Last Friday, about twenty minutes from where I live, a pool party became the landing zone for the next chapter of America’s never-ending discussion of police procedure. I’m sure most by now know what happened, so I’m not going to rehash all of the details that ultimately led to McKinney PD Cpl. Eric Casebolt resigning his position. This isn’t about that. This isn’t even about the topic of police brutality or a criticism of police officers.
This is about us and how we, the American populous, are impeding the change necessary to make sure police officers are held accountable for their actions. This is about our inability to constructively have this conversation and how our inability to constructively have this conversation will continue to allow police officers who abuse their authority chances to hide behind their shield and their unions, freeing them of any accountability.
This is not about Eric Casebolt assaulting a 14-year-old girl. This is about how we enabled him to do so.
When Mike Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, the awareness of police violence exploded. We’d known about it. We’d talked about it. But this event triggered the social justice equivalent of Chernobyl. All of a sudden, there were so many faces, so many epitaphs, so many lives stricken from existence because of questionable police procedure. We knew of them, but were now forced to face them. Mike Brown’s smile joined the likeness of Victor White, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, and the hundreds of other black men and women tragically removed from our world because of trigger-fingered police. This attention mobilized two camps, one dedicated to police reform, while the other dedicated itself to keeping the public from “waging war on cops.”
Despite the latter’s vehement assertions, there is no war on cops. This is merely a talking point that has become popular on certain sides of the debate; the same sides who think restricting the possession of certain firearms is the government trying to take their guns away, the same sides who have convinced themselves that illegal immigrants are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, national security threat to the United States, and the same sides who believe that disrespecting the American flag during a protest is an affront to the armed forces of the United States.
An us vs. them philosophy, lending credence to the idea that we, the American public, are indeed polarized.
The idea that there may be a “war on cops” is beyond wrong, it is absurd, but I think I understand where it comes from. Fear. I genuinely think it may stem from fear.
These groups of people, who I will henceforth refer to as “Group A” for simplicity’s sake, are generally fearful people. They are afraid of ISIS, just as they were afraid of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and because of that fear, Group A wants to arm the American border and essentially remove the concept of immigration from the American landscape. Group A is afraid of being left vulnerable if there were an attack, either from outside or from the inside, so they mobilize, stockpiling every military-grade weapon they get their hands on. Group A are such tried and true nationalists — their love of country unparalleled — that any affront to national symbols is considered treasonous and as such, worthy of condemnation, or if they can get away with it, social damnation.
Group A is the definition of paranoia and it’s that paranoia, I think, that drives them to pedestal institutions that provide them with comfort and protection, not the least of which would be police officers. Much like Group A’s reception toward the military, a police officer is unable to do anything wrong. If the cop shoots someone, that person had it coming. If that cop becomes violent toward people during an investigation, those people had it coming. Essentially, the mindset becomes, don’t disrespect the cop and do as they say. If you are without guilt, they will realize that.
Group A also puts a lot of faith into a system that is easily corruptible and has, on many occasions, proven to be corrupted.
Group A’s world would come undone if they were unable to trust the institutions that keep them safe. Paranoia is like a cheap adhesive in this regard. If the position of law enforcement in Group A’s eyes falls apart, if police can actually do wrong, then the entire fabric of their lives begins to unravel. How could someone who swore to uphold the law so blatantly break it? This inquiry would drive them mad. It would be the same as how could a soldier, tasked with upholding the Constitution of the United States, do something so blatantly in defiance of it?
This is why Group A refuses to acknowledge that prisoners of the War on Terrorism are not deserving of the human rights violations they endure.
Our inability to even entertain this idea is getting in the way of the nation coming to a consensus about police reform. This is the sin of the side pushing for change. There is an obvious capacity for abuse (something the Ferguson Police Department undoubtedly showed), and I’m sure those who believe there to be a “war on cops” understand that as well, but because the idea of police reform threatens the immaculate view of law enforcement in their eyes, Group A will reject the notion every time. Every rejection will get louder, to the point where it evolves into the talking point we have seen laid out in conservative publications over the last year. In their eyes, it is not just a “war on cops,” it’s a war on their mental stability and their perception of safety in the face of all the horror that goes on the world.
I can understand that. Can anyone else?