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A Felon Views the Constabulary

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 03, 1995.

I must admit, being a member of that huge fraternity of convicted criminals - for the moment - that I still have no huge animosity towards police officers. Of all the elements of the justice system - the judiciary, the bar, and the constabulary - the police seem to be the least clearly overly impressed with themselves.

Yet today, on the anniversary of the death of Beth Haynes, a Boulder police officer killed in a domestic dispute, I see again the maudlin pleasure taken in weeping for a dead cop. It does nothing to tarnish the memory of Haynes, or the roughly three hundred and fifty law enforcement officers killed each year, to say that it’s too much. We make headline stories of dead cops, with the boiler plate sidebars about widows, children, saddened peers, and too little about the other, less uniformed, more innocent.

It is a federal crime to kill a police officer. I’m not sure why someone who willingly volunteers for dangerous work should have a higher premium put on his or her life than, say, a child under ten who is, ipso facto, innocent. If police are such special people, and their death a cause for FBI involvement, wouldn’t it be compensatorily fair to make crooked cops subject to the death penalty?

You can understand the motive, here. Police are a close knit if backbiting community, and some of them clearly risk their lives above and beyond, but I don’t find them worthy of being considered a special class of citizen. They are not a thin blue line saving good citizens from a vicious world. The are tenured bureaucrats - well paid and compensated - who volunteered for such work. That they periodically get killed should not be a source of ennui or scorn, but neither should it be a source of enforced mourning. If they are to be mourned officially and beyond that of ordinary citizens, they should be subject to stiffer penalties for their periodic corruptions. If Sgt. Smith saves a child, and is killed in the process, by all means a state financed funeral. It Sgt. Smith takes a bribe or drinks on the job, gas him.

It’s an interesting line of thought, pursued to natural ends.