Why It’s Rational to Fear Cops

“For instance, thanks to the doctrine of qualified immunityall police officers are immune from the consequences of excessive and unnecessary force, even in cases that result in the death of unarmed, nonresisting civilians. Certainly not all police take advantage of this immunity. Social media loves heartwarming stories of cops helping people or simply showing kindness. Many cops are not needlessly violent—in fact, it’s likely that the vast majority of them are not. But the uniform does not inform civilians of whether or not a cop will be gracious or abusive; it merely informs us that if they want to commit violence they can do so without fearing the consequences that the rest of us would face.

The result is that, in contradistinction to what we are taught as children, many people rationally feel unsafe interacting with a police officer than they do with a random civilian stranger. I stress the word “rationally” because their feeling of insecurity is not the product of a delusional prejudice or false propaganda, but rather of the reasonable weighing of possibilities in the face of uncertainty. They do not have knowledge of the specific officer’s temperament and character, but they do have knowledge of the legal immunity that will protect the cop if he abuses his authority.”

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