What do cases of police corruption tell us about our society’s problems in general?
“If you see fraud, and don’t shout ‘fraud’, you are a fraud.” —Nassim Nicholas Taleb,Antifragile (2012)
When we lived in Baltimore in our mid-20s, before the kids and all the rest, Anna-Liisa and I went out dancing every weekend. Our favorite club was this place called “1722” on Charles Street. Everybody’s got a nickname in Charm City, even the house dealer at a nightclub: dude was known as “Cop John”. He sat at the bar and dealt ecstasy and coke openly.
We assumed that his nickname was a joke (like calling a big guy “Tiny”) until we saw him in handcuffs on the six-o’clock news. He was ACTUALLY a police officer, who’d been openly selling drugs confiscated on the job for years. And he had a crew of fellow police officers in on it too. I couldn’t help but think of Cop John as I watched the Netflix documentary The Seven Five (2014), which details the crazy levels of criminality amongst New York City cops in the 1980s and 1990s.
But there’s a deeper philosophical truth communicated by The Seven Five, which my Police Tech students don’t hear nearly enough: namely, that loyalty (like any virtue) turns into a vice when it’s not balanced by the demands of other virtues (like justice, integrity, honesty). Most cops aren’t like Cop John. But cop culture’s single-minded obsession with loyalty is precisely what allows the Cop Johns of this world to flourish and prosper.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)
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