Friday, November 23, 2007

What cha' gonna do when they come for you?

Charles at the mike.

Lots of interesting discussions lately on Canadian and US policing techniques and the comments are falling pretty much along party lines, with the Canadian authors noting that, not counting current issues with the RCMP, the police in Canada are less prone to violence, more eager to seek a peaceful solution, and less concerned with solving a crime than with respecting the rights of everyone involved. In short, the Canadian police are more, well, Canadian. By inference then, police in the US are more like us, as in US.

Sure.

How can the police of a certain country – any country – not be like the people of that country? (And no jokes here about the US in Iraq, let’s stick to domestic police first.) If the police force is made up of officers from that country, they have to be like the people of that country, with the same values and approaches you’d expect to find from people in that country. But there’s one big difference – they are police.

I don’t care where you are from or what values your country holds dear, the police are police, and by the nature of their job they are bound to offend many people. Let’s take two fictitious countries – Brutallia and Freedonia. In Brutallia, violence is a way of life – you have a disagreement, ya slap ‘em upside the head till they see it your way. Because folk are more violent in Brutallia, the police have to take it up a notch when they are breaking up a fight or quelling an unrest – if they don’t they won’t be noticed. As Sean Connery’s characters says in The Untouchables, “He pulls a knife you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital you send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way.”

Meanwhile, in Fredonia, the citizens would always choose to talk things out, hardly raising their voices to make their point and the thought of using violence as a way to solve things or acquire goods illegally is almost unthinkable. Here, the police would sit and have a chat as they tried to get to the bottom of the social evil that precipitated the ‘crime’. Very Fredonian.

But you can bet that in Freedoina there will be many folks who ‘just don’t like the tone’ the police use, just like in Brutallia where the citizens are a tad upset because the cops used tire irons breaking up the Special Olympians’ victory celebration. “Rubber bullets, sure…but tire irons?”

No matter where you live, the cops probably cross the line some time or other. It should piss you off. Because it shows you something you don’t want to think about.

What was it that Pogo said? We have met the enemy and they are us.

Something like that.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Charles, you make a lot of sense (as usual).

We have given police a lot of power. They can legally take a life and that's an awesome power to wield. Like any other profession, there are good cops and there are bad cops. There are also good cops who make bad choices. This may well prove to be one of those cases.

Anyway, you're right. Police are like everyone else: they reflect the society that they live in. How can we expect it to be any other way?

Where the Vancouver incident fits in to the Canadian psyche is that we don't see ourselves that way. I haven't lived in the States since the early 1970s, so I wonder: would this footage taken in, say, San Diego or Chicago been as shocking to Americans as it was to us? Let me tell you, even after several weeks, it's still THE topic north of the 49th.