You may have heard it before (especially if you’re a Boondock Saints-fan): All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing. Whether it was Burke, Tolstoj or Mill who said it, it’s still one of the truest statements ever put into words. Looking at the prevalence of evil in both the US law enforcement system, as well as those of other countries, it’s become a legitimate question when it comes to police.
To serve and protect, we serve and protect, order through law – justice with mercy, always just, to protect with courage – to serve with compassion. Some of you may have seen those before, and most will recognize at least a couple of them as the mottos adopted by police departments in various regions of the US. Other countries and jurisdictions have their own mottos and slogans, like Chile’s “Order and Fatherland”, for example. So why is it that these departments, created to protect the citizens, have fallen into disrepair, disrespect and displeasure?
To Ignore and Deny
Ignorance is bliss, some would say, but it’s not something that that police officers can claim any more. There are too many examples of brutality and injustice, brutalizing and misconduct, abuse of both authority and others to deny or claim ignorance of any more. A simple YouTube search reveals some of the most shocking things that any civilized and law abiding citizen can come across – the abuse of power and trust by the very people and systems we pay for and rely on to protect us, should something “untoward” happen. That is, when shit hits the fan, in other words.
Thousands of videos (221 000 YouTube results for “police harrassment”), thousands of images , thousands of news reports both by bloggers, journalists, news stations and other media outlets tell the awful story of police officers and whole departments gone mad – trampling on both human rights and constitutional rights, taking the law into their own hands as it were, and using it as they please – or breaking it. Then again… there are good police officers, and lots of them. There are thousands of genuinely good police officers and law enforcement agents out there, working tirelessly to uphold peace, security and the law, helping people in all sorts of situations, mundane or not.
So where are they when other officers, their own departments, superiors or subordinates trespass against the basic rights that all citizens should be able to enjoy? They seem to be no where. Is it just the slanted view of YouTube posters and the news media? Are the videos of good officers being withheld, or shut down, or just not seen as important enough? Hardly.
The sad fact is that most people, even law enforcement, are terrified of confrontations, at least when they are confrontations with others whom they perceive as being equals or even superiors. When “unwritten” laws about “brootherhood” or “sisterhood” and tired cliches about “thin blue lines” are involved, that fear grows even greater, to the point where the good men (and women) do nothing, and evil grows out of control. That is why officers will hardly ever take the side of the perceived “enemy” or offender, even when situations spiral out of control, and the officers themselves are at fault.
Breaking the Pattern
People who “tell on” others are sometimes called “whistleblowers”, at least in the corporate world. Over hundreds of years, those people have been persecuted and harrassed themselves, by the people they’ve outed, as we like to call it these days. In fact, “blowing the whistle” was a way to attract the attention of the police at one time, and while that might be fitting in itself, who are the police going to go to, when their blowing of the whistle results in “internal investigations” and reprimands to the officers who had the audacity to question something another officer or a superior did? It’s a hard, hard choice, and one that results in many good officers’ demise, retirement, relocation, reassignment, and so on – all for trying to not do nothing, as it were.
Breaking the pattern of the “brootherhood in blue” should be one of the all time greatest priorities of every good law enforcement agent, no matter the level and no matter the department or agency. By that, I don’t mean break the trust, colleague to colleague, but break the silence when someone crosses that “thin blue line” and steps over on to the other side by breaking the law, harrassing and abusing people, innocent or not. I mean break through that barrier of perceived loyalty, to a place where honesty and real public service, public trust and adminration can be restored. Today, that trust, adminration and cooperation is breaking down by the minute, by the hour, and by every click of the YouTube counter of that officer breaking his or her oath, duty and law.