I watched episode three of TNT’s Dark Blue last night and the show continues to be driven by the absurd and reprehensible notion that the world would be a better place if there were more rogue unaccountable police units. In this episode, our heros first try to entrap an innocent man. Then when that fails, as a fallback plan they just frame him instead. And, weirdly, they refer to this framing as “entrapment” and acknowledge that it kinda sorta might involve crossing a line, as if to obscure the fact that their initial plan was also illegal. Then, using the innocent man as a confederate, they successfully infiltrate some drug organization where a dude gets arrested but the innocent man is killed.
This is all acknowledged as a harrowing weekend at the office, but nobody seems to notice that effect police work is supposed to reduce, not increase, the quantity of people killed.
Specifics of the show aside, what’s totally missing from this conception of police work is any sense that there’s an actual purpose to the enterprise. Instead, you have a certain number of criminals and you have some cops so the cops are supposed to catch criminals. But nobody says at the end of the episode “now that we’ve arrested this guy there will be no more cocaine in Los Angeles.” Because that would be stupid. But then what are they trying to accomplish? Note that it’s not impossible for drug enforcement to accomplish something worthwhile. Open air drug markets are a huge nuisance for people who live in the neighborhood, and it’s possible to shut them down for good and make everyone’s life better. Or you can target enforcement on gangs that are being violent, or employing kids. But you need some kind of coherent theory about what the problem is in your community and how it is that law enforcement activity is going to make the problem better.