The Collar and the Badge

In recent days, we’ve seen defensive protestations from two separate former Burlington police chiefs. The above comes from former chief and now rebranded 21st Century policing expert Brandon del Pozo. The second is in the resignation announcement of Jennifer Morrison, who tied her departure to the too-tough oversight by the busybodies on City Council.

In some ways I can sympathize. Burlington is a tough city for policing, never more so than right now. Progressives on City Council and community advocates often go over the top in their demands and their tactics. And as del Pozo noted in another tweet, many of the top cops who’ve resigned or been forced out across the country are among the more progressive members of that breed. To be sure, life is easier for the George Merkels and Paul Doucettes of the world, who rule the roost in communities that let the cops have their way.

For purposes of this blogpost, I am not questioning the good intentions of del Pozo or Morrison. But here’s the problem: Much like the Roman Catholic Church, the policing profession has forfeited the benefit of the doubt. There are far too many bad apples — and you know the real truth about bad apples is that unless they are removed, they spoil the barrel. In both professions, the bad apples have been allowed to remain.

The vast majority of Catholic priests and, for the sake of argument, top Church administrators operate faithfully, with good intentions. But the bad apples were protected, and the Church continues to pay a price. Who can take the Church seriously as a moral arbiter?

Winning back the lost trust will take several decades of good behavior and strict adherence to moral principles and the law. The same is now true of the policing profession — except they are still racking up fresh deficits.

Every time we see a video of police gassing, Tasering, beating up, arresting or even shooting Black Lives Matter protesters without good reason is Another Brick in the Wall. Every account of the cops treating anti-BLM protesters — or even gunmen — with kid gloves is one more reason not to trust the bona fides of the police.

So no, Dr. del Pozo, I can’t accept your characterization of the police as a beleaguered entity occupying some neutral center ground. Far too often, the cops have chosen sides. And every time they do, they freshly stain the reputation of their own profession. It becomes impossible to take police professionals seriously as earnest participants in their own reform. That situation continues to worsen.

Until it gets better — and it gets better consistently, for a long period of time — you’re not going to convince the occupiers of Battery Park or the vast majority of BLM protesters who have peacefully advanced their cause that you can be trusted.

Is it fair to the good cops? No. Are the jokes and eyerolls about altar boys fair to the good-hearted priests of the world? No. But both are active participants in systems that have failed to uphold the necessarily high standards of their professions.

Things have gotten better in the Catholic Church, thanks to decades of scandal and financially-damaging settlements. Things are still getting worse in the world of policing, because we see fresh damage being done every single day.

Until then, I’m sorry. The good Doctor doesn’t get my consent for his characterization of the police. And former chief Morrison doesn’t get my sympathy for the politicization of her job. That kitchen is red-hot by now, and it’s not the fault of the protesters or Progressive Councilors. It’s the fault of bad police and the institutions that have protected them. And, in many cases, still do.


4 thoughts on “The Collar and the Badge

  1. Ted Cohen

    Everyone hates a cop until they need one.

    Suddenly the pendulum in this country has swung to the left – so every cop is a bad cop.

    That is of course Insanity 2.0.

    Cops do fantastic work.

    If you need the cops in the middle of the night, you dial 911 and they head your way – guns blazing.

    And no one who ever had to call police for help will denigrate their work. Period.

    It only occurs when it’s politically popular such as when you’re some unemployed, self-entitled kid on the street protesting with a placard because you have nothing else to do.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Keep on punching that straw man. Nobody I know is saying “every cop is a bad cop,” and I went out of my way NOT to say so in my post. But I won’t mindlessly give every cop and police agency free rein to abuse their authority.

      And good God, I hope they never head ANYWHERE with “guns blazing.”

      1. JDunne

        John, to be fair many many of the UVM protesters believe that “All Cops are Bad” or ACAB. Many would also use a different B word. They are not pushing for reforming the police, but a full dismantling of the police department. It is far from a straw man to say the many protester think all cops are bad.
        A UVM Student

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