Alright, I’m going to try and make this a quick post because I’m tired. More or less, I’m tired of the petty bullshit police pull. I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to take up someone over interpersonal slights or bending rules, but in the case of police, petty abuses add up to undermine public confidence in the police (which creates problems of its own); they also indicate more fundamental problems in the way police treat non-police.
Twice in one week, I’ve been in situations where police use sirens or the appearance of an emergency to run red lights or simply move traffic. In both cases, cops flipped on their lights or siren for a short period of time to blow through intersections and force drivers to the side, only to resume driving normally a short distance later. So, tonight: cop rolls up to red light at Houston and Ave B/Clinton, turns on lights to get through intersection before drivers enter, makes a left onto Suffolk (also running a red) where they turn off their lights and keep driving normally. Previously: Mulberry St., turning left onto Canal, traffic is stopped, cop immediately behind me flips on their siren, forcing me and the driver ahead to the left while they cruise through, turn left, turn off the siren and keep driving.
Am I petty to complain? yeah, but they’re even more petty for using the fear/institution of the police to suit their driving whims.
Alright, here’s the bigger politics part. The excuse for such behavior, and much other even worse behavior, is that cops are only human – they have needs, wants, frustrations, etc., and the stress of their job sometimes pushes them to cut corners. Similarly, cops deflect criticism of violent actions by claiming to merely do their jobs, they they have a family, kids, and a mortgage. At the same time, people with families, kids and bills to pay fill America’s jails – they receive very limited or no deference for circumstance or human frustration.
Regarding cops as human beings means creating the reasonable expectation that they reciprocate. And just as you’d never do a favor for a friend that lies and manipulates you, I don’t think people should do favors for (“just move back to the sidewalk, I agree with you on this one, I’m only trying to do my job”) or make excuses for cops that manipulate their power, commit acts of violence, or threaten to put you in jail. Until I can skip bail or void a sentence because of my personal commitments to a job, family member or ideal, I won’t tolerate a cop doing something wrong because of their personal commitments.
In the cases I described above, I have one caveat: even if I had talked to the particular officers about why I was frustrated with them, I would have no protection against retaliation by the officers. So, that’s another beef – real accountability that either provides a safe forum for bringing officers to the table to discuss abuses of power, or a way to check against officer retaliation (that isn’t the CCRB, which sucks.)