IT'S 2011. Nobody's ever said there aren't corrupt police officers, even corrupt forces in some places, but I believe that over the last twenty-five years or so I've been justified in thinking, along with much of America that has a functioning sense of history, that "law enforcement officer" was now a profession, not a polite term for thugs to hide behind, the way it too often has been in the past. I expected that the men who run police departments in major cities were, though admittedly selected from the ranks of human beings, a fault we cannot fix, serious men dedicated to the difficult, and sometimes impossible, task of law enforcement. Men who, unlike their predecessors, understood, accepted, and worked within a system which grants certain rights to the lawless, the accused, and even to the convicted it doesn't always provide the innocent, and who worked within that system whole-heartedly.
Any large department is going to have bad actors, but their careers ought to stop there. * A cop who slams into three motorcyclists stopped at a traffic light, killing one and critically injuring the other two, and blows a .19 BAC two hours later is a reprehensible policeman and a contemptible human being; if his cohort, including top officials, manage to ignore protocol and get the blood evidence excluded as a result--whether intentionally or through a negligence of the first order--other careers should end as well, and a lot of soul-searching should follow, from top to bottom.
That didn't happen in Indianapolis; the matter was turned, as every serious matter seems to be these days, into a PR maintenance and mop-up operation. And that's not acceptable.
I have no idea if the Oakland cops were justified in using gas and percussion bombs on Occupiers last night; I don't know whether the Atlanta arrests were called for. But it sure doesn't look like it, and it sure looks like you have people at the top who don't care what it looks like.
The police should not be there to take sides in the age-old debate between personal and property rights. (Yeah, I know: it's Tradition.) And those who supervise the police should think long and hard before showing contempt for American citizens peaceably assembling, even quasi-illegally. It's disturbing. The goddam history of this sort of behavior, from the Haymarket Riots, through forty years of John Edgar Crossdressing Dwarf Motherfucker Hoover, to the Let's Fake An Assassination And Blame It On Protesting Wisconsin Union Workers tells us that we're a finger-width, if that, away from instigation, deceit, and malfeasance. And if that history isn't enough to shame people into thinking twice, the ubiquitous phone camera should be.
The policeman is extraordinarily vulnerable. It's not a good idea to give the appearance of his taking sides--whatever the reality--and, frankly, we now have to make this determination each and every time it comes up. There are no longer any small examples of our legal machinery favoring the wealthy. Not when the wealthy violate the law with impunity.
* void in Arizona.