In all walks off life, you will come across hypocritical people. They do not walk the same walk they talk. Human beings are multi-faceted. We show different sides of ourselves depending on the circumstances. This is especially true in the Internet era. Individuals are all the more willing to hide behind the cloak of anonymity and disparage or condemn other people.
There used to be a network called “Bored At” for certain colleges. On this network, students could anonymously post anything they wanted and other college students could give the posts thumbs up or thumbs down. The websites transformed into an anonymous forum where students could post horrific thoughts and comments about their peers. In 2014, Jezebel published an article about a Bored at Baker post where a male college student at an elite college urged for others to rape a specific girl who was referred to as a whore.
Similarly, we have all heard stories of powerful CEOs who have a loving family, drive the fancy car, have the summerhouse in the Hamptons, and travel the world on private jets. However, greed takes over. When he thinks he is not in the limelight, he embezzles money from his company. He is sure no one will catch him. Many people probably get away with this behavior, but numerous others are caught and prosecuted.
Someone’s true character shows when he or she can hide behind the cloak of anonymity or thinks that no one will find out the truth. People in positions of power are especially prone to this type of behavior. After all, society tends to treat those in power with the utmost respect.
While such behavior is in no way limited to the police, law enforcements officers frequently hide behind the respect of the badge. Across America, police officers are revered by a majority of the population. On Facebook, you will see pictures with the caption, “I support our men in blue.” On the highways, people automatically slam on their brakes if a patrol car appears in their rearview mirror, as they do not want to get stopped. Many law-abiding citizens feel at ease when law enforcement is in view. They feel safe, secure.
Similarly, those sporting a law enforcement badge are regarded as credible. If a police officer says it is so, then it must be true. In a criminal jury trial, if there are two witnesses—a police officer and a defendant—almost every time, the jurors will believe the man in the uniform. The jurors believe he has no motive to lie. The jurors believe that the officer is the pinnacle of American society.
Unfortunately, as in all sectors of society, some police officers wear their uniform and badge as a mask. In reality, when no one is looking, the men and women wearing the badges let their true character shine through.
In the courtroom or out on the streets when the public is around, the officer acts as sweet as apple pie. He laughs, he makes jokes, and he behaves professionally. However, as soon as he no longer has to put on a show, he treats those he is arresting or those in his custody with utter disrespect.
Behind the scenes, the officer hurls expletives and demeaning slurs towards the individual in handcuffs. He will push and shove the individual despite the situation not calling for such behavior. If the inmate ever reports the officer’s behavior, the police officer has an easy explanation—the inmate was not treating him with respect and was disobeying his commands. Even when such excuses are false, this assertion will quiet any grumblings about the officer’s behavior. The man displaying a badge and utility belt is more credible to outsiders and supervisors than a man in jail-issued clothing, handcuffs, and shackles.
Normally, when someone disrespects us, we set boundaries. We tell the person we will not tolerate such behavior. If the insults continue, we will distance ourselves. We will not let someone talk down to us. We will not sit around idly while someone bullies us. We will not allow our supervisors to push against the wall or shove us to the ground.
Inmates, however, do not have such luxuries. Someone in shackles cannot stand up for himself. He cannot tell the officer that he does not appreciate his tone of voice. He cannot make a snide comment back to the officer engaging in racial slander. He cannot put his hands up and try to defend himself from the officer’s physical abuse. Well, he can, but if he does, he will pay the price. The officer will tase the individual. The officer will move the prisoner to solitary confinement. The officer will deprive the person of his or her commissary. The officer will leave the accused in the holding cell for a much longer period of time than necessary. The officer will retaliate in the worst of ways.
Again, we are back full-circle. If the inmate reports the officer’s unacceptable behaviors, who will be believed? The officer, of course. Even worse, the officer will amplify his cruel treatment of the tattletale. Even more derogatory comments and physical abuse will be directed towards to person behind bars.
Unless and until society as a whole stands up to those who bully inmates, the cycle will continue perpetually. It is easy to turn a blind eye to situations involving those accused of horrific crimes—murder, robbery, sexual assault, residential burglary, etc.—but by doing so, we are condoning inequality and exploitation. Those in shackles are human too. They deserve the same respect and tolerance as the men in blue.