Have you heard about bad cops? If you know any libertarians or liberals, it’s a safe bet that you have. Over the past few months, there’s been an effort to highlight every store of abusive cops, cops overreacting, or tragedy involving cops with the message that most cops are abusive, dangerous loose cannons sure to shoot you just because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
Some of these instances are clearly misrepresented by anti-police advocates. For example, in Boise, we were treated to this story in which the police officer was painted as the bad guy in an argument with a videographer during a traffic stop, but when you watch the video of the interaction, it becomes clear the videographer was trying to provoke the officer, that her concern was that where he was standing placed her in position where she had to watch both him and the person being stopped. She requested that he move and he didn’t. She wanted to see his hands to make sure he didn’t have a weapon. In every case, the man provoked a confrontation. Yet, libertarians across the nation added to their anti-police dossier.
The truth is that most police officers are good an decent people, doing a hard job that doesn’t pay enough and is not appreciated. These attempts to bash all police or to provoke police are scurrilous and unfair. In addition, if anything, the attacks on police as a whole are more likely to lead to less good cops on the force. The more than “cops are evil” becomes a cultural trope, the less likely good people are to join the police force. Ironically, while unlikely to affect public policy, the campaign that most cops are bad threatens to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.