‘Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop’ – NOT!

The title might make for dramatic 'marketing,' but I bet the author of a recent viral post is not a cop

Since before last summer, I’ve been engaged with a Black American, long-time friend and former colleague to help me understand:

  • What it might be like to be Black in America; and
  • What I might be doing or failing to do to make America a more equitable country for people of color.

This began as a personal quest.

Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop reads like a manifesto and definitely not something authored by a police officer.
Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop reads like a manifesto and definitely not something authored by a police officer. (Photo/PoliceOne)

I met my friend in 1985 when I went to work as a prosecutor for the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office. We’ve remained friends even as our career paths diverged. I understand the advice against asking a black friend to educate me about racism. I relied on our 35 years of friendship.

My friend was happy to respond. Since last summer, she’s been sending me reading and viewing suggestions. She’s continued through recent, tumultuous weeks of “I can’t breathe” protests and calls for police reform.

In response, I’ve been thinking, struggling and learning. Those are good things. I recommend them – personally and for the police and prosecution professions as a whole.

One of the things my friend sent me prompted this article. It’s titled Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop and it’s making the rounds on the internet. Here’s why I don’t think it’s written by a cop, and why I think that matters.

Why Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop ISN’T

It struck me as “off” when I read it. I sent it to my brother. His response was, “No way that was written by a cop.” When I asked him to expound, he said, “That’s a manifesto. I saw ones like it in the 1960s. It’s tailored to what’s happening right now with police but it’s an anarchist manifesto.”

My brother is just enough older than I am that he would have been reading such things while I was still coming home from elementary school and watching "The Monkees" on TV. I read it again and the “manifesto” parts jumped out. This is just a sampling:

  • “It’s a time that I acted as a violent agent of capitalism …”
  • “It’s about the structure that made me …” [emphasis in original]
  • “No one is ‘changing things from the inside.’ They can’t, the structure won’t allow it.”
  • “To us, anyone committing a crime deserved anything that happened to them because they broke the ‘social contract.’ And yet, it was never even a question as to whether the power structure above them was honoring any sort of contract back.”
  • “Capitalism requires a permanent underclass to exploit for cheap labor and it requires the cops to bring that underclass to heel.”
  • I submit to you that these [robbery, gang activity, drug trafficking] are the results of living in a capitalist system that grinds people down and denies them housing, medical care, human dignity, and a say in their government.”
  • “[G]enerational poverty, food insecurity, houselessness, and for-profit medical care are all problems that can be solved in our lifetimes by rejecting the dehumanizing meat grinder of capitalism and white supremacy.”
  • “[A]bolitionists don’t want to simply replace cops with armed social workers or prisons with casual detention centers full of puffy leather couches and Playstations. We imagine … a world where people’s needs are met and those in crisis receive care, not dehumanization.” [emphasis added]

Then I asked a respected colleague and dear friend who’s been a cop – Pat Robinson – what she thought. Pat is one of the smartest people I know. She’s also a great resource when I need “a real cop’s” perspective. Pat’s first response was,

It seems unlikely that our ‘bastard’ was ever a cop, especially in California. (If he was, thank God he isn’t anymore!). California requires a minimum of 664 hours of basic training, of which arrest and control and firearms comprise a grand total of 132. If most of his academy time as he says, was spent ‘doing aggressive physical training and watching video after video after video of police officers being murdered on duty,’ then his academy did not conform to the California requirements, which may be seen here.”

But it was Pat’s second observation that had jumped out at me when I first read the post,

He says that ‘Many cops fantasize about getting to kill someone in the line of duty, egged on by others that have.’ Uhh...not any sane cop. Every officer-involved killing is inevitably accompanied by lawsuits, wrongful death and/or Section 1983 federal civil rights actions. Not to mention the media feeding frenzy. These typically go on for years. It’s not fun. Do cops fantasize about being a hero? You bet. Do cops think about having a deadly force encounter? You bet. But mental rehearsal for an event you hope never to face is a little different from ‘fantasizing about getting to kill someone.’”

Then there’s the “former bastard cop’s” pen name – Officer A. Cab – next to his blacked-over photo. ACAB is an acronym not just for “all cops are bastards,” but also “all capitalists are bastards.” Convenient for a manifesto against both.

There was plenty more in Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop that made me doubt it was written by a real cop, based on my 35 years of working with law enforcement, first as a prosecutor in Alaska, and then nationwide as a trainer. I’d welcome hearing from P1 readers on your take.

That takes us to…

…Why it matters

It matters to me because, as a writer, I take my contract with readers seriously. To post something claiming it is written by a former cop when that’s not true, violates the contract and my code of ethics as a writer.

Then I asked myself, why lie about that? The piece could’ve been written as satire, parody, or opinion. The arguments made in it could rise or fall on their own merits. But the lie was intended to influence – first as a marketing ploy, no doubt, and second, to give a false weight to the arguments since they purport to be first-hand, eyewitness accounts.

Facts and truth seem to have fallen out of fashion these days on both sides of many debates. Not for this writer. The issues the police profession and communities are grappling with are critically important and extremely challenging. They are not aided by hyperbole, statistics taken out of context, lies, or social media marketing and pandering. Sadly, there are plenty of these on both sides of the policing reform movement. I decided to challenge one.

I would also invite real, thoughtful, concerned officers to weigh in on the police reform debate. It’s an opportunity to help shape it – and the solutions.

Stay safe and sane out there.

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