Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Decayed Institution

Claire Wolfe titled her post "Copitude." I think she's being too nice, considering the comment she quotes, in which John Barnes, a police union president in Michigan, says of legislators (supposedly all Republican) who want the police to pay into their own retirement and insurance, "If we cannot earn their respect we will do what we have always done; hit it with a flashlight until we gain compliance."

I still like to think there are plenty of good, decent LEOs out there, men and women for whom "hitting...with a flashlight" is well down on the list of ways to gain compliance and who don't equate the workings of a legislature with a resisting suspect, but I'm reminded of Gresham's Law, "Bad money drives out good," and wonder if it doesn't apply to police as well.*

Certainly Mr. Barnes' comments don't do anything at all to allay my concerns. Quite some while back, I wondered if police were not turning into a sort of new Equestrian Order, just as the office of President of the United States seems to be accreting power and authority in a way similar to the evolution of the office of Emperor did for Rome. Oh, it's slow, slow; but the policeperson of today is a very different figure to the Officer Friendly of my youth, even as he was not quite the same as the beat-walking neighborhood policeman of my Dad's childhood, known to adults by his first name.

Everyone loses; policing is a lot harder when the citizenry view the police as an occupying army -- especially when that's a largely accurate assessment.

Try beating that into submission with your flashlight, John Barnes.
* The preferred version is "Bad money drives out good when the rate of exchange is set by law," for instance when the silver content of U.S. half-dollars was substantially reduced in the 1960s and the old, mostly-silver ones rapidly vanished from circulation. In the case of police, a sworn officer is a sworn officer is a sworn officer and you're required to comply with the lawful orders of Matt G, Lawdog or the mad dogs of Canton, OH all the same, though I'd bet only the first two know who Robert Peel was or what he had to say about LEO ethics.


Anonymous said...

Yes. Our police, local, state and federal are the "standing army" we were warned about by our founding fathers. Anyone not able to see that is blind or part of the problem. There are no "good" cops. Not a one. Just degrees of bad. If good cops existed, beat downs like in Ohio would not be happening because the "good" cops would have identified the problem and put a a stop to it before it manifested on the street. Instead they circle the blue wagons. The "us vs them" is a product of their actions.

Roberta X said...

I don't think that's entirely fair -- I linked to two examples of good cops. They may be rare but they exist.

Chuck Pergiel said...

While in general I may deplore the hitting of people with flashlights, we might be better off it certain people were hit with flashlights.

Roberta X said...

Sadly, it is very difficult to be assured of hitting the right people -- better ten who rate a bashing miss it than one innocent man get battered by the wrong end of a fully-batteried police-sized MagLite.

And once you start smiling upon well-earned beatings, the next thing you know, the beaters...get creative....

Stranger said...

One of my employees decided to learn another trade at the Police Academy. The indoctrination LEO's must undergo reminds me a great deal of that German paratroops received during the 1930's. As in running off a cliff hoping there would be a safety net below.

Given his experience - and what LEO's from other states tell me, much of the problem lies in their paramilitary training. The finished product is often on the same mental level as post WWI freikorps members.


Angus McThag said...

I guess the "good" news about this is the cops have the same odds as Custer should it finally hit the fan.

I have friends who are good cops. I've tried to tell them that if the bad cops get the populace riled up enough to fix the problem in a vigilante mob way that they will be aiming at uniforms and not being too selective about the good-cop/bad-cop individuals.

It behooves the good cops to cull the bad ones out before it gets to that point. Sadly, I don't think the process is working in that direction.