Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cops must act like robots, except when we decide they should act like humans

The saga of Christopher Dorner brings to mind an interesting blindspot in America's execution of justice; the widespread acceptance that cop-killers stand less of a chance of being brought in alive than other kinds of murderers. The notion that cop-killers are more apt to be taken out by other cops rather than put on trial like everyone else is so ingrained in us that it's a cliche in every police drama.

In substance, this is Society's position: A cop was killed, so in this case the clinical detachment we expect cops to have in every other situation can be set aside so that cops can avenge one of their own. The same society that makes a big deal about fair trials, due process, and Miranda rights shrugs off vigilantism when it is performed on cop-killers by cops. The same society that calls for deep, institution-wide reform when cops give in to adrenaline by beating a suspect after a high speed chase gives cops a pass to kill someone who has killed one of their own. Yep, that same society that is always insisting that revenge isn't justice...

If a cop is fired upon and he returns fire until he no longer hears shots? Well, he runs the risk of having a figurative bull's-eye put on him by the ACLU. He might even have a song written about him by Bruce Springsteen, and it won't be a love ballad. While he is being fired upon, he is expected to respond like Spock. But should one of those bullets hit his partner, it is an unwritten rule that he can do his best Dirty Harry impression.

It seems Society has made the bargain that cops' lives are more sacrosanct than ours. Otherwise, why be so squishy on civil liberties when it comes to cops killing cop-killers? Suddenly we get ultra pragmatic: Cop-killers aren't likely to survive because of who is assigned to capture cop-killers; i.e., other cops. DUH!

Reminds me of how amplified the reaction always is to the killing of a journalist. Some despotic regimes get lots of attention from the press. But you know when those regimes REALLY get attention? When a journalist turns up dead in a despotic country. All of a sudden the press decides that that regime has REALLY taken a turn for the worse. All that insane savagery that came before; the mass homicide, the property theft? Sure it was bad, but at least they weren't killing journalists. It isn't hard to see why this is: journalists' deaths are covered by other journalists.


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