Bryant McGillBryant McGill WritingsPostsSociety

The Police: Crucibles of Society and Enforcement

Revolt and revolution both wind up at the same crossroads: the police, or folly.
Albert Camus

Police officers can become human crucibles of molten negative energy and stress; they can be vessels of toxic tension. They sit at the intersection of monumentally enormous pressures and stresses from all levels of life. Like an upside-down pyramid, from the heights of national and state legislation under corporate rule, the top-down weight pierces all of its pressure directly upon the police position. As some would say they are, “where the rubber hits the pavement”; they are the gun, weapon, hand of force, control, and the violence behind enforcing regulations and maintaining the current power-structure’s definition of public order.

When you are dealing with a police officer, you are not solely dealing with an individual. Just as the police are trained to compartmentalize and separate you as a human, from the administrative handling of your legal “person” according to regulation, you too must consider what the officer represents legally and what “office” they uphold. A police officer is an agent of the system, and their occupation is a program of rules, which has been written to achieve a specific type of control. There is a hierarchy of control in place, and you, as an office holder of the title “citizen” in that structure, have knowingly or unknowingly agreed to subjugate yourself to this hierarchy of control.

The police occupy a rare and important role in society, and we, as individuals, must be wise enough to see the complete picture of the human, and the office behind the uniform. There are many interests that must be accounted for: the interests of the citizen, the officer, the human in the role of the officer, the community, the government and the society. This understanding requires us to look at the police with suspicion, sympathy, compassion, and caution — but ultimately through the lens of human commonality and love.

We have all heard of the “Big Brother” police state; a so-called emerging totalitarian control grid that is seemingly becoming more restrictive with endless rules and regulations. Many people rightfully perceive the ever-encroaching government exercise of repressive controls, which are at times definite violations of constitutionally-guaranteed rights. As much as we are incensed when we see police brutality and abuse of power, and must absolutely fight against gross injustice when it occurs, we must also realize that the police need excessive and special compassion, at all levels, from evolved beings.

Police work is a job that produces constant tension and inner conflict. A police officer is trained to approach all interactions with the public with extreme caution. On duty, every interaction must be handled according to defined procedures and with the commanding demeanor and presence of authority. But the public expects a certain level of respect, personability, and even sensitivity from its so-called civil servants. For the officer, maintaining a proper balance of comportment between affable personability and the required demeanor of authority can create a number of complicated problems with potential negative consequences. To the hardened criminal, kindness can be interpreted as a weakness to be exploited. But for innocent citizens inexperienced with the police, being treated too authoritatively can be offensive, frustrating, and even a source of real stress and anxiety. Knowing how to navigate this nearly unwinnable interaction puzzle can become a constant source of stress for the officer. One of the ways officers frequently cope with this type of stress is by inevitably leaning more on detachment and strict procedure following. While detachment and following procedure may be the easiest way possible for the officer to walk the line of personal safety, it can nonetheless be extremely alienating for the public. Even worse is that procedure following cannot solve many of the real world problems with which police are confronted. In these cases, the officer must use personal judgment. But deviating from standard policy and procedure can create real liabilities for the city, the police department, and the officers themselves. This never-ending circle of social dilemmas keeps many police officers in a constant state of discomfort and stress. It is tragic, but many police officers have been greatly desensitized to the suffering of others by their job, and of course through their own choices and priorities. Many police officers struggle with depression and feel their job is creating a literal battle within; that is, a battle for their soul and their own humanity.

We must try to remember that when a police officer seems insensitive, this is sometimes partly due to the highly-stressful situations in which they are placed by their job. The threat of danger is a constant reality for them. This is one of the reasons they can seem tense and mistrusting towards the public. Because the police serve a public who sometimes see them in a negative light, they receive very little recognition or appreciation for the work they do and the service they provide. This lack of support can make it an easier decision for them to “look the other way” when a fellow officer does not go by the book, or to just follow orders that are not necessarily in the individual’s best interest.

In Police Attitudes Toward Abuse of Authority: Findings From a National Study, a survey of police officers by the U.S. Department of Justice, 52.4 percent of officers surveyed “agreed or strongly agreed that it is not unusual for police officers to ‘turn a blind eye’ to other officers’ improper conduct.” Further, “a surprising 61 percent indicated that police officers do not always report even serious criminal violations that involve the abuse of authority by fellow officers.” If you are forced into an interaction with the police, the best thing you can do is to understand their situation and not give them any reason to stop caring about the importance of the ideals they possibly believe they serve. Be respectful.

But even respect does not always protect you. In the aforementioned report by the U.S. Department of Justice, “22 percent agreed or strongly agreed that officers in their departments sometimes (or often or always) use more force than necessary … and 15 percent indicated that officers in their departments responded to verbal abuse with physical force.” What this means is that any interaction with the police, even speaking to them, carries a real and documented danger that you could be unjustifiably harmed or even killed. These facts demand that all interactions with the police be carried out with extreme caution, and preferably with as many witnesses and recording devices as possible. But do not be overly cautious. It is a high spiritual truth that we create with our judgments. How you judge a situation, and subsequently respond to it, can alter the outcome of that situation. Always restrain yourself and do not show any form of aggression unless you are in imminent danger. When you are dealing with the police, your safety has to be your responsibility, and it would be foolish and dangerous to simply trust the process. Be smart and look after your own interest and safety with heightened awareness, a critical eye, and clear and calm communications.

Unfortunately, since 1856, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled various times that the role of law enforcement officers is to only enforce the law, and not protect any individual. The motto “protect and serve,” has little to do with their legal job obligations. Many police officers feel they have been reduced to little more than revenue officers who are not respected from the top or the bottom. They feel isolated and misunderstood, and can feel rejected and not embraced by their society. Police often already have, or develop difficulty expressing their emotions, and as a result are unable to process the toxic energies they are burdened with in healthy ways. This feeling of isolation is a terrible and hurtful place to be for any person. Everyone wants to feel safe, supported and loved by their own community.

While we should all look sympathetically at some of the challenges of police life, we must also understand that a level of corruption and cruelty does exist. There are certain behaviors that we should not embrace or accept. As a society of freedom lovers, we must have a zero-tolerance policy for acts of violence, abuse of power, intimidation, restriction of rights, harassment and even rudeness. The way we disagree and confront injustice is of critical importance. When fighting any great enemy; we must endeavor to not become the madness we seek to heal. It is essential that we be polite and respectful with our tones and words. You can say nearly anything you want to, if you do it respectfully. There is no enforceable law stating that we must agree, and opinions are still protected — IF you know how to comport yourself.

Some of the unfair uses of power by police are wretched and grotesque spectacles that should cause every aware person deep alarm and worry. The pseudo-militarization of the police, the US breakdown of Posse Comitatus, the erosion of constitutional protections against unreasonable search-and-seizure, and the careless disregard, and sometimes seeming contempt for rights of peaceable assembly and freedom of speech, has deformed and altered the spirit of trust in America. We have moved too close for comfort to a Taser nation, where the respectful communication and patience we expect from responsible authority has too often been replaced with quick demands of absolute compliance with no two-way communication; a lazy and brutish form of policing — a phenomenon very similar to poor parenting.

We all know it happens: abuse. There is no doubt. We can all see an escalation of tension, pressure, force and lack of understanding and empathy. We all have a responsibility to resist indecent treatment of all people. Police and citizens are together “in the same boat,” in that we must all live in the society we create through our personal projections, and our tolerances for abuse, corruption and injustice. This is why the solution to nearly every problem in the world comes down to greater awareness, compassion, and empathy. The roots of all commonwealth are planted in the understanding that we are all the same human beings. What we do to others, we do to ourselves.

If you are a police officer who is being ordered, or peer pressured to carry out indecent and immoral acts, you must break the ranks of that thin blue line, and subdue or even arrest fellow officers who are abusing their office. The voice of reason within you is the leadership the world needs. If you stand by idly, and watch your fellow officers and commanders commit injustices, then you become an accomplice to those injustices. Never feel fearful, ashamed or embarrassed to stand up and do what is right. Following your voice of reason may cause you to be ridiculed or even temporarily branded a traitor by your superiors and peers. Even the public may not recognize or appreciate your heroic actions, but even if you are persecuted, ridiculed or ignored, you must speak out against wrongdoing. The lone, ordinary person, existing incognito within the system has tremendous power in a revolution. The silent heroic traitor is always the master source of new eras of progress. The world is always waiting for courageous leadership to advance human excellence and achievement.

At all times, and especially during times of social change and protest, the public and police need to be as sensitive to one another as possible. We are all part of this global community and need to cooperate in order to bring about a safe and secure environment, for all of us to enjoy the beautiful opportunities of life. But there are no shortcuts or quick fixes to these problems. The prisons are full of society’s “quick fixes”; they are brimming with our failures as a community of responsibility. It is in the prisons that we hide away our shame and thoughtless creations as a society. Shortcuts will never work. The path to healing and health involves deep and honest introspection and a resolute, clear intention to challenge our antiquated mindsets, and evolve into the heart-space of greater compassion, love and understanding. Progress and healing involves seeing every person as not so different from ourselves. This is the absolute truth.

The ultimate solution is revealed by understanding and honoring what is real. The office of citizen and the office of police are just temporary creations of choice. We made it all up. They are temporary. Look at the many constructs which are born as projected thought-forms, like the three-letter agencies we see come-and-go based on the supposed need of the times. Place your allegiance and respect in what is everlasting and real, not in the transitory and false. People are real. Feelings, emotions, pain and suffering are real. The elements, minerals and environment are real. The plants and animals are real. Human beings — human beings just like you, are real. Please, honor what is real. Please, protect what is real.

Bryant McGill

Bryant McGill is a human potential thought leader, international bestselling author, activist, and social entrepreneur.

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