The "Us vs. Them" Syndrome
After spending a good part of my adult life as a full time working police officer in the midwest, like most street cops I intimately learned the seedier side of life. This was not a total surprise however to one born and raised in urban N.J. and who experienced the '67 riots. One of the biggest surprises I had in the early years on the bricks was the realization that the "brass"...supposedly your own blood, could be more of a threat than the dirtbag on the street. At least with them you know where you stood, and things were "honest" so to speak.
Law enforcement has changed quite a bit since the late seventies and eighties, and in many respects not in a good way. When I pinned on my tin I did so along with the solemn oath I took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, along with ALL 10 Articles of the Bill of Rights, which of course includes the Second Amendment. I am no less bound by that Oath now than I was then. To me, being a police officer wasn't just a "job"...but rather it was a Calling...similar to being a priest (which of course, I sometimes was). It was the attainment of a long held childhood ambition. It was serious stuff. It was also a point that I would never make an arrest for CCW or for a citizen merely "having" or "carrying" a firearm (unless he was committing a crime with that firearm wherein obviously the applicable robbery or assault charge would attach), for the Second Amendment guarantees that right...I took an oath to support and defend that, and I was proud to do so. Besides, the more armed citizens that were out there, the better I liked it.
As the years went on I at various times became aware that I was experiencing symptoms of what was called "burnout"...and I began to notice that the only friends that most of my fellow officers had were other cops. I took a hard look at myself and found that while most of my close friends were other cops, I also had very many wonderful non-LEO friends, and I was grateful for that. But it made me think and to be aware. My attitude all throughout my time on the street was that all those citizens out there were my boss...and it was my place to serve them. I was proud of that...Very proud. On my cruiser it said "To Protect and Serve"; I always knew that that was wrong. It should have read: "To Serve".
However as time went on I began to notice what was (to me anyway) a disturbing trend; I began to notice an increasing militarization of police ... and also and increasing in the "us vs. them" attitude of police, not so much in my own local area but rather as a national standard. Even worse was the ever increasing influence of Federal law enforcement and its violent heavy hand into local jurisdictions. Increasing were the numbers of "alphabet agencies" most of whom now had their own "Swat Teams", dressed in black...faces covered. The violent "dynamic entry" became an often used tool of these teams rather than a rarity for special cases. A prime example is the BATF...a federal agency of black clad ninjas with covered faces who clearly don't know their place in life. Their proper place is a record keeping agency - not a bunch of Seal wannabees who make war on citizens, burn children, stomp cats, scream unprintable profanities, trash homes and engage in conduct that rivals that of the KGB, GRU and Nazi Gestapo. This conduct has occurred and now occurs in my country...the Unites States of America.
The New Jersey State Police is another example. I was born and raised in New Jersey and still have family there so I know what of I speak. If pulled over for a traffic stop by the NJSP, an NRA decal on your vehicle will get your vehicle searched whether you like it or not. About a year ago I spoke with my younger brother who still lives in N.J. and when I asked if he still target shoots, he looked at me and said: "hey, you don't even want to MENTION the word "gun" around here unless you want to get swarmed with cops"! This, in the United States of America.
I noticed an ever widening chasm of "us vs. them" attitude of both police to citizens....but also of my brother officers, both active and retired, to the federal agencies and their conduct. It became, and is to this day, very embarrassing to me and my fellow decent law enforcement officers...and in addition it is shameful. It is also extremely dangerous.
When I was a kid, parents could always tell their children that "the policeman is your friend"; I don't know that that is now the case in present day America to the extent that it used to be. That to me is very embarrassing...very shameful...very hurtful, and very sad that Some of our law enforcement has taken this turn. So many police now routinely refer to non-LEO as "civilians". "Us vs. them". Excuse me...the proper word is: "citizen". The same citizens that I pledged to serve...so proudly.
No...this is not "cop bashing"...it is not "cop hating" -- it is an objective look at an unfortunate truth that can be turned around...and that NEEDS to be turned around; the quicker the better. For many many years I have been saying that our nation is more polarized than it has been since the Civil War of 1860. This recent presidential election has proven just that...in black and white...on paper clear as a bell. Our Liberty has been in more peril than it was in 1775. This needs to be changed also. The adversarial relationship between police and citizen must also be ceased...that should Only be the case between police and the Bad Guys.
I can understand the "Us vs. Them" mindset from both perspectives, and I understand that it should be diffused from both the citizen and the LEO side. I've always believed that our brother men in blue should be held to a higher standard than many citizen lots in life...it is a special calling, but the last thing we need is an increasing or even continuing generic distrust and disrespect for the "other side". Are most cops polarized in the mindset that we have seen here? -- NO WAY! ... Not even close; but one bad apple can get a lot of mileage.
I do feel that we can make it right again...by Deliberating smashing the "Us vs. Them" attitudes....by enforcing Only constitutional laws (its gotta start someplace; eg. some Montana prosecutors ignoring Lautenberg for instance)...cops...judges...citizens, all on the same team. The recent manhunt for the 7 escaped Texas inmates was one of the most beautiful examples of this that I've enjoyed in a long time. I know it can be accomplished ... communication is key.
When the balloon goes up (and even when it doesn't)...we need all be on one team.
|Cas Gadomski. Officer (Ret.)
Marietta, Ohio, PD