Why you should care
Because we need better cops more than we need overpriced coffee.
The front-page headlines on police brutality just keep rolling. The response has been a kind of national head-scratching. Are body cams the solution? Different training? Or is this the legacy of centuries of structural injustice?
We’ve got an idea of our own: hipster cops. At least recruit some of them to the force. It sounds a bit insouciant, we know, and it’s true that everyone hates on hipsters for their facial hair and fedoras. But substance-wise, there’s little doubt that the police force could use a shift in culture. Hipsters are as politically correct as you can get, and probably better at working in certain communities. Don’t even get us started on how cool their uniforms would be. Vegan boots, anyone?
Jokes aside, the challenge is very real: A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans’ confidence in police has dropped to the lowest level since the Rodney King trial, and subsequent riots, in 1992. Only 52 percent of Americans expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in officers of the law. “Certainly, our image has never been more important than it is now,” says Michael, a lieutenant and 17-year-veteran of a municipal law enforcement agency in California. (Michael didn’t want his last name used.) Diversity on the force could help not just with community relations, he says, but also to usher in and train a new generation of law enforcement leaders. The National Association of Police Organizations did not respond to a request for comment.
Across the pond, no one wants to be a cop. The number of young police officers in England and Wales has fallen by nearly 50 percent in the past two years, according to Britain’s Police Federation. “The problem is police departments want people who are obedient and conformist,” says 32-year-old Jimmy Gallagher, an ex-policeman with London’s Metropolitan Police who left the force because he felt disappointed in its “sheepishness” and now runs Quiffed Owl, a music blog. “The police will never gain the public’s trust if they don’t embrace officers who can think outside the box.”
To be sure, populating the force with bearded freethinkers may lead to some unruliness. Facial hair and visible tattoos are a no-no in many departments, Michael notes, which would likely disqualify the hipster with “the mustache that does not conform to the decade or even the century.” And judging by how hipsters have become a punchline in recent years, they might struggle to appear authoritative in front of gangsters and old ladies alike. As Cindy Chan, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Toronto explains, “We all are capable of holding more than one social identity, but merging two identities when they are at such odds with each other — that’s a real challenge.”
For the love of justice, comment below. Particularly if you have tattoos.