“When will cops stop acting disorderly?”

Pretty gutsy stuff from Buzz Bisinger in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

A black thing? A racial-profiling thing? A racist thing?

Those are the motivations most often proffered in the saga of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. vs. the Cambridge police. What other possible explanations are there for a white officer stopping a 58-year-old black man with a cane, in the heinous act of trying to open the door of his own house? But it wasn’t a black thing. Or a racial-profiling thing. Or a racist thing.

It was a cop thing.

It was a thing motivated by the very nature of many police officers – more thin-skinned than a supermodel, filled with self-pity and feelings of persecution over a perceived lack of appreciation, poised to disturb the peace rather than try at all costs to keep it because of their innate aggressiveness and thirst for action, disdainful of the public regardless of race and color and creed.

They are cops. And if you have dealt with a cop in your lifetime, you know their propensity, the nervousness you feel in even approaching one for a traffic direction and the look given in return, as if you have just interrupted the study of the Talmud. You know that the interaction has too many times been unpleasant, unless you are some law and order right-wing radio show snake-oil salesman crafting your beliefs to the reactionary masses who would like to change the name of the tooth fairy to the tooth don’t-ask-don’t-tell.

And he goes on from there. Definitely worth reading.

I’m hoping regular commenter Carl P. will chip in when he gets back from his latest travels; as a former law enforcement type, he has some strong feelings on this issue.

We really need to know when “he disrespected me” became a crime subject to arrest.

PS: For what it’s worth,  I was incredibly impressed by Sgt. James Crowley in his news conference following the silly Beer Summit; smart, articulate and clearly a man with a future in politics if he wants it.  It’s almost shocking that he would have gotten caught up in this imbroglio.


11 Replies to ““When will cops stop acting disorderly?”

  1. Buzz Bisinger, ahh, used to like the man until the deadspin freakout incident (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8DAeic8Yus) – now I mostly write him off as a cranky old man. However, can’t say I disagree with him so much here.

    Gotta love the *awesome* philly.com comments though. Truly the highlight of my morning each day, and a reminder to me of why this city is the way it is.

  2. I am traveling, today flying home. Just saw this. I have been in internet HELL, formerly known as My Home Town. I will read and comment on this, likely a very LONG comment as I have a lot to say already about this kind of thing, probably far closer to the commenter quoted than you might think. Bear with me a day or two and I will send you a comment that you may post here or elsewhere.

    PS: Most cops are assholes. Period.

  3. This topic is a very delicate topic and sensitive one at that. I belive that in order for people to fully understand things that first they must become neutral and unbiased. Other wise these topics will become about ethnic groups and skin variation. These are things that we should avoid. I belive that if we do not do these things then we are just going back to the time before Mr. Martin Luther King jr. and that means that all the work that Mr. Martin Luther King jr. did will be for nothing.

  4. I believe the questions raised by this case, while certainly involved with race to some degree, are much broader. They have to do with the basic constitutional rights of American citizens which are more and more under siege by authoritarian attitudes and blind acceptance by the citizenry.

  5. I hear you about the behavior of some (not all) cops. I had one bang on my driver’s window and when I rolled it down, he demanded to know why I had not tried to make a left turn on a red light into traffic. He was behind me; turns out he was late for a donut run or something. Jerk.

    I’m not a middle-aged black guy with a cane, either. I’m a white woman, middle-aged, and usually erroneously presumed to be a harmless target.

    The cop found out I was not. From his commander.

  6. While I have–fortunately–never had a bad experience with a cop, I’ve heard enough stories to know that all it takes is being in the wrong place, with a cop in the wrong mood, to suddenly find yourself on the wrong end of a pair of handcuffs.

    It is certainly true that too many cops have an inflated idea of their own power, thinking it is somehow illegal to argue with them. Programs like Law & Order–which I generally enjoy–don’t help matters when their cop protagonists regularly threaten uncooperative people with disorderly conduct and obstruction charges. It makes real cops think that’s the way to get cooperation.

  7. In re: Pat’s comment: “It makes real cops think that’s the way to get cooperation.”

    It IS! That’s why it is done. It WORKS! Most of the time, threatening (not always directly) or intimating jail, arrest, detention, etc. is way plenty to get people (civilians) to do what you want, when you want, how you want. That’s the mindset of a great many law enforcement people. If you don’t think that’s true, you are either blind or crazy. Not personally, mind you, but controlling whoever is around you is job # 1 when you are in law enforcement. # 2 is controlling all those who may not be around you at that time, but might be later.

  8. My scariest encounter with cops was when some fundamentalist neighbors fingered me for a serial rapist in the city in which I resided. I was stopped going to work one evening (I worked the graveyard shift at a local hotel) and questioned in the patrol car. Because I admitted to knowing where the small town was that the rapist had been operating in and my car was a bluish-green two door Ford (the rapist presumably had a Mustang, I had a Galaxie, a much bigger car) I was the guy. The two cops played “good cop, bad cop” on me (I didn’t fall for it) and one asked loaded questions of the “when did you stop beating your wife” type until I finally told him I wasn’t answering any more questions. I was eventually released, but I realized very quickly that I could easily have been fingered by a nervous rape victim who was goaded into picking me out in a lineup and been in prison for the rest of my life (I wouldn’t have lasted a week…). Even the lead detective who finally was convinced to let me go to work was an a$$hole who took his sweet time telling me I hadn’t been picked out of the photo lineup the next night. I’ve met very few cops who weren’t like this. Most are jerks, but thankfully there ARE a few who truly understand that being given a gun and a tin badge doesn’t make you God.

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