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  • Writer's pictureArlene Bozich

You Might Not Personally Be a B*st*rd, but ACAB and That Includes You

I wanted to be a police officer when I was in high school.

This was right as I was in the school play The Laramie Project, cast as the character Reggie Fluty. Laramie is a monologue piece where actors are cast in multiple roles. Through the piece, we listen to interviews with the people in Laramie, Wyoming after the national media attention on the local hate crime and murder of Matthew Shepard. Matthew, who was killed for being gay, was beaten and left out on a barbed wire & wood post cattle fence in the open wind through a cutting, freezing night. He died in the hospital after he was finally found. Reggie, the main role for my character track, was the police officer who found and rescued Matthew. She had to deal with being exposed to AIDs while saving Matthew’s life. It’s a beautiful track and I put everything I had into it.

At the time, it felt like the role was talking to me. I have a lot of military personnel in my family, all ranks and branches, as well as a lot of law enforcement workers. I was still in high school in a small, conservative town- what if I went into law enforcement? Maybe policing, maybe eventually CIA work. But protecting people, going after bad guys, and being there to get people to safety when shit was going wrong felt like my kind of career. My dad even wanted to be a police officer when he was younger, but he raised a point that I agreed with, “Cops don’t go to good parties. No one invites cops to a party unless something’s going wrong.”

I love a fucking party, there was no way I could enforce bullshit drug and alcohol laws and live with myself. Decision made. Not a cop.

But the want to serve people, to jump in and protect, and to be that person that others turn to when shit hits the fan- that lives on. I played the same character track in another production of The Laramie Project when I was in graduate school. I ripped my ACL in half as we were moving into tech for the show, so I ended up sitting out in the audience with our director during large parts of 10 out of 12, where theatre designers and crew go through all of their technical cues and get them set with the director before costumes and final touches are added for opening night and the run of the shows.

As I was watching everything come together, finally seeing the audience's perspective of the piece, I remembered what I used to feel in high school. We need safety personnel in our society. Things go wrong. The dark shit that exists in every human society needs a trained professional, equipped and ready to help. But finally sitting in the audience seat and watching one of the Assistant Stage Managers do my part, I thought about the role cops had (and unfortunately would have) in my day-to-day reality. It’s true that cops deal with the darkest, harshest parts of reality. They are put into horrible situations- and before you say, “That’s what they signed up for!” I need to tell you- No. No they did not. There is no way to prepare someone for the devastation of Capitalism on our communities and the chaos and pain are staggering. It changes people.

See, watching our ASM play my role so the lighting and sound team could get a reference for my part onstage without me walking it made me think of the role and costume of Bastard Cop in our society. Our ASM was saying and doing everything I was saying and doing, but somehow the role was entirely different. Cops are given little to no training, then given too many roles in our society. They have to respond first, handle the violent offender as well as the victim, handle every call from cats in trees to parking tickets to handling people who lost parental rights holding their own kids hostage at gunpoint, just to hurt a spouse. And it’s not like they make enough in pay to keep themselves or their families stable, fed, and housed. A friend of mine is married to a cop and they are in the process of selling a car so they can afford their mortgage for a normal, formerly middle-class house. This is after a group of vigilantes decided to hunt the family members of cops while she was pregnant and she had to run for it. The danger to their lives and loved ones, as well as the stress of poverty, is all on purpose, keeping everyone in survival mode so their frontal lobes can’t turn on and practice empathy- their brains are forcing them to do whatever they can to keep that stream of income stable, no matter the consequences for others. It’s fight or flight mode. That means, in the same way the poor ASM who had to walk and talk and pretend to be me with no rehearsal practice and a lot of eyes on them, these people who chose to be cops for the right reasons have no way to even be a decent person- they’ve been purposely neglected and stressed out.

There are those who are there because they genuinely believe in the law and that enforcing it is the right thing to do to keep people safe. They are not good cops. They are good people being forced into the role of Bastard Cop. They are being lied to and told that this is the only way they can play their part, that this is the script, it’s their job to violently enforce it, and that they can never even consider breaking the rules. Never mind that laws are purposely left ambiguous so their enforcement isn’t the same across the board- entirely up to the individual’s panic and/or interpretation of the law. Nevermind that there are no real repercussions for the murderers, abusers, or those who use excessive force behind the cover of the shield- it’s always the ones that speak out about the worst of them that are fired, leading everyone else in the group to stay silent so they can mitigate the worst players around them- or so they think. Really, that mentality is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a mummy. By giving these officers all of the firepower and ammo, having no way for the public to effectively redress when harm is done, having such ambiguous wording in laws that there is no way for law enforcement to know when and how to use their power unilaterally, and then finally stressing them out physically & economically on purpose, the good people who become cops out of a sense of justice and community support end up putting on the costume of Henchmen for the Rich- and everyone out in the audience, in society, only sees the anxious, violent, Bastard Cop.

Later, I would have an escalation of my interactions with the police. See, I had the audacity to go to sleep in my own apartment a few weeks after having leg surgery, in my second year of graduate school. I was renting a room in Willimantic, Connecticut in an apartment that had a few other random roommates as well. One roommate, a black rugby player at a different, nearby college was out at their partner’s place for a few days. The other room had just been filled a week previously by an Italian exchange student in their 40s, a kind human who was nowhere near bilingual, even though they really thought they were speaking English. So when a group of large, loud men started screaming and slamming on the back door of the third-floor walkup at 2 am, I didn’t have time to put on a bra, get my contacts in, or do anything other than grab my flashlight taser and roll onto the ground. I heard the other door, the Italian roommate going to check on the noise, and I quickly lunged, definitely tore something in my leg and doubled my healing time, and opened my bedroom door a crack. I told the roommate to drop to the ground and grab the baseball bat I gave them- I had promised batting practice that weekend, but we were going to have to swing now, apparently.

We closed our doors, heard more slamming and screaming- then my heart dropped. After a moment of silence, our back window crunched and broke, giving these intruders entrance. I heard one set, two sets of boots- then a third heavy set that crushed my kitchen chair. I heard a quick laugh, and I opened my door about an inch and, on the completely opposite side of the apartment, I blurrily watched a green laser light beam through the darkness. They had at least one gun, by the looks of it. A flashlight went on and I heard mumbling over the walking that finally clarified into, “...just like Call of Duty!”

“This is the police,” one yelled out, mocking- I think he assumed the place was empty. “Come out, come out! Hands up!”

To say I was angry is an understatement. I saw red. I was shaking. The adrenaline, the rage that coursed through me- the red on my vision turned to white on the edges and I almost passed out from the power of it. It’s one of the three times in my life so far that I’ve truly wanted to and definitely been capable of killing. “We’re here!” I bellowed out, using every bit of theatre training to keep myself grounded. “Don’t shoot- we were fucking sleeping!”

There was cacophony. The “Call of Duty” cop started panicking, yelling about breaking up a party that clearly didn’t exist- a second voice was calming him down as the Pig in Charge was telling me what to do in the apartment I paid for after he illegally broke in and started all this shit. I relayed that there were two of us, that we weren’t coming out til I saw the scope light go out, and that they had no right to be here. Call of Duty cop had to be convinced to turn his scope off. I had a cage around my leg from surgery, so I had to crawl up my wall to stand and get the door open. I came out bent over so that, if that dumb CoD motherfucker tried to shoot in his panic, there was a better chance he’d miss. What I hadn’t counted on was all three fucking officers being the size of somewhere between Danny DeVito and Tom Cruise- short-ass, chode dicked motherfuckers, all.

So as I towered over them, the Pig in Charge decided to blind me with his flashlight and beam it right in my eyes after running up to me. It was useless though- God had already decided I should have eyes with a -9.5 prescription and I hadn’t had time to put in my contacts or even try to find my glasses. We got through the next few minutes. They tried screaming again, all of them yelling at me for different reasons, but I was able to get my terrified roommate to stop crying for long enough to put their hands on my hips and walk out behind me. “Keep your head in my back, you don’t have to look at them,” I assured the roommate. The bits of English or Italian or whatever they were speaking at that point was something along the lines of, “America, America- they warned me, I should’ve known, America.”

I questioned them. Why they were there, where the fuck was their warrant, why they didn’t have their badges on (I can see shapes, just not details with my eyes- it’s all just blurry color splotches. There was no badge pinned on any of them). CoD cop just kept lying, different excuses, different things- until finally Pig in Charge didn’t like that I knew my rights and knew what questions to ask, so he demanded that, “All inhabitants of Apartment 3C need to come down to the station for questioning.”

“You should go talk to them, then, because this is 1A.” I was living in an old, Connecticut house that had been broken up into smaller apartments by a slum lord who numbered things in reverse.

That grown ass man turned heel and ran for the fucking door.

The Babysitter of CoD cop was the last to go, his charge following the first pig. He looked back at me as I slowly followed them, watched as they couldn’t get the door bolts undone (there’s another deadbolt on the top of the door), and I howled with laughter as CoD cop threw himself out the broken window. I don’t know if he cut himself, but I like to imagine he did. I pointed at the top of the door and the Babysitter undid the bolt, holding the door open for Pig in Charge. He said something along the lines of, “Sorry.”

“Not as sorry as you’re going to be,” I said with a smile. “Get out.”

I’m not non-violent. I have had to physically defend myself in the past and I will absolutely defend myself again when necessary. However, I won’t inflict violence on someone unprovoked- I will only use it in defense. My main violence isn’t in physical actions anyway- retaliating against these three stooges would do nothing except waste my time and put me on more government watchlists than I’m already on because I have no clue how to keep my mouth shut. My violence is in words. Because here’s how I’m going to destroy those motherfuckers, and all these other Bastard Cops, for good.

We’re going to rewrite the part and recast all these fuckwads.

The Blue Wall of Silence only serves the guilty; we need the good people who are currently playing the role of Bastard Cop to put their weapons down or aim them at the real enemy- the henchmen they’ve been forced to protect in an attempt to keep themselves safe. Honestly, the only person who can get away with killing a Bastard Cop is a good person playing the role and protected by qualified immunity as well. But, if they don’t want to physically go after rapists, spouse abusers, and serial killers that hide behind the badge, then they need to take other actions. I recognize that police are tasked with too much responsibility, but this is again on purpose. They’re kept stressed and overburdened, so they don’t think about the nurses and psychologists and firefighters and EMTs who are also on the front lines, seeing the worst shit, and handling it unarmed. Police are kept away from the workforce in a conservative bubble and further radicalized from there.

I get why they’re drawn to that community- it’s pro-policing on its surface without offering viable solutions to issues, but any sort of positivity is better than what most cops see and deal with day to day. But in the same way cops want people to know how hard their job is, the rest of us need police to know that we don’t want you to do that job anymore. Especially not like this. It’s genuinely stupid to enforce rules through violence, particularly when the people in the community really haven’t had a say in government since the 2010 Citizens United Decision. And the reason conservative media is obsessed with ‘being nice’ to police is to keep them in the same camp as the evil bastards that use the shield as an excuse to hurt, that are there solely for the power trip. Because conservatives make money and they think the police are their private security force from the poor. They are there to keep the beggars and the scoundrels and the ‘bad guys’ (i.e. Anyone Darker than Beige) away from their redlined, suburban tax havens. Cops serve the wealthy with how we wrote the role of Police in our society. You enforce the rules the rich corporations lobby and pay the politicians to make. That can’t be reformed or re-educated- that is the purpose cops serve, enforcement of the status quo. It paints a target on every cop because all the general populace gets to see is the opening night performance where they’re standing in the same costume as Derek Chauvin, onstage & silent. The rest of us can only assume you’re one of the bastards and you support them with that action.

About 40% of cops are self-reported spouse abusers, with that figure coming from multiple studies since the 1980s, and police officers in the United States perpetrate acts of domestic violence at roughly 15 times the rate of the general population. Policing is not a job we as humans need anymore. We need more & better paid nurses and teachers and EMTs and firefighters. We need housing, food, and healthcare respected and supported as human rights. We need social workers and therapists and healthcare professionals to replace the cops, like the Denver STAR program has done- in their first six months of replacement, not a single arrest was made. Because you don’t fight crime with imprisonment- I’m an abolitionist, and that’s an entirely different blog post. But, for policing, the only way we transition over to a new part, a new role for these protectors of the peace, is if the people inside the current policing community to start being brave.

I view policing the same way I view the Catholic Church. Here’s a structure that purposely denies women any sort of leadership position, does not respond to congregation needs directly, doesn’t have any sort of oversight or repercussions for wrongdoing, and is controlled by a far away, foreign group of wealthy people in their own bubble. The Vatican is literally another country, meaning every Catholic Church is just an embassy for that part of Italy, untaxed and untethered to the community that lives around it, and literally allowed to rape nuns and children unchallenged. There is no fighting from within or reforming a community like that- it is the structure itself that creates the chaos, discord, and pain. Policing is set up with a similar hierarchy. The Blue Wall of Silence, like the priesthood, is considered a calling that can only be answered by a faraway group of rich elites making the rules and unconcerned with how the community on the ground is personally affected by the daily actions of that embassy force set to dictate that mandate on the ground. Priests and cops, while there might be humans behind some of the masks and costumes, are all forced to play the role of Bastard by the current system in place.

We need someone to respond when shit hits the fan. But they should not be armed. And they should definitely not be protected by Qualified Immunity or that fucking blue line. My parents have one of those Thin Blue Line signs in front of their house and I have to keep myself from reminding them that more delivery drivers are murdered per year than cops- the only reason the number of dead cops went up in the past few years is that COVID deaths were counted as on-the-job deaths. That should be a thin crust pizza line, not a blue one. And while cops and their families might balk at the idea of asking for help from the people who hate them so much, I want everyone to take a step back.

The only role we, the populace, have seen you all play is the role of Enforcer. And you all hate the politicians as much as we do out here. But you are the ones who are necessary to inflict their will onto the rest of us. So, when we scream at you when we hate you- we’re traumatized by the Capitalists who buy the politicians, who tell you what rules to enforce, and the way they make you enforce those rules. And in the same way someone screams, “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!”, loudly and possibly rudely, you listen. Because when there’s danger, you can’t be angry at how the people in danger say the message- you have to listen to what they’re saying and not take the yelling personally. I kept my rage when those fucking pigs broke into my apartment, but my demeanor had nothing to do with my survival- I know the only reason I’m alive is because my skin is glow-in-the-dark white. Telling people to be nice when the armed, trained professional can’t be trusted to be calm is fucking stupid, so stop telling people to just comply. We’re the civilian, we are fucking terrified. You’re supposed to help, right? But you can’t do that while you’re playing the role of Bastard Cop- we are forced to view you as the henchmen to the villains in all our lives.

I’m so thankful my Rugby roommate was out that night- his chocolate ass would’ve been target practice for that Call of Duty cop. When the news about Breonna Taylor came out years later, my knees gave out as I heard it- I was back on the ground, back watching the laser light, back to being terrified. I’ve had a litany of horrific cop situations, but they all come back to the same thing. This isn’t a job that needs to be done anymore, and we’ll all get better if real Safety Personnel (instead of violent enforcers) are allowed to serve our community. And policing is the only way the business majors and politicians keep control of the larger population, right at the point of your gun.

So if you’re a good person currently cast in the part of Bastard Cop, why aren’t you breaking the immoral rules? Why aren’t you striking to have the evil fuckers you’re forced to serve with finally fired and arrested and tried for their crimes? No one hates a bad cop better than a good cop, from what I keep hearing from all the good humans choosing to play the role of Bastard Cop every day. If you’re good, that means you’re brave. Silence only serves the guilty, and puts you in the same costume and role as all the spouse abusers, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and the rest of those cucks protected by Qualified Immunity and that Thin Blue Line of Horseshit. You can think you’re good all you want, but you have to get onstage and take action. Break the immoral rules. Get loud about the evil fuckers that you work alongside. Break the wall of silence, throw down your weapons, or point them at the actual criminals wearing shields and raping our society, literally in many cases- I’m guessing testing rape kits would be a lot of paperwork because so many cops would have to arrest themselves. I’m reminded how the first use of the word ‘good’ was in reference to soil- how fertile and useful it was for growing. And if you’re just doing what you’re told, not walking out, not organizing with the other fed up humans done playing this shit role- if you’re just playing by the rules of higher ups who don’t give a shit about you, doing what the business majors tell you, staying silent in public about the actual monsters that are protected by Qualified Immunity and the gang-like silence pact you all have, that’s not good. It’s the same. It’s not tilled, fertile soil. It’s changeless, barren, and at this point, destructive. And we’ll continue to call you by the role you’re choosing to play- Bastard Cop.

Your choice.


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