Since their inception, government law enforcers here in the United States have pretended to be servants of the people. That facade is finally being discarded as more law enforcers begin to show their true colors. For example, in the past law enforcers might respond to questions about arresting protesters by citing their duty to protect the community. Now, at least in St. Louis, their responses are almost indistinguishable from statements one might expect from nongovernmental criminal gangs:
Gov. Eric Greitens is eager to show he’s not like a former governor whom he accused of tolerating looting and arson in Ferguson. So much so that his Facebook post Sunday about vandalism in the Delmar Loop dropped any claim to formality.
“Our officers caught ’em, cuffed ’em, and threw ’em in jail,” it said. “They’re gonna wake up and face felony charges.”
On Sunday night, as police officers marched downtown, a Post-Dispatch photographer heard them chant a refrain most often heard at Ferguson protests: “Whose streets? Our streets.”
Later, after St. Louis police made more than 100 arrests downtown on Sunday night, Acting Chief Lawrence O’Toole’s words seemed meme-ready: “Police owned tonight.”
“Whose streets? Our streets.” In other words, the streets are our turf. “Police owned tonight.” Put another way, law enforcers won the fight against a rival gang.
The lack of professionalism is refreshing because it reveals law enforcers’ true colors. However, it’s also disconcerting because the thin veil of legitimacy is probably the only thing that has restrained the behavior of law enforcers in any way. If they’re no longer concerned about appearing legitimate, they may begin acting even more viciously.