Conflating Ideas

  1. Certain police officers behave inappropriately, often resulting in injury or death to civilians. There appears to be a lack of appropriate punishment, or no punishment at all, many times. Raising awareness through peaceful protests and social media can help change this systemic problem.
  2. All police are terrible and can’t be trusted. They do no good, only harm.

Above are two completely different ideas, although idea #2 often gets used as a straw man by those avoiding a substantive debate about idea #1. It’s much easier to dismiss the “all police are terrible” argument than it is to confront the difficult and sensitive reality that some of those sworn to serve and protect are doing neither.

To frame this in a way that should appeal to traditional conservatives and Republicans, police are as “big government” as it gets. We give them the ultimate authority to use lethal force, with zero due process. What is more big government than saying “these people can take your life if they deem necessary”? With this authority comes an intense responsibility not to abuse it. Being that police officers are human, they’re going to make mistakes and abuse this authority or intentionally abuse this authority. At the very least, they should be relieved of their duties as a police officer and find another career. In egregious cases, they should face a court of law like any ordinary civilian would.

Ultimately this comes down to a balance. Some extra latitude should rightly be given to police officers because they are occupying a unique position. But that doesn’t mean infinite latitude. The productive debate to have is whether the pendulum has swung too far (it has) in favor of law enforcement, and how to fix it.

The challenge is knocking down the straw man. It doesn’t help when there are a good number of people screaming “all police are terrible” and acting out their aggression. Those who believe law enforcement deserves no scrutiny avoid a debate by lumping everyone else in with criminals. It is dishonest, but effective.

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