About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

January 2, 2015

It's a Dirty Job...

I've always been a big fan of Mike Rowe and his TV show, "Dirty Jobs" (now on a different channel and called, "Somebody's Gotta Do It").

Here Rowe talks about recent police events. As always, he approaches issues with a certain degree of kindness and empathy. Also, he's nobody's fool. (I suspect he would make a very good police officer.) Read the full version. But here's a part:
Within moments, everyone was talking about Garner and Brown, and the conversation got very political very quickly. A liberal guest said, 'Look, I wasn't there, but it seems pretty clear that both men would still be alive had they been white.' A conservative guest replied, 'I wasn't there either, but it seems pretty clear that both men would still be alive if they hadn't resisted arrest.'

This annoyed the liberal, who asked the conservative why Republicans wanted a 'police state.' This annoyed the conservative, who asked the liberal why Democrats wanted 'total anarchy.' Things continued to escalate, and within moments, fingers were pointing, veins were bulging, and logical fallacies were filling the air. Ho! ho! ho!

For once, I kept my mouth shut and listened as a roomful of decent people tore each others throats out. It was remarkable, because no one disagreed on the big points. No one disagreed that black lives mattered just as much as white lives. No one disputed that racial bias in law enforcement should be exposed and eliminated. In fact, no one disagreed about the basic facts surrounding each case. The breakdown happened over relevance and context.
The one thing I'll add is that I do think there's great disagreement about the basic facts. Either Michael Brown was fighting to get Officer Wilson's gun and then charged the cop or Brown had his hands up in surrender and was executed in cold blood. Either Eric Garner was murdered by a cop using a chokehold while Garner was trying to surrender or Garner resisting arrest and died after after physical struggle.

And the other one thing I'll add is that I'm often in situations where everybody wants to talk to me about recent events. I've been forced to say, "Can we please talk about something else?" Maybe I can just hand out Rowe's article and get another drink.

And the final one thing I have to say is that it's actually not often that I or you will be in room with divergent views. Holiday parties are one of the few events that bring together people of different political persuasions.

Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

I don't think there is disagreement over the facts in the Garner case. What is there is disagreement about is whether it matters that Garner's "resistance" was mild, bordering on passive. There is also diagreement about whether putting arm/hand on arrestee's is excessive force. These are legal disagreements, not factual ones.

With Brown, there is disagreement over the facts in that one side thinks the facts have been established and proven, and the other side thinks that we do not yet know the facts at all. While this is a type of disagreement over facts, it is not a symmetrical disagreement. It should also be noted that if Wilson was firing at brown when he was running away, then Brown would arguably have a right to charge (there is a Constitutional right to resist excessive police force).

Anonymous said...

And any good bouncer knows that its his job to suppress violence, before it's his job to engage in it. Cops by comparison are licensed to indulge. Garner was a pain in the ass not a threat.

I'd like to see "broken windows" policing cover the behavior of cops. No "free" lunch shakedowns, no running red lights when they're off duty, no family members walking away without tickets. It begins with the small things, right? And Zero Tolerance for narcs with habits and anyone who calls an honest cop a "rat".

Never mind the "nigger" this and "nigger" that. I've hear enough.