Back when I was a wee child of 11 years, a cop visited my fifth grade class to talk to us about drugs for the DARE program. He was a young, friendly man with a brown mustache and he played the guitar and sang a song at our graduation assembly. He made our moms cry with joy.
I think that was the last cop I trusted, and that assembly took place about 24 years ago.
This isn’t something that makes me proud or strokes my rebellious, anti-authority nerves like a naughty feather duster. I’m sad about this. Because of that DARE cop, I was brought up to trust cops and have respect for people who put their lives on the line to make our communities safer. But how am I supposed to do this if I’m convinced that they don’t really care about people?
It’s a damn ignorant thing to say that all cops are thuggish bullies on power trips, but I have yet to meet a cop these days who isn’t exactly that. I know cops like that are out there, but they might as well be unicorns. Maybe it’s because I come from a family of firefighters and we’re generally taught that cops are lame compared to people who run into buildings that are on fire. Maybe it was that one cop who pulled me over when I was 20 right after a spate of local cops making women strip in the winter cold for an unnecessary walk of shame hit the news.
It’s a hard job to enforce the law because human beings are impossible creatures to control, especially when so many human beings are unrepentant assholes who cause trouble for reasons ranging from sheer boredom to explosive frustration to legitimate mental illness. And when there is real, true chaos in the world, it’s a noble pursuit to want to clean things up a bit and bring justice to crime victims while preventing more people from becoming victims.
It’s just a little hard to believe their sincerity when so many cops seem so intent on disregarding the rights of so many people simply because they can.
I will never know what it’s like to be black in America and I’m not going to attempt to try. I do, however, have a working pair of eyes and seeing what happened in Ferguson and on Staten Island confirmed every fear I have of cops: they really get off on their machismo. They ride military-grade vehicles down the road and carry assault rifles that don’t belong anywhere near a suburban street. They might as well be carrying signs that read “I CAN KILL YOU BECAUSE I CAN KILL YOU SO FEAR ME.”
Darren Wilson doesn’t seem to care that he killed Michael Brown. He claims it was self-defense. He claims he was being overpowered. He claims he “did [his] job.” Can’t he do all that and still feel bad about ending the life of an unarmed teenager? Even Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who killed Eric Garner and who will also not be facing charges, let us know that he isn’t an unfeeling sociopath:
Officer involved in death of Eric Garner: "It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad" – pic.twitter.com/oIjKP6JjMb
— ABC News (@ABC) December 3, 2014
This is in stark contrast to Wilson saying his “conscience is clear” after killing Brown. How can anyone say their “conscience is clear” after killing someone? Legal issues aside, cops are charged with “serving and protecting” their communities, but this one doesn’t mind that he killed a member of his community? Not even a little bit? That’s fucked up. And judging by all the cops who are upset that other people are upset about a cop who is an admitted remorseless killer, something makes me think that way too many people are okay with cops having the authority and power to just kill people without any consequences.
As terrifying as the Ferguson and Staten Island stories are, it isn’t even just fatal, violent force at the hands of cops that makes people scared of them. Consider how violated women feel about cops when it comes to reporting rape, an emotional assault after the physical one. Again, this is not something I have had to experience firsthand. But unlike being black, there is a chance that I could be a rape victim. I’ve been told since I was an adolescent that it’s my responsibility not to get myself raped: Don’t dress a certain way. Don’t go walking in dark alleys at night (a dark alley at night is 75% more dark, dontcha know). Don’t be a silly hooker cocktease and lead guys on. Don’t look or act like you’re asking for it.
Basically, it’s not ok for me to get myself raped, but it’s okay for guys to try and succeed at raping me if I do things that help them succeed. So say parents, teachers, and the goddamn cops.
A new study by The Journal of Interpersonal Violence asked a small group of cops (seven male, three female from one police department) about what they thought about rape cases. What goes through their mind when a victim comes to report a rape? How do they deal with this? What do they choose to believe? Amanda Hess of Slatequotes from the study:
[W]hen a rape report is called in, they’ve “got to decide as a department how much resources we want to put into this.” In other words, that cop continues, “What’s the chances of this one being true, you know?”
Because a lot of these batty dames are lying and just want to cause some poor dope trouble. Here is another reason women might be hesitant to report rape to the police: They might think cops will think they’re acting the wrong way when they come to the police.
Victims who failed to strike the correct emotional balance also risked not being believed. “Everybody’s gonna be different,” one officer said, and not “everybody’s gonna be distraught,” but if a woman reports a rape and is “very matter of fact about it,” she seems less credible.
So, if we act the wrong way, we’ll get ourselves raped. And if we act another wrong way, cops won’t believe we were raped. I feel like we women are being seriously overestimated as actresses. We ladyfolk are just so complicated to read, I guess. We might as well be upside-down Hebrew, amirite?
If you’re doing the history-math, that’s two groups of people who needed actual constitutional amendments to guarantee our equal treatment in the eyes of the law and one group of people with guns and badges who swear to uphold that Constitution but instead shit all over it.
There is an unfortunate and dangerous culture of mistrust between women and minorities and the cops who are supposed to protect us — all of us. Yes, there are women and minorities who are cops, and some of them are asshole cops too. There are a lot of bad apples in this basket of cops. If I were talking about real apples, I would have to throw away so many bad apples that wouldn’t have enough if I wanted to make an apple pie.
But those good apples can make a pie really, really good. There must be cops who feel terrible when they hear stories about rapists getting away with their crimes and high-octane situations that result in a cop’s gun going off and someone ending up dead. Being a cop should not be an easy job, but writing people off after a tragedy like they’re a post-it note on their desk really rubs me the wrong way.
Don’t think that I don’t see the irony in passing judgement on cops at the same time I accuse them of passing judgement on other people. That’s really unfair of me, the same way some of your behavior is pretty unfair, if I’m being kind. I implore you, police officers — change my mind. Prove me wrong. Tell me I’m way off base. When I become a mother, make me cry at my child’s DARE assembly without the underlying feeling that you don’t really give a crap about people.
Whatever you do, just be careful if you try another social media campaign.
RELATED: Cops acting like GI Joe dolls — YES DOLLS — actually are justified in going after people causing violence on purpose and… what’s this? Cops who actually respect the First Amendment that they vowed to uphold!