We get all upset around here at the things police sometimes do: lying, cheating, framing people, wrongfully convicting people.
But it’s also fair to get upset at the things police sometimes don’t do. Take the Canadian case of Robert Pickton. Please.
This guy is sort of a classic straight from a slasher/horror flick real life creepy monster. Operates a pig farm in British Columbia. Yes, a pig farm.
On the side he killed prostitutes. Many of them, perhaps dozens. Over years. Long after some in the various police investigative agencies began to suspect him. Long after there was ample evidence implicating him, to be had for the asking. Right under the noses of police, the top brass of which repeatedly looked at what can only be described as the overwhelming proof and….scoffed.
So now there’s a formal inquiry, to find out what went wrong. Which is fine. I mean, there should be one. And it’s claimed that this is not about singling anyone out. And that’s also fine, I think, because this is complicated. Sort of incomprehensible, but at the same time all too familiar:
Then again, Det.-Const. Shenher acknowledged her own unwillingness to push aggressively. “I was very deferential [to senior VPD officers],” she told the inquiry on Monday. “The last thing I wanted was to come across as a know-it-all.”
Attempting to force the serial-killer angle on skeptical superiors would not have helped her career, she conceded. “I don’t think I would have been taken all that seriously,” she told the inquiry, adding she would have likely been accused of “reading too many detective novels, watching too many movies.” And going over the heads of her immediate bosses simply was not on. That, she said, would have been “career suicide.”
She had seemed just the cop to help, but she wouldn’t rock the boat.
I suppose this doesn’t have the notoriety of the Penn State scandal because it involves squalid tales of pig farmers and prostitutes, not glorified college football legends. But it’s the same story in a different context, isn’t it?
People worry about their “careers”. I understand that. I don’t object to people thinking in career terms to some degree.
But it’s always bothered me that it’s a fundamentally self interested concern and tends to supplant more important considerations. Like right and wrong, for instance. And it’s even more troublesome to me for this reason: “careers” are abstractions from reality, not reality itself. There’s no such thing as a career. It’s a framework we use to understand a professional or vocational path someone has taken, preferably invoked after the fact so it doesn’t interfere with solemn responsibilities to real situations and real people.
I’ve been warned, or “counseled”, many times to be more concerned for my career. I’ve always found it vaguely immoral and a little insulting. My “career” is an abstraction from what I am doing, not what-I-am-doing itself. My concerns should be directed to the latter, not the former.
Career considerations lay behind a host of evils. Dana Carson loves his career. Tom Moran loves his. The judges of the Appellate Division and other courts love theirs. Next to this towering concern, what’s a little lying and cheating? Or a knife point rape, which happens all the time?
A wrongfully convicted person? Hey, shit happens.
A few missing and maybe dead/murdered prostitutes? Why get your panties in a bunch over it? The mayor and the police commissioner won’t like having to deal with the sordid idea of a serial killer living on a pig farm, anyway. And, you know, that would be bad for my career.
Elevating abstractions over real things is a fundamental intellectual and moral error. Indulge that, and pretty soon you’ll be knee deep in the banality of evil.