In John Sayles 1987 film Matewan, concerning the 1920 coal miners’ strike in West Virginia, not all cops were of the same ilk as the Baldwin-Felts private detectives. Those ‘rent a cops’ were deputized by the authorities, at the behest of the powerful mining companies, as an occupying force to control and torment the miners…Bad cops! The local police chief understood the deprivation the strikers faced. When these ‘deputies’ came out to evict a family from a company owned home, the chief forced them away at gunpoint…Good cop! Although the ‘law’ was in the hands of the landlord, sometimes ‘universal law’ trumps man’s laws. Sadly, the super rich use their wealth to find men to be ‘bought and paid for’ as thugs, under the guise of being policemen…Bad cops!
The labor strikes throughout our country for generations always saw the police acting as enforcers for the super rich. Danny Devito’s 1992 film Hoffa reveals how these things occurred, with the police representing the forces of capital against the ‘ supposed’ legally protected side of labor..Bad cops!. Again, if the average policeman took a moment to consider, he would realize that ‘To serve and protect’ does not only mean property rights but also people and workers’ rights as well. In the 2014 film 99 Homes we see how Sheriffs’ deputies get paid bonuses to carry out evictions. These are so called ‘public servants receiving bonuses from property owners for this…Bad cops! Are they ‘on duty’ when they perform this, or simply moonlighting wearing the uniform and badge? In some areas of our nation, there have been Sheriffs who refuse to carry out those evictions…Good cops!
Between 1942 and 1943, in Poland, the Germans exterminated almost two million Jews. In order to accomplish this dastardly task, they needed to use units such as the Reserve Police Battalion 101. This unit was made up of mainly middle aged, respectable (an oxymoron?) working and middle class citizens of Hamburg, rather than Nazi ideologues. Using peer pressure and the ‘German’ tradition of obedience and comradeship, many of these policemen turned into mass murderers. In the 1960s 210 members of the former battalion were interviewed in depth. Only 1/4 of them were even Nazi Party members- many simply joined the battalion to avoid active service abroad. Only a small number of them approved of what was happening ‘out east’… yet they just ‘went along to get along’ so to speak. When called upon to do the killing, 80% to 90% of these folks acquiesced without complaint… and after initial squeamishness became increasingly efficient and callous executioners…Bad cops! Contrary to what many of us have been taught about Hitler’s regime, German soldiers and police were not imprisoned or executed for refusing to carry out these actions…Good cops! After all, they were pure blooded Aryans and thus received a higher tolerance. One should imagine if instead of 10 or 20% of those who refused to be killers, the figure was more like 80 to 90%, how could the Nazi extermination machine run quite so efficiently?
All baby boomers who lived in cities will remember the ‘cop on the beat’. He was the guy the neighborhood knew and usually trusted. He chased the punks off of the corner and made sure the Mom and Pop stores were secure at night…Good Cop! Most likely he came from a neighborhood not so far from our own, similar to ours in many ways. Those days have been gone for over two generations now. In minority neighborhoods most of the cops may come from suburbs… and are most likely not of color. The mindset of both the police and of the community becomes one of an occupying force and the occupied. Facts are facts folks. I don’t have the time or the energy to get into the causes of poverty, racism and crime. What can be said is our police should understand that the majority of those who live in these communities get up each morning and go to work or go to school… just like the folks where they come from. Yes, higher use of drugs, lower levels of education and lower rates of pay are breeding grounds for crime… white, black, brown or yellow, it does not matter. No one said the cop in those areas doesn’t have it much tougher than his peers in better neighborhoods… but so does the man, woman and child who lives in those places as well. We have seen that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military is used as an occupying force, the occupiers can and do become ‘trigger happy’, killing many unarmed and innocent people. The corollary should be used in regard to our police, when behaving as an occupying force. Bad cops!
It is time for the myriad of good cops out there to speak up and speak out against their fellows in blue who shoot and kill the innocent and unarmed… Period!