Let’s Talk About Police Privilege 2

With all the talk about privilege these days, as well as the various cultural issues tied to policing, I find it strange I haven’t heard anything mentioned about police privilege. Police indeed possess many privileges not afforded to the average civilian. It’s nearly impossible for them to be brought to trial, and if so, convicted for any crime they may commit on the job. This is for a plethora of reasons. First of all they possess special protections when questioned about misconduct, such as a 24 hour moratorium before questioning and the right to only be questioned by one investigator, according to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. That’s separate from your Bill of Rights. Not to mention, their investigator is a fellow cop.

Also their unions have a codependent relationship with district attorney offices. The DA’s need the cops to keep busting people for drug crimes so as to provide money to various government entities and so they’re hesitant to press for action when a cop, say, kills a guy. Departments are also by design incredibly opaque. In California for example all police departments’ internal reviews and records are kept sealed, permanently, no matter what, leading to an engineered lack of information when searching for accountability. In no other job would this be considered legal or really even a good idea.

This is why cops behave as though they have impunity, because they for all intents and purposes do. Anecdotally, have you ever heard of a cop getting a DUI? They don’t, because other cops let them go when they see it’s another cop. This is the same mentality which leads entire departments to systematically avoid acknowledging widespread criminal behavior. If it’s apparent they behave as though they are entitled, it’s because they do, and they are. These are people whose union chief makes public threats to Quentin Tarantino’s personal safety. That’s the type of thing that happens when a group is never rebuffed on the notion that authority means do whatever you want. And, they do.

This is problematic for a few reasons. Nobody knows exactly how many crimes police commit, since they are mostly in charge of self reporting them and also have the benefit of their colleagues, who know they could be on the other end of a report, taking the reports. Conversely, nobody knows how much crime cops actually prevent. CompStat has been proven time and time again to be a sham aimed at justifying their own continued pillaging of neighborhoods, justifying arrests and their own jobs by selectively over and under reporting various crimes.

Anecdotally, when some NYPD officers murdered Eric Garner, a lot of people protested. The police got mad that people were protesting and refused to do their jobs for a few days, which was drastically underreported yet this description is completely accurate. Crime didn’t change. Revenue did.

As I’ve always said, think about the last ten times you’ve interacted with a cop. Were they helping you out with something or were they extracting revenue from you? More than likely you were being pulled over for frivolous reasons and weren’t glad they were there. The numbers bear this out. Their job isn’t to protect you. If it was, you’d be able to tell them to go away when they pulled you over if you weren’t endangering anyone. People are afraid of the cops. Law abiding citizens get nervous when a cop pulls them over. Are they on your side or not? Put another way, if not yours, upstanding citizen, whose side are they on?

Recently in New York, a guy named James Ryan was cited for DUI on the Long Island Expressway. While Ryan was handcuffed on the side of the road, another car plowed into and killed the arresting officer, Joseph Olivieri. Ryan is now being charged with vehicular homicide. Again, Ryan didn’t run into the officer, but the district attorney is using the premise of causation/foreseeability, meaning by drinking and driving, Ryan set in motion the series of events which led to the officer’s death. This is obviously completely nonsensical, and by its very logic we’ve probably all killed a cop by leaving the house in the morning. Maybe that’s the point, an additional intimidation factor. In this Phillip K Dick novel, ordering extra mayonnaise on your sandwich could make you culpable of a felony on down the web of time. Obviously, a DA would never justify using such a ludicrously tangential prosecutorial tactic in a case involving the general public.

So why the double standard? Conventional wisdom has something to do with a Thin Blue Line, that we must afford special protections to those who keep our society safe, or risk total anarchy. That Line, it is said, is the only thing separating order from chaos.

But I don’t believe that. Maybe in the old West, not here and now. Again, it’s impossible to know the breadth of illegal acts that cops are perpetrating or preventing on a regular basis, but I’m inclined to say that, as a group, they’re dangerous. They also seek out idiots who won’t question their role, and discriminate against people who are of high intelligence by refusing to hire them. What does that say about the job of a cop or the person doing it?

I know there are good cops out there simplemindedly enforcing systematic monetary oppression. I also think that, as a group, if you read the news, cops would have to be firmly considered among the worst in America, and I don’t understand why they deserve to be treated as if the opposite were the case.

So, I think we should stop granting them special privileges which contribute to their frequently reckless behavior and sense of entitlement. At this point they have proven they don’t deserve to be treated better than the average citizen. If their job is to protect us, how is it possible they’re better than us? That’s not how it works. It’s not a difficult job to get by the way.

If someone wants your respect, they should earn it. The mind blowing abundance, on a day to day basis, of the collective Cops’ blatant disregard for all things decent should lead you to question a default respect for them.

I don’t even think they should get free meals or discount dry cleaning, but that’s up you if you run a business. I don’t think that their position entitles them to politeness or ass kissing on the part of society. I would advise faking it to avoid arrest or citation or death if they’re harassing you, but I don’t believe they deserve it. I don’t believe their continued show of force, such as their riot gear and military vehicles and lynchings and public threats and silencing of protestors and journalists and frivolous traffic stops and property seizures and stupid ass horses entitles them to respect. You can’t intimidate people into respecting you.

They definitely shouldn’t be allowed the privileges which foster the continued their abuse of power. So, if you want to talk about privilege, let’s break it down to the root of the problem. Thanks.



Matt Ralston is a comedian and writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewRalston

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Police Privilege

  1. Reply Garrett Jan 23,2016 1:05 am

    Well put, as usual.

    I also wonder how many cops are prosecuted for contempt of court when they’re caught in blatant lies they’ve told on the stand. Probably 1 in a 1,000, if that, and they probably lie as often as they tell the truth.

    • Reply Matt Ralston Jan 23,2016 9:44 pm

      Ever notice how the cool guy in every cop movie is the one who doesn’t follow the rules?

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