More thoughts from a cop – Part 3 of our conversation

July 18, 2020

thoughts-from-a-copYes, more thoughts from a cop. My conversation with my police officer friend is still going on, but this is the last installment of this particular interview. If you missed the first two parts, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. I encourage you to leave your questions below, on this post. There will be another blog post in which he’ll answer every one. But let’s continue with this no-holds-barred conversation.

You and I have talked a lot about how little actual dialogue goes on among people today. There’s no give and take, only pronouncements.

Yes, I’ve said that conversation is the most effective tool we have but in the era of social media it often gets shut down. To a small, vocal minority, conversation is pointless.

It’s so important to remember the conversation is about enforcement of the law. You already know what I think about police brutality. And also, I have stood on a line of fellow law enforcement officers recently while crowds screamed at us. Each name they screamed was a victim, each with a story. Beyond the vulgar “Fuck the police,” “Fuck you pig,” “All cops are bastards,” and “I hope you fucking die” are the names shouted in our faces as if we had anything to do with them.

thoughts-from-a-copEach name was considered a victim. Some did nothing or little wrong and did not deserve the outcome. Some are circumstances blown out of proportion by current events by the response was justified, and some are a mix. Very rarely do we live in a completely black and white world. The majority of the time it is varying shades of gray.

It’s important to remember that the facts are completely different for each and every case. And they can be complex.

It’s true. We don’t always understand what really was going on. I’d like to know a little more about those complex issues.

Take Breonna Taylor’s case. I felt the story did not sound right from a law enforcement standpoint so I began digging. I finally tracked down an interview in which it was revealed they had a no-knock warrant. That’s a big issue in this case. It was a tool given to law enforcement during the War on Drugs in the 70s and 80s because otherwise, when suspects heard the cops announce themselves, they destroyed evidence.

Law enforcement officers were investigating narcotics trafficking and had probable cause to get a no-knock warrant. When they made entry to the house they were met with gunfire. They had legal authority to be there and were shot at; they identified themselves. But on the other side, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend heard someone breaking into the house. He had a license to lawfully possess a firearm. He felt he was defending the residence and his girlfriend.

thoughts-from-a-copThe DA agreed that the boyfriend had a right to defend himself as he did not know they were police. Charges against him were dismissed. As a result of this case, officials in Kentucky repealed the “no-knock” law.

Did Breonna Taylor deserve to die? No, she did not. Weeks later, the chief of the Louisville Police Dept. found that a sergeant acted with reckless disregard and terminated him, but the DA did not file charges. I said there are varying shades of gray and in this case it is as gray as it gets, in my opinion.

The cops in this case were reportedly chasing “green dope (weed),” which has been legalized in other states. They were enforcing Kentucky law. But in this day and age, we have to look at what their objective was. So, why? All this for “the Devil’s lettuce?” These are complicated issues not easily understood by the media or the public. Yet the reasons for some of these cases are tangled up in issues that are hard to explain to lay people.

It sounds like procedure and laws can significantly differ state to state, which can make a big difference.

When I was in the police academy I remember watching a video from the state of Nevada. An officer used deadly force and had to go to court to testify to it. This was not part of a criminal prosecution, it was the standard procedure. And this may be something to include in the conversation for better policing: if an officer uses deadly force, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, they go to court to justify the use.  And if this is the case, there is a ruling by a judge in the criminal justice system as to the justification. I do not know if that is common practice or if the video was a special circumstance but I do not know of any controversial shootings in the state of Nevada.

Should cops who kill be considered criminals?   

Justified shootings – no. Unjustified shootings – yes.

What of the call to defund or even abolish the police?

Neuroscientist, philosopher (and now podcaster) Sam Harris said something important. He said the most important thing we have done as a society is keeping shit out of our food but the second most important was giving government a monopoly on violence. These calls to defund or abolish remove that monopoly.

Peaceful protesting? It’s not working to make real change. Get attention on the internet, it’s a war, fuck the cops–these may be outlier sentiments spoken from the safety of the internet, these sentiments are not unique. We don’t need that. We need more real dialogue.

We’ve talked about so much and yet there’s still much more to say and to think about.

It really is all about people needing to really talk to each other more. I wanted to suggest that readers interested in these issues look up on Youtube a podcast by Sam Harris called “Can We Pull Back from the Brink?” / Making Sense with Sam Harris #207. It’s almost two hours long but the first section addresses society’s expectations of law enforcement and the second talks about the realities of law enforcement (among other things). I found it thought-provoking and right on target.

It’s a good podcast. Thank you, my friend, for jumping into these issues with me and sharing these thoughts from a cop.

If you’ve got questions, please ask them in the Comments section of this blog post. Once we’ve got them all, there will be one more blog post, in which he will answer them all. Probably in about a week. I hope you found this conversation as helpful as I have. Thanks for reading and I do hope you’ll comment below.

5 comments on “More thoughts from a cop – Part 3 of our conversation
  1. Alana says:

    Are there duties police would rather be relieved of and perhaps have a different kind of peace officer handle? For example, the homeless man in the previous post who was sleeping in the doorway of a building open 24 hours a day. Should that be a police function? In other words, the same police officer could be called to handle a riot or an active shooting situation one minute, and a homeless man sleeping in the wrong place the next minute. Should the police have that wide a range of duties and responsibilities? Another question I have and this may be something you don’t wish to comment on: what do you think about the situation in Portland where people other than the Portland police are videoed arresting protestors and taking them away in unmarked cars? (I know this one is an evolving situation.)

  2. Gregory Ciurczak says:

    Carol: thank you for this insightful discussion.
    To the officer: thank you for your service and to be in this profession, you are a very brave individual. Per the discussion, I agree the actions of one do not condemn the entire police force. However, we do see plenty of unacceptable behavior in the media about police. This profession attracts a very aggressive type personality but do you think the hiring process, screening and battery of psychological testing needs improvement? Thanks

  3. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the interview, I found it interesting. But I am concerned that people really don’t understand the concept behind defunding the police. This isn’t about doing away with police, and laws, but about radical change that needs to be done to take us from where we are now to where we can be. It’s not perfect, but Camden, NJ is an example of this.

    So, for your friend, I have some questions:
    1. What does he think when he hears that some cities spend most of their budget on the police department….LA is one example with over 55% of the city budget going to the police and 45% is left over for the fire department, health and human services, education, and public works, etc., to divy up. (This is of course, prior to LA deciding to move some money.)
    2. Does his PD incentivize crime? For instance, a minimum requirement for tickets being handed out monthly or like in LA, the productivity incentives to make “gang” related arrests which caused officers to falsify records? And what does he think would happen if they instead incentivized having the safest patrol areas as opposed to the one with the most crime (which is what so many arrests and tickets proclaim.)

    I’ll stop here for now becauseI know they’re pretty big questions.

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