This particular issue may be more directly caused by insufficient training & experience. There is also a component of fraternity culture that differs between the military and the police.
Those officers were obviously taught to stand their ground during a "riot". They should have been tough to protect and serve. A firefighter would have hopped that fence in a heartbeat.
The pentagon has made a concerted effort to educate the armed forces about the softer side of their jobs. In war, we no longer stand in long columns of soldiers and march towards each other in unity. Instead, conflicts are mixed in with humanitarian efforts. Soldiers are stationed in hostile environments alongside the local people. Tactics and strategies have to adjust accordingly & that means training and experience.
Meanwhile, soldiers are often motivated by a sense of service and duty. Cops are often motivated by family tradition and a superiority complex.
If one soldier gets out of line, it is customary for his brothers to put him back in line. If you fail to address that culpable soldier, you yourself are culpable.
If one officer gets out of line, it is customary for his brothers to bite their tongue and turn the other cheek. If you do address that culpable officer, you yourself are chastised by your peers.
We revere our military, but we despise our police. As a result, the police adopt an us-vs-them mentality, which causes a negative, vicious cycle. It's easier for them to hate us back, than it is for them to develop the sense of pride and duty necessary correct their mistakes.
Honestly, we'd be a lot better off if our police force was more like our military in these terms.
I had never really thought about it that way- we're shocked when we hear about human rights abuses by soldiers, but given the length of time we've been deployed in the middle east and the number of soldiers over there, the number of incidents is relatively low. We're angry about police brutality, but it's not really shocking anymore- many have come to expect it. What an awful, vicious cycle.
I used to think the problem with police "militarization" was the idea of large, dangerous instruments of war inside city limits, able to be trained on civilians. I'm now more convinced "militarization" is a misnomer- what we're doing is giving ill-trained cops the tools of our armed forces, without the military's intense training in rules of engagement, values, and corps culture.
This is a messed-up world, and cops need to come around to what soldiers abroad realized long ago: you are ambassadors of this country's government.
The cops in Japan weren't perfect- they had no shame about racial profiling, and my white friends would regularly get pulled over on their bicycles and checked for identification. But at the same time, they were generally always polite, reasonable, accountable (perfectly happy to give their name and ID number), and helpful (a police box is usually your best bet for directions and advice when lost). As a result, whatever problems I had with the laws and policies in the country, I rarely felt ill well toward the individual officers. Like a great teacher managing a classroom, a police officer should enforce reasonable policies consistently, use appropriate consequences and strategies for the situation, and once someone is no longer a problem, stop the confrontation and focus on damage control and reconciliation.
Case in point: this horrifying video coming out from Occupy Cal, which show policemen using the business end of a baton on students peacefully standing on a lawn.When the crowd is chanting "stop beating students," you're doing something wrong.
Related: a letter to cops from Maddox. He makes it clear that he's not talking about whether certain actions are justified, encouraged by training, or exclusive to the US, just the public perception those actions create.
- When ten of you show up to make one arrest, it makes you look like cowards.
On my way home from a bike ride a few weeks ago, I saw three arrests being made in under an hour in a relatively safe part of the city. At one of the incidents, eight police cruisers responded to make one arrest. The guy who was arrested was ejected for being too drunk in a bar. Just one guy, and he was drunk. He had a stupid moustache, hadn't hurt anyone and was drunkenly walking home when he was tased and tackled by 3 cops before 6 police cruisers showed up in addition to the two that were there, for a total of 8 cruisers and 10 cops. The man was unarmed.
- When you tase somebody who isn't trying to escape, it makes you look like lazy cowards.
A taser isn't a remote-control for people. Want to talk to someone? Then walk over to them and talk. Don't tase them and expect them to cooperate. Also, when someone is being tased and is writhing in cardiac arrest on the ground, they aren't "resisting arrest" by not getting on their knees and neatly kowtowing to your demands. They're incapacitated. You look like idiots barking orders at them when they can't move.
- When you set up speed traps, it makes you look like you don't have anything better to do.
I get happy every time I see a speed trap, because I assume it means all criminals have been locked up, you've caught the guys who broke into my car on three separate occasions and my stolen property will be returned shortly, right shitheads? Good job guys, take a break and make some scratch for the city. Because why the hell else would you be sitting on your ass in a ditch if that wasn't the case?
- When you give out chicken-shit tickets for rolling through stop-signs at 3 AM, or closing down lemonade stands, it makes us think you're morons.
We know that "the law is the law." We also know that you're not instruction-executing robotic morons. When you harass us with bullshit fees and fines, it makes us question your judgement.
The letter goes on- it's pretty funny, as the guy usually is, and maybe a little harsher than necessary, but he pretty much makes the same point I do. Cops: you are public figures, and even when you have to take unpopular actions, you are responsible for the manner in which you conduct yourselves.