Tell it to SunStar: A few bad apples?

CJ Acelo, USC, Law and Policy Studies
·3 min read

Logic tells us that hasty generalization is a bad thing. Why should a few bad apples be indicative of the whole barrel? Surely, one cop is not a representative of the whole police force. I am speaking of that unforgettable incident involving a cop shooting two civilians, a mother and her son, to death in their own residence. One could even say that it was an isolated incident.

Lest we forget the true meaning of the often quoted metaphor, we must recall it in its entirety: “One bad apple can spoil the barrel.” Does it mean that one bad cop spoils the whole police force? This is unlikely. One person can hardly impact an established institution, them being challenging to revamp from the ground up. Even the President cannot dictate the makings of such a mammoth organization. He can direct its policy by pulling strings behind the curtains or even encourage impunity on stage, but a seed cannot take root in a hostile plot of land. In other words, the institution itself must have been fertile enough for impunity to take root and to flourish. Otherwise, it would have been like a failed organ transplant. The body would have rejected an incompatible organ.

To understand what I am getting at, we should revisit the metaphor of the bad apples, but see it from another perspective. We now have the apples (individual), the barrel (situation), and the barrel makers (the system). The apples can either be good or bad; that is a given. The barrel itself can also be good or bad; that is another given. The ratio of good versus bad apples is ultimately dictated by the barrel makers. It is not new knowledge that our justice system is broken and the scales are grotesquely tipped by the weight of gold and obscured by a culture of impunity.

If the barrel makers are institutionally bound to damage the barrel and spoil the apples, there is nothing a handful of good apples can do to impede let alone mitigate the damage done to the barrel, more so to the barrel makers. Yes, they are good apples (good cops), but if all they can do is watch while the other apples spoil the rest, is it not an act of complicity? I find the hesitation to generalize quite counter-productive when the problem is institutional and systemic in the first place. The accountability is shared; there are no isolated cases nor “rogue” policemen to speak of when there are accounts of police brutality everywhere, from the murders of Kian de los Santos and Winston Ragos to the beheading by drug force policemen in Baguio, and to the double murder of the mother and son Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio by a plainclothes cop, and God knows how many other killings out there that did not have the benefit of being recorded on camera.

The right way to look at the shooting of mother and son days away from Christmas is not as an isolated event, but one that is among a string of other events. We must only see the whole picture and connect the dots.