The Myth of “Good Cops”
If you keep up with news about police brutality, you know that many people still support the American police state, despite seeing so much abuse.
Most of us have seen the empty soundbites and wide-eyed sloganeering used to “justify” such support:
“But my boyfriend’s a cop and he’s a good guy!”
“The shooting of the [dog/unarmed citizen/student/elderly person] was OK because the officer feared for his life.”
“They’re here to keep us safe. Without police we’d all kill each other.”
“If you don’t like them you must have something to hide!”
These strike us as prima facie irrational, ignorant, and can be easily dismissed.
It’s a subtler and more popular soundbite that we’ll be addressing here: “Most cops are good! It’s only a few bad apples that make the rest look bad.”
First, a cursory look at some objective statistics reminds us of the sober truth.
Consider the fact that cops have killed well over 5,000 Americans since 9/11.
To put that in perspective, Iraqi insurgents have killed around 3,500 Americans in Iraq since 9/11 in Operation Iraqi “Freedom.” That’s to say, Americans killed by cops now outnumber Americans killed in the Iraq war.
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You are eight times more likely to be killed by a cop than by an actual “terrorist.”
If officer-involved killings were prosecuted as murder, the murder rate for law enforcement officers would exceed the general population murder rate by at least 472%.
And here is something crucial to keep in mind: these statistics account only for the reported incidents. The vast majority of police misconduct and abuse is unreported.
Police often lie in their reports, or never file them in the first place, to avoid prosecution. Thus the numbers reported above are extremely conservative estimates.
The number of Americans in prison now exceeds the number of high school teachers and engineers.
There are at least 7.3 million Americans locked in captivity or under federal control as you read this, the majority of whom are non-violent.
By non-violent we mean, for example, that these people were caught smoking cannabis, a plant that the government claims is “illegal,” even though its ingestion has resulted in exactly zero deaths.
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One in 25 of your fellow Americans were arrested as of 2011. Let that sink in for a moment.
The US has only 5% of the world’s population, yet 25% of the world’s prison population.
Addressing the “But Most Cops…” Slogan
Still: “The the majority of police,” we are assured, “are good.”
What precisely does this claim amount to, in light of the high rates of abuse described above?
All of that abuse continues while “good cops” follow along, do what they’re told, and cover up for the “bad cops.”
Let’s face it: the distinction between “Good Cop” and “Bad Cop” has always been simple-minded.
Good Cop and Bad Cop are mythological inventions, heroes and villains in a comic book view of the world.
The reality of the situation is that the institution itself — the institution of a police force monopolized by a government — is inherently lawless. Good does not exist within these walls.
No cop is 100% good or 100% bad; cops are simply individuals.
As a class of individuals who receive government paychecks regardless of their behavior, they have little responsibility and even less incentive to report misconduct in their own ranks.
No matter what they do, no matter how many they abuse, and no matter how silent they are about the abuse, the institution itself puts them in a privileged position where they are rarely held accountable to the same degree that citizens are.
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They urge us to vote for new candidates or write to representatives if we don’t like their behavior, blind to the fact that neither of these inactions ever curtailed police statism.
They tell us to protest peacefully, only to show up with tear gas and herd us like cattle into designated free speech zones.
Good Cop and Bad Cop are about as real as Beowulf and Grendel.
Cops are simply individuals who willingly participate in a wicked institution — for a paycheck. Some of those individuals commit unspeakable horrors, others cover it up with a code of silence.
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Even if the Good Cop were to start reporting and arresting the Bad Cop — which never happens and never will happen due to the incentive structure described above — but even if it did, one must still consider what our friendly Good Cop does on a daily basis.
How many fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters has Good Cop locked in a cage for this “crime”?
How many times has Good Cop stolen money from the pockets of hard working men and women over frivolous, victimless traffic violations?
“But he’s got to feed his family,” we hear. Yet how much food has he stolen from the table of other families? Most of us manage to feed our families by honorable means — that is, without resorting to the initiation of violence and theft on our fellow citizens. There are perhaps infinitely many honorable ways to feed one’s family. Nobody is forcing these individuals to choose a dishonorable way.
Even for men with a sincere, burning desire to keep others safe, nothing is stopping them from starting their own security firm. They’d earn money by honorable means, instead of sucking it from taxpayers who are forced to pay for their “services,” and they’d never have to enforce arbitrary and immoral laws to generate revenue for a corrupt government.
Following along, doing whatever his superiors tell him to do, keeping his mouth shut when he sees his colleagues beating citizens, softly wrecking lives with theft, coercion, and imprisonment for victimless “crimes”– that is the legacy of Good Cop.
Friends, don’t listen to anybody who tells you it’s “just a few bad apples.”
The whole barrel is rotten.