What’s a Cop’s Job?

Police murder of Philando Castile, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, July 6, 2016 Diamond Reynolds
Police murder of Philando Castile, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, July 6, 2016
Diamond Reynolds

Obviously, the current national epidemic of police violence against people of color in America has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, culminating in the counterproductive killing of five police officers in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest event.

While the July 7 Dallas massacre was clearly a tragedy for all concerned, it must be said here without rhetorical compromise: consider what provoked it. Countless unprovoked and wanton incidents nationwide in recent years involving police officers abruptly appointing themselves judge, jury, and executioner during random encounters with people of color guilty of no crime worse than minor traffic infractions, sidewalk vending, and holding toy guns have likely left many profoundly appalled American citizens lately wondering: What’s a cop’s job?

All too often in recent years, police officers nationwide have increasingly behaved as if their fundamental job was not to protect the citizenry from harm, but rather to protect themselves from the citizenry. Wanton killings such as those of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and countless others have been rationalized with ludicrous variations on the apparent cop-defense mantra “I feared for my life.”

Consider now Seattle circa 2016, where and when the city police department — notably so infamous for its recent history of systemic misconduct that it now stands in the shadow of a federal consent decree mandating fundamental reforms — wants to build a brand-new $160 million state-of-the-art urban fortress to replace its current North Precinct headquarters. The satirically inclined must now presume that SPD collectively fears the apocryphally approaching day when the North Precinct must defend itself against an invading army of elderly black men armed with deadly high-tech golf clubs. Obviously, the local civic absurdity is rapidly achieving meltdown.

So what’s a cop’s job? Protecting the citizenry from harm — or protecting themselves from the citizenry? And when and where does the militarization stop?

Attention all bad cops everywhere: If the mere sight of a young black male causes you to automatically shit your pants and/or escalate your present situation into an unnecessary confrontation, you should not be a police officer. Quit your job now and leave the important work of protecting the citizenry to people capable of remaining cool, calm, and collected in potentially volatile situations.

Attention Seattle Mayor Ed Murray: What Seattle needs $160 million for right now is better public schools, better public transit, and more publicly-managed affordable housing within the city limits — not a new high-tech Romper Room for our local post-adolescent goon squad. Stop spending our public money on stupid stuff and start making our cops behave like public servants who actually serve the citizenry rather than waging war on us. Remember: November 2017’s waiting.

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