Can a “culture of entitled authoritarianism” be changed?

By Andy O . . . I read an editorial from the Washington Post Saturday entitled “George Floyd’s death shows exactly what police should not do.”  One paragraph really stood out:

We’re still learning more about the case, but the episode suggests poor training, insufficient supervision, a dangerously adversarial mind-set, A CULTURE OF ENTITLED AUTHORITARIANISM, and a disregard for the lives and good opinions of people of color. Those are all values at odds with good police work — values that rigorous training programs and quality supervision seek to stamp out. 

Note the phrase that I emphasized, “a culture of entitled authoritarianism,” as this phrase epitomizes the mindset of many police officers as well as correctional officers and others in law enforcement-related fields.  In prison I was regarded as almost but not quite human, and fortunately, that was long before Covid-19.  Now the disease is spreading in many of our state and federal lockups, and despite the typical reasons for not protecting inmates (lack of supplies, stupidity, etc.,) it really boils down to lack of concern.  They’re just inmates.  In “Staying alive, a doctor’s guide for prisoners on staying safe during COVID-19 pandemic,” published in Prison Legal News, there is this statement: “State agencies . . . cannot protect their staff and local communities without protecting the prisoners.”  One has to wonder if this is the only rationale for protecting inmates.

I remember in 2009 when I was first in treatment, I was required to take a class to learn about the deviant cycle.  The first thing the instructor told us was to turn off our cell phones so that we didn’t disrupt the class.  That was a reasonable request, and in any other context, it would have been completely sufficient.  But then he added, “And if your phone rings, I’ll make you dance to the tune of your ringtone,” the key phrase being, “I’ll make you.”  Implied but not stated was “. . . and if you don’t, you’ll be kicked out of treatment for non-compliance, revoked, and sent back to prison.”  I considered asking if the instructor had considered a second career as a prison guard but didn’t dare.

At my initial polygraph, I was told to sign a statement saying that I was there voluntarily.  I told the examiner that I was definitely not there voluntarily and that no one in their right mind would voluntarily consent to this exam.  He said that if I didn’t sign, he wouldn’t test me.  I wanted to thumb my nose at him and walk out the door.  Instead, I told my first and only lie and signed his form.

I got an email from a registrant yesterday as a result of the mass mailing of newsletters we recently did.  He wrote in part:

So, Dr. X, my treatment provider, sent a referral to my judge, and I appeared at a revocation hearing, and my sentence was revoked, and I immediately began serving a fresh 10-year sentence with no credit for time served and no appeal bond. Dr. X was actually sitting next to me at the hearing and spoke to me reassuringly, implying that the whole thing was just a technicality.  I’ve had several attorneys since then, and at least one of them said that there was no documentation at the revocation hearing that said why my suspended sentence was revoked.  The consequences that occurred as a result of the referral Dr. X sent to my judge was my immediate sentencing of 10 years in prison.

This culture of entitled authoritarianism is so deeply rooted in law enforcement that it cannot be easily changed.  When this manifests in a public way such as the treatment of George Floyd, the public is livid.  They get angry.  They demonstrate.  They may loot and vandalize.  But this is the tip of the iceberg, the visible part.  This culture is pervasive on a level not seen by the public, and I fear that it will never change.  For all I know, the registrant who emailed me failed to dance when his cell phone went off.  If so, we would probably never know why he was sent back for another 10 years in prison.

Why are registry scams so profitable?  It is because the scammers project entitled authoritarianism, and registrants get fearful.  The scammers know this and intentionally prey on these fears.  I know exactly what went through my mind and how I felt the first time this happened to me.

So, is there a fix?  Probably not, but we should continue to call awareness to this issue as best we can.  And when we choose to buck up against this mindset, let’s make sure it’s worthwhile and not just because we don’t want to dance to our ringtone.

Author’s disclaimer: The treatment providers and other professionals mentioned in this rambling do not necessary represent the mindset of other similar types.  Every profession has both good and bad apples.

Help us reach more people by Sharing or Liking this post.

Andy O

Andy is an advocate for NARSOL in the state of Oklahoma. He is the executive director for OKRSOL.

Viewing 13 reply threads
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    • #73139 Reply

      Agree and knowingly so because mind must have pace and resolution.

    • #73159 Reply

      If George Floyd had been a sex offender and was being arrested for failure to register people would be praising those cops and celebrating his murder.

    • #73174 Reply

      I agree you.

    • #73208 Reply
      alexander c miles

      The officers would have been promoted, bestowed with civic medals and emoluments – and there would never have been any public protests: killing a “chomo” is laudable and what the public expects law enforcement to do!
      Cops made a mistake and went after the wrong kind of person – now karma will immolate them; honest and upstanding bank robbers and drug dealers are not to be exposed to police brutality since they have civil rights and enjoy protection under the Constitution, unlike “chomos”!

    • #73206 Reply

      As a Black Man in America myself; I don’t expect real change to take place in my lifetime at all. I surely don’t expect it to become reality in the lifetime of my only Daughter as well. I HOPE, it becomes a reality in the lives of My Grandchildren. You see; as long as ‘White Authoritarianism’-and that’s exactly what it is for real-remains pervasive, Racism cannot ever be eradicated. Once again I’ll say it: Congress MUST create laws that eradicate BOTH Racism AND The Registry. Until then, I know both will never die, and People of Color will ALWAYS SUFFER! Many White Law Enforcement Officers of all types don’t act in such a Hateful Manner. Yet, there will always be those that do and will, because they work in a field that permits and tolerates such behaviors as an extension of Racist Culture!

    • #73204 Reply
      Tim in WI

      Other authors have referred to” administrative conservatorship”

      Kate McGovern: The promise of Administrative Conservatorship vs. The Threat of Administrative Evil in the Mission of Public Service. (12\2014)

      Leadership in Public Bureaucracy
      The Administrator as Conservator. The Concept and Model
      Larry D. Terry
      And many other authors too such as Machiavelli.
      Nothing new, same same.

    • #73220 Reply
      Tim in WI

      Cop culture promotes assertive aggression in enforcement. That is precisely tied to efficacy. This cop was highly trained, so I’m not buying that being a ” lack of ” issue. This cop had every opportunity to back off the citizen’s neck and sit him up, back against the squad car, but didn’t. This is not an issue law or training rules can fix.
      Bigotry is a state of perception, a thought or thoughts of comparative but individualized analysis. You say chomo, I say tree jumper. I thank God for the black men in our culture but clearly others think the black community is unsalvageable.

      We in WI had a case in Supreme Court. It will involved a man named Smith, Smith upon scoring a peek at a small sack from a 17yr. old female pot dealer, put his ride in gear and took her around the corner to hijack her stash, she defended herself and her stash and got out of the vehicle about 500 ft. we’re she got in. No sex component was ever identified in the case but Smith Appealed his duty to register on its basis. Smith lost and is still registered today. There is more than one way to step on a man’s neck. Nothing less than one institutionalized bigotry, that is why it’s so hard to change. Indeed there are political advantages to not.

    • #73226 Reply

      I believe the time is now to confront those in charge to change things. These demonstrations, it appears, seems to have many officials looking to revamp or change things. Pointing out the Registry Laws as being harmful and wasteful should be introduced while the iron is hot. I believe that not only the some departments may need reform, it is the Criminal Court system to include the Correctional Departments. How many grievances or complaints go out year after year against judges, DAs’, attorney’s, correctional officers, the system itself that go unanswered or “unfounded”. In the State of New York many officers in the correctional system in the past were brutal and violated rights with no fear of punishment.
      I am of the belief that a multi-facet approach must be presented to deal with these issues. The governor of NYS was on talking about that they know how to do criminal justice reform and they know how to do that, however, he presented nothing in regards to that. He presented comments on having a Bill push forward to reveal information in regards to regular police in obtaining their department records because most of the time those records are protected.
      Many grass-roots and organic groups in NYS have presented many issues with the “system” and it barely gets addressed with the exception of the “no-bail” which many certain people now crying foul and how its letting criminals out to hurt others.
      I see this movement more than just a police issue and I hope that more problems be presented to the surface before it is too late. But I digress – – the registry and the abolishment should be presented now.
      In regards to if Mr. Floyd would have been a registered citizen would it have been different—probably. However, already I am hearing on certain radio stations how they are bringing up his “past” in order to justify or minimize his death. Its heartbreaking hearing this. I cannot imagine if it would have been a registered citizen what would be said. Especially if that person was of African or Hispanic origin.
      Good day to all !!

    • #73271 Reply
      Keira Norton

      Is no one concerned that those who are calling for defunding the police are on the same side as those who believe in large government? Is not the registry just that—big government? Without police, who will registered citizens turn to when harassed or suffer property damage? Will the mobs who are verbally attacking the major of Minneapolis for not agreeing with them be supportive or even tolerant of the registered citizens of Minnesota? Do our lives matter? Can MORE government solve anyone’s problems? Will intolerance lead to discourse and neighborly love? Just saying…

    • #73295 Reply

      Bob you are 100% correct.

    • #73302 Reply
      Ashleigh Dowden

      @Bob-there are exceptions… Alton Sterling was a registered person but that didn’t overshadow the injustice of his murder.

    • #73536 Reply
      H n H

      Is anyone listening or paying attention to the news? America is a bad place right now with all the police quitting, the acts of vigilantism, BLM, and here I sit with a red target on my house because of the registry. I know nobody here has brought it up, but I fear every day coming home to find my house broken into. I fear nightly waking up to my backdoor being broken in. And what recourse do I have? I’m not allowed to own a gun, and I had people in prison who… well, it just wasn’t good. But now I’m out and trying to move on with my life nearly 10 yrs after the one second incident that’s made my life hell. I don’t make enough money to get a house alarm, or to pay for monitoring of it if I had it. I wake up daily and inspect my vehicle looking for it to be spray painted. Yes…. the registry sure is protecting someone…. The feeble minded politician putting the boogie man into the minds of voters everywhere. I’m angry, and unable to do anything about it. There isn’t a thread about this, so… I had to reply here. Hopefully people read this.

    • #73666 Reply

      @ Tim in WI
      As I don’t live in Wisconsin, I cannot say that your statements concerning this Smith Guy, has merit or not. That only matters to him. I hope things go better for him going forward. I do know this however; here in Pennsylvania, I’ve got to keep ahead of things going on all the time…especially with Law Enforcement. I also know that in Pennsylvania Prisons, THERE ARE Corrupt Correctional Officers and Staff, that are only too willing to let a number of Inmates-almost always White by the way-to jump on, hurt and even kill anyone Black, convicted of any kind of Sex Offense. I’ve seen this Firsthand! I almost was such a Statistic Myself, but for The Grace Almighty God and a timely transition to another Facility, I was not. The bottom line still remains as this: Absolute Power, Corrupts Absolutely. So also, does Absolute Authoritarianism Corrupt Even More, Absolutely! Furthermore, it matters not which State or Commonwealth any of Us live in. The Culture and Pervasiveness of such behaviors of A Few Members Of Law Enforcement Regardless of Duty Placement, manifests itself as the same outcome For Us All, Regardless of Our ‘Paint Job’!

    • #73703 Reply
      Tim in WI

      Prisons, jails and staff is no different here I can say first hand. Some screws are serious control freeks. Others participate in smuggling for a buck. Murders and assaults go down on the block or yard. It is so bad that murderer kidnapper Jacob Patterson was shipped to New Mexico for his own safety. If there is easy contract cash to be made, you’ll find a moonlighting union mope. WIDOC really just avoiding a repeat of the Dahlmer murder. That was a contract murder promulgated on the highest profile cases AND all while in a protective custody scenario.

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