This stunningly arrogant, conceited article
by an American cop about events in Missouri, illustrates something very important about the potent intersection between the professional ideology of the police and popular authoritarian ideology. It says:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.
Now this can be taken as, simultaneously, a statement of 'unvarnished' truth, and also a profoundly ideological claim. Insofar as it is 'unvarnished' truth, it basically reiterates what has been well known for some time: nothing is more likely to provoke a violent reaction from police than to challenge their right to define the parameters of the situation
. This is why most of those who get beaten up are innocent of any offence. Burglars don't get beaten up because they accept the rules of the interaction, and don't question. They don't muddy things up by demanding that their rights or perspective be acknowledged, but submit entirely to the perspective of the state. This officer therefore speaks a more profound truth than he knows.
Insofar as it is in ideological claim, it is so because it asks people not simply to submit to authority but to see things from the point of view of that authority. Leave aside that the actual danger involved in a police officer's job is vastly over-stated
by 'thin blue line' propaganda which passes for infotainment and news. What is important is that people believe that the police officer does an extremely difficult job of mainly - with some exceptions - holding back a tidal wave of social evil. And that therefore, not only ought they be obeyed unquestioningly, but that it is the responsibility of the citizen, the 'civilian' and not the 'trained professional' wielding firepower, to minimise the danger of a confrontation. What the policeman is doing here is asking people to see things from the cop's point of view and to judge situations like Ferguson accordingly. And many people will, and do.