Article: America’s Superior Society (The Police)
By John C. Krieg
“The first step toward change is the understanding that things can change.” — Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Copyright 2015).
Our society can’t even begin to address the issue of police reform unless we are ready to confront ourselves with how we personally feel about the police. As for me, I feel 60% of the police are basically honest people just trying to do their job, and unless specifically confronted, are not likely to be violent towards those they arrest. Call this segment of the force the “good cops.” After that, 20% of police are indecisive as to how they would act in various scenarios. If surrounded by good partners they will behave in a good, or at least an acceptable manner; and if in the presence of bad partners they will behave just as badly as these partners do. Call this segment of the force the “chameleon cops.” Then there is the remaining 20% who are most definitely not good for the force or society in general. They may behave appropriately when in the presence of those who could censure them, but in the absence of that, they will always behave badly, get away with as much as they can, and can be counted on to make any bad situation worse. Call this segment of the force the “bad cops.” Applying your own opinion to this formula, how do you now feel about the police in America?
This question is not intended just to stir up controversy; there’s an important underlying purpose for asking it. American society still needs policing. The call for total defunding of all police is dangerous and not very likely to happen. When discussing how much of current police budgets to reallocate to other community based resources the vital questions are how many cops are really necessary and what should they be required to do? If you were to apply my percentages, the 60% of good cops can probably do the job, especially if their job descriptions were rewritten to exclude social work and family counseling and other forms of babysitting. The 20% of the “chameleon cops” can receive sensitivity and de-escalation training or they can hit the bricks. The remaining 20% of the bad cops simply have to go; and not over to the next county, but completely banned from police work altogether.
Radley Balko author of The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (copyright 2014) sounded the alarm that something is awry with the police viewing their function as being at war with certain segments of our American Society. As Balko writes:
“The federal government has been arming American cops with military-grade guns, vehicles, and other weaponry, but has little interest in knowing if all of that is affecting how and when the police use lethal force against American citizens. Cops are told all the time that the public presents a threat to them, and that threat grows more dire by the day. But as to what sort of threat cops pose to the public, the public isn’t permitted to know.” (p. 275).
But with the advent of camera phones we are all seeing this threat in vivid living color, not that the cops are too concerned about that, because their unions by and large have gained qualified immunity for them. When you think about it, there’s very little difference between the concept of qualified immunity and the corporate veil. The outcome of their actions towards society is essentially the same – the desire to be held harmless no matter what is done; no accountability whatsoever, in other words.
Balko is adamant in stating that he doesn’t believe that we live in a police state. He cites our ability to move around freely as an example that we are not completely controlled by cops. I differ and offer up that if we are not living in a police state, that at the very least, we are living in a police wasteland. By that I mean that most of us who have ever been on the receiving end of police mistreatment by being force fed a heaping helping of their all-important command presence gone awry, or by their overreach of being overbearing, have come to the same conclusion as the great Hunter S. Thompson did when he wrote those immortal words: “Never call 911.” If they aren’t there they can’t cause problems, and if they are there, know that they are basically capable of doing anything with an extremely high probability of getting away with it. Indeed, many police reform proposals, such as exclusive camera and computer control of traffic violations, center around the public having less contact with the police. But what does it say of the state of policing in America that the primary recommendation to citizens to avoid suffering police brutality is for them to avoid contact with the police as much as humanly possible? Despite your best efforts towards this policy of avoidance, however, sometimes 911 calls on you. This isn’t progress. This isn’t reforming the problem, it’s avoiding it altogether. I say wasteland because the only viable way to feel safe is not to be around the police at all. Look outside, and if they are not there at all, then feel free to walk upon the land. If they are there, better to stay hidden until they leave. This is thinly veiled societal intimidation, and many cops like it that way. It’s all about command presence, turf, and qualified immunity with the police – a superior society that through their all-powerful unions always seeks to play by their own rules, and holds a seething resentment towards anyone who takes exception to that very fact. It is a most dangerous undertaking to impugn their command presence, even when trying to run away from them. They can become so offended at having their direct orders disobeyed that some officers will simply shoot you in the back. Better not to argue with them and suffer through an arrest. You can always lodge a complaint later. Live to fight another day. It shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately, it is. Better to utter, “Yes sir,” and “No sir,” no matter how demeaning, obnoxious, or overbearing they are. To meet their abrasiveness with any other answer is sheer insanity. Always remember the fact that too many cops allow their legally given authority to morph into undeserved feelings of superiority.
When you see cops all in on protestors after the George Floyd injustice you have to ask yourself how this behavior is any different than the “all in” code of the Hell’s Angles? A case in point is Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll who is outraged that anyone would dare to report on his 2009 off duty membership in a police motorcycle club called “City Heat” where on his motorcycle jacket was displayed a “White Power” badge which blended in nicely with his cohort’s other white supremacist symbols. Not too surprisingly, Kroll is a Trump supporter having appeared at a 2019 campaign rally where he introduced the President and whipped the crowd into a froth by stating: “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable. The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around. He decided to start letting cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of us.” Incidentally, Kroll refers to Floyd as, “a dangerous criminal.” Kroll vows to get Floyd murderers Derek Chauvin and his three accomplices off and even reinstated. He sees nothing whatsoever that was “despicable” in their behavior. If you think that the police do not see themselves as a superior society, how do you square something like this?
Most police policy manuals employ ample use of the word “reasonable,” and know that they are the sole judges as to what that actually means. Reasonable suspicion and reasonable force is always at their discretion. A suggestion has been made as of late to substitute that word “reasonable” with the word “necessary” which more accurately parses the extent of their accountability, but when they are the sole judges as to their accountability, what would it really matter? In short, our American society can no longer allow the fox to guard the henhouse and expect anything other than disastrous results.
While the police unions all say their primary function is to protect officers, the oath of the officers themselves centers on defending the Constitution and the public at large. Clearly, there is an inherent disconnect here. The motto, “To protect and serve,” is disingenuous at best and untrue at worst when the people they always strive to protect and serve the most are themselves. Here’s a broad based question that should shed some light on how the public at large view the police: Do you think that the police’s primary job is to catch people or to help people? Clearly, the power of the unions must be altered or absolved.
The nature of policing itself is designed to create tension between the police and those policed. To the non-police this is a person who is most likely going to cause you some form of inconvenience, expense, or hardship. Any approaching cop usually represents a cause for concern. Rarely do interfaces go very well. Consider the possibilities in ascending order of peril: disrespect, confusing commands, ticketing, handcuffing which usually means being jailed or occasionally killed. The only ones that don’t seem to be afraid of the police are the police, and most cow-tie to their so-called “Blue wall of silence.” Like a secret society, a fraternity, or a cult with an unspoken code, with secret handshakes and tips of the hat, the cops pledge allegiance to their culture as opposed to the public that they are sworn to protect. It’s more important to respect the pack than to protect the herd; and that’s what’s wrong with policing in America.
The Mad King spews excessive misinformation towards the liberal’s call to defund the police when what most really mean is to examine the potential benefits that could come from a reallocation of resources.
It is time to break up the powerful police unions, to ban choke holds, to mandate body cameras on all police officers, and end any whiff of qualified immunity, and know that qualified immunity relies on precedent the way your first job or your first car loan could not be consummated unless you had at least one previous job or some established line of credit. Without it, everything you want is a no go. In other words, nobody wants to be the first to stick their neck out. Well…that’s just complete and utter cowardly and buck-passing bullshit; because it’s an undeniable fact that before any given precedent became a precedent some legal entity had to push the case and some judge had to rule on it. In other words, why aren’t those involved in America’s legal system doing their jobs?
John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect and land planner who formerly practiced in Arizona, California, and Nevada. He is also retired as an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist and currently holds seven active categories of California state contracting licenses, including the highest category of Class A General Engineering. He has written a college textbook entitled Desert Landscape Architecture (1999, CRC Press). John has had pieces published in A Gathering of the Tribes, Alternating Current, Blue Mountain Review, Clark Street Review, Conceit, Homestead Review, Line Rider Press, Lucky Jefferson, Oddball Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Pegasus.