I want to present a scenario to anyone who is not in law enforcement: Imagine that you are a police officer. During your journey though my brief scenario that I am about to present, please carry with you all of your ideals and notions of what an officer should be. Please keep your highest standards intact, but all I ask is that you be honest.
You are a cop and you are riding with your partner on duty. He’s a good friend of yours – not your best friend, but a good friend. You guys get along and hang out a little after work, but not much. Your supervisor puts you two together because you do good work and you guys make good arrests. No, not drug arrests. I’ve expressed my opinion on drug work before. You guys have a knack for tracking down the robbery boys and the burglars.
You have had a rash of burglaries in your beat. Hard working citizens have been coming home to find their doors kicked in, property rummaged through, and items missing. When you have shown up to take reports, you’ve seen the horrified look on the faces of the children whose imagination ran wild with images of what kind of monster invaded their safest place and destroyed their home.
For weeks, you’ve had little to go on and have only acquired a vague description that provided no real help, but today, you get a break! You get a call from a woman who walked in on the burglar in her home, but before he flees, he throws her down and kicks her a few times in front of her daughter, telling her that she better not call the police.
Thankfully, she doesn’t listen and calls 911, providing a detailed description and direction of travel of the suspect. You and your partner happen to be nearby and spot the violent criminal run across a street. He jumps into a van which happened to be reported stolen and takes off, and you give chase. A brief, reckless pursuit takes place and he quickly crashes into a parked car around the corner, disabling his stolen van and totaling the parked car. The suspect jumps out of the wreck and runs on foot through some back yards.
You and your partner chase him over a few fences and then finally catch up to him. As you grab him, he spins around and grabs your face with his filthy hands and rips his fingers down your face. You can feel the sting from his dirty fingernails across your cheek and the pain on your lips as you struggle to keep hold of his shirt.
Your partner is able to tackle him to the ground and while both of you are attempting to get him into handcuffs, the burglar kicks you in your bad knee and then he spits on you. Eventually, you guys get him into handcuffs as he yells, “That’s why I raped your mother last night, pig.” As you sit back in pain, and the struggle is over, you witness your partner punch the handcuffed suspect right in the face.
You just witnessed a fellow police officer assault a handcuffed prisoner. What do you do? A man who has terrified a neighborhood for weeks, stole property from hard-working citizens, assaulted a woman in front of her child who walked in on him, escaped in a car that he stole from someone else, crashed into and destroyed the property of another, then assaults you and insults your family.
As a human being, what do you do? Would you turn your partner in because of the injustice experienced by the burglar? What imaginary sense of duty could ever force a human being to provide “justice” to a criminal that has gone out of his way to unjustly hurt so many people. You calculated out your partner’s response and observed that he did not shoot the burglar or injure him substantially. A man who had victimized so many in such a short time had a human knuckle come into contact with his jaw and you are aware that his bruise will heal and his swelling will recede.
Could any of you honestly state that you would turn your partner in? What would compel you to do so? Integrity? Honor? The Constitution? Duty? What do you see when you look up at the suspect? With his spit running down your face, would you see a victim? Would you truly see an injustice?
Critics of the police demand that we hold each other accountable. Would you be able to hold your partner accountable in this situation? Accountable to what? They state that we are held to a higher standard. What standard is the burglar held to? What is his accountability? Why does the court of public opinion never hear my case against him? Why is criminality discussed as some unfortunate social anomaly that we just need to deal with, but police misconduct is a crime against humanity?
Cops don’t chase bad guys on behalf of the State. You have a valid argument that cops may ticket people on behalf of the State or enforce some drug laws on behalf of the State, but when they are chasing thieves and violent criminals, they are doing so on behalf of a moral code. This moral code is what maintains the order of the communities that we all live in. Failure to maintain that order will cause hardship for us all.
If you admit that you would not turn your partner in, then there you go: You are now a despised, jack booted thug and a government lap dog that hates the Constitution and eats freedom for breakfast every morning.
Now remove yourself from the scenario and pretend that you have no information on what happened. You are now browsing Facebook and a Cop Block status update comes up with the title, “Cop Thug Punches Unarmed Handcuffed Suspect.” You see a video of the last few moments of my scenario play out because someone filmed the arrest. Would you think that the officer was wrong for punching the suspect in the video? Would his partner be complicit for not turning him in?
I just wanted to provide a different angle for people to consider and challenge the notion of “policing the police” in broad, general terms. It’s unfair to apply standards to cops that most people will not live up to. In my scenario, most people would not have punched the burglar and neither would most cops. But most people also would not have turned in their partner, and neither would most cops. That’s because cops are like most people: human. It’s just the truth. Some critics of the police will claim that they would have turned their partner in so as to maintain their logical credibility, but are they are only fooling themselves to uphold the narrative that they unfairly cling to?
The thin blue line is more human than people want to believe.
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