Police are People

“Every cop has their own agenda,” Crystal replied.  I was trying to make a generalization about police and their behavior, but C was having none of this intellectually weak behavior.

Offer music, you might get dancing.

My best arrest and my worst arrest were both in Berlin.  My worst was when I got arrested at a climate convention when some of us (including Anissa and me) locked our heads under buses carrying oil company executives to the climate negotiations.  The reason it was bad was because of the polices’ completely unnecessary violence after we were arrested.  The female cops were especially abusive, perhaps they had something to prove or were racist; they really beat up the young Russian women who had been part of our action team.

This was credited to Occupy, but some think is a gay rights march.

My best arrest was at a different climate convention in Berlin where we posed as press, made it into the secure area of the UN event and held banners and disrupted the meeting.  The police were UN staff and we got handled like diplomats, formally and carefully.  My cop did not chastise me for holding up my sign upside down.

Image searching for cops kissing is dominated by this Banksy image.

The first time I got arrested I had a curious and uncharacteristic conversation with the booking officer in the San Francisco County Jail.  We had been protesting the US’s withdrawal from the World Court after the court ruled against the Reagan Administration’s mining of the Nicaraguan harbor of Corinto by the CIA and its operatives.  The cop broached the issue by admitting he understood the injustice; that he had felt as we did when he was younger.  I told him that I bet he still held some of that idealism in him, and he agreed.  It was important to me that this person inside the system, this person responsible for processing me, actually understood the reasons for my actions and empathized.

I find I have to embrace a paradoxical mindset where I accept the duality that a given officer is quite likely a good person, who need not be abusive, but is also trained in violence to protect the state and its agents, and may act violently to play out their script.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

4 responses to “Police are People”

  1. Jan Haverkamp says :

    Even as an anarchist, I think we need people who are freed to help us solve violent and problematic situations (for instance violence in a relationship, a junkie freaking out in the streets and annoying people, someone driving like mad for whatever personal reasons). I think it is good when these people are trained in proportional use of whatever means are necessary to deal with such situations and not just left to their own devices. I think it is good when they are in principle and where-ever possible recognisable. I even think there is good reason to have them going under cover in some circumstances (I would love to think that during the nuclear conferences i visit there are people from security forces to figure out whether the people on the podium are not screwing us… I know that in some countries there are). Short: I am someone who believes that even an ideal society has something that looks very much like police. And also I have met many police people that quite neatly fit that image. Certainly not all – but there are… sometimes it takes nothing more than reminding them that I pay them (with my taxes) to serve the people… and about her / his rights and duties… In the EU that includes the European Human Rights Convention, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Aarhus Convention… Needless to say I have a copy of each of those on my laptop, which i can pull out any time a police officer needs such a reminder 😉 – I know – I am blessed to live on this continent and “this does not work here in Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia”… well, it does… in Russia? India? South Korea? I have no idea… that’s beyond my turf…

  2. beatrice says :

    i love this post, pax. and i think it’s very very important to remember. when we otherize these people, caught in the shittyest job and programming imaginable, i think we lose the whole game. we really are all in this sinking boat together. And it seems very clear to me that a necessary part of the healing/world transformation is seeing our commonality and having true compassion for the awful roles they chose or were inducted into. what you say is point perfect: “i find i have to embrace a paradoxical mindset that both they are quite likely good people who need not be abusive and they are trained in violence to protect the state and its agents and may well use it on you to play out their script.”

  3. Quinn says :

    This feels like a very quaint sentiment two years later.
    But the truth is that police kill one to three unarmed people in this country everyday. Why are we not seeing mass protests and walk-offs by police? If The vast majority of cops are loving people, why are they not speaking out against the violence and militarization of police all across this country? Why are we not reading about cops testifying against other cops? Instead, we get the double down, we get cops wearing ‘Wilson’ badges on their swat uni’s, and childish demands for apologies from those they can not intimidate. Instead of serving and protecting the populace, we have a generation of officers that are simply serving themselves, and protecting their pensions. Certainly, cops are people too, but not people like you and I, we do not demand obedience, or visit violence on others, and do not shield those who do. If most officers of the law were as horrified as we are by what this institution has become, we would have 100,000 peace officers demanding change, I just don’t see that on the horizon.

    • paxus says :

      Quinn: Points taken. Though i doubt i will get police writing on this blog, were they to and were they honest they might say some of the following things. Police get to deal with some of the least desirable aspects of our society, they are in a war zone and become hardened to it. This does not justify their violent behavior towards unarmed individuals, but it does explain why they dont come out against each other. They feel they need to stick together and defend each other, even when they make mistakes.

      You and i agree that the mistakes are unacceptable, and that we have let the situation with police violence get wildly out of hand. Certainly pulling away the heavy military hardware they are being given is part of the fix. Having special prosecutors instead of DAs who depend on cops as the prosecution in grand jury cases like Brown or Garner (if we cant get rid of grand juries completely) is a small step.

      If we agree there is a huge problem, share with me what you think are workable solutions or alternatives.

      Paxus at Abrahms Creek WV
      15 Begging 2014

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