I should have made clear in my previous post that the idea of hiring military vets as police officers does not mean an endorsement of the “militarization” of the police in terms of tactics used by and equipment supplied to our domestic police forces. It was shocking to me to see the Kenosha police roll up in an armored vehicle. Such battlefield armaments should never be deployed on American streets.
And my post should also have been understood as a push-back against the “few bad apples” defense of the police. What is needed is a wide-scale change of police culture. The way the police think of themselves, the forms their relations among themselves take, and especially the way they think of and relate to the communities they serve, needs a drastic overhaul.
Two stories that have come out in the past two days put an exclamation point on this need for a total culture change. In fact, the need for that total change is so compelling that I am inclined to think we need to tear the current police systems in our cities down to the ground and start from scratch in rebuilding them.
The first story points to the evidence that within the Los Angeles County police force there are active gangs that, as with non-police gangs, use violence as a way to create membership—and keep members from defecting. Here’s the link: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/09/l-a-county-sheriffs-department-has-a-gang-problem.html
I will confess to typical (?) liberal naiveté at this point. Just as with the Trump administration, the level of evil—and its straight-forward baldness—never fails to surprise me. By now, you would think I would have learned.
The second story is about police-union-issued “get out of jail” free cards. A bit of an exaggeration on my part. The cards just help you if you get pulled over by a cop for traffic violations or fairly similar matters. The card tells the cop to let you off because you have a relative in the police force. But—you saw this coming—somehow the cards don’t get distributed as widely to non-white cops as to white ones. The link:
Is the culture in the military any better than the toxic culture of our police departments? Maybe I am being naïve in that respect as well. But Heather Cox Richardson, in her newsletter for today, speaks to this issue. The full text quotes Tammy Duckworth at some length. Here’s the key passage from Richardson:
“Since at least 2018, Democrats, especially Democratic women, have advanced a vision of military service that departs from the Republican emphasis on heroic individualism. Instead, they emphasize teamwork, camaraderie, and community, and the recognition that that teamwork means every single soldier, not just a few visible heroes, matters.”
My own (admittedly distanced) contact with the military (through my interactions with both veterans and active service members who are students or colleagues) does give me the generally positive vision of military culture that I articulated in my last post. But maybe I am just toeing a line the Democrats have been pushing in order to enhance their patriotic bona fides, not a vision that comes anywhere close to the truth of the matter.
It is certainly weird that the Trump administration has led Democrats to think more highly of the CIA and the FBI, to the extent that both those agencies (like the military) have displayed at least some push-back against Trump—a push-back that appears motivated by a recognition of how much damage he is doing to this country. Their patriotism (country above Trump) stands in stark contrast to the whole Republican party, who have become Trump’s enablers.
Still, I don’t want to go very far down that road. The military is wildly over-funded, while the CIA is almost a completely unmitigated disaster. The National security state, in toto, is one of those features of the American political landscape that needs to be dismantled, radically re-thought, and completely re-designed. Our inability to do such work with any of our dysfunctional systems—from health care to the Electoral College, not to mention the police and prevalent discriminatory practices in housing and education—is why it is so hard to summon any optimism about the future of our society. Our politics currently renders it impossible even to discuss these needed reforms, no less actually begin to undertake them.