Being from one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in MN led me to develop a mentality that was as destructive as my environment.
It's Not Personal
Society has caused us to confuse occupation with character. The way capitalism is structured, many of us are conditioned to believe that our occupation is an element of our identity. The ubiquity and frequency with which this concept arises in our everyday thought process are enough to automatically ingrain it within our psyche.
Often times, when we meet new people, our occupation is one of the first—if not the very first—pieces of information we share about ourselves. It's not out of the ordinary to offer what our vocation may be as an inroad for others to gain more insight about who we are as a person. But while it is possible for our jobs to indeed be indicative of certain characteristics that make up our identity, the occupation itself stands alone independently of who we are as a person.
We would be who are regardless of what work we did to make money. It is just as possible to have a scientific, analytical mind and be a janitor as it is to have a scientific, analytical mind and be a doctor. It is just as possible to be caring and empathetic while waiting tables as it is to be caring and empathetic while being a nurse. Thus, the assertion that there is no such thing as a good cop is not a personal indictment. It isn't an inherent onslaught against the personal identity or character of anyone. It is a summary analysis of the occupation itself.
Just because there's no such thing as a good cop doesn't mean there aren't good people who then become cops. However, if someone in a badge does a good thing, that's them being a good person—not being a good cop. You don't need a badge to do good deeds. You do need a badge to enforce white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that police are not legally obligated to "serve and protect." Their only job function is to enforce the law. It must also be understood that this ruling only served to reaffirm what was already practiced by law enforcement and did not change anything in police job operation or description.
Being a good person in the past or off the job does not exempt or excuse the choice to enforce oppression.
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The Real Purpose of Police
The police exist to ensure that people comply and conduct their lives within the confines of what the law says is acceptable, and that's the only purpose they have ever served. But remember, chattel slavery was the law. Apartheid was the law. The holocaust was the law. The Cambodian killing fields were the law. The Armenian genocide was the law.
Conversely, helping slaves escape was against the law. Hiding Jews was a criminal offense. Black people were arrested for using the same restrooms and water fountains as white people. The law is not a basis for justice, democracy, or morality. It is a basis for power. And it is enforced solely to protect those who have it from those who don't.
With all that said, it should also be taken into account that becoming a cop is a choice. Ergo, due to the nature and purpose of the occupation, it is a choice that undermines any benevolence current or past. Being a good person in the past or off the job does not exempt or excuse the choice to enforce oppression.
The Moral Failure of "Just Doing Your Job"
During the reign of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany, a man by the name Adolf Eichmann was tasked with, among other things, making sure that the trains running to and from the Auschwitz concentration camp ran on their scheduled time. Essentially, what this means is that it was Eichmann's job to ensure that thousands of innocent Jewish people were in a state-determined place at a state determined time to meet an eventual state-determined death.
In the 1960s, a psychologist named Hanna Arendt did a case study on Adolf Eichmann. Later, Dr. Arednt wrote a book on her case study which she entitled "The Banality of Evil." Dr. Arednt gave this title to her book because in her case study, what she found out was that by every other account, Adolf Eichmann was just a regular, average guy. He was married, he had children, his children went to school, he owned a house, he paid bills, and he had a career. It just so happened that his career was a mechanism within a system that was designed to keep Jewish people oppressed and favor white people of Germanic descent.
In fact, Dr. Arednt discovered that Adolf Eichmann didn't even harbor any particular disdain for Jewish people. Adolf Eichmann—like most of us—was just "doing his job." Every single cop, corrections officer, parole officer, prosecutor, politician, prison warden, or agent of the American political system needs to understand that they will go down in the history books right next to every rank-and-file Nazi.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Caleb Murphey