Friday, June 9, 2023

Military Police

Cops today are dressed like they are going into Fallujah!

We were at our favorite Mexican taco joint, which also serves tortas, which are huge sandwiches which are a helluva bargain at $6.99 each.  In walks some of Glynn County's finest (this is the Police force that the State legislature authorized us to disband, due to, well, a whole host of bad shit). They are dressed from head to toe in "tactical" gear - bristling with weapons, flashlights, and who knows what else.  The colors of the uniforms and bullet-proof vests are a dark, dark grey.  It is very intimidating!

And maybe that is the intention.  But it got us both wondering why Police want to dress this way - and it is a choice, too.  Not only does it impact the people they are ostensibly supposed to serve, but I suspect when you strap on this body armor (quite literally) it changes the way you think.  It's us against them!  And you need protection from the general public!  Moreover, you are one badass motherfucker!  Shit yea!

Compare this to how Policemen dressed in years gone by.  I grew up in an era where "Officer Friendly" came by to visit us in school, and he wasn't so imposing or dangerous looking.  Back in the day, Policemen wore neckties and weren't bristling with armament.  You hardly realized they were armed at all, in fact.  They were just people like you and me, not threatening, not intimidating.  And maybe that meant better police/community relations.

Malloy and Reed showing off their tactical neckties.

You hardly noticed these guys were armed, but that nightstick could do a number on your skull, and they did carry sidearms.  What was missing was the military-style tactical gear so prevalent today.  Some argue that this arms race escalation is necessary, as "the other side" (drug dealers, gang-bangers, etc.) have armed themselves to the hilt, and the Police need equivalent "firepower" to respond.  This may be true, but then again, crime rates are less than half what they were in the days of Adam-12 and somehow the Police did OK with neckties instead of body armor.

A Police Officer is more likely to be killed in the line of duty by being run over while doing a traffic stop.  And we see this all the time - Police Officers so intent on a motorist pulling over "right away" that they stop them on a narrow bridge and then stand outside their car in the traffic lane.  It is just a death wish.  They think the flashing lights will save them, but every year, cops are killed by drivers who are so mesmerized by the flashing lights they slam right into a cop.

We see some cops who "get it" - the have the citizen pull their car far off the road, and then park their prowler at an angle jutting out to form a protective area behind the suspect car.  Better yet, they approach the car from the passenger side, where they are much safer both in terms of traffic flying by and being able to see what the "perpetrators" are up to.  But few cops seem to get this - so many we see in our travels are actually standing in the road, their attention focused on the driver, not the speeding traffic whizzing by.

Oh, sure, in most States it is the law that traffic should slow down and/or pull over a lane for stopped emergency vehicles.   It is a good law, but relying on motorists to obey a piece of paper 100% of the time is not a sound safety strategy.  If motorists obeyed all the laws, all the time, we wouldn't need traffic cops, would we?  Relying on a "law" to divert a 4,000lb SUV hurtling along at 70mph is not a sound plan.  But I digress.

Barney Fife only had one bullet!

Good old Andy Griffith wasn't threatening-looking, unless you were on the wrong side of the law.  Again, he hardly looked armed, but he still projected authority. Yes, these are television characters, but they are dressed like the policemen of my childhood and adolescence - and even up until a decade or two ago.  And granted, putting on any uniform or costume does change your personality somewhat.  If you ever met a drag queen out of costume, you likely would not recognize them - not only in appearance, but mannerisms.  Ask any actor - once you put on the costume, you become the character.

So you dress like "Officer Friendly" you may come across one way - and feel that way yourself.  You dress like a SWAT team member, ready to knock down the door of a drug lab, well, you feel differently.  And suddenly, everyone looks like a potential enemy - and the public feels uneasy about you as well.

Compounding this problem is the tactical vehicles being used - armored cars, sometimes directly from the Military Armory, better suited to a battle zone than a city street.  Even the storied Police Cruiser has morphed into this tough-looking, slightly lowered, blacked-out death machine - like something from a Mad Max movie.  They pull you over for having excessive window tint, but can you even see inside a cop car anymore?  Because I can't.

The era of the cheerful and readily identifiable "black and white" squad car is gone.  In its place are menacing machines in dark colors.  Dark blues, grays, black, and dark green seem to be popular. And when they pull you over, more lights go on than at a Japanese Pachinko Parlor.

In the era of Dragnet, they had one red spotlight, that didn't even flash. In the era of Adam-12, they had two flashing red lights on the roof, which were not even synchronized.  Ironically, the television show wired them in "wig-wag" formation and the LAPD thought this was so keen, they decided to copy it.  Life imitates art!

Maybe we can't go back to the days of the Irish cop-on-the-beat, dressed in his Police overcoat and domed helmet hat.  He was armed only with a billy-club, but he could make that thing sing, for sure.  And maybe body armor makes sense, in this era of "sovereign citizens" armed to the teeth.  Oddly enough, many Police Officers seem to favor the far-right of the political spectrum, and yet these same far-right nutjobs are the first to decry police over-reach.  They are also the first to open fire, in many instances.  The cognitive dissonance is startling.

But maybe we could tone down the uniforms and the Police cars to be less threatening-looking and intimidating.  We don't need to be promoting the culture of belligerence with our tax dollars.  What's next?  Jacked up monster truck police cars?  How about rainbows instead?

Add a disco ball, and you've got a party!