Re: Why I Don't Trust Police and Neither Should You
This entry is an elaboration and criticism of my previous 2021 entry titled “Why I Don’t Trust Police and Neither Should You”.
Before I start, I want to remind everyone that trust is a very broad term and it’s admittedly reductionist to say that an entire group can or can’t be trusted, so consider in what sense and in which contexts I’m saying police can’t be trusted as you read through each point.
I’ll organize this entry by the stuff I still agree with and the stuff I would revise:
Stuff I Still Agree With
Lack of Accountability
- Police defend each others’ bad behavior, almost without exception. The ones who don’t end up getting fired or worse.
- 72% of police agree poorly performing officers are not held accountable for their actions.
- Police union contracts arbitrarily restrict investigating officer misconduct.
Everybody should acknowledge that policing is a necessary and difficult job. It’s not reasonable to expect police never to make bad calls. They’re only human. However, that can’t explain away or excuse all police misconduct. There has to be accountability for bad police behavior, but police officers rarely face repercussions even when they commit grave errors or break the law themselves. So I still align with my criticisms about the lack of police accountability as a reason not to trust police.
“The Ends Justify The Means” Thinking
- Police lying on the witness stand is so rampant it has a name: “testilying”
- Police can and will lie to you, especially if you’re ignorant of the law. But if you lie to them, you’ll be arrested.
- Police officers launder evidence through illegal government surveillance to fight the failed war on drugs.
- Local police departments use powerful surveillance technology to invade your privacy without a warrant.
- Police departments partner with scAmazon’s corporate mass surveillance network to circumvent your 4th amendment rights.
Some police carry this attitude that they can do no wrong because all they do is in the service of a greater good. If they lie as a witness, they’re just doing what’s necessary to put away the bad guy. If they trick and manipulate suspects, they’re just trying to keep everybody safe. If they launder evidence or circumvent 4th amendment protections via mass surveillance, they’re just doing what’s necessary to find the dangerous criminals.
This ignores that how criminals are apprehended matters though. If you break the law to enforce the law, you’re not law enforcement. You’re a vigilante. If you’re continuously lying on the witness stand, misleading suspects about their legal rights, and abusing the surveillance state to circumvent 4th amendment protections, at some point the damage you’re doing to public trust in the police causes more harm than the good of catching the bad guy.
Police apologists say “But tricking suspects to forfeit their rights is part of the job. It’s legal!” and fair enough. Legally tricking suspects doesn’t make you a vigilante, but you’re still harming public trust in the police. These counterproductive police practices are common and widespread enough to count as valid criticism and certainly a reason not to trust the police.
- Police training is severely inadequate. They receive less hours of training than barbers.
One thing specifically that I would like to see improve is police getting more hand-to-hand combat training, making them less likely to resort to the taser, baton, or gun every time.
Police apologists will say “But it’s not their fault that they don’t get enough training. It’s bad policy and lack of funding.” I agree with that and it’s relevant if you’re working on police reform, but it’s totally irrelevant to this entry’s primary focus of whether police can be trusted. If police officers don’t receive enough hand-to-hand combat training, they can’t be trusted to effectively handle physical conflict. It’s that simple. So the lack of training remains a reason not to trust the police, regardless of the reason for that lack of training.
The War on Drugs
- Police have spent 40 years blowing trillions of dollars ruining people’s lives over drugs and causing the prison population to explode. All the while drug use rates have remained constant.
- Police infringe upon citizens’ freedom to explore their own consciousness through psychedelics.
- Police have been lying to children about drugs since the early 80’s. The D.A.R.E. program even encourages children to snitch on their parents.
- Police steal more from the innocent than do thieves.
Law enforcement apologists counter with “Police don’t make the laws. They have to enforce the laws or else they get fired.”
So again, why police enforce harmful laws isn’t relevant here. If a cop arrests me for possessing a substance to peacefully experiment with my own consciousness, I don’t trust that person. I don’t trust people who do massive harm to me to benefit themselves.
I understand that, under a late-stage capitalist country with a non-existent social safety net like the United States, it’s difficult to find a reasonably ethical job and it’s not like you can just “opt out” of working. But that doesn’t mean all jobs are equally harmful though. I’ll quote from a relevant scene in the movie “The Big Short”:
“If you can afford to make less, make less.”
All drug enforcement agents should be looking for a different line of work, but many seem convinced they’re doing God’s work. Others find a way to rationalize what they’re doing even though they know the widely-understood fact that the War on Drugs is a total failure. Either way, it’s not something that promotes trust or confidence in police.
The Fake War on Police
- Instead of listening to protesters calling for police reform, police instead promote the myth that there’s a “war on police”.
There are communities which, due to negative past experiences with the police, will hate them no matter what and never trust police again. Then there are progressives like me who believe in policing, think that not having police is unworkable, but are unsatisfied with how policing is carried out and want major reform.
I agree with police that the general public doesn’t understand the challenges of policing very well, but to say that there’s a “war on police” because of certain traumatized communities or because progressives want meaningful reform seems like a bit of a stretch. To build public trust, the police should work together with the citizenry in pushing for reform rather than pushing the narrative that there’s a “war” against them. People don’t want to get rid of the police. They just want police they can trust who have their interests in mind.
Attitudes About People
I see no reason to doubt this poll. It can be explained by police’ repeated exposure to the darker side of humanity.
Callous people are less likely to give the benefit of the doubt, to forgive, to have patience with others, etc. These are generally traits that we value in others, so regardless of the reason police are more callous, it makes them more difficult to trust.
Promoting Undemocratic Interests
Another problem with trust in police is that they target people whose interests are misaligned with those of the oligarchy, under the auspices of “national security”. Powerful rich folks are held to a completely different standard than the poor and, thanks to money in politics, the rich write the laws. Because the law is not applied fairly to everyone and the rich write the laws to benefit themselves, people justifiably lose respect, confidence, and trust in those who enforce said laws: the police.
Stuff I Would Revise
Now that I’ve covered everything I still agree with, let’s talk about the points I feel need correction:
The way I wrote this makes it seem like police planting evidence is a regular thing, and while there are confirmed cases of it happening, nobody really knows how common it is. The handful of confirmed cases each year don’t justify a mistrust of police, so I would retract this statement.
Again with this statement, the wording makes it seem like police are mistaking everyday objects for guns left and right. I don’t think that’s the case, so I would retract this statement.
- Two 1990’s studies showed police commit domestic violence at significantly higher rates than the national average. The stats may have changed since, but it’s still cause for concern.
This is another point I would retract simply because these studies took place too long ago and may no longer be relevant.
Finally, the fact that police were racist historically doesn’t by itself prove that there’s systemic racism in modern policing nor is it a reason not to trust the police today. I’m not saying that policing doesn’t currently suffer from systemic racism, just that I should have clearly stated that point if I was going to make it rather than implying it using historical events. So I would retract this as well.
I’ll probably make another journal entry at some point about my thoughts on racist policing. If you liked this entry, stay tuned for that one.