Authoritarianism: when police misconduct is accepted. A cop trips up students on a soccer field for kicks; a woman is thrown to the ground, handcuffed and crammed into a police car by four officers, for jaywalking. In what other profession could anyone behave that way?
(04-30-2014, updated 07-15-2018) Have you seen this video of a Georgetown cop at a high school football game? Georgetown is a smaller town north of Austin. Clear police misconduct, no?
Did he get fired on the spot? No, he got suspended. Suspended! In what other field of work could you willfully kick, push and trip up your customers and not be fired on the spot? Librarians, can you imagine tripping up teenagers and keeping your job? Doctors? Shop attendants?
And even after something like that, people don’t even dare say what needs to be said. The woman in the white t-shirt and pink pants in the photo is actually limping off the field because this thug just tripped her up and she fell hard. She never even confronted him. One young woman said afterward that the policeman “should have used better judgment”. Wow, strong words. That is authoritarianism: when the authorities can do whatever they want and everyone just accepts it. They may have felt he could have used better judgement, but they didn’t hold him to account. That was just their polite commentary later on, for the camera.
And then there were the cops who strong-armed a UT student in Austin because she was jaywalking (crossing the street away from an official crossing). She was jogging, with earphones on, and when she didn’t react when cop #1 asked her to stop, he grabbed her by the arm from behind.
She reacted the way I would’ve: she was startled so she freaked out and said, “I don’t care if you’re a cop; get your fucking hands off me!” And for that she got forced to the ground, handcuffed and forced into the police car by about four cops. This is also authoritarianism –not only is it police misconduct, or at the very least excessive force, those cops abused their power — they punished her for reacting to their inappropriate behavior.
Again, librarians, can you imagine treating a student like that who can’t hear you because they have earphones on when you try to tell them there’s no eating in the library? Or doctors, when you try to tell a patient to not use his cell phone in the hospital? Or shop assistants, when you need to tell someone they can’t be in the store holding a drink? So did at least cop #1 get fired on the spot for police misconduct? Again, no. Police chief Acevedo even defended him. Tried to spin it that there are so many pedestrian deaths in Austin and these cops were just trying to save lives.
Trying to save lives would go something like this: the cop would tap the jogger on her shoulder and beckon for her to take her earphones off. Then he would point out to her that she’s jaywalking, talk a little about all the pedestrian deaths, give her a warning and send her on her way.
That’s what civilized people do. That’s what anyone else in any other job would do. But put an American in a police uniform and he can be the biggest asshole he wants and he gets away with it on a daily basis.
Of course, to compare American police with librarians or doctors is unfair on one level, because their training is practically non-existent. They learn nothing about deescalation strategies, let alone about not escalating perfectly harmless situations to begin with. But of course, they don’t have to be trained in those things, because if they do cause situations to get completely out of hand, the most that happens to them is a weak slap on the wrist. Authoritarianism saves time and money, that’s for sure.
Again, I’m completely disgusted.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “When Are We Going to Get Angry?”, 04-30-2014)
Header image: youtube.com