Do the police ever lie? I ask because I find it rather questionable to encounter perceivably rational adults who seem to engage from a framework of childhood beliefs in the Easter Bunny in their refusal to consider that in certain instances, police misconduct might not be a case of a “few bad apples.” They symbolically stick their fingers in their ears and mutter loud noises to prevent themselves from hearing that various police officers lie in situations when it is their word against a member of the community or to cover corruption.
Indeed, the Easter Bunny is not real and brace yourselves for this earth-shattering truth: Police lie because they are human, not whimsical fictional characters who warm our hearts and can do no wrong like said Easter Bunny.
As a matter of fact, they might lie to a perpetrator in a dangerous situation as a non-violent approach to de-escalate an encounter. I am not talking about these instances of police dishonesty. I am speaking to the ways in which various people automatically take the police word over community members as if it is impossible for them to do wrong in the world. I am speaking to the overromanticizing of police.
Officer Easter Bunny Syndrome
I call this steadfast overromanticizing of law enforcement to the point of irrational behavior, illogical thinking and willful ignorance the Officer Easter Bunny Syndrome.
When people claim it is anti-police to examine, investigate, critique, or even reform our criminal justice system to ensure it works to the highest levels of integrity, they have Officer Easter Bunny Syndrome. Criminal justice reform, in this regards, is pro-good apples and pro-people.
I am not stating anything ground-breaking or that a few minutes combing the internet to uncover the multitude of court cases, settlements, and stories that actually see the light of day can reveal to any person.
So why does Officer Easter Bunny Syndrome exist?
Millions of people overromanticize police officers because they feel more comfortable projecting a fantasy than facing the possibility of room for improvement in their beliefs.
Change can be tough. Ever tried to go on a diet?
Also, people with family members in law enforcement might choose to turn a blind eye because they think loyalty involves covering for and standing by their member’s poor or even criminal behavior. For some people, it is easier to believe in Officer Easter Bunny, than acknowledge that it is possible their family members are even loosely connected to corruption.
It is easier to stick with the belief that one’s spouse, parent(s), Uncle Joe, or Cousin Jane are outstanding officers of the law than to see them as hypocrites, people who live double lives, or be party to harming the community. Others know that their family members or their coworkers have bigoted beliefs and vehemently defend most, if not all, police with little to no space for nuance when the issue of injustice at the hands of police come up.
Furthermore, individuals who blindly defend the police even with video footage that arguably displays clear as day misconduct have a severe case of Officer Easter Bunny Syndrome. I theorize such responses suggest a strong likelihood these individuals have blinders on in other areas of their lives, too.
Magical Training, Uniforms, and Oaths
We err when we assume that law enforcement training programs, ceremonies, oaths, and uniforms will turn a human police cadet into a bunny with a badge. The premise that Officer Easter Bunny would never do anything wrong because they made a pinky promise to the public goes against sound judgment.
Again, because police are human, they can tell the truth. They can lie—break oaths.
Attending a police academy and putting on a uniform do not magically cause someone to transcend their humanness. If the police academy automatically produces empathetic, self-less, kind, critical thinking, accepting, and trustworthy individuals, I think a lot of people will start referring their toxic exes or coworkers to attend.
Others will begin gifting the uniforms in hopes it will turn around that one bigoted family member. As with any learning and development program, people get out of it what they put into it.
People would wear them when they are having a “bad day.”
Training and clothing in and of themselves to do not create high levels of integrity or character. These things are cultivated over time with intentional and consistent effort.
More Than Meets the Eye
I invite people with Officer Bunny Syndrome to be open to the idea that when it comes to the police, there might be more than meets the eye. I acknowledge there are people who are anti-police or those who are anti-police to the point of extremism. Most people who simply want a system that benefits the community are not automatically anti-police. Do we truly want police to protect and serve?
As noted earlier, pushing for reform and revealing systemic issues help law enforcement agencies practice what they preach.
In some of our attempts to address a singular issue like race when it comes to police reform, we can become unwilling to entertain the possibility that the issue might be more multifaceted than we believe.
Whether or not one has Office Easter Bunny Syndrome, we can expand our lenses by recognizing that racism can be present within a system and that a further investigation might reveal a deeper systemic culture of toxicity, secrecy and corruption that allows police to abuse their power along the lines of racism, classism, or homophobia.
In other words, it is most likely wiser not to assume that a single issue or the issue is a “few bad apples” or “bad bunnies,” for example, is the only source of a law enforcement problem. If it is something much more pervasive where abusing power has become normalized, for example, reform efforts will only treat symptoms, and not heal the disease.
Police brutality, occurs against people of all races and ethnicities, and guess what? Not only do various police lie about it, certain organizations across the country have created a culture where it is expected to “circle the wagons” and cover each other to the detriment of their communities. Another search on the good ole internet will reveal stories of police who have experienced retaliation for standing up for what is right and not giving into the culture of silence.
Closing: Bigots and Bunnies
Returning to my initial question, for some of you, you are probably thinking something along the lines of, “Yes, it is unrealistic to believe that all police are honest.” Others might feel tension because we have allowed ourselves to react with defensiveness whenever the police are brought into question.
This question is a launching point for examining the lenses in how we romanticize or over romanticize certain groups of people.
Personally, my experiences with law enforcement have been mixed. On one hand, I have stories that point to racism, classism, sexism, what the whatism—you name it. On the other hand, I have stories that speak to the exact opposite, where I have gratitude for those who truly take seriously their mission to serve and protect the community. My acknowledgement of both of my lived data will be unpopular among people with Officer Easter Bunny Syndrome, who behave as if anything that does not sing Hallelujah praises to the people in blue is a crime. Likewise, people who think humanizing the police permits no accountability will struggle with anything that does not fit their either/or framework.
In all, I think it is counterproductive to paint all police as bigots or to make them all out to be Easter Bunnies. I think it is beneficial to see if there is a systemic bigotry, bunnitry, or somewhere in between or outside of these lines. By committing to seek the truths, and not reacting through our emotions, we can get to real answers to generate real solutions.
We can achieve a more human lens in the ways in which we think about police and they ways we want the police to see our communities.