Cops are in the doghouse at the moment, and this recently released Polaroid photo from 1999 which The NY Post ran an article about yesterday will probably not help matters:
These two cowboys from the Chicago PD posing with their "trophy," a young black man who's playing along with the staged photograph, symbolize everything that the cop-haters hate.
The comical expression on the young black guy's face makes it apparent that there was no serious abuse going on. Still, it was two white guys humiliating a black guy, not exactly the PR that police departments need at the moment.
The cop holding the antlers, Jerome Finnigan, has an enthusiastic, aggressive cast to his face; he looks like the kind of guy who likes to get in your face.
The one on the right, Timothy McDermott, looks awkward and uncomfortable.
McDermott was fired when this picture came to light last year. He apologized, said he was young and trying to fit in with the department. He said Finnigan had called him over to pose in the picture with him, and he had done as asked, then gone back to his work.
It turns out that Finnigan was sentenced to 12 years in prison for having "masterminded" a crew of cops who staged home invasions and robberies and the like. It doesn't take a genius to break into a house or pull off a robbery, so "mastermind" in this case means simply that he was the ringleader, who cajoled and prodded and bullied the other cops until they bent to his will and went along with him.
Anybody who makes a practice of committing home invasions is a likely sociopath; a cop who does so is almost certainly so. And the kind of cop who manipulates other cops into joining him is undoubtedly a sociopath.
Anyway, this photo will only add more fuel to the fire. Although, if the recent pattern holds, this incident will quickly fade away.
Strangely, police officers who have behaved defensibly in difficult conditions have been the biggest focus of public ire, whereas the genuinely bad ones get almost no publicity.
The Cambridge cop who arrested Harvard Professor Gates received a lot of publicity, culminating in that pathetic "beer summit."
Wannabe cop George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin after Martin attacked him, to great public dismay. (I was in favor of acquittal in that case, though Zimmerman's track record since makes one wonder.)
Darren Wilson did everything by the book -- and in fact showed great restraint at first, but his shooting of Michael Brown caused widespread rioting.
On the other hand, the South Carolina cop who shot the black man in the back and then lied about it almost immediately fell off the radar.
It may be that the controversial incidents caused the most unrest because it looked, to some, as if the police officers might escape justice. But those also happen to be the cases where they were generally justified in their actions. The South Carolina cop, who would have made a far better poster boy for police misbehavior, went straight to jail.
These two Chicago cops, unfortunately, now have an actual poster. How much play that gets has yet to be determined.