What I learned from watching Cops?

There were really strange few days, when I took the time and watched three whole seasons of Cops tv-series. As someone who has been raised and lived almost all of his life in Finland with just a little touch to the american society through entertainment, tourism, news and watching politics it was a horrifying experience. At the same time Cops was excellent entertainment – should I say social porn – and social documentary about failed social policies in different states.

If your policy would be to incarcerate as many poor citizens as possible, then those policies could be defined as success – but otherwise there are serious questions to be asked where that society is and has been going. On the surface every action and reaction made by law enforcement officials can be argued to be good and lawful, but on larger context and on systematic level the view is terrifying. Every single crack-cocaine and marijuana bust will most likely cost tax payers and the society in general more than proper treatment of the drug epidemic and individual addictions. Putting people behind the bars however is the simpler solution on the surface, not to mention that it is also huge business with vested interests by politicians, police, employees of industrial-jailing-complex and investors that benefit economically from status quo.

But the actual lessons.

In many cases it is better not to talk to the police without your lawyer

Unless you are the victim of a crime, there is a very good chance that even though you are innocent you might incriminate yourself of something. There is a great lecture about the subject behind following link:

http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/342.html

Getting convicted without committing a crime is something that no-one would want.

Police is there to protect you, except when they are not

There has been so much evidence and stories about police corruption that it should not be a huge surprise to see that kind of behavior repeated. There has been and there will be bad apples also in the law enforcement, and that is precisely the reason why society needs transparency and human rights watchdogs to make sure that the law is not mangled and interpreted wildly by those with the force. ’Photography is not a crime’ is just one example where individual police and security officers bend the common law and rules to enforce their own idea or wishes of what would be the proper limits of individual freedoms.

On the other end there are the criminal law enforcement officers who use the force purely for their own gain and be just criminals with a badge:
http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20090330_Video_sharpens_focus_on_raid.html?viewAll=y

War on drugs is lost war – working towards keeping the poor and uneducated in their place

It is hard to compete against market forces and addicts’ personal motivations. Billions of dollars are at stake, so suppliers are motivated to supply and addicted – well.. are addicted.

It is a lost cause to bundle all drugs into similar categories and charge people who just want to alter their states of consciousness in different ways than permitted chemicals: alcohol, nicotine and others.

It is a lost cause to try to incarcerate addicts and hope that fear of prison is enough counter motivation for them. It seems that it is not. Self destructive behavior will exist even while the hardest penalties are in place.

War on drugs however is great way and excuse to use to get people committed behind the bars whenever they are found with small amount of illegal substance. It is a neat way to clean up the streets of potential wrongdoers. Small amounts of pot or crack cocaine are enough to get you committed behind bars even though they do not get you pants down while committing some other crime. And if you do – or should we say when you do – a small traffic violation, it gives police the opportunity to pull you over, get a smell out of your car and say that they are suspecting narcotics to get a permission to search the car and make their case against you.

It is hard but extremely important to set the borders for individual rights and privacy versus state’s right to know and monitor

Cops tv-series make it so conveniently easy to give up your personal freedoms for the greater good, as it really gets results done. You see that law enforcement officers make great progress and actually arrest criminals for petty problems that actually open up possibilities for more investigation, and finally some kind of arrest because of found narcotics, drug paraphernalia, weapons or bad poetry.

It is easy to think giving up privacy and personal rights helps to get more people convicted, but at the same time it will limit and narrow down the living space and freedoms of everyone. Random searches, illegal wiretapping and questioning anyone who acts along randomly crafted definition of suspicious activity or behavior are signs or symptoms of society that is losing it’s grip on values of personal freedom and privacy.

Road to hell is paved with good intentions and change towards fascism starts with baby steps. People have fought decades and centuries for the rights we have today and we are giving them up quite so easily in the new times.

Violence and police brutality are serious problems

Never mind that the people you see beaten are most likely criminals. Never mind law enforcement officers are trying to keep themselves out from harms way and be safe just in case there are weapons involved. Violence breeds violence and my empathy senses are tingling when I see brutal behavior that seems to have little or no respect for the accused. If you would happen to be a hot tempered person, that kind of behavior from the side of police could actually trigger violent outbursts and behavior that could be deliberately interpreted as resisting arrest and used against that person.

Guns and tazers kill people and when you unholster a weapon – there are possibilities for an accident or overreaction. Shooting an unarmed civilian, tazing people who are not resisting or beating cyclist to the ground – because they are having protest against traffic and car fueled society in Manhattan and actually having an impact there – are wrong, no matter how you look at it. Violence is usually never the answer even though it might be the easy way out from a situation.

Force comes with responsibility. Police should not be thugs in uniforms.

It is great to live in egalitarian society with very little corruption

We have our own share of problems now and in the future, but at least corruption or violence are not a major problems here.

If you watch side by side Cops and local reality tv that follows police officers here in Finland the differences could not be greater. Where everything is fast and dangerous on the other side of the Atlantic, it seems that here biggest problems are drunken people having arguments and fights – or driving under the influence. Though the work is less glamorous than shooting drug dealers or having high speed car chases – it is much more soothing to know that our police officers are keeping their guns in holsters, not thinking themselves as next to superman or thugs in uniforms – at least not yet.

Militarization of police is a phenomena that we are happy not to be part of. We saw 2006 first public presentations of crowd control during Smash Asem demonstration and public perception really backfired against the police. ”Thank you, we don’t need storm troopers in Helsinki now. Kthanxbye!”.

And still…

Bill Hicks was right.

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