Monday, November 12, 2007

Officer, it's Black and White- You Serve Us

cops serve the peopleIn elementary school I learned that Officer Friendly served the community. I was impressed that squad cars carried the motto “To Serve and Protect.” That made the fine point that police were authority empowered by and serving the people. When I grew older I noticed that the motto had been inverted to “To Protect and Serve.” I don't think this was an accident.

Keegan Hamilton reported last Saturday on RFT Blogs that a man was tasered at a concert at Washington University in St. Louis, MO after resisting arrest and taking his clothes off. He refused a Concert Security request to leave. Security called the cops, who asked him to put his shirt back on. Instead, he took off his pants; that's not even sort of the same thing. Police tried to handcuff him. He resisted. “He was tased in the ass for a prolonged period of time,” one female witness stated. “It was terrible.”

Concertgoers headed for the exits and a large crowd gathered just outside the door. Several people yelled at the police officers standing near the exits, “Don’t taze me bro,” and “You serve us.”

RFT blogs promises details and the police report when it becomes available. That's worth waiting for. By initial reports this fool was out of control. The case could be made that he was dangerous. Whether he deserved a 50KV kick in the ass, whether the taser was the right tool, and whether it was used excessively (as is becoming common) remains to be seen. What caught my eye was the crowd response, “You Serve Us.”

Do they still? Do they enforce the laws enacted by a government that answers to the people, or do they believe that they ARE the law? Read a few cop blogs and you'll be surprised. At best, we're referred to as “civilians”. This is an improper distinction. Police, in a very legal sense, are civilians themselves, not a militia. The wordplay is their means of creating a satisfying Us vs. Them division. So is the wordplay on the side of the squad car. Service first must have rankled. Some cop, somewhere, was irked by the notion of service.

Cops need to hear that concert chant from time to time. You Serve Us. It reminds me of another chant that, whether you agreed with it or not, had an effect; “The Whole World is Watching.” Dash cams, security cams, and cell phone and video cams are everywhere in the hands of citizens. YouTube and other sites are full of video examples of police who have forgotten their mandate. From Myanmar to Minneapolis, the whole world is watching. You Serve Us.