Commentary News

The Cops Have Met Their Enemies: They Are Us

missouri national guard
Ted Rall
Written by Ted Rall

The days of Officer Friendly are over. So is the fiction that the police are “peace officers” who exist to protect and serve us. Here’s Ted Rall on the militarization of the police and the language they use to describe us.

ted-rall-anewdomain-on-rand-paulaNewDomain — Fellow political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow deploys a character, Officer Friendly. The always-smiling 1950s-style cop is a clever meme because it reminds us of what has been lost to the militarization of local policing: the fictions that their job is to keep us safe and that they work for us.

In case you harbor any lingering doubts about the true nature of the relationship between us ordinary serfs and the constabulary, the Guardian reports that the Missouri National Guard “used highly militarized language such as ‘enemy forces’ and ‘adversaries’ to refer to citizen demonstrators” in Ferguson during the protests following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man:

Documents detailing the military mission divided the crowds that national guards would be likely to encounter into “friendly forces” and “enemy forces” – the latter apparently including “general protesters.”

A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities,” which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.

And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”

Isn’t that sweet.

Naturally National Guard officials are backtracking.

missouri national guardCaptain John Quinn says that ‘enemy forces’ really means “potential threats” like — as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up — “inclement weather, heat, failing levees, etc.”

Incoming. Failing levees?

“It’s disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy,” said Antonio French, local alderman and captain of the obvious.

Except, it ain’t “somehow.”

In many American cities, particularly those with majority white police forces in minority neighborhoods, the police are an occupying army. They view the locals not as citizens whose taxes pay their salaries, who are in fact their bosses, but as dangerous, troublesome rabble to be contained, controlled and suppressed. The militarization of domestic policing, which dates back to the 1950s and the establishment of the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, further separates gendarmes from civilians via training derived from warfare, heavy body armor and wildly excessive firearms.

Trust in the cops is at a record low, thanks in part to ubiquitous cell phone and security camera videos that document police abuse so meticulously that it’s no longer possible even for white law-and-order types to deny accusations by blacks that the cops are treating them like dirt. Look for the cop-citizen gap to widen further as the police increasingly treat whites — for example, during the crackdown against the Occupy movement — badly as well.

The cops have met their enemy, and he is us.

And now there’s no denying it.

For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.

Image credit: DVIDSHUB , via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Ted Rall

Ted Rall

Based in New York, Ted Rall is aNewDomain's chief commentator and a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist. A Pulitzer nominee, Rall's latest book is the NYT bestselling book, Trump: A Graphic Biography.
Support his work and see his toons first at his site on Petreon.

  • alrui

    Good article! Sadly very accurate as well.