Dick-Swinging at the DMV

, From left: Officers Buddy, Bubba and Junior

Does anyone else see a problem with this photo?

The DMV chose this image of burly officers with pimped-out pickups to represent its own police department, whose tasks are mainly bureaucratic in nature. It’s a picture of testosterone run amuck, straight out of a Boss Hogg wet dream.

It’s a small thing, but it illustrates a toxic cop culture. It’s the old-fashioned image of policing — a matter of billy clubs and guns and beefy officers enforcing the peace. It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world, no place for nuance or sensitivity. That shit’ll get you killed, bud.

Could the DMV have possibly hustled up a picture including at least one female officer? Or a person of color? Or someone who doesn’t look like a former football player?

And those trucks. Good grief. Overcompensating much?

The DMV’s police arm has made some unpleasant headlines in recent years for its habit of eagerly cooperating with federal immigration and border forces. The DMV has had a problem with Vermont’s program of offering driver’s privilege cards for undocumented immigrants. (One Jordanian immigrant went through a two-year deportation process after he applied for a privilege card and the DMV ratted him out to the feds. Its actions were clearly in violation of the state’s intent in establishing the program.)

The above picture seems to illustrate more than a little macho preening among DMV police and those who lead them.

It’s all ridiculous, because those officers are little more than paper-pushers.

According to its own website, the DMV’s expansively titled Enforcement and Safety Division has three sections. The first, the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section, inspect commercial vehicles and their drivers for compliance with state and federal law. The second, the Investigative Section, sounds promising — but its primary focus is “to regulate, monitor, and investigate illegal or questionable activities relating to licensing, registration and title fraud, dealer and inspection regulations, and general law enforcement support services.” It also regulates and licenses commercial driving schools and school bus driver training programs.

Nothing there that would seem to require flashers, sirens or tactical gear.

What about the third unit? Well, it’s called the Administrative Support Section. It provides “support functions” for hard-core activities like dealer licensing, inspection station licensing, mechanic certifications and abandoned vehicles.

You can’t pitch an action movie about any of that stuff.

Indeed, it seems like a cushy landing spot for its new director, Anthony Facos, who retired in January as police chief in Montpelier. At the time, he talked about the cumulative wear and tear of police work — which, in his department’s case, included two police shootings of men who were fighting mental illness.

It’s doubtful that he will face many, if any, life-or-death decisions in his new gig. Which makes the above photograph all the more absurd. The DMV cops have more in common with pencil-pushers or mall cops than with real police. Which makes it appearthat the tough-cop play-acting in that photo is a case of wish fulfillment that oozes into reality when they get a chance to narc on an undocumented Vermonter or drive to the nearest Dunkin’ with their flashers on.

Again, it’s a small thing. But it makes me wonder about the internal culture at the Enforcement & Safety Division. I hope the new guy can overcome his own training and experience, and guide the DMV into a less militaristic mindset.


10 thoughts on “Dick-Swinging at the DMV

  1. bombaysapphiremartiniupwithextraolivesstirred

    As if I needed another reason to loathe law enforcement, at all levels, but local and state particularly. I flip the the finger every time I see them. I resonded to an inquiry by my state representative a to what areas I felt needed to be addressed in the upcoming session. JUDICIAL REFORM.

  2. David Ellenbogen

    You’re right — the photo is in poor taste. As is your headline. Was “Dick Swinging” really the best you could do? I expect better from you John.

    1. Everett Burns

      You sir are an ass! DMV uniformed and investigators do all the things that local and VSP are too lazy to do. Example, get swindled on an auto purchase from a shady dealer and see if anyone in the State of Vt except Enforcement from DMV will help you. To many it can be totally divesting to get financial hurt in a deal. You should research before you let your 10 gallon mouth over run your two quart brain.

      1. John S. Walters Post author

        Aww, thanks for the kind words. I’m sure the DMV cops do a lot of worthwhile stuff, but I see nothing in their brief that requires pimped-out pickup trucks and tactical gear. Unless they’re rolling up locked and loaded on a shady dealership.

  3. Kay Trudell

    Would you ever say “Tit-Swinging” about a photo of a group of female law enforcement officers? Why not, if you support equality?

      1. Kathryn Trudell

        So you get to limit the speech because you also get to decide the parameters? Judge and jury? Typical liberal-think. At some point in the past, someone made up the colloquialism “dick-swinging” as well, did they not?

  4. Phayvanh Luekhamhan

    It’s no small thing and thanks for pointing it out. What caught my eye was that the commissioner (though named) was not pictured. Female leadership, especially in government, should be shown when possible, to encourage more female leaders.


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