subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

The defund-the-police crowd should take this vow (read on)


I was walking downtown yesterday—a perfect Spring afternoon, 82 degrees with a gentle wind off the Bay. Passed a shop with a sign in the window that said “We don’t need cops” and I had to laugh. I know the owner. He’s a white guy, very conservative, very law-and-order, probably voted for Trump. He doesn’t believe “we don’t need cops” any more than I do, but his store, you see, is at Ground Zero of downtown Oakland’s riot zone. It’s never been wrecked, not even when all the stores around it were during Occupy and BLM uprisings. His sign was, essentially, his get-out-of-jail free card–the lamb’s blood smeared on the doorpost.

Pass it on: We need cops. Society has always needed some form of control over deviant populations; otherwise, people’s asocial instincts would run amok. There has never been a society that didn’t have some form of external coercion to force everybody to behave. Think of the movies you’ve seen about anarchist dystopias—Lord of the Flies, Mad Max, Escape from New York—and the one thing they have in common is an absence of societal control. The results are entirely predictable.

The Millennium might come someday, but not anytime soon, and until every human being is a certified angel, with wings and halos, we’re going to need cops. When I was a little boy, I was taught to respect cops, and I did. I’ve had my run-ins with the law—hell, I have a felony conviction for drug possession dating to 1968—but it never resulted in me being anti-cop.

Now, I know what the anti-cop people will say. “Sure, you were a nice little white Jewish kid in a nice white middle class neighborhood. You didn’t have to fear the cops, because they didn’t come roaming through your neighborhood looking to kick your ass.” That’s true. I was a nice little white Jewish kid, and I’m glad I was raised right. I’m not insensitive to stories (and there are too many not to be true) about rogue cops, sadistic cops, vengeful cops, racist cops, sick cops. They’re out there. But from what I can tell, there are far fewer than when I was a little boy and cops had carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. Most police departments have got the message loud and clear: you better clean up your frigging act, or there’s going to be trouble. I believe that the Oakland Police Department is the most regulated, overseen and well-trained police department in the country, and I’m proud of that. And yet we still have people, like my white friend who put the sign up in his window, who say we don’t need cops and we need to defund the police.

I don’t think the vast majority of Americans agrees with that assessment. I think they like and respect cops, and they resent it when people say that all cops are bastards and things like that. Yes, there are certain “reforms” that can be useful. Recruits should be better trained in the use of force and in de-escalating violence, among other things. But we’re reaching the point, post-George Floyd, where cops are increasingly hesitant to do anything to enforce the law, for fear of being caught up in some incident that will send them to prison, or being hounded down in civil court by some “civil rights attorney” getting rich off suing police departments.

So, sure, let’s train our recruits better. Let’s weed out the bad guys, and if a cop blatantly does something horrible, the way Derrick Chauvin did, let’s throw the book at him. But, please, let’s bring some common sense into the conversation. We need cops. If you’re one of the people who says we don’t, you should take the following vow: “I promise never, ever to call the police, not if I’m being mugged or raped, not if someone breaks into my house, not if my car is stolen or my child is kidnaped.” That would only be fair, wouldn’t it? You shouldn’t call the cops for protection and service if you don’t think we need them in the first place.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments

Recent Posts