This is a really good piece on how different police officers react to the public in tense situations. It's dealing with a small sample size, to be sure, but there's a pretty wide gamut of reactions. This one, I thought, was particularly telling.
But in Brooklyn, a 24-year-old officer, with three years on the force, seemed less inclined to walk away from verbal abuse.Look at the language he's using, especially with the "band of brothers" comment. He's acting as though he's a soldier, and the public is made up of inhabitants of an occupied land. That's not a healthy attitude to have toward the people you're supposed to be protecting and serving.
"We say, ‘Back down,’" he said. "If they don’t back down and start making direct threats, that’s an offense. They don’t get a free pass."
He said that threats could be defined in different ways, and he preferred to talk people down, but that the rules changed if a crowd formed, which was routine in New York and also occurred during the Gates incident.
“I wouldn’t back down if there’s a crowd gathering,” the Brooklyn officer said, in part out of concern of sending a message of weakness that could haunt another officer later. “We’re a band of brothers. We have to be there to help each other out. If there’s a group and they’re throwing out slurs and stuff, you have to handle it.”
Not all police have that attitude, but enough do that, especially if you're a person of color, you can feel like the police are foreign occupiers and that you have only as many rights as they're willing to grant you. No American should feel that way in his or her country.