Back when I worked at Mike’s Drive In a few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see Portland police officers come in for a burger and a milkshake – usually after arresting somebody from the public housing project across the street, whose residents were responsible for roughly 40 percent of all Olde English consumption in Oregon.
One night, after I’d handed a pair of Portland’s Finest their order and watched them leave, I heard a snort from one of the fry cooks in the back – a kid about my age (19 at the time) and ethnicity (white, then and now) whose mullet and general abuse of the English language suggested that he lived somewhere in Clackamas.
Seeing that his snort had attracted my attention, he eagerly said, “I hate fuckin’ cops.”
“Oh.” I said.
“All cops should fuckin’ hang themselves,” he added, perhaps thinking that he’d lost me with the subtlety of his previous statement.
I’ve always remembered this exchange because it, like most conversations I had with white kids yelling ‘fuck the police’ in college, made me want to roll my eyes while making the jerking off motion with my hand.
Statistics show that there is definitely some inherent injustice at work in law enforcement today, and that it’s very explicitly not affecting white people. And that’s not to say that white people shouldn’t be upset about racial profiling, but most of the people I heard saying ‘fuck the police’ in school weren’t saying it because they were outraged at the most recent case of overzealous police brutality: They were saying it because they got an MIP or a noise violation or a speeding ticket. They’d gotten caught breaking the law by the people we pay to enforce the law. That’s the system working.
Perhaps it’s because there’s a 45-year-old Republican man living inside my fairly liberal 22-year-old body, but I’ve always generally liked cops. A lot of this is probably because familiarity breeds contempt, and I’ve never really had any dealings with the police, save for the time that they chased down and arrested the hobo who was hammering on our door in the middle of the night this past spring. I’m not saying I don’t commit crimes; I just happen to have the good fortune not to get caught.
I fully recognize that cops have a well earned reputation of being assholes – in fact, in my one other dealing with the Eugene Police Department, the cop in question casually shined a flashlight on my incredibly drunk, possibly alcohol poisoned friend who I was trying to escort home, then glared at me and said, “When she sobers up you tell her if I ever catch her like this again I’m going to throw her in the drunk tank and let her dry out with all the vagrants pissing on the floor,” before getting back in his car and driving away without really doing anything to help the obviously unwell citizen in front of him.
I don’t let that sour my impression of cops in general, though, because I get that they’re not necessarily assholes because they’re power tripping; they’re assholes because they have to be in order to do their job.
Watch an episode of Cops, preferably one of the ones from the early 90s back during the crack epidemic – you realize pretty quick that maybe 60 percent of a policeman’s job is trying to serve as a dispute mediator for hillbillies, having arrived late to the party with no reliable (or sober) source to give them the straight facts. The only way they can even hope to be effective in those situations is to be an asshole to everybody until they can figure out who the guilty party is and take him away. Keeping the peace means being an asshole a lot of the time; and frankly, I’m willing to have somebody be an asshole to me if that’s the same guy who’ll chase the hobos away from my door, because I don’t want to do that shit myself.
So know where I’m coming from when I say that I’m just as pissed off about these fucking pigs at Cal and UC Davis as anybody else is – these fat fucking donut eaters casually strolling around spraying chemical weapons or beating the shit out of some nonviolent professors and philosophy majors. Keeping the peace means being an asshole sometimes – beating up a former poet laureate and his wife because they set up a tent isn’t being an asshole, it’s being a goddamn sociopath.
But let’s think about where we need to direct our rage:
These cops weren’t beating up kids pro-bono. They didn’t show up at the quad in riot gear because they simply wanted to. The administration at these universities sent them there to roust nonviolent protestors whose crimes amounted to blocking pedestrian paths and setting up some tents – this is particularly heinous when you remember that UC Berkeley seems so proud of its history of student activism, so long as it stays safely in the past. University administrators unleashed the dogs, and for their part and motives they should bear a lot of the blame.
The police in these situations have at last given white people a reason to say ‘fuck the police’ – but let’s remember that the dirty cops we’ve seen at these protests as well as in New York, Oakland, and elsewhere represent the entrenched minority of fuckwits who exist in pretty much every workplace setting. Just because a few teachers verbally abuse special needs students doesn’t mean all teachers do. Some accountants cook the books for major corporations; others just do peoples’ taxes. Not all assistant coaches rape children.
Speaking of, the reason that assistant coach in question isn’t raping children anymore is because of a three year investigation conducted by police officers. The reason there’s a Wall Street to peacefully occupy is because the New York Police Department has been there protecting it and its residents from terrorists and the general freakery of New York.
"Much of the NYPD are really on our side. We need to stay away from negative media influence and stay supportive and respectful of their difficult job. Many of the officers I spoke to are supportive of this movement and gratefully acknowledged the peaceful efforts of the protesters." - Girl in the picture ('Photon Frequency')
It doesn’t excuse these recent abuses, but I think it makes a fairly convincing argument against the ‘all cops should hang themselves’ platform.
Truman Capps awaits your allegations that he’s an ‘apologist’.