It' Not Racism and Don't Protest

(this is kind of an introduction to my other blog post, where you can read, in depth, into what I am skimming over here)

Hello and welcome to another sentence by me. I am righting this write now because the general population does not seem to understand the situation they are protesting (Yes, those typos are intentional, which means they are not typos. Derive meaning from that as you wish). Many black men have been slaughtered by a machine that is powered by tiny men with big badges and everyone is pissed. Most people are attributing the cause of these unfortunate situations to something as basic as color. But this is not the case. This situation isn’t that simple to explain. Humans tend to strive for the simplest explanation to everything, but I assure you that these recent happenings are not black and white (by “black and white” I am referring to both the public’s tendency to simplify substance and, of course, race). Cops are all very aware of the fact that they represent the government. Because of this, men in uniform are wary. However, because they are trained in the police academy to be ready for any attack, they are hyper-wary (probably not using that hyphen corr-ect-ly). Hyperactive minds are not always safe in jobs that require you to act physically. This is because when you overthink your actions, you legitimize them. Therefore, a cop who lashes out violently will usually have a great reason for doing so, even if we don’t all agree with said reason. The problem we are all currently witnessing is not a problem of race, but a problem of class. Police officers, who see themselves wearing a uniform in a mirror each day, see themselves as operating higher than the rest of society (also, officers embody the law, which actually is higher than all members of society). They have been handed a badge that they have earned. It was a long and exhausting process to get the uniform they so proudly wear. So pride itself puts policemen and policewomen on a pedestal above us all. These blue men and women expect respect from the entire population. They feel that the title that precedes their name warrants such respect. “Yes, Officer Blank.” “Of course, Sgt. Blank.” This sense of entitlement, which comes from their title, in combination with the fact that officers expect an attack at any moment, propels and encourages violent behavior. Cops distance themselves from general society by growing closer with other members of their department. Since they all have common ground to relate through, Officers grow alone together. Autonomy. Through this, a divide is created between officials and the population. Uniform vs. No-Uniform. The real reason police officials are violent and even lethal in response to unarmed men and women is because they are so separated from real society that they fail to identify with the average joe/joan. Empathy and sympathy are too far to reach, thus making violence easier to perpetuate. Many cops have been killed in unexpected and unforeseen situations. Because of this cops actually think that they are at war with the population. But how do police officers asses and identify their enemy? In the police academy, prospective police officials are fed a constant dosage of objective facts (and it is only rational to shape your reality on objectivity, why else would we have science?). Statistics inform the minds of policemen and policewomen. Statistically, lower income citizens will commit more crimes. Thus making officials more aware of the lower end of society. Police officers are exposed to the lowest members of society every day. It is what they look for. There is a higher chance that a police officer will pull over a shabby looking car than a new BMW. They have been trained to discriminate, they get paid to do it. And, statistically, they are right to do so. But when cops are frequently exposed to the filth and scum of society, over-generalization occurs. They apply the attributes of ne’er-do-wells, vagrants, murderers, rapists, burglars, and thieves to the entire population because their encounters still linger in their minds. And remember they have distanced themselves from general society, which makes it easier to apply these over-generalizations because they don't interact with people that could refute their beliefs. Police brutality is a problem that exists with all races and all classes. It is not just about black lives, though they do matter. Like I said, the situation is not that black and white. It is easy to dismiss racism in court and even harder to prove it. By attempting to solve a situation through curing its super-subjective cause, chances of change are slim. The problem is not in racism but in training. Everyone is racist because everyone sees race. You can’t correct this. Not now and not ever. Humans are naturally wired to pay attention to differences, if you want to know why this is then read a blogpost I will be uploading very soon titled “Why We Will Always Hate We.” So point the finger at the very training that the police academy offers. The training that teaches officers to asses, judge, and discriminate against all member of society (but especially lower-class members). The kind of training that harbors over-generalizations. WE CAN’T KEEP BLAMING MELANIN, THIS IS A SOCIAL PROBLEM NOT A BIOLOGICAL ONE. It is statistically accurate to assume that a black man is below the poverty line and, thus, probably a criminal. This is true but wrong. Not because it is racist but because it is classist (whoa, I didn't know classist was a word. Thanks spell-check for teaching me something new!). If we disintegrate the dogmas that hold together the stigmas, then actual change is possible. Right now, nothing is being done. People are simply antagonizing the police. By protesting, people are furthering the false binary. This dichotomy is what is causing all of these injustices. If cops saw themselves as part of regular society, then they would treat black, blue, orange, yellow, mahogany, light blue, red, and white men with respect. It is essential to remind officers that we are all just humans. In this sense, think biologically and not socially. Behind the badge there are blood vessels and inside the handcuffed hands there is blood. We are all the same, cops and people are very aware of this fact. The only problem is that social roles distort this basic truth. We need to solve this problem socially through a biological emphasis. This is not about the color of one’s skin, but rather the color of one’s clothing. Blue or not, we are all humans.

The Death of a Common Man: A Semi-Objective Investigation of Violence within the Police Force BY: CHRIS VINAN

The Death of a Common Man:
A Semi-Objective Investigation of Violence within the Police Force

By: Chris Vinan

     Violence. One of mankind's most primitive responses to resolving any issue. Primitive because we have the ability to speak, which can be used to solve disputes. Words over fists aren’t the way of the modern man, fists over words are the way of the barbaric savage. Mentality should always triumph physicality because intellect is what makes us human. Our minds are what allow us to stretch our skyscrapers and type sentences like these. Since humans are naturally capable of resolving conflicts with their words, shouldn't the government exemplify this?

     The US government is an institution that is supposed to stand for the integrity and progress of the human race, but why then do they devolve us by using brute force to combat the maleficent. A famous quote by Gandhi, one of the most influential human figures within the last 100 years, states that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Here Gandhi says that fighting fire with fire is detrimental to human society because without water all will burn. The eye for an eye mentality can first be spotted in Beowulf, a text that dates back to the dark ages. But if we have come a long way since the times of unsanitary lifestyles lived by the peasants who were oppressed by lavish kings, then why do present-day governmental institutions regulate this mentality? The death penalty is a perfect example of this immature and primitive behavior; if someone kills someone then they deserve to die. Poke out their eye. My ethnography project will investigate the manifestation of this mentality within our government further.  I will start at one of the governmental institutions that we have all come into contact with:  the police department.

     The police department has a long decorated history within the US but lately the population has been antagonizing their image, why? It is because the media keeps replaying the same images of violence exerted by police officials over and over and over again. Most recently, the murder of a young unarmed black male in Ferguson has been the focus for topics of discussion like police brutality and exploitation. But what goes unnoticed by most of the population are the violent instances that occur in small towns and suburbs that exist in the shadows of big cities, where the media does not tend to dwell. It is not uncommon for violence to be exerted on the populations of small peaceful towns. But, why?  Shouldn't the US government and all of its entities serve as a role model for the rest of the US population? Yes. That is the very purpose of having public figures. These public icons should resemble safety and peacefulness not violence and hate. The police should not act in accordance with violence even if they are faced with it. It is not right for a policeman to strike a man, even if that man has harmed said policeman. The government should stand taller than the common man and therefore be more prudent in all of its retaliation practices. Otherwise we live in a world governed and dictated by a hypocrisy rather than a democracy.

     What crosses the line into absurdity is when an official responds to a non-violent crime with unnecessary violence and unwarranted aggression. This is a common occurrence in small districts with large police departments.  I will be investigating the police departments of small towns to see what causes these policemen to lash out violently against non-violent crimes. Is it perhaps the fact that they do not see enough action because the area of their jurisdiction is so calm and quiet relative to the dangerous streets of a big city? Does their lack of action cause policemen to become bored and fidgety and thus propelling them to lunge out in fits of violence when action does occur? In cities, it is somewhat understandable for there to be higher rates of reported police brutality because there are also higher rates of violent crimes. And if the police wrongfully act within this eye for an eye mentality, then they will respond to violence within cities with violence. But what about areas with low violent crime rates? Why are there still reports of police brutality? Why does the police respond with a blow to the eye when their eye has been untouched? Why am I still asking questions to someone who cannot immediately respond? Because you cannot respond, I will strive to find the answer. I will be observing the police in action and hopefully understanding the personalities behind the men that perpetuate these wrongful fits of rage and unwarranted punishment.

       Maybe the answer lies within their IQ's, they might not be able to rationally respond to a verbally aggressive teenager without anything but their physicality. It seems to me that there might be a stronger emphasis in physicality than mentality within the police force. When in the police academy, policemen and policewomen might only be trained to respond with the muscles on their arms and not the muscles in their brain. If this is the case, then there is much that needs to be fixed.

      Another thing that I will explore will be the character qualities based on the background of the employed policemen. Perhaps many of these men and women act as though they are in a war with the population because they were trained for war. Many veterans join the police force because it is the only place that they can apply the skills that they have acquired in the army (which are hardly ever intellectual, thus explaining why so many veterans aspire to return to college after their time has been served). There is a mentality that I have observed within the US army that disassociates the recruit from the civilian. Within the US military, officials train their subjects to view the outside world from a pedestal. In an effort to consolidate and unify their battalion they will ostracize the general population by creating this image of the "inferior civilian." Army property is told that the men and women who live normal civilian lives are unproductive, ungrateful and undeserving. This is simply a way to enhance coping with the terrible psychological experience that is the army. Thinking of the outside world as inferior is a way to make these men and women who have signed away their freedom for the next 4 years feel superior and meaningful. Though this is a useful coping mechanism it can prove to be dangerous when veterans carry this mentality into their new positions as police officers. They still believe that they are superior to the lowly lazy civilian.

     I hope to learn about the reasons why this violence exists in institutions where it shouldn't so we can correct these unnecessary problems. People are scared when they get pulled over by the police and horrified when a policeman approaches and this is not okay. This was not the case 70 years ago and it shouldn't be the case now. We should feel protected by those who embody the law because the law is supposed to serve us well and help us live harmoniously.
The place I have studied for the past few weeks has been the Contra Cosa Sherriff Dispatch center, located in Martinez California. This station has a relatively small jurisdiction since it operates singularly. The station itself is a branch of the larger Contra Cosa County Sherriff’s department. However, all of their sheriffs and officers report to Martinez station and not its larger affiliate. This fact alone defines the purpose of a dispatch center. The area of their jurisdiction is confined to the Martinez city boundaries, 13.135 square miles in all. 7.64% of this area is water. The remaining 12.1 square miles are land filled to the brim with localities and infrastructure that house thousands of people. The city’s geography squeezes 35,824 people into dense and developed square miles. Martinez is the ninth largest city in the Contra Costa County and the focus of my scrutiny.

The people of Martinez are not surprisingly not diverse. I say “not surprisingly” because Martinez is surrounded by some of the whitest counties in America, specifically Marin County. Marin houses 8 cities that are over 90% white. Martinez, on the other land, is 79.7% white, 4.6% Black or African American, 13.6% Hispanic, 7.6% Asian and 7.4% other, according to a 2010 census. When looking at their populations by ethnicity one can see that, despite the city’s suggestive name, only13.93% of the people living within Martinez are Hispanic and 86.07% of these people are Non-Hispanic. The city quietly sits on the eastern bay with much noise operating within its boundaries.

The city flourishes in its crime rate statistics, which boast overall low crime rates. But when one looks at the numbers one can see that Martinez, although small, has a total of 1,000 crimes reported annually. Which, when compared to other urban districts, is extremely calm. San Francisco, for instance, has a whopping 45,912 crimes reported annually, 5,874 of which are Violent. Martinez reports only 70 violent crimes occurring on a yearly basis. 930 property crimes occur yearly within Martinez whereas 40,038 property crimes occur annually in San Francisco alone.

Now let us dive deeper into the violent waters of Martinez’s crime reports. 1 murder, 9 rapes, 18 robberies, and 42 assaults (it will be interesting to see how many of these assaults have been committed during arrests on the detainee’s behalf) are reported annually. Per every 1,000 people there are 1.14 instances of violent crimes committed. Those numbers don’t look very nice; in fact they look very antagonizing and ill tempered. However, those numbers are relatively peaceful.

The statistics that report these depressing figures report higher occurrences of property crime rates. Annually, Martinez houses 174 incidents of burglary, 565 of theft and 189 of motor vehicle theft. Your chances of being a victim to property crimes, in Martinez, are 1 in 39. 4.74 out of every 1,000 people succumb their belongings to burglary, while 15.44 per 1,000 fall to theft and 5.15 per 1,000 unwillingly donate their motor vehicles to motor vehicle theft. When one punches all the punches and kicks into a calculator, one will find that there are 39.3 crimes per square mile in the lovely city of Martinez California.

These seem like semi-stressful conditions for the policemen and policewomen to be operating under, which provide a perfect situation to explore. I want to know why there are violent retaliations from badge-wearers to violent and non-violent offenders, making Martinez an ideal research location since it has some of both.

My research question is structured like an umbrella since it is hard to find one root cause to the response of violence to non-violent and to violent crimes. Quintessentially, I am asking “Why do police men and women respond violently to violent and non-violent crimes?” This over-arching question can be broken down into a few parts:

1.      Are there too many officers staffed without too many crimes? Making some of them feel immobile, static and useless, thus harboring a feeling of restlessness and unease that they then release when there finally is a crime to tend to?

2.      Do officers find excitement in reporting to violent crimes and find most other incidents dull? Thus causing them to look forward to violent crimes and perpetuating them to over react and over perform?

3.      Is there a military-mentality residue lingering over the heads of army veteran police officers which causes them to demean the citizens that they are supposed to protect and serve, making them less susceptible to feelings of compassion and empathy when dealing with citizens violently?

4.      Is there too strong of an emphasis on physicality in the police academy, which conditions officers to respond with a fist when reckoned with? Are they not sufficiently trained to answer violent provocation with mental rationality?

Martinez is an ideal location because they experience far higher non-violent crimes than violent crimes. Making violent crimes a comparative rarity. So, when exploring the second sub-question, it may be possible that officers get anxious when they do not have violent crimes to report to. Making them desire the moment when they can finally implement their brute force. There seems to be a violent response from police officers occurring in instances of property crimes like vandalism, theft, etc. The police force also has a good number of veterans staffed, which is ideal for exploring my third sub-question. But I will explain the military mentality later in this research text. Lastly, the fourth sub-question will be perfectly answered in Martinez just as well as it will be answered at any other police department across the country. This is because the very nature of the question deals with a universal precursor to official officer-hood.

Now take yourself out of this setence and into a BART train on its way to Martinez. As your eyes quietly scan the vibrating setting, you see a mother pulling her daughter to the safety of her side. Then you see a man whispering lyrics to himself on a stage that extends no further than the seat in front of him. The hums and whirs of the accelerating train make the music from your headphones faint and you wonder if those screeches are normal. Then to the side of you is a window filled with fast blurs and whooshes that contain thousands of people that you will never meet. They can’t see you and you can’t see them so your reality is limited to those who sit in the germ-filled seats before you. You hold your backpack tight as a man who probably hasn’t showered in days refuses to sit down. His body becomes a cheap marionette to the violent to and fro force of the turbulent ride. He rocks left and you move right. You press yourself against the welcoming glass window and wonder if you’ve missed your stop. The Google maps app assures you that you haven’t but you doubt it. You find reassurance by turning your body to the row behind you to ask an older lady, whose attention is buried deep within the pages of her noir novel, if you’ve hit the Pleasant Hill stop. She fixes her glasses and tells you “it’s the next one” and then her frames slide down her nose as her eyes dart back to the jumbles of rickety text that lie in her unfolded palms. She was right. The train seems to be yelling in pain as it comes to a complete stop. The thin metallic doors fly open and in rushes a surge of crispy salty air. You are greeted by cooing pigeons and red trees as far as the clouds allow you to see.

Then you step aboard a bus and sit on a seat as brown as the bus driver. Atop each seat sits a white or Asian man, quietly scanning the world outside the smooth-sailing bus; their world. The streets of Martinez are like rivers, with Chevrolet and Lexus salmons hastily swimming upstream. Everyone’s car is as clean as the sky, which reflects off the shiny sidewalk below. As the bus swims down the black paved stream, you pass shopping mall after shopping mall. White colored people stand at intersections, waiting. You see a brown bearded man turns to his wife with an “I love you.” J.C. Penny, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nordstrom Rack, Best Buy, Safeway, Round Table, In N’ Out, Toys R’ Us, La-Z Boy Furniture, DXL Men’s Apparel, Denny’s, Target. The streets are crowded with tall godly people with small companion dogs at their sides, who are so well fed that they dress like people. In all, the community seems like just that: a community. With fresh painted schools and protective trees, Martinez resembles a contemporary Norman Rockwell painting.

103 steps and 26 bus stops later, the abrupt bus stop lunges your body forward. As you exit, you hear a mechanical woman soothingly force you off the bus as she exclaims, “Glacier Dr. /Muir Rd.” Before you, nestled in the palm of a hand made from mountains and rolling hills, stands the Martinez Sherriff Department dispatch center. Now I’m going to switch this back to first person. GOODBYE third person!

Hello this is first person. When I got there I noticed how desolate the station was from its surrounding jurisdiction. The station seemed to be right in the middle of nowhere and somewhere. The building defined itself with an, aged but pristine, metallic inscription on the side of its wall that read:
“Field Operations Patrol and Investigation.”
When I walked to the main entrance the only sound I could hear, besides the muffled oceanic freeway, came from a flagpole. The wind shook the flag’s chains, clanking and banging, making America’s values echo throughout the empty parking lot. The main entrance was closed. So I pried open a small yellow clam and inside it I found a pearl-like telephone with a direct line to the Contra Costa County Dispatch. I waited for an answer. A lady operator told me that someone would come and pick me up very soon. I dragged myself to a wooden bench that overlooked the lot. I waited and, pretty soon, I began to doze off. Not because I was tired but because it was all so peaceful. Red leaves danced on the moist paint, frolicking and whispering to each other, while the soft wind glided through the trees, gently pushing the clouds to the east. My pants sponged up the moistness from the wooden bench as I was reminded to “buckle up” by a sign to my left. Then I saw a shiny tiny ordinary looking police car drive up in front of me. It stopped there for a second waiting for me to stand.

When I stood, from the car exited Officer Kevin Cook. He felt assertive to the touch despite the fact that it was the people of Martinez that kept the city safe. I got a good look at him once I snuggled into the passenger’s seat of his cruiser. He was an older man, slowly being eaten by grey hairs. Cook’s eyes were as kind as his handshake and his voice was distinct and sharp. 6 feet tall with a 52 inch waist, he seemed to be squeezed into his shell of a police uniform. We began talking immediately and didn’t stop until he dropped me off at the BART station later that day.

Cook was funny, relatable, intelligent and inquisitive. Our talks ranged from philosophical ideas, to the current healthcare system, to his political opinions. He verbally sifted through the endless number of stories he had accumulated during his 15 years on the force. He started off by telling me that there were only two officers patrolling Martinez and only two patrolling Bay Point. We would stay in Martinez. Officer Cook described Bay point, the neighboring city, as being “more active.” “It’s very bad over there…shootings, stabbings, car chases…it’s a lot safer on the Martinez side” he finished his sentence with a quick assessing glance and then continued to say, “but once in a while it can get a little crazy here too.”

“People don’t call us when they’re having a good day. They’ve always got some sort of crisis and they look at us to solve their problems for them” Cook smiled proudly at his reply to my question. This is Kevin Cook’s second career. Before patrolling the streets of Martinez he was a salesman for a high-tech marketing center. Immediately after speaking about his former employment his demeanor changed. He then mentioned, however, that he had always had the drive to drive a patrol car. Kevin Cook became Officer Cook at the age of 35 and he described his time since then, “It’s got its good days and its bad days.” “Everyone says that it must be cool to be a cop and yeah it’s cool but, like I said, it has its bad days.” His eyes grew silent and he squeezed at the wheel. A memory entered his forebrain and escaped through his lips. “One of my first calls was a baby at the bottom of the pool.” His good attitude began to drown and the car went silent, begging me to ask another question. But before I could, he began telling me how “Someone dies here in Contra Cosa County every single day.” But here he speaks of the entire county, of which Martinez is a small fraction of (1/14th to be exact). “There are gangs all over the place and once you put on these glasses you see the world in a different way. Last week I was at Disneyland and right in front of me in line was a man with a big old gang tattoo. I wouldn’t have noticed that if I wasn’t a cop. With this job, you see the world for what it is.” These descriptions bring us into the first investigative section of this text, where I will try to explain the mental mechanisms that influence violence.

SECTION 1: The Policeman AND the People NOT: The Policeman IS the People

Earlier I mentioned that an army mentality may linger within the heads of veterans. This mental residue forces Officers and army personnel to separate themselves from the general population. But I believe that the police department harbors its own sense of separation. I hold this to be true because there are many police officers who have never been affiliated with the US army, navy, marines, etc. yet still distance themselves from normal “civilian” lifestyles.

Let me type for a bit about the unfamiliar and the familiar. When the familiar meets the unfamiliar, a boundary is created. A thick boundary that needs a lot of work and a lot of strength to be broken. Orientalism was a manifestation of the unfamiliarity shared between the orient and the occident (east and west respectively). These differences sparked numerous conflicts throughout history, but the example that best fits my description of a" thick boundary" is the Berlin wall. This wall separated western ideologies from eastern ideologies. The west was seen as familiar and the east as unfamiliar, from the standpoint of westerners. It took decades to change this and even still a sense of hostility resonates. Though we have come far from the McCarthy era we still find ourselves looking at the east through an iron curtain. This unfortunate situation is an example of how tough it is to ignore differences that form on even the smallest scales.

Before I went to the police stations to do my research I thought to myself, “there will be a divide.” Here is a writing of mine two weeks before I started conducting my field observations:

“They (policemen) are fulltime employees and I will be a fulltime student. Immediately our respective statuses will separate us. I will be there to study them, to learn from them. They will be there simply because they are paid to. I will be entering their workstation, their familiar surroundings, so immediately I will be the stranger to them. I will be the unfamiliar. I will be there to investigate them in their own familiarity and in my own unfamiliarity. This boundary will be hard to break, but it's shattering will start with simple discussion. Finding common ground is essential to remind others that we are all just human. We have all cried at the same difficulties and laughed at the same movies. I will have to bond with the policemen and women so that they understand that I am not there in opposition. I am simply there to study. But perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to overcome will be the barrier that stands between a hired professional and an amateur. These men and women worked hard to get to where they are, they went to a police academy and passed rigorous mental and physical exams.  I simply called their sergeant and asked if it would be alright for me to join them in their daily routines. When one has to work hard to achieve a position there is a natural separation that ensues. This occurs because those who have endured the path to get to where they are prefer to associate with others who have endured that same path. And that occurs because it is easier to relate to people who have gone through the same things as you. A lifestyle grows from this and it becomes increasingly difficult to relate and associate yourself with those who fall outside said lifestyle.”

I was able to break this boundary by stretching the truth a little bit. During my investigation, I acted as if I was very interested in pursuing a career in the law enforcement industry. This helped the officers relate to me and, thus, made them feel inclined to share more since they assumed that it would benefit me and my future career. Through this I was able to disassociate myself from the image of an "impostor" or an "investigator". Stranger became familiar and the impostor was welcomed. The reason I have mentioned all this is because the police department is like a family. They are an autonomous entity that feels most comfortable with people like them. It would be so difficult to enter and relate to them if they didn’t think I was like them. By saying that I had hopes of becoming an officer one day, they were immediately able to relate with me. In a sense, they saw themselves in me. I was one of them. I might as well have been wearing a badge with a buzz cut.

Officers live with one another, they are all they know and the badge is all they breathe. Their stories stem from their commonalities. At one point, in the first of my many ride alongs, Officer Cook pulled us into a small shopping plaza. He pretended to angrily yell at another Officer who had taken an ideal parking spot. We stepped out of the car and into the cold air and were greeted by a warm man named Stoffles. On his head grew a soothing field of grey crop and below his nose hung a moustache that seemed to hold his face together.   Officer Stoffles was another county Sherriff who also served the city of Martinez. The two men joked and laughed as we all waited to be tended by the bartender. Not once did a smile fade from each of their faces while they stood in each-other’s company. They laughed about everything. From the Starbucks ornaments being sold to Michael Buble, everything had the potential to spark a chuckle. Stoffles let me know that he had known Cook for quite some time now. “Cook and I met in the academy 15 years back” he said with a pause between every few words to take a sip from his green straw. But their strong interactions were very different then the relationship that Officer Cook maintained with another Officer we met on another day.

Officer Ellis was a short-ish man with a loud demeanor and a flamboyant belly. His eyebrows ricked and rocked with every word that came out of his mouth. In nearly every sentence he dropped an F-bomb and then laughed at its explosion. Muscular arms and strong presence, Ellis made fierce eye contact with everyone he spoke to. Cook and Ellis didn’t seem to have much in common. In fact they seemed like opposites, each comfortable at his own end of the spectrum. But these men talked and talked. Their discussions were altogether very different than those that Cook shared with Stoffles. In fact, their conversation topics rarely ever left the boundaries of the police force. These men talked about past criminal instances that they had responded to and joked about others in the department. Occasionally, Ellis would ask Cook for advice on how to address a specific police situation. This all showed me that Officers who don’t share too much in common find common ground through their forced commonalities.

Earlier I mentioned that people who have chosen a certain path tend to associate and relate themselves to others that have chosen said path. A lifestyle stems from this. A social sector is born and all those who meet certain qualifications are allowed in. Friendships are built on the badge because they all know the badge. By doing this, Officers get along so well that they remove themselves from the average workings of society. They remove themselves and cling to each other. A great example of this would be the fact that Officer Cook divorced his former wife to marry another woman, Lisa Cook, who happens to be another police officer. Cook told me that is not very uncommon for officers to develop serious relationships with each other. But, why do things like this happen?  Part of the reason, in fact, is that their job calls for it.

When Officers begin to associate regular civilians as “the unfamiliar” they can make quicker judgments and prevent themselves from becoming impaired by simple social operations. By deeming citizens as “unfamiliar” the only people that provide familiarity are those who share the same view on society. By noticing a distinction, officers remove themselves from normal society making it easier to maintain real relationships with each other.  This forces them to look at normal society from a more objective standpoint since they reserve subjectivity to their own inter-official interactions. This benefits them in some regards. To Officers, anything, anyone and anyplace can be life-threatening.

On our regular round around Martinez, Officer Cook began to tell me a story. The story began with a “blank 911 call.” Someone had called the emergency line and then hung up. “9 out of 10 times it’s an accident, a misdial. But that tenth time it’s something.” Apparently, a few years back, two officers responded to a “blank 911 call” and expected it to be nothing. When arriving to the source of the call, the Sheriffs casually walked up a white porch and bobbed their fists into the peaceful wooden door. Nothing. No answer. The men waited in silence and continued to knock a second time. Nothing. No answer. Then, suddenly, the silence was broken by another few knocks. Once again, nothing. Before the two could knock a fourth-and before I could finish this sentence- a man lunged out with a hunting rifle. He sent both men straight into the ground and their soul’s right into the sky before pulling the trigger on himself. Instances like these keep officers on their toes. Always ready to pounce and respond when they have to. In the end, they trust no one but each other. I believe this stems from their gradual separation from average society. Officers remove themselves to a point where they are just over lookers, gazing at the workings of average people below. To them, nothing is what it seems. By the time he had finished his story we were in a pretty little neighborhood where kids bounced from sidewalk to sidewalk, smiling and greeting the police car with tiny waves. Each house we passed was nicer than the next. But officer cook made them all seem so ugly when he mentioned, “that’s a drug center and that one too.” Cook saw something I didn’t because he had knowledge I didn’t. I knew only as much as the kids swarming outside the car. This knowledge is what removes policemen and women from the average citizen. They develop a distrust toward the common people that they cannot shake, even when they go to Disneyland. Further, this untrusting view of the world can provoke officers to believe that everyone poses a threat. Because of this they may act defensively when responding to a common non-violent occurrence. These suspicions harbor hostility.

Part of this stems from the knowledge they acquire in the academy. In the academy they are taught the ins and outs of the criminal world. How to identify a criminal. How to tell if someone is under the influence of narcotics. What criminals wear and what they tattoo onto their bodies. All these definitions that are indoctrinated supplement an officer’s hostility toward the common man. If an average someone falls into any of those categories then he/she may fall victim to the law. For example, if you drive a car that happens to be dirty-looking then you will probably be stopped because there is a greater chance that you are a criminal. Police form their view of the world on statistics. Statistically, poorer people will commit more crimes. So, the police are more inclined to stop lower class individuals. While Officer Cook and I were driving around Martinez one day, a shabby car stopped to our left as we waited for green to turn red. The car’s front windshield was brown and its body was covered in peeling paint, its doors seemed to succumb themselves to the force of gravity as they loosely clung to the car’s roof. Inside sat two tired looking men, their eyes drooped as low as their spirits. Immediately, Officer Cook began to recite their license plate number to himself before entering it into the laptop on his right (which, in my opinion, is more dangerous than texting and driving). Before the laptop could deliver any information, the car drove off into the distance. Cook removed his discriminating eyes from the sad-looking BMW and said “Oh well” and continued driving. Officer Cook began to speak about his younger days again and before he could finish a thought the police radio interrupted and pleaded for his assistance a few blocks away.

We made a few turns and eventually became mosquitoes, flocking towards a blue and red light. When we arrived at the scene there sat the same rugged looking car. It had been stopped by another officer who had probably chosen to stop it for the same reasons. This proved that all officers are conditioned to view, judge, and assess the world in the same way. From the car, I observed Cook and another officer search the two passengers thoroughly before continuing to search the rest of the car. Cook took a towering stance before calling me over. While the other officer searched under the seats and behind the steering wheel, Cook made polite conversation with the two disgruntled men who sat on the curb casually. “It was a good car to stop,” said the other officer as the car drove away since nothing illegal had been found.

Another driving force that furthers the distinct divide between Officers and the common man can be seen in the following quote made by Officer Ellis, “If people were half as educated as me-and I mean only half- then they wouldn’t be calling for all their stupid bullshit.” Through this utterance it is easy to see that Officers deem themselves as belonging to a higher level than most people. This isn’t because they are cocky or narcissistic, it is simply because they see the worst of society on a daily basis. Thus encouraging them to generalize and associate the rest of society with what they observe. To the police, the world is defined by the people they are forced to enforce.

Because the department regulates strong ties between its officers and because the world outside of the cop car is defined by statistics and generalizations, the police officer is removed from real reality. (My Kindergarten teacher would die if she saw that I started a paragraph with the word “because.” Hell, it was a sin to start a sentence with that blasphemous word!) During their casual conversing, Stoffles and Cook seemed fascinated by pop culture and even more fascinated by people’s fascination with it. To them, they are outsiders looking in through a glass that surrounds the globe. They merely spectate on interactions and popularizations. They are removed. The officer operates on a realm made up of comradery and familiarity, which are based on the badge that they all wear so close to their hearts. For these reasons the relationship exists as follows: The Officer AND The People. Not: The Officer as part of the people.

SECTION 2: The Policeman Who Wants To Be Taken For a Walk

In this section I will explore the static state of the officer as opposed to the dynamic activity that they so rarely get to partake in (in Martinez). During my time in the ride alongs, there was hardly ever something to respond to. Most of the time we cruised in the cruiser and chit-chatted without anything pressing to do. Because we had so much time, Officer Cook explained to me that there are many levels of service within the force. Most officers start off in court security. Then they move up to Jail security and, after they are seasoned enough, they are placed on street patrol. Cook described his time in the jails as boring and static. “It’s the same thing every day. You feed them (prisoners), watch them and then put them to sleep.” He explained that most officers wait eagerly for the day that they get the privilege to serve the streets. When I asked him which he preferred, without a second to contemplate, he said, “The streets of course. Street patrol is great because it’s different.” There is always a chance that something new will happen every day as opposed to a strict routine that grows old and mundane increasingly over time. It is possible that this harbors anxiety. Officers eagerly await action because they all come into the force thinking, as Officer Cook put it, “that it’s all about catching bad guys.”

When I was first calling to schedule my ride along appointment I had the option to choose between many jurisdictions in East Bay. The Sergeant who was in charge of placing me in whatever district I pleased, advertised the ones with the highest crime rates. He said they were the ones with the “most excitement.” “In bay point you have murders, rapes, gangs. It’s more exciting really.” He seemed surprised by the fact that I was looking for someplace relatively quiet and peaceful. It seems to me that because officers have to climb this ladder of responsibilities, moving from static to dynamic environment, they tend to associate violence with excitement. This can be dangerous because when officers begin to look forward to these types of calls they might over-perform and release all of their accumulated energies because they know they might not get an opportunity like it for a while.

I wasn’t able to answer my first sub-question during my investigation because something became evident during another stop. Later in the dusky afternoon, Ellis called Cook for backup because he had stopped a van that they were all too familiar with. On our way there Cook told me that the lady who drove this van was a “meth whore” who solicited her body for crystal-methamphetamine. Ellis explained that they weren’t interested in the “meth whore” but rather in the people who were probably with her. “Every time I stop that car that lady has someone we want in the passenger seats.” Apparently this lady is a gold mine for criminal activity and every time they pull her over they might as well yell “Eureka.” As I sat in the cop car waiting for Cook to call me over, I observed a black woman, a Hispanic woman and a black man uneasily step out and form a disgruntled row on the curb. They didn’t seem to be hiding anything, but the officers didn’t think so. Their elbows pointed to the sky as each of them was physically scanned from top to bottom.

All the while a middle aged Hispanic man watched from the sidelines. He cursed at the badge-wearing referees in Spanish with a cigarette, a beer, and a child at his side. Though none of them had a warrant like Ellis had hoped, they were sure they’d find something and find something they did. Cook stood near the cliff of the sidewalk with his arms at his hips, looking like Zeus. His body was poised like a powerful triangle, with his arms pointing at his guns, reminding them all that he was stronger. Then his stance was broken when Ellis called him over. Eureka. In the back of her car lied layers upon layers of metal. While the officers slowly pulled out the pieces, she told me to jot down “too much fun” in my notebook. I smiled and continued to write that she had told me to write that. The metal reflected her lies as she was asked to explain their origin. She searched her head for excuses and finally, with an uneasy grimace, blurted out, “I picked them up at a dumpster.” The officers knew she was lying. They laughed at her answer and finally after being unable to get a straight confession retreated back to their respective cars. I heard Ellis say to the driver, as I climbed into my seat, “Now you have a suspended license. Either park the car or just start driving after I leave.” I was so confused.

When we began to drive off, I asked Cook why they hadn’t made an arrest. “We can’t prove that any of that is stolen, even though it’s clearly from a construction site. With Prop 47 passing it’s now just a misdemeanor even if we were able to prove that it was stolen. That means we would just cite it and drive away. There’s no point in going through all that hassle (paperwork) just for a misdemeanor.” As we trickled down the narrow streets I finished writing his reply in my notebook and then perched my head up subtly asking him to tell me more. So he continued. “We have to be careful in what we get ourselves into. Every criminal report takes time. A lot of time. If we spend two to three hours filing a report we might miss something big, like a felony. We can’t waste our time like that because we are so understaffed.” Because Martinez is “so understaffed” I will not be able to answer that first sub-question.  However, because Martinez has so little crime in general I will be able to attempt to validate the second.

Most of the things that Officer have to report to, in Martinez, are defined as “boring.” An uneventful series of events that string together to make up their day. Near the end of one particular day, while the night slowly enveloped the car, the two officers received a call. The intercom stated that a lady had called 911 to report that “her ex-boyfriend keeps calling and texting her.” The two policemen, whose cars were positioned in such a way that their driver-side windows aligned with each other, began to laugh at the ridiculousness of the so-called “emergency.” Officer Cook took out his cellphone and typed in her phone number. The two men mimicked the woman they hadn’t met. “Like, oh my gawsh, my boyfriend and I like broke up like a while ago and he’s like not over me,” Cook said aloud in a valley girl dialect. Ellis responded, “Well then block his number, honey!” The two continued to joke until the woman answered the phone. Immediately their smiles faded and a stoic look overcame Cook’s face. His voice grew stern and responsible. The woman explained to him that she and this man had broken up more than a week ago and that he hadn’t stopped calling or texting her since. The heart-sick lover had also shown up to her apartment earlier that day.  Cook resolved the conflict by quickly calling the ex-boyfriend and telling him that he could be arrested for stalking. In a matter of minutes the situation was resolved and once again silence fell over the police scanner. The men informed me that most days this is all it is. Boring calls that can be solved with a phone call. Hours of waiting followed by minutes of minute issues.

This provokes me to believe that these men grow restless and become dogs waiting to be taken for a walk. Everyday officers have energy that they cannot externalize because they have nothing physically demanding to do. For the remainder of that day we sat in an empty parking lot discussing movies and hobbies. But not once did we have the opportunity to respond to a crime. If most of these men joined the force in pursuit of exciting action only to find that there is mostly all but that, then I would expect these men to become restless. During my conversations on this subjects, it seemed to me that officers looked forward to, what Officer Ellis calls “fun shit.” But looking forward to this can provoke a violent response. Due to the rarity of violent situations, officers may inflict all of their violent retaliation potential in a single response call because they’ve been sitting in a cop car for hours. Think of it like a soda can. If you shake one up and leave it sitting, it will explode as the bubbles inside it expand. The pressure is released. The same occurs with cops who join expecting a lot of “excitement” and get none. When they finally do, they explode in every direction usually resulting in a mess that has to be settled in court.

SECTION 3: Sir, yes offiSIR!

In this section I will address my third sub-question, where I ask if a military mentality causes army-veteran officers to demean the citizens that they are supposed to protect and serve. Based off of the information that I provided in the first section, it is safe to say that there are many factors that provoke officers to believe that any citizen poses a threat. As Cook put it, “In the academy we were taught that any man can be a dangerous man, even a man in handcuffs.” This mindset is very warranted, however, it can manifest itself violently because it builds the metaphorical platform that officers are at war with citizens who can ambush and strike at any moment. Uniform vs. Casual wear. Though this mentality is constructed within the academy, former-military officers are all the more susceptible to it because they have been trained to embrace it throughout their military careers. In the military, recruits are taught that “everyone not on your side wants to kill you.” This mental training prepares them for the battlefield where this can be very true. Zachary Gore, a 20 year old who is currently in the Marines, has filled me in with a lot of information about the kind of mind-morphing that goes on within military fences.

Like I said at the beginning of this writing, recruits are separated extensively from the outside world to allow them to cope with the psychological difficulties that the military presents. An instance that was described to me by a former classmate of mine named Wyatt Westhoff really reinforced that fact. “Every time we move from base to base, we are ordered to put our heads in-between our legs so that we don’t look out the windows.” In the army this separation from society is crucial to invoke a hard-working, blindly-following piece of property. By not looking out the windows, recruits slowly forget about the outside world. Eventually, all they know is the military, all they eat is their gun, and all they breathe is their uniform. If the mind of a private remains in the outside world, too many of his pre-formed beliefs will encourage and discourage certain tasks that he is asked to performed. Questioning is not good in the military because you are obligated to follow any demand yelled in your direction. The kind of separation from the outside world that exists in the military is very similar to the separation between an officer and normal civilian life.

The separation can also very physical and observable to the naked eye. For instance, a uniform is only worn by those who deserve it. The men and women who successfully pass through military training are awarded with a sleek uniform that makes others of their kind more identifiable in war and in life. The same thing occurs with Policemen and women. They get to wear that uniform because they went through months of hard work to obtain it. The path to becoming an officer is rigorous and hard, resulting in pride. Pride puts these men and women on pedestals, where they can look down at the average citizen. “It’s not that you think you’re better. You know you’re better” said Zach as we walked down Pier 39 in San Francisco. Marines and Police Officers are prepared for months so that they may get to walk in the positions they do. To become an officer of the law you have to pass a written exam, a physical agility exam, a psychological profile exam, a medical exam and a background check. Only after passing all these tests are you allowed into the academy, where you have to pass a test a week. Sometimes the entire process takes a year. That fact alone means that officer find pride in their successful completion of it. They feel like Hercules after he completed his 12 labors. When I asked Zach to explain what he meant, he elaborated. “Pride is involved. You see yourself at a higher level because no one else had to do what you had to.” Now here Zach is talking about the Marines, but this is still very applicable to the Police force since they share so many similarities. Officer Cook himself said that the structure of the police force is “paramilitary.” “Lieutenant, Sergeant, Officer, Corporal, and Captain are all positions you’ll find in law enforcement and in the US Army,” said Cook when I asked if the Police force was structured like the military. “Everyone has someone to report to and take orders from.” I asked Cook if there were any ex-military men staffed on the force. He replied that “A lot of our recruits had former careers in the military.” In fact, about 1/3 of prospective law-enforcers, in the academy, have prior military experience. According to Cook, the Sheriff department actually looks for men and women with military experience. This is because, he says, “They’re good at taking orders. They’re conditioned to take orders.”

In the military, recruits are forced to think about things they wouldn’t ever think about in their civilian lives. Zach says it’s because they are held to “a higher standard.” By this he means that they are forced to pay so much attention to trivial details. For instance, the military uniform has so many intricate specifications that make it complete. I found a 303 page pamphlet on Military uniform specifications on a research database that addresses everything from collar maintenance to hat positioning. These men and women have so much expected from them because they must adhere to all of these qualifications. This excessive attention to detail helps them distinguish between a sloppy uniform and a tidy one. Privates are supposed to correct any negligence seen on the bodies of their peers. For example if one of their comrades has their shirt sticking out, then they have to remind them to correct it and inform their captain so that they may be properly punished. Things that most normal citizens wouldn’t consider “wrong” are highly frowned upon inside the military tree and all of its branches. Other examples of behavior that is marked as “wrongful” or “disorderly” include things like language, stance and overall demeanor. Marines are scolded if they swear, or if they slouch. They might receive punishment for sitting at a table with their legs up or leaning against a post. It is also completely terrible to spit and talk on a cellphone/text/eat/drink while walking. All of these punishable actions are things that I did the day I typed this sentence and I probably did the day you read this. The military labels normal citizen behavior as rude, lazy, stupid, primitive and animalistic.

So how does this affect a military man/woman’s view of everyday people? Greatly. There is much that the common man overlooks and this causes a distinction that goes further than whether or not someone is wearing a uniform. While Zach and I walked, he pointed at a group of men in front of us. The three men were buddies who laughed loudly and playfully shoved one another. Gore then continued to state, “His shirt is not tucked in, his back is slouched and his hands are in his pockets.” He said it with disgust. The military man views the common man with sneer snootiness. To the men in uniforms, we are lazy, nonchalant, laid-back and overly relaxed. “You guys take so much for granted.” Private Gore described the average civilian as, “asleep and unaware of themselves.” We, normal citizens, don’t have too many specifications to follow. We are free and we do as we please, but officials condemn us for this. Gore said that civilians are most commonly referred to with the phrase: “looks like trash.” A lot of this stems from the fact that this excessive attention to detail creates an overactive mind. A mind that cannot rest, it always pay attention to what most people don’t pay attention to. So, by noticing things that others don’t, a new world view is formed. And since most of the world doesn’t conform to the military man’s view of what is “proper” or “professional” then they hold themselves to a superior status. This happens all the time and most commonly between the rich and the poor. The rich have access to things like education and pastimes, whereas, the poor have to scavenge for time to relax and learn on the job as opposed to in a classroom. So when the two groups interact, one group holds themselves higher than the other because they both have such distinct views on the world. An opulent person might think he/she is smarter that a poor man/woman because the latter speaks with a grammatically disproportionate lexicon. The same dichotomy prevails in a normal civilian’s relationship to an official.

We are below them because we don’t adhere to their standards. Apparently if we civilians want respect then we have to act like we want it. To officials, acting like we want respect, entails embodying the extensive qualifications only they are exposed to. In the military, “If you want to be treated professionally, then you need to act professionally.” But this presents a problem. In a sense, it creates a different language, a different culture that one of the classes cannot learn or adapt to. The only way an individual from a certain class can adhere to these hidden policies is by joining that other class. Maybe I should start wearing shirt-stays? Evidently, learning the language of officials is essential because they will always have more power than the common man. This is due to the fact that they embody the law, which dictates everything. The common man is governed by the law and is, thus, governed by police officers and military personnel. Though they may earn less than a CEO with a net worth filled with many commas, they still maintain power over him.  When I asked Officer Cook what he thought might explain people’s change in behavior when they saw a cop car, he said, “We are a reminder that there are rules to follow.” So, in a sense, cops themselves are symbols for the law they coordinate and regulate.

What else might cause this overly-present distinction? Labeling might play a big part. To civilians, officers are referred to in a number of ways. Some labels are intentionally derogatory like “pigs.” But cops are also objectively referred to as “the 5-o, coppers, and po-po.” This language distinguishes one sector of the population from another. Officials commonly refer to anyone without a uniform as “civilians.” These vocabularies harbor and maintain the dichotomy. The distinction is made clearer when you have the ability to categorize an entire section of the population with a single word. The point is that people and officials don’t seem to think that they are rooted in common ground. They each inhabit different worlds, different lifestyles. Through this, the position of the officer in society is elevated.

Another verbal cue that reinforces the belief that I mentioned in the former sentence comes in the form of titles. When you successfully complete training and receive a position in the military or police force, you are awarded with a title. Zach Gore becomes “Private Gore.” Kevin Cook becomes “Officer Cook.” Your name changes with your position. You become something higher than you once were. You become more than you used to be. Through this succession, you associate yourself with others of the same title and belittle those who haven’t “earned” one. A sense of respect comes with a title, which can even lead to a sense of entitlement. Language like this defines and divides the people. Distinctions are cordially labeled, which only makes them more obvious. Being a police officer or a private becomes more than just a job, it becomes an enhancement. For some reason, it seems to validate your supposed superiority in the same way that a PhD validates someone’s intellect. Doctors hold themselves higher than most societal beings, as do Officers, Lieutenants and Privates. Since Police Officers see themselves as higher than the average man, we become sheep and they become shepherds. In a sense, they babysit us and scold us when we forget the laws of mother nurture. I say “nurture” because none of us are born knowing the laws of society that officials are experts on. Although, it can be argued that morality is dictated by human nature.

In the military, personnel are trained to respond to violence with physicality. Boot Camp and Arms Training prepare recruits for combat. During this time, recruits are conditioned to use their muscles over their mind to solve mishaps. If someone comes at you with a fist, you fire a fist back. Indoctrinating this mentality is crucial in a war zone, when you have to react quickly or you risk losing your life. It is much safer to shoot before you have the chance to be shot at. During these camps, drill instructors teach their disciples how to categorize and view the enemy. The enemy is defined and there are no exceptions when dealing with said enemy. You point, you cock, and you shoot. These disassociations become associated with violence, rage and opposition. The military man disassociates himself from the enemy so feelings of empathy and sympathy will not jump in front of his gun to block a bullet. But while they disassociate themselves from the enemy, military personnel also remove themselves from the average citizen. The disassociation is most evident in the way that military property refer to normal citizens as “civilians.” Military personnel are intentionally disassociated from everyone so that they may ensure their own safety. “If you only think of yourself, then you probably will survive,” Wyatt said about combat technique. But this causes men and women to remove themselves from the normal workings of average life.

Military men find it extremely difficult to reacquaint themselves with everyday life because the skills that they have learned are no longer applicable. So when a veteran comes back into the mundane ticks and tocks of normal societal existence, he/she doesn’t feel a part of his/her environment. He/she feels removed. He/she is disassociated. So he/she finds it harder to empathize and sympathize with the common man. Through this lack of empathy, the military man will not be reluctant to use the only thing (violence) that he has learned during his 4 years (or more) in the military against the common man. This is because he no longer identifies with the average, suit wearing, gum chewing, money spending, movie watching, average Joe. So, I ask, what happens when a veteran becomes a police officer? Is it easier for him to use violence because it is all that he has learned? Is it easier for him to use violence because he no longer feels sympathy for those he has power over? It certainly seems to be the case. In part, because the law enforcement agency is structured so similarly to the military tree. It becomes so easy for a veteran to assimilate oneself in an environment that fosters the same mentalities and looks rather the same.

A few paragraphs ago, I typed about the fact that police departments happily seek former-military men and women because they are good at taking orders. These men and women are all too fluent in the realms of violent response and since they have been conditioned to retaliate violently to whatever enemy they face, they most probably will. Since officers see themselves at war with citizens (due to the fact that there is always a chance that any civilian wants to hurt you) then veteran police officers can reassign their former hostility towards an enemy and redirect it towards the common man. The similarities between the two realms make it easier for the mentality of the military to find a home within the police department. In the police department there is even a great emphasis in attire specifications.

Police men and women have to wear as many intricate devices as the next military man. When Officer Ellis, Officer Cook and I stood outside on a sidewalk conversing, Ellis’ attention kept wandering. His eyes would fall from eye level to fix themselves somewhere on Cook’s lower body. Ellis’ fingers twiddled nervously and eventually he broke the conversation to say, “I’m sorry but this is bugging the hell out of me. Tuck your shirt in Cook.” Cook smiled but Ellis retained his serious expression until Cook finished fixing his shirt-stay. Now the shirt-stay is also found throughout the military, it is a device that makes sure your shirt, well, stays in place. A good Officer will have a flat shirt subside under the crevice of his pants. This instance showed me that there is a lot of attention to detail present in the police force. Which, like I mentioned, can harbor a feeling of superiority against those that are ignorant to such intricate specifications. These types of similarities make it easier for a former-military official to assimilate his/herself into the environment that is the police force. The similarities seem to supplement the easy transition. This means that the military mentality remains since their new environment isn’t all that new. In fact, the police force has become increasingly military-like.

“The Militarization of the Police Force” is a rising phenomenon. Police men and women wear military gear and even use military weapons. They point the gun to imply shooting, as opposed to drawing the gun only when they are about shoot (the former is a militaristic behavior). The public is slowly falling into a war they didn’t know they were drafted for. A war within the confines of their neighborhoods. A war against those who they once thought were there to protect them. Evidently, people are now more scared of police people than ever. People slow their cars down when passing a cop to avoid any sort of interaction because in the back of their minds they know it could not end very well for them. This furthers the divide between the police and the people. The dichotomy is now being realized on both sides. Citizens still and, probably will, remain separate.

SECTION 4: Physicality over Mentality

These last two sections, as you have noticed, are very assumptive. They are more theoretical than observational. However, I am drawing these conclusions and beliefs from the objective observations I have gathered. Both of these sections are very different from the first two, which is why I have chosen to place them at the bottom of my investigative report. This final section will do the same as the one before. It will draw its source material from numerous interactions that I have garnered and jotted down into my orange notebook. In this section I will specifically address my fourth sub-question, which asks if the Police Academy itself promotes a physical response over a mental one. When I say “mental” I refer to behaviors that heavily rely on the mind to operate effectively like speaking. Making words come out of your moth is very reliant on the brain and its operating systems. It is for this reason that physical damage to brain can result in speaking difficulty like Aphasia, which inhibits a speaker’s ability to speak clearly and comprehend the dialogue others relay. Earlier, I touched on the idea that officials should embody mentality over physicality since they condemn physical atrocities like violence and abuse. It is reasonable to expect the government and all of its affiliates to respond to situations with rationale instead of muscle power.  Even when a cop is ordered to respond to a physical atrocity being committed, his/her demeanor should remain verbal and mental. It would be hypocritical for a cop to strike a man and then book him for striking another man. The police force should embody and symbolize the laws they regulate and enforce.

However, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Officers to equip themselves with ideas and rational thought because their very training inhibits them from doing so. Also, a person who is more or less intellectually constrained will resort to finding occupation in the police force because of its strong association with physicality. Cops are trained to perform better physically than mentally. It all starts before the Police Academy. Like I mentioned before, there are many exams that an officer must successfully pass in order to wear a badge. The very first of which is an exam that tests your general knowledge and intellect. Now this might contradict what I have said in the preceding sentences but I assure you that this is no SAT. “This written exam tests you on both writing and mathematics” Officer Cook said, “You (Chris (me)) will have no trouble passing it, considering you’re a third year at Berkeley.” I asked him about the nature of the exam and he told me that it was “all very general.” The reason this test is so broad is because those who take it will not know what is going to be on it. How can one study for a test whose content is not disclosed? The test, in result, must be structured in such a way that it doesn’t demand too much prior knowledge. It must test on things everyone has access to and everyone will probably know.

A young man named Anthony Huacuja has taken all the exams necessary on the road to becoming a police officer. In a few weeks, he will start working at the jails. Since Anthony is a friend of mine and a prospective police officer, he was an ideal person to interview. Over the phone, I spoke with Anthony about some of our old shared experiences. We talked about our intrinsic lives and our external environments. I told him I have been stressed and he told me he had been too. Then I began to navigate the conversation towards his experiences in and before the academy. I asked him about the test and he told me everything he could. I was very careful to make sure I didn’t sound like I was belittling him since I was investigating the simple nature of the exam. I asked him about the academic rigor that the test demanded. He told me that “The English and Math (portions of the exam) is basic high school skills.” So anyone who graduated from high school should be able to pass this exam. Anthony did, however, mention that one part of the test was challenging.

“The reading comprehension was a little tough because it is tricky. You have to identify misspelled words.” When I called the Sherriff’s Hiring and Recruitment Offices, I respectfully asked about the exam. The lady operator connected me to another man who answered my plethora of questions. “The exam” he said patiently, “is 60 questions and you get an hour and a half to take it. It’s similar to the SAT but, it obviously won’t be as difficult as the SAT.” When I asked him how many questions I would have to answer correctly to pass he stated, “There is no set number. It varies. So I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But it’s safe to aim for 40 out of 60.” That’s a D. Also, there is always an opportunity to retake the exam if one fails. The very fact that the test doesn’t have a set passing score leads me to believe that departments reserve the right to hire those who score below 40. I doubt the exam’s passing-score-bar is ever moved up. The reason I doubt this is because the rest of the path to become an officer involves too much physicality, which is most clearly seen once you have been admitted into the academy. “After you pass that (written exam) you have to take the physical agility test. Then after passing that you will have to complete and submit 17 pages of application forms along with providing us with all needed documentation. Things like birth certificate, passport, and social security. Then we will conduct a background investigation and then a psychological examination and lastly a medical examination. After passing all these you will then be admitted into the academy.”

The psychological examination is one of the strangest tests I have ever heard about. Huacuja says that “they hook you up to a polygraph and ask you questions like ‘Have you ever had sex with an animal?’ or ‘Have you ever done drugs?’” “The answers to these questions really impact whether or not you become an officer,” Officer Cook said, he paused to listen to the police scanner and then continued, “It’s really about how honest you are.” The psychological exam, which is mediated by a polygraph machine, asks prospective police officers if they have tried all sorts of drugs. The test favors those who have not experimented with many. An interesting article, published in Psychology Today and titled “Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs,” stated that a study found “that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume all types of psychoactive drugs than less intelligent individuals.” Intelligence was measured by IQ, of course. This goes to show that the police force, through its extensive analysis tends to prefer and hire people with lower IQ’s. This is a pretty big statement and I am aware of that, but like I said before I am just making subjective assumptions from objective material. But since smarter individuals are usually in search for more knowledge, thus provoking them to continue their education at Universities and Colleges, the Police Force seems like a physical alternative to that. There is a stereotype that is associated with the police man in popular culture and culture in general and it is that: The high school jock or football player who wasn’t very smart will never leave town and end up marrying his high school sweetheart, while being employed as a petty police officer. Officer Stoffles addressed this by saying, “You see me and Cook went to college. We’re somewhat educated and that’s dangerous to have in this job.”
When one gets to the academy, the material that is presented and tested on relates to the police force. Throughout the 6 months, you are constantly faced with physical tests. They make you do push-ups and train you to do more. “The exams in the academy are generally about cop work and police work in general. And they go over all that beforehand” said Officer Cook as we pulled up to the BART station. I was preparing my materials so that I may leave. “There is a test a week. Shooting, driving, chemical weaponry.” All of his examples delved into the physical realm. The Police Academy is not a good judgment of intellect because it teaches you the subject right before you’re tested on it. Its structure reminds me of summer school, which most students tend to pass with less difficulties because the information is still fresh in your brain by the time you’re tested on it. Now something interesting is that the Sherriff’s department encourages the hiring of those with college degrees. Cook said that there are actually pay incentives for those with a bachelors, associates or masters. “They want the people with degrees.” But, sadly, those with degrees are quickly moved up the chain of command. If you have a degree you are more likely to become a sergeant or a lieutenant, leaving all the degree-less patrolling the streets. There have been numerous studies that suggest that people with lower IQ’s are more likely to use violence. If in the police force, smarter individuals leave the streets, rookies and lower IQ individuals remain in close contact with people. Making violent interactions all the more likely.

So, the academy teaches you to respond to things physically and the overall process of becoming a cop favors lower IQ individuals. The only test that might actually measure your mental capacity can become rather curved. In all, the police department needs non-inquisitive folk because “they are better at taking orders.” But the drug-using, question asking men and women are usually more intelligent and rarely ever hired to be placed behind a badge. The more intelligent tend to address situations with more rationale. Brute force is barbaric, since humans have the capacity to discuss and solve problems with their mouths. But, the police system favors and conditions its officers to think with their fists. Poke an eye even if yours hasn’t been poked. Shoot a gun even if you haven’t been rightfully provoked.


            Finally, you’re at the end of this text. Look above you and feel happy that you have read all that. Too many words, I know. I apologize. But all of those letters were crucial because without them I wouldn’t have words and sentences and without many sentences I wouldn’t be able to form paragraphs and without paragraphs I wouldn’t be able to present an argument or even deliver an idea. Now the first part of the writing you have just read is rather anthropological since its content is founded in mere objective observations (The words “objective” and “observation” have the same initial syllabic morpheme for a reason). The second half is very much structured like a sociological evaluation. It is broad and makes strong arguments that can’t really be proven without more research, which I plan to pursue. But both of those sections were crucial because I believe that observations inherently spark thought and opinion. I would much rather describe and then assess the world, rather than sit back and take it for what it is. A lot of work went into scheduling interviews and ride alongs. So I wanted to milk the time that I spent to the best of my ability. I did this by forming explanations, beliefs, and questions that I strove to answer.

I hope my writings have shed a light on the public shadow that is the police department. I hope that I have shown you that policemen and women aren’t inherently violent, they are merely conditioned to be. It is not their fault, it is part of what the job entails. Police people operate on a different realm than most of us because they have been trained to see the world differently. I hold my answers to my sub-questions near and dear. I believe this text holds a lot of truth. I tried to explain the occurrence of violent retaliation in the police force without bias. I merely gathered all of the information I have collected in my head and in my notebook and poured it all out onto these pages. Now, it is up to you to believe me or not. After all I am just a human trying to explain the world around him. I could very well say that there is a Police Brutality God that regulates violence within the police force. That explanation could hold just as much truth as the one I have provided.

The common man is dying. There is a schism in our midst. A disappearing gap between the governed and the government. Between predator and prey. Soon the middle will be no more. There will be no "average" no "common". Through separation, alienation, and desolation, society itself  is creating the conditions for a battle between the police force and the citizens it "protects and serves." A revolution resulting from the evolution of an unnecessary dichotomy. Remember that we are all people. We all live and we all die. This seemingly inevitable separation will only cause problems. So remember that we are the police and the police is us. So, now I conclude my long accumulation of phrases and prepositions with a short sentence.