Even Police Don’t Seem To Get It
I came across a link to this book and asked Pete Eye to do short write-up for Cop Block. I asked Pete was not only because he’s a good friend of mine but because he went to school to be a cop (though he realized his moral objections to the job long before taking the oath).
Below are Pete’s thoughts on the preview of the book. I totally agree with his statements about the war on drugs and policing efforts in general. All I would add is that while reading the brief (link below) I found it hard to see what side Mr. Moskos is on. Not that you have to pick a side and it was probably his intentions to be neutral. I just couldn’t imagine being a police officer and NOT being able to see the faults of the system.
Cops are intended to catch criminals. Yes, this means AFTER they commit a crime because there is no such thing as being able to prevent a crime. You driving without a license is not a crime because crimes need victims. The state can not be a victim because it’s not an actual person. Are you following me? So as I see it the majority of police and their time is spent generating revenue for the ‘state.’ You know the same ‘person’ that charges you with all sort of victimless crimes.
Therefore I find it hard to respect Mr. Moskos for what seems to be a book of half truth. In one statement he’ll voice his (along with stating that most officers feel the same) displeasure with the war on drugs, calling it a revolving door. But in the next he’ll say that even though he wasn’t a ‘real’ officer to his colleagues he would of did whatever for them. Even if that included dying, shooting someone or covering up acts of wrong doings while on the job. He called that loyalty adding that even if he didn’t like the guy, you helped your friends (cops) first. He justified this by stating the dangers of the job, noting that he doesn’t feel the same way about his colleagues at the college where he currently works.
The point is clear to me, Cops don’t care about doing what is right. If they are told to arrest people with red bands and six pointed stars on their arms, well that’s exactly what they will do. From what I got out of this short read is simple, even though cops know the system is messed up they only have three rules. One is to get home alive, second is to watch your fellow cops back and the third is to help any cop who might be in trouble. What can you expect from a system that has a monopoly on force?
ARLINGTON, VA – Recently my good bud Adam passed along the link to Cop In the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District, a book by Peter Moskos about his experiences when employed as a cop in a rough area of Baltimore (which areas of Baltimore aren’t rough, right?). Well, to be more accurate, it was a link to a preview of the book – the first chapter (“The Departed”) and first page of the second chapter (“Back to School: The Police Academy”).
The authors’ rationale for entering the profession of law enforcement? It wasn’t because he came from a long line of police officers (none of his family or friends were cops) or because he was a physical junkie looking for action (he was a Yale grad who ran the required 1.5mile in the police academy “for the first time in my life”) but because Moskos wanted to better understand the institution of policing as a researcher (citing John Van Maanen who did the same thing three decades ago in Seattle).
Moksos detailed his interview method while on the job and his use of pseudonyms throughout book to protect the identity of his former colleagues, noting that though some were initially cautious or uneasy around him, “By doing my job, being personable, and drinking after work, I was accepted for who I was: a police officer using the department as a stepping-stone to something better.”
And, though Moskos wrote that the “Blue Brotherhood is not a monolithic entity as much as a tent” the reality, at least when a cop is accused of violating someone’s rights, is that police almost without exception circle their wagons and unquestioningly act as a unified front protecting fellow officers – even those known to be guilty of corruption, heavy-handidness or worse – from being held accountable with a wall of silence or testilying. Moksos continues to exhault the “racial and economic diversity” of policing, though he does note that when one enlists they’re “blue” which only underscores the “us” (police) vs. “them” (non-police) groupthink of the profession (dangerous if you consider that cops are essentially bureaucrats with guns).
And though Moskos wasn’t assigned to the narcotics division (after completing the 6month academy training he spent 14mo as a patrol officer) the impact of drug prohibition clearly permeated his work:
On the street, new police officers learn quickly because they have to. And what do they learn? That they’re to patrol in their cars, respond to 911 and 311 calls for service, take reports, and make arrests by sending drug users and sellers through the justice system’s revolving door. Police officers learn that they’re on the streets to serve the needs of the larger war—and to make it look as if the battles are being won. Over time, the connections between the war on drugs and the demands placed on police officers became crystal clear. Police attack drug corners as if they were brush fires, stomping out one only to see it flare up again as soon as they move on to the next.
Moskos readily admits that “when drug laws criminalize so many, the police and public inevitably coexist in barely disguised mutual antipathy” and that “Uniformed police patrol does little but temporarily disrupt public drug dealing.” Additionally (and unfortunately) though Moskos stated:
Like any other public employee with bad working conditions, obnoxious customers, and excellent job security, police get pissed off and can be assholes. . . In the day-to-day routine, the inner working of a big-city police department resembles a bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare more than the latest installment of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
While Moskos’ attempt to look at policing from that as a researcher may have been more even-handed than that of the traditional cop, even he, an Ivy League-educated researcher, doesn’t question the status quo and extend his statements to their logical conclusion: the introduction of market forces to the provision of law enforcement and the end of drug prohibition, showing that we who believe in the non-aggression principle still have a tough, but important, job ahead of us.
For more on this, check out Bruce Benson’s The Enterprise of Law.