Two Thoughts on the Police (and One Glimmer of Life)

In the current American climate, any white police officer knows perfectly well that if he harms a black person in any context other than a genuine life-or-death shootout, or is even perceived to have done so, his normal life, his family’s safety, probably his career, and certainly his future privacy and sense of self-determination, are over. In such a climate, and with such universal awareness of the inevitable fallout, does anyone really believe that there is a contingent of white police officers systematically looking for opportunities to kill black people while on duty? Yes, in fact there are millions of people who believe exactly this. They are called progressives. Their belief is so irrational, based on premises so utterly contrary to any plausible understanding of human nature, that nothing but absolutely unquestioned tribal dogmatism — i.e., a blind faith in the patently ridiculous — could possibly explain it. Half aware of this themselves, the progressives wrap their irrationality in the pseudo-intellectual swaddling clothes of “systemic racism,” because inexplicable collectivist abstraction is one of the most durable last resorts of people desperately clinging to an idea that makes no sense.

As I have noted before, I have no patience for the so-called “conservative” mantra that insists on treating modern police as noble heroes, near-saints. Are there good, well-intentioned, decent human beings who are employed as police officers? Of course there are. The same is true of most professions. I know, I am supposed to bend a knee under the weight of the argument that the police “put their lives on the line every day.” First of all, we all put our lives on the line every day. The police merely have the right to use force more freely in defense of their lives than the rest of us. Secondly, putting his life on the line does not in itself make a man noble. Over the past fourteen months, police the world over have been granted extraordinary powers to harass and restrict the activities of innocent citizens trying to live their lives with dignity, trying to earn a living, trying to care for their elderly loved ones, or some other behavior which some government official has arbitrarily decreed impermissible. Would a noble man enforce such a law? Would a noble police force accept such a mandate from the government it represents? Slaves, I know, are often reduced to doing many unfortunate and compromising things. But if we are going to resist resorting to the Eichmann defense of actions in compliance with absolutely any form of outrage mandated “from above” — “I was just doing my job” — then we ought to see many police officers quitting the force, or at least refusing to employ the blatantly excessive powers they have recently been granted by their state masters.

The natural conclusion to this last thought would normally be, “I won’t hold my breath,” but on this day, I am pleased to be able to temper my disdain for the human race just a little, just this once.

As I have discussed recently, police in Ontario have been granted the authority and mission to stop innocent private citizens on the street, demand to know their home addresses, and then force them to explain why they are not locked up in their homes as the government has mandated. To their great credit, however, some local police forces in the province have issued public statements promising their communities that they will not assert these new powers. Whether this shows any kind of nobility on the part of the forces in question, or merely a bow to the growing public anger at premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government, it must nevertheless be judged a step in the right direction — which is to say, a step away from the brink of unmasked police-state tyranny being imposed on two-fifths of Canada’s population.

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