Friday, October 02, 2009

POLICE PROBLEMS

Up in Boston, a story is unfolding.

One police officer is accusing another of rape. And the complainant wants a restraining order taken out on the defendant.

The mind immediately searches its files for the conventional script into which the assorted principals can be slotted and filed for future reference and outrage.

But the good Soviet Citizen would know enough to look between the lines. Especially when the press – for the Soviet Citizen, Pravda or Izvestia (google them) – really doesn’t want to say too much.

A few days ago, both officers were relieved of their weapons by a unit sent to their respective homes. Apparently, as the complainant was handing over her weapon … it “accidentally discharged” but, the paper nicely notes, “no one was injured” – which isn’t really as comforting as it might first sound. Now, I try to picture this: one police officer, in her own home, is asked to hand her piece to another police officer who has politely asked for it … and it goes off while she’s handing it to him? A stunning incompetence or a certain intentionality seem to be involved.

But there’s more.

On August 25th, the officers had been in another State, Connecticut, as part of a shooting competition team (again: the gun went off “accidentally” in that house?). Following the competition, they had been “drinking beer and margaritas at a nearby parking lot” – maybe Connecticut has looser public drinking laws. Then “by the end of the night they had stopped at two bars where they downed more tequila shots and more beer”. This sounds like a college outing on Spring Break, not a professional (and armed) exercise.

Then the three officers – two men “and a young woman” (the third officer, now Complainant), who was “a couple of years out of the academy” (and already on an expert shooting team?) went back to a hotel (did they drive?) where “they all agreed to share a room”.

Subsequently, as the female officer “collapsed onto a bed”, somebody else tried to crawl in next to her – one of the other officers. Her efforts at resistance were stymied by his threats “to ruin her life” and raped her twice, she reports. The other officer had already “passed out on the floor” (again: they drove?).

The accused officer “intimidated her” and so she agreed to have sex with him the next day and “three more times in the next month”.

She then apparently discovered that he had impregnated her. And now she is in court as Complainant.

She is seeking an extended restraining order because, she affirms, “He has no qualms about killing people”. Which may be true – he is on the Special Operations squad, which includes SWAT, where he is a sniper. But so is she – having been transferred to this elite (and highly armed) Unit upon her own request from her relatively brief stint at a precinct station. (And being in the Special Ops Unit, as well as on the shooting team, her gun “accidentally” went off as she was handing it to another police officer?)

And it was her husband who came forward to lodge the first report of all this. Her attorney is now mad that as a victim she has been forced to turn over her weapon. Although simply on the basis of the “accidental discharge” you might imagine the Department has thought twice about giving this officer a gun.

During a “brief cross-examination” at the Hearing for the Restraining Order the accused’s lawyer elicited that the female officer had waited almost a month to report the rape, and then had told her husband “only after learning that she was pregnant”.

There’s an awful lot under the surface here, and none of it impresses. I don’t hold for anybody raping anybody. I don’t blame anybody who was raped from taking appropriate legal action. Nor should anybody be penalized for making such a report.

But I also think that there are certain elements of current conventional (and Politically Correct) ‘perceptions’ of reality that are bearing much poisonous fruit, and for everybody: the persons involved and the entire culture and society (which is Us).

Human nature being what is, and humans of both genders being hard-wired for a certain amount of sexuality, there are probably precautions that the prudent mariner must take before setting sail and during the voyage. No, I am not going toward any sort of rape-goes-with-being-alive sort of baloney.

No prudent captain – male or female – who understands the operating dynamics of these human vessels of ours should be taking them into certain types of ‘waters’ or situations where the ship can reliably be counted upon not to function well. In the Navy this is called “hazarding the ship” – putting the vessel you command needlessly into a situation where it is most likely going to sustain damage. As a commanding officer, you can get yourself court-martialed for this sort of thing.

But in Our present cultural milieu, ‘sex’ is considered to be primarily a sign and avenue of ‘liberation’ and anybody – especially women – can do what they damned well please. Currently, it is only the male who is responsible. No, I am not going for the old ‘blaming the victim’ gambit here.

This, I think, serves nobody well. If a society functions best when its members are not constantly crashing into each other, and if a culture functions best when its members are educated into a responsible awareness of their own ‘operating characteristics’ – especially in so fundamental an ‘operational’ matter … then We are presently going about preparing ‘vessel commanders’ very poorly.

Of course any male – being that member of the species whom evolution (Evolution, if you wish) has hard-wired with a primary drive toward reproducing the species and taking the actions that that ‘mission’ requires – should be educated into the considerable array of self-awareness and self-discipline skills necessary to master this evolutionary urge competently.

Any female has also to be aware of her own sexual responsibilities, since every female too is a vessel commander. Even though in some primal sense she is ‘passive’ in the actual act of reproduction, she is every bit as much of a ‘commanding officer’ when it comes to how she does or does not ‘hazard’ her vessel (and the future of that vessel and all the ‘souls’ (if you will) who rely on her command judgment.

It’s a matter of command responsibility here, and both of the ‘captains’ in this incident (let’s leave the third officer passed out on his piece of the floor) have a responsibility to avoid getting their ships into a situation where a needless collision is highly probable.

Our current Politically Correct doctrine does not address this at all. The young cannot be ‘educated’ because nobody else has the right to tell them what to do; females are not to be ‘blamed’ for situations that arise (and again, this accepts that the male is in the last instant the ‘active’ member of the dyad and that I am not minimizing either male responsibility or female pain from an encounter-gone-wrong).

The act of sex is not in the first instance an emblem and avenue of ‘liberation’ or ‘empowerment’ (teenagers are not told this, and indeed are often led to believe just the opposite). Nor is it just a thang – there are consequences, designed ultimately by Evolution itself. And some of those consequences can be – not to put too fine a point on it – huge.

Of course, in their too-usual unthinking way, legislators have tried to have it both ways, and have – with the help in some significant instances of the courts – done so by passing laws, some civil and more recently many of them criminal.

At this point, it appears that the female is most always empowered and liberated until suddenly she is the victim – and then suddenly the law kicks in and tries to resolve or re-balance the whole issue. This on top of the kids (and thus the adults they grow into) being told that sex ain’t but a thang, until that magic moment when – pow! – it’s a felony (and a sex-offense registration matter as well, now).

Parents and the educational establishment play a great role in contributing to this from-the-get-go confusion. Nor do the churches necessarily escape responsibility in this.

Everybody in Our society – the young especially – has to be trained in how to master these vessels, and this is even more necessary than training them how to competently and safely master the skill of driving a motor vehicle. Otherwise We wind up in this present type of situation: reputed ‘adults’ – and law enforcement ‘professionals’ and with guns, to boot! – have now placed themselves, the legal system, and Us in the almost impossible situation of figuring out who did what to whom and whose responsible.

I think that to fixate on the actual tactical tracking of these two individuals in the incident(s) in question is grossly insufficient in terms of civic competence. We have to look at how they were ‘trained’ – because this sort of thing (sex being what it is) is happening a zillion times a week all over the country, and often to people who are still ‘youths’ and not in possession of their full prefrontal capacities and to huge cohorts of people who are now chronologically adults but still grossly under-prepared to command ‘vessels’ so formidably equipped.*

Now in this particular case I am making no judgments because I don’t know all the facts that the court (one can only hope) will know or formally take note of. Clearly irresponsible behavior from the very beginning of the post-match started the principals toward such a hazardous situation, and at this point the courts must decide what is to be decided.But in the overall cultural milieu in which We are now wallowing – and that’s the most significant aspect of this from a common-weal point of view – this is what absolutely MUST receive Our attention as stewards of the culture and the society.

In a democracy, don’t forget, it is the Citizens who are the ultimate stewards of the culture, the society, and the entire heritage that they as adults are entrusted to preserve, protect, and pass on to future generations.

But this matter also calls attention to deep systemic issues in organizational dynamics. Yes, police drinking and rowdy behavior (clearly by female officers as well as males, alas) is a classic trope, and a legitimate concern. There has always been a danger in police work: that it going after the criminals, wading deeply into the swamp of criminality (even if only so that you can clean it up, or at least take a bite out of it), you wind up pretty much muddy – and perhaps bitten by the swamp creatures – yourself. (And have you noticed the same thing in Our present wars, and what Our “walk on the dark side” has done to the Beltway and to the troops themselves?)

TV has done a lot in this regard; for over half a century now folks have been getting basic impressions (unexamined) and forming basic assumptions (also unexamined) about how things in this world work from TV shows, and from a very young and impressionable age (don’t forget: until the early 20s the genuinely human brainparts – those prefrontal lobe bits – aren’t really online at full biological potential yet.

Jack Webb with “Dragnet” in the 1950s tried to make the LAPD look truly professional and as the ‘good guys’ – and that wasn’t a bad idea, and it even got folks expecting that that’s how police should act. But as We know now, the LAPD in the 1950s was a Wild West show and that was its institutional culture.

Ditto McGarret in “Hawaii 5-0” (one of my favorite Sixties’ shows, by the by). Not only the fantasy thought that in the middle of a weekday you can get on a radio and order every unit in the district to line up at 50-yard intervals near a certain location and five minutes later they’d all be in perfect position. No, it was the idealization (well-intentioned) of the police officers (a profession for which I have great respect). And of McGarrett himself – since while a mature viewer might accept the McGarrett team’s characters as unique, a lot of folks would just assume that that’s the way things were in police work and move on to shower the attention on other things.

Ditto the “CSI” types (and the NCIS types most absolutely surely, especially David Caruso’s “Horatio” in “CSI – Miami”: this guy insists that the police are not only the society’s guardians against criminal disorder but are also the “moral guardians” (yes, he said it in one episode) and even the moral examplars for society. And that ‘s rather a stretch, with all due respect to law enforcement personnel. As with the “NCIS” paragons, it makes for good TV, but it is rather far-removed from reality – where We have to help the cops by keeping an eye that they stay within Constitutional bounds, the same way they help Us by making sure We stay within the speed limits.

(And if that’s true about police officers, it’s even more vitally and urgently true about elected officials; things have gotten verrrrry sketchy inside the Beltway, if you haven’t noticed.)

But so are the promotional and assignment policies. What is so inexperienced an officer doing on an elite Unit designed to operate under great pressure? What factors (the possibilities of race and gender come to mind in Our modern American reality) played a part in so clearly inappropriate an assignment?

This is one of those cases that suddenly reveals far larger problems than the conventional media scripts are designed to permit. Nor would the police leadership – caught for so long now between the Scylla of Political Correctness and the Charybdis of competent policing – really want to risk all by discussing everything fully and frankly.

If ‘somebody’ doesn’t do it at some point, then the systemic problems will be ignored in favor of the individual issue. And that isn’t going to help Us much at all.

And in a democracy, of course, that ‘somebody’ is Us.

NOTE

*I’m waiting for some voice to assert that since ‘easy’ or ‘thang’ sex is such a stress-reliever or such an ‘emblem’ of ‘liberation’ now, then to move toward ‘perceiving’ it as something to be used only w care and good judgment is going remove one of the nation’s only free, non-medicinal ‘stress relievers’ and that such a thing will therefore push more of the nation’s youth (and adults poorly trained as youths) into prescription medication as a substitute stress-reliever (an outcome only Big Pharma could love).

To which I can only respond: there is a certain ‘pain’ that goes with mastering a self and a life, which – when you reach its genuine heights – is actually a powerful though quiet exhilaration at having achieved so genuinely mature a level of competence. So a certain amount of initial ‘pain’ – which probably should be called ‘effort’ since the two nowadays are so often thoroughly confused – goes with the tasks of becoming a mature human being. Recall Wesley’s comment to the Princess-to-be in “The Princess Bride”: “Life is pain, Princess – anybody who tells you differently is trying to sell you something”. This is equally true for ‘Princes’.

And We, I say again, have been ‘sold’ a whole lotta baloney over the course of the past few decades.
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