The Psychopathology of Police Violence

Flickr - Police Badge - davidsonscott15Andy Dilks, Staff Writer
Waking Times

In a recent article for Waking Times, Julian Wash suggested that the psychopaths running the show might as well be inhuman, discussing the apparent consensus opinion that violence and war is something inherent to the human condition – it is a consensus pushed primarily by those who profit from such aggression, not the population in general. If you consider the fact that the police is the enforcement arm of the State, their increasingly out of control violent behavior towards innocent members of the public can only serve to reinforce the view that this psychopathic tendency trickles down from the top of the hierarchy and permeates throughout the system.

The evidence supporting this position is abundant. Every day, news stories are emerging concerning the latest barbaric act on the part of America’s law enforcement; acts which the perpetrators carry out with apparent immunity from any kind of reprimand, let alone prosecution. Sometimes these actions are relatively mild but nevertheless bring to light the complete lack of compassion from the officers involved – this was certainly the case recently in Cleveland, where police took away a basketball hoop set up by a resident for neighborhood kids who helped her around the yard. The woman, Cheri Fiorilli, was threatened with arrest before the hoop was confiscated, and not given a single chance to move the goal into her own driveway.

  • Other incidents include far more serious acts of brutal violence and sexual assault, the footage often depicting police officers seeming to enjoy the beatings meted out on innocent members of the public, making no exceptions for age, race or gender. A recent appalling example, one of many, occurred in Baytown, Texas, where police officers responded to a noise disturbance reporting loud music at a family party. Entering via the back door in a SWAT-style raid, as many as 10 officers proceeded to beat, pepper spray and Tazer the guests, including children and the elderly.

    Another recent incident in Albuquerque ended in tragedy – police responded to a homeless man “illegally camping” and repeatedly shot him, resulting in the man’s death. The APD is just one of many American police departments with an atrocious track record of using egregious force often resulting in the loss of life, and the Department of Justice were forced to conduct an investigation which only confirmed their habitual use of excessive violence. Growing increasingly angry and frustrated with their behavior, the citizens of Albuquerque took to the streets to protest – they were met with tear gas and more police brutality.

    Similarly, residents of Baytown marched on the police department decrying their ongoing harassment of minorities as evidenced by the attack on the family party.

    As more and more incidents such as these occur and the general public come to realise that the very people who are supposed to be protecting them are in fact the worst kind of criminals able to function without fear of prosecution, mass protests will occur with greater frequency. Peaceful protests demonstrate the immense failings of a political system unwilling to address this growing problem, and as the protests in Albuquerque have already demonstrated, those involved come from all walks of life. On May 5th protesters took over the City Council and called for an immediate change in the way the APD is run while demanding the resignation of the police chief, Mayor and others involved in both instigating and covering up police brutality. Assistant professor at the university of New Mexico, David Correia, told the gathering, “This is no longer your meeting, this is the people’s meeting. We now serve a people’s warrant for arrest on Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden.”

    While such public expressions of mass outrage are heartening, the underlying psychopathology of the police force at the institutional level is the key issue which needs to be addressed. Leo Tolstoy once wrote that “government is violence”, whether it is the violence of the military abroad seeking to steal the resources of another or the violence of the domestic police force, in the US often referred to as “the largest street gang in America.” Often notoriously corrupt and operating on a quota system which results in the framing of countless innocent civilians – often on drugs charges which will result in life-destroying prison sentences – the police force as an institution does indeed bear a strong resemblance to an organized criminal gang, committing fraud and extortion as readily as it turns to violence.

    In many quarters there are strident calls for more thorough and comprehensive screenings of potential officers in order to reduce the number of psychopaths donning uniforms and patrolling the streets. But as much as intensive screenings geared towards identifying candidates with psychopathic tendencies might go some way to reducing their numbers within the police ranks, it is the fundamental nature of the job itself which needs to be radically overhauled. The current model has drifted so far away from the fondly remembered motto “to protect and to serve” (however questionable this motive was actually carried out in the past) to enforcing the law, that few who sign up have any illusions that their purpose is to help their fellow citizens and psychopaths are likely to become increasingly prevalent throughout police departments.

    With no chance of reform from within and equally little likelihood of police institutions being overhauled from the political arena, it appears as if the current brutal status quo may be here to stay. However, just as psychopathic individuals fear exposure more than anything else, so too do psychopathic institutions dread the prospect of their crimes being revealed to the masses. While it may appear as if the current situation is intractable, the efforts of the citizens of Albuquerque and elsewhere to expose, shame and potentially force criminal police officers out of their positions of power could be the decisive factor in bringing their crimes to an end. It is no doubt bitterly ironic that the same personality traits which lead a person to a lift of crime are found amongst those who are ostensibly charged with fighting crime – a far more fitting irony would be for their victims in the wider community to be the ones to bring an end to their tyranny.

    About the Author

    Andrew Dilks writes on culture and politics at He is the author of Goliath and Flow. His newest book Prehistoric Highs: Mind-Altering Plants and the Birth of Civilization will be available in 2014.

    This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact. 

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