I have to say, I was already fed up with all the pompous nonsense about cops “putting their lives on the line,” etc. After all, what about the lumberjacks, farmers, miners, fishermen, linemen, construction workers, and all the others that work at jobs much more dangerous? They put their lives on the line, too, so that we can live comfortably in the modern world, but they don’t rate the same kind of regard, apparently.
Those guys don’t get the enormous traffic-blocking funeral motorcades, with saluting firemen on the overpasses; the lugubrious candlelight vigils; the faked sadness on the faces of newsreaders reporting on some uniformed thug who stumbled into the path of a bullet.
The thing is, after all that blather about “putting their lives on the line,” when the time comes for cops to actually do it, as often as not it seems that they don’t. During the Virginia Tech massacre, for instance, the cops waited outside for 5 minutes, giving the shooter time to take out more innocents before finally making himself safely dead.
They took their own sweet time showing up, too, when Stephen Paddock was mowing down people from his Las Vegas room. Cops were in the building reporting gunfire from the floor above them at 10:12 PM. But somehow they took another six minutes to make it up one floor to his door. And it took them another hour before they finally broke down the door, by which time Paddock had also become conveniently non-hazardous by killing himself. The Las Vegas police department still won’t say when they were first notified there was somebody shooting innocent people.
The same thing happened in Florida last week. There was a “resource officer” — the educationist term for campus cop — on the scene, who conspicuously did nothing. And then three more cops showed up, and also did nothing. They just cowered and listened to the screams of kids getting shot.
As reporters have dug into the incident, more and more police outrages have come to light. First we learned that a woman police captain ordered the deputies on the site to “form a perimeter”, instead of going into the building and stopping the shooter. And now the Miami Herald reports that radio traffic recordings show the “resource officer” ordering other officers to — stay away.
I don’t think this is some kind of anomaly, either. As I pointed out 15 years ago in an essay entitled “You are the Enemy,” police in this country have been trained to view us civilians as “others.” We are seen, not as fellow citizens or taxpayers to be served, but as potential threats. And along with that, they are taught that their number one priority is “officer safety.” Not our safety. Theirs.
That’s why there are so many reports of cops shooting unarmed civilians. “Officer safety” training justifies shooting unarmed citizens first and asking questions later: “The officer perceived a credible threat when the 62-year-old grandmother reached for her purse. It was a justified shooting.”
And it means police work is even more attractive to cowardly bullies than it used to be. Let’s face it, most actual criminals are so pathetic they’re not really much of a threat. In fact, if you want to beat up on them, who’s going to believe them when they say they didn’t resist? Nobody important. Or you can just steal their money and drugs, as the Los Angeles cops did in the Rampart scandal, or the Baltimore cops convicted just a few weeks ago. Or the Chicago cops just indicted. Or the Philadelphia cop recently indicted. Cop rapists is another encouraging trend. Protect and serve!
But every once in a while an actual threat to the citizenry comes along; the kind of threat against which you’re actually supposed to put your life on the line, to save the lives of innocents. And what happens then, Mr. Tough Guy?
So I don’t expect you to protect me or anything. Just, please don’t gratuitously shoot me at a traffic stop, okay? And also, don’t give us any more rubbish about “lives on the line.” That’s all I ask.