Backing the Blue

I won’t pretend I’ve never had trouble with the police and some lingering resentment as a result of that. In my first few years of driving I ended up with a number of small fines and a loss of license. The three or four I received were all for speeding and the latter came for not displaying my provisional license plates. I made a successful appeal but it meant waiting three instead of two years for my full license. Most of this was youthful stupidity. I was careless, I tried to impress friends and I did plenty of foolish things the police didn’t catch me out on so part of me thinks I got off rather lightly.

From this experience I developed a resentment towards the revenue raising that seemed to be the focus of traffic police. With growing maturity, I ceased to feel this way and instead blamed myself for breaking the rules, regardless of whether they were fair or not. It is now getting close to twenty years since my last run in with the police. The last time I can remember being in trouble was for going through a stop sign on a quiet night and I was let off with a warning after admitting it.

Something important to keep in mind before getting into the meat of this post is that most people who have had bad experiences with police have a serious chip on their shoulder. That is not to say police are never unreasonable, rude or simply overzealous in their duties, just that many people are rude or unreasonable or simply looking for trouble in encounters with police. This really applies to everyone but being polite to police is the first step and this is especially the case if you have actually done something wrong. This is not excusing bad or unprofessional behaviour, it is just a pragmatic way to go about dealing with authority in general.

Up until last year, I was one of those people that generally took the side of police when someone would arc up to me in conversation (or close proximity) about something police had done. In most such encounters, I was quickly able to establish the person had a chip on their shoulder and that the police response was rather unsurprising. An example would be if they were pulled over for speeding and they knew they’d been speeding but still made it difficult for the police officers dealing with them. They get lost in whether or not the laws are fair while refusing to place themselves in the reality of the situation they’ve put themselves in.

As I am many years have elapsed since my last fine, the sting to my pocket book felt at the time is all but forgotten and no longer induces the choler it did when I was younger, more passionate and had a less stable income. This means that dispassionately I can agree that what people say about traffic police is by and large accurate. There is clearly a concerted effort to raise money from traffic fines. You are far more likely to encounter traffic police than you are police dealing with crimes. I would guess this is true even for habitual criminals. Even without the police, the government pours considerable resources into technology that can more efficiently fine citizens. This is very different from other nations and none of these measures (which are said to be for our “safety”) really make us any safer than comparable nations.

The idea of “safety” now brings us to police in general. Recently XYZ published an open letter to Victoria Police about the shockingly draconian turn the police force has taken in the last few years. The bloody nose they got making smoke with no fire with George Pell has not taught them anything. Of course, one wouldn’t expect it to given that nobody behind the travesty has suffered any consequences for it. The case with Pell seems rather quaint now as justice was done despite the treacherous path that was taken to get there. The substance of the letter is that there will eventually be a blow-back to the police for what they’re doing and they will be the more visible and easy targets than others at fault. The politicians behind this and their puppet masters have private security and are far harder to access than police officers who more than likely live close to some of the people they’ve beaten, arrested or pepper sprayed.

It unfortunately doesn’t go without saying that I do not advocate violence towards anyone but it has to be said. That belief won’t stop human nature though and when someone is put in a desperate situation and feels like they have nothing to lose, they might decide that otherwise extreme measures are in order. This may be further helped by the vast majority of Australians being irreligious and therefore in no fear of divine punishment. The police ironically have more to fear from the people currently cheering them on should they become congnizant that they’re next should they start misbehaving. The people on the street now are certainly angry but they are unarmed and simply want to live their lives and be left alone. This is no longer an option for people who are even slightly uncomfortable with the corporate-police state we are getting previews of — particularly in Victoria.

What once just applied to the traffic police, now applies to all and the traffic police seem rather benign in comparison to the now heavily armed and armoured police patrolling urban streets in our nation. The respect I had for police is now gone. I add that there are certainly still good people among them but any actively or even reluctantly going along with this are not worthy of respect or sympathy when the boot is inevitably on the other foot. Wanting to keep their job is not an excuse as the people they are beating, imprisoning and lying about simply want the livelihoods they had in March last year.

The message from the media and political class might be sympathetic to the police but this is not something that can be relied on forever either. These people have disproportionate power and reach and are protected in ways the majority aren’t. Not only have their incomes and lives been relatively inconvenienced, their power and even incomes have in many cases increased. There are not a few who are still quite free to travel internationally as well.

It should give the police pause that someone who was positively disposed to police just a few years ago is now quite the opposite. My encounters with police have been close to universally positive for the last twenty years across multiple nations. That has changed and that’s worse for the police than it will be for me.

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