Wednesday, August 19, 2020


The idea that police officers are deserving of deference from the general public is the subject of some debate, but not completely beyond the pale. Personally, I think that it discounts to heavily the idea that police officers are people too (and completely ignores the fact that officers don't require any formal legal education), but I understand the appeal.

Where I take exception is when people seek to elevate officers into a special class of people for whom the law doesn't apply, even in situations where such exceptions are not required for the job. A conservative group posted the following photograph on LinkedIn.

One of the supportive responses to the posting went as follows: "The individuals on the right deserve More respect. I hope they don't hit the person on the left with a club."

Now, I will admit to never having been a police officer. But it seems unreasonable to think that something as simple as flipping someone the bird should ever be a call for violence. And in our society, it is unreasonable. No matter how bad a day one has had, no matter how difficult the people one has to deal with, responding to a rude gesture with an assault will, as a legal matter, land one in jail. And we all have this expectation. The ability of some people in society to respond to disrespect physical violence is regarded as a particularly egregious form of privilege.

The implication that we should "hope" that people who signed up to enforce the law on others would agree to follow it themselves, even in the face of provocation casts police officers as being unacceptably thin-skinned. After all, a person with a record for beating people in response to rude words or gestures would likely be considered ineligible for a police academy as an active liability. If the training that governments give to police officers isn't enough to allow them to deal with the stressors of the job, that's a problem in and of itself, and one that needs to be dealt with. But the idea that the solution is a universally compliant and deferential public seems off.

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