As I’ve said many times, I decided late last year to avoid the news. Frankly, I think it was contributing to the state of depression I found myself in at the time. I couldn’t get my mind off the impending Road Warrior-esque future we seemed to be heading for. Economic disaster, environmental armageddon, and a political stalemate between two parties of immature, spineless children.
I think what got to me more than anything else were the stories about cops. Seemed like every time I logged on for news updates there was a story about some dick in blue, abusing their power. The advent of the cell phone camera has really opened our eyes to how deep the rot has gone into the heart of many American police officers. Hardly a day goes by we don’t see a video of cops beating, sexually harassing, or emptying their clips into someone who didn’t deserve it.
Then there are the tasering stories. Tasers have given thousands of cops across the United States itchy trigger fingers. After all, what’s the harm? Someone jaywalks? Taser them. Someone is on a ledge, threatening to kill himself? Taser him, causing him to fall to his death. Man lying in the street with a broken back after falling off a bridge? Taser him. Nine year old boy? Taser him. Seventy-two year old grandmother? Taser her. A squirrel? Taser it!
Every single one of those examples was not me joking around – they’ve all happened in the last few years.
Now recently I decided, despite my profound disappointment in the system and my lack of enthusiasm for either candidate, that I was going to vote. I don’t do this lightly, and if I’m going to cast my ballot I’m going to do so as an informed citizen. So for the last month I’ve been watching the news again. …I can’t wait to stop. Nothing has changed since I took my hiatus, especially not those cop stories. And, as always, these criminals with badges face no punishment for perpetrating horrendous violence on the people they’ve sworn to protect.
Take what happened in St. Louis in late July. While shopping at a local mall, a woman was approached by police officers. Apparently, this woman had some outstanding traffic tickets, and there was a warrant out for her arrest. The officers approached the woman and told her to put her hands behind her back. When she asked what she had done, they tackled her…for asking a question. Not bad enough? She was with her twelve year old daughter, who began to cry. One of the officers turned around and tasered the child.
In August, cops in Tacoma tasered a woman in her own home. She was physically assaulted and the authorities were alerted. When the police arrived, she approached them “waving her hands,” according to the officers. They told her to stop and when she didn’t, they tasered her. What was this crazy woman’s problem, you ask? …She was deaf. The neighbor who called the police told them her friend was deaf. Not bad enough, you say? Even after neighbors pleaded with cops to leave the poor woman alone, explaining to them that this was the victim and not the perpetrator, the police officers proceeded to arrest her. She was thrown in jail, not given an interpreter, and left there for nearly three days.
Finally we come to a recent story about a twenty year old Los Angeles man who was viciously beaten by police officers. His crime? Skateboarding on the wrong side of the street. For that heinous crime, four officers tackled him to the ground and wailed on this kid till he was unconscious. This was all caught on tape, as are the neighborhood bystanders pleading with the cops to stop. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be those people, to see a kid you know brutally attacked by a group of thugs and to be powerless to stop it because those thugs have the authority to to commit the crime?
Times have certainly changed from when I was growing up. I remember cops being revered. We were told to look up to them as heroes, men and women who kept us safe. Public opinion has shifted. As these recordings come pouring out, literally by the hundreds, citizens no longer feel protected, they feel threatened. All across the country cops are over stepping their bounds and facing little to no consequences, and people are fed up.
During the Occupy Wall Street protests, there were dozens of videos that came out catching unimaginable acts of brutality perpetrated by cops. That I’m aware of, no officers ever faced punishment. Now cops across the country want a law passed saying it would be illegal to record a police officer doing their job. Why? What purpose does this law serve except to give them license to break the very laws they are sworn to uphold and to never face justice for it?
Some may say that the quality of cops has changed. I doubt it. I grew up next to a policeman and his family. This man was a monster. He was constantly drunk, he routinely destroyed our property, and when he was called on it he acted out violently. This big, tough, macho cop tried to attack my elderly grandfather for “mouthing off.” When my parents got tired of him tearing up our lawn by pulling his over sized boat into the drive way, they put a fence up. He literally tore the fence down and threatened to kill our dog if we put it back up. My brother and I were bullied by his children, who ran with a gang of other kids who also bullied us. As a consequence, I rarely played outside as a child.
Did my parents report these criminal actions to the police? Of course they did. Was our neighbor ever punished, or even warned to back off? Of course not. Cops look out for each other, none would deny that. Whether it’s having each others back in a shootout with a bank robber or keeping quiet about each others crimes, most cops see no difference.
I’m going to close this article out on a strange note. I recall sitting in a movie theater, some time in the last few years, watching the commercials before the film. One ad was for a cop show, one I don’t think lasted and I can’t remember the title. In this show, there’s a family of cops – a father and his three sons. The daughter gets a job at Internal Affairs, and the father all but disowns her. Having not seen the show, I can’t say who was presented as right and who as wrong, though I suspect the difference was split and we the audience were to believe that the father had a point about loyalty.
Any honest, heroic police officer should be glad there are investigative bodies like Internal Affairs, rooting out corruption and holding cops accountable. Likewise, they should rejoice when a bad apple is weeded out by a citizen with a camera phone. After all, why would any good cop want to see a bad cop still carrying a badge? Out of some misguided sense of brotherhood?
There are good cops out there, risking their asses every day to keep us safe. They protect us from muggers, car thieves, rapists, and murderers. …I just wish they kept us safe from other cops, too.