Thursday, September 11, 2014

Good cop, bad cop

So this cop I knew became political, and it was sad to see. This was the good kind of guy who would get out of his cruiser more often, walk around the people, find someone possessing personal-use amounts, give them a little badgering, confiscate it, and tell them to knock it off, and then go on his way. He'd sometimes take heat from command for being light on people, but he generally got through it all right. He was brave and old school in the sense that, if he had to deal with someone scary, he'd throw them down and grapple rather than immediately using the taser or the gun; he never once shot someone, and only rarely drew. And he was so, you'd call it, "down to Earth," and you could talk with him about his job, and it was really something. He actually wanted to improve the community, a process which he'd describe in broken English, "You know, those kids, they're gonna, gonna be themselves, you can't just, y'know, wreck up their lives over some unimportant shit," and other hackneyed stuff. In this amazingly tender way, he could go on for an hour about small things, helping people get around the law. He lacked the verbal refinement to say precisely, but communicated essentially: "I'm able to use the discretion of my position to protect people from administrative exploitation. I am empowered to ignore the law, or to apply it selectively, when it conflicts with my own sense of justice for my community and my people." It was this almost hillbilly, gee-golly-shucks sweetness that sounds stupid if you haven't experienced it helping you.

And then, criminology classes. As the years pass, he's gotta get "educated" to pass various tests for promotion. There are a few minor local elections, and he develops himself, thinking that the more authority he gets, the better for everyone. But the process caught hold of him. It caught him, like engineering school hitting a 20 year old. And even he fell. Years go by, and now he's in a high, communally-known position--call it "chief"--and he's getting mentioned in the paper a couple times a month, and he's popular, and he goes to fundraisers with the local funders. And it's so fucking he's got the Mitt Romney haircut, ridiculously farcical gel job, and his old smile, his real smile, is completely gone. He looks like the principal of the local charter elementary school, or the mayor, wearing the same navy suits with challenging ties. When you look into those eyes, the humanity is gone, replaced by this sanitized version.

And the stuff he says now... All the honesty and decency is gone, and he's a vigorous enforcer of all the laws, or at least, a vigorous proponent of his officers enforcing all the laws. His speech is become the presentable, professional version of what we all do on Facebook whenever an airliner crashes. "Our hearts go out..." "Deepest condolences to those affected by this unimaginable..." When he's talking policy, all the old stuff has long vanished. " unite with this community in the condemnation of those who have decided to..." It's such a big difference in grammar that I wonder if he actually cracked open those old manuals of style that he'd never been able to figure out before, or if they just have templates at precinct headquarters that can be slightly adjusted with each new press release.

For some people, when they make that change--when they hit the C level, become department head, whatever--you know they're just saying things to sound important, and to make it work. What they really wanted was the promotion and the money, so they bullshit because they knew what they were getting into. But if that level of verbal intelligence wasn't there before, as in my cop buddy, you wonder...did they become smarter as they became more systematically evil and more polished? Did they become more polished instead of becoming smarter? Do they even know what they're talking about anymore?

What is it about bland speech that attracts people so? The ability to spout banalities at any time in response to any issue is certainly a valuable one in this culture, and for plenty of people, that's all they have inside, so they gravitate and revere as they must. Cliche is safe; it sells easy copies and tickets to people who are afraid of thinking. But how did it get this cop? I know, I know. But it was so depressing seeing that one bite the dust, completely repolarizing into a heartless component with a great smile and lots of civic respect.

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