Thursday, June 08, 2017

Don Winslow: 'Our expectations of the police are contradictory and impossible'

I suggest reading the whole interesting article.

Rory Carroll in Los Angeles
Thursday 8 June 2017

Don Winslow made his name chronicling Mexico’s drug wars in epic, sweeping novels that detailed American complicity in the mayhem south of the border. Now he has written a big, sprawling novel about dirty cops in the New York police department – The Force – which splashes into the debate about race and policing in the United States. They are venal and violent, steal drug money, break bones and snuff out lives. They lie, cheat, betray and scorn Black Lives Matter.

“Are there racist cops? Absolutely,” says Winslow, settling into an interview at a beachside diner near Los Angeles. “There are guys out there who are just overt racists.”

Which makes it sound like the author should beware next time he visits New York. In fact, it’s the opposite. Winslow could probably double-park a Hummer and not get a ticket. Cops will love this book, and love Winslow. The boys in blue of The Force are not villains, they’re heroes. They’re smart and brave but also flawed and wounded souls you root for even as they go astray. Hollywood has already snapped up the rights.

“I have a great deal of admiration for NYPD. I think most of the cops are trying to do a good job,” Winslow says. “Is there systemic corruption? No question. Often we the public have expectations of police that are both contradictory and in some ways impossible. We want perfect safety at the same time as we want absolute individual privacy and rights.”

Civil rights-loving liberals are especially culpable, says Winslow, who counts himself a left-leaning Guardian reader. “[There’s] a certain kind of hypocrisy or at least double standard about some of these things because we want to be safe. So sometimes we would turn a blind eye to cops taking shortcuts. And cops feel this intensely. They feel that pressure, they feel caught in that bind.”


He has also not shied away from controversial opinions either that often skewer both the left and right sides of the political debate, such as when he penned an op-ed for Esquire that claimed the push for legal marijuana exacerbated the drug war and the cartel violence.


Winslow’s research identified flawed recruitment and training that gives lethal power to people who should never have been police – these are the ones who shoot fleeing people in the back, he says. He also encountered unconscious and semi-conscious bias, which results, for instance, in cops overestimating the age and therefore potential danger of black youths. “In a number of these shootings what you’re looking at is a fear reaction. Black Lives Matter definitely has a point. The numbers don’t lie in this regard. I’m glad the organisation exists.”


He snorts at the proposed wall, saying it won’t curb drugs because most flow through legal entry points in trailer trucks. “You can build the biggest, best, most beautiful wall – it doesn’t matter if the gates are open, and the gates are open 24/7.” Greater interdiction, in any case, would only increase prices and cartel revenues. “If Trump was really looking for Mexicans to pay for the wall he should put in a call to Sinaloa. They’d probably build it for him.”

Intercepting the flow of guns and profits south would have more impact than targeting drug supply, he says. “We’ve been doing that officially for 50 years and what’s the result? Drugs are more plentiful, cheaper and more potent.”


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