Tuesday, August 3, 2010

So, I've been in Europe and the United Kingdom for the past several weeks.

I'll keep this short. Before I left, I got into an argument with someone about the police. Now, I used to work for the police department. I tend to be pretty pro-cops. I do know that you have some bad cops. And that even good cops are just ordinary people doing the best they can under the circumstances and sometimes they lose control or they have a lapse in judgment. People screw up.

The other side basically attempted to say that cops are all bad and used all the stories that have been in the news about all the times cops have been found to have used excessive force or overstepped their bounds. I have a hard time figuring out what he was actually trying to say, mind you. Because he claimed he wasn't advocating the lack of a police force. That he even acknowledged the necessity of a police force. But kept going on about how cops are bad and cops shouldn't do these things.

Yes... and? Cops should not lose their temper. Ideally, they should always be aware of their surroundings and use proper judgment. And ideally there should be no bad cops. But we don't live in an ideal world and cops are still people. And you have some people who are going to abuse their authority no matter what. And you have people who are going to screw up from time to time. And when you're a cop, your screw-ups may have bigger consequences than those of the average person. But there's not exactly a "solution" to that problem. You train the cops the best you can and have oversight, investigations and disciplinary action when they step out of bounds. We have that. Of course, that doesn't work exactly the way some people would like it to since it sometimes clears cops of wrongdoing when some people believe they shouldn't be cleared. I'm not saying there aren't cases where a cop has been cleared when they shouldn't have been. But I AM saying this; if a cop is in a dark alley, responding to a call for assistance or pursuing a perp and sees someone holding something that looks like a weapon and that cop calls for the person to put it down and that person raises it pointing in the direction of the officer? The officer should fire. If the officer was close enough to discern whether or not it was a weapon and found it wasn't, that's different. But when the officer doesn't know? That officer's life is on the line. And not firing his weapon could mean his death. And an officer should be cleared in a situation like that.

An officer should be cleared in an investigation where he used his taser to gain compliance from a subject who is flailing about and resisting arrest in a manner that is likely to end up causing serious injury to the subject, the officer or bystanders. An officer should be cleared for using pepper spray on a violent drunk.

Now there are a million things an officer shouldn't be cleared for, too. But all these people insisting how bad cops are happen to be forgetting; the officer's job isn't just to arrest someone. It's to keep the peace and ensure the safety of themselves and the general public.

If you don't like the cops, do everyone a favor; before you start badmouthing them, at least have a coherent point to make. Don't just point at things they've done wrong over the years without an endpoint to your argument. If you think there should be no cops and it should be lawlessness, I vote we petition the US government to send you to some third world country where things are basically that way so you can live the kind of life you claim to want. If you just think we need to be more effective at oversight, investigation and discipline? Ok. I can grant that. But keep in mind we're also severely shorthanded in law enforcement in the US. We're trying not to let go of officers where we don't have to in a lot of places (though from what I've read lately, that may be changing). So how do you balance those priorities? The need to have officers out there is real and significant.

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