In our communities today, some police employees routinely intimidate, extort, and brutalize those they purport to serve. Meanwhile, other police employees, who may not directly partake in such activity too often (except the extortion bit), tend to look the other way. This is not be surprising.
As Albert J. Nock wrote in 1939:
Like all predatory or parasitic institutions, its first instinct is that of self-preservation. All its enterprises are directed first towards preserving its own life, and, second, towards increasing its own power and enlarging the scope of its own activity. For the sake of this it will, and regularly does, commit any crime which circumstances make expedient.
To put it another way, the policing institution has a toxic foundation that will always negate the attainment of the lofty goals parroted by police spokespersons, apologetics, and reformers.
All police outfits — from the LVMPD to Interpol — are premised on a double standard: that one group of people (those with badges) have the “legal right” to initiate force. Fairness, justice, transparency, and service can never be an outcome.
In fact, police have no duty to protect you. And while individual police employees may detest such a thought, the fact is that the policing apparatus operates as if there were two classes of people: police employees who have extra rights, and civilians who must obey the police.
Is it a wonder then that people who call 911 sometimes find themselves targeted or slain by the very folks they turned to for hep? Indeed, since the year 2000 over 23,000 people have been killed by police in America and millions have been caged for engaging in actions that caused no victim. Why then do people continue to call the police?
Without question there’s a lot of pro-police inertia in our culture. From gradeschool we are each indoctrinated with the idea that the police are the authorities, that they will help us, that they protect us from evil-doers. But as we’ve grown up, and had life experiences, it is clear that police involvement often exacerbates situations. So what’s to be done?
Well, as everyone is quick to point to, education is a start. But rather than think of that as something done to others, think of it as something you do for yourself. You are investing in yourself when you take inventory of your own paradigm and seek new ideas to supplant those that are contradictory. But that alone is not enough.
Action is important. And by this, I do not mean to imply action against police employees but rather, action around police employees.
Just imagine if the police dispatcher received no calls. If, whenever a police employee stopped someone, the driver, and anyone else around, filmed (and better yet, streamed) the encounter to create an objective record. That’d be a start to roll back the police brutality that is all-too common. But it’d only be a start.
Other actions are needed as well. Such as working to defuse situations yourself, whether among strangers at the bar or if you find yourself confronted. Language and demeanor are key. Choose to be a force for good, not bent on harming others to pad your ego. Realize the inter-connected nature of the human organism and strive to improve things. Of course, this does not negate your right to self defense, and to come to the aid of a stranger being wronged.
Also, a big component is to develop a network of folks whom you can turn to in an emergency situation. This could include your significant other, your neighbors, your friends. Perhaps the best tool that exists today to facilitate this is the free app Cell 411. Or, if you and your crew already uses another medium to communicate start there.
Simple things — like having a fully-charged smartphone so that you’re not isolated if and when something happens, having the app on your homescreen so it’s easily accessible in tense times, having practiced with the app’s functionality so it’s use is seamless. Hell, Cell411 even offers a panic button that can be worn on your wrist or on a necklace to make it damn easy for you to send a pre-created message to those in your sphere.
Lessen your own police interactions. If driving at night, ensure your taillights aren’t out (yes, I know, police employees often claim a vehicle malfunction anyway, but don’t make it easy for them). If walking down the street, resist your urge to yell “Fuck the police” at police employees driving (again, you certainly have the right and ability to do so, but why attract attention from folks known to initiate violence? If you truly despise the policing apparatus then withdraw your consent. Pay it no heed. Develop alternatives. Erode its claimed legitimacy).
As Étienne de La Boétie wrote in 1548:
I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.
What is without question is that police employee misdeeds won’t cease by pandering to politicians, suing police departments, or advocating reform. The above is just an outline of firstly, getting ones ideas synced with reality, incentives, and humanity, and secondly, a handful of actions, based on those ideas, that can be taken by you.
What else do you suggest? What questions do you have? What have you found helpful? What do you encourage your neighbors to consider? Let’s have a conversation.