Antonia Zerbisias is a columnist and tweeter that I often like and have ocassionally agreed with, her politics regarding Israel notwithstanding. In a twitter post earlier today she wrote: “DAMMIT JANET!: Evidence that some cops are indeed pigs” and linked to this article.
I won’t go into detail on the original blog post, you can of course read it yourself. The incompetent and cruel behaviour that it describes at the hands of police is inexcusable and reprehensible, but that’s not what makes my blood boil. Perhaps it should, but I have to be honest and admit that it doesn’t have a personal angle for me. The use of the phrase “some cops are indeed pigs” on the other hand does, and I find it infuriating.
Are all cops benevolent angels, totally innocent and courageous instruments of justice and peace? No. You’d have to be a fool to believe otherwise. Are all cops corrupt tools of a fascist dictatorship? Also no, although there seem to be more fools that follow this line of thinking. The reality is that some cops are bad. Some are downright rotten. This is a problem, but it is unavoidable because cops are also people, and as anyone who has ever been drinking with me knows, some people are schmucks.
Of course the unique and powerful position that the police occupy demands that they be better than us, and in most cases they are. That being said, when cops don’t live up to that standard the damage they inflict can be devastating. Yes, cops can be corrupted. Some are corrupt to begin with. Corruption in policing is not as commonplace as it is in other fields, but it is exposed and eliminated in the same way: transparency and public oversight. Cops serve and police us, and the reality is that they need our help in policing them (whether they want it or not).
All of which brings me to what really angered me about Antonia’s tweet, the blog it referred to, and the use of the term ‘pigs’. The defensive “blue wall” mentality of the police is the biggest obstacle to transparency and good governance, whether they care to admit it or not. Cops need to depend on one another, but the reflexive defensiveness which is endemic of police culture allows corruption and brutality to fester. And what is the worst way to eliminate this culture? By denigrating their profession and their very identities with slanderous terms like ‘pigs’ people like Antonia establish (or reinforce, depending on your point of view) the “Us versus Them” mentality which exacerbates this problem. At the same time it diminishes the work of the cops who do work tirelessly and put themselves in danger on a regular basis for our own protection. Do cops need better oversight? Absolutely. But surely a committed feminist such as Antonia Zerbisias should know that using a stereo-type laden pejorative like pigs only entrenches bias and hostility, and that it does nothing to addressing the real issues.