When did we all start hating cops so much? Any time a member of the local, regional or national police allegedly sets a foot wrong, the media is all over it and citizens start screaming for blood.
Okay, we expect cops to be above reproach. We need them to be in order to feel safe. But they’re still human and they screw up. So why are we so eager always to think the worst of them rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt?
The current issue in Ottawa involves a cop allegedly “beating up” on a taxi driver for no apparent reason The story the cabbie, his cabbie witnesses and the media are telling is that an SUV started following the cabbie down the highway, very closely, trying but failing to overtake him. The SUV followed the cabbie to the airport where a guy got out of the SUV and either pushed the cabbie to the ground or twisted his arm causing the cabbie to sustain some broken bones in his arm. At some point the SUV guy flashed his badge or ID or something saying he was a cop. Paramedics and other police officers arrived. Paramedics took the cabbie away and the police officers took the other off-duty SUV cop away.
The outrage over this alleged incident has leant itself to bold headlines in the media for over a week. The same story is told over and over with quotes from the cabbie and his friends and photos of the cabbie with his arm in a cast.
Letters to the editor shake their heads at yet another example of blatant police brutality. Bloggers vilify the Ottawa police for their corruption. Facebookers tsk-tsk vehemently over out-of-control cops. There are allegations of racism involved from the cabbies’ viewpoints. Ottawa cabbies everywhere fear for their lives.
Of course, there were other witnesses to this incident at the airport, but their account is usually buried in one sentence at the bottom of every third or fourth article. Other witnesses say the cabbies swarmed the cop when he got to the airport; that the cabbies began the altercation; that the cop flashed his badge to get them to back off; that the cop was injured as well.
If the situation had been reversed and the cabbie had pushed the cop, it would:
- Not been much of a story; or,
- If it had made it to the papers, it would have been slanted in favour of the cabbie anyway; or,
- If the story had been told favouring the cop as blatantly as this story is being told in favour of the cabbie, we’d have all the civil liberties people yelling about injustice, prejudicial reporting, innocent until proven guilty, etc., etc.
I don’t know what happened, but there’s an inquiry underway to find out. The cop’s record is clean – in fact, he has two letters of commendation on his file. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an angel. And I know cops in general aren’t really Andy of Mayberry, but I also don’t believe they all spend all their free time chasing down random citizens to beat up.
I probably mentioned before that I’ve had a couple of jobs where I’ve had to connect with police on a regular basis. From what I saw, for the most part they’re just regular people with a really tough job. Lots of people think of them as doing nothing all day except harassing the homeless, responding to calls from old people who hear noises in their cellars and eating donuts.
And maybe they do have days like that, but a lot of their time is also spent doing stuff most of us wouldn’t have the stomach or cojones to do for one day, let alone day after day, year after year.
And maybe some of them don’t handle that stress so well after a while and maybe some of them are just assholes to begin with, but in my experience nobody in the police business wants someone like that on the force. If this cop in the story, is actually hunting down people in his spare time so he can give them a good pounding, then I’m pretty sure Ottawa police is going to find a way to remove him permanently from active service. Of course, if he’s exonerated, we’ll probably never hear about it because that’s not sensational news and it’ll just look like a big cover-up to those awaiting a verdict.
I think the police we have is all we have standing between us and the bad guys, so maybe we need more of a citizen/police partnership where things are a little more transparent on their end and a little more supportive on our end.
 The closest I’ve ever come in my life to being raped was by a cop. It was just pure dumb luck that I was able to escape from the situation. So I know very well there are some puffed-up macho whackos on the force. I’m just not going to tar them all with the same brush because of this one guy; or even because of a few other guys like him.