How do you feel about the police?
How you answer probably reflects your skin color, bank account, age, education, language skills, political leanings, where you live and your past experiences and those of your family and friends.
If you think it’s a ridiculous or needlessly provocative question, then I would say you’re less informed than you could be. But otherwise, probably like me.
I’m white, own my own home, am over 50, have a college degree and I speak English well. I’ve never had a problem with the police, certainly in 27 years in Santa Monica. On a few occasions, I’ve been helped out by them. Given my demographics, that’s hardly surprising.
So, do I raise this question only because I’m a bleeding-heart liberal? Come of age during student revolution days of the ‘70s, when the cops were referred to as pigs?
Slightly radical though I was, I never bought into that thing about pigs; it never seemed right to me. I understood the polemics, but realized even then that they are brave, tough individuals doing a hard, dangerous, important job, and like most of us, I’m glad to have them there. Funny, I just now recalled something that was thrown around in those days by defenders of the thin blue line: Next time you’re in trouble, call a hippie.
But I’m more and more troubled lately by reports of terrible behavior by some police officers, and the mild reaction of their departments. It was set off by an incident recently in Seattle, involving a reporter. No one was hurt, but the mindset of at least two policemen was disturbing. It’s the attitude that I am the law rather than the enforcer of it, and that anything I choose to do in the course of my work is justified.
There have been three terrible reports coming out of Texas in the last year of women who were stopped for minor infractions and then subjected to body cavity searches right there on the side of the road. The “searches” fit the legal definition of rape in Texas, yet the three separate police departments defend them as proper procedure. An intoxicated man was surrounded by nine officers and a dog in Bakersfield last May and beaten to death. The officers then confiscated the cameras of neighbors across the street who witnessed and recorded it. No one has been even suspended. Just this week it came to light that police in Georgia are defying the law and Supreme Court rulings by forcefully taking blood from suspects without their permission.
I think there’s something very wrong with our philosophy of policing in this country. I don’t think it can be reversed without great effort, and that would have to start with a recognition that there is a problem. It will be hard to convince people of my demographic.
But I’ll tell you what: I’m informed enough to know that every time in my life I have encountered the police (me — white, polite), I am totally aware that my life is on the line, and I act accordingly. And it makes me sad.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve traveled a bit, and the police in western European countries are a completely different animal. They are not feared. They have a very different attitude and demeanor. And they still get the job done.
You do the polymath
I thought the Rum & Humble people booking the Twilight Concert Series on the pier had ignored my earlier jabs at their stewardship for the last three years of this landmark L.A. music series (it’s on our pier, but belongs to the whole region), in particular my remarks about this year’s lineup. Sometimes being ignored is just fine. But do I detect a reaction in their latest e-mail posting about this past Thursday’s concert with Hanni El Khatib and Bombino?
I had written that this venerable series had featured, over the previous quarter of a century, so many “performers for the ages… people who have proved their exceptional worth over more than a summer of being the hot new things on the festival circuit. Shows folks will talk about years and decades from now, without having to answer, ‘Who?’ That’s right kids, I saw…”
The promotional e-mail from Twilight Concerts last Wednesday proudly declared of last Thursday’s show, “this is an historic double billing you’ll be telling the grandkids about.”
It was probably a very good show. I was looking forward to it, because I always enjoy a potent rocker, but mainly because I was curious about opener Bombino. I’m sorry I had to miss it. But sight unseen unheard, I’m willing to take bets that in five years, not the 25 years it will take most of the audience who were at that show to have grandkids, all but the very musically hip with good memories will respond, “Who?” Only last year the promoters raved about the privilege of having Donavon Frankenreiter. Who? See?
But then, in the same e-mail they called Hanni a “creative polymath.” You may have to look up polymath; I did. I’m not sure being the creative director at a skateboard fashion label, then releasing two albums qualifies for that rarefied designation as a great thinker with encyclopedic knowledge and expertise in a significant number of diverse areas of science and the arts, usually epitomized by the likes of Michelangelo, Francis Bacon, da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Aristotle.
Maybe if I had shared an evening with a true polymath, I would be telling my grandkids about it. I just don’t think that happened on the pier this week.
But I do thank the bookers for the upcoming English Beat, Trombone Shorty and Jimmy Cliff shows. Several attempts in previous years were made to bring Cliff, but this group did it. Speaking of words having meaning, the term legend is thrown around lightly, but the Grammy-winning Jamaican singer-songwriter-actor qualifies. (Not a polymath, but yes, a legendary figure.) Very many of the world’s reggae fans came to the music through his groundbreaking 1972 film “The Harder They Come,” and he and Bob Marley are the only Jamaicans in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Irie, Santa Monica.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.