An argument I often hear as a way to dismiss valid concerns regarding police brutality is that “You cannot accuse all cops of being ‘bad cops’ simply because of a few ‘bad apples.'” This is not only dismissive, but false. Sure, there are those exceptionally heinous instances of abuse that garner national attention. We may reference those cases as examples when trying to explain to someone the extreme negative consequences of an ever growing police state. But the actions of these rotten apples would not be possible were it not for the inherently immoral systematic structures and duties adhered by and agreed upon by every police officer by virtue of his job description. We are right to blame the whole. Not because of a few bad apples, but because we are discussing a pile of rotten apples. Yes, one could pick up an individual apple, cut around the rot and find some good parts to eat, maybe one could even find an apple consisting of mostly good parts, but none void of rot. None of these apples are good.
To illustrate why the idea of a “good cop” is a logical impossibility, let’s look to another example of public servants who put their life on the line: firefighters. Firefighters are well trained, have access to equipment and resources that are incredibly effective at putting out fires (equipment that your average person would not have access to on their own). They’re brave – literally risking their lives to rush into a burning building everyone else is fleeing from. And, they respect their own safety. Doing what they can to wear flame retardant gear, protect their eyes with goggles, and avoid suffocating to death while trying to save others. Firefighters are good. While an immoral firefighter may exist, there is nothing inherently immoral about the job description, and a man doesn’t have to do anything immoral in order to become, or in order to stay a firefighter. As a result, who on earth has an issue with firefighters? Basically no one. Are there protests in the streets vilifying those darned firefighters for having the gall to put out fires, save lives, and do their job? Likewise, do we see protests against the EMTs who go out each day and save lives? No, we don’t.
Therefore basic logic tells us, if the only thing police did was save people from rapists, thieves, murderers, and other predators walking the streets, there wouldn’t be a problem. It shows willful ignorance and extremely limited reasoning to assume MILLIONS upon millions of people, and entire movements have formed because they hate the police for solving crimes, saving lives, and protecting society from rapists, murderers, and thieves.
Police protecting us from predators is the one good thing they actually do. If that were all they did, police would be revered, respected, and loved. Saving us from predators and violence. should be the singular purpose and function of an officer, just as putting out fires is the singular dominant function of a firefighter. Imagine if instead of coming to the rescue when called for help, firefighters instead patrolled towns with the purpose of preventing potential fires and eliminating fire hazards. Imagine they were incentivized and paid to ticket those in violation. Imagine if society outlawed individual use of fire because of its “potential to damage”? Imagine if firefighters randomly searched people on the streets looking for lighters and matches and either ticketed those in violation or caged them for years. Imagine if firefighters broke into homes and broke up parties with contraband such as candles on a birthday cake. Imagine how much harder it would make it to report a fire if one were to ever get out of control? Yes, the firefighters would put out the fire, but you or a member of your family would be jailed because the candle responsible for the fire, was illegal to own in the first place. If firefighters spent their days harassing and fining every-day citizens for minor violations, and were responsible for caging millions of people, sometimes for years of their lives, – It wouldn’t matter how many fires they put out, people would start to have a problem with firefighters.
Yet patrolling, ticketing, confiscating substances, and property, looking for and creating trouble, is 80 percent of your AVERAGE police officer’s day to day functions
The nationwide outrage against America’s police has nothing to do with the fact they save lives and keep predators off the streets. It is not a sign someone is “morally degenerate” or in support of violence against the innocent merely because they take issue with the destruction and injustice caused by police. It would be impossible for a principled, empathetic, and morally consistent individual to not have a problem with them. Repeatedly defending police any time a blatant case of police brutality is brought into the national spotlight, proves Americans have a greater value for power and established institutions, than they do justice, morality and human life.
Even if the job description itself were not immoral, good, well intended officers are not the norm, they are the exception. The argument that bad behavior and corruption are rare, and moral brave officers are the norm doesn’t stack up to reality. In fact officers who truly desire to protect and serve their community are the most likely to be singled out, harassed, and punished by fellow officers. The more respect an officer has for the community he “protects”, the more vulnerable he is to abuse from fellow officers.
For instance Officer Cariol Horne of Buffalo, New York was on a call with Officer Gregory Kwitakowski when he started strangling a suspect who was already subdued, handcuffed and posed no threat. Horne claims when she entered the home, the suspect, Neal Mack, had already been handcuffed by Kwiatkowski.
‘He was handcuffed in the front and he was sideways and being punched in the face by Gregory Kwiatkowski,’ she told WKBW.
‘Gregory Kwiatkowski turned Neal Mack around and started choking him. So then I’m like, “Greg! You’re choking him,” because I thought whatever happened in the house he was still upset about so when he didn’t stop choking him I just grabbed his arm from around Neal Mack’s neck.
Horne simply and rightly attempted to stop the officer from choking Mack to death, by pulling his arm away from Neal Mack’s neck. In response, Kwiatkowski then punched Horne in the face, breaking the bridge of her nose. After the incident, despite 19 years on the force, she was fired and charged with obstruction. Horne was accused of “putting another officer’s life in danger” and trying to “obstruct justice.” Meanwhile, Kwiatkowski suffered no consequences for punching Horne in the face, or for nearly choking a man to death.
Let it sink in that the expectation was for Horne to sit back and cheer on her fellow officer as he choked a man to death..The officer who actively tried to kill someone and punched Horne in the face for trying to stop him, was commended for doing his job. Nothing about this is a “few bad apples.”
Another officer Stephen Madder of West Virginia, was fired after opting to de-escalate a suicidal man instead of immediately shooting and killing him. The police were called when those who cared about a distraught Ronald Williams wrongfully believed the police would protect Williams from hurting himself. Stephen Madder was the first to arrive and had previously served in Afghanistan. He used his military training to determine Williams was not a threat to anyone but himself.
Just as Madder was getting Williams to open up and talk, two fellow officers came charging in behind Madder and immediately shot and killed Williams upon seeing he had a gun. Stephen Madder was proven right in his assessment that Williams was not a threat, as the gun he was holding, was unloaded. Afterward, a state investigation found the officer’s actions were justified, and the department fired Madder because of “failure to meet probationary standards of an officer” and “apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning.”
In the world of police, using critical incident reasoning to correctly assess a non-threat, de-escalate a situation, and prevent a suicide is morally inferior to simply killing a depressed person. We are told the reason cops deserve respect is because they put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve others. Yet here we see protocol is to put officer safety over everyone and everything else. That to kill someone because they pose a 0.01% threat to your safety, is preferable to putting yourself in even the slightest danger. Yet nearly all peaceful resolutions require risk on the part of officers. How could someone protect those in peril unless risk is present?
To use a recent event for example. Five year old children aren’t afraid of a man holding a cellphone. Yet we’re expected to believe it is reasonable for adult officers responding to a routine, benign call about a broken car window to be terrified for their life by the sight of a black man minding his own business standing in his backyard holding his cellphone. Despite no evidence of being in an even remotely dangerous situation, we are expected to believe it is reasonable to shoot a man 20 times until dead, based on the pathologically irrational and paranoid belief the cellphone in his hand *could be* a gun. Rather than put themselves in one spec of risk to take a second look, we are expected to believe it is reasonable for an officer to go ahead and just shoot everyone dead on the off chance their paranoia is right.
How is this different than a delusional homeless man stabbing someone to death, because he was convinced the guy standing at the crosswalk must have a bomb inside his suspicious looking headphones? He believes his only choice is to stab this guy to death or get blown up.
Again, a 5 year old wouldn’t be afraid of a dog standing next to their owner when they answer the front door. Yet we are expected to believe it is reasonable for officers to shoot and kill dogs, sometimes as small as Chihuahuas citing fear for their life as the justification? The off chance a dog might bite or jump up to say hi, has a grown man in “fear for his life” and these are the men we are told to call brave?
This is why even in situations such as the Parkland High school shooting in Florida, where we are depending on the police for protection, they fail us. How can you expect bravery in times of actual terror from men trained to be cowards in fear of their own shadow?
At best, an officer is a man who is able to regularly detach himself from feeling empathy for others. Be it arresting a clearly nonviolent criminal in need of therapy not a stay in prison, or writing someone a ticket for a minor traffic violation. Because he did not write the laws he enforces, or design the police training himself, he feels no guilt or sense of responsibility when following protocol or enforcing a law becomes immoral. This is what the Nazis said when soldiers were asked why they committed such atrocities. “I was just following orders.”
These men are guided more by enforcing established law than justice or morality. In certain region states, or cities, individual police forces or individual officers can come close to what one would call a good cop, as many would risk their lives to help those in their community. In smaller towns and communities, the officers are more likely to know, and therefore care and be invested in those who call for help. While the whole is not good, individual roles within a police force could be good, such as a homicide detective, whose focus is to find murderers. Those with curiosity who question everything, would make the best detectives, yet a naturally curious individual who questions everything is probably the least likely type of person to be attracted to work in law enforcement. Most would only consider working as a detective if they could do so independent of the police. Private investigators are often far more competent in helping families with investigations. The lack of interest police investigators have in the cases assigned to them can be staggering. People are locked away for years of their life, executed, and die in prison because investigators failed to follow a lead, or examine evidence.
Rather than help, police officers are often attracted to their job because they desire to dominate others, be it through coercion, physical violence, or force. How can we expect a person with so little empathy, they’d cage a man for 40 years because he owned an illegal plant to suddenly have such an overwhelming value for others that he would die for them? A cop cannot be good. One could be a good person who just so happens to be a police officer. In theory an officer in a department lax enough for him to flat out refuse to arrest nonviolent offenders or enforce destructive laws could do a ton of good work for as long as he could get away with it. But as it stands, no man who swears an oath to enforce the unjust laws of the state can be considered a good apple.