The Sausage Maker’s Claim

Over at Reddit, the website and community that conclusively proves crowdsourcing doesn’t work, my pal Radley Balko did an AMA, which stands for Ask Me Anything. There was a wealth of excellent questions asked, ranging from the lessons from his new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, to the truly important, his favorite barbecue spot in Nashville.

Radley did an excellent job of responding to the varied questions, even though he left such critical matters as “what does Arianna Huffington smell like” on the table.  He faced some very tough issues, being essentially asked for legal advice despite his not being a lawyer, and maneuvered through them thoughtfully and carefully.  In some instances, he referred to the Flex Your Rights videos, a great resource for non-lawyers even if a bit overly optimistic and occasionally simplistic.

The only sad part of the AMA are the post-Balko replies, which in some instances reflect the usual Reddit anger, hatred and ignorance that tends to soil otherwise good ideas and reduce them to abject stupidity.  But then, that’s the nature of crowdsourcing, reducing thought to the lowest common denominator. On the other hand, some responses, like this one from a self-described cop, remind us that there are good people in all jobs, countering the voices that scream wildly about how all law enforcement officers are evil.

Despite the title of AMA, however, not all questions get answered.  At Reddit, the users get to vote up and down questions or comments, and enough down votes make things disappear from the screen. One such question/comment that never made it onto the main screen, or Radley’s radar, came from a self-described LAPD officer.  While it didn’t receive a response, it’s quite an interesting comment in itself:

Nobody wants to see how police work is done, they just want to know that the police work is done. All of you people sleep peacefully in your beds because rough men stand ready to commit violence on your behalf. We do the job you are either too weak, scared or uncomfortable to perform.  You’re welcome.

We have a saying where I work in Los Angeles. Every single person, regardless of race or color or economic class unknowingly adheres to it. Goes something like this; “Fuck you fuck you fuck you oh shit PLEASE HELP ME!”

While this explains why few Los Angeles police officers have a future writing Hallmark Cards, there is an essential element of truth in the assertion, combined with a takeaway so fundamentally wrong that only Bill Otis could love it.

There is much truth in the contention that people don’t want to see police work done, just as they don’t want to know how sausage is made.  People want to sleep well at night, secure in the belief that no one will break into their home and kill them.  While most of us would never do such a thing because it’s wrong, and that’s a good enough reason, there are some who do break into homes at night, and do terrible things once inside.

We expect the police to prevent this from happening.  And frankly, much of the citizenry doesn’t give much, if any, thought as to how the police are to accomplish this, as long as they awake the next morning alive.  If that means the police are being mean and violent toward those inclined to burgle, well, as long as it’s not us and we don’t have to see it, then life goes on pleasantly.

Yet, the comment veers off into oblivion from that point onward.  While it may be true that most people don’t give much thought or concern to how the cops make sausage, they nonetheless expect that there is someone, somewhere, watching over things to make sure the police are not engaging in misconduct and abuse. They absolve themselves of responsibility by their facile reliance on this amorphous “someone.”

The intrepid commenter, on the other hand, demonstrates similar metacognitive skills as the ten-year-old with the only baseball on the sandlot who thinks he gets to recreate the rules of the game because there will be no game without his ball.  Well, that may be insulting to ten-year-olds.

The disdain for others reflected in this comment, that people are “too weak, scared or uncomfortable” to do the work of “rough men” is not merely outrageous, but wrong. We have police because there is a function society seeks to have performed, and these “rough men” are hired and trained to fulfill that function.

It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with everyone else being too weak and cowardly, as this hobbit suggests, but with a mindful division of labor. Some people choose to become police officers, and we reasonably expect them to be adequately qualified to do the job they have chosen.

But then we come to what this commenter sees as a remarkably pithy and revealing truism, the saying that emboldens them to fall below every notion of integrity and propriety.  It’s the police union slogan tossed out whenever some cop gets caught dirty, that if you don’t like what they do, the next time you’re in trouble call a criminal.  No, it doesn’t work that way.

That this self-serving arrogance should exist, no less permeate, the police mentality stands at the core of everything that is wrong with law enforcement. Most cops know better than to express this aloud.  Likely this cop wouldn’t have the balls to do so under his real name, and his tough guy attitude comes from his ability to hide under a rock at Reddit. But don’t doubt for a moment that this comment reveals a sentiment shared by a lot of cops to some greater or lesser extent.

They put themselves on a pedestal believing that they are the bulwark between good and evil, never quite comprehending that they can be just as bad as the criminals they claim to control.  They can’t be touched by outside criticism because they believe their own self-justification, that as much as we may hate them from a distance, when we need them, our inner hater adores the way they break a few heads to protect us.

It’s too bad that Radley never answered this guy.  It’s too bad this guy exists. But it isn’t too bad that he wrote this comment, revealing the diseased perspective that infects some police officers and their attitude toward, hatred of, the people they have sworn to protect and serve. You want to know what some cops think?  This is it, and thankfully Reddit gave this commenter the chance to disgrace himself.

19 thoughts on “The Sausage Maker’s Claim

  1. Jake DiMare

    …Besides, this ‘LAPD officer’s’ little diatribe is just a weakly veiled interpretation of the Colonel Jessup’s ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ monologue.

    And we know how that turned out for Colonel Jessup.

      1. Rick

        The first thing that popped into my head reading that was: “Is this guy for real? Or is he trying to make some crack about A Few Good Men?”

        Of course, the sad answer is “maybe both.” Because too many cops do, indeed, subscribe to this point of view.

        1. SHG Post author

          In a Few Good Men, Jessup was a caricature. This guy was for real. We often root for the wrong guys in the movies, but in real life, it’s a whole different thing.

  2. C. N. Nevets

    The commenter probably doesn’t want to know how sausage is made either, but he probably wouldn’t take that to mean that sausage-makers can put whatever the heck they want to in there.

  3. Matt James

    The law enforcement problem is a hard one. On the one hand, we expect the police to be the kind of people who will run into trouble when everyone else is running away. We expect them to deal with problems, stress, and criminals every day. They see people torn up and deal with dead babies. We pay them mediocre salaries for the most part. We want them (rightfully) to stay above the fray and be able to make accurate, split second decisions, including from time to time the decision to use lethal force. Very few people live this way and it can make for an isolating situation. In addition, every police officer I’ve lived with/worked with/know has always complained about their administration. Simply put, this is not a good environment for harmonious human development. We expect them, like Saints and mystics, to be in the world but not of the world. I believe these expectations are not realistic. Ironically, many of the same points can be made on behalf of people living in poor communities and/or with generational poverty — some of whom become criminals. In both cases, society tends to villianize the people yet ignoring the underlying conditions that bring these things about.

    1. SHG Post author

      We expect a lot of them, though few are actually put to the test in their 20 years. Yet, anyone who makes the career choice to become a police officer has undertaken a known responsibility. If they aren’t up to it, they can do something else. The poor don’t have that choice.

    2. C. N. Nevets

      I spent a very brief time in that world. I have family who’ve carried a shield or a card for many years. I have some idea of the dehumanizing pressures of which you speak. I also know that no one who chooses that ilfe is surprised by them and everyone has choices to make along along the way that can either give away or cling to their humanity.

  4. BL1Y

    Any interest in doing an AMA for the law school subreddit?

    They might be a bunch of starry eyed special snowflakes, but almost all of them do genuinely want to become competent, professional attorneys, but their role models and mentors are largely people who got tenure and stopped caring about competence and professionalism.

    1. SHG Post author

      I am always happy to help law students, but sometimes my answers don’t comport with their self-esteem expectations. If you get my drift.

  5. Nick

    See, as a defense attorney and amateur sausage maker, I object to these comparisons.
    Some (generally ground pork) meat (no innards), some spices, maybe some curing salt, and a natural causing (you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it is intestine unless I told you, its all cleaned in some factory — actually, I DON’T want to know how that is made).
    Compared to rampant brutality, corruption, and lying under oath, it is quite clean. I’d gladly wear a camera if I though someone wanted to watch some guy make a mess out of my kitchen.

  6. Harley

    Actually, I don’t worry overmuch about how sausage is made, so long as the FDA inspectors can shut down the line and sanction the makers if they don’t do it right. We need that sort of thing in law enforcement, not powerless citizen review boards, rubber stamp IA boards, and sycophantic arbitrators.

  7. Pingback: Shittin' in the Sausage | RHDefense: The Law Office of Rick Horowitz

  8. DannyJ119

    As a former Army infantry soldier, I’m having a hard time refraining from commenting. In my role and the role of my fellow soldiers, professionalism and righteousness were always of the utmost importance. Having been reared on something that resembles a battlefield, much more so than Main St in modern suburbia, sausage was never on the menu. Making sausage is a conscious decision, not something that ‘just happens’. As you say, Scott, “Stercus Accidit”, but not sausage.

    1. SHG Post author

      Amen. Cops are not soldiers. Oddly, the same ones who think the way this mutt does have no respect for soldiers, or the distinction between what a soldier does and what a cop does. And yet, they are the first to wear camo and carry military weapons into battle against their neighbors.

      1. Ken Bellone

        That is the issue I have with the officer’s comment. which is not original. It has been attributed to various sources, including George Orwell, Winston Churchill and Richard Grenier.

        Any way you slice it, this comment is clearly meant for those who serve in the armed forces, who truly stand ready to commit violence, and often do. I personally, have worn the uniform, and unfortunately played my little part in the “War on (some) Drugs”. I know what it is like to face armed opposition ready to do me harm. These folks were better armed and far more apt to use violence against me than the common street thug.

        Yes, I agree that people want safe streets and don’t want to know how they get them, but they are quick converts to the other side when they become the “victim” of overzealous policing.

        Yes, a police officer’s job “could” be dangerous, although statistics prove it’s far from the most dangerous, but I do appreciate the job they do. I draw the line, however, when they equate what they do with our active duty military. They are not soldiers, nor Marines, and need to drop that mindset PDQ. There is a huge gulf between the battlefield and the streets of even the most dangerous streets in America.

        That isn’t to say that we should be blindly patriotic towards our military either, for some truly evil things have been done on our nation’s behalf, but I find his comparing the two personally insulting.

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