If the Boot Fits
I remember when cops on duty used to wear those bulgy-looking shoes that were, in fact, ordinary dress shoes. They wore them for ceremonial occasions, too, and they wore them to church and to the baptisms of their children and when they took their wives out for a steak dinner in some restaurant with paneled walls and a menu item called "Jell-O Parfait."
Today's cop wears a pair of military-style boots suitable for invading Ukraine, and I'm sure those boots cut down on the foot injuries.
Changes like that don't get a lot of attention, though voices here and there talk about the "militarization" of our police departments.
I had cops in my family, and they were much admired for the security of their paychecks. We admired high school janitors and guys who worked on trash trucks for the same reason. You got any kind of city job, and you put a check mark next to the item on your goals list that read "Earning a living for the rest of my life."
But there were dark corners to that life, even then. Cops were paid, at least in part, to keep a lid on the kind of people we didn't like, or were afraid of, or didn't want in our neighborhoods.
So, if a raid on a gay bar meant some patrons were gonna get horsed around going into the wagon, it didn't mean much to most of us, and if cops enforced an official or an unofficial color line between neighborhoods, that didn't mean much either. While they weren't always in the law books, those things were exactly what the big white majority wanted cops to do.
And those things were wrong, and everyone admits it, at least publicly.
And Tyre Nichols goes down in a welter of his own blood in Memphis, and you wonder if anything has changed.
Of course it's changed.
Back in those bad old days, before Martin Luther King Jr. even dreamed of having a dream, a young Black man in Memphis could be beaten for no reason by any white cop who happened to be feeling mean that night. Back then, beating or killing some Black kid would not interfere with the flow of paychecks that would last until you retired or the flow of pension checks that would last until you and your wife were both dead.