I was not impressed by the statement that the Officers of Avalon, an organization for Pagan police and first responders, released through the Wild Hunt. OoA acknowledges that political decisions to enforce curfew and sanitation laws by directing police to remove Occupy camps:
…has resulted in confrontations where a few officers have crossed the line and used unreasonable force. Let us state clearly, Officers Of Avalon believes that the use of excessive force on peaceable protesters is a violation of the rights of protesters, clearly immoral and in extreme cases felonious.
The rest of the statement is OoA expressing concern over the tone of conversations going on in the Pagan world. They say:
It is not the police who are the enemy of this movement. … Holding local officers accountable for the decisions of politicians is both unreasonable and illogical. It is no more reasonable than blaming your local bank teller for the actions of their CEO’s on Wall Street.
I agree that the police are not the enemy of the Occupy movement. But the end of that paragraph is a non sequitur. Asking people not to blame the cops might have been a reasonable thing to say a month ago, or even a week ago. But after recent events like the pepper-spraying of peaceful protestors at UC Davis, the analogy there completely falls apart. I’m not blaming police officers for political decisions; I’m blaming police officers for tactical decisions that hurt people.
In these circumstances, laying the blame for police brutality on anyone besides the police is both unreasonable and illogical. It is no more reasonable than blaming the dogcatcher for the actions of the bank teller who robs me at gunpoint.
And to be clear, I am not blaming “the police” as a monolithic institution. I have studied combat psychology and am familiar with the massive unfairness of the American reaction to the military as a whole during and after the Vietnam war. I am more than willing to identify isolated incidents and so-called “bad apples,” and to recognize that they are not representative of police as a whole. I am also willing to acknowledge that tactical situations develop incredibly quickly and that split-second bad decisions are not necessarily a sign of malice aforethought.
But when I see the worst examples of police brutality and abuse of power in a generation, and I see them being repeated in city after city across the country, I begin to be concerned. When I see a clear pattern of undeniable on-the-scene evidence that at least some police officers are making reasoned decisions to use unreasonable force, and that the first reaction of the police and the government is to protect those officers and blame the victims, I begin to doubt. When I see that police forces as a whole are not being held to the same standards as our troops on the battlefield are, I begin to be afraid.
I doubt that the problem is isolated to a few individuals or a few tactical mistakes. I am concerned that the increasingly para-military culture of policing is not serving its officers or the public well. And I am frankly afraid that if we don’t address this issue now, it will only get worse.
Along with Officers of Avalon, I too call on the community to avoid vilifying an entire profession. But I am disappointed that OoA spent the majority of their statement making such half-hearted efforts to appease everyone, let alone tone arguments, because that’s not the way to convince me that you’re on my side; forceful statements disavowing the actions that you find reprehensible and reaffirming the values that you represent are. With the news the way it is, what OoA wrote might have made sense for an audience in Avalon, but not here.