Thanksgiving with a cop
This Thanksgiving I attended a dinner hosted by a family member who is a cop in a major American city. After the meal, as we stood talking, he started to describe how hard his job was, and how people were always testing you to see how weak you were. He said that no one respects cops anymore, and that’s why he was satisfied in just not putting himself in danger for people who don’t appreciate it anyway. We started talking about the case in Chicago, and he agreed that officer Dyke did something very wrong and that it was a bad shooting.
But that’s where our agreement stopped. He said that when an officer kills someone, even when it’s not justified, he should be fired, but that’s it. No cop should ever be charged with a crime for shooting someone while on duty.
I told him the truth. That while I appreciate what he does, and don’t want any police to get hurt on the job, that doesn’t mean I think it’s fair game out there. That while he has a right to protect himself, the rest of us have the right to not have violence visited upon us, especially when we’ve done nothing wrong, like Freddie Gray. We have just as much right to go home to our families as they do.
He couldn’t accept the facts of that case as true. Sure, Freddie Gray was arrested, but he resisted arrest (he didn’t). And he was breaking the law with his knife (he wasn’t). He said that as long as a cop arrests you in good faith, it doesn’t matter if the crime you were arrested for turns out not to be actually illegal. That’s for the courts to decide. Any arrest by a cop is a legal arrest. He couldn’t accept that the Baltimore PD could have wished him harm. That they most likely simply forgot to strap him in. And that this was a “crime of the head, not the heart”, which I took to mean that it was simple negligence, and that’s not a crime, considering how bad it is for cops out there.
I told him that those cops absolutely meant to hurt him. There’s no other explanation for how a healthy young man ends up with his spine severed. How those cops kept stopping. How they never called for the paramedics.
Then things got ugly. He said that he’s got a wife and daughter, and as far as he was concerned, he has more right to make it home than any civilian. And he said that I had no idea what it was like out there. No one does who hasn’t done the job. And all these “civilian” oversight boards had no right to tell them how to do their jobs. None. That when we ask them to do this thankless task, we should accept what happens. Dead innocent civilians are the price we pay for their protection. He asked me what other government agency do we tell how to do their jobs?
That’s when I pointed out that ALL of them are subject to our review. That’s what a democracy is. We, the people, get to decide what our government does in our name. We even get to say what soldiers do in time of war.
He then said something chilling. He said that when we send soldiers to war, they ought to have carte blanche. They can do anything. Even commit massacres of children. Those kids would just grow up to hate us anyway. We, the citizens of the United States, should have no say about what our soldiers do, or what our cops do.
Earlier in the evening he announced some good news. He’s being promoted to Sergeant.