What did the two incidents have in common? White police officers’ interactions with black motorists — but ALSO police courtesy, or lack thereof. These incidents feed into the ongoing ‘narrative’ to scrutinize our police.
Another ‘narrative’ that is emerging is the crisis of RESPECT for our police and other authority figures. Is this crisis narrowly focused on defiance of police or is it more general in nature? In my opinion, decades of the violence and disrespect in music, movies, video games, and other forms of entertainment has come home to roost. There IS a lack of respect of people in general and NOT just toward the police.
Look at the number of shootings and deaths that have occurred in major cities this summer. Look at the number of police contacts that escalate because a ‘citizen’ didn’t want to follow commands and a situation escalated.
Could the ‘choke-hold’ death of Eric Garner in New York have been avoided if he COMPLIED with police? Of course! Could other deaths have been avoided if suspects followed directions? If Michael Brown had not approached, confronted, and punched the officer it is almost certain that he would still be alive. Unfortunately, people (law-abiding citizens and law violators) are refusing orders, challenging the police, and not immediately following commands. This greatly upsets the police. Too many police officers subscribe to a DOMINATION policing style rather than DEMOCRATIC policing! Newsflash: nobody is required to comply with an illegal command, demand, or direction.
Police must be cognizant of the limitations of their authority and realize that they must be giving ‘lawful commands’ to have the force of the law backing them up. For instance, can police lawfully order someone sitting in a car to put out a cigarette?
I have seen segments of video from the cameras in the above incidents.
Many citizens believe the officers could be described as ‘A**holes’ and this reminded me of an article from back in my college days. The 1978 article entitled, “The A**hole” appeared in a book (Policing: A View From The Streets). It was written by John Van Mannen who is an organizational theorist and a professor of organization studies. Van Mannen described the origins and consequences of the label “a**hole” as it is used by policemen, specifically patrolmen, as they perform their daily routine tasks and the ‘socialization’ of police.
According to the abstract of this academic article: The author argues that the (A**hole) typology represents a distinct type of person who is familiar to the police and with whom they deal on a regular basis… The article describes certain understandings shared by street-level patrolmen as to what is involved in their work, and deals
with the concept of street justice as it is meted out to the “a**hole.” The article implies that there is an implicit license granted by society to the police, by virtue of which certain police actions taken against this type of person are not governed.
A veteran patrolman was quoted in the article: “I guess what our job really boils down to is not letting the a**holes take over the city.
Now I’m not talking about your regular crooks… they’re bound to wind up in the joint anyway. What I’m talking about are those sh*theads out to prove they can push everybody around. Those are the a**holes we gotta deal with and take care of on patrol… They’re the ones that make it tough on the decent people out there. You take the majority of what we do and it’s nothing more than ‘a**hole control.”
Van Mannen’s now classic ethnography of police officers was part of his dissertation research in the 1970s. He didn’t just talk to cops, he went through the police academy, rode along with them on patrols (and got involved in all sorts of crazy things like chases), and was otherwise embedded with them for a year or so. Van Mannen captured police language that made sense to them and guided their actions on the streets.
Police labeled problem people ‘a**holes’ and now we have the tables being turned on the police in living color! We now see and hear what is actually happening because of video. I’m afraid citizens are seeing repeated examples of police conduct and are now ‘labeling’ the police.
Although some people have always distrusted and even hated police, what concerns me now is that there may be a more general and widespread belief that paints the majority of our police in a bad light. This can endanger the police and fan the flames of anarchy and disorder. This is not what we need in America!
The truth is that every cop knows one or more ‘a**hole’ wearing a badge. The ‘label’ comes from their actions (how they conduct themselves, treat people — including their ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ cops — and accomplish things on the street). Citizens perceive ‘a**holes’ from watching COPS and other televised shows. This includes ‘stars’ working with the LVMPD!
Maybe it is time for another form of ‘A**hole Control.’ One solution is for every individual police officer to ‘call-out’ problem police officers. The good cops have to tell the bad cops when they are acting like ‘a**holes’ and explain that it damages the profession. This should not just happen when there is video or a formal complaint.
Another solution is for agencies to stop embracing and rewarding ‘a**holes,’ which is what does happen. What is Sheriff Lombardo doing to address problem officers who will one day have the LVMPD on the national news?
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Norm Jahn is a former LVMPD lieutenant, who has also served as a police chief in Shawano, Wisconsin, and has nearly 25 years of police experience. Jahn now contributes his opinions and ideas to help improve policing in general, and in Las Vegas in particular, through his weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.