Despite the fact that people (any people, not just POC) know that the police have the power to ruin them, why do they still treat them with less than respect?

Continuing the discussion from Texas releases full dashcam video of Sandra Bland's arrest:

So, yeah, let’s try to have that conversation, but let’s also understand right from the get go, that having it in the other thread is pure derailment.


Unfair. It’s a natural tangent of the discussion, nothing sinister.

I disagree. In the other thread, the question becomes “Why did Sandra Bland act the way she did when she knew the cop who pulled her over had the power to ruin her?”

Here are a few more questions for you, and if you detect any implied false equivalence to the question you posed (that I made the title of this thread) that is entirely my purpose.

and also

As a society, we treated the problem of drunk driving by attacking the source of the problem (alcohol and driving) not the result (excess traffic fatalities).

As a society, we treated the problem of tobacco abuse by educating the public about the dangers of nicotine.

And here, we’re discussing another problem.

Is the correct solution to this problem to get people to quit treating cops with a lack of respect?


No. I’ve already outlined that in another post. The correct solution to the problem is a mix of things I’ve already mentioned, and perhaps a few I haven’t yet:

Remove some of the overly broad powers police have
Change cop culture around protecting bad cops
Better oversight in general, more accountability
Better screening for cadets, to root out problem actors before they are police
Focus police training more on community outreach
Ban ticketing quotas, and other practices used mostly to generate revenue
Legalize marijuana

In other words, fix the system, not the people.


Aside from the plausible-but-unsatisfactory “a combination of fear and anger makes you much, much, stupider than you fancy yourself to be in a quiet moment” there is the fact that people (I would argue correctly) see it as craven and servile to pay tribute in ‘respect’ just because the opposition has coercive power.

Our culture(and a great many others) valorize those who stand for principle in the face of lousy odds. Even the weak-sauce pablum that passes for ‘anti-bullying curriculum’ in schools emphasizes the importance of standing up for what is right against bullying behavior.

There are almost certainly additional complications(cops who won’t take any reasonable behavior as ‘respect’, people who are too freaked out, tweaked out, or otherwise, to behave value-rationally; but when it comes right down to it the cultural assessment of toadying to bullies so that they won’t hurt you is ‘pragmatic cowardice, at best.’ If the only reason to treat cops with respect is their access to violence, that tells you everything you need to know about how respectable they are; and it is both unrealistic and arguably undesirable to expect people to behave otherwise.


Those are already illegal. Completely illegal. We don’t need to ban them. We need to destroy those who still attempt to impose them. Professionally, legally, and their reputation too. Police chiefs who try to set up quota systems are acting illegally and need to be prosecuted. And if the city prosecutor/DA whatever won’t haul them into court, we need to charge those with treason as well… or at least obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty.


Absolutely. Fear doesn’t engender anything like respect, but rather a spectrum running from resentful submission to outright rebellion and belligerence.


I was not referring to violence. I was referring primarily to their punitive powers. Some police do use threats of violence, of course.

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Now every single one of those is something I can get behind! And I’ve donated actual money to some of those causes.

Of the things you named, it seems to me that “Legalize marijuana” is nearly in the bag. There will be a lot more thrashing from the death throes of the Marijuana-prison beast, but I think it’s mortally wounded and doomed.

Of the others, which do you see as the biggest challenge, the one that would be the hardest to fix?

My candidate for that is “Change cop culture around protecting bad cops.” That’s a tough one, because loyalty is a screwy thing for us naked apes, as I have described before.

But I would like to know your ideas about how to address the steps of the solutions you’ve proposed :smile:


Agree that’s the hardest one. I don’t have a ton of bright ideas here.

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Define respect.

Way I see it, being rude is not enough for any class of people to routinely/consistently kill. I mean, if they’d kill you for being rude, if rudeness would drive somebody to murderous rage, then it would make sense that they’d interpret any perceived slight as much more than that.
This leads me to believe that mere respect isn’t enough to save your life. I’m sure most people here have dealt with somebody who was determined to pick a fight (Insert wife joke here) and these accounts sound to me an awful lot like those.

Seems to me that if you’re convinced that disrespecting a cop will get him riled up, it follows that if a cop is less than respectful in the first place, its hard to expect for people to remain calm. Routinely stopping you for driving while black is very disrespectful indeed.

I see no way to say to people that they need to, basically, humiliate themselves to avoid being perceived as a threat without first admitting that you live in some sort of failed state. Because then, its all you can do to protect yourself.


That’s a politer way of saying it; but ‘punitive powers’ are violence. Police are authorized to use force when defense requires it; and are allowed to do certain things that would otherwise be transgressions(under what is supposed to be judicial supervision) in order to investigate crimes and apprehend suspects. That’s it.

In practice, they have enough flexibility to employ punitive force against people whose guilt they suspect, attitude they dislike, etc.; but that aspect of their conduct is illegitimate. It’s real enough, obviously; but punishments administered informally by cops are not intended to be a part of our justice system.


Politeness has nothing to do with it. Violence is a subset of punitive powers. Punitive powers is a superset containing violence, writing tickets, detainment, etc.

Just thinking for a minute, every time I’ve been stopped by the police, they never fail to ask where I’m going and where I’ve come from.

Every time I tell them that I’m free to travel within and between the states and would rather not say.

They always look like I spat in their face when I say that. But I’ve never gotten in trouble for it. It’s as Louis CK says, it’s indisputably nice to be a white male. And it really sucks that not everyone is treated with necessary courtesy such that me exercising my constitutional rights and “getting away with it” is essentially preferential privilege.


I see you’re not getting “crucified” here. Maybe in part because you’ve dropped the speculation that Bland acted “disrespectful” because of an impoverished upbringing that may have further messed her up with lead poisoning.

Why did you speculate like that? I take it you didn’t know she was from a middle-class background?


I learned, way back in MilSci 3001…

There are five sources of power:

  1. Referential Power: I wanna be like him!
  2. Expert Power: He knows his shit, I should listen to him!
  3. Legitimate Power: He was put in his position by a higher authority that I must respect.
  4. Reward Power: He can give me cookies, I should do what he says.
  5. Punishment Power: He can make my life a living hell if I disobey him.

They are listed in descending order of desirability for an Infantry lieutenant who expects to lead a platoon into combat.


The question confuses respect and fear — and also assumes that the behavior of a suspect is a better predictor of violence than departmental policies and training.

Officers trained with a broken window model approach “disobedience” differently than officers trained with a community policing model — esp. if a suspect suffers from a mental health impairment.


Police can earn or lose my respect just like anybody else. They usually do rather poorly, I have encountered more arrogant, hypocritical, and violent police than polite or helpful ones. There are a few reasons why I don’t give them a pass. The only personal form of power I tend to acknowledge is expertise - other than this, I think everybody just as powerful as everybody else. Some dismiss this as being sophomoric BS, citing the police, government, and those with money are more powerful than others - but the reason why this appears to be the case is because common people are fooled into acknowledging them as having this power. Unlike, say, a bulldozer - where its power is constant regardless of belief - the other categories I mentioned are like psychic vampires which require feeding off the credulous for survival. When people stop believing that they are powerful, their blustery Zardoz show becomes apparent. Another factor is my axiom that it is more significant to me how I live, than how long I live.

Letting them have their way “no matter what” is no more effective than acquiescing to the tantrums of armed adolescents. I think that a hands-on approach of watching the cops and other governmental groups around you, and intervening in their activities is a civic responsibility. And it can often be quite fun.


Did you know that there’s a problem in the U.S. with police treating black people especially badly? Have you ever heard of this thing called “Black lives matter”?