There are some virtues that come with having a billionaire mayor. He’s not easy to bribe, for example, so you know whatever comes out of his mouth does so honestly. And therein lies the downside when he says something like this :
“I don’t understand why the police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say, ‘We’re going to go on strike. We’re not going to protect you. Unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe,’” Bloomberg said on CNN Monday night.
Within this idiotic comment are two fallacious assumptions. The first is the “war on cops” tripe, that there is a trend against cops, putting them at increasing risk of harm from gun-toting criminals. Radley Balko has beaten that myth to death. Mike Riggs too. It’s a good myth to further a public agenda in favor of order at the expense of law, but it just doesn’t hold water.
The second, however, is the mayor’s encouragement to police to take the First Rule of Policing a step further than ever before, to use their singular authority to hold a nation hostage. This is perhaps the most dangerous idea Bloomberg could promote.
The People of the United States exist on a razor’s edge with our police. Having handed them guns and shields of authority, not to mention the occasional Lenco Bearcat and the full panoply of weapons intended for war against foreign enemies, we have empowered them to do as they will. We have laws to limit their worst actions, but the least dangerous branch has no army to stop them.
Mike Riggs, in disputing the myth of the war on cops, gives an off-the-cuff list of individual wrongs by police to citizens, who are ten times more likely to fall at the hands of police officers than is an officer to fall at the hands of a gun-toting criminal.
But what about the rest of us? What about Kelly Thomas, who screamed for his father while five cops beat him to death? Or Patricia Cook, shot to death by a deranged alcoholic with a badge? Or Andrew Scott, killed during a wrong-door raid? Or Nick Christie, gagged and pepper-sprayed to death by prison guards? Or Seth Adams, shot four times by a cop behind his family business, then left to die? Or Wendell Allen, who was unarmed when a New Orleans cop shot and killed him during a raid? Or Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old New Yorker shot and killed by plainclothes cops for trying to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet? Or Kyle Miller, killed by Colorado police for waving a BB gun in the air? Or Todd Blair, killed by Utah police for raising a golf club above his head?
That’s a smattering of names from the last year or so. A complete list is impossible, though you could spend months culling names from local media outlets. It would be significantly longer if we included people who were shot, but didn’t die; or people who were just shot at by cops. It would be exponentially longer if we included people who were beaten, intimidated, wrongly arrested/incarcerated, or otherwise abused by police officers.
Riggs then concludes with the obvious, yet missed, obverse of the First Rule of Policing: didn’t these regular people want to make it home alive for dinner with their families too?
These are the acts of individual officers, empowered by a culture driven by the First Rule of Policing. What if the police, having been given permission by the man who controls the seventh largest army on the planet, come to the realization that they can do anything they please without constraint?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested that police hold this nation hostage. He urged them to ignore the law, to recognize that they possess the fiat to overcome the will of Congress. While his message may be seen by some as benign, merely the protection of our Finest from the enemy combatants within who threaten their return to the bosom of their families, it’s a baby step beyond to control.
What prevents such a takeover? There is a belief that our national virtue, the righteousness of government and way of life. Even police officers, who may not feel particularly bad about using their post to their advantage in dealing with any particular person, believe in America. They are a patriotic bunch, by and large, and few would think of undermining our country.
But then, the perversion of patriotism happens regularly, as partisanship gives rise to a belief that political views that differ from our own are, in fact, destroying the American way of life. Many believe that we would do well to eradicate those who disagree with us, and irrational voices somehow manage to find places on political platforms pandering to weak minds and diseased souls, pushing them to see no way out of our plight short of ridding our nation of the cancer of different political ideas.
When someone like Mike adds his voice to this mix, but in a way that empowers the one group with the arms and training necessary to effectively hold a nation hostage, he opens a Pandora’s box the likes of which no political lunatic could imagine.
Ironically, the only means of staying this armed takeover, should the police ever come to recognize that they have the power if not the authority to seize control, would be guns in the hands of citizens. No rational person could want it to come to such a battle.
So while a billionaire mayor may be above the influences that drive mere mortals, they sometimes utter the most insanely foolish things that take us to a place we must never go. The day the police, as a whole, think they can use their posts to take our government hostage is the day every citizen will need to dust off his arms. The day a billionaire mayor suggests that the police should use their power to influence our government is a day he’s been in office too long.
Update: Apparently, there is a memo. When it comes to such things as police strikes, isn’t there always a memo?