The Thing About Cops

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

Photo of man in striped sweater speaking into a microphone in front of a computer monitor.

By Mike Haubrich (Reprinted from with permission) 

An acquaintance unfriended me on Facebook a few weeks ago because I had hit the “Like” button for a story in which a cop had been killed by a criminal. He assumed that I had hit the “Like” button because I hate cops so much that I am happy to see that one is killed in the line of duty. So, I tried to explain that since Facebook only has a Like button to acknowledge a story without comment, this was my only choice for saying “I see this, but I have no words and no comment.” He still unfriended me, and I was actually very angry at him for assuming that I was so hateful to cops, and to anyone at all for that matter, that I would celebrate their death or murder.

So, I decided I don’t want to have him as a friend if he can believe something like that about me despite having met me in meatspace. He should know better, but there is a tendency to confirm our beliefs based on our overall worldview based on small evidences even in the face of larger, more direct and solid evidences to the contrary. He is so sensitive to the fact that, especially since the Michael Brown shooting and killing in Jefferson last summer, people who support justice and think that Darren Wilson should have been indicted and put on trial are for stronger controls on police activity and abuse of power, that he thinks that we want to see cops killed. We most emphatically do not want to see cops killed. Murder is murder, whether the person holding the gun wears a badge.

Murder is murder, whether the person pulling the trigger wears a badge. Murder is murder, whether the person with the gun lodged in or near their heart wears a badge.

I don’t think I should have to dress this out, I don’t think that I should have to explain this, but apparently I do. I don’t hate cops. I don’t hate cops as cops. I don’t hate people who choose to be cops. I prefer to see cops as the ideal.

Society needs laws in order to function and we have a means in place to create laws that govern behavior. I agree with some and disagree with others, of course; but laws are made through a messy procedure of lobby and compromise and it would be weird for all of our policymakers to create laws that work for everyone and make everyone happy. In actuality, that would frighten me because that would probably mean that the puppet masters have taken over without us being aware of them.

Police and regulatory agencies are necessary to enforce those laws because there are people who disagree with them. Cops are given authority to enforce those laws, but my problem with the situation that we have is that cops are given too much carte blanche authority to enforce laws and that carries over into an attitude that they automatically deserve deference in all situations. In all situations we are expected to say “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am,” even when the cops are being jerks. We are expected to surrender all authority and this is in the land where there is not supposed to be such deference imposed.

I do believe that they deserve the respect that all people deserve. I don’t especially dislike them for their badge. We need them, as I said, to stick us to the laws as written. The important thing, though, is for cops to remember their role in society. They need to keep in mind that if they are here to serve and to protect, then that is what they should be doing. It’s what they are paid to do, it is what they are expected to do.

But, what I see, now, is that the police are not of the same mind as I am on that. They believe that they are on the front lines of a war against disorder and because it is a war, they are justified in whatever actions they take to maintain order.

Disclaimer: Not all cops.

It’s not that there aren’t good cops, there are. It’s a problem that the bad cops are not being prosecuted for breaking the law. It’s a problem that the bad cops are not being held accountable for breaking the law. It’s a problem that the cops are getting expanded powers and military grade equipment to fight crime, without being held accountable for how they use them.

The thing about cops is that I don’t hate them. The thing about cops is that they are part of an institution of our society that carries out a function. The institution is faulty and needs to be fixed. In the meantime, those cops who do the wrong thing need to be held accountable. Don’t judge me, man.

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