Monday, June 1, 2020

A Brief Commentary on "A Few Bad Apples" and Police Brutality from Los Angeles

Today's post will be short, and sweet.  I have a lot to say, but other people who are better educated and more experienced than me have already said it, better than I have.


This weekend, riots broke out due to the (unnecessary, tragic, and unjustifiable) death of George Floyd.  I live in Los Angeles, where:
  • Curfews as early as 4 and 6 p.m. have been used to disperse peaceful, lawful protests.
  • Journalists have been fired on.
  • The National Guard is patrolling downtown.
  • Sirens, flash-bangs, and helicopters are keeping us up all night.
Along with all the protesting, there's been some rioting and looting.  I am inclined to believe that these are all separate groups.  Looting is an opportunistic crime; protesting peacefully is a Constitutional right.  And rioting falls somewhere in between.  When the police are marching through the streets in para-military gear, they're beckoning war, and they're getting it. 

Some photos from this weekend:

And my personal favorite:

Rioting should be a last resort. But then, so should murder, and this whole mess started because the police murdered someone unnecessarily.

Our country was literally founded on destruction of property. I'm not advocating for it, but I'm not weeping any tears for the busted windows of my local Starbucks, either.

 "There is something that Governments care for far more than human life, and that is the security of property, and so it is through property that we shall strike the enemy."
- also Emmeline Pankhurst

Regardless of how you feel about the protesters, your average American mostly deals with cops while getting a traffic ticket, so of course they're not going to like cops.

I have had both good and bad experiences with cops. My best experience with a cop was an instance in which a cop casually and kindly told me to be extra careful because I was in line at a bagel shop holding my motorcycle helmet. My worst experience with a cop was the time my friend, a black man, was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and had a gun pulled on him because he vaguely looked like another black man in the area who they were searching for. These experiences are obviously not the same; the "bad" cop experience tends to far outweigh the "good" cop experience.

Ultimately, cops are people, people are fallible. I know there are good cops out there. I wish there were more.  But so long as civilians are being needlessly murdered, the "there are good cops" argument drowns in the viscous weight of police brutality.  What is left is the question of how we overhaul a broken system, and how we prevent cops from murdering people, and bring to justice the ones who do.

More on this in a second.

But this post really isn't about "the good cops."  It's about the bad system that all cops are a part of, a system that attracts bad people disproportionately, and warps the minds and ethics of otherwise good people.  Let me explain:

Due to the intense stress of the job and the constant exposure to violence, a lot of cops end up emotionally very volatile. It is not a coincidence that cops have a higher-than-average likelihood of spousal abuse. I would argue that a position of authority tends to attract power-mad assholes, and also that positions of authority can corrupt normal people who would remain normal in another position. I am not justifying some of the awful things cops do, only explaining why they are more prevalent from a statistical standpoint. A job like that is bound to fuck with your head, and I doubt most cops are getting the kind of emotional and psychological support they need to handle it in a constructive manner.

So what's to be done?

Here are two ideas:

First of all, fucking body cams.  Cops need to be held accountable.

Second of all, mental health screening, licensing guidelines, and an end to court protections for police officers.

Third, serious defunding and demilitarization.

Here's a list of five demands from BLM:

What can you do right now?  Consider donating to one of many organizations dedicated to ending police brutality, or at least clicking around their page to learn just how deep this problem goes.

We need to return to the supposed mission of police: to "serve" and "protect."  Police should be peacekeepers, mediators, negotiators.  Not soldiers.

And until we overhaul the way the police act in this country, we need to retire the phrase "a few bad apples."

The full phrase is, of course, "a few bad apples ruins the whole bunch."  This is one of those literal phrases; if you have a single bad apple in a barrel, its production and release of ethylene will cause all of the apples around in to ripen and turn to mush far faster than is normal.  If it's a fungus, or a worm, or some other issues, it spreads.

As I've said, I don't believe all cops are bad.  But as I've said, I do think the system is bad.  And so long as we allow room for the "few bad apples," we can't really excuse any part of the system, including the "good" parts of it, which are complacent in the face of injustice.


Would you eat an apple if it were occupying a bucket with another apple that was covered in fungus, worms, or black rot?  Of course not.  And if you managed an orchard that kept finding bad apples, over and over and over again, wouldn't you, at some point, consider taking action to prevent bad apples in the first place?

It's time to do what we do with bad apples: throw them out, because they are trash.


  • Riot Medicine:  For those who want to attend protests as field medics. The police, I've noticed, bring plenty of guns, batons, pepper spray, and shields, but inexplicably do not bring medics. Almost as if they don't care if protesters get hurt.
  • How To Be An Ally: An extensive list by Forbes of documentaries, social media accounts, non-profits, books, essays, websites, and other resources to help educate and guide those who want to fight for racial justice and egalitarianism.
  • Campaign Zero: Some research on how to limit police interventions, improve community interactions, and ensure accountability.
  • Black Lives Matter: Self-explanatory. 
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund: A way to help out the protesters.
  • A list of local bail funds for protesters.

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