The public perception that criminals and cops are necessarily opposed is an inaccurate portrayal of the complex social dynamics between individuals and the police state.
“If you are against the police you must be a criminal.”
This sentiment is often expressed by police and their supporters as a way of suggesting that the only people who could possibly be skeptical of policing are those trying to benefit from crime. It is an oversimplification of the complexity that is involved with police criticism; as well as a false dichotomy of the relationship between criminals and cops which completely ignores the fact that many current and reformed criminals are themselves adamant police supporters.
I have an uncle who is a great example of this. He spent two terms in prison for his violent crimes and now extols policing with all the fervor of evangelical Christians who claim to have been reborn. A man who once risked officers lives by leading them on a high speed chase through the countryside of Iowa after assaulting a woman and threatening her with a gun over drug money now has the audacity to lecture people publicly about law and its enforcement, and I have seen this same attitude in others who have a history that makes their pro-police rhetoric seem hypocritical.
On top of this, the endless laws we are subjected to mean that even the average person who has not yet been criminalized breaks dozens of laws and commits three felonies a day. This is what I mean by a police state; we are nation in which every citizen has been criminalized by laws, and in which every day presents the possibility that someone enforcing those laws will make us their target.
The Wall Street Journal: You Commit Three Felonies A Day
And in this we find the true distinction between the kinds of individual criminals who do or do not support the police – those who were guilty of actual crimes vs. those who were criminalized unnecessarily by harmful laws and their compulsory enforcement.
For instance, most people whose crimes have an actual victim come to feel remorse for what they have done. Along with this remorse often comes a reversal of values, which can cause the remorseful criminal to side with law and order, as well as the institutions and individuals who appear to serve them. On top of this, jails and prisons often institutionalize criminals, which conditions them towards acceptance of authoritarians. Just as you see many inmates turn to religion while incarcerated, you will often see them converted to a reverence for authority. It is an act of penance which turns a blind eye to reason and compassion, so far as the destructive nature of our systems of law and order are concerned.
Of course there are those criminals who had actual victims that do not experience remorse, nor come to support authority or police. These are the people whose situation in life, whether due to their own traumatic abuse, or to the conditions foisted on the lower classes, had been circumstantially criminalized by the system from early on. The poorest of people who turned to crime because their communities had been decimated by government decrees like the War on Drugs are less likely to feel remorse because they had fewer chances to escape their outcomes thanks to the influence and activities of the very same system now punishing them.
Among anomalistically deviant individual criminals you will invariably find sociopaths. These sociopaths will make great gestures of support for police simply as a way of creating illusions to protect themselves. By aligning themselves with police they hope to create a perception of themselves that throws people and police off the scent of their own criminal tendencies. They might be the loudest of all police supporters, simply because they have the most to benefit from such rhetoric.
Some of the most deviant criminals of all seem to really be into the cops. Serial killers often play games in order to keep the police’s attention, and most confessions of the ghastliest of crimes come from those who are telling police because they want to be accepted and liked by them. Since most of them were themselves victims of violent abuses in their youth, police represent a strength that was never there to protect them when they needed it. A strength they long for, and have had to commit their own atrocities to try to possess for themselves.
The final category of criminals who are explicitly and genuinely anti-police are those whose lives were negatively impacted over the enforcement of petty laws. The individuals criminalized by the system for victimless crimes are very likely to become disillusioned of the system and its players, and rightly so. When the system and its enforcers create victims of peaceful people by criminalizing them, it is perfectly reasonable for those victims to reject their abusers. And this is where anti-police sentiment is actually born. Not by violent criminals who are mad they got caught, but peaceful people who are mad that their lives were turned inside out for no reason but to appease the laws and to profit those laws benefactors – police and the ruling class.
I fit squarely into this category. I have a small record of petty “crimes“ in which I never actually victimized anyone. But nonetheless I have spent a few weeks of my life in an unbearable cage, and then had even more time, resources and opportunities taken from me as a result of being criminalized by law and order zealots. I am not anti-police because they caught me doing something legitimately wrong, I am anti-police because they criminalized me for doing things no human should be able to restrict another human from doing.
I am anti-police not because I am immoral, but because policing is.
As a final note I would like to add that the terms ‘anti-police’ and ‘against policing’ as used throughout this article do not refer to support for hatred or violence against individual police officers, but as being against the institution itself, as well as the foundations and premises it is built upon.
This article originally appeared at Beyond the Badge, which is
an online resource for discussing a post-policing society.