Greeted as Liberators
For an overview of our witticisms on#46 go to the mini-directory. Otherwise, continue on for some thoughts on #47.
Something I have brought up before, and which I think bears re-examination now is the “bad cop,” concept. Best embodied in Officer Walker, but also relevant to Herc and some other more minor players, this is something I think is crucial to this episode and this season. If we are seeing how people get educated, then to some degree we are learning how people become socialized too (this is seen of course in Bunny’s experimental classroom), and part of becoming socialized in recognizing how one fits into the matrix of law enforcement. Through Walker, Herc, Carver, McNulty and Bunny (though he really counts as ex-cop), we saw a few different approaches to policing, and some fierce commentary on how police interact with citizens.
While I find that Officer Walker presents somewhat of a caricature at times, I don’t think it’s any accident that he’s been peppered into this season, screwing over everyone he touches. Donut’s car boosting has been waiting to catch up with him all season, and I think his increasingly risky joyriding has ceased to be funny entirely, particularly given the amount of damage he caused on his latest jaunt (of course he explained it away nicely as a function of the poor handling of the truck). Of course, Walker’s overreaction was equally out of line, not least for his treatment of the woman he crashed into, and certainly most for his brutal attack on Donut.
Herc too drew the ire of someone he is ostensibly there to protect and serve too. Bubbles contacted him exactly two times, and both times Herc fell through on his promise, showing not only his usual callous indifference to the job, but also a complete lack of respect for the assistance Bubbles was able to provide at great personal risk. The second time was perhaps worse because he was busy trying to clean up his own mess in front of a commander who is equally hot-headed, lame at his job, and frustrating to his colleagues.
His comeuppance was clever and stinging, all the more because we know the great sway that the ministers hold. Yet, like Walker, Herc in this case abuses his duty by willful disregard for the rules, the job, the whole purpose of being a police. He made no note of the vanity licence plate, didn’t run the tags, and certainly didn’t take the time, even a second, to ask the suspect any questions. He’s going to end up if far greater trouble than the camera would have cost him.
And so Bubbles gets some payback, and the boys plan some of their own. Yet the turn from essentially law-abiding to law-abhoring is one that I think the show wants to illustrate and humanize. In another case, that of Namond, the police proved sympathetic and caring. Carver’s soft spot for Nay is touching, but also the mark of good police. Namond is not beyond saving, and Carver seems to sense this, which is why it is funny that Bunny Colvin ends up taking him home for the night. Both are not yet ready to give up on these kids, on the streets, and both are also terrific police, able to solve cases and effect positive change. Carver has certainly come a long way since being Herc’s doofus sidekick (or the other way around). Of course, in the end, Nay’s mother re-educates him quickly on the rules he is supposed to follow.
Meanwhile, another “good police,” our old friend McNulty, not only scoffs at the rounding up of essentially innocent citizens to juke the stats (which ends up nearly causing a riot), but takes his time to figure out a real case. Of course this is either an obvious foreshadowing of his return to detective work or the most hurtful tease of the season.
So you have, on one side, a populace frustrated, injured, betrayed, and as a result hateful of the police, and on the other a populace served and protected. The latter doesn’t solve the many troubles of the inner city or the underclass, but it helps, which is a whole lot more than the former can claim.
For a lot of people, “stop snitchin'” is a scare tactic, one that works all too well as neighborhood residents do not cooperate with law enforcement for fear of reprisals from their own neighbors. It’s another code, though, that develops out of some inflated sense of the importance and permanence of street justice and street rules, yet serves to protect only the guilty. Randy stands to feel the sting of this most acutely, as Marlo has it circulated that he is a snitch. Yet the whole mechanism, as has been elucidated better by many at this point, functions on the assumption that police cannot help, are not wanted, and must be denied access to the community. Though this isn’t all that startling a tactic for the criminally employed, it is a startling development for inner city citizens, who in many cases may find themselves very much in need of police help.
But look at Randy’s cooperation, and Herc’s insensitive and accusatory response. Or as seen this week, Herc’s betrayal of Bubbles or Walker’s violence. It isn’t all that surprising that many are all too easily pursuaded to hop over to the dark side. The boys plans to fight back against Officer Walker indicate this shift, and maybe not one that the boys would have made, or made so young, from grudging acceptance to outright malice. Of course even a lifelong law-abider could reach a limit when carted in for drinking a beer on a stoop.
Not to make too much of the occupying force / Iraq / Afghanistan analogy, but there is a distinction between cooperation and collaboration, and while one exists in peacetime as a virtue, the other exists in war and is roundly reviled. Snitching is collaborating, and that’s something you only can do with an enemy, and sadly, there are Officer Walkers out there who make the city into even more of a warzone, where cooperation is near impossible.