Ladies, gentlemen, and others, Gordon and I have come together today to discuss, you guessed it, The Police. You could argue that there are other greater bands from the late 70s, but you would be wrong.
GORDON: I’d like to start off right now with a story about a recent experience I had with the police, if I may-
EVAN: By all means. What was Sting like in person?
GORDON: I wouldn’t know- I only heard ’em screaming at my next door neighbor through the door.
See, readers, I live in what nobody would describe as “good neighborhood”. It’s certainly not as bad as some places, but it’s definitely not a place that anyone wants to be.
In fact, the police shaking down my neighbor for one of his “Known Associates” stated just that. To quote one of ’em “I f-cking hate this [apartment] complex.”
Needless to say, it didn’t exactly inspire confidence within me that if I ever needed help, the boys-in-blue would have my back…
EVAN: Gordon, I have known you for going on six years now and it has never been a mystery that you consider the constabulary with a pretty healthy mix of distrust and disdain.
I thought it would be good to work through why that is, and if our readers should in turn alter the way they view the police force by reading through your justifications.
GORDON: Well, that story kinda leads right into it.
I’ve read more than one account from police officers (current and retired alike) citing that the simple truth of the matter is that certain areas require more than one cop respond to a situation. For example, a notorious high-crime tenement building would mandate that cops go in always with some form of back-up.
EVAN: Like in Dredd.
My own complex would probably be a good example of this. I’ve lived here for about a year and a half, and while the police are constantly showing up, I’ve never seen them in groups less than three.
And again, you can ask a cop and you’ll probably get the response “Look- I’m only human. I don’t want to get killed and I’m going to avoid it wherever possible.”
Of course, that all just kinda leads to a vicious cycle, doesn’t it? Areas affected by crime are going to be ignored until they get so out of control the police go in less as police than as an occupying army. Again, the constant stream of police helicopters flying low overhead with spotlights would serve as a personal example.
EVAN: Are the groups of police officers ineffective? I understand what you’re saying about the groups of three or more feeling like armies, but I guess I’m more concerned with whether or not they’re actually getting anything done.
GORDON: That’s also something up for debate. I mean, the majority of arrests in this country are not made for violent or sexual crimes, but for nonviolent drug offenses. We’ve had a so-called “war on drugs” since the Nixon administration, but the problem only seems to be getting worse.
Again, it kinda seems to boil down to punishment for poverty. Steal bread to eat- you’re going to jail. Too broke to get your registration renewed? Jail. Try to pay off your chemotherapy bills by establishing a meth empire using your extensive knowledge of chemistry and the street smarts of a burn-out former student?
EVAN: Remember when we promised not once, but twice to do an E> on marijuana and weed culture? Well, allow me to do less than the bare minimum and ask what happens once legalization spans from sea to shining sea-
GORDON: I can only speculate on that. What we’ve seen though, from countries which have decriminalized/legalized drugs (Portugal, Uruguay) is a radical drop in crime rates. Heck, Cracked just had an article talking about a nation which has actually started giving away heroine, and seen related crimes (theft, burglary, etc.) drop as a result of people being able to get it free. I’m not sure of how much of a solution that is, but it’s something to consider.
EVAN: Now your distaste for the fuzz was present well before you moved to the Nevada version of Peach Trees, and I know it has to do with cops not only failing to do their job, but committing actual crimes towards those they’re supposed to be protecting.
I think it’s fair to say that at least some people join the force with the intention of following the job description. Do you think it’s a matter of “absolute power corrupts absolutely” or is there more to it than that?
GORDON: That is also a huge element of it. Maybe it’s just that degree of power, maybe it’s nature of the job itself, maybe it’s the use of the police as first and foremost a safeguard for those who can afford it- I can’t say.
What I do know is that there’s not an seemingly endless stream of stories every day about firemen beating the **** out of people for no apparent wrongdoing.
As we mentioned in a previous article, that Californian town that had the police video-monitor themselves whenever they were out on the job saw a decrease in use of force by 60% percent. Again, that means 60% of the force used prior to this was unnecessary. If that’s not a frightening abuse of power, I don’t know what is.
What’s your take on the heat?
EVAN: For the most part, I’ve never really had any problems with them personally. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me is that one time my dad drove through a yellow light, and was stopped by two officers. I was sleeping in the back seat and one rapped on the window and woke me up.
At the very least that left me with the knowledge that some police can be dicks.
On a more serious note living in South East Asia [that last story took place in Toronto] has been evidence that someone’s gotta watch the watchmen. There were weekly stories in Filipino stories about both women and girls having been raped by cops, and in both that country and Thailand bribes are extremely commonplace.
That latter part, the corruption, is something I’m not sure how to amend. We’re not on Gotham City levels where they’re 100% crooked from district to district, but it’s not great either.
GORDON: I don’t want to give the impression that I have an issue with public security. Yeah I think we could stand massive reductions in our police forces and yeah I think the whole situation kinda inevitably leads to ’em being used as a cudgel more than anything else (something I’m guessing plenty of cops aren’t fans of either)- but the fact remains that we’re going to need some sort of established system of dealing with drunken brawlers or domestic violence.
I guess I’d really like to see some sort of true public accountability. Cops elected from the areas they patrol, y’know? People who understand the people they’re serving.
EVAN: Now that is fascinating. While I suppose there’s always the danger of Chief of Police or whatever position it is being more political than it already is [that adjective being used in the most negative way possible] it feels like it would work.
The people in a neighborhood should be able to put a face on those who are protecting them, and that sort of mutual acknowledgement, of each side knowing the other, will create accountability I think.
I don’t even think we need to move forward into our closing segment of “how would we do things,” because I’m on board with what you just suggested.
GORDON: Well citizens, there you have it. The solution to the issue of policing in our neighborhoods and communities.
EVAN: *A solution-
GORDON: Well, that and superheroes- which I know Evan would be crazy about and myself more cautiously so. Which, in fact, gives me an idea for our next discussion.
EVAN: But we definitely already covered vigilantes that one time. I remember it vividly.
GORDON: I refer rather to that up in the air. Not a bird, not a plane- it’s…
Wait a second- it IS a bird.
EVAN: Is that an albatross?
GORDON: Anyways, we’ll be talking about Superman.
EVAN: And other superpowered crime-fighters [listen up, okay, Bruce Wayne’s power is his money so deal with it], hopefully with as a way of furthering our discussion on both power and responsibility.
And that concludes our time for today. Thank you for tuning in, and I would not hold it against you if you did day after day [you can take a break on Sundays, because we do].