Bill Maher Gets One Right

RawStory is saying that Maher did a segment on police brutality tonight (Friday). In it he said:

“We need to stop saying most cops are good like we know that to be true,” Maher said. “I hope that’s true, but I need some evidence—unlike cops.”

I think that the most troubling thing about this is how few of these incidents come to light through police body cams. With so many interactions recorded on body cam, how is it that the majority of brutality incidents reach the public eye through the video taken by some witness pulling out a cell phone?

I don’t think that the majority of cops have committed unnecessary and illegal violence. I think the majority have certainly committed unnecessary violence, though, and I think that the ratio of bystander videos to body cam videos in these situations shows that law enforcement as an institution is engaged in a massive coverup. What does it mean to be a “good cop” when so many of these incidents are covered up by cops? Can you still be a “good cop” while ignoring the problems too big to change by yourself? How would that square with arresting a murderer when you know you don’t have the skills to prosecute them?

The definition of “good cop” is going to vary from person to person, but from testilying to state certification boards to allowing corrupt cops to resign to avoid investigation & punishment so they can hop over to a job in the next jurisdiction, I think there’s more than enough evidence that a huge percentage of cops are corruptly ignoring the problems in their own departments even if they are decent and trying to do good when they go out on the streets. Some of those cops *might* be good if we didn’t ask them to work in corrupt agencies. But how many? It’s impossible to tell.

So, yeah: maybe most cops are good, but at this point they’re going to need to step up with some evidence.




  1. says

    Crip Dyke…

    The good cop line falls apart at the Blue Wall.

    Having said that, my 11 years in the military—and two uncles in law enforcement—have taught me why the wall exists.

    When your literal life can depend upon the support of the person to your left and right, you know which side your bread is buttered.

    Good cops who stand up to xenophobia and prejudice seldom fare well, at any level.

    This is the best argument possible for civilian review boards formed with no input from the police and with hiring, firing and prosecutorial powers.Such boards are not only necessary but vital to reining in “bad” cops.

    Jeff Hess

  2. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To hyphenman
    I understand – not condone per se, just understand – that sentiment in the military. However, for American police, it makes no sense. Their life is not at risk. Being a cop is a safer job than being a truck driver. I suspect that this is made much worse by the voluminous police training which emphasizes that their lives in danger at every moment, which is just false, with a distinct lack of training in deescalation. All of this is made worse by the general mistaken belief in the culture that being a cop is a dangerous job.

  3. says

    Good morning EL…

    That’s true, you’re absolutely right. police officers in America don’t even make the top 10 list of most dangerous jobs.

    I also agree that training plays an important role in this misperception and bolsters the cultural attitude.

    Wrong, dangerously wrong, the erroneous information may be, but for a variety of reasons, the (blue) band-of-brothers meme informs too many officers and makes those who are able to see the problem vulnerable to ostracization and worse.

    I don’t think this is a problem that can be fixed from the inside, hence my point about external citizen review boards.

    We get to vote for sheriffs, but not police chiefs. That needs to change.

    The people policed should be in charge of those who protect and serve them.



  4. khms says

    I actually think that this voting for law-enforcement and judicial personnel is part of the problem. That makes those people behave like politicians, not like people entrusted with upholding the law. That is entirely wrong.

    On the other hand, another part of the problem is balkanisation. It is understandable historically, but that doesn’t make it good. The smaller such an organization is, for example, the harder it is to have reasonable internal watchdogs, the less institutional knowledge is there, and the more top level executives there are who could be really bad at their job. Plus, this makes for very uneven financing, and modern cities are traditionally more broke than not, so they try to finance the police by parking tickets, confiscated money, and other methods creating clear conflict of interest.

    Personally, I’d suggest making all of those state-level organizations. Better financing, more options to fight corruption, less options for fired cops to get work the next city over, just for a few arguments. It’s no guarantee of perfection, but it really does make improvements easier. Of course, it’s also rather at odds with US culture – but I think that is actually a good thing. (Also, I’m under the impression – perhaps mistaken – that state cops have in general a better track record.)

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