The first really negative interaction was during all the demonstrations following the invasion of Cambodia in 1968. We peace creeps stood across the barrier from helmeted Fort Collins police officers who could hardly restrain themselves from bashing heads. They were putting up with a lot of verbal abuse. The cop across from me was hyperventilating. Fortunately, nothing happened.
Cops today are shooting people and getting shot. Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore showed the nation how the police are an instrument of repression in some cities. Fortunately this is not always the case. After 9-11, Denver Water placed armed guards at the gates to the water treatment plants. Most of the guards were retired or off duty Denver Police Officers moonlighting. They usually worked one shift per week, and I got to know many of them at the plant where I worked.
It was a shock to me to discover that most of them were really nice guys. That did not fit my stereotype of cops. A couple of them, however, were not nice guys. They were right wing bullies filled with fear and anger. The hate they projected was almost physically tangible. They did not make eye contact and their speech was formal with an undercurrent of menace.
I am sure every police department of any size in the land has a contingent of those fellows. They are the enforcers, using violence to deal with undesirables. They are relatively safe form reprisal because of the need for police to provide mutual support to one another. There is a code of silence and even lying to cover for a fellow officer. This is more common in some departments than others.
These men serve as instruments of repression, usually to minorities. Their self-appointed job is to keep undesirables in line, using any method they think they can get away with, including murder.in the USA, their targets are usually black, with Latinos and other minorities as alternate targets.
At one time, most of the racial repression came from groups like the Ku Klux Klan, with their cross burnings, beatings, and lynchings. Today, those groups have waned, and another means of repression has replaced them-rogue cops and rogue police departments. Cops and police departments have always been part of the system of racial repression, but now they are the default lynchers. There are no cross burnings on South Table Mountain in Golden these days.
This system has run into trouble because almost anyone with a smartphone can record police violence and get the recordings to the media. The code of silence is broken. In times of unrest like today, the violent incidents are on the television screen every evening, just like the atrocities in Vietnam were in the 1960s. Change in technology has made those conducting the new lynchings vulnerable. The old system of other cops and prosecutors allowing the lynchers to get away with their brutality is not gone, as Baltimore has recently shown, but it’s days are numbered.
It may be that one factor creating the Trump phenomenon is the breakdown of repression. The white working class, already hit by the loss of industrial jobs, is facing competition from people who were once sentenced to remain at the bottom. White working class men once had those minorities to look down on. Now the minorities are on the City Council and the police department.