Police brutality is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. Some of the cases have been egregious, with flash-bangs dropped in a baby’s crib, or a man suffocated for selling loose cigarettes. Others appear to be more of a case of suicide-by-cop. Michael Brown, thug and thief, certainly wasn’t an innocent man. Nonetheless, I am wary of the over-extension of police powers, and this continual problem with unconstitutional search and seizure. The precedent is bad.

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It might make the officer guilty though.

But the issue is, pardon the pun, hardly as black and white as the media portrays it. To explain, here’s a personal story relevant to the situation:

Several years ago, my former roommate’s car was stolen. The apartment above us was inhabited by an old, ex-State Trooper, who had one of those faces that looked like it was carved out of wood, a sort of expression I’ve seen many times on combat veterans. So when the cop cars showed up, and they were taking my friend’s statement, the old guy came out to see what all the fuss was about.

Right around that time, one of the cops reported that the car had been found some miles away, ditched on the side of the road, with the radio ripped out and some vandalism done to it.

While the cops were talking with dispatch, the old State Trooper took a puff from his cigarette and explained how this was all going to go down. He said that the perps would probably be found nearby. Prints would be on record and all, and they’d have a laundry list of priors. Even though this was grand theft, they’d probably get off with some probation, maybe a bit of jail time if the judge was in a really shitty mood.

He waxed nostalgic and smiled (I distinctly remember this semi-predatory look on his face). He said back in his day they didn’t bother with all that fuss and paperwork. Wasn’t worth it, he said. Why run a kid’s future with a record like that, or waste the judge’s time? No, he explained, back then they just took the kids out behind the shed and whooped the tar out of ’em. Gave ’em an ass kicking that they’d remember all their lives.

He said: “and you know what? They listened. You whoop a kid like that, and he doesn’t do that shit again.” As the cops came back to give my friend a lift to wherever the car was found, the old man shook his head and walked off, and left me wondering which way was ultimately better. Beating the shit out of the perps once or twice, or going through the same song and dance for as long as the perp lived and remained free.

I don’t really have an answer for you, but it’s food for thought.

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