A Sad Event in Hawthorne

A video was posted online yesterday, in which a police officer shoots the dog of the man he was arresting. The dog of course was simply being a dog, defending his owner, and was shot four times. Accompanying this video are all of your typical responses, defense of police officers and hatred of them too.

I cannot believe how much this incident is bothering me. I really do not understand it (and by it, I mean my response to everything that is going on).

Our society has such a hatred of police, it is insane. And I am aware, both historically and in the present, this country has seen way too many examples of police corruption, brutality, etc. But despite everything, I will say this: the significant and overwhelming majority of the police officers working today are good people, honest people, undeserving of our disdain and hatred. Do I know this to be true? No. But I believe it.

What bothers me so much is that our distrust and hate for cops is so perverse that whenever any of them does anything, we immediately jump down their throats as if they are evil. We jump to conclusions, who cares about the facts, because we already know cops are bad, they are disgusting and terrible human beings, and everything they do is wrong.

For example, here are some items I have read about regarding this incident that people jumping to conclusions seem to miss. One, there was a hostage situation across the street. Two, the arrestee was actively interfering with the police officer’s attempts to manage that situation, reportedly even going so far as to blast music in order to impair the hostage negotiator’s ability to communicate with the hostage-takers via loudspeaker. Three, the arrestee was most definitely not arrested for filming the police, as a) this is not illegal and b) plenty of other people were also filming and none of them were arrested.

What bothers me even more is all the armchair quarterbacking that goes into some people’s opinions. Shooting four times is excessive, he could have just shot once (police are trained to shoot more than once because if they only shoot once and they miss, they are fucked. Also, when faced with a deadly situation, your only thought is “do not die” and you are therefore not thinking about how many bullets you are firing). They should have shot at the dog’s feet to scare it away (you can’t shoot at the feet of an animal that is attacking you, also police are not allowed to shoot unless there is an immediate threat of potentially equal force (my terminology, not theirs), so if an animal is in a position where the police could scare it away by shooting at it, then they wouldn’t be allowed to shoot at all). They should have tasered the dog (tasers are extremely ineffective against fast moving targets). The dog didn’t even touch the officer (a single touch from a dog, especially a Rottweiler, can be deadly, for example a bite through an artery. It would be crazy to wait for something like that before defending yourself). The dog wasn’t even attacking the police (no one except the police officers can know if this is true or not. However, from watching the video we do know that the officers did not immediately shoot the dog, they did try to grab the dog’s collar, and they only opened fire after the dog was completely airborne in what to me looks like an attempt to bite an officer). Etc etc etc.

The only complaint that I believe has weight is that they did not pepper-spray the dog. It seems to me that the police did not pepper-spray the dog because they did not have their pepper-spray ready, and they did not have their pepper-spray ready because the last they saw the dog, it was locked up in the owner’s car, ie not a threat. Unfortunately, when arresting the owner, the police turned their backs to the dog, and therefore did not see the dog climb out of the open window. And yes, I would say that this was a mistake on the part of the officers, they should never have turned their backs to the dog. But while this mistake led to a tragedy, I do not think it is something that would classify them as “pigs” and I do not think it is something they should “go straight to hell” for.

The worst one, the one that I think gets deepest to the heart of society’s negative views of the police: “The cops were just throwing around their weight, flexing their egos and abusing bystanders because they can”. Again, no one but the actual police officers involved can possibly know whether or not this is true. But we do know that there was a hostage situation across the street, and apparently the arrestee was not just antagonizing the cops, but also actively hindering their hostage negotiation efforts. Unfortunately, these aspects are barely brought up, Reddit even called the arrestee a “curious bystander” and another publication called him a “photographer”.

I think there are two main aspects at play here, two main reasons why we hate cops so much. One, yes unfortunately there are bad cops. And I guess if people experience it once or enough times, they automatically assume all cops are bad, even though, and yes, I firmly believe this, the significant majority are not.

On top of the actual bad cops, I think there are a lot of cops are perceived as bad (well, not actually bad, bad cops are a real and legitimate problem, a more appropriate word here would be “asshole” cops), many cops are perceived as being assholes because of what they must do in order to do their job. Police officers must always be in a position of authority, always. Every minute they are on duty, they are putting their lives on the line. They are constantly at risk, no matter the situation. And to put yourself at risk, to put yourself in a potentially life threatening situation when you are not in control, that is just suicide. The problem is, some people have problems with authority, some people don’t like being in the submissive position, it makes them uneasy, uncomfortable, even angry. And while police officers should be respectful of these people and their feelings, they cannot accommodate them. Police officers cannot accommodate them because they do not who will harm them and who won’t. I know I won’t harm a police officer, but they do not know that I won’t harm them. They must always be on guard, and they must always be in control.

Or maybe it isn’t that at all, maybe being an asshole is simply a characteristic that allows police officers to be good at their job. Like being a skilled technician helps you learn the ins and outs of complicated machinery, an essential trait to being a good camera operator, and like being a good communicator helps you articulate your vision and direction to cast and crew, an essential trait to being a good director, maybe being an asshole helps you achieve and maintain authority in complex and potentially dangerous situations, an essential trait to being a good police officer.

I don’t know. I will be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. But I do know that, in my opinion, police officers have the worst job in the world (okay, second worst, active military during wartime is the worst). Every minute they are on duty, their lives are on the line. There are so many crazy people out there, so many people who hate cops, or just who just hate people in general, and no one knows who they are. But it is the police officer’s job to face them.

Likewise, police officers also have one of the most important jobs in the world. Without police officers, society would collapse. And I’m not talking global warming society may or may not collapse in 100 years or so, without law enforcement, society would collapse immediately, like same day. The day law enforcement disappears is the day anarchy takes over: crime runs rampant, society breaks down, and all hell breaks loose. Maybe the next day if you are lucky.

And so personally, I cut the police some slack. Yes I get pissed when one acts like an asshole, and yes I get pissed when I get a ticket even though I was driving safe. No I don’t like it when they speed but I can’t, or when they flash their sirens just because they are tired of waiting at a red light. But I also know that police have one of the most stressful, most horrible, most important jobs in the world. Does that mean that all cops are good and make good decisions? No, of course not. But it does mean that I won’t jump to conclusions, I won’t automatically assume they are evil just because something went wrong. I will try to learn the facts and understand the situation before making my own judgements. And if it turns out that that police officer shot that dog because he hates dogs and hates that owner and was on a huge ego trip, well then fuck him. Throw him in jail and throw away the key. But I’m not going to come to that conclusion just from one video, a video that to me does not indicate that, and even if it did, the video does not even come close to capturing the whole picture.

Sorry, almost done. If you are still reading, I applaud you. You know what the real, real problem is. I read Into The Kill Zone. I knew that book had an impact on me, there are some stories I just could not get out of my mind and others I still think about to this day. But I had no idea how strong an impact that book had. I highly recommend it.

My other problem is that I am a sheltered valley-raised white boy, and not only that, I also have one of the most unthreatening Jewfros you’ve ever seen. Therefore, I have little personal understanding of what it is like in the poverty stricken areas where most of these feelings and incidents occur, and definitely no first hand experience. My own experience with the police? I’ve been pulled over four times (only two tickets though) and have been in lots of car crashes, some of which the police showed up, some of which they didn’t. One time my car broke down on an off-ramp and a cop helped me push it over to the side of the road. I’ve interacted with police officers while filmmaking, generally off duty safety officers but there was also that one time two tires were stolen off my car while it was parked in crew parking (in East LA, at night, with no security) and a police report had to be filed. I’ve also had to call the police three times. Twice was on a neighbor, once for a domestic disturbance and the other time they were throwing rocks at our windows and would not stop no matter how much we told them to. The third time, I actually called the cops on myself (it was college and I was really, really, really mad at one of my neighbors. Anyone who knows me knows that when I get mad, I get really mad, and I think this was the maddest I’ve ever been. Anyways, my roommates had all gone home for the summer and I didn’t know what to do, so I called the cops to calm myself down. It worked. I then went to work and tried to use this story to impress some of the hot girls I worked with. That did not work.). Lastly, one of my good friends is a cop (I can most assuredly tell you he is not bad and also is not an asshole), which I’m sure affects my judgement even further.

I guess what really bothers me is that we as a society seem to hate cops so much that we condemn them even before the facts are in. They do something that is either controversial or looks bad and we automatically assume they are evil fucking bastard pigs who should go straight to hell. This despite the fact that they voluntarily assume one of the worst, most stressful, most dangerous jobs in the world, and also one of the most important. After all, the police are the reason we are even able to play armchair quarterback, that we are able to judge and condemn them from the safety of our own homes. We need police. We wouldn’t survive without them. And yet so many of us hate them. It does not make sense.


About Gabriel Bruskoff
I make movies! See gabrielbruskoff.com for more information.

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