Let’s unpack that.
Let’s pretend for a moment, just pretend, that for every 500 American cops, there’s one “bad apple”. Maybe they’re racist, sexist, homophobic, a grifter/bribe-taker, maybe they’re selling drugs they confiscate. Who knows? Don’t growl at me over the number just yet (I think the number is much higher too), just follow where I’m going with this.
And let’s pretend, just for a moment, that that 1/500 isn’t going to “poison the basket”. I mean s/he will, but let’s pretend that they don’t. Let’s pretend that all the other cops are going to remain morally and ethically consistent and somehow not allow themselves to be corrupted by this cop. For all except this “bad apple” let’s assume that their comrades are not just clean, but squeaky clean. Like ridiculous clean. Like, they’re GD Andy Griffith clean. All the cops in this bracket of 500 are pure as the driven snow save for this one problem child.
The city of Toledo, Ohio (for a random American example) has a population of 274,975 folks. It has 496 active patrol officers on the streets (this number does not include support and command personnel) going by the numbers in their 2019 annual report. That means a ration of patrol officer to civilians of 1:554. In other words, a single patrol officer in this city is responsible for the safety and protection of 554 of its citizens. So, out of their roughly 500 officers, we as a society have decided that it”s acceptable 554 Ohioans to be at the mercy of that one aforementioned bad apple. Also, we’re trusting them with this every single day; those people go about their daily lives under the charge of this person.
That 554 is an interesting number because it’s really close to the passenger capacity of a 2-class configured Boeing 747 airliner. What standard do we hold pilots to, again? I believe we hold them to a very high standard near as I know. I mean you gotta’ jump some serious hurdles to be a commercial pilot. There’s lots of training and certification involved, and also you have to have something like 1,500 flight hours before you’re allowed to be in charge of the plane.
I don’t think an airline would get a lot of traction if they claimed that 1 out of every 500 pilots weren’t trained to a high standard and were chugging bourbon in the air, do you? How likely are you to get on an airplane that has a 1/500 chance of failing and crashing due to a bad pilot? With 102,465 flights daily worldwide (pre-Covid), how do you like your odds? Yet, we entrust any given cities contingent of cops with similar numbers of civilians everyday.
Far more people die as a result of unneeded police violence than die on or around airplanes. And that’s just the people the cops actually kill deliberately. What about the other side of the coin? What about when the police are actually negligent in their duties because making value judgements is hard (or just sheer laziness). “We can’t interfere in domestic affairs”, “we can’t go by just noise, sir”, and the classic “this doesn’t qualify as an emergency”. Also note that none of the above seem to apply when the cops actually gun somebody down, then probable cause becomes about as easy to establish as a doughnut and coffee order.
The next time you hear “a few bad apples” or “not all cops are bad”, maybe play a comparison like this and see how it scans.