by A. Michael for The Saker Blog
The Saker was kind enough to offer me an opportunity to write a rebuttal to Mr. Mazaheri’s article about the French police and their interactions with the protesters/rioters in France. I felt the need to do so given the fact that I have been in law enforcement for 26 years now and I wanted to give the Saker’s audience a different point of view of the situation. To start off, I would note that, in general, I support the protesters, as far as their desire is to stop a misdirected government from taking yet more money from them, especially for some dubious claim about addressing global warming. Additionally, this is not meant to be an attack on Mr. Mazaheri, personally. I don’t know him, I don’t know his political leanings, and I don’t know his state of mind, when he wrote his article.
However, I’m disappointed in Mr. Mazaheri for writing an article that was, at times, inaccurate, hyperbolic, and incoherent. To begin the article, Mr. Mazaheri extrapolates one incident involving a French officer demanding water from someone to then say, “What this story relates is just how elitist Western cops are in 2019. Truly, only 1% of society feels they can act so above-the-law and so humiliatingly disrespectful to others.” He then says, “The 1% can be only economic, but not necessarily.” He then provides no explanation for the circumstances under which someone can be the 1% of something that is not related to economics. But then later on in the article, he talks about the median police salary in the US ($59,680/yr), which means, he must be talking about economics, not something else.
In the US, in order to be in the 1%, one would have to make a minimum of approximately $458,000 per year. I challenge Mr. Mazaheri to find even one officer in the entire US, who made that salary or more. There are numerous officers in a number of states that make less than the median household income in their respective states. Contrary to what Mr. Mazaheri states, the police are not in the 1%. Police officers, like nearly everyone else in society, have to worry about paying the myriad of taxes that are levied upon them, paying their mortgages or rent, saving for emergencies, retirement, and their children’s educations, buying good quality food, managing health care costs, etc. and depending on their respective jurisdictions, that may be quite difficult. And yes, in some jurisdictions in the US, the police are paid handsomely and have great retirements and benefits, but they still are not in the 1%.
The title of one section of the article was, “Everybody, in every Western country, hates the police”. That statement is complete nonsense. So we are to believe that all the family members of those officers hate the police? Their friends? The real 1%ers? (On a side note, if we are to focus on one group of people for more accountability in western society, it is the .001%ers or the .0001%ers). According to one poll I found, in 2015, 52% of those polled expressed confidence in the police in the US. Is that good? No, it should be much higher and the police and society should work to increase that confidence. However, these statistics show that a majority of the population support the police, which is a far cry from the assertion made by Mr. Mazaheri that everybody hates the police.
Further down the article, he states, “Nor can they stop the appalling deification of police in Western societies since 9/11. Despite all the bullets in the backs of minorities, all the secret torture sites and all the smart phone videos of shootings, cops are culturally, legally and fiscally untouchable because they ARE part of the 1%. The Western Mainstream Media defies cops, and Western mainstream politicians protect their salaries and pensions while cutting those of other public servants, because they are all in it together against the 99%. Westerners know that I could go on and on with examples of glorification of cops which have become so extreme as to become disgustingly servile.” How can the police be deified and yet, at the same time, be hated by everyone?
He also states in the article that cops never join the protesters or change sides. That is simply not accurate. In Greece, off-duty officers marched with protesters several years ago. In Spain, the Catalonia local police were pitted against the Spanish federal police, after the central government decided to essentially prevent Catalonia autonomy. In the US, retired Captain Ray Lewis was arrested at Occupy Wall St., because he was protesting “illegally”.
It is unclear to me if Mr. Mazaheri has an adequate understanding of the normal police function within western societies. The police are there to maintain order and protect life and property. Yes, it does not always work that way in a riot/protest for a variety of reasons, some of which, are the police’s fault, but not all. Things that go wrong during incidents that can be attributed to the police are due to one or more of the following reasons: 1) The officer should have never been hired in the first place due to a lack of fitness for the position; 2) The officer was not properly trained; 3) The officer did not have the proper equipment; 4) The department in which the officer works was poorly led at the command and/or field level, which includes the lack of proper procedures and policies; 5) The officer failed to follow correct orders, procedures, and policies; 6) The officer made errors in judgment due to stressful circumstances; 7) The officer had a bad attitude; 8) The officer performed a corrupt act; and 9) The officer was in a no-win situation, i.e. there is only the least bad choice. Please keep in mind that officers are required to make split-second decisions in volatile situations and the critics of the police get to make judgments of those decisions in hindsight with no stress from a third-person perspective, often in the comfort of their homes or offices.
On the other hand, only the most naive among us believe that all the protesters in France (or any protest for that matter) are there for the right reasons and always conduct themselves properly. How many criminally minded people are in the crowds looking for opportunities to vandalize, steal, and maim, which includes other protesters? How many provoke and attack the police? Criminals, especially the psychopathic ones, love chaos and indeed, like to foment it.
Blaming the police for following the orders of corrupt politicians that are more worried about protecting oligarchs (or some Pan -European/United States of Europe dream in the case of Macron) than the country is not the fault of the police. The police function within many western societies has been perverted by corruption. The police in western society are subservient to civilian control, i.e. politicians. If the system is so corrupt that it only produces corrupt civilian leaders, what are the police to do? Are they to do a coup and thereby upend one of the very bases of western society and turn the country into a de jure police state? Does Mr. Mazaheri not see that most, if not all, western governments are under the heavy influence, if not outright control, of the oligarchy/plutocracy within and without these various countries and that the resulting corruption is wrecking the various institutions of western societies? How many countries in the west can say that a majority of the populace is satisfied with the government’s performance or is responsive to their needs?
Now, I fully understand and appreciate that, “I was just following orders”, can only go so far, but blaming the police actions in a given situation and making broad based assertions that work to create more division within society, in this case, divisions between the citizenry and the police, is irresponsible. There are grave structural problems within western governments due to corruption that need to be addressed and attacking the police is just attacking a symptom of the underlying problems, which include, ironically enough, the lack of the rule of law. For instance, it is very clear, that if one is a politically connected, highly-placed banker in the US, one not only will not be prosecuted for numerous economic crimes, one can lobby the government and get bailed out. Recently, certain political figures and former high-level government officials in the US are not only not prosecuted for their apparent crimes, they get book deals and go on the TV to give interviews. In these cases, crime literally paid and paid handsomely.
Furthermore, the police are not at fault for improperly written or passed laws and regulations that end up creating angst in a country’s population, especially those that undermine the rule of law. In the US, legislatures and executive agencies pass poorly written laws and regulations that have to ultimately be implemented by the police. There are numerous examples of legislators passing laws they have not even read. There are numerous examples where laws and regulations are written by various interest groups and signed into law with very little input from the public. Believe me, police do not like enforcing poorly written laws, especially those for passed for dubious reasons, because it unnecessarily can put themselves in danger. For instance, there are numerous sheriffs in the US refusing to enforce new gun laws that they feel are clearly unconstitutional and in general, I personally fully support their position.
I could go on, but my main point is to place blame on the police, when it is appropriate and not use the police as a scapegoat for underlying structural problems within a society. Ultimately, the police are just a tool for the management of society; just like any tool, it can be used for good or bad. If a society does not have a moral culture, a functioning economy, and a just legal system, the police will turn from being the guardians of society to the oppressors of society. Perhaps Mr. Mazaheri and I can agree on that point.