Sunday, October 24, 2021

Obenieta: Above all these infernal affairs

FEATHERS proved futile when some angels fell from grace. The moral of the biblical story stays relevant wherever brickbats fly in the face of the reckless. The heat is on, indeed, when the morale is low while expectations stay high. To uphold the law no less, the more it makes sense why the patron saint of the police is none other than Lucifer’s opponent.

“Give us cool heads, stout hearts, and uncanny flair for investigation and wise judgment,” exclaims an excerpt of the prayer to St. Michael. “Make us the terror of burglars, the friend of children andlaw-abiding citizens, kind to strangers, polite to bores, strict with law-breakers and impervious to temptations…”

Resist, rise above the weakness of casting an evil eye at law enforcers. Thus the
commissioner of the New York Police Department pleaded, short of praying, for a reprieve in the wake of public riots over perceived police brutality.

In his latest television interview where he lamented the vendetta-style assassination of two NYPD operatives, he laid bare the officers’ red badge of vulnerability.

Consider, he said, “the anger and the hatred and the violence directed against our police officers that every year takes more a hundred of their lives.” Hardly moved, however, is the resident fact-checker of The Washington Post.

Noting the decelerating trend as far as fatalities go in line of police duty “since the 1970s,” he thumbed up the life-saving factors of “bullet-resistant vests, availability of highly trained SWAT teams that are used for especially dangerous situations, and use of stun guns that allow officers to keep a distance from perpetrators instead of hand-to-hand combat.”

Adversity goes with the territory, of course. Here in this republic where the recurrent climate of lawlessness is among its tropical maladies, no occupational hazard is more hackneyed than the hemorrhage of credibility regarding law enforcement.

“Some 85 cases have been filed against erring policemen under the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 last year,” according to a local report. Even if most officers remain steadfast to their oaths despite the odds, there’s always the risk of running into or being hounded by common perception about bad policing.

Jaundiced with prejudice due to frustrations, the public eye could easily roll while cynicism rakes the upright cop over the coals of their colleagues’ misconduct or abuse of authority.

Assuming the dual rigors of crime control and due process is a tall order too often prone to shortcomings, indeed. The comeuppance of being caught perfect to the fit of their own handcuffs, however, is not only a matter of personal disgrace but also an indictment of the larger social context— the culture of corruption where deviance is at once individualized and institutionalized.

Where public service and professionalism have been long overdue for exorcism, what Raymond Chandler reckoned in one of his novels has never been too farfetched from the facts: “Police business is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get…”

Peace on earth may be perfect only for holiday fantasy. For the sake of our well being worthy of a snore-blessed sleep, however, the dream insists on its stubborn innocence to snuggle into the idea of law enforcement as if it were a blanket. Summoning their better angels against our disappointments, we may yet wake up and find most of our cops at last with feathers on their caps.

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