Communion Of Dreams

It’s the contract we make.

OK, I realize that I am probably the last person on the planet to hear of this, but nonetheless I want to rant about it. What it? The YouTube vid of the Utah HP Officer using his Taser on a guy pulled over for speeding which has been getting a fair amount of press and blog attention. Before I say any more, here’s the clip:

OK, first thing – my dad was a cop, and I’ve known cops all my life. I generally like cops, and respect the job they do – it’s dangerous, grim, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it.

Next thing – it’s stupid to do anything other than smile nice and comply with what a cop tells you. Yeah, stupid. Because in that situation, out in the real world, the cop (or his buddy cops) is gonna win any argument. You got a problem, save it for your trial or a lawsuit against the cop/department/government.

Last thing – because we give cops this much power over us, we *have* to insure that they exercise their authority properly and appropriately. That’s the trade-off, the contract we make with the government.

And this HP Officer did not properly exercise his authority. I think any fair viewing of the video leaked out to YouTube pretty clearly indicates just exactly what happened: for whatever reason, this cop did not like having his power challenged, and escalated the situation in a completely inappropriate manner, endangering the man he’d pulled over, the man’s family, himself, and just about anyone else who was traveling that stretch of highway at that time. It was in violation of the HP guidelines:

Troopers that carry Tasers must take a four-hour certification course outlining how and when to use the devices, according to UHP’s nine-page policy. They are taught to use them in three circumstances:
* When a person is a threat to themselves, an officer or another person.
* In cases where the physical use of force would endanger the person or someone else.
* When other means of lesser or equal force by the officer has been ineffective and a threat still exists.

Now, will the internal review of the use of the Taser in this instance show that the cop behaved in compliance with the rules? Will the cop be disciplined? Will the victim see justice in court? I don’t know, I suppose we’ll have to see. And we’ll have to see whether the social contract we make with the government in this case is honored, or whether it is yet again broken by a system in which the government and its officials are seen to be our rulers rather than our employees.

What does all of this have to do with Communion of Dreams? Not a lot, directly. But a whole lot, indirectly. Because I see this abuse kind of power by the government today as part of the reason why, when in the ‘history’ of the novel things break down following the first fire-flu, there’s a lot of civil unrest leading to something akin to a second civil war. Because if people do not trust their government or its officers, then when there is a catastrophe they will not trust it to act on their behalf, and will seek to protect and defend themselves even from their own government. It is a throw-away line early in the book, but the post-flu US I see is largely libertarian in nature for this very reason.

Jim Downey

(A slightly different version of this rant has been cross-posted to UTI.)

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