The 'Cop' mentality: when police conspire against the public good

Grieves

Senior Member
Often on this site we find ourselves discussing the state of policing in America/around the world, usually with a focus on the massive expansion of military-style tactics and equipment within police forces the world over, and how that change in policing changes how authority works in modern times. Some say It's all a grand plot to pacify the people in the style of martial law, some say it's just the natural response to an increasingly dangerous world, police-safety being paramount.

Something that I see often being dismissed or downplayed in these discussions is the 'Cop' mentality, and the sometimes automatic willingness to conspire against justice and the public good that can result of it. I've had a nasty encounter or two with police in the past, but I've also got police in the family, and when we discuss these issues the conversation is typically framed thus: There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of officers of the law out there. The Police- as in those upstanding individuals who take it upon themselves to protect and serve with the earnest intent to do good, and Cops- those who are in it for the gun and the badge. Police grew up with a strong sense of right and wrong and a desire to see karma enforced, Cops grew up as schoolyard bullies who wouldn't surrender that role to the adult world.

While there are hopefully just as many Police on any given force as there are Cops, there's little question that for the most part the Cops are running the show. Most every police-force in North America, right down to the local scene, functions as a sort of 'club-house', where it's entirely expected that the guys on your 'team' will cover for and protect you, even when it goes against the mandate to protect and serve.

An infuriating example of this came up recently here in Toronto just a few nights back.


Here you can see Sammy Yatim, a young man who threw a fit with a blade in-hand on an empty street-car, being executed by a police officer. Sammy was alone on the bus, had no hostages, was entirely surrounded by multiple officers, and only had one mode of exit, closely watched by several armed policemen. The police order Sammy to drop the knife, Sammy does not. Though there is no danger to a single officer, made entirely apparent by the casual stance of all officers but those with their weapons trained, a single officer opens fire, three shots, long pause, then six shots, emptying 75% of his weapon's 12 round magazine into the youth. No one tackles him, calls for him to halt, admonishes him, or even acts surprised. Instead, the police immediately begin to contaminate the scene of the shooting, walking nonchalantly through the area, treading on and kicking around casings 'accidentally', allowing civilians to go traipsing through the area, letting a bicycle pass by the police-tape. Rather than treat their colleague as a man who just opened fire to a psychotic extent on a youth who was no danger to anyone but himself as a cause for immediate concern and action, and rather than treat the scene of the shooting as a place where a crime was committed, they all had themselves an idle walk-about across the evidence. Most sick and twisted of all, it's clearly audible in most recordings of the incident that, following the 9 shots, someone boards the street-car and deploys a tazer on Sammy, now shot nine times.
Presumably he was still twitching.

The psychotic Cop can and will be punished. That goes without saying in a case so outrageous. Can he be properly tried though, given the police are on video contaminating the evidence? Will any of the officers with him be charged or remanded for contaminating the scene/failing to take control of the situation? Will there be any mention or discussion of the rather evident lack of appropriate response among a near dozen officers to one of their own opening fire and near emptying his weapon on a lone civilian in a street car?

These things happen all the time in my area, 'suicide by cop' a repeat theme. The vast majority of the time the officers involved get a pass, even in the case where a naked man with a butter-knife was gunned down. The videos make that (hopefully) impossible in this particular event, but it leaves one to wonder just how often the 'Cop' mentality dusts and tidies these things up for the sake of their club. By the casual behavior of most every officer involved in this incident, I'd say it's more often than most would dare dread.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I think the key thing to prevent incidents like this is to have more video coverage. Both by ensuring the public has a strongly protected right to video the police, and by ensuring the police themselves have body and even gun mounted cameras.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/t...camera-and-the-cloud.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Ideally of course we'd also have better training and safeguards. But a degree of "protecting your own" is going to creep in regardless.
 

AluminumTheory

Senior Member.
Another step would be to abolish police unions. Alex Jones and many like minded individuals insist that 'they' specifically recruit aggressive and violent people to be cops when it's most likely the other way around. Certain types of jobs attract certain types of people. I'm sure there are plenty of cops who just want to make the streets a little safer and do something positive in their community. And I'm also sure that some cops are insecure individuals who just want to feel like they have power.

The problem is that unions make it extremely difficult to terminate an employee once they have been hired and this is why police officers rarely if ever lose their job in cases of misconduct. And when its been established that you can get away with virtually anything it inevitably leads to an atmosphere of corruption that you see in alot of big city police forces like the L.A.P.D. and the N.Y.P.D.
 

Oxymoron

Banned
Banned
Excessive/inappropriate police shootings, beatings, tazerings etc are so worrying that people are organising into groups to video the police in action to document the abuses.

http://peacefulstreets.com/about/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copwatch

But it doesn't stop with out of control cops... prisons are also prime areas for abuse and torture. There is at least one reported instance of a mentally ill patient being strapped into a chair by what looks like 'stormtroopers', being sprayed in the face at close range with pepper spray which is for crowd dispersal at 18 or 20 feet, hooded and left in agony for over twenty minutes. Very disturbing video on 2nd link

http://www.pressherald.com/news/mdc-seeking-pepper-spray-video-source_2013-03-21.html

Short 20 min version and full 2 hour version... graphic and disturbing
http://www.pressherald.com/news/projects/note-to-readers_2013-03-17.html
 

Oxymoron

Banned
Banned
In the U.K tough action was taken following abuse of patients at Winterbourne Down

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...s-closed-Winterbourne-View-abuse-scandal.html
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
In the U.K tough action was taken following abuse of patients at Winterbourne Down

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...s-closed-Winterbourne-View-abuse-scandal.html
Abuses like this will always be happening somewhere. I remember the documentary about Rampton in 1979, especially as I entered nurse training a few years after. It is unfortunate but while there are people in any position of power and trust there will be some abuses.
 

Oxymoron

Banned
Banned
Abuses like this will always be happening somewhere. I remember the documentary about Rampton in 1979, especially as I entered nurse training a few years after. It is unfortunate but while there are people in any position of power and trust there will be some abuses.
Yes I agree Dave. I am not really too concerned about the Winterbourne View case as the people involved were prosecuted, although having said that, it was a matter of concern that the oversight body had rejected whistleblower testimony about what was occurring there until such times as they were confronted with the embarrassment of the documentary. But yes as you say, isolated incidents of abuse will continue to happen no matter what.

The reason I posted about Winterbourne View was more as a comparison to the Maine incident. To my mind the Maine incident is far more serious in virtually all regards. The level of abuse is like something from a horror movie... it is extreme, clinical, ritualistic, (like Milgram's obedience to authority experiment) but above all that, it is systemic in that it comes from on high and the 'stormtroopers' clinically obey without any sign of objection. The fact that no charges are brought and the guy who ordered it was reinstated, is telling.

Also telling is the fact that they instigated an inquiry into 'security' to prevent further examples being released but there is no inquiry or condemnation of the actions.

What sort of message do you think that sends to the people working there Dave?
 
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MikeC

Closed Account
Another step would be to abolish police unions. ......

The problem is that unions make it extremely difficult to terminate an employee once they have been hired and this is why police officers rarely if ever lose their job in cases of misconduct. And when its been established that you can get away with virtually anything it inevitably leads to an atmosphere of corruption that you see in alot of big city police forces like the L.A.P.D. and the N.Y.P.D.
Unions also work to protect individuals from malicious and false complaints.

I have not seen any figures about how many officers get "saved" by unions from sacking after being convicted in court or in case of lesser but still serious disciplinary action - but the role of the union (as a union delegate myself (not the police!) is to protect the member from undue or false, not to be a smokescreen behind which undesireable activity can go unpunished.

Within the last 6 months I have sat around a table with an employee and HR, and I was the one who suggested that employment be terminated - a very uncomfortable situation but it appeared that no-one else wanted to confront "the elephant in the room". And actually everyone was happy - yes even eth employee, who was REALLY not enjoying the job and was glad to no longer have that stress and moved to another more suitable job in short order.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
Yes I agree Dave. I am not really too concerned about the Winterbourne View case as the people involved were prosecuted, although having said that, it was a matter of concern that the oversight body had rejected whistleblower testimony about what was occurring there until such times as they were confronted with the embarrassment of the documentary. But yes as you say, isolated incidents of abuse will continue to happen no matter what.

The reason I posted about Winterbourne View was more as a comparison to the Maine incident. To my mind the Maine incident is far more serious in virtually all regards. The level of abuse is like something from a horror movie... it is extreme, clinical, ritualistic, (like Milgram's obedience to authority experiment) but above all that, it is systemic in that it comes from on high and the 'stormtroopers' clinically obey without any sign of objection. The fact that no charges are brought and the guy who ordered it was reinstated, is telling.

Also telling is the fact that they instigated an inquiry into 'security' to prevent further examples being released but there is no inquiry or condemnation of the actions.

What sort of message do you think that sends to the people working there Dave?
I do agree with you Oxy. There are so many issues with the insular nature of organisations that hold power over people. We, as in the public, seem to have no way to hold them accountable, and it is not just the police I am talking about. The system is open to so much abuse and control by a minority it is frightening.

However, and this is the paradox, I appreciate the need and nature of the situation. Jobs like that are very demanding and unforgiving. If the rule book were to be followed you would lose a great number of excellent people due to them making mistakes or slip ups. At the end of the day everyone is fallible. To work in they can be very supportive and nurturing, however when it comes to reporting people it is like the school playground and grassing to the teacher. I know from my time in the army and and as a psychiatric nurse how childish the system can be, especially if you do whistleblow and are sent to Coventry. The system needs a over all but I have no idea of the answers.

To address the OP I don't mind the use of the police adopting military tactics even in the UK. They are efficient and effective so they do the job. However I was working around the police (I am sometimes an "Appropriate Adult" and also inspectical custody suites) and I descry the uniform. Although it is necessary I don't likee to see our officers in body armour or stab vests. Mind you it says loads when you understand the majority of our police don't want to be armed.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
An interesting and I think insightful piece on cop psychology and how to survive it...
 

Sausalito

Active Member
I do agree with you Oxy. There are so many issues with the insular nature of organisations that hold power over people. We, as in the public, seem to have no way to hold them accountable, and it is not just the police I am talking about...
A number of years ago, I was assaulted by a Chicago police officer, whom I did not provoke. He refused to return my passport (I am a U.S. citizen) unless I signed a paper admitting to some crime. I hesitated, and he beat my face. The only other witness was his partner. I happened to work around the emergency call center for said city, and the next day a worker asked
why I was so upset. I explained everything to her. She vowed to right the situation, and I gave her the officer's badge number. She walked away with purpose. The next day, she wouldn't even look me in the eye. I've dealt with hundreds (no exaggeration) of law enforcement workers in Chicago, and they are obviously pluralistic and defy generalization. But there is a culture of corruption that is undeniable. I've interacted with officers who have taken advantage of the fact that they can get away with murder, literally, and have, several times. I have also seen officers of said city threaten the life of a would-be whistle-blower co-worker. You should have seen the reaction within the CPD when Jody Weiss (ex-FBI) of Philadelphia was appointed commissioner with the intention of cleaning house. Sigh... Sorry for the ramble. We need checks and balances, and an internal affairs office with some canines (as in teeth).

Edit: The fact that I had no recourse, legal or otherwise, infuriated me beyond description. I felt so violated; I'm used to the option of self-defense.
 

AluminumTheory

Senior Member.
Unions also work to protect individuals from malicious and false complaints.

I have not seen any figures about how many officers get "saved" by unions from sacking after being convicted in court or in case of lesser but still serious disciplinary action - but the role of the union (as a union delegate myself (not the police!) is to protect the member from undue or false, not to be a smokescreen behind which undesireable activity can go unpunished.

Within the last 6 months I have sat around a table with an employee and HR, and I was the one who suggested that employment be terminated - a very uncomfortable situation but it appeared that no-one else wanted to confront "the elephant in the room". And actually everyone was happy - yes even eth employee, who was REALLY not enjoying the job and was glad to no longer have that stress and moved to another more suitable job in short order.
Having been worked in a union and having been a union officer, I have experience with this sort of thing myself. And I acknowledge that unions do alot of good in regards to ensuring fair treatment toward employees, but at the same time I have seen alot of situations when an employee should have been terminated but we as union officers are to defend the employee regardless. One situation involved theft which ended up going to an arbitrator. What happened is an employee was caught stealing some high end LCD projectors from one of the offices. The union saved his job by arguing that you couldn't prove that it was theft because he never left the property with the items. And things like this are one of the problems that I have with unions, I understand and know their purpose, but unions have a nasty habit of making it nearly impossible to enact discipline when necessary which in turn causes it's own host of problems.
 

Oxymoron

Banned
Banned
I do agree with you Oxy. There are so many issues with the insular nature of organisations that hold power over people. We, as in the public, seem to have no way to hold them accountable, and it is not just the police I am talking about. The system is open to so much abuse and control by a minority it is frightening.
Yes agreed again. Personally, I see this as the root cause of so many conspiracy theories. Not to conflate here but people see these abuses, (and worse, are subjected to these abuses) and see that it is systemic, which creates valid concerns. I know some don't like me saying these abuses are systemic but they often are, hence there is no redress in many cases.

However, and this is the paradox, I appreciate the need and nature of the situation. Jobs like that are very demanding and unforgiving. If the rule book were to be followed you would lose a great number of excellent people due to them making mistakes or slip ups. At the end of the day everyone is fallible.
I understand where you are coming from but I cannot agree that these excesses/abuses should be so lightly mitigated. People in such positions of authority need to abide by the rules the same as ordinary people who also are under a lot of pressure need to abide by the rules otherwise you have a system where the rules and punishment/sanctions only apply to some. I don't think it right that some people are held to the strictest letter of the law whilst those in positions of power openly abuse the law and are not sanctioned.

I do accept the job can be dangerous and taxing, that is why the selection process needs to be of a high standard. Many of the worst abuses are carried out or ordered by high ranking people so it is clear that policy needs to change. I cannot help but notice the extremely high number of 'cop programs' on TV lately and how even when they know they are being filmed for TV, they still come across as aggressive sometimes.

To work in they can be very supportive and nurturing, however when it comes to reporting people it is like the school playground and grassing to the teacher. I know from my time in the army and and as a psychiatric nurse how childish the system can be, especially if you do whistleblow and are sent to Coventry. The system needs a over all but I have no idea of the answers.
Indeed, this is part of the problem. Corruption needs to be rooted out and fair systems put in place.

To address the OP I don't mind the use of the police adopting military tactics even in the UK. They are efficient and effective so they do the job. However I was working around the police (I am sometimes an "Appropriate Adult" and also inspectical custody suites) and I descry the uniform. Although it is necessary I don't likee to see our officers in body armour or stab vests. Mind you it says loads when you understand the majority of our police don't want to be armed.
U.K police are far from perfect but I dare to say, they are the best in the world from my experience. I really do not want to see them corrupted in the manner that cops elsewhere are, (particularly the U.S as that would be the model that they would likely follow if things changed). Police overkill is rampant in the U.S and AFAICS, it simply alienates them from a huge section of the community. I would hate to see that here.
 

Oxymoron

Banned
Banned
An interesting and I think insightful piece on cop psychology and how to survive it...

Part 1: Understanding Cops

The first step in dealing with cops is empathy. Seriously, it sounds like bullshit, but understanding them and relating with their position is critically important if you want them to let you skate on the stupid things you do.

The 3 Things You MUST Understand About How Cops Think:

1. Cops’ first and biggest concern is safety: I cannot over-emphasize this: The job of a police officer puts him in potentially dangerous situations every day, so everything he does starts with ensuring his personal safety. [/ex]
 

Cairenn

Senior Member.
In any profession where a profession has an aspect of power, like any law enforcement position, there will be folks attracted to it for the 'power over others' (higher pay might reduce that number, but it wouldn't stop them).

One of the businesses I follow on FB, is a lady that uses her RV to transport dogs from one home to another one (you live in Portland, Maine and your sister in Portland, OR wants one of your puppies, this lady will get it there).

Yesterday she had 2 poodles that she needed to deliver to their new owner in Canada. The Canadian border crossing guard was a real 'prick' with her and latter the new owner. (She had called and found out what paper work was needed) The guard came up with new ones, according to how he read the law. No violence but a very bad experience. It happens.
 
And here is a local news station investigative news report about a trucker who wound up uncouncious in the hospital from where the California Highway Patrol so beat him uncouncious. So what act of violence did this trucker commit? He dared to not sign the ticket the officer had written. Now aren't we lucky in Ameerica to know that our men (and women) in battle ready fatigues with deadly weapons and trained like the military are willing to teach this terrorist a lesson? Obviously I'm being sarcastic t make a point.

Towards the end of the report the news guy asks the acting chief of police if citizens have anything to fear from his men and the response was "If you comply with what is aksed". He doesn;t say if you follow the law or act lawfully but if you do as told. There is a big difference. Cops have cliamed and have had courts backup their cliam that they can lawfully lie to you. How then can you trust anything a cop says? Are cops really unable to see how the system is fostering a mindset of cops versus the citizens? They don't even call us citizens any more but civillians.


After 2 years since the incident, the thug cop is still roaming the streets looking for his bext victim while this old man is out of work and stiil seeking some form of justice. Tell me again (all yo debunkers out there) that there is no organized effort to move towards a police state.

 
An interesting and I think insightful piece on cop psychology and how to survive it...
 
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