Monday, October 08, 2007

Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Wisconsin deputy killed after slaying 6 in rampage

An off-duty sheriff's deputy went on a shooting rampage early Sunday at a home where seven young people had gathered for pizza and movies, killing six and critically injuring the other before authorities fatally shot him, officials said.

The gunman, Tyler Peterson, was 20 years old and worked full-time as a Forest County deputy sheriff and part-time as a Crandon police officer, said Police Chief John Dennee.


Her husband, David Franz, 36, said it was hard to accept that someone in law enforcement committed such an act.

"The first statement we said to each other was, how did he get through the system?" David Franz said. "How do they know somebody's background, especially that young? It is disturbing, to say the least."

More here.

When I was a kid in the 70s I remember a moment in a Batman comic book when a criminal and a cop were having something of a standoff. The criminal was taunting the cop, telling him that they weren't so different from one another, asserting that the typical psychological profiles for cops and criminals are amazingly similar, violent, possessing a sense of superiority, as well as a disdain for rules and authority. I've never really looked that up to see if it's true, but I've heard it repeated by people here and there over the years.

Even if it's not the case it makes sense.

This shooting isn't the typical police corruption or brutality story that I usually post about. Obviously, this killer falls much more into the crazy nut-job category. But that's kind of the point. He was attracted to the culture of law enforcement. He wanted to be a part of the hyper-masculine uniformed gun-toting elite. He wanted to be a big man. He wanted to exercise power over other people. This kid, Peterson, probably would have cracked up whether he was a cop or not, but the fact that somebody like him wanted to be a police officer says reams about the cop culture that he found to be so attractive.

Like I keep saying, my gripe with the police isn't about how "cops are bad" or anything along those lines: it's about how police culture consistently creates a social context such that some cops are encouraged to do bad things, and other cops are encouraged to look the other way when that happens.

Humanizing police culture wouldn't have stopped Peterson's rampage, but it would make for a more just and humane society overall. And a more just and humane society could very well change murderous nut-jobs into just nut-jobs.

One hopes.