Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Things We Learn From Patrick Swayze: Police, Protest, And Non-Lethal Force

I love me some Patrick Swayze. He's the guy who can make the most cheese-tastic lines sound like they're spray painted in sheer awesome. Point Break, Red Dawn. Skate Town USA. SKATE TOWN FUCKIN' USA, people. The Rock and Roller Disco Movie of 1979. You know I'm right. You might think that movie's unbridled success is because of Scott Baio and Flip Wilson, but it's my man Swayze who's rockin' it.

But my favorite is Road House. Patrick Swayze is Dalton, this zen, batshit crazy monk / bouncer who spouts off philosophy like he's ordering a cheeseburger. Gets surgical staples without anaesthetic because he's a badass trying to impress the hot ER doc who thinks he's an idiot.

And there are a lot of great lines in it. This here's my favorite as he's talking to his troops of roadhouse bouncers getting ready for the night's work.

"I want you to be nice until it's time to not be nice."

There's a lot in that sentiment. There is restraint. There is respect. There is the understanding that things can go bad quickly but that if it does it needs to be the other guy who takes it there.

This is a concept that some members of the nation's police forces should perhaps acquaint themselves with.

The last couple of weeks have shown us that police across the nation, and the upper echelons who give them their orders and sign their paychecks, like New York, Oakland, and UC Davis really need to get a handle on what is meant by the phrase "maintain the peace".

As a law enforcement tool pepper spray is great. It won't kill you, but it hurts like a motherfucker. It's great for taking down folks who won't go down unless you put bullets into them. Pulling a trigger is not an act one should do lightly. Once you kill a man there is no going back.

On the other hand pepper spray has been turned into a panic-driven, knee-jerk response by police who are unable to recognize that sitting down, linking arms and singing Kumba-fucking-yah is not a goddamn threat display.

Let's take UC Davis' Campus Police Lieutenant John Pike, who, from what I understand, is the gentleman who walked up and down a line of protesters at UC Davis the other day and nonchalantly hosed them down with the stuff.

Really? Sitting is a threat? Students and faculty sitting down as a form or protest over proposed hikes in tuition on a state funded campus warrant the use of a pain-based deterrent? What were they going to do to you? Calculate Pi? Recite Nietzsche?

"Get the flash-bangs ready, sergeant! They're about to give us a literary breakdown of Jean Paul Sartre's play NO EXIT and show its relevance to modern feminist thought!"

There are two things that Lieutenant Pike, and other police who have engaged in disproportionate responses like this, have had to be in order to take those actions.

A) Assholes

B) Too fucking lazy to do their jobs

Let's start with A. Anyone who will look at a line of people DOING NOTHING BUT SITTING and think, "I'm gonna set these fuckers eyes on fire," is a cold-hearted psychopath who should not be in ANY position of authority. Small-minded men with large sticks have been the single biggest contributor to oppression in the history of the human race.

Congratulations, Lieutenant Pike, you're in some auspicious company.

And what about lazy? You don't get to hose down people with pepper spray because they're doing something inconvenient. You don't get to do it because it's annoying.

If you throw flash-bangs, if you pepper-spray students, if you beat them with batons you had better have a reason that includes them doing something not only illegal, but threatening to your officers and the public, not because it's easier.

You don't get to say, "Damn, Merle, I'm getting kinda tired of this. Kick on the LRAD, would ya?"

They are not attacking you. They are not rushing you. They are not throwing bottles, firing guns or coming at you with swords like crazed extras in Braveheart.

They are protesting injustice. And whether you agree with them or not, the Constitution of this nation lets them do it.

The officers, brass, and city governments who have allowed this blatant mis-use of authority and force should be brought to task for an irrationally disproportionate response. They are assaulting their citizens.

Now, it might not seem this way sometimes, but I actually am for law enforcement.

I have friends who currently are and who have been police officers. They are people who get that the job is about protecting the innocent and upholding the law and not the other way around. They understand that justice and law aren't necessarily the same thing and strive for the former while they attempt to uphold the latter. And I thank fucking Christ that they have chosen that profession.

Doesn't mean I won't call cops on their shit. Especially if it involves flying cars and lessons in gun safety.

The LAPD has a long history of abuse and corruption. That said, and I can't believe I'm saying this either, some of these cities might want to look to the LAPD for some ideas. The arrests here have been largely peaceful. They're not pepper-spraying people (yet), they haven't chucked flash-bangs at them (yet). I'm hoping it stays that way.

Maybe they've been through the wringer enough times and become media savvy enough to know that some actions are a losing game no matter how you justify them. Regardless of the reason, they have so far managed to show a pretty measured response to this whole situation.

They have arrested a handful of people inside the Occupy movement parked outside City Hall for doing things like stabbing each other. The arrests the other day Downtown were pretty much expected by both sides. The protesters said, "We're hanging out in a bank," and the cops said, "That's private property. You know what's gonna happen." And the protesters pretty much said, "Yep. And when you come for us we'll smile for the cameras."

There is an understanding there. A tenuous one, perhaps, but an understanding. "Do something ILLEGAL that we have to respond to," the LAPD is saying, "and we will respond."

Mostly they have acted as bouncers, not stormtroopers. So far they seem to understand.

"I want you to be nice until it's time to not be nice."

Wisdom from my man, Swayze. Live it, love it, be it.


Elizabeth said...

Well said, sir.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

To quote Chuck Klosterman:

"Take, for example, Road House. This is a movie I love. But I don't love it because it's bad; I love it because it's interesting. Outside the genre of sci-fi, I can't think of any film less plausible than Road House. Every element of the story is wholly preposterous: the idea of Swayze being a nationally famous bouncer (with a degree in philosophy), the concept of such a superviolent bar having such an attractive clientele, the likelihood of a tiny Kansas town having such a sophisticated hospital, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Every single scene includes at least one detail that could never happen in real life. So does that make Road House bad? No. It makes Road House perfect. Because Road House exists in a parallel reality that is more fanciful (and more watchable) than The Lord of the Rings. The characters in Road House live within the mythology of rural legend while grappling with exaggerated moral dilemmas and neoclassical archetypes. I don't feel guilty for liking any of that. Road House also includes a monster truck. I don't feel guilty for liking that, either."

Thomas Pluck said...

I love Road House. Ben Gazzara is so perfect a villain in it the Coen Brothers resurrected him as Jackie Treehorn.

As for the cops, in the last decade, if you've watched youtube or COPS, you've noticed that Tasers and Pepper Spray are NOT "nonlethal weapons" as they claim them to be, but Persuasion Devices. Disobedience of any sort has been rebranded by the courts as Disorderly Conduct and even Resisting Arrest. They Taser you and spray you any time you do not obey a direct command. So civil disobedience has been effectively outlawed, and OWS is the first display of this police state behavior.

ALso note that the Tea Party came armed to protests, carried handguns openly at political rallies to threaten candidates with "2nd amendment solutions," and were not arrested. A bunch of college students chanting stupid songs, hose 'em down with chemical irritants.

Soon the only unions permitted by law will be police unions.

Chad said...

What Thomas said.

KMA-787 said...

Well said.

Locally, the Boston Police kept lines of communication open with the various Occupy factions from the beginning of the protest. When the site was ordered dismantled for god, all of Swayze's virtues shone through. A job well done.

For my beloved LAPD, high praise to them, as well.