Sunday, March 22, 2015
Cops: Protect (The profits) and Serve (The rich)
Especially because I’m an anarchist, it’s easy to get the wrong idea when I talk about topics like this. So before jumping in, I want to make a few things very clear. I am not saying that if you’re a cop I hope someone finds out and murders you. I am not saying that cops are all sociopathic power mad murderers. And I am not saying cops never ever do good things. We got that all down? Good.
“To Protect And Serve” is the most common phrase we hear in reference to cops. And we just assume what is meant by that phrase. To protect and serve the people of course! And in many ways, it’s easy to see why people think of it that way. Stop or react to robberies, murders, assaults, and other such situations. But then, we see situations where we have to question the phrase.
When they prevent a trans person from using the bathroom, who are they protecting? When they kick a homeless person out of their only shelter option, who are they serving? When they arrest people for “crimes” of poverty, who are they protecting? If they are protecting and serving the people, why are people harmed so often?
Now, naturally, there are two main phrases are parroted at this point in the discussion. Some people will quickly say “You’ve never been in their shoes.” And the other phrase thrown out is “They’re just doing their jobs.” They’re the easiest phrases to guilt trip someone without actually saying anything.
That sounds a little harsh at first right? But think about what those phrases really are saying. “You’ve never been in their shoes.” They’re right! I’ve never been in the police force… so what? Do we need to have been in the same situation as someone to say what they’re doing is wrong? Many people criticizing poor people have never been poor. People criticizing the president aren’t the president. You were never in the shoes of the person stealing to feed their family. If we’re going to qualify being in someone’s situation in order to criticize them, then everyone should probably just never criticize anyone for anything ever.
What about the next one? “They’re just doing their jobs.” Well yes, you’re correct… again, so what? The drug dealer and the person making meth are just doing their jobs. “Now wait a minute” you’re saying “but what they’re doing is illegal and harms people!” But is legality a good qualifier? What cops do may be legal, but it often stills harm people. Innocent people are shot or jailed, and jail ultimately is worse for people and makes things worse (But that’s a critique for another post.) But the point being, why is doing their job a justification for anything and everything they do? Preventing trans people from using the right bathroom could be “doing their job” but that doesn’t make it ok. Obeying orders that may kill someone is simply doing their job.
Now you’re probably saying “So are you just saying cops are doing bad things?” It sure seems like I’m just saying cops suck right now doesn’t it? But I’m not saying that cops never do good things ever. If they respond and stop people from dying, good! If they escort people for emergencies, good! But that does not justify everything cops do ever. They may be doing their job, but when cops enforce unjust laws, they are just as guilty as the people that made the laws.
And ultimately, the laws are made to punish the bottom. The laws are made to favor the rich and powerful. When a cop arrests a man for stealing food from a chain store in order to feed his family, they’re not “protecting” the people, they’re protecting profits. They’re protecting private property, and worse, they’re preventing people from eating. They’re putting a man in jail away from his family, harming his psyche and ultimately making him more likely to be a criminal simply because he tried to feed his family. They are serving the rich and business owners.
When they arrest people using marijuana they’re not protecting people. They’re protecting lobbies, they’re serving industries. They’re ultimately creating even more crime, and often more violent crime than before. They’re enforcing non-sense laws in favor of what the rich and power want. They’re preventing workers from receiving the full value of their labor. They’re preventing people from access to food and shelter.
Just because cops do some good things does not cancel out the bad. Just because I have not been a cop does not mean I can’t say that something cops do is wrong. Just because they’re doing their job does not make it ok. Enforcing unjust laws is just as unjust as making them. Enforcing and even protecting a system that oppresses, enslaves, kills, is not justifiable. When these are enforced, they are not protecting and serving the people, they are protecting the profits to serve the rich and powerful.
Cops may sometimes do good, cops can be good people on a personal level, they can support good legislation. But overall, this will be the harshest sentence I will say in this post. When they protect an oppressive system and enforce unjust laws cops do not protect freedom or the people, they become enemies of them.