Cop Official Complains Cops Are Unfairly Hated, Refuses To Recognize Law Enforcement’s Lack Of Accountability
from the can't-see-the-forest-for-the-line-of-blue-trees dept
This op-ed for Police1, written by longtime law enforcement officer/official Booker Hodges (currently the chief of the Bloomington, MN police department), may have its heart partially in the right place but it’s wrong in all the wrong places.
Entitled “Why we need to talk about the blueprint for hate,” the op-ed belatedly calls for more community-oriented policing. That’s a good thing but it’s buried under a self-serving sermon to the converted that says the real problem here is the public’s unwillingness to treat cops as minor deities among mere men.
There’s a flaw in this argument. And it’s one legislators and police officials have used to agitate for “blue lives matter” laws. The logical flaw is this: people are not subject to any form of legally recognizable “hate” simply because of where they work.
Over the past few years, we have had to deal with protecting peaceful protesters from rioters and criminals who sought to take down our democracy, even when some of those peaceful protesters wanted to abolish our profession. We have been placed in the middle of so many conflicts that it has almost become commonplace to use our profession as the whipping board, meaning even when we do the right thing, we do the wrong thing! At the center of the majority of these conflicts is hate.
Throughout human history, many conflicts have been centered around hate and we as a species have perfected what I call the “blueprint for hate.” The blueprint for hate looks like this: You categorize a group of people by their occupation, race, gender, religion, political beliefs, or you fill in the blank as being “them and they.” Once these people are categorized as “them and they,” you lump them all together and they are no longer respected or viewed as individual humans but as a monotheistic group.
Next, you highlight the most extreme, completely unrepresentative negative behavior or act made by individuals of the “them and they” as normal and representative of all members of the group. Then you continually highlight the unrepresentative behavior so those who are not in the “them and they” group develop an unfavorable opinion of those who are in the group.
After this is done you start to dehumanize those in the “them and they” group so it becomes acceptable to those who are outside the group to harm and disparage those who are “them and they.”
The first paragraph is a long-term cop whining about having to respect the rights of people who don’t respect cops. Too bad. That’s the deal here in the United States. And you’ve had decades to get used to it. If this isn’t working for you, nothing is forcing you to continue taking the public’s money to half-ass a job you no longer enjoy.
The rest of it is the co-opting of history in hopes of making cops appear to be a group worthy of federal protection. I don’t believe Chief Hodges is actually advocating for hate speech law expansions but his rhetoric (especially the part where he places “occupation” ahead of legally recognized elements like race, gender, and religion) tracks closely with that deployed by people who believe cops are a historically marginalized group deserving of additional legal protection from their critics.
Piled on top of all this is an undeniable lack of self-awareness. The law enforcement “community” has, for years, encouraged an “us vs. them” mentality — something enforced by its insistence that only cops are allowed to have opinions on cops and the persistence of the unofficial “thin blue line” that not only separates them from the worst of us (order vs. chaos) but from everyone who relies on them to do the job they’re paid to do while expecting a bare minimum of respect for their rights from law enforcement officers.
See also, this incredible meme (h/t @Krubuntu):
But this op-ed is at its most tone deaf when it appeals to the nonexistent authority of the “bad apple” theory of policing: the effort to distance law enforcement (the occupation) from the worst of its ranks by suggesting problematic officers are over-represented by critics (the few “bad apples”) rather than being the most visible symptoms of an underlying disease.
Over the past few years, out of literally hundreds of millions of interactions with our neighbors, the most extreme, unrepresentative behaviors by a few of those in our profession have been continually highlighted and portrayed as the norm.
What’s ignored here is what causes these “extreme, unrepresentative behaviors” to rise to the surface where they’re immediately noticeable. Cops who end up splashed all over the front pages aren’t dealing with “unfair” discussions of their first screw-up. Many have been sued multiple times and/or have been the subject of multiple complaints. Some have even been fired but been given their jobs back (or hired by other law enforcement agencies).
Cops don’t begin their careers with egregious rights violations. They start small and see what they can get away with. Once it becomes obvious the repercussions of their actions will be minimal, if not completely nonexistent, their violations become bigger and bolder. Sooner or later, they do something too big to ignore. And that’s when law enforcement officials, like the one writing here, say things like what’s said above in an effort to downplay the problematic environment that produced this supposed outlier as well as to draw attention away from the accountability they’ve refused to impose on the officers they lead.
Even when accountability is imposed — often via civil rights lawsuits, officers are shielded by multiple forms of immunity. If a lawsuit manages to bypass immunity arguments, officers are almost always indemnified by the localities that employ them. The public gets nothing from this process. It pays to defend officers against allegations and pays again when juries find in favor of the person suing or cities decide to settle.
Just because most cops don’t end up making headlines does not mean the law enforcement community is healthy. Cops who behave badly are protected by officers who choose not to violate rights. That doesn’t make their defenders good cops. It just makes them slightly less awful than those who consider misconduct to be an essential part of police work.
And Chief Hodges is wrong about this, too: it isn’t hate cops are feeling. It’s anger. The fact that police officials can’t tell the two apart is no less problematic than the broken cop culture they still somehow feel obliged to defend.