Why cops adopting vigilante iconography is problematic and how to stop it.
I find it bizarre that this even has to be asked, but do these cops rocking Punisher skulls on their cars know they are literally the antithesis of vigilantes? The trend of police departments brandishing vigilante symbols is rising again with Punisher and Batman being most popular. There is something very disturbing about police officers feeling they have a right to these symbols and that these symbols represent their work. B-man and Pun are vigilantes operating outside of the law. Sure, they work with cops and respect cops but what they do should not be in any way associated with police departments.
The conclusion I have come to is that cops are in desperate need of actually reading vigilante comics. One, to better understand what these symbols mean, and two, to gain an outside perspective of law enforcement. Admittedly cops are more often than not illustrated in a less than flattering light. They are often a nuisance, incompetent or corrupt and if we’re being honest, that’s not really a reach. I’m not saying it will be enjoyable to see your occupation depicted this way, but it I think it will be enlightening and hopefully motivating to change the narrative.
The truth is, cops have the power to be the true hero at any time. There are real life cops who exercise true heroism every day. Comics since the start have always reflected modern day issues and I have noticed that how police are represented hasn’t changed much, that’s not a good sign. I think police officers reading comics would be a good way to examine the state of the relationship they have with civilian society without direct confrontation.
I can see why police officers would fantasize about vigilantism with the rest of us. However if they really take the time to dig in they would find that it’s not actually that glamorous. It’s dangerous, you don’t have an entire police force or the law on your side. You will put innocents in danger no matter how hard you try to avoid it. I want these officers to examine a very common trope in vigilante comics which is when the heroes break their code. Comics do a great job of illustrating the mental anguish and imagined reality of what vigilantism means especially when things go wrong. The physical strain, the mental labor of justifying your version of morality, and the crippling isolation. This is not a good state of mind for enforcing the law.
I feel that if these wannabe vigilante police officers took the time to digest these comic book icons further they would be less interested in fictional ideals. Instead perhaps they can join the police officers who focus their efforts into protecting and serving reality.