It’s very difficult to talk about this in polite company, or in any company really in most of the nation, but there’s an awkward truth about cops that most people kinda sorta know, but still won’t take to its obvious conclusion.
Generally speaking, the police are a right-wing force in this country. They support right-wing causes individually, they act on behalf of right-wing elements of the society, and frequently stand down when right-wing forces are engaged against left-wing (or merely populist) forces in street battles.
Yes, they solve crimes. Even relatively nonpropagandistic, cop-focused shows like The Wire (which was produced by a police reporter and a veteran detective) show that aspect of their work. (Merely propagandistic shows, on the other hand, like Law & Order, Miami Vice, Hawaii Five-0 and myriad others, exist to only glorify that aspect of the job.)
But police departments were formed not to solve crimes, but to “maintain order” in the immigrant-unrest and labor-resistance world of the 19th and early 20th centuries — a role they inherited from the infamous Pinkertons, thugs-for-hire from an earlier day.
And they have remained a force of social repression — repression of unrest — ever since. (If you click the Pinkertons link above, skip the History Channel’s glorification and read point 8: Pinkertons as “the paramilitary wing of big business”).
Most people fall somewhere on this spectrum in their thinking about cops — that they’re either our crime-solving friends from CSI or they’re somewhat problematic, but still a force for order in a troubled and violent world (The Wire, Hill Street Blues, True Detective).
But what if they’re a force for disorder? What if they’re too closely allied with the right-wing-terror problem the nation is trying, though not hard enough, to fix? What if our police are creating the problem we also want them to solve?
I don’t have an answer to those questions because I don’t have an answer about degrees — the degree to which cops solve problems vs. the degree to which they are problems. But there’s a lot of data to mull.