A friend shared this with me. I think it’s a pretty powerful essay from an insider’s perspective:

Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop

You may also find the comments on that piece interesting as well – many of them reinforce and back up the ideas.

This aligns well with my limited experiences with law enforcement from 30 years ago as well as being consistent with other stories I’ve heard from insiders.

I share this because it provides some extra insights on the “defund the police” movement that has been building momentum lately. Initially when I heard this idea, I thought it was some kind of over-the-top anarchist slogan. But I’m coming to see that it does make a lot of sense to scrap the old systems that clearly aren’t working and rebuild something anew. This would be a major undertaking, but this essay makes it clear that incremental steps, including new laws and more sensitivity training, won’t actually move the needle. It will be interesting to see if there’s enough political will to create this kind of change on a large scale. I think the idea has merit.

Reading this well-written essay reminded me of a time when a friend and I were driving in Santa Monica one night many years ago. It was probably around midnight, not far from the Santa Monica Airport, and the streets were mostly empty. We saw what appeared to be a very drunk driver in front of us swerving wildly. We kept our distance for safety sake. That car then proceeded to side-swipe and bounce off of a half-dozen different parked cars along a few blocks of Bundy / Centinela. The driver did significant damage to the sides of those cars, including smashing off some driver-side mirrors.

We got that car’s license plate, and my friend (who lived in the area) knew of a nearby police department, so we drove there in person and went to the front desk to report what we’d seen. We figured they could at least find the car and driver, and since this involved a good bit of property damage, it seemed to us like something they could and should handle. Since the driver smashed into multiple cars and sped away, this seemed like multiple instances of a hit-and-run crime, even if we don’t count the drunk driving.

Since it was late at night, the police station was relatively empty; they definitely didn’t look busy. However, the young male desk officer clearly didn’t want to hear what we had to say. He didn’t want the license plate info when we tried to give it to him, and he made it pretty obvious that he was going to do absolutely nothing with the info we provided. It was worse than apathy – he expressed annoyance and irritation.

We were around 20 years old at the time. If I’d had more sense and maturity, I’d have suggested that we go back to the cars to find the damaged ones and put a note on each car to let the drivers know what happened, sharing our contact info and the license plate of the car that hit them. I felt sad for those people who’d wake up the next morning finding their cars smashed up, not knowing what happened, when we’d seen it firsthand.

The essay I shared challenges the idea that there are just some bad cops that need to be weeded out, and then everything will be fine. I think it’s the same mindset applied to criminals. The idea is that some people are just criminal in nature and need to be weeded out of society. Having been one of those weeds myself, I can attest that it’s not that simple.

Crime is a behavioral pattern, and people are not their behaviors. I don’t think it’s entirely a character issue, and I don’t think it’s entirely environmental. For me it was a bit of both that nudged me down that path, and the recovery process involved working on my character AND changing my environment.

The criminal justice system actually worked for me in a way, but only because it failed to work as it was intended. I was supposed to be sent to state prison for a year or two after an arrest for felony grand theft, but I got off with 60 hours of community service because the court mistakenly processed it as a first offense when it was actually my fourth arrest in about 16 months. That mistake made it easy for them to reduce it to a misdemeanor, a less serious crime with a much less serious punishment. Fortunately that was enough of a wake-up call for me to start changing my character and my behaviors. That experience got me started with a decades-long journey into personal growth.

I had a few experiences with cops that treated me with some degree of kindness. The first time I was arrested, the cop who handcuffed me and drove me to the police station for booking was actually relatively nice to me. He asked me if this was my first arrest, I said yes, and he reassured me that it wouldn’t be that bad, really just a slap on the wrist.

When I went down a criminal path, I got to know other criminals too, and I can say that the essay above could just as easily have been written about criminals as about cops. Much of it would be equally accurate in a general way. You’d just have to change the specifics. In many ways that matter, you could say that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between criminals and cops. Some of the mindsets and attitudes are just so similar.