A few weeks ago, at an event at police headquarters, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill apologized to the LGBTQ community, on behalf of the entire NYPD, for the brutal raid that the cops carried out at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago. This was an admission long overdue, for which our queer community is deeply grateful. And yet you wonder: shouldn’t we be thanking them?
After all, if the cops hadn’t busted in, harassed, brutalized, and arrested those brave queers, we probably wouldn’t have the movement we have now, right? In point of fact, the New York City police force has actually encouraged our can-do, fight-the-power moxie that has urged us on in so much societal upheaval. Yet cops have been slow to take credit.
It’s time someone said, “Thank you, cops.” So, to show my appreciation for the NYPD – yea, cops worldwide – I have devised a series of police empowerment workshops, which may be presented, for a nominal fee, at any precinct.
Exercise 1 — Centering: Few people realize the psychic trauma that the police face at a mass demonstration, when up against whining gender perverts, angry people of color, and/ or Bill-of-Rights know-it-alls. So we must create a safe, nurturing space that will allow the inner cop to heal. Have cops form a circle, cross-legged on the floor. (Gently discourage self-ridicule if the cartilage in their knees keeps popping; this is a sign of change and should be affirmed.) Now ask cops to close their eyes and imagine a big, glowing ball of navy-blue light in the middle of their circle. Suggest they relax, breathe, and just be.
Ask cops to imagine that, with each breath, this light enters their heavy shoes, travels up their uniforms, through their billy clubs, their stun-guns, all the way to their badge chakras — until it bursts out of their police hats in an arc of radiant energy — their police “force,” if you will. Ask cops to use this force to imagine themselves, perfectly safe and relaxed, chasing annoying protestors in slow motion through a beautiful, deserted alley. Now, enjoin cops to imagine catching these protestors and smashing their heads — nonviolently — against city dumpsters. Play CD of Tibetan temple bells and whale noises. Burn sage.
Exercise 2 — Breaking Down Stereotypes: Have cops center. Pass out paper and pencils. Ask cops to go deep within themselves, and then write down all the myths and vicious put-downs about police that they have encountered from bigoted civilians. Examples: Cops are more likely to stop and frisk a person of color than a Caucasian because it makes them look “cool”; Cops have an extra muscle in their brains that prevents them from answering calls for help in poor or non-white neighborhoods; Cops mostly bust black people for smoking marijuana because the police are part of a conspiracy to create a global “prison-industrial complex,” etc., etc.
Channel the energy flow so that cops begin to experience their innate cop-consciousness. When did they realize they were “that way?” Were they born cops, or were they traumatically initiated into “the life” by another cop? Give cops time to see themselves as part of a cutting-edge, stylishly oppressed in-group. Are there cop tendencies? Mannerisms? Would they feel more validated in a separatist “police state?” Discuss.
Exercise 3 — Letting Your Cops Out to Play : Your cops are now ready to move from fantasy to reality. Ask them to center and visualize themselves lying on a beautiful, warm beach. Watch their gruff exteriors melt away as you explain that there is a great Scheme of Things, and that each of them has a place in it. Yes, like grains of sand on this beach — or tiny strands of chorizo in a cosmic meat grinder — every cop is part of the Whole. And, as a single drop of seawater contains the entire ocean, within each cop is the entire US Department of Homeland Security.
While cops are thus deeply relaxed, calmly ask them to imagine that the United States now holds over 2.3 million prisoners, about two-thirds of whom were unemployed before incarceration, or had yearly incomes of $5,000 or less. As cops sink further into bliss, get them to picture the recent, tough-on-crime laws that send people to prison for life for relatively minor offenses; the new immigrant detention centers and supermax prisons. Cops should experience complete empowerment and peace with their world – most of which is now behind bars.
Now ask cops to open their eyes. Voilà! It’s all real! There is a God! Everyone exchange email addresses. Group hug! And the next time those cops bust a bunch of drag queens, fags, trans people, and butch lesbos at a bar, they’ll do it with real and lasting PRIDE.