HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Column-Chasing Andy Sipowicz
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 1999, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Spider Robinson
Pubdate: Mon, 11 Jan 1999


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? In the vernacular it means, "Who will police
the cops?" It has been a good question for a long time, as evidenced by the
fact that it's proverbial in Latin. The Romans were probably paraphrasing
earlier epigrams in Hyksos. There may even be an expression for it in Great

Humans are inherently disorderly, yet crave order -- every blessed one of us
wants to be the ONLY one allowed to break taboos. The only solution ever
found is to separate out the biggest, meanest mothas, give them the best
weapons and the exclusive right to commit deadly violence, and let them
enforce whatever taboos the old men and women can dream up. What prevents
them from running wild? Innate moral integrity. . . plus the fear that OTHER
big men with weapons will come for them if they do.

And they will, if the king has half a brain. Nothing -- nothing -- can more
quickly or surely shatter a social contract than the general realization
that the police have gone rogue. Any hope of a civilized society immediately
becomes a doomed joke.

So we have to have cop-cops. But, oddly, we don't want them to be too good
at it. An entire generation of movies, TV shows and novels about cops, a
relentless onslaught of propaganda, has persuaded us that the folks in
Internal Affairs are the VILLAINS: the handicap the noble hero must bear in
his struggle with Evil. Internal Affairs officers are always depicted as
heartless swine who live to destroy a good cop's career, just because he
committed some trivial technical mistake while Doin' What He Hadda Do. "The
Rat Squad," they're generally called. Nothing could be lower than a cop who
would look to hurt another cop (merely because he disgraces the badge),
right? Ask any cop.

Can there be any clearer proof that deep down, most cops think of themselves
as at least potential criminals?

Requiring cops to adhere to the laws they enforce hobbles them, we're told.
After all, the other side gets to cheat. Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue has been
perhaps the most eloquent exponent (at least since Clint Eastwood quit
playing Dirty Harry) of the proposition that sometimes an officer just has
to "tune up" a suspect -- that is, beat a confession out of him, or kill

Ah, "but only when you know you're right." That's who I want arbitrating the
complex moral dichotomies of our time, someone sure to be infallible: an
ill-educated overweight civil servant with a jaundiced world-view and a 9

In Abbotsford, B.C., a band of these secular popes recently surrounded a
house where they had reason to believe marijuana existed. Naturally they
were armed to the teeth and keyed up; everyone knows pot-sellers love a
shootout with overwhelming forces. This house, which they had under
surveillance for two hours, had a gigantic banner in the front window
reading, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY," and was surrounded by children playing street
hockey, who all cheered and went inside when a grownup yelled, "Cake and
presents!" Imagine the astonishment of the officers when, kicking the door
in and brandishing cocked firearms, they found a birthday in progress and
the house full of children.

It must have been during those two seconds it would have taken a reasonably
considerate fool to safety and holster his weapon that they received their
second stunning surprise: The dog they knew was there WAS THERE. The one
they'd had to pepper-spray the last time they'd busted this suspect in this
house, five weeks earlier. Who could have expected such a thing?

Furthermore, the dog had apparently spent the time practising transcendental
meditation, for he now evinced an ability to levitate and, it says here,
"bit one of the officers on the upper arm." (He was also a disguise expert.
Although the police swear he was a "pit bull," his photo looks nothing
whatever like one -- even his owner was fooled.)

But much had changed in those five weeks. Pepper spray was now out of the
question, even for a dog, so the officer's partner did what his bosses
maintain was the correct, reasonable thing: He blew the dog away.

Say that again: A policeman popped two caps in a room full of children to
save his partner from the bite of a flying dog, and his superiors have no
problem with that.

They refuse to say what kind of gun was used, so one must presume it was
non-reg, a hand-cannon. Children as young as six months were spattered with
blood. So were their parents. As I write this, the TV news just reported
that the police response to their loud complaints has been to arrest one for
assaulting an officer (if true, good man!) and criticize the rest for
allowing their kids to attend a party at a "drug house."

One sees the sad truth of this: They should indeed have known that smoking
pot is an activity known to attract trigger-happy idiots. It was in this
part of the world, only a few years ago, that a boy was shot dead for making
the fatal mistake of having a TV remote in his hand when officers kicked HIS
door in. They were looking for a pot- dealer who'd once lived in another
part of the building.

Nor has British Columbia a monopoly on this sort of thing. In Sunderland,
Ont., a foolish young man utters a threat against a cop. A few weeks later,
the officer and three other cops decide to discuss it with him at his home
at 8 p.m. They end up gut-shooting his father and kid brother. One cop has a
black eye, another "barely escaped death when a bullet passed centimetres
from his nose," even though there is no indication any of the civilians had
guns. The cops don't want to talk about it; there's a publication ban.

The hell with Andy Sipowicz and Dirty Harry! I want MORE Internal-
Affairs-type cops, with bigger budgets and broader powers. What a good
policeman does is a holy chore, and the power he is given is sacred: He MUST
be worthy of it. Otherwise good people start to fear the cops more than the
crooks. . . and then the Crazy Years come.

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