Nothing Changes: Police Hissy Fits

Police Dissent 1968 - The New York Times

This little scan from The New York Times comes via Digby who got it from NYT Archives. The image includes the text, “In large part, the current dispute is the result of the resentment the police feel toward City Hall for what they say is ‘abuse’ they have suffered at the hands of demonstrators and others allegedly encouraged by political leaders. A breakdown of authority is also cited by policemen.” In the text above what I’ve included here is something about not enforcing some laws. It all is very tired, as we have watched the New York City police officers stage their continued hissy fits about how they don’t get no respect.

But as you can probably tell, this is not a report about the current situation. This is a report from 1968. Then as now, it probably has more to do with union contracts than anything else. But, of course, the police can’t come out and say that. They have to claim that somehow they are being oppressed. They just know that they are completely good and no one should ever have cause to complain about them. And their jobs are so dangerous. (Even though they aren’t.) It’s the kind of thinking that comes from members of insular groups. And that’s why all the police grousing isn’t just familiar because we’ve heard it from the police time and time again. We hear it all the time from all kinds of different people.

My favorite example comes from cultural Christians who get ever so upset when a department story decides to say “Happy holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” How dare they include other celebrations in the month of December when everyone knows that Christmas is the only one that matters! Notice what’s going on here. A majority group feels oppressed — not because they are oppressed but simply because minority groups are not oppressed. This is “not being singled out as better than others” as oppression.

There is also the general Fox News conservative lament that conservatives are oppressed. They’ve gotten nothing but one political victory after another for four decades, yet according to them they are oppressed. Is it that their “side” in any debate is ignored or belittled? No. It is that their beliefs are not reported as fact. When Fox News says that it is “fair and balanced,” that is what it means. In the conservative mind, “fair and balanced” means that conservative ideas are taken as The Truth™ and not just the opinion of a minority of the country.

And so it is with the police. I think the worst thing that ever happened to policing in the United States was the invention of the automobile. It separated the police from the people even more than they always were. And they always were. And that is a problem. We see the same thing with, say, the maintenance crew in a large apartment complex. There is a natural sense of “us versus them.” But with police, we have the problem that “us” have the right to kill “them.” And given that police are ultimately public servants, they can’t afford to have that attitude.

In the military, not showing respect for and deference to civilian authority is a firing offense. The police should be the same way. If they want to show up to a funeral out of uniform and snub the mayor, that should be their right. But when they are in uniform, they should have no such right. It makes the police force look like a law unto itself. But I’m sure that this idea has never occurred to the police in their current hissy fit. And that’s because everyone they know thinks the same way. And that’s because everyone they know is also a police officer.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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