I sometimes imagine telling the story of a cop in a police state. I think about what goes on in their head, whether they are merely following orders, like the Nazi underlings claimed at Nuremberg, or whether they are so desperate for a job that they would do anything, that being mall security led them inevitably to this. Maybe they have the lust for power that we imagine them to have. They started their life as children killing ants and worked up to kittens and cruelty in school, until irresistibly they were drawn into a work where such brutality can be hidden behind the mask of service, where sadism might be the citizen’s protection, if the public does not look too closely.
I never end up writing these mannequins that I sometimes imagine. Instead, I have cops brutalized by a system, fearful of their colleagues, enacting scenes which they carry throughout their entire lives. Or I write of those nearing retirement, having taken the job when it meant something different to be a cop, when they were a respected member of the community, not a feared arm of the state. Caught in troubling times, those older cops try to hang on for their pension, although their society demands much more than the protection they offered in their early career.
When I write my police, of whatever stripe, I must rely on my imagination, however. The police we meet are automatons, stepping through a dance which has already been decided for them by a set of legal strictures, by their own peccadillos and predilections, by the gut responses of the suburban house owner, and the occupy activist. The cops I see follow orders, maim and kill, arrest and help, but under the geas of a legal system which is as slanted against them as it is biased for commerce.
Caught in this system like us, like any citizen, they do what they will, breaks laws to help and to hurt, and otherwise hope their paycheck comes in time for their bills. Take away that paycheck, and they are in the same position as us. That is always worth remembering, that Mountie Bob can easily become Salty Bob, if his financial circumstances change.