Defending Our Police Officers
When the fire alarm was pulled by a cohort of rowdy student demonstrators prior to my wife’s anti-feminist talk at the University of Toronto in March 2013, she was hustled for her protection into a nearby patrol car. I appreciated the sympathetic police officer who stood guard beside me at the car door. When I muttered that I would destroy anyone who laid a finger on Janice, he replied: “I’m with you, bro.”
I recall, too, an event at St. Paul University in Ottawa where a masked rabble, calling itself the Revolutionary Student Movement -- Marxists in the making -- disrupted a talk by journalist and author Cathy Young. When I suggested to the police officers present that the paddy wagon should be called in and the protestors arrested, the officers were plainly uncomfortable, one of whom confessed that they had no authority to do so. A good man, he shrugged his shoulders and gave me a rueful look. I later met one of this honorable cadre of officers at a conservative conference, who told me he often felt ashamed of his superiors and resented some of the orders he was compelled to follow.
Of course, there were, and are, bad apples among ordinary cops, but I have always respected the orchard. Indeed, some of my best students were to be found in the Police Tech classes I regularly taught. Their interests were not strictly academic or distinctively intellectual, but they were diligent, reliable and unfailingly courteous -- in this regard, they formed an ideal body of students and citizens who took their responsibilities seriously. Regrettably, one cannot say the same for the general run of their compromised and politically correct superiors, who will often order their subordinates to “stand down” during protests, street demonstrations and riots.
Clearly, it is in the leadership where the general rot sets in, that is, where career and perquisites tend to take precedence over duty and conscience. We have seen many instances of reprehensible conduct on the part of higher authority, of which the most outrageous in Canada was the Caledonia scandal in which the police, under orders from former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, allowed “First Nations” vandals to rampage for years over a land dispute -- giving them “space to destroy,” as in the Baltimore riots. Authorities like LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck or Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy preventing police from carrying out their prescribed duties in enforcing immigration orders, or Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announcing he will defy Trump’s cut in Planned Parenthood funding also spring immediately to mind. The roster of civic and political disreputables doesn’t end there.
While it is heartening to see President Trump offer his respect and support for the nation’s police officers who carry out their lawful mandate, even when it goes against the individual’s grain, it is equally distressing to note the lawless disobedience of many in the top echelons who refuse to accept his presidential orders. In the law enforcement community, this is the point at which the police unions, where they exist, should step in to enable their members to perform both their lawful and morally legitimate duties, whether by wielding the strike option or work-to-rule policy. Canadian policemen are on the whole better off than their American colleagues, but they too are frequently countermanded by the police bureaucracy and forced to act against their moral judgement or are cruelly harassed on the flimsiest of grounds. In such instances officers may have recourse to the courts, though such an expedient may be hazardous to their employment prospects and service record.
But not always. In a case that lasted for 12 years, a certain Sgt. Peter Merrifield of the fabled Mounties has just won a major decision against his superintendent, who persecuted him mercilessly for running for a Conservative Party nomination. The RCMP, reports the National Post, “has been dogged for years by accusations of a toxic internal culture rife with bullying and harassment.” One can readily detect how senior officials, generally of a left-liberal stamp, are influenced by political considerations, to the detriment of their subalterns. Merrifield is now advocating for RCMP unionization.
Obviously, in the present ideological milieu, it’s not good for one’s reputation or bank balance to praise or come to the defense of rank-and-file policemen, as I can attest from personal experience. For example, an article I wrote, inter alia defending policemen and ordinary citizens who found themselves under attack by thugs like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin, appeared in one of Canada’s literary journals. It was very quickly scrubbed and de-archived. The editor wrote a blogpology in which I was, in effect, branded as a systemic racist, and my métier as a published author in this country soon crashed and burned.
Policemen Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, as well as neighborhood-watch civilian George Zimmerman, whom I had in mind in the offending article, were all eventually vindicated, but progressivist sympathy is almost instinctively extended, often on racial grounds, to criminal perpetrators. As Heather Mac Donald writes in City Journal, “On the left, it is only acceptable to speak about the loss of a black life if a police officer is responsible. But police shootings, overwhelmingly triggered by violently resisting suspects, cause a minute fraction of black homicide deaths.” To imply as I did that Wilson, Pantaleo and Zimmerman had reason and justice on their side leads, in our left-oriented, “social justice” climate of identity politics, to social and professional ostracism -- my case is by no means unique -- and far worse to on-and-off duty policemen. According to reports, 64 police officers were shot and ambushed in the U.S. in 2016 in a veritable war on cops.
Ordinary policemen, who daily put their lives on the line to ensure public security, are getting a raw deal. Often handcuffed by their politically appointed superiors and the object of much public odium and media calumny, they run the double threat of violence and misprision. “Our officers, deputies and troopers believe the political leadership of this country abandoned them,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the National Association of Attorneys General Annual Winter Meeting; “Their morale has suffered.”
I think back to my Police Tech students and wonder about the life they have chosen for themselves. Canada is a more temperate country than the U.S., but they run real risks and receive little in the way of gratitude or respect for a service most of us are not willing to perform.
“I’m with you, bro,” as the officer standing beside me said, protecting my wife from possible assault. It’s time we returned the favor.