I am not a cop. But I work closely with them. I respect what they do and I see across the board in "my" law enforcement agency smart, hard working, upright, good people. Society asks a lot of cops and return we give them extraordinary respect, near universal support, life-and-death authority and all sorts of benefits of the doubt.
But I gotta say, they are the most thin skinned, self-important and unself-aware people I will ever run across.
Does the profession attract that personality type or create it?
This past Sunday I dared to speak from the pulpit to the situation in Ferguson and the protests across the country. The occasion is, in my faith tradition, the 1st Sunday in Advent. The Gospel for the day from Mark 13:32-37. Paraphrasing: What sort of shape will the master find his house upon his return?
Well, the house is in a mess, and we are the caretakers. Riots in Ferguson, protests across the country, distrust between large segments of our human community and the police, a spate of unarmed black people killed by the police.
We give a lot of respect and support to the police and rightly so but what if we gave at least a second thought to why so many folks are so angry with them?
What if we admit that for most black people, their experiences with the police are far different than our [100% white semi-rural] experiences are?
Yes, Ferguson is in our Master's house. And there is something wrong there.
Ho-lee shit! Did some people ever get mad. Two cops, parents of a cop and a friend of a cop and a smattering of others got up and walked out.
No attack on cops, no blanket absolution for rioters. Just an observation of facts and a couple of questions.
My experience with cops has been pretty positive. Granted I'm a white guy and I drive like I could teach the AAA 55-Alive class.
But I've seen it -- the demand for absolute 100% butt-kissing respect or else.
I've made the mistake in my youth of being sarcastic with a cop who pulled me over on my motorcycle, gave me a very expensive ticket for no headlight (it was an old motorcycle) handing it to me like she was doing me a favor and telling me to be more careful to which I replied with a tone, "OK, officer. I will. Thank you!" This set her off pretty badly.
My family recounts the story of when my mom got arrested for giving a jerk of a cop the finger from a block away after he treated her and my dad rudely.
I've heard cops shriek like three year olds denied a Happy Meal when a civilian mayor dares assert authority over a police force. If cops are ever given anything less than 100% butt kissing blind and mindless and unquestioning support by a civilian these big strong law enforcement professionals cry about how hard they have it and how much society owes them and maybe they will just stop doing their job and then we'll see how we like that.
"But they have to face dangerous situations!" Yes, that's their job. That's why we give them such authority, respect and leeway. And that is also why society holds them to higher standards than a vigilante group. Because they are professionals. It's what they signed on for. There are rules and laws they must abide by. And nowhere in the law does it say they are immune to questions or criticism or entitled to butt kissing. If they don't like it then they are in the wrong line of work.
Apparently some of them are in the wrong line of work.
These are professionals who are supposed to confront criminals better than vigilantes would. To utilize critical thinking skills, to exercise professional restraint (not emotional release). If they're in it for a power rush they're in the wrong line of work. If they're too scared to proceed with clarity and safety and common sense they're in the wrong line of work.
We get it! It's dangerous to confront criminals. That's why we have professional law enforcement and that's why we give them authority and equipment and leeway.
But knock off the blue line crap. Out of control cops hurt the profession. Not FTP videos, not the hands-up-don't-shoot meme, not holding them accountable to civilian oversite. Pedophile priests and the bishops' cover-ups is what tainted the RC clergy for the next few generations, not the brave souls who dared to speak up. Likewise, unthinkingly, uncritically, unquestioningly closing ranks on egregiously bad police behavior hurts the police profession. Indeed, it hurts it worse than violent criminals do.
As long as I'm ranting here's one for the lack of self-awareness:
I've seen union cops, government agents, tasked with enforcing regulations who vote nearly 90% for the party that hates unions, hates government, hates regulations, refuses to outlaw cop killer bullets and establish common sense gun control. Why so many cops are Republicans will never makes sense to me.
Thin skinned, self-important and unself-aware.