22 October 2021

Another Reason to Fear Cops

… is that if they've listened to their almost-uniformly white male protestant union leadership, they're probably not vaccinated. I find that disturbing on several axes. Even aside from the your-quasireligious-beliefs-do-not-justify-your-infected-breath-in-my-lungs issues.

First, there's the obvious racial contrast, vertically and horizontally. Chicago is far from the only exemplar here, but it's one of the most painfully obvious. We've got a white male police-union leader urging his members to defy authority. The majority of the people they police are not white or male. The majority of those eligible for membership in the Chicago FOP are not white males. And he's defying… a science-based order within the scope of authority… from an educated black woman. (We're just not going to get into sexual-orientation politics and rhetoric here, aside from this aside.) Worse yet, she's filling a role historically held by white men.

Then there's the gender-role contrast. Almost uniformly, the police-union leaders are manly men, doing manly things with other manly men (like compensating for their shortcomings with ever-bigger firearms that are ever-more-inappropriate for keeping the peace). Many of the city and county leaders they are defying — regardless of political/partisan allegiance — are women, almost none of whom have served in a uniformed force of any kind.1

More insidiously and subtly, the most strident of these FOP leaders are egregiously undereducated to be making policy… or to be evaluating science- or rights-based policies. They have valuable perspectives that should be considered in the policy-making process. However, this is a democratic republic, and that necessarily means that "having a valuable perspective" does not always mean "gets the final say." I've looked for it — maybe I've missed an exception — but I haven't seen one of these public-servant resisters-to-vaccination making any thoughtful, science-based argument against vaccination. Not even an accurate assessment of the risk of overconfidence from being vaccinated (which, by the way, is an at least theoretical problem with any vaccine).

No, instead this is about the naked exercise of power, "us versus them." Admittedly, police unions are often a legitimate reaction to a tradition — even a seeming mandate — of abusing cops by those in power, ranging from underpayment to other, even-less-savoury misconduct. In a game-theoretical sense, perhaps these vaccine resisters are flexing muscle, showing solidarity, in hopes of obtaining future concessions on other issues. Leaving aside for the moment that these are public servants (which should change the perspective entirely in the first place), this is edging ever close to mutually assured destruction as the sole bargaining theory. But then, I wouldn't expect undereducated gun-totin' real 'murikans to understand that MAD and its related posturing didn't win the Cold War — it extended it by at least two decades and made many other threats inevitable.

And if the solidarity of police unions in the face of obvious, pervasive misconduct by their members in Minneapolis and Florissant Valley2 and elsewhere is all they have to offer, they're no better than frat boys working for CREEP in 1972. In fact, they are frat boys working for CREEP in 1972; appropriate reactions to a history of abuse do not include being just as assholish a pledge chair when it's your turn as when you were a pledge (and ignoring the plight of the cleaning lady hired to keep the house slightly ahead of health inspectors). The whole point of escaping a history of abuse is to not become an abuser, to not subject anyone else to the same misconduct.

  1. This is a different problem, for a different time, too often related to historical restrictions keeping women from serving in the first place. And I don't diminish the hurt feelings of those who have served at being ordered around — often arbitrarily, too often corruptly — by those who haven't. But those hurt feelings call for changes in conduct far more than they do in structure, and change in structure is precisely what the FOP system strives to do.

    This also exposes the foolishness of calling every uniformed cop an "officer," because they're not. But that's also an argument for another time.

  2. Not news to anyone who read the Minneapolis and/or St. Louis newspapers in the 1980s.