Pretty much at the end of my ‘we can open their minds through debate’ tether so here’s my final statement on this (specific) topic.
Blaming police brutality on a lack of respect is like asking a schoolkid what they were wearing when their teacher raped them.
Disrespect is not an excuse for assault.
But for those still not getting it, let’s get very precise.
This is why I won’t hear your lectures on respecting police.
- Dealing with upset people is police duty #1.
They need to be able to deescalate intense situations without taking the public’s emotions personally. They can assume with some certainty that almost everyone they engage with is having a ‘bad day’.
Any time a cop ‘feels disrespected’, they are taking the job personally.
- Police are weapons of the state, armed and trained in physical combat. They are a physical threat, which can act in direct opposition to point 1.
Upset people get more upset when they feel threatened.
A police officer talking to this person cannot take a knee jerk response of fear personally, cannot read this fear as disrespect.
But they do.
- Police are automatically the most powerful people in the situation. People who have been victims of violence, abuse or intimation can react very strongly to power imbalances.
A person who is already distressed, feels threatened AND suddenly powerless, may lash out verbally or physically in response to historical trauma.
A police officer talking to this person needs to recognise this response as being an excessive emotional response to the situation at hand. They need to see that fear and powerlessness is driving the person, that this ‘disrespect’ is a nuanced reflection of past damage.
But they don’t.
- The consequences of having a bad day are never the same for cops as for the rest of us.
A person meeting cops on a bad day – threatened by them as ‘weapons’ and responding to older versions of threat and harm – are very likely to end up getting another taste of police threat and power.
‘Disrespecting police’ on a bad day doesn’t end with paid leave and an internal investigation (like it does for cops).
If we are mentally ill, we might get shot.
If we are Aboriginal, we might get killed.
If we are sex workers, the cops might disclose this publicly.
And if we report DV, the cops might leak our new address to our perpetrator.
So next time someone puts this argument up in your face, remind them.
We don’t talk to cops on good days. They are scary and powerful and can tear our lives apart.
Anyone who can be trusted with a gun and the power to arrest needs to be able to see the panic behind the disrespect.
I am 100% in the defund camp but if we ‘have to have’ police, can we at least have ones that understand these basic concepts?