I don’t like what is happening. It’s making us live up to our Orwellian image of big, impersonal departments. We’re being forced to become more militaristic, and that means we lose our identity as policemen; that has never been my idea of what police work ought to be.
So said Michael Dower Jr., then a police employee, in “Cops As Targets,” an article included in the Nov., 13th, 1970 issue of Life. Below are pictures and statements of that article. Consider it a time capsule of sorts.
The six-page write-up detailed changes seen to be occurring within policing, particularly the perceived violence toward police employees – a narrative told through the experiences of four generations of Dowers employed at the San Francisco police outfit.
In the 43+ years since Dower cautioned of a “more militaristic” police, there is no question that the trajectory has been in that direction. But why? Lone wolfs who target those wearing badges? Roving bands of cop killers? Not quite. In fact, last year the fewest police employees were killed by afirearm in over 125-years.
So what then? Why have police outfits become more militaristic?
Quite simply, it is inevitable, at least, as the good or service of “protection” is today supplied. The fact that police employees claim the right to steal from those in their community, to then protect them, is at the core. Once that double-standard is allowed for – once that theft goes unquestioned, it only grows in size and scope.
It’s claimed that Mike Dower Jr., the most-recent in the Dower family to become employed in policing, “already knows more law … than any of the Dowers before him” because he has a degree, but is that true? Does knowing right from wrong hinge on time spent in school? I’d argue no.
If the author clarified that by law he meant man-made legislation, it would be accurate. But again, police and their colleagues in the so-called “justice system” excel at and thrive upon doublespeak.
Read: The Myth of the Rule of Law by John Hasnas
While some police employees may claim that they’re “just enforcing the law” if they really cared about justice they would first decided whether that text on paper was just. They, like the folks who claim the sole ability to create or to interpret “law,” have an incentive for you to believe that is legitimate. Their very job depends on it.
Riot duty, Mike thinks, is the worst kind of police duty. “It’s not police work,” he says. It’s like being in the military. If I’d wanted that kind of work, I would have joined the Army and gone to Vietnam as a mercenary.”
Yet that function – gearing up and having a mindset not just willing but eager to whet out violence – seems today to be sought by police employees. Is it surprising then, that many police hires are former military? While they ostensibly have different goals – to kill and to keep the peace – that line, as Bill Buppert, Radley Balko, and a growing number of outlets have expounded upon, has blurred.
Just as an example, the Tango Team of the Oakland police outfit – those tasked with “maintaining order” at Occupy, are those who have already exhibited a propensity to initiate violence. Many have already shot and killed multiple people and their pets.
If police outfits really sought to protect, they would hire those who excelled at deescelating situations. Training would focus not on the force continuum, which purports that any and all force, included that which causes death, is permissible to gain compliance, but on minimizing injury for all involved, as expounded upon by Dale Brown.
The striking difference is that the “customers” of police (inhabitants of the area) are told to pay, or else, whereas Brown and his colleagues must satisfy their customers, or else they’ll take their business elsewhere. That difference – between a coercive interaction and a consensual interaction – cannot be overstated.
Though police employees may mean well, they work in an environment which has a framework of perverse incentives. Transparency, accountability and justice can never be achieved from a coercive monopoly.
The new violence has made normally clannish police unusually protective of one another. “I don’t like what is happening. It’s making us live up to our Orwellian image of big, impersonal departments. We’re being forced to become more militaristic, and that means we lose our identity as policemen; that has never been my idea of what police work ought to be.
If Dower is still alive, I wonder what he thinks about today’s policing apparatus, which has seen hundreds of Bearcats and MRAPs sent to small town USA under the guise of the “war on terrorism,” everyone’s electronic communication surveilled and stored, and the claimed legitimacy of the suspension of property rights, and kidnapping and caging of individuals without reason.
At least Dower is of the mindset to not encourage his son to become involved with a criminal outfit.
“Because of the bombings and shootings, every door in the police department is now locked, even the toilets… He never leaves his car unlocked for fear someone will plant a bomb in it.”
This reminds me of a conversation had last September when in South Africa with a gentleman employed as a warden (the equivalent of a correctional officer here) who noted that he had ceased mistreating those caged not primarily due to a change in conscience, but because he valued his own safety. Others – those most heavy-handed – had been killed by friends or colleagues of the prisoners outside the prison grounds.
Ultimately though, it will be ideas that turn the tide, and indeed, I believe we’re already seeing such evidence. Top-down solutions to try to reign in out of control police employees and the march towards a militaristic police apparatus are being seen as impotent and instead, bottom-up solutions are advancing. Current and former police employees are becoming more vocal, some founding organizations and even Cop Block offshoots. And instead of turning to the “authorities,” more folks are realizing the value in solving disputes themselves or through arbitration.
“Most of the middle ground is gone. You can’t be neutral. Whether you have long hair or wear a suit, you have to go all the way with people who think it’s all right to kill cops, or you have to be actively against them. If the community goes against them, they are finished.”
This is a key point – without the support or tolerance of the community, the police state could not exist. Would-be tyrants will get away with as much as those they claim the right to rule over allow. Once the mystic of “the state” is seen through, the immunity claimed by police employees becomes non-existent. Rights-violating actions are given no additional latitude, based on where the actor’s attire.