We Have More To Fear From Cops

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Recently by Eric Peters: The Rat Bike

It has been said – and I agree – that the typical person (i.e., the person just trying to get through the day, do their thing) has more to fear from a cop than a (non-official, non-uniformed) criminal.

Harsh? No, a reality check.

I’m in my mid-40s and – so far – have not been robbed at gunpoint by an ordinary criminal. But I have been robbed at gunpoint literally dozens of times by cops, who have a license to rob me. Cumulatively, the total I’ve had to “stand and deliver” – in the felicitous phrase of the appropriately named highway robber of yore – comes to thousands of dollars, over the past twenty-something years. It’s dressed up, of course – in order to make the cop feel better about himself and what he’s doing (he’s just keeping us safe, etc.) and also to douse the rage of his victim by getting him to accept what’s done to him as something other than it is.

That being, a robbery at gunpoint.

After all, I have committed no crime, properly speaking. I have caused no harm to anyone. Yet I am molested by a guy in a uniform – with a gun on his hip – because he has noticed I am not wearing a seat belt, or because my vehicle does not have the requisite tax stamps upon it, or because my velocity is greater than the velocity posted on a sign. It may not be any of these things. It may be simply that I happen to be on a given road at a given time. I – and all the others who happen to be on that road at that time – are forcibly compelled to interrupt our journey, roll down our windows and submit to a roadside inspection-interrogation, with the implicit threat of lethal violence if we fail in the slightest way to Submit and Obey.

It does not make me feel safe. Does it make you feel safe?

I do not especially fear louty-looking thugs approaching me on the street. I’m not a tough guy, but I am a bigger than average guy – and I usually carry a big gun. If the thugs come at me, I am reassured by my physical capacity to resist and defend myself – and also by the fact that the law is still (for the moment) on my side, should I be forced to defend myself. I know I have a shot, at least. It may not be a fair fight (what fight is?) but at least I can fight.

I cannot fight Officer 82nd Airborne. Which is why he scares me a lot more than a crew of street toughs. Not because he’s bigger or tougher than me. But because it does not matter how big and tough he is – or how big and tough I am. He has the entire weight of the state behind him. Legions of toughs – and the full apparat of the system – are on his team. The toughest, roughest Navy SEAL or Hell’s Angel stands as much chance against this juggernaut as Pee Wee Herman does of becoming the next UFC heavyweight champ.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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