This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.
I served in the Marine Corps from 2014 – 2019. To be blunt, I enjoyed some of it and hated some of it. OK… I hated most of it. But I will say one of the greatest perks has to be the vast diversity of people I was exposed to, many of whom I now call friends. At this point in time, I have friends from almost every race, religion, and every U.S. time zone (as well as a few others). Most of them, like me, served their obligatory 4-year contract honorably and have branched out into a wide array of careers: mechanics, truck drivers, electricians, welders, pipe fitters, Equipment operators. On second thought, “a wide array” would be better off replaced with “skilled trades” (I guess after seeing how commissioned officers think and act, most enlisted decide that a college degree is more of a liability than an asset).
Of course, one of the obvious career choices for the transitioning veteran is law enforcement and as such I know quite a few police officers. It is these friends who I have tried to keep in touch with as much as possible recently. Mostly to just to make sure they know I want them to go home every night safe and sound. I know this is mind blowing to some, but it is possible to want law enforcement reformation without wanting beaten/dead cops.
I also like to hear their side of things. It reminds me that I am, nor anyone else, 100% correct. I would like to give you a little insight as to what is going on in police officer’s minds (at least the good ones). I will not name names or departments but here is a summarized version of a pretty productive conversation me and a police officer had.
(Note: I had plenty of counter arguments but I’ll save them for the sake of brevity. I’m certainly still an advocate for defunding police and nearly all government for that matter. But I also think there are plenty of good officers out there, even if I don’t agree with them. And trust me, I don’t. With that being said its important to look at the world from their eyes because if you think “ACAB”, then you haven’t seen the reality of violence that occurs every day in some American cities.)
Me: You don’t think this is a race issue?
Officer: I think that oversimplifies the problem. African-Americans are held back in our society but not because of “police brutality”. I work in a district where the term minority means nothing because its predominately black. The four things that I see holding African-Americans back are: the welfare state, education, the destruction of the family unit, and culture. I see it every day.
Me: OK, but our judicial system as a whole is definitely racially biased.
Officer: Our judicial system is class biased. Poor people get fucked by the courts every day and it’s regardless of race. Just look at OJ, the whole world knew he did it, but the man could afford top of the line lawyers. Do I think it should be different? Absolutely. Lawyers are the worst. I don’t know what the perfect system looks like. I think we’re close, but we definitely need some sort of change. From the top down, not the other way around.
Me: What’s the deal with curfew?
Officer: So, the first night the riots broke out we arrested 24 people. 20 were from out of state. The goal with the curfew is get the residents that live here in their homes, ideally the only ones left in the streets will be the rioters from out of state. And their the ones who are really instigating the fights and destruction of property.
Me: Do you think department actions across the country are counterproductive? Shutting down peaceful protest before they turn violent only seem to be agitating the people more.
Officer: I can’t speak for every cop or department, but I can say that neither I nor my department have stopped anyone from peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. We are arresting the violent people. Just two weeks ago, before the protest, we were being congratulated for having one of the greatest working relationships with our citizens in the state. It’s the media that is creating this divide. They are the ones instigating.
Me: Yeah, but for the most part its been people with cell phones, not reporters from cable news, who have been capturing these viral videos.
Officers: And they are always short with no context. You never see the officer getting punched in the face, only the resulting tackle. Trust me, were getting roughed up out there. The first night I had a friend get stabbed in the neck and two other officers were shot. I get that its our job and I’m not complaining or saying that because we get hit, we should use deadly force, I just hate seeing a 30 second cell recording used as evidence that we are going around needlessly beating people.
Me: The ones who do should be tried in court, correct?
Officer: Yes absolutely, and I haven’t met another cop yet who thinks that what Derek Chauvin [the police officer who murdered George Floyd] did is acceptable.
Me: Would you agree there is an accountability issue?
Officer: Maybe for some departments, especially smaller ones where they are closer knit. My department is huge, I see cops get fired all the time for breaking the rules. Even minor infractions can cost your career. I know someone who was almost fired for using Narcan to successfully resuscitate a drug addict because he did not have proper Narcan training prior to the event. But yea I’m sure there are departments out there still using the “Good Ole Boy” System. It’s not right but at the end of the day no one wants to rat on their friend.
Me: Trust me, I know what you’re talking about. I have seen it time and time again in the military. What do you think about defunding or demilitarizing the police?
Officer: I buy all of my gear already. The idea that taxpayers are buying me top the line gear is just false. I was issued a Glock, belt, mags, ammo, and some accessories (mace, tazer, cuffs, ie.). I purchased a new sight for my service pistol, and then had to pay for training on the new sight before I could use it. I also had to use sick days just to attend the training. I paid for my vest and plates not my department. It doesn’t make sense to me how you can want police to be better trained and at the same time want to cut spending for training.