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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some insight into the cops' worldview

Ran across this post on a website called Connected Cops a short time ago.

While it's not especially surprising to see cops using the intertoobz and taking advantage of the power of things like FB and the Tweeter, what's instructive is the tone of this particular piece. It purports to be about lessons in the use of social media for law-enforcement professionals in the wake of the G20, which is innocuous enough, but note the underlying assumption implicit in the title: "When cops are attacked with social media."

Pretty instructive, one thinks. And as good an indicator as any of the "us versus them" mindset that seems to be generated as soon as they put on the uniform.

I wrote recently about the lack of effective constraints on police behaviour and the inadequacy of any institutional or legal accountability mechanisms. And while I'd argue that those are two large factors underlying the reasons the cops acted the way they did during the G20 – power-tripping and abusing peaceful citizens because they could, and because they knew nobody would be able to do anything about it – they're not the only dynamics in play. What also needs to be examined – and challenged – is the intrinsic nature of police culture itself. The Connected Cops post cited above, and the subsequent comments, may inadvertently provide some insight into some of the culture's more glaring dysfunctionalities, including:
  • hostility to outsiders
  • tribalism
  • paranoia
  • authoritarian tendencies
  • inability or unwillingness to accept civilian oversight
  • hypocrisy

Of course, talking about occupational culture is opening a big can o' worms, especially where the Toronto police are concerned. But pretending the problems aren't there isn't going to make them go away.

More to come.

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