60 Minutes did a report on police abuse last Sunday that’s better than most of the major media coverage on the subject. It at least recognizes that there are bad cops, lots of them. The fact is, police departments attract people who enjoy wielding power and authority over others. For too many police, that is a primary motivation. Although abusive cops are in the minority, they taint the environment for the majority of police officers who work to protect and serve their communities.
The 60 Minutes piece also addresses the culture of “Us vs. Them” that is pervasive among police, and shows that officers are often actually afraid of the public they are supposed to serve, considering them potential enemies. Officials who oversee the police are also very steeped in this culture, along with prosecutors who rely on police to achieve convictions. Until police departments stop hiring and recruiting people who have no business being cops, and get rid of those who are, we will keep seeing more outrageous incidents of excessive force.
60 Minutes did not look at the unsettling problem of how police are increasingly being used as a quasi-military force to suppress popular uprisings that challenge public policy and state power. Politicians and officials aligned with the corporate/security state are supporting the expansion of militarized police to protect against any challenge to their power and privilege, as we saw in the FTAA protests in Miami in 2003, the Republican National Convention in 2008, and more recently in the organized crackdown on the Occupy Movement in 2012.