• Daniel Ethan Finneran

A Few Thoughts On The Police

September 2020

Perhaps the respect I feel for the police, the quiet veneration I hold for a group of men and women by whom, in the distance of my observation of them as they go about their work, I seem to be overcome, is filial.

My father, you see, was a police officer; my grandfather, an officer of probations. Before him, I lose sight of the lineage from which I descend, but I’d not be surprised to learn of my great grandfather’s professional involvement in the enforcement of the law. Such is the work, after all, toward which so many generations of young Irishmen have tended to be inclined, particularly those to whom the enclaves of the northeast and the coasts of the Atlantic were called home.

This made me, much to the relish of my youthful fancy, and the warm contentment of those Hibernian-American forbears out of whom I sprang, the proud inheritor of the title, “trooper’s son”. I was, not only in their eyes, but in the light of my own, a veritable law enforcement protégé, a kid destined to be a cop, if ever one was born.

Though a job from which my father has since retired, and from which my own ambitions and wanderings have decidedly turned, it was—for the dominant part of my youth—the vocation by which many of his nights, some of his holidays, and all of my dreams were occupied. Regarding the first two, I remember them well, as his absence defined the length of their hours. Those were times during which my mother and sister relied on one another and busied ourselves, awaiting each morning the joy of his return. Back then, as it is today, that was the sacrifice a father paid for the comfort of a family experiencing growth, dreaming of wealth. Material betterment was, and still is, an endeavor to which both time and perseverance were owed, and we paid for them, and he for us, with his absence.

As for the last, the dreams of which his work was provocative, I recall to mind their vividness less well. This speaks not to their deficiency of color, nor to their proximity to the realness of life, but to my awful inability of retention. Few are the dreams that I can remember. Yet I can say with confidence that I sensed them, nightly, dancing before the sleepy eyelids of my soul.

Nevertheless, it was a job, and—more importantly—he was a man, of which and of whom I was fully enamored. He was, as every father to a child should be, a man in the vibrancy of whose image I tried to color my own, a giant against whose looming example, I measured every inch of my skin. It’s unlikely, then, that the favorable impression that an adoring son has for so beloved a father (and the occupation in which, for the better part of his life, he was employed) will become, in the later reflections of his more mature years, a bias of which he’ll be disabused.

And so, you see, my reverence for the police, inextricably linked to my reverence for my father, is quite deeply ingrained. My analysis of the profession, therefore, might be understandably clouded by my devotion to the man by whom I was sired and raised into the stature of a man. I’ll not hesitate to admit a bias out of which I couldn’t hope, and, frankly, wouldn’t want, to disentangle myself. And so, you’ve been honestly warned.

But first, a bit more on him, as a more thorough explanation of his work will inform your opinion of my thought. He toiled at his work in the notoriously inviting state of New Jersey, the densely-populated, southerly neighbor of New York into which, thanks to the permeability of their shared border, and the venality of its morally impoverished politicians, many of the Big Apple’s criminal misfits were hospitably received. Its sordid reputation, of which all Americans join in making fun, was unfortunately deserved, but there were many qualities by which New Jersey might find herself redeemed. One such quality, I thought, was her long-established and highly-distinguished institution of law enforcement.

Her police officers, I was told, were the crème de la crème, an elite crop of law enforcement professionals to which no other state could produce a superior. They embraced a professionalism by which, in contrast to those cursory appointments of town deputies and local sheriffs of which lesser states made so hasty a use, they found themselves distinguished, and a fidelity to the public’s safety above which they placed no greater priority. That, more than anything else, was the consuming subject of their concern. They were honest, rugged, indefatigable men, uniquely upright and selfless characters to whom the lures of mischief and the bait of coarseness offered but little attraction. Onto these hooks, seldom did they bite. To them, virtue was never an inconvenience, but a constant standard of behavior from which there was no departure. These weren’t great men, but very good men—the type of pillars around whom a community can be built, and by whose continued presence, that same community might be protected and sustained.

I very much doubt, in the days and years to come, that police departments—such as that of which my father was a member, among whose ranks, I once dared to imagined myself —will continue to enjoy the admission of so many good and honorable men. The once esteemed police force of New Jersey, imminently, will be debased. Those of the forty-nine other states will follow suit. The job of a police officer, after all, in the boiling violence of this terrible moment, has gone from respectable, to unenviable, to impossible. Now, it simply can’t be done, and it sadly shows no indication of circling back to the first position from which it’s since fallen. It’s unlikely anytime soon to become, once again, respectable and proud.

The plight of the police officer, as currently it exists, is as follows:

He’s assumed, without the burdensome accompaniment of proof, to have acted in every instance with malign intent. That’s his original sin, an inescapable demerit from which there’s no remission. A priori, he’s deemed evil, without any opportunity to demonstrate himself good. A cop is never guiltless, after all. He’s to be charged with every crime of which he’s in pursuit, and punished for every offense to which our society has given license.

There’s neither benignity nor caution in the tread of his approach, but an intention to do violence, only. The protestations in defense of his humanity are shouted in vain, as he’s dismissed outright as a barbarian, or worse. More than likely, the categorizations to which he’ll be subject include such titles as sub-human, troglodytic, or bestial, and those by whom said names will be given would rather see him, more than the grunting ape or the snapping crocodile, behind the steel of unbreakable bars.

His every defense, if permitted to be heard, is either inaudible or artificial to the ears of the incurious rabble by whom, ironically, his protection is most needed. Never, in their opinion, is his story to be believed. He’s thought to be a fabulist, a terrorist, an author of horrors uninterested in the tender cries of the sanctity of human life. Any report he gives, even when buttressed by the evidence of film, is categorically to be dismissed. His facts, when unconducive to the growth of the narrative under whose shade we now rest, are to be diverted, suppressed, and ignored.

The presumption is that he’s not just ruggedly callous, but deliberately cruel. He’s thought to be a predatory beast, a blue-emblazoned tiger to whom all life—but especially that dressed in the hide of brown or black skin—has neither meaning nor value. Upon them, he’ll pounce with the breeze of a sniff, the flicker of a sight, if only to devour whole the delight of their bodies. The badge by which his chest is adorned serves only as a concealment of this savage heart. The belt by which his waist is girded restrains the fires of his murderous bowels, insatiably seeking for the nourishment of a kill. The night stick by which his thigh is rubbed incites a primordial, sexual arousal, and the gun for which he too eagerly reaches is but the culmination of his tumescent desire to slay.

While he’s never to be welcomed, all promptitude is expected of him in the event of a crisis. He’s at once banished and demanded, excommunicated and beckoned, as if both devil and saint. He’s the figure upon whom curses are rained, of whom, just a minute later, salvation is expected. Those rioting for the elimination of his livelihood will, the very instant a belligerent comrade falls, call immediately for his presence and the solicitude of his help. They’ll bludgeon with bricks those protesting in defense of his value and then, once the tables have turned, retreat behind the protection of that same authority for which they’ve hitherto shown nothing but contempt. He’s the scapegoat of the politician, the pariah of the community, the persona non grata of the rioting class, yet all depend on his service every single day.

The same Black Lives Matter advocate, after confessing to his spellbound listeners his desire to put police officers “in their graves”, will, upon the endangerment of his own person or property, call for those same officers’ posthumous help. Should his worldview succeed, their return of his call will be somewhat unforthcoming. A number of Chicago gangs, in what appears to be a joint-pact of lawlessness, if not a murderous manifesto, have announced their intention openly to target the police. Members of that same cabal, in the bullet-torn exigencies of a troubled moment, will be just as likely as any to forget the sincerity with which their original commitment was made, and dial those three familiar numbers, 9-1-1.

The most populous, “progressive” cities of which this nation was once so boastful, from which it now averts its gaze, have declared their intention to “defund” the police. Often, the term is used with deliberate ambiguity—a tacit acknowledgement of the distaste with which, when described to the suffering residents whom it’ll most intimately affect, it’ll likely be met—but always involves the re-allocation of funds away from the police. The cities by which this “defunding” agenda is to be effectuated include Austin, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and—of course—Portland. Others are adding their names to this list. Yet still, as they do, those very same legislators by whom these initiatives are enacted, to which they hope to attach the advancement of their careers, go out and enclose themselves with—you guessed it—none other than hordes of disrespected city police. It would be madness, after all, to walk outside among the rioters (whom they represent) without the endless security of their vigilant presence.

Openly, I confess my bias—I’m sympathetic to the police. There’s nothing implicit in the frank acknowledgement of my feelings, no shade by which my true sentiments might be concealed. And so, I can’t help but pity their current situation, while dreading the future into which they’ll be pushed. By so many forces—be they gangs, BLM activists, Antifa rioters, or myopic and hypocritical politicians—they’re being hastened to the edge of a cliff. Cops like my father, and my grandfather before him, will no longer risk their lives, nor sacrifice their tranquility, to protect and serve a city from which they receive no support. They’ll jump off that precipice, never to return. They’ll neither pledge an oath, declare their fidelity, nor commit their allegiance to a people by whom they’ll only be relentlessly prodded and condemned. Worse individuals, if any individuals at all, will replace them instead.

These are my thoughts, though few and ill-formed, on the state of the police.

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