Over at Fault Lines, David Meyer Lindenberg recently posted an incredibly well-written piece called “The Persecution of Cathars and Cops.” It’s an excellent reminder of how history has a tendency to repeat itself, and made me stop and examine some of the statements I’ve made concerning police misconduct in the past. Am I really anti-cop, and is the message I send one against law enforcement, working in the trenches as an attorney? While at times I’ve definitely taken what could be perceived as an anti-cop stance, I think it’s safe to answer that question as “no.”
First off, you’d be hard pressed to find a criminal defense attorney that hates cops. No one hates cops, unless you’re an idiot. What we hate is the continued culture of thuggish brutality, the warrior mindset embraced by those who should view us as part of the community, and the continual lack of accountability that seems to justify every single jack-booted reaction. We work tirelessly to make sure those without a badge have just as much of a voice in the process that ostensibly flags everyone as “innocent until proven guilty.”
Another major issue is the public’s continued embrace of the cop as the “guardian and protector” of the community, automatically granting those with a shield a special status as an “authority figure” whose every demand must be obeyed on pain of death. If someone doesn’t wrestle their son to the door for cops to arrest, they’re obstructing justice. If you don’t take two steps to the left with your hands raised, you’re not complying with the law and deserve a good pepper spraying. The continued shoulder-shrugging of those who say “Just comply and you won’t get hurt” is infuriating to those of us with our eyes open.
Yet we do have a voice, and there is a debate currently going on in our modern society over the role of police and their continued use of force in situations that otherwise might warrant a different approach. The temptation is to pile on the negative side, and continually roll our eyes at every cop who claim they were in fear for their lives when they shoot a young black man in a heartbeat. It’s something that leads the public down the path of “police are no longer deserving of our respect.” That’s a scary place to be, especially when the cops are the ones out there every day ostensibly ensuring our streets are safe.
So where does this fit in with David’s post? It’s easy to escape to our own realms that allow us unfettered access to confirmation bias. With every “anti-cop” article or post you read on the Internet, it’s more likely to enforce your belief in that worldview., With every “Blue Lives Matter” statement you endorse the more pro-police you’re going to become. Either way, it’s terrible, as David points out, to endorse a solution that’s “clear, simple, and wrong.”
So where does this fit in with me and my own ideas on how the police/misconduct angles work? I think it’s best to say my views are more nuanced than originally seen. I’ve spoken with family in law enforcement, and they can’t believe guys like Tyrel “The Tennessee Imbecile” Lorenz still have a job. I know cops who’ve exercised incredible amounts of discretion on the job; some even going as far as driving publicly intoxicated folks home and getting them in the house. That doesn’t mean I can’t boost the signal of those who take the public’s trust and abuse it.
And I’ll continue to fight the good fight, and I’ll keep telling the cops that are out their doing their jobs the right way that I respect them for actually being the good ones. That’s the only intellectually responsible thing to do.