American society is incredibly generous to police officers. Cops do a hard job, the thinking goes, so they deserve second chances when they do something bad. It’s also incredibly easy to see the “good” side of policing, largely because every minor act of compassion that police perform is often shoved in our faces by local news and viral posts and serialized comedy shows starring Andy Samberg.
But! This past week? Whew. Cops made it pretty hard for themselves, even with this bizarre-but-charming piece of copaganda making its way all the way from New Zealand to the Associated Press.
Let’s go to the tape, shall we? First up, we’ve got the reliable NYPD, New York’s finest, allegedly shoving a subway rider out of the station for the crime of recording them on a cell phone and telling them they should put masks on (as is the requirement on New York City public transit).
Will these police face discipline for their actions? Let’s check:
Nope. Moving on.
The biggest risk to police officers these days, as agents of the state, is obviously state-imposed fascism infringing on their rights, such as vaccine mandates forcing them (employees of the state) to abide by rules that their employer (the state) set for them. In Washington, this spectacle happened:
Sad! To think this could be the last time some of these troopers see the hats that the state gave them to wear to do their little job (for the state), all because they’ve decided they don’t want to perform said job anymore (actually, they probably get to keep the hats. Should be nice in case they want to go as State Trooper for Halloween).
In Florida, a cop crashed into a motorcyclist, who was ejected from the bike and thrown into the path of a semi truck, which hit him. The motorcyclist died. You would be forgiven for being confused about how that happened by reading this incredibly passive voice-d tweet—as is often the case when cops hurt civilians—but that’s what reportedly happened.
To be fair to the Associated Press, while they may have done the local blog about the New Zealand cop rating toys, they also published this expose today, titled “Tiny wrists in cuffs: How police use force against children.” Also, this story is about U.S. cops, not New Zealanders. For all I know the Kiwi cops just do cute toy rating calls (kinda doubt it). Meanwhile, U.S. cops do stuff like this:
Royal Smart remembers every detail: the feeling of the handcuffs on his wrists. The panic as he was led outside into the cold March darkness, arms raised, to face a wall of police officers pointing their guns.
He was 8 years old.
Children like Royal were not the focus after George Floyd was killed by police in 2020, prompting a debate on the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement, especially on adults of color. But in case after case, an Associated Press investigation found kids as young as 6 have been treated harshly by officers — handcuffed, felled by stun guns, pinned to the ground. Departments nationwide have few or no guardrails to prevent such incidents.
What is there to say about all of this? I think right now the only thing these stories tell me is about the vast entitlement of law enforcement in this country. If you look at the sort of broad sides in the “culture war” these days you’ll find one side that loves cops and hates cliche things like the “millennials” and their “entitlement.” But time and time again, we see that the most baked-in culture of entitlement that our society has created is in the people to whom we have already given the most power. For years and years, cops have been given so much power with almost no oversight that they now feel entitled to operate outside of the bounds of normal people. It is legal for any private company to tell its employees that they must be vaccinated against a deadly virus in order to keep their job. These are the rules that basically everyone else abides by. But cops are entitled. Because of their role— ostensibly as public servants—they have come to believe that everything that is public belongs to them. They will park where they want and live where they want and get vaccinated or wear masks only if and when they want. They deploy the same unquestionable superiority to civilians who dare question their use of force—that there’s a war on, and you simply couldn’t begin to understand the challenges they face on the job. If a cop shoots at you they will arrest you for shooting back, even if they shot at you first from an unmarked white van while you were doing literally nothing.
I don’t really know how else to explain it. Their job largely revolves around literal participation trophies. If you point any of this out they will probably shove you off a train. We’ll see what they try next week!