Advice to the perplexed: if approached by a police officer, do not pull out a revolver and point it at him. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, pink, or purple: such behavior is not conducive to your longevity. And that, frankly, is the way things should be.
As I have noted here on several occasions, the militarization of the police in the U.S. is a minatory development that should be scrutinized and reversed. American police should not be swaggering about town in armored vehicles and accoutered like a Navy SEAL en route to bin Laden’s Pakastani retreat. In America, the default posture of the police should be like something out of Mayberry, province of sheriff Andy Taylor, protector of the peace on The Andy Griffith Show. Deep down, of course, it is not Andy but the townspeople of Mayberry who are responsible for maintaining order. “Andy,” as I wrote in one of the above linked columns,
is simply a sort of boundary marker. He represents what Walter Bagehot might have called the impressive side of the social contract. He has a sidearm. He rarely wears it. It’s usually at home, unloaded, hidden on top of a china cabinet. He barely wears a uniform. That’s to say, his uniform is homey, not scary.
Why? Because he wished people to trust and respect him and not fear him; he was an authority, not an authoritarian figure. His sidekick, the lovable but bumbling Barney Fife, likes the paraphernalia of police garb. Andy lets him wear a revolver, but it has to be unloaded. He’s allowed to carry one round of ammunition in his shirt pocket.
It might seem odd to bring up the militarization of the police just now. Not only is it Christmas Eve, a time when more pacific sentiments ought to be on our minds. But also this is a moment when the nation is torn, in a way we’ve not seen since the late 1960s and 1970s, by violent protests and skirling demonstrators screaming about “police brutality.”
The salient point, however, is that (in Michael Goodwin’s crisp summary) “the whole narrative of widespread police brutality is a big fat lie.”
But wait, isn’t that why all the folks in Ferguson and New York and California are marching and looting, chanting and burning down buildings? That’s what they say. But the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson was not an instance of police brutality. It was an instance of self-defense on the part of a police responding to an angry thug who had first made a grab for his gun and then was charging him head on. Which is why the grand jury declined to indict the police officer involved: he had done nothing wrong.