There are two extremes I see every day when dealing with police.
There are the good cops. I’m happy to say that there are a lot of them. They sincerely want to do a good job, and try their best to make sure all laws and procedures are followed. There are officers I deal with in my job as a defense attorney who I trust completely. They get on the stand and answer truthfully, even when they know full well that their truthful answer may get the case dismissed for some reason. I admire them greatly.
Then there are the bad cops. They see their job as “getting the bad guys” and feel that if they have to break some rules and laws in order to do that, they still win. They never realize that by doing this, they become the bad guys they claim to be fighting.
I partially blame the media for bad cops, because we constantly see movies and TV shows where we cheer on the cop who doesn’t follow rules, acts like a vigilante, and takes the law into his own hands. Batman may be a hero in the films, but in real life, I’d be able to get the Joker out of jail easily given how many rights have been violated. That’s not how we do things in America. The laws apply to everyone, even superheroes.
Most police officers, being human beings, fall somewhere between those two extremes.
We had a great example of this dichotomy over the past few days. The Bad Cops in Ferguson took over. They forgot that their motto “to serve and protect” means to serve and protect us, the citizens. They broke laws and didn’t feel at all remorseful about it. They wore more body armor than the soldiers in Afghanistan and used their military toys to make them feel like the superheroes in the movies — and when you do that, it’s so easy to just assume everyone not like you are the bad guys who must be stopped.
Finally, smarter heads prevailed and the governor placed the State Troopers in charge (after a phone call from the President — I’m sure this is not a coincidence). The State Troopers showed up without any body armor, without any tanks or huge weapons, and stood and watched as the protesters marched peacefully, which is a right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. And nothing happened. No riots, no injuries, no fights.
If you don’t treat the people as criminals, then they don’t act like them.
Hopefully, this will lead to a strong movement to demilitarize our police forces. After all, this is not the first example of inexperienced officers pretending to be trained SWAT teams hurting innocents. Let’s get our police back into the job of protecting and serving us, and leave the military actions to the military.