An argument I often hear as a way to dismiss valid concerns regarding police brutality is that "You cannot accuse all cops of being 'bad cops' simply because of a few 'bad apples.'" This is not only dismissive, but false. Sure, there are those exceptionally heinous instances of abuse that garner national attention. We may reference those cases as examples when trying to explain to someone the extreme negative consequences of an ever growing police state. But the actions of these rotten apples would not be possible were it not for the inherently immoral systematic structures and duties adhered by and agreed upon by every police officer by virtue of his job description. We are right to blame the whole. Not because of a few bad apples, but because we are discussing a pile of rotten apples. Yes, one could pick up an individual apple, cut around the rot and find some good parts to eat. Maybe one could even find an apple consisting of mostly good parts; but none of these apples are good.
To illustrate why the idea of a "good cop" is a logical impossibility, let's look to another example of public servants who put their life on the line; firefighters. Firefighters are well trained, have access to equipment and resources that are incredibly effective at putting out fires (equipment that your average person would not have access to on their own). They're brave - literally risking their lives to rush into a burning building everyone else is fleeing from. Firefighters are good. While an immoral firefighter may exist, there is nothing inherently immoral about the job description, and a man doesn't have to do anything immoral in order to become, or in order to stay a firefighter. As a result, who has an issue with firefighters? Basically no one. Are there protests in the streets vilifying those darned firefighters for having the gall to put out fires, save lives, and do their job? Likewise, do we see protests against the EMTs who go out each day and save lives? No, we don't.
Therefore basic logic tells us, if the only thing police did was save people from rapists, thieves, murderers, and other predators walking the streets, there wouldn't be a problem. It shows willful ignorance and extremely limited reasoning to assume millions upon millions of people, and entire movements have formed because they hate the police for solving crimes, saving lives, and protecting society from rapists, murderers, and thieves.
Police protecting us from predators is the one good thing they actually do. If that were all they did, police would be revered, respected, and loved. Saving us from predators and violence. should be the singular purpose and function of an officer, just as putting out fires is the singular dominant function of a firefighter. Imagine if instead of coming to the rescue when called for help, firefighters instead patrolled towns with the purpose of preventing potential fires and eliminating fire hazards. Imagine they were incentivized and paid to ticket those in violation. Imagine if society outlawed individual use of fire because of its “potential to damage”? Imagine if firefighters randomly searched people on the streets looking for lighters and matches and either ticketed those in violation or caged them for years. Imagine if firefighters broke into homes and broke up parties with contraband such as candles on a birthday cake. Imagine how much harder it would make it to report a fire if one were to ever get out of control? Yes, the firefighters would put out the fire, but you or a member of your family would be jailed because the candle responsible for the fire, was illegal to own in the first place. If firefighters spent their days harassing and fining every-day citizens for minor violations, and were responsible for caging millions of people, sometimes for years of their lives, - It wouldn’t matter how many fires they put out, people would start to have a problem with firefighters.
Yet patrolling, ticketing, confiscating substances, and property, looking for and creating trouble, are 80 percent of your average police officer’s day to day functions
The nationwide outrage against America's police has nothing to do with the fact they save lives and keep predators off the streets. It is not a sign someone is "morally degenerate" or in support of violence against the innocent merely because they take issue with the destruction and injustice caused by police. It would be impossible for a principled, empathetic, and morally consistent individual to not have a problem with them. Repeatedly defending police any time a blatant case of police brutality is brought into the national spotlight, proves Americans have a greater value for power and established institutions, than they do justice, morality and human life.
Even if the job description itself were not immoral, good, well intended officers are not the norm, they are the exception. The argument that bad behavior and corruption are rare, and moral brave officers are the norm doesn’t stack up to reality. In fact officers who truly desire to protect and serve their community are the most likely to be singled out, harassed, and punished by fellow officers. The more respect an officer has for the community he “protects” the more vulnerable he is to abuse from fellow officers.
For instance Officer Cariol Horne of Buffalo, New York was on a call with Officer Gregory Kwitakowski when he started strangling a suspect who was already subdued, handcuffed and posed no threat. Horne claims when she entered the home, the suspect, Neal Mack, had already been handcuffed by Kwiatkowski.
'He was handcuffed in the front and he was sideways and being punched in the face by Gregory Kwiatkowski,' she told WKBW.
'Gregory Kwiatkowski turned Neal Mack around and started choking him. So then I'm like, "Greg! You're choking him," because I thought whatever happened in the house he was still upset about so when he didn't stop choking him I just grabbed his arm from around Neal Mack's neck.
Horne simply and rightly attempted to stop the officer from choking Mack to death, by pulling his arm away from Neal Mack’s neck. In response, Kwiatkowski then punched Horne in the face, breaking the bridge of her nose. After the incident, despite 19 years on the force, she was fired and charged with obstruction. Horne was accused of “putting another officer’s life in danger” and trying to “obstruct justice.” Meanwhile, Kwiatkowski suffered no consequences for punching Horne in the face, or for nearly choking a man to death.
Let it sink in that the expectation was for Horne to sit back and cheer on her fellow officer as he choked a man to death. The officer who actively tried to kill someone and punched Horne in the face for trying to stop him, was commended for doing his job. Nothing about this is a “few bad apples.”
Another officer Stephen Madder of West Virginia, was fired after opting to de-escalate a suicidal man instead of immediately shooting and killing him. The police were called when those who cared about a distraught Ronald Williams wrongfully believed the police would protect Williams from hurting himself. Stephen Madder was the first to arrive and had previously served in Afghanistan. He used his military training to determine Williams was not a threat to anyone but himself.
Just as Madder was getting Williams to open up and talk, two fellow officers came charging in behind Madder and immediately shot and killed Williams upon seeing he had a gun. Stephen Madder was proven right in his assessment that Williams was not a threat, as the gun he had been holding was unloaded. Afterward, a state investigation found the officer's actions were justified, and the department fired Madder because of "failure to meet probationary standards of an officer" and "apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning."
In the world of police, using critical incident reasoning properly, de-escalating a situation, and preventing a suicide are considered morally inferior to simply killing a depressed person. We are told the reason cops deserve respect is because they put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve others. Yet here we see protocol is to put officer safety over everyone and everything else. That to kill someone because they pose a 0.01% threat to your safety, is preferable to putting yourself in even the slightest danger. Yet nearly all peaceful resolutions require risk on the part of officers. How could someone protect those in peril unless risk is present?
To use the recent shooting of Stephon Clark for example. Five year old children aren’t afraid of a man holding a cellphone. Yet we’re expected to believe it is reasonable for adult officers responding to a routine, benign call about a broken car window to be terrified for their life by the sight of a black man minding his own business standing in his backyard holding his cellphone. Despite no evidence of being in an even remotely dangerous situation, we are expected to believe it is reasonable to shoot a man 20 times until dead, based on the pathologically irrational and paranoid belief the cellphone in his hand *could be* a gun. Rather than put themselves in one bit of risk to take a second look, we are expected to believe it is reasonable for an officer to go ahead and just shoot everyone dead on the off chance their paranoia is right?
How is this different than a delusional homeless man stabbing someone to death because he was convinced the guy standing at the crosswalk must have a bomb inside his suspicious looking headphones? He believes his only choice is to stab this guy to death or get blown up.
We are expected to believe it is reasonable when an officer shoots and kills a family dog, even dogs as small as Chihuahuas – citing fear for their life as the justification. The off chance a dog might bite or jump up to say hi has a grown man “fearing for his life”… and these are the men we are told to call brave?
This is why even in situations such as the Parkland High School shooting in Florida, where we are depending on the police for protection, they fail us. How can you expect bravery in times of actual terror from men trained to be cowards in fear of their own shadow?
At best, an officer is a man who is able to regularly detach himself from feeling empathy for others. Because he did not write the laws he enforces, or design the police training himself, he feels no guilt or sense of responsibility when following protocol or enforcing a law becomes immoral. This is what the Nazis said when soldiers were asked why they committed such atrocities. “I was just following orders.”
Rather than to help others, police officers are often attracted to their job because they desire to dominate others; be it through coercion, physical violence or force. How can we expect a person with so little empathy they’d cage someone for 40 years for owning an illegal plant to suddenly have such an overwhelming value for other people that he would die for them? One could be a good person in their private or home life and just so happen to be a police officer. But that same good person would still be a bad cop. As it stands, no man who swears an oath to enforce the unjust laws of the state can be considered a good apple.
Kassie West was born in Dallas Texas and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Texas @ Arlington. She is a commercial and film actress for her husband's production company and has worked as a commercial content writer for both local and international corporations for the past 2 years. Prior to this she worked several years as a political consultant for non profits, Congressional, and presidential campaigns in DC. She is an occasional blogger and vlogger on her personal website thesteelechronicles.com and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and 2 children.