“Be careful of what you wish for, you might just get it” — W.W. Jacobs & Snoop Dog
The Monkey’s Paw was probably the first “horror” story I ever read. I still remember waking up from a nightmare thinking I heard knocking at the door. I think about this fable when I watch what’s happening with media and the public’s changing relationship with the police. Our world is changing. We’re under a 24×7 media and information barrage – all competing for ratings so they can scoop up the coin. Every single citizen has a camera with them at all times, each eager to capture something dramatic so they can live stream it to Facebook and get their 60 second interview with one of the evening TV chattering heads.
I’m a pragmatic guy. I don’t proclaim this to be good or bad. It just is what it is. It’s the current evolution of our society. What I am sure of is that the vast majority of folks haven’t grasped what the long term impact to policing in this country will be. Policing is, at it’s very nature, an unpleasant task. It means profiling people and behaviors (GASP… did he say profiling?!?!) to try and prevent folks who aren’t rule followers from continuing to break the rules. And, human nature being what it is, folks who break the rules have a tendency to not go willingly when informed their next destination isn’t a luxurious spa.
Let me ask you an honest question. Could you subdue someone of equal size and weight who fought you with everything they had? Could you do it without hurting them or yourself? I know I couldn’t. Now, how about if they were bigger than you, or high on something, or mentally unstable, or had a hidden gun or knife? This is what we pay our police to do every day. The difference today is, with the advent of cameras everywhere, we get to see how it happens. And it’s not pretty. It never has been.
We live in a TV and movie fantasy world where the good guy never gets hurt and disables the bad guy with a secret Mr. Spock hold or fancy kung-fu moves. Even better they shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand or simply wounds them in the leg. Or, they manage to talk them out of their evil plans and convince them to go back to school and become a community organizer. Yes, people really do think this is how the world works and they’re shocked when confronted with reality. The media capitalizes on this shock and pre-judges events in an effort to create the ratings feeding frenzy.
And the sad reality is that police will stop doing what they do. If you had cameras on you from the second you stepped out of your car, how careful would you be? If you knew that every movement, every word you said, the very inflection of your voice was going to be analyzed by the media, by lawyers, and by the public, would that make you pause before doing anything? If you knew that your own command staff, media, and elected officials would throw you under the bus at the first hint of political unpopularity, would you take a chance at getting involved in something?
The answer, for those of you wrapped in your safe middle class neighborhoods, is that policing as we know it has already stopped. If you live in the inner city or more impoverished areas of this country, it’s about to get worse. Do you really think the police are going to be proactive about crime? Do you honestly think an officer is going to get out of their car unless they absolutely have to? There is zero incentive and massive personal risk with every citizen encounter. Folks are marching for “change”. I suspect they may not like the trickle down consequences of that change. The Ferguson effect is very real.
Who knows, maybe it will eventually be for the better? Maybe “pretty please” and “sir, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble would you kindly turn yourself in when you have a moment” will be a more effective approach. Perhaps peace, love, granola, and a Coke ® while teaching the world to sing will be ticket that enables us to all just get along. The pessimistic side of me says that we’re not as evolved as a species as we’d like to think. Yes we have opposable thumbs and whatnot, but I don’t think the societal fabric has to tear that far before we revert back to wanting to feel safe and protected. You know, that whole sheep, wolf, and sheepdog thing.
At the end of the day what’s important is that it all makes for fantastic TV. It’s riveting to watch the talking heads lecture us and moderate panels of folks shouting at each other. I’m inspired when I go to bed at night that I’ll wake up and be a better person. And hopefully the politicians will get their act together and fund a massive moon-launch effort to invent the Star Trek stun beam. Until then, I’m going to go find a gang-banger and give him a hug. Who knows, that might just be the spark that enables him to reflect on the path his life has taken and to change for the better.
“1 – 2 – Freddy’s coming for you, 3 – 4 – Better lock your door, 5 – 6 – Grab your crucifix, 7 – 8 – Better stay up late, 9 – 10 – Never sleep again…”
Tommy Doyle: [screaming hysterically] It’s the boogeyman! The boogeyman’s outside!Laurie: Oh Tommy, stop it! You’re scaring Lindsey. There’s nobody out there, now if you don’t stop this I’m going to have to turn the TV off and send you to bed.
Tommy Doyle: Nobody believes me!
Laurie: Tommy unlock the door! Come here, now you listen to me. I want you to go down the stairs, and out the front door. I want you to go down the street to the Mackenzie’s house. I want you to tell them to call the police and tell them to send them over here. Now do you understand me? Go do as I say!
Jack Torrance: Heeere’s Johnny!