Does law enforcement’s own comforting and anesthetizing folklore unintentionally breed condescension and disgust toward the community? Are condescension and disgust communicated regardless of how one puts on a professional image and speaks professional words? When members of our communities experience condescension and contempt in their dealings with law enforcement members, do individuals naturally react with hostility and resentment? Do hostility and resentment spread from one member of our community to the next as experiences are shared and stories told? Do these feelings carry into the next contact with law enforcement and reinforce any condescending and contemptuous perspectives of the next officer? Does this create a vicious cycle relentlessly running below the surface of conscious thought? In this cycle, do law enforcement and community members mutually foster hostile attitudes, words, and behaviors in the other? Do these hostile attitudes constantly serve to excuse and reinforce each other? Does this cycle actually serve to invite the very attitudes and behaviors that both sides say they hate from the other side? Does this selfperpetuating process with “sides” create an environment that constantly serves to obstruct the most basic mission of law enforcement? If there is even a remote possibility that the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” should law enforcement care enough to make the changes necessary to break the cycle? (Refer to the “String of Perils” [Figure 1.1], and simply insert the above-captured perils.)
There is much philosophical thought and conversation about police and their role within their communities. One illustration, popularized by retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, depicts the police as sheepdogs and the public as sheep.* While Grossman’s article is inspirational and not problematic on its own, I consistently hear convoluted logic that grows out of it. This convoluted logic cavalierly explains the “natural” tension between law enforcement and the members of the community. I am not saying that this sheep-sheepdog illustration is the cause of the problem I am identifying. I am simply showing how it, like so many otherwise useful concepts, gets sucked up into the vortex of self-deceived thinking.