Police, Hierarchy, and Attitude



What this post is saying is an “a fortiori argument.”  If my experience can be so negative as a comfortable white guy who has testified on behalf of police departments before, we cannot imagine what it is like for others who are in less comfortable circumstances.

A police chief friend of mine expressed to me his pronounced fear whenever he is stopped by an American policeman. He tells me he knows too many police with a “John Wayne Swagger and Complex” to be relaxed as the policeperson approaches.

The militarization of the police so dramatically portrayed in the film, Peace Officer, speaks more to the seemingly unlimited reservoir of fear in the American mind than it does to the need for preparing each small village to resist an invasion by a Mexican drug cartel or platoons of ISIS jihadists.

The good news:  There is no need for police to act with the attitude that they often bring  to even the most casual of interactions.  Meet Elton Simmons.  The citizens stopped by Officer Simmons are well aware of the hierarchical nature of their interaction. They do not require tough guy tactics for the officer to give them the citation they deserve.

I am a white guy with no clear danger signals that would put a policeperson on edge. And yet. I have been screamed at and shoved for driving near a fire truck.  “You could kill someone,” he screeches. In another instance, I had an officer reach for his gun and threaten to arrest me as I calmly tried to walk across the street to see why he had stopped the vehicle my wife was driving. I have a few more stories like those, but my point is not about my experience, but the experience of those treated many times worse than I have been treated.

Even the most casual familiarity with police attitudes in several other countries would suggest that Officer Elton Simmons can be replicated on a large scale if police prefer trust to fear as their dominant emblem.

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