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The 1980s smash hit Police Academy was hastily thrown together because of filming on another movie.

When movies call for a college, unless the college is pretty famous (Harvard, Oxford, etc.) they will typically film a fictitious college on a police or military academy. Using an actual college is fraught with some degree of annoyances, because naturally Tappa Kegga Bru or I Phelta Thi want to run in and moon the shot or otherwise interfere with filming, which costs time and money. Given the levels of discipline in an academy, which far exceed those in a standard college - the choice is obvious.

During the filming of yet another derivative breasts-and-beer direct to videotape comedy, the flimmakers noticed that there were a lot of unusual looking characters walking around the academy. The instructors rolled their eyes and said that a female mayor, in her political correctness, demanded diversity in the ranks, so they had to take anyone who applied, not just tall white men with moustaches from Polish or Irish descent. Naturally the idea sparked a genius movie - could a Police Academy turn a small, fat black woman with a bare whisper of a voice afraid of her own shadow, a man so accident-prone he's a walking chaos field, a guy who's in essence sentenced to be there and wants to be expelled, and so forth into real cops?

One of the gags was the idea of Police Academy applicant Eugene Tackleberry. When we first see him he's working as a security guard, a career that attracts a lot of people who would love to be cops, but for something in their past, like a felony or a sixty inch waistline. People are sneaking around the office he's guarding, and he eventually catches up with them and discharges a firearm multiple times in the dark - only to be lucky to have missed, since it was a surprise goodbye party from his co-workers.

The man is clearly seen to be.... unhinged. From his penchant for military clothing while not in academy clothes, to reading Soldier of Fortune, to responding to any drill with a level of violence that explains why he was never allowed into the facility under previous regulation. When the instructor (teaching voice command) asks Tackleberry to demonstrate how he would use his authoritative voice to stop a burglar exiting a window with a stolen stereo, he makes a finger gun with both hands, jams it behind the instructor's ear and screams "DROP THAT STEREO BEFORE I BLOW YOUR GOD DAMNED NUTS OFF, ASSHOLE!"

Later gags have him go through an obstacle course with a shotgun (in which you walk down an alley and have to make split-second decisions as to whether to shoot a cartoon burglar drop down target or a cartoon little girl or old lady drop down target) by simply abadoning his instructor and blowing multiple holes through every target, rolling over cars and screaming like Rambo while kicking the targets off their hinges after putting multiple rounds of buckshot through them.

He's the only one who doesn't make it to the violence and firefight at the end of the first movie, and he's seen to be banging his head against cars and crying because he missed it.

Later movies have him, as an officer - doing things like putting the business end of a magnum in a shark's snout to get it to swim elsewhere, not a beach he's protecting - being called to a "my cat's up a tree officer" call and responding my simply shooting the cat dead causing it to fall out of the tree (he's out now!), firing a tear gas grenade into a car to get an eight year old to leave his mom's car and go to school, firing a gun into a payphone to blow it apart in order to get back a woman's quarter ("ma'am, can you identify your quarter?") and so forth.

It was a gag. The idea of a trigger-happy psychopath being given a badge was seen as an extreme example, something that doesn't and shouldn't happen. It was considered so outrageous as to literally be a joke.

But Academy training got darker in the years since. A major emphasis is on the fact that cops get shot. There's a video they pull out - the endless retelling of the death of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller, a deputy gunned down on the I-16 between Atlanta and Savannah in Laurens County, Georgia - and which they show in Grave "This Could Happen To You" tones, showing a cop approaching a man with a rifle, who simply guns him down multiple times. It's brought up as a classic example of If The Officer Had Shot First And Asked Questions Later He'd Still Be Alive. Cops were giving "perps" (their term for the general public) the benefit of the doubt, and as a result there was a real push in police academies to encourage the use of firearms.

According to an article on Kyle Dinkheller, “Make sure that if you shoot, it’s a good shoot, and if not you’re probably gonna lose everything you've got,” Sheriff Webb says they were told during training sessions. “Plus you’re probably gonna go to prison.”

Problem? Too many dead cops. Solution? Address their reticency to pull out a firearm. Find ones who had no problems pulling out a gun.  I wonder what could go wrong?

With the advent of dash cams, now it could easily be brought up that no, it was a good shoot, see?

And now the streets are filled with the corpses of people who were shot to avenge the death of Kyle Dinkheller.

Let's return to approximately the same area of Georgia, some years later. Doraville, GA is close to Atlanta, and in the 2010s get some flak for showing off their new tank.

Here's the video they had on their recruitment page, before an outcry took it down.

For those not in the know, the initial logo, the skull with elongated teeth, is the comic book character The Punisher - this is a book about a PTSD addled Vietnam vet avenging the death of his wife and child by breaking every law in the book under the guise of providing justice because the law includes things like "police brutality" and "probable cause", namby pamby stuff that keeps men like The Punisher from breaking the skulls of people he deems worthy of being brutalized under his concept of vigilante justice. Just sit down for a second and think of the import of a police service adopting the logo of a law-averse criminal vigilante who sees his life's mission as using violence and brutality to right his own personal ideas of right and wrong.

Oh? and that song? "Die, Motherfucker Die". The lyrics include: "I don't need your approval/I don't need your hope/I don't need your lectures I don't need a thing from you" and "I'll be sorry so you've said/I'm not sorry, bang! you're dead, Die motherfucker, die".

For the record, an entire town in Kentucky placed the Punisher skull on its squad cars. When asked just what the hell that lunacy was about, the Chief responded:

"That design is basically to give back to the police officers. Our lives matter just as much as anybody’s. … I’m not racist or anything like that, I’m not trying to stir anything up like that. I consider it to be a ‘warrior logo.’ Just cause it has ‘Blue Lives Matter’ on the hood, all lives matter. That decal represents that we will take any means necessary to keep our community safe."

By "our community", that refers to "police officers" and it's telling that not only did he pre-emptively deny being racist (Methinks thou dost protest too much) but said ANY MEANS NECESSARY to preserve police life. By the way, the same jurisdiction made it a hate crime to commit any crime against a police officer.

What about that To Serve And Protect thing? Don't worry, they're just random words. police departments have taken it to the Supreme Court to argue they're not bound by that.

What's even more disturbing is that the Supreme Court also said cops are allowed to get away with breaking the law if they think they were following it, even though they are supposedly trained in it and know it. But, as for you, citizen.... if you break the law, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

What this has all culminated in is a very, very toxic stew in which police not only actively recruit the unhinged, but make them paranoid about being shot and teach them that they are well within their rights to kill if they are scared for their own lives in any way. In a legal environment that pretty much allows them to do what they want, so long as they believed at the time that they were right.

This writeup is not to suggest that All Police Are Murdering Thugs. I don't agree with the protestors who have torched various US cities and are calling an end to policing entirely. What I am saying however is that maybe the pendulum needs to swing a little bit more to the center, rather than handing surplus military hardware to psychopaths and telling them whatever their personal beliefs are count as the law. That's a recipe for total disaster.

Because what was a ludicrous, over-the-top joke in a 1980s movie is genuinely starting to become our reality.

The man who played Tackleberry died two decades or so ago. David Graf was at a family event when he had a heart attack and slipped away to the great beyond. He was apparently a really nice guy who just lucked in to playing an iconic character who ended up defining his body of work.

Let's just hope that reckless, racist and overly violent incidents don't end up defining the body of policing.

 

 

 

 

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