”
Cops resist civilian oversight. They think no one who hasn’t done “the job” can understand. They fight accountability. They stick together and punish whistle blowers. Serpico was written 50 years ago. It was already an old story by then.
Customer service would be a good concept to introduce to the police service.
It’s understandable when you deal with the criminals and “bad” people all day that you quickly believe everyone lies, cheats and steals. You fall into a Marvel world where only you and your friends stand between evil and good. We need to rotate cops out of crime calls and into roles in schools, parks and community service when they get to see the good in everyone.
When protesters gather, cops are at their worst. The tactics for “crowd control” were developed by the British forces in India putting down Hindu riots. It’s a textbook play for how a small group of the heavily armed can control and “defeat” a much larger force.
Divide and conquer played out overnight.
Mass your forces in a thick and strong line. Don’t get separated into small groups.
Limit the throng to small choke points — like you are the Spartans holding back the Persian hordes. Leave the crowd an exit. Punish people in the front to “break” the crowd’s will and make them all flee.
Ever wonder during the #BLM protests why the cops keep forming lines in the streets. Who the hell are they “protecting and serving?” Why can’t they just let the protesters walk down the streets they want to walk?
It would be just as easy with the helicopters, cameras and face recognition to catch vandals after the fact. When the choices become property or lives, too often our leaders force cops to choose property over people.
Property can be replaced. We are paying more in overtime to form the armored blue line than it would cost to rebuild a Wendy’s or a police station.
But like every conversation, cops feel they must “control” the situation. Politicians are scared to death of the people. Together they want “Law & Order” — even when that “control” just escalates… It leads to more clashes, vandalism and violence. It quickly becomes a self-referencing spiral into greater arms and confrontation.
Sure there are times when armed mobs need to be controlled. This is not one of those times. These are mostly peaceful protesters with a legitimate need to petition the government for change. Remember that shit is in the constitution. First Amendment.
Cops and the entire criminal justice system need to change. First they must give up the idea that they must “control” every conversation, every interaction and every peaceful crowd. Then the real changes can begin.