crime · law · Life

Cognitive Dissonance in Law Enforcement

There are two stories in the headlines over the past few weeks that are the textbook definition of cognitive dissonance – the ability to hold two conflicting opinions within the same mind. The stories both involve police and the CD-afflicted are police participating in online forums discussing the stories. You never see the two discussed simultaneously, which is why the people involved are able to so easily suspend logic.

Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance

The first story is the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson. The second story comes from Pennsylvania where Eric Frein allegedly shot two PA State Troopers, killing one. The stories follow similar events and have comparable levels of details available to the public. Those details aren’t important to this essay. What is important are the reactions and comments police officer make about the two cases.

The dichotomy of comments from police can generally be summed up with, “Cops are always right.” When the Ferguson shooting is discussed, the comments are almost always peppered with racism and/or classism, as in, “Why don’t those animals get jobs instead of protesting on my tax money?” (This is an ironic statement in itself since police are paid with taxes.) When the Pennsylvania case is discussed, it’s always with summary judgement, as in, “No trial needed. Put a bullet in his head.”

Both cases involve identical acts of violence against another human being, but because in Ferguson, the shooter wore blue, he is automatically given a pass, even given money, by cops and cop supporters. In Pennsylvania, the victim wore blue, so there is a three-county manhunt ongoing for almost a month and the shooter is prejudged by those wearing the blue. Both discussions are laced with prejudicial comments distorted through the blue glasses of law enforcers. Therein lies the cognitive dissonance. Take away the uniforms in both cases and neither would be worth discussing at all in the eyes of the police community because to them civilians are all basically cattle.

Typical comment on the Ferguson situation
Typical comment on the Ferguson situation
Odd, but typical comment on Frein shooting
Odd, but typical comment on Frein shooting

Not all police are fitted with the glowing halo of hero-dom they so enjoy bestowing on themselves. Not all opposition voices have criminal records or hate all police either. Some of us just have no use for cops.


2 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance in Law Enforcement

  1. Great post. I have always been a firm supporter of the police, but with all the crazy stuff I have seen, now I am not. I still respect the good ones, but the bad ones are too scary.

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