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.