In Praise of Police

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This writer believes in Law and Order, which does not necessarily mean what the reader hopes it does, but it should be close enough. The words are capitalized for a reason – to exclude those elements added arbitrarily under dictatorships, and the laws, rules, or ordinances of “democratic” governments of whatever lever, which most resemble those governments which suppressed the traditional order.

This is being written, in part because it is offensive to read, on the pages of a “Christian”, a perceived permanent attack on the institution of the police. Without a doubt, any police officer of a larger force is aware of the Internal Affairs Department, which investigates possible cases of misconduct, and takes required action when it is discovered. How a disgraced officer is treated by his former companions, has not yet come to my intention, but if there are still friends on the force, I am sure the friendship would have to be discreet. The important thing of the preceding is to say, yes, the case of a bad policeman could come to light, especially in larger police forces. Precisely because of the size of such forces, one might suspect that the percentage of cases of “bad cops” is not high at all. Further, since the size of a city force much exceeds that of smaller towns and rural areas, any statistics on misconduct remain miniscule to the size of police forces as a whole.

Our self-proclaimed Christian might be able to provide a service by mapping verifiable, rigidly-honest cases of abuse – just so that no one would travel down the wrong road, or choose to live in the wrong community unwittingly. Unfortunately, the cases documented cast too wide a net. Let us consider the case of someone who is in the cross-hairs for possession of marijuana.

My own moral standards say that intentional doing something to harm my body, as well as yours, is wrong. Whatever effect marijuana has, is admired for the sake of that effect, and to end up saying that marijuana is less dangerous than a cigarette, when the former has been cultivated for increased potency, while the latter apparently has been “domesticated”, is dishonest, and potentially incriminates the innocent by odor, ashes, or original leavings. Perhaps it is not the province of governments to outlaw such a substance, but as long as one government in the world remains which does so, as long as one might like to travel to the region with that government, the more permissive governments of elsewhere have likely, if not intentionally, set a trap for the traveller. The British government once had (perhaps still does) a machine in its airports that was overly sensitive to perceived illicit substances. This writer does not feel like being questioned about why there is residue on his coat, if he does’t know how it got there, especially if some user brushed against him, whether perhaps to steal something, or because we were in a crowded place.

Several years ago, the present writer addressed the question of the amount of violence a police officer might use in a part on an essay I wrote, Moral or Ethical Systems fo the Correct Formation of Conscience, that part might take some finding, the title of the relevant part can be found as “Example Three : Personal Protection Against Aggression”.

What is shown in that article, in a nutshell, is that a variety of ways exist to consider a situation, all of which are legitimate, except for two extremes: for the purpose of the present work, restated and simplified, as: refusal to use violence when called for is wrong, and deciding that violence is always called for is equally wrong. A lot of armchair quarterbacks call fumbles where there aren’t, for lack of logic.

At least a few years ago, there were books to study for an examination called GMAT, which tested skills in math, reading, and logic skills. In the section on logic, it was emphasized that readings with the words “all” or “no” as part of a premiss are, most likely, traps for the candidate. The anti-police forces clearly think in these absolute terms which show the cob-webs of his mind: that all (e.g,, police) are bad, no one is good.

Here are some experiences, none of which can be considered noteworthy, (with the exception of the eighth), but where the best were, might be surprising:

Canada. Rural.
Friendly rural police officer offers a ride to a person walking home. Worship in same church. In spite of school teaching that hitch-hiking is bad, the officer asks why the individual wasn’t hitch-hiking.

Canada. City.
Police officer sees person walking along a freeway, and thinks the individual is hitch-hiking. In addition, it seems that walking along this highway is prohibited. After checking identification, policeman gives walker a ride to the next exit, without any problems ensuing.

Canada. City.
Police office sees bicycle going through red light at one in the morning. The cyclist is stopped, spoken to about the incident, and the situation was let go at that.

Canada. City.
Police officer enters private driveway of a company and sees a worker, potentially identified as a thief. Employer is inside the building. Officer questions the employee, does not check with his boss.

Canada. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Station.

As a prerequisite for entering a certain Latin American country, a police certificate was required from the federal authorities.  The police station was passed every day on a bus, but was in no way marked, had no marked cars parked in front.  It was on top of a restaurant of the city mentioned previously.  It is not remembered whether a fee was required.  After a five-minute wait, the required certificate of no criminal record was handed over.  “How did you do that so fast?”  “We’re connected by computer to the office in Ottawa [the federal capital].”

U.S. Customs (ca. 1970) Ambassador Bridge.
Returning to Canada in a car driven by a classmate of European descent, it is discovered that the documentation permitting the driver to be in Canada had expired. After a short period of delay, the driver and his companions were allowed on their way.

U.S. Customs (ca. 1980) Airport (Canada)
Visa check. Very friendly.

A Latin-American Dictatorship, two different cities, chronological order.

(1) Asking a policeman for directions: “You ask a policeman for that!” Same city: on a Sunday morning, waiting to cross the street, because of a red light, the officer of a police car, (the vehicle having the right-of-way) stopped and waved me across. Considering the bad press dictatorships have, I suspected a trap.  It was not! It was a friendly wave across a street otherwise devoid of traffic.
(2) Reporting a stolen item, which had been put into someone’s care, with an excess of trust: “You forgot to ask that he return it”.  In retrospect, a good lawyer might have got me to hem and haw such an answer.
(3) Presentation for a residence card: “We can get you in touch with some of your co-nationals”.
(4) Invitation to eat at an officer’s club: No identification of any kind was asked, in fact, no one even asked by what authority the diner was there.
(5) First day of democracy, requiring avoiding the avenue on which the presidential retinue was parading, but which was normally crossed to get home from work. A bad quality sidewalk was avoided for the better-paved road. “Get on the sidewalk!”
(6) Young beggar on main street approaches suited person. A policeman stopped the beggar. (This kind of incidence occurred twice.)
(7) Sunday morning. Policeman stops a person on way to church. “I know you”, a standard line. “From where,” the friendly rejoinder. To his reply, “Yes, I used to work in that area. Well, I have to go now,” was said to the police officer. The departure was amicable.
(8) An evening, for a quick “picnic” of meat-loaf on bread. As I was finished, an officer approached with a colleague, “Put that knife down”. “I’m cleaning it.” (This might sound disrespectful, but is partly the result of the way the foreigner speaks the local lingo.) Then, the bag with the empty meat-loaf can was shown to the officer. At no time was violence threatened, for what could allegedly be a mortal encounter in some places. A long conversation followed, which was prefaced by the inspector’s remark to his colleague about  strange identification (Canadian documentation). The conversation included the policeman talking about some of his personal, private experiences.
(9) Using an area of the city which used to be free, the author was putting together a chair, in order not to bother the neighbors. On 3 different occasions, police chatted with with him (1 policewoman, who left the author for a shirtless, muscular blond). Construction of the chair was very slow! Once, one of the officers was ostensibly watching the traffic, but could issue no tickets, as he was without his book. He was limited to making comments to pedestrians crossing the road, which would probably be condemned in the first world, “Watch out, old man!” “Be careful, honey!”

I would like to close with the “advice” offered me by someone who had apparently protested against the military regime at one time, and might have suffered some police attention. To the question, what to do in case one has a problem, he had no better answer than, “Go to the police!” Advice from someone on the political left!

Paul Karl Moeller,

December 9, 2015.

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