In Praise of “Rogue” Cops
“His death was gang-involved, the way I see it,” lamented former Orange County Sheriff’s Detective Ron Thomas after viewing the mangled body of his 37-year-old son, Kelly. “A gang of rogue officers … brutally beat my son to death.”
The description of the crime is appropriate: Kelly Thomas was murdered by a thugscrum of at least six police officers on a sidewalk in Fullerton. Kelly, who had a criminal record, was a homeless adult who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. On the evening of July 5, police were called to a street near the Fullerton bus depot by a report that someone was burglarizing parked cars.
Kelly was identified as a suspect, and was uncooperative with the police. He was tasered at least five times and beaten until brain-dead while pleading with the officers and crying out for his father. Multiple eyewitness accounts have disclosed that the beating continued – punctuated by the familiar demand that the victim “stop resisting!” — long after Kelly was on his back, motionless and defenseless.
That this was a gang-involved murder is indisputable. With all proper respect to Ron Thomas, however, the grieving father is desperately wrong about one detail: The murderers were not “rogue officers.” Once the gang assault on Kelly began, practically the only thing that could have saved his life would have been the timely intervention of a rogue officer.
As an institution, the police do not exist to defend life, liberty, and property. That would be the role played by peace officers — a population that is, for all intents and purposes, extinct. Police are given the task of “enforcement” – the imposition of rules devised by, and on behalf of, the wealth-devouring class. That role includes dispensing summary punishment against people who display anything other than instant, unqualified submission to them and to the political order they embody. Any material good that is done by a police officer is a renegade act, given the nature and purposes of the institution that employs him.
In any situation blighted by the presence of a police officer, that armed functionary’s first priority is not to “serve” or to “protect” anybody. Sociologist James Q. Wilson, whose writings became something akin to canonical texts for Rudolph Giuliani and other politicians and policy makers of an authoritarian bent, explains that a police officer’s first priority is to “impose authority on people who are unpredictable, apprehensive, and often hostile.”
That apprehension is an understandable reaction to the presence of an armed stranger of dubious character who demands unqualified submission. The hostility is predictable, entirely defensible, and generally commendable. Members of the Costumed Enforcer Class refer to it as “Contempt of Cop,” and regard it as an offense subject to summary punishment through the application of state-licensed violence, frequently of a lethal nature.
Ron Thomas – who, once again, is a retired law enforcement officer himself who teaches “arrest and control” techniques – explains that the officers who murdered his son weren’t attempting to arrest him as a criminal suspect, but rather “bullying” him “under color of authority” as punishment for “contempt of cop.”
Incidents of this kind display a standard morphology:
A cop confronts a citizen and encounters brief, trivial, and often justified resistance. He summons “backup,” and a thugscrum – which is a phenomenon similar to a criminal “flash mob,” but generally more lethal – quickly coalesces and deals out hideous violence while terrified citizens look on in horror and apparent helplessness.
Any officer who doesn’t play a hands-on role in beating the “suspect” will devote his attention to “crowd control” – that is, preventing intervention on behalf of the victim, and often confiscating any recording devices that might be used to gather incriminating video of the episode.