Via Reason’s Matt Welch, the Washington Post provides the insight of 17-year LAPD veteran turned “homeland security” professor at Colorado Tech University, Sunil Dutta, as to the mindset of the police officer on the mean streets of Ferguson. Lest there be any doubt as to where this is heading, it’s entitled, I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.
Don’t start spitting yet. Wait for the deeper insight into how terribly wrong we are to misunderstand everything coming out of Ferguson, from the killing of Michael Brown to the management of the community. There is a very real problem, according to Dutta. We don’t get it.
It is also a terrible calumny; cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed. And while they’re unlikely to defend it quite as loudly during a time of national angst like this one, people who work in law enforcement know they are legally vested with the authority to detain suspects — an authority that must sometimes be enforced. Regardless of what happened with Mike Brown, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is not the cops, but the people they stop, who can prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.
In case you’re wondering, the calumny (meaning “character assassination”) has nothing to do with the smear of dead Michael Brown, but the “cops are murderers” strawman Dutta seeks to sneak past us.
Of course “cops are not murderers.” Murderers are murderers. Sometimes, murderers are cops. And indeed, in the “overwhelming majority of cases it is not the cops.” Nobody suggests otherwise. But then, how many cops have to murder to make it a problem for you. Is one percent of a half million interactions sufficient? Why that’s a mere 5000 murders. A drop in your bucket, Dutta?
Of course, there are also the beatings, the tasings, the occasional rapes and/or sexual assaults, but you didn’t claim cops aren’t rapists, and I wouldn’t want to put words in your mouth.
Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority.
Did someone tell you at the Academy that the public would be showering you with kisses and adoration? Perhaps they suggested you would carry all that cool hardware on your service belt because people would get in your personal space to request your autograph, you rock star, you.
Oh wait. You were a cop. Your job was to deal with people who were often displeased to see you. Are you complaining? Do you want to give back your pension?
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.
That’s not, of course, because you, the police officer, are smarter, more concerned, more thoughtful, more sensitive or more knowledgeable. Rather, it’s because you have weapons and will use them. So this is as true for police officers as, say, an armed robber on the street.
Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.
In most human interactions, there is a bit of rational give and take. Granted, you shirk it off because you’ve heard it all before. Oh, to be so world-weary that no one (who doesn’t sign your evals) could possibly have anything to say that might be worth listening to. But you have command presence; right or wrong is well past relevant. It’s now about control, and you will use whatever force is available to exert total domination because, well, that’s what somebody in the Academy told you to do.
Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
This is where we, sadly, part ways. When you use the word “cooperate,” you do so applying the cop definition. We, non-cops, are to cooperate with you, cop. We, as you’ve already told us, are to do as you say. Your idea of cooperation has nothing whatsoever to do with cooperation. It’s just a much better word than “comply or I will inflict pain, perhaps even death.” If they put “comply” on the side of a cruiser, it would really suck as marketing, so you call it “cooperation,” which sounds all warm and fuzzy, much as “stop resisting” sounds reasonable as you pound your baton into an unconscious person’s skull. That only happens rarely too.
The disconnect seems to be that the public just won’t do whatever a cop says. Sometimes, they won’t do it fast enough. Sometimes, they don’t do it right enough. Sometimes, they won’t do it at all. Your solution is just do it or you’ve brought the wrath of the police down on your own head. You kinda like the power of cop. It lets you blame the victim for doing what you have to do.
Thanks, Dutta, for explaining this. Thanks for teaching everyone why we continue to have these issues with people getting killed by the non-murderer cops, who just want us to do as they command. And especially, thanks for clearing up the nagging issue of whether pinning a shield to one’s shirt creates an inexplicable potential for dangerously violent behavior based on numerous concerns spelled out in the DSM (pick your number).
You see, we don’t have anything particularly against cops. We have a problem with violent crazies with weapons and shields. Some of them happen to be cops. They shouldn’t. So what exactly does a professor of “homeland security” teach? I’m betting it involves cooperation. Or else.