All good cops
Are like jumbo shrimp
And just as tasty.
Anxiety is on a rise this winter.
Back in November of 2017, I found myself desperate to leave a party somewhere in the sticks near my hometown, The beer was good (because I bought; Troegs Perpetual) and the room was decorated in a manic style a la ‘Stranger Things.’ Old friends, long since elapsed in comings and environs, surrounded me. My legs started giving out in a game where everyone passes a tube of PVC between their legs and the consequences of mashing thighs frantically against an arbitrary timer (another old friend, watching like house cats to lasers) morphed into more of a herd sobriety test. We all failed.
We all failed so clearly we would have to stay. The rain was picking up and there was an abundance of floor space. Why would anyone drive home?
I did. For the very reasons explained above. And that little venture cost me a car and all of my 2018, unfortunately. Meeting a trooper for the first time under those circumstances is almost like handing over your life to a coldly bureaucratic, yet paradoxically unpredictable force. The uncertain, yet all-too-palpable future rests in front of you—time stops. Meanwhile, the hideous recall of blunder stays forever behind you. Flanked on two sides by a reality, disparate though causal, there is not present, There is only that time and the consequences. There is no ‘present.’ You hide from the present by necessity—so no one will find out. You are forced away from the only perspective you know—your fate is a number: from the docket number to the various fees—and you begin to wither. Even though you crave to return to the present, you simply can’t bear that if you’re vain like me, or you want a conventional life.
Would I say this is wrong? I would, but I’m biased. Though my crime was victimless and collateral accrued amounting to nothing, the so-called “rehabilitative” policies of PA judge everyone on a flat plane. Everyone is expected to submit to a standard protocol of rehabilitation figuring the character of the perpetrator is damaged goods already and cannot, because it could not, rehabilitate on its own. There are a few reasons for this: 1) Determining proportional sentences and terms of probation for every single case would be nauseatingly tedious and time-consuming; 2) Individual sentencing would mean humanizing a being whose proven its human character is fundamentally flawed (paternalism); 3) Thus, all perpetrators (in this flat plane of DUI sentencing) can be treated as beings flatly.
Because perpetrators (those having been taken under arrest before) exist and are apprehended, and it is the job of police men to respond to crimes in the hope of preventing further crime, it follows that police will look at citizens flatly. However, this extension of the perp-vision to the social field requires a kind of stratification: between the compliant citizen and the potential criminal within, a doubling of citizens. This means that innocence is less like a static designation, like a grade, and more like a bottle of nitroglycerin: when steady, its stable; when pushed, it explodes.
Police stop explosions by keeping the nitroglycerin crates steady. However, this doubling of the citizen, this paranoid interpellation of the citizenry only makes for overly cautious citizens. Citizens know the police have the power (though ordained from where is never touched upon and, troublingly, an uninteresting topic for many) to make arrests. Citizens can see themselves reflected off the sunglasses as being monitored for any signs of chemical disruption and instability. In turn, the citizens see themselves as explodable if not already exploding and are constantly, obsessively looking over their shoulder. This paranoia is a response to people performing actual crimes in the background (many drug related or, like in my case, drunk driving) and being aware of their ‘wrong-doing.’ There are surrogate eyes, powerless though an ever present reminder on us even in the shadows. We double ourselves in the shadows and await for a monster to close us behind metal teeth.
And that’s nerve-wracking.
The caveat here is that we are only doubled when we are actively being watched. The power of police is only enforceable when the eyes of Johnny Law are watching you. That’s it. There is no other eye that follows you and weighs your actions against an officiated set of morals unless the pigs are watching.
And the police know they cannot surveil everyone—drunks will always drive, kids will always smoke weed. The humiliation wrought of such impotence probably weighs heavily on the mind of a cop. Only the most extreme of the cases—the ones that happen and can be responded to—are crimes which the police can ‘prevent.’ Though ‘prevention’ here means of future crimes (which we’ve established are everpresent) and not of the crime that happened. Extremity, in this regard, is merely that something happened or came as a result, negatively, of something happening. Basically, these events have a higher intensity affect than those of instances of drunk-driving where the person makes it home without any negative consequences. And that distribution of extremity goes along lines of probability rather than actual prevention. Much like the winning number or combinations of numbers on a dice roll, the number (extreme instance) is contingent upon the throw. There is always the element of chance and that’s all the police really have to look for: someone who threw the winning combinations, so to speak.
But this is no story of woe and pity, nor a PSA about drunk driving. Hardly. What interests me more in these ramblings above is the idea of the doubling, the internalized doubling, and the game of chance involved in criminal rehabilitation in the poem by Falkoner’s H. Moss.
This poem is short and sweet. Summarized: The ‘good cop’ is an oxymoronic concept and so far removed from the reality of actual cops. Moss comments on the perversion of that truth (the one where cops don’t brutalize or extort citizenry; the one that saves people from injustice rather than perpetuating it; one that works off objective knowledge and common morality when no such thing is possible the humans that compose the police force) by using the very alchemy of truth which allows a glaring contradiction to exist in public discourse like ‘good cop.; He does so by likening ‘good cops’ to something completely inappropriate, like food. Moss is claiming a ‘good cop’ cannot exist. For anything ‘good’ to exist in the world, there must be distinctive aspects which qualify something as ‘good’ (and conversely, something as ‘bad’). Cops do not represent anything inherently ‘good’ but rather all things reactive: they are here to keep the nitroglycerin righted. But, the will of populations is much greater than the indirect influence of the cops by sheer numbers (and if that ever changes, you can bet your ass I’m going on a crime spree because our liberties are fucked in that case) and to them what is ‘good’ does not settle with the cops. The ‘good’ in ‘good cop’ means only the disciplinarian, the determiner of what humans can and cannot do. A ‘good cop’ only exists in idioms.
And more often than not, the internalization of our doubling and the resultant strife that comes from it, we find ourselves too stressed to deal with carrying around an official identity like a millstone. We are tired of being seen skeptically, being denied the trustworthiness we expect between our fellow human beings.
We already know we’re cooking the dice in our hands, we already know what we do is illegal. So we cast the dice. We cast the dice because we know, in some small way, we’re fucked. If we’re already at the bottom, how can we sink any lower. The police, by mere presence, produce in the citizenry only fear and the internalization of our potential criminality—enacting the crime merely a symptom a greater vileness we are made to believe exists latent in our hearts.
Moss, in his choice to call these poems ‘prophesies,’ asks us to look at our current means of stabilizing society and how those means determine the future.
If people do not act, nothing will change.