Saturday, August 04, 2007

The next time you need help, call a ...

  Do you remember that bumper sticker? "If you hate the cops..." Then it tells you to call whomever it is that has a beef with law enforcement.  Used to be that the police were at least on the side of the solid citizen and they spent some time offering assistance to that bunch.  If you were counter culture, it was best to just keep moving outside of their personal space. Now the police are undergoing some disturbing changes.  How do I know this?  Well not too long ago, I was doing some lecturing at a college, a community college, where they had included an actual Law Enforcement Academy in the curriculum of study.  Now in my comings and goings it was common to see the student police practicing various types of field training outside of the classroom environment.
It was not long before several things struck me as odd.  First it was the uniform or I should say uniforms.  The students, or "recruits" as they prefer, attended class in a uniform of khaki shirt and trousers and shiny black shoes. For physical training, they donned olive drab combat fatigue pants, combat boots, a bright red t-shirt, and would form up in military fashion complete with a Guidon (a small pennant on a stick) Then they would march off to the exercise area in parade fashion or else that odd double shuffle popular with South African troops and Black College Marching Bands.  Of course you can't march without timing and since they did not have a brass band, they relied on tried and true cadence call and response rhymes.  After rigorous exercise the trainees hit the showers and would appear in either the classroom Khaki or else ominous black battle dress called BDUs.  BDUs meant serious training like kicking in doors and shooting shotguns plus all manner of urban warfare.  All this stuff was done with a deadly serious attitude and reminded me very much of my army training except even more combat oriented and the combat seemed directed to a population rather than an "enemy"  As my time continued, I began to notice the recruits becoming not only more paramilitary in attitude and dress, they also to a man, though not a woman, started shaving their heads in an exaggerated version of the high and tight or "white wall" haircuts favored by elite units of The Armed Forces.  Before long the "Basic Law Enforcement" class started applying military base procedure to the whole campus by raising and lowering the Flag at certain times and even attempting a retreat each afternoon.  A retreat is when the Flag is lowered while a bugle plays and on a military reservation certain rules are followed.  Well a college is not Fort Bragg and traffic will not come to a halt nor will persons afoot stop and face in the direction of the main post flag and salute it till it's down.  I can tell you this did not go over well with the jr. cops and they even attempted to stop traffic by posting class members in bright orange vests right in the roadway.  Well that idea was scotched by admin and the cops were allowed to take their flag hijinks over to the "Fire Grounds" where they maintained a shooting range and had pretend battles in the "burn buildings" used for training Firefighters.  Trouble ensued with the firemen and some embryonic coppers got their pants dirty.  This episode caused me to investigate and in interviewing the police cadets I discovered the disturbing prevalence of an us vs them mentality ingrained to the point where I, as an instructor from outside the law enforcement section was not treated with the respect I would as a rule get from clean cut and well disciplined students.  This bothered me greatly, not because I'm some martinet, no what troubled me was with all the emphasis that the Law Enforcement Community places on "respect for the badge=respect for The Law" it was obvious that the new "Police" are being programed to by-pass respect for the "solid citizen" and this can be seen in countless episodes where the cops have terrorized, and I do not use the term lightly, yes terrorized innocent families in their own homes because someone made a mistake. Even, if no mistake is made then what has happened to the presumption of innocence?  More and more the police approach every arrest as a tactical exercise.  Heavy boots at 4 AM. Your door explodes inward and like as not some noise making pyrotechnic is set off.  Masked men made bigger by black Darth Vader armor burst into your home screaming the vilest obscenities for you to get on the floor and are held there with a gun to your head while your home is literally torn to pieces in search of ANYTHING incriminating; even if your offense is over due parking fines.  If you want to use that old saw, "law breakers get what they deserve" you better get it through your thick head the "The Patriot Act" in defense of the "Homeland" makes you a criminal by thought, action, dress, association and just about anything else someone wants AND you are guilty as charged from the get go.  An article in the Roanoke, VA Times stresses this very point reporting how cars going to a Bluegrass event were being stopped by federal park police and searched under the auspices of The Patriot Act.  An editor for the paper was threatened with arrest under the sam "Law" for trying to photograph an incident from a safe distance.  This stuff is happening.  I am the last one to envolve myself in some nutty conspiracy but, goddamn it, this stuff is happening and the police are being trained to do it.  The cops stop you, don't even think of telling them you know your rights because,  you don't.  The next time you need a cop?  I'd advise calling a lawyer first.

1 comment:

Ms. Moon said...

It's so strange how I seem to have a deep and intuitive fear of cops. I've never personally been mistreated by one and have actually been treated very nicely by a few when I did, in fact, need a cop. BUT, just the sight of one when I'm driving sets up all sorts of alarm bells in me. I drive at the speed limit simply because I do not want to be stopped by a police officer. I feel like if I were to be stopped, large amounts of illegal drugs would suddenly appear in my car. Even though this is not even a remote possibility and is an irrational thought, I can't help but have it. Like, they'd search my car and a previous owner would have stashed a few pounds of cocaine under the dash. And then I would be taken by force to the jailhouse- a place I definitely don't want to go because jailhouses are notoriously lousy with cops.
You can see how crazy I am.
But, I think you are right, Tex, about the way these guys are trained and with that sort of us-against-them mindset, plus the fact that they walk around with guns and big sticks (!), they are scary.