Personal, Politics

Pig: the other blue meat

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.

Pity that.


  1. I fully agree with a lot of what you have to say. For many years I worked in conjunction with police officers at all levels of our local department and your analysis is quite accurate. The bad apples are by far a small minority with a fair number of career conscious don’t-make-waves types and a small number of sterling individuals who struggle to improve the whole system while keeping a lowish profile and are fully aware and critical of the assholes in their midst. They also tend to be the smarter ones. With this awareness goes a healthy sense of humour and perspective that does not fall over in chagrin at being called pigs. They understand the anger and disdain and lack of trust engendered by the idiots among them. One of my favourite cops went so far as to carry a pig mask in the trunk of his cruiser in case he needed to lighten the mood occasionally. That said the “blue wall” does seem to go hand in hand with hyper-sensitivity and a babyish inability to handle criticism in any form. They need to grow up in a number of ways and we need to stop coddling them and excusing their crap. Sticks and stones applies here as well as on the playground.

  2. I don’t think men understand at a visceral level why some women and male feminists call cops pigs. Remember the old phrase – male chauvinist pig – yeah that one, kinda describes the cops ‘power’ over the victim perfectly in this case. When it comes to rape and ‘dressing like a slut’ it IS us & them. Suck it up.

  3. I understand it at a visceral level just fine. But the use of that invectitude contributes more to the problem than it does to the solution. You have to ask yourself the question: what is more important, being justifyingly angry or being part of the solution?
    Using your logic I would be entitled to use the word “bitch” to describe a woman who was being emotionally unstable and hostile. The word is clearly loaded with all kind of implications, and by using it to describe one woman I am at the same time labelling the entire group (women).
    Given the connotation that the word “pigs” has in the context of police, using that term not only describes the cops in this case but the profession in general. If that is something you are comfortable doing then so be it, but don’t hide behind righteous anger…

  4. Joseph, ***SOME*** cops are pigs, and “evidence that some cops are pigs” do not means COPS=PIGS.
    But thank you for allowing me to be comfortable.

  5. Yes, I know that you said “some” cops are pigs. The entire point of my post is that by using the word “pigs,” even if you only mean to refer to a single or select group of cops you are doing damage. I think I’ve been pretty clear on this.

  6. It’s telling that

    (1) Your blood doesn’t “boil” at the incredible police incompetence that resulted in the very real degradation of the victim here — and may well have led to the brutal murders of Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd.

    (2) You fail to distinguish between, as the commenter above points out, the difference between “some” and “all” — while excusing the utter piggish behaviour of the police that left this woman trussed up for hours and then treated her with the cruellest disrespect.

    The fact that some people (especially those of a certain age) refer to police as “pigs” is NOT the cause of “the reflexive defensiveness which is endemic of police culture” but the reflection of it. Which came first? The culture or the epithet which, by the way, is unfair to our porcine friends who have never hogtied and caged a soul.

    Indeed, quite the opposite.

    But, please, do go on with your policing of my tweets while **SOME** police continue to give **OTHER** police a bad name.

  7. 1) The behaviour of these cops is reprehensible and should be punished severely. I may have given the wrong impression and suggested some sort of equivalency between their actions and the use of the word “pigs” but that wasn’t really what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that I don’t take it personally.
    2) I can distinguish between the two just fine. The entire crux of my argument is that when used even in specific circumstances, words like “pigs” damage everyone. And I never once excused their behaviour.

    I don’t really care what came first to be honest. I know that there have been abuses of authority as long as there has been ‘authority’ to abuse with. I’m more concerned with how to end it. I never said that the use of the word “pigs” was the cause of cultural problems within police ranks, but I did say that continued use of it makes the problem worse and not better. Are you arguing that it doesn’t contribute to an air of hostility, or that being ‘right’ is more important than fixing the problem?

  8. It’s not worth arguing my time arguing with somebody who feels that the problems of policing in Ontario –notably in Ottawa and Toronto — could be fixed if only a blog headline and a tweet did not refer to some inexcusably bad police behaviour as piggish. I am sure that would mean the SIU would do a better job of investigating police corruption and ineptness. I just know that it will lead to fewer incidents of police brutality in the nation’s capital. Fewer strip searches! No more racial profiling! And, of course, no mentally disabled man in Toronto would ever be killed again.


    Bye now.

  9. You’re right. Describing those cops’ actions as porcine is an affront to pigs, who are actually nice animals who do not engage in that kind of disgusting behaviour.

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