From a very young age, we are led to believe that police and law enforcement, in general, are there to help us. Being one of those that runs around risking their lives to catch murderers and stop robbers and all that was something to aspire to. As we grew older, however, we came to understand that the role of a police officer in today’s society simply isn’t all that heroic.
The majority of duties that an active police officer will perform involve enforcing minor laws, not the major ones that we envision as their role. For every robber they might apprehend there are 100 perpetrators of victimless crimes that are harassed and accosted. For every murderer caught, there are thousands of fines and tickets issued enforcing unnecessary control over the populous. As a result, the mentality that all cops are bastards for having ever taken on this role has gained and maintained popularity in the various anarchist communities.
When we see the stories of police corruption, or deaths caused during altercations, we, as is reasonable, believe that anyone participating in this system has to be terrible. Good cops are rarely if ever seen stopping bad cops when they perform the ills we’ve come to know them for. Further still, even without those ills the police force still is complicit in enforcing victimless laws and violations of our rights as requested by the state. But can we really say that all cops are bastards because of this? And will stating this belief help us in swinging public opinion when we use it in our argumentation? I would have to say no.
To answer the first question posed, we need to understand something that tends to be ignored by those that go down the anarchist rabbit hole: most people don’t see the world the way we do. Most don’t see victimless crimes the way we do, nor do they dive as heavily into the systems of it the way anarchists do. The belief held by both the majority of police and of the public is that the police are there to protect and serve and that performing this role is positive. These laws that criminalize victimless acts aren’t seen as victimless or as the infringement onto the population as they are. Just like those that call for gun control, what we view as an evil, authoritarian act, they view as a net positive for society. Intents matter when we’re making value statements about individuals. Most involved in police services honestly believe they’re making a positive impact on the community by taking on that role. I’d have trouble calling anyone that devotes their career to what they believe involves helping society a bastard. Misguided for sure, but that’s about it.
For the second question, we have to look back at the first. As I stated above, the majority of people believe in the police and, despite the bad apples, still view it as a noble undertaking. While appealing to the majority is, indeed, a logical fallacy, we need to remember that it is the majority opinion that we are trying to sway to see these laws and their enforcement as evils the way we do. Jumping into calling the enforcers bastards and belittling anyone who has found reasons to support them is not the most optimal approach. A superior method would be approaching how the bulk of the laws that restrict us serve no purpose other than to grant powers to the state. Another example would be showcasing the negatives having to enforce these laws have not only on the “perpetrators” but also as an additional risk to the officers that the opposition supports.
As with any form of argumentation, the purpose ought to be to sway opinion towards what one stands for and believes. Leading with a direct attack such as saying that all cops are bastards isn’t going to help and, if anything, will only create barriers to the conversation. If our goal is to make others see the damage these laws have on the populace, and how the police services are complicit in these mechanisms, our approach needs to be reasoned and understanding. Leading with an insult needs to stop.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.