While most professions will tolerate poor performance, they won’t stand for damaging behavior. A cook who occasionally flubs his order might keep his job; a cook who contaminates food and poisons customers will almost certainly lose it. But modern American policing is different.
Officers hold great power and discretion, but that doesn’t seem to come with responsibility or accountability. In all but the most egregious cases, bad and destructive cops are virtually immune from the consequences of their actions, even when they lead to death or serious injury. What’s more, unlike the journalist shunned for fabulism or the lawyer disbarred for theft, the officer accused of brutality can expect the full support of his colleagues and superiors. Some of this is understandable: It’s often hard to know exactly what happened in a police-abuse case, and it makes sense to err on the side of the officer. But there are times when that choice is ludicrous—when an officer is clearly in the wrong, but the department stands with him anyway.