The no longer failing New York Times has an article today about how police departments across the country are making attempts to weed out “political extremists” (the rest of us call them Fascists) from their ranks.
Imagine that, far right wingnuts patrolling our streets, armed and pretty much impervious to judicial oversight. Who could have imagined?
The article centers on an Oklahoma sheriff who was part of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. He claims he was just there for the donuts…er…I mean the rally, but information obtained by other law enforcement officials and passed on to the FBI show that he was making celebratory phone calls from within the building.
We all know, or at least we should all know, that any police force is going to be riddled with those who tend to the conservative side of things. They see the world as good and evil, with themselves as the good and everyone else as at least potentially evil. The good cops know they are there to enforce the laws and protect the citizenry regardless of their own personal views. Unfortunately too many bad ones forget to check their views at the station door, patrolling the streets with the attitude of doing it to them before they do it to you.
But in the age of Trump those who send out George Floyd “You Take My Breath Away” Valentines Cards are outnumbering the ones who take seriously their admonishment to “Protect and Serve”. They publicly advocate their political positions even while on the job with little if any consequence. Only in the most extreme cases, and it’s rare this happens, are officers dismissed. Klan members, white supremacists, Nazis (neo and full bore), and other antigovernmental actors attend rallies, post on social media, and advocate with impunity and with imprimatur from their stations as law enforcement officials.
In most any company anywhere in this country if an employee openly advocated a political position, no matter if it was conservative or liberal, they would be told by their boss to knock it off or face dismissal. In police and sheriff departments there seems to have been a refusal to admonish even the most incendiary of political positions. Our boy in Oklahoma and as many as 30 other KNOWN police officials took part in a violent uprising with the intention of overthrowing the legally elected government of the United States. All they seem to be getting are the “well boys will be boys” treatment from their departments.
It goes even farther though.
Sometimes groups opposed to the government emerge within law enforcement itself. Hundreds have joined the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, for example, which claims that sheriffs have the last word on whether any U.S. or local law is constitutional and should be enforced or not.
Or in other words, we believe in America, we just don’t believe in anything it stands for.
In many cities and towns the police are looked upon as an occupying force, not the least bit because of all the military hardware they now deploy. Armored personal carriers, high tech mobile command centers, even tanks, are to be found on Main Street or Broadway as surely as they are to be found in Afghanistan. Even ordinary squad cars are filled with anti-personal weaponry. They will tell you all of that is needed to keep the streets safe. It’s not. It’s just making the problem worse, especially when the fingers on the triggers of all those lethal toys belong to people who believe the guy in the gunsight is a lesser human being then themselves.
The way to end this plague is with education and training. We need to institute national standards for law enforcement officers. These standards should include at a minimum mandatory college level courses in criminal justice, de-escalation training, some psychology training, full scale fire arms training, and an expansion of police academy training time which currently averages less than six months. It takes two years to become a CPA, it should take at least that long to be handed a weapon and pointed out onto the street.
By the way, if you think these standards are overly onerous, keep in mind they are the minimum standards of most western European countries.
But most of all it needs to be drilled into those in law enforcement that their personal beliefs have to be put aside not only when a badge is pinned on their chest but for as long as they continue to be employed by law enforcement. Yes, even off duty they can’t be spouting political rhetoric and it doesn’t matter whether that rhetoric is Stop The Steal or Black Lives Matter. If we as the citizens of a community give to them the enormous power that police officers have and the enormous protection that police officers receive in the furtherance of their duties, then police officers have the obligation to at ALL TIMES refrain from getting involved in political discourse. Nothing in the station house, nothing in the squad car, nothing in the locker room. No joining political groups or even signing petitions. Their position has to be one of extreme neutrality. In exchange they receive a guaranteed paycheck, a job for life that’s almost impossible to lose, and most importantly the respect and admiration of those they are mandated to protect. It will probably even make their job easier as tensions between the police and the policed will decrease.
In other words, more Andy Taylor and less Andy Sipowicz.
The last word, as it so often does, goes to The Clash