The Police and Us

Turkeys cheering the arrival of Thanksgiving would be only marginally more pathetic than the conservative luminaries on Fox News who cheer for the police as civilization’s saviors. The police. You know—the heroes who stood aside as mobs looted and burned Minneapolis, Portland, Kenosha, Chicago, Macy’s in New York, downtown Chicago and so on while organized mask-wearing Antifa thugs beat whoever got in the way? Yes, the police we watched tase a woman for not wearing a mask in a stadium and arresting people for singing Christian hymns in a park. The police, who don’t answer calls from people who are being threatened in their homes. Those police.

Ah! the conservative luminaries tell us: the cops really would rather protect us. They don’t want to hurt us. Yes, the police fine us and jail us on behalf of politicians who hate us. Yes, effectively, they are protecting the mobs. But that’s only because they are duty bound to obey the duly constituted authorities who also pay them. They’re just doing their jobs even if they don’t like what they are doing. What should they do, disobey orders and get fired? So, let’s give them more money and more power.

The more we think about that, the more we realize that this attitude corrupts citizens as well as police. Let us reflect.

On November 10, 1938 my late friend Lewis Gann (1924-1997) answered the doorbell at his home in Mainz, Germany. The kindly policeman had come pursuant to the Reich Chancellor’s order to collect the medals that Jews, like his father, had been awarded for their service in World War I. That day, Gann’s father was on a business trip to London. The previous night, since remembered as Kristallnacht, when regime-inspired mobs had first ransacked Jewish businesses, was the beginning of the end of safety for Germany’s Jews. Lewis recalled how his mother and the policeman vied to show respect for one another, and to reassure the other that they were both doing their civic duty by obeying duly constituted authority. 

After the policeman left, a telegram arrived from his father: “Leave everything. Come here now.” They did.

What happened beginning around three years later in Maniz and throughout the Reich? That policeman and others like him did their duty as they helped people like Mrs. Gann and Lewis’ friends do their duty by climbing into the cattle cars taking them to the camps. No hard feelings among good Germans.

Repression on the Rise

Who will protect us when those who are supposed to protect us are under mounting pressure to punish us or to stand aside as others do the punishing, or to prevent us from protecting ourselves from them, or even join them in hurting us? Do we do anybody any good by closing our eyes to the realities of policing in our corrupt regime? For us Americans, now, these are practical questions.

Begin by dismissing the idea that serious repression, criminalization of people for their religious and social identity, or for political opposition, can’t happen in America. It is happening. And it is sure to get a lot worse because the people in charge of the permanent government, the media, and corporate entities, increasingly are united in making it happen. More so than just about anywhere, ever.

And that includes Germany in the 1930s. 

Germany’s deep state, the bureaucracy, the police, the armed forces, the school teachers, the corporate executives, were mostly the very model of meritocrats. Not ideologues, much less Nazis. Nor did they define themselves by contempt for or the desire to punish ordinary Germans. 

The Nazis were a gang of violent ideologues who took advantage of society’s weaknesses to dominate those who actually made the country run. But the Nazis always had to watch their backs lest these people, Germany’s aristocrats, oligarchs, etc. overthrow them. They came close. Yet the farther one went into Germany’s deep state, the likelier one was to find guarded remnants of decency.

Not so in America. Here, the ever-more oppressive rulers, the one percent at the top, the very ones who control the levers of power, are the source of the hate. 

In unison, they urge their retinues to hurt us. Unlike the Nazis, these unimpressive people conquered nothing. They were co-opted onto society’s commanding heights by somewhat less unworthy predecessors in a chain of negative selection. Though they claim to be morally and intellectually meritorious, they are the very model of oligarchs who rule for their own enrichment and for the pleasures of primacy. 

Over the decades, having sought rationales for their privileges and found none in their own performance, they settled on indicting the American people and our civilization as the root of all evil—and hence on imagining themselves the only source of judgment about what exclusions and penalties we merit. Being wholly self-regarding, their minds and hearts have no no limiting principles any more than did those of the Nazis.

We have already experienced that, unlike even in Nazi Germany—and much like in the Soviet Union, China, etc.—the farther up the ordinary citizen looks in the hierarchy of the American ruling class, the more likely one is to find all manner of corruption and enmity. Dangerous to our health and liberties as the police and judicial system of California may be, the FBI and the Department of Justice are worse.

Some Hard Realities

What then shall we do with and about the police? Reality imposes certain principles.

First, trust them only insofar as you pay them, can hire and fire, or frighten them. Otherwise, realize that they will serve whomever pays them. 

The justice system in Al Capone’s day served the Mob even though the cops and judges of the day were churchgoers and had been exposed to at least some moral scruples. Today’s justice system consists of people who know only sticks and carrots.

Second, take a lesson from those videos of the police standing aside. They didn’t protect the mobs simply because they were so ordered. They did it also because they were physically frightened by the mob’s use of a variety of weapons against them, as well as by the prospect of lawsuits and attacks on them and their families. 

In Louisville, a man who shot two cops in the back was charged only with reckless endangerment. Alas, the Left has shown that hurting cops tends to make them your friends. Hence, if you want respect from police who you do not control, make sure you give them lively reasons to fear you.

Third, police yourselves. Call it self-defense groups, neighborhood protection, vigilantes, friends, anything but “militias.” But the essence is the same: rely on yourself and on people who have known each other for a long time—no infiltrators, please—united and armed to take care of themselves as they think best.

Fourth and most important: strictly police your own attitude. 

You are living in territory controlled by enemy tribes. You, and all like you, must assume the innocence of anyone remotely like yourself who is charged in any confrontation with those tribes and with their authorities—until proven otherwise beyond a shadow of your doubt. Take his side. In other words, you must shield others like yourself by practicing and urging “jury nullification.” 

And, by the way, when the police—a fortiori the FBI—come to talk, you don’t know or remember anything—except that they answer to your enemies. Don’t be a good German.

About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Photo: Albiberon/Getty Images

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45 responses to “The Police and Us”

  1. I don’t know if I completely agree. (Well, yes I do. I completely agree.) I do know I’d never say so directly what Codevilla so directly and compellingly says here. But there’s a weird relief and sense of clarity you get reading this.

  2. Mr Codevilla is, as usual, more perceptive and spot on than most other commentators.
    The collapse of a society essentially worm-eaten from within by spiritual decay can be very rapid.
    Heinrich Mann, brother of the novelist Thomas, wrote “Die deutschen Juden werden planmässig vernichtet, daran ist nicht mehr zu zweifeln” (‘The German Jews will be systematically annihilated, of that there can be no more doubt)’; in the article ‘Die Deutschen und ihre Juden’ which appeared in the German exiles’ magazine ‘Die neue Weltbühne’ in December 1935.
    At that date such an opinion seemed to most people more fantastic/absurd than any science fiction that ever had yet appeared.
    Fast forward a few years….

  3. I know. I do agree. A well thought, well said, report on the move toward a “benevolent dictatorship” America has taken the last 19 years.
    We may already in fact be in a “police State”! Rewatch the vid of the ball game. In Duetsch ;that is said STASI/ Schutzsaffel. Germany was a police state( at less DDR) for almost 40 years.

    This is why Don must be elected!

  4. Mr. Codevilla also has the benefit (as I do) of knowing what is happening in our former home-country of Italy. A draconian lockdown was imposed by an unelected government (the sixth such government in a mere decade). Families couldn’t even meet. Loved ones couldn’t even arrange a small, carefully-distanced funeral to say one last good-bye to dead grandparents, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Demonstrations were banned. Even the outdoors were strictly verboten.

    And what did the Italian police do? You know, those mama’s boys who wouldn’t hurt a fly and who take 2-hour lunches to enjoy the Dolce Vita with their sweethearts? They enforced the lockdown with an iron fist. If you so much as took a stroll on a deserted beach, drones identified you, the police swarmed you and you were heavily fined. Ditto for the few, brave demonstrations where extreme forms of mask-wearing and social distancing were observed–so much so as to resemble Biden rallies, those with circles drawn on the floor. All rounded up and fined en masse.

    But, lo and behold: when ruling-class-approved mobs hit the streets for the George Floyd riots (yes, we had them too), not a policeman was to be seen. Even in Italy those protests were marked by unruliness and rampant vandalism (and to hell with COVID related precautions). Any police around for them? Tumbleweeds.

    Cross the border into France–similar situation. The police were only too eager to come down hard on the Yellow Vests, i.e., those who protested against the neoliberal economic and social model that is destroying the middle class and small business. Tear gas, clubs, even live bullets.

    Bottom line: corrupt ruling class==>corrupt police chiefs==>corrupt police culture==>corrupt cops. This doesn’t mean that they are bad people. They only do what they are told. And what they get told is not friendly to those to whom the ruling class is not friendly. We deplorables are also expendables. Never forget that.

  5. The police are at best a blunt instrument. They answer to the local authorities. Those authorities will use them against you if they want, and the police will do it. So you better be a little more careful about who you give that power to. We are going to the polls in a few days, and you will have an opportunity to change things. I suggest you do that. Especially if you are in a deep blue city. Even if there is no alternative, write someone in. People will see the disparity in votes and will run next time.

    If questioned by the police, tell them nothing. You are not required to. Do not let them in your house. Do not let them search your car. They might do it anyway, but don’t give them permission.

    • All this said, when you are in trouble and you call, who shows up? That’s right. The police.

      • No situation cannot be made worse by adding a cop to the mix. If I want my dogs shot, kids molested, wife brutalized and myself ordered to play a game of lethal “Simon Sez” with two or more roid addled thugs yelling contradictory commands at me and I get shot if I get a command wrong, then I will call a cop. Otherwise, I will take my chances without the overpaid government thugs.

      • “Trouble”… you mean the trouble that was supposed to have been locked away and not released because there’s not enough room or budget or because it’s an election year and “they” need votes?

    • I have already voted–straight R ticket. But unfortunately I live in deep-blue NoVa: an inferno of yoga-mat-toting metrosexuals, BMW-driving soccer moms, swarms of “new Americans” doused in cheap cologne, with their hijab-wearing wives, and pencil-armed homunculi commuting to the DC swamp. Add to this the Virginia Creeper, AKA our governor, and we’re deep in the toilet.

  6. I am reminded of the Czech woman who lived under the Nazis and then the USSR-she was asked: “you lived under the flags of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union…what was the difference? Her response; “the flags”.

  7. I never believed it when people said that the police would refuse an order to come and take your guns. They will do what they’re told or face discipline or firing. Then what do they do for a living? I’ve also known a couple of policemen who don’t believe in private ownership of guns. In this small, semi-rural Georgia county, the Sheriff talks a good game and maybe we would be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. The problem is that he’s retiring the end of the year and to me his replacement, although a longtime deputy, is a blank slate to me. I’m of an age where I told my wife if the time came and she was still alive, I would give in. If she had gone before me, well, I would have more options.

    • “I never believed it when people said that the police would refuse an order to come and take your guns. They will do what they’re told or face discipline or firing.”
      In some locales you are probably correct, but only to the point where the likely cost of carrying out their orders far exceeds the benefit of job retention (Codevilla’s fright factor).

      • Look up the Solzhenitsyn quote that begins “And how we burned in the camps afterwards, thinking …” That is the answer to cops who come to collect guns.

        Solzhenitsyn says his compatriots did not love liberty enough. My guess is many Americans do. We may be about to find out as — if Biden wins — it will take less than six months for our government to unmistakably cross one or red lines — open borders, gun registration or confiscation, further restrictions on normal people buying guns/ammo, packing of the Supreme Court, federal takeover of local law enforcement, probably half a dozen more.

    • People forget, too, that police can easily be fired and replaced with officers who will do as they are told. I don’t care what the current makeup of the department is.

  8. Precisely why “Back the Blue” is a joke. There are far too many pigs who are more than happy to be the boot stamping on your face forever.

    • The vast majority are quite happy to be that boot. Policing draws in people who just love to push others around.
      The rest would never refuse to be the boot, for fear of the consequences.
      Only a tiny, inconsequential number of cops would do the right thing if ordered to do something evil or totalitarian.
      These are not good people.
      Most all who refused such an order would be punted from the government gang rapidly.
      And that number is not a large enough number to make any difference and could never be. Others would learn where the line is, and do.
      Backing the bluecoats is absolute madness & the road to serfdom.
      The absolute last thing these fools need is their egos stroked. They are already drunk on self-righteousness.
      Cop worship is seriously dangerous stuff. Telling folks who already have way too much power that they are god’s gift to humanity is absolute madness.
      I’d like to reduce the size, arms, and power of precincts by well over 80%.
      Anyone who believes in “small government” should agree.

  9. The National Socialists were populist nationalists who stood up against capitalist-funded anarchist and communist terrorism, and that’s how they won the love and overwhelming support of the German people in the 1930s. You’re a moron spewing establishment lines, you and the FBI have the same neoliberal ideology; you should just quit writing, you have nothing interesting or challenging to say.

  10. We need the people at PoliceOne and other cop-heavy sites to read this.
    They think they are brave protectors of law, they are not. They simply hurt the people the bosses pay them to hurt. They need to know that normal Americans have lost faith in them.
    Also, we need to end these “back the blue” rallies.

    • The author wrote it correctly a few lines above. Cut him some slack.

  11. My thoughts precisely, all of which is why I am deeply suspicious of the so-called conservative “Back The Blue” movement.

    • “So-called Conservatives.”
      Who have never managed to conserve anything — not even the girl’s toilet.
      Better get together with your families, friends, and neighbors. Don’t call it anything, except People Like Us.

  12. This is the beginning of the end of the Jewish community in America.
    It’s gone from “it can’t happen here” to “it’s happening here”.
    Shootings. street attacks, demonization in the media. forced lockdowns. Inspectors targeting Jewish neighborhoods.
    At some point Jews will leave like the country en masse. Probably when the progroms become routine.

    Just remember folks, it won’t end with the Jews.

    The Marxists are coming for everybody. The Woke “Religion” demands sacrifice.

  13. As a retired federal LEO, I should be offended by the premise of this article, but as a retired federal LEO, I understand the truth of the premise.

    Individual officers, and to an extent, individual agencies, have some discretion, but none can or will operate wholly independently. Some question an order or a directive, and may ask why, internally or externally, but most will ultimately do what they are told.

    The key is not as much the police being fair, or just, or on the right side of the law and the constitution. It is making sure the people commanding the police are fair and just, and on the right side of the law and the constitution.

    • Here is how it will go in Democrat-run cities:

      1. Riots, looting, arson, etc. destroy businesses, public and private property, make large areas valueless to the citizens who use/pay for them.

      2. Cops follow corrupt orders to stand down, “give them space to destroy,” there’s a revolving door at the jail, charges are almost entirely dismissed, bail is waved …

      3. Citizens begin to defend themselves. Kyle Rittenhouse, the McCloskeys …

      4. Under orders from the administration/justice system police go after the citizens who defend themselves. This is where we are today.

      5. Citizens react in various ways: Some move out, others form vigilante groups to defend their homes, businesses and public spaces against the rioters. These groups still regard the police as allies, at least in a general sense.

      6. Again following orders the police go after the vigilante groups which rapidly turn against them. Substantial blood is shed. Over a few weeks the massively outnumbered local police force becomes completely ineffective.

      7. From here on it matters who is president. In some areas the National Guard is activated and perhaps in some areas the focus is on the rioters and order is restored — this is more likely/more common if Trump wins than otherwise.

      8. If Biden wins, the focus will be on wiping out the militias. Many cities will descend into anarchy as increasing government use of force drives more citizens to oppose whoever is trying to impose order. Lines between vigilantes, rioters, anarchists (and so on) blur and some cities may be run by gangs in some areas, militias in others, and private security forces in still others while some areas experience complete anarchy.

      9. Under Biden, new local police forces run out of Washington are established. Remember Obama’s remark, summer 2008? Something like we’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as strong and well-equipped as our military. There was a stink about it and he never said it again. But the idea never went away.

      10. From there, the action is in the hands of the citizenry. The Solzhenitsyn quote beginning “And how we burned in the camps afterward, thinking …” will apply.

      As Ben Franklin might say “It’s a dictatorship, Ma’am — Will you keep it?”

  14. Mr. Codevilla paints with too broad a brush.

    In Philadelphia, for example, police suffered egregious bodily injury attempting to stop looting/riots, and also prosecutions at the hands of the Soros supported local DA for doing so. See

    https://fusion.inquirer.com/news/police-officer-attempted-murder-looting-philadelphia-old-city-20200609.html
    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/philadelphia-police-inspector-charged-beating-protester-n1226401

    Yes the efficacy of local police faced with these incentives will inevitably decline, but the true fault is elsewhere.

  15. I do not disagree with this piece. The core of modern policing is based in Robert Peel’s principles. Even 200 years later they still, ideally, would form the cornerstone of what police do and how they do it. The second principle is “To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect. ”

    The loudest voices in society today demand that police stand back for ANTIFA and attack Covid-rule breakers. Honest, decent people do need to become louder in support of police. The police are not physically afraid of ANTIFA. Police believe, however, that honest citizens lack the will to visibly and vocally support them in dealing with ANTIFA, as ANTIFA needs to be dealt with.

    As it relates to Covid, police officers need to follow the laws of the land, and not dictates of petty tyrants on an individual level. Judge Stickman’s decision in Pennsylvania is good guidance for all honest people in these strange times.

  16. There is no comparison between 1938 Germany and 2020 America. The German police were doing what a super-majority of Germans had agreed needed to be done. Such not the case in America. Instead, the elites and the ordinary people are in disagreement but the police serve the interests of the elite, not the ordinary people.

    You can wave your Kristallnacht kapparot around as much as you want, but its still bad history and bad analysis.

    Codevilla arrives at the correct conclusion via an incorrect analogy.

    • He does. The so-called nazis were the legitimate — and only — response to ongoing communist insurgency. Most of the poor, persecuted people who were rounded up were dedicated internationalists, and that was even their theme song, as it is today.

    • WRONG! Adi , like our winners in:’92,96 and ’00, won a PLURALITY. He did not have a majority! Nothing close to “super-majority”.
      To be precise – Adi got 44%.

    • The only reasonable Kristallnacht analogy are the BLM-Antifa riots, and police have been killed and injured dealing with this madness. The Back the Blue movement is not about excusing police brutality or promoting a police state. It as about supporting the vast majority of honorable and brave officers who save more black lives than all civil rights groups put together. I usually admire Codevilla’s insight, but this article is seriously problematic.

  17. Everyone knows what the brave Angelo Codevella has described is accurate. Very few, or
    maybe no-one, have been courageous enough to state it out loud.

  18. Make no mistake, if Biden wins there will be pogroms. And the looks on the faces of 75% of Jews who voted for them will be truly priceless.

  19. We will not know who is for rights and freedom, and who isn’t. When we do find out, it may be too late to save our lives. My basic rule is to follow the U.S. Constitution. It is the primary law of our land. Minimal govt as per our Constitution means a very small govt. Our current govt is far too big and far too powerful. (Note that Socialism requires big govt.) The Marxist revolutionaries who want to overthrow the US talk about Democracy, but the U.S. is a Republic. Democracy is also known as the tyranny of the majority, or mob rule. In a Republic, the entire population cannot properly violate the rights of even one individual citizen. Our govt “protectors” take an oath to honor and defend our Constitution. As long as they remain loyal to their oath, we will be okay. When they follow orders that violate our Constitution, we will not be okay. The primary purpose of govt is to protect the rights of its citizens. See the Declaration of Independence. When our “protectors” cross over to the other side like the “good Germans” in the article, we must be ready to become warriors for freedom.

  20. Finally clear eyed reporting on the police from right wing media. The cops are agents of tyranny. They will take your property, rights, life, and livelihood if told to. They will not defend you against the mob, and if you dare defend yourself in the wrong locality, they will gladly arrest you and strip you of your freedom if told to. All they care about are their pensions. They lack scruples and are nearly all oathbreakers once push comes to shove.
    The police are not your friends. The police are not natural allies of the right. They are petty tyrants and natural agents of totalitarianism.

  21. Thank you for writing about what I’ve been saying for years. The buzzcut cult is not your friend. The gubmint mercenary is not your buddy. Remember, these attack dogs are just one order away from destroying you.

  22. I must admit that as a student of Nazi Germany the article is right on.
    The police in in St. Louis didn’t respond to the call from the McCloski’s but certainly had no problem coming to seize their firearms in a most polite manner. The point is well taken by Mr. Codevilla. Police represent the power structure, they may not like it but they will execute its orders.
    Police may not like their orders but they will carry them out.
    All we need to see is how cheaply you can buy government officials to realize the perilous ;edge we are on.

  23. I agree with your analysis that the police represent the power structure.
    Everything depends on what those in power want the police to do.
    St. Louis decided to let the Anarchists rule the streets and enforce tyranny against the couple defending their home.
    In Detroit, remembering the destruction of the previous riots, the power elite unleashed the police against the protesters.
    Everything depends on who the population elects to office.