In this art project, titled Warrior Mentality Lake, the overall picture is centered on the image of a heavily-rusted helmet, drawn based on the historical Spartan helmet. Due to the corrosion of the helmet, the water has grown murky with rust, and this in turn leads to the dead fish, which have died due to the polluting effect of the rust in the water. New fish swim into the polluted water, unaware, but they, too, fall to the rust pollution harming their gills, no matter how healthy they may be.
However, the drawing is not as straight-forward as fish simply dying to pollution. Instead, each key aspect symbolizes something different. Firstly, the helmet is meant to symbolize the warrior mentality, which is a mindset present within policing that is visible in the way the police perceive themselves as soldiers at war with crime as well as the public rather than guardians of the community (Vitale, 2017, pp. 2-3; Sierra-Arévalo, 2019, p. 633).
This then leads into the second aspect, which is the water itself – meant to symbolize policing in general – and the rust on the helmet that clouds said water. After all, water should, desirably, be transparent and clean of contamination, which can similarly be said about policing, as policing should, desirably, be as transparent as possible, remaining honest and free of corruption (Vitale, 2017, p. 24). However, the rust pollution caused by the helmet makes the water murky and turns it toxic, which is not dissimilar to the real, toxic impact of the warrior mentality in policing due to the level of aggression it inspires in officers (Sierra-Arévalo, 2019, p. 633) and the murky secrecy this type of them-against-us mindset inspires within police departments, making them close themselves off rather than remaining open to public scrutiny (Vitale, 2017, p. 24).
And then moving onto the third and final aspect, the dead fish symbolize reform attempts and things like individualism and good intentions within policing. After all, according to Vitale (2017), there have been many attempts to reform the police that have largely been unsuccessful because of the failure to account for the actual nature of the police. Additionally, Lynch (2018) indicates that police officers are taught this type of warrior-like mindset very early in their career, as she notes that things like individualism and good intentions are essentially stamped out of cadets in the academy in an attempt to form the perfect, violent police officer (pp. 78-82).
So, for this reason, this picture is meant to show that the warrior mentality lake is where the reform fish cannot survive. Thus, if there is to be any hope for the future of policing, reform must target problems present in police culture, like the warrior mentality. One such way this could be done is to essentially flood the lake with new water – fresh blood, so to speak, in policing leadership through the method of direct entry, which takes qualified people from outside the police hierarchy and puts them in positions of power in an attempt to challenge organizational values and practices (Silvestri, 2018) – and hope it dislodges the helmet on its own, washing it and the pollution away so healthy fish can be introduced to the lake and thrive. Another method might be to remove the helmet directly, such as is emphasized by the presence of a fish hook hanging off the helmet, though it is likely that the water – the police – would need to be willing to cooperate to make this possible, which is not likely to happen so long as the police perceive the need for this mindset due to the perception of their work as particularly dangerous (Sierra-Arévalo, 2019, pp. 633-634).
Lynch, C. (2018). You have the right to remain violent. Social Justice, 45(2/3 (152/153)), 75-92.
Sierra-Arévalo, M. (2019). The commemoration of death, organizational memory, and police culture. Criminology, 632-658.
Silvestri, M. (2018). Disrupting the “heroic” male within policing: a case of direct entry. Feminist Criminology, 13(3), 309–328.
Vitale, A. S. (2017). 1. The Limits of Police Reform. The End of Policing (Kindle ed., pp. 1-30). Verso.