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A Modest Proposal for the Police

officerThe 1988 B-movie “Maniac Cop” featured a titular character with a latex-scarred face stalking and killing innocent people while dressed in a policeman’s uniform. In the film, this killing spree sets the city of New York into a panic and B-movie stalwart Bruce Campbell has to act quickly to stop him. The gimmick was simple: we are compelled to obey authority figures, but things are turned upside down if the police officer stopping your car might be a psychopath. Truth be told, it’s not a very good movie, but there were two sequels made and enough admirers to imagine that there will eventually be a remake. If so, I have a suggestion for the filmmakers: this time around, while the psychopath cop is cutting a swath of carnage through the city, in order to update the story, there should be plenty of glib fatuous talking heads on cable television arguing that the public needs to give him leeway to do his job.

Is that unfair? It certainly seems to be where our “discussion” of police brutality is heading. The apparently endless procession of shocking news stories about police violence is bad enough, but there are two things that add particular notes of horror: the first is the sneaking suspicion one has that the public is simply being acclimatized to the fact of trigger-happy cops beating, shooting, and killing the most vulnerable members of the public on the slightest of pretenses, on mistaken suspicions, or even utterly invented pretenses. At some point, we simply accept this state of affairs as a matter of course and fail to ask the larger question: why is it that a society, as it becomes increasingly market-driven, simultaneously becomes more punitive?

Secondly, even worse than the segment of police officers that violate the public trust with a level of impunity that one could argue makes them a quasi-sovereign independent power, are the authoritarian personalities that slither out from the woodwork to defend every cop in every instance of police misconduct. Eric Garner? Well, he was selling loose cigarettes. Walter Scott? Well, he did run from the police officer. Freddie Gray? Well, nobody knows exactly how he got his spine snapped in a police van, ending his life. The irony is that the very people who dismiss all such stories as the work of “a few bad apples” can never quite admit that any individual officer was bad or did bad. They always ask the public to consider how dangerous police work is and how terrifying it can be for officers to engage with the public when any interaction can potentially be life-threatening. Sometimes mistakes are made under pressure you see.

Fair enough. But a few points need to be made here. The first is that the police in the United States are all too often isolated from normal, non-alienated interactions with the public, which might go a long way to reduce the sense of isolation and fear. Instead of “walking the beat”, they pass by (or stop) in convoys of patrol cars. More and more, they’re driving military vehicles instead of cars, while dressed unnervingly in bullet proof vests, regardless of their duty. One even spots meter maids in flack jackets now. Conversely, they are asked to patrol a litany of “offenses” that seems to magically swell without end. One needn’t be a social libertarian to find the notion of taking someone with force into police custody for reselling “loose” cigarettes absurd and tragic. In a very real sense, police officers bear the brunt of the unwarranted laws the punitive state requires them to enforce.

Secondly, if police defenders want to emphasize how stressful police work is, they should acknowledge that it’s just as stressful to be arrested or questioned by a police officer, especially given the mad parade of violent cop stories, and fearful with greater intensity and urgency for young black males. The level of stress can make an arrestee erratic, jumpy, prone to flee, or mentally shut down. The one time in which a police officer drew a weapon on me, in fact, I was in court for a minor traffic violation but simply at such a high stress level that I had not heard his command to take my hands out of my pockets. The raised gun and screaming certainly got my attention, but I wonder how poorly I would have been handled in a different setting.

So, here’s a modest proposal: all police officers should be arrested. Not charged and convicted, of course, but they should all have to go through the experience of arrest in order to know what to expect from those on the other side. In fact, this should be a mandatory part of their training as rookies in the police force. Note that I am not saying they should be put through a simulation arrest or watch a video about being arrested- I am saying they should be sent to another police district in civilian clothes and called in for arrest by the police of that district for a minor offense. They should be brought in for questioning at the police station. At the time that they arrive there, the ruse could be revealed and they could be released. They should not be given any “safe words”. If they give away the game, their training should end.

This will never be done, of course, because the police unions would be adamantly opposed to the notion. It would never be taken seriously by the police or the media. It would “detract from real police work”; in spite of the fact that most areas of the United States are overpoliced and overlegislated and therefore quite a bit of “police work” detracts from maintaining public order and safety. It might also be opposed on the grounds that such a scenario might result in a tragic accident. Police would have to be much less hasty to use violent force when arresting any young person for fear that they might be assaulting a fellow officer. This, however, seems like an argument for, and not against, my proposal.

Regardless of how unlikely my proposal is to be adopted, something has to change. The constant atmosphere of siege cannot last. Crime is in steady decline in the United States; American policing, on the other hand, is steadily more militarized, hysterical, excessive, and in violation of civilized law. The situation is out of control. The police in much of the country need do something to restore public trust, instead of declaring open war on certain populations and hoping the rest of the citizenry will join along. So, if the answer is not to make all officers go through the experience of a mock arrest, how about making every one of them that uses excessive force go through a real conviction?

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97 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal for the Police

  1. I like the idea. But I don’t think it’ll work. Because maybe the lesson they’ll learn is not “wow, being arrested is really scary”, but rather “hey, if you keep your hands to yourself and don’t mouth off and do as your’re told, being arrested ain’t so bad“.

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        • Indeed. Listening to two people, both roughly equally calm and polite, discuss experiences with the same local PD is quite interesting. It’s almost like some other factor besides ‘respect’ or ‘politeness’ is informing police behavior.

          Of course the “do as you’re told thing” always brings to mind the dash cam of a guy getting shot for reaching to get his insurance card, exactly as he was just instructed to do.

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        • That could be an especially potent scandal when you think about it: Criminal gets cushy treatment for saying the “I’m a cop” code words.

          Some tough-on-crime types would tie themselves into knots to defend the cop who performed the arrest, shifting 100% of blame to the criminal. (Hey, the question of blame is right there in the words “criminal” and “cop”, isn’t it?)

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    • These are all good points. Personally, I like the idea that some cops would learn the lesson that the young person they’re arresting might be a dangerous lowlife or might be them at a younger age just joining the force.

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        • They already do that was tasers.

          To which I think “you got tased once, in a well let room in comfortable clothes wherein you had medical help available AND you knew it was one zap and done”.

          Which seems a far cry from being tased 11 times by cops who, if you were dying, would likely just handcuff you and your death certificate would read something like “hysterical psychosis” or whatever the cop code for is for “died in our custody with just some taser marks, so we claimed they had superhuman strength and were crazy and it was the ONLY WAY MAN”

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  2. Speaking of cops, I met a woman yesterday whose ex-husband is a cop. She mentioned having two restraining orders against him… one for her and one for him (though both are now expired or whatever the term is). I don’t know exactly how restraining orders work (maybe or one of our other lawyer friends could help), but it would seem to me that if you have a restraining order out against you — let alone two! — you probably shouldn’t be a cop. No?

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    • Someone with a long term restraining order against them would probably never get hired. However once they are hired RO’s are not usually fireable. Also it depends exactly what led to the RO. It could be violence or threats of violence which would suggest someone shouldn’t be a cop. However you can get a RO for less severe, although creepy and wrong, things like verbal abuse or incessant phone calling. Any cop who gets an RO against them should come under serious scrutiny by their chain of command and really might be best off the street at the least. But, as always, individual situations differ. Ex: a cop who ended up with RO’s against them can go to treatment and sober up.

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  3. This will never be done, of course, because the police unions would be adamantly opposed to the notion.

    I’m not certain this would be impossible. Police officers apparently have to be tased before they can carry a Taser.

    You and others bring up the point that they could circumvent the exercise, but that is a concern for any requirement that people don’t particularly feel like completing and there is lax monitoring of.

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    • At the two-year college where I got my degree in I.T., all the criminal-justice students (at least the ones on a track to becoming law enforcement officers) have to experience pepper spray. I don’t know if it’s a state requirement or what.

      While I’m mostly on board with this practice in both cases, there’s a second possible problem, the opposite of “I guess this isn’t so bad”: it could psychologically condition cops (at least certain quick-to-hurt cops) to avoid using those and move right on to guns. Not that anyone would rationally prefer being shot to being tasered/sprayed, but your body doesn’t “know” that.

      I believe the officer who killed Michael Brown had both a taser and pepper spray available at the time. (He also had a gas pedal, which would be the obvious first resort if he truly felt endangered, which I doubt he had any rational basis to believe anyway. So really, whether he’d experienced tasering is practically irrelevant in his case. Still…)

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      • And as I note upthread, cops are exposed in ‘controlled’ conditions. They’re zapped with pepper spray or mace under ideal situations wherein, really, the only complicating emotional factor is”Blah, I don’t want to do this” (they might even be deliberately pumped up and looking forward to it).

        They are not, for instance, terrified, in the dark, being shouted at to do things without having time to even process it, and then sprayed or taser excessively with no idea when it’ll even end.

        There’s also the fact that human beings forget pain rather quickly. I’ve dislocated a knee twice. I recall being in great pain. I recall being desperate and hurt and scared. But while I remember thinking at the time “This is the worst thing I’ve ever felt” I can’t really recall how bad the pain was. I know it’s bad, because I remember thinking how awful it was, but I can’t remember the sensation.

        And that’s a pretty vivid memory. I’d imagine getting tased or pepper sprayed won’t really linger other than “Eh, couldn’t have been that bad” in the mind.

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        • These things linger when they’re traumatic; they get stuck in the brain — and when something evokes the memories; you are put back in the ‘stuck’ moment.

          I think it’s likely that most of the cop experiences don’t create PTSD memories; though some few probably do. But without that sort of instant recreation, I think it’s likely most cops do write off things like being tazed as ‘not that bad.’ I know a few who do desk duty only because of being injured in training accidents.

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          • Hmm. I know, for instance, how damaging knee problems can be. (I’m fine, although I have to wear supportive braces when playing sports or such, to catch the occasional wandering kneecap. But I know people who screwed up a knee and had massive surgery and never fully recovered….).

            I can’t remember the pain, but I’m really paranoid about knees and kneecaps and stuff that seems to be courting knee injuries.

            That’s about the only injury that I’m that paranoid about, wherein it still informs behavior years later. (I hear back injuries are often like that).

            So I suspect you’re right — a sufficient enough injury will leave a mark. I just don’t think tasers in class probably hit it. (Now, some of the guys tasered eleven times and stuff? I betcha THEY’RE paranoid for life about it)

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  4. “…first is the sneaking suspicion one has that the public is simply being acclimatized to the fact of trigger-happy cops beating, shooting, and killing the most vulnerable members of the public on the slightest of pretenses, on mistaken suspicions, or even utterly invented pretenses. At some point, we simply accept this state of affairs as a matter of course and fail to ask the larger question: why is it that a society, as it becomes increasingly market-driven, simultaneously becomes more punitive?”

    Long time lurker, first time commenting. I like the proposal but I disagree with the above. There have been people sounding the alarm about this issue for years without much fanfare. Radley Balko of course is the most notable (and he has deservedly finally gotten to a wider audience at the Washington Post). The only thing new is that there has finally been enough backlash from the more abused populations to get the attention of major media outlets. In many respects that’s a good thing.

    The greater danger I think is that media continues down the path it’s already on, which is to make the problem of police militarization solely about race. Now race certainly can’t be removed from the equation, and the war on crime and war on drugs, the primary policies that got us here, are inextricably intertwined with race and racism. I think the danger is less acclimation, and more that it becomes just another “law and order” issue drawn along familiar culture war and partisan battle lines.

    Again, I can’t stress enough that I don’t want to downplay race, only to say that it’s bigger than that. Police militarization has been on the radar here in a way that it may not have been in other places since a notorious botched SWAT raid in 2008.

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  5. I propose quite the opposite.

    A one-week period where there is no law enforcement. Whatever happens during this week will not have any legal repercussions after the week is done. When the week is done, National Guard troops will restore the peace while civic leaders and the heads of the legal communities (Lawyers, Cops, etc.) will decide what laws are reinstated, what laws are tossed by the wayside, and what the role of the police will be.

    This resolves four issues:

    1) Fear.

    The reason that the police have been allowed to become so militarized is because, as a nation, we are fed a 24/7 news cycle that tells us that the terrorists/rapists/murderers are right around the corner and, if we don’t have the police to keep them at bay, then it will be a murder-rape orgy that will cast us all down in darkness.

    But will it? Perhaps what’s left of my idealism is talking but I don’t think that’s true. I think most of us would find that we are quite capable of getting along with each other without inflicting harm upon each other. This would break us out of the cycle of being so afraid of our own shadow that we will vote for any means to keep us safe. This would allow us to realize that we don’t need a paramilitary force to keep us safe as most of us would pass through the week just fine. Most of us….

    2) Appreciation

    but not all of us. I have worked with a number of whites (since this always goes into terms of race) who were unapologetically “fuck the police”. Even before the advent of Youtube, these were people who had an all-around hatred of the cops.

    Fine then. They can take their own self-defense into their own hands. They can experience, for a week, the joys of living in Feudal Japan where the wrong word or finger can put your life in jeopardy. They can live with the responsibility of having to defend their own life, virtue, and property. (There are a number of other salutary effects that would happen but we’ll keep it focused on society’s relationship with the police.) Even the ones that don’t fall victim to the minority of us who are scum will come to the table with an appreciation of what the role of the police is.

    3) Quantifiable data.

    We all know that Blacks make up a majority in prison. Some say that Black culture glorifies criminality. Others say this is the result of police prejudice.

    With this week, we put both theories to the test and we settle the question. If Black neighborhoods have a crime rate comparable to other neighborhoods, then we will have actual data proving that police prejudice is the cause. If Black neighborhoods explode into violence, then we will have the evidence needed to show that there really is a problem with the culture. Either way, the nation will be able to silence the defenders and the apologists who rely on the lack of clear data to push their agendas.

    4) Broken Windows laws.

    Finally, it will allow us to take a look at what laws we need. Sure, murder and rape will go back on the list of things that we’re against. But selling singles? Do we really need a law for every activity that people can possibly do? Really?

    The more laws that you have, the more confrontations between the criminals and the enforcers will happen. The more confrontations that we have, the more likely it is that we will have confrontations that get out of hand. If you knock off a lot of the laws that force unnecessary confrontation (particularly the ones that are aimed at certain minorities), you might have a police force that is more sympathetic. A police force that isn’t caught between the rock of enforcing frivolous laws and the hard place of public disdain when they do.

    A week without the police….A week where society and individuals have to govern themselves is the best way to resolve our growing issues with law enforcement. Instead of half-steps that accomplish nothing or revenge-inspired “let’s see how they like it” notions, we put the issue directly in everyone’s face. We reset to zero and see where we go from there.

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      • Actually, I came up with the idea over a decade before the movie. Further, I understand that both the movie and the sequel don’t actually go into the social reasons for the purge. They just do a “What if there were no police?” (Kinda like the Battle Royale movie vs. the book.)

        I still want to see the movie but I’ve been told that I’ll be dissappointed. In some ways, I resent the movie’s existence because it allows people to make cute one-liner answers rather than debate the idea on the merits/pitfalls of the idea but such is internet discourse.

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        • The merits? In what universe does this get approved by a city council without the local business community and high net worth individuals becoming unglued? And if this does pass in some Spock-with-beard alternative universe, the only thing that would happen is that the same business community and residents would hire the furloughed cops for that week, then get rid of the idiots who voted for this idea at the next election.

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          • As Alan Scott points out below, Georgia already did it.

            Further, we’re in a topic where the proposal is “Let’s see how the cops like it when they have to go through the arrest process.” The initial topic passed the Spock-With-Beard test from the start. I’m proposing something that might be Spock-With-Beard but would actually resolve issues instead of a revenge-based scenario or a scenario that takes inconsequential half-steps.

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              • It is but it is in a single data point way. While the article would confirm most of what I’ve said, Baltimore was a powder keg and did just go through the riots. Plus, while instructive of a test case basis, it is still a single data point.

                The direction that it would seem to confirm is that, in the article, the absence of the police has both the police and the community leaders more willing to sit down at a table and discuss what the role of the police should be as opposed to previous confrontational attitudes.

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                • I guess my concern with your idea is that in the absence of police, criminal gangs often fill in and provide “security” (you got a problem with a guy, you go see the local Godfather); in some cases, this can arguably be an improvement over local police gangs, but obviously it has its own pitfalls.

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                  • But, historically, what did we have before we had police?

                    Local gangs.

                    And provision of security was one of the things they did. Of course, like the cops, there were a few bad apples among them that ruined things for everybody.

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                  • It is a concern which is why I included the National Guard being needed to reestablish order afterwards. I’d like to say they wouldn’t be needed but I have too much cynicism to believe that would be the case.

                    However, I truly don’t think that a week would be enough time for the local gangs to insert themselves into communities where they are not already a de facto power.

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                    • Oh, I agree a week isn’t long enough for them to establish themselves if they are not already…but a week is a long enough time to, ah…”resolve” some vexing “problems”, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

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                      • That is a fair point and I hate to resort to omelet metaphors but……

                        The fact is that every solution that has ever resolved anything on a socioeconomic scale has broken eggs. This is the reason why people propose inconsequential half-steps. An inconsequential half-step makes us feel like we’re doing something without risking anything.

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      • I did not know that. While it wasn’t all of them (By NPR’s estimate, it was 100% of the “traffic police force” which made up 80-90% of the total police force), it did effectively place the country without a police force.

        And, when all was said and done, crime did go down despite an initial rise due to better reporting standards. I think this part really applies to the issue.

        No, our examples show that you can reverse the crime trend even by being civilized.

        +1 to you, good sir.

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    • It’s already happening. Baltimore cops have, according to some anonymously, stopped actually doing anything at work because apparently our choices are accept police brutality or anarchy.

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      • New York did that as well but they only stopped enforcing “Broken Windows” laws and they only did so as part of a political struggle between the rank-and-file police and DeBlasio.

        I do find it interesting that you use “anarchy” as the other option. To me, this says that you accept the idea that, without police enforcement, our society would collapse and that people are basically bad. I’m not sure that I buy into that. I’m not saying that individuals aren’t bad but, on the whole, I don’t really buy into the notion that, absent the police, anarchy is the only outcome.

        In an interesting sidenote, when I looked up Alan Scott’s claim to confirm that this actually happened, I came across this Cracked article.

        http://www.cracked.com/article_19489_5-terrible-ideas-that-solved-huge-global-problems.html

        I’m not sure that I buy into the Tokyo thing but it does propose some interesting alternatives to justice systems that have issues with police brutality and recidivism rates. Perhaps what we need isn’t to treat the symptoms but we need to look at the root causes of the issues that plague our police systems. Much of the reason behind my one-week police absence is to force people to look at many of our base assumptions (Do we need laws for everything? Are rapists lurking right around the corner? What is the true crime rate for minority neighborhoods?) and rebuild from there.

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        • I do find it interesting that you use “anarchy” as the other option.
          Sorry, I didn’t make that clear. That was the anonymous police source’s reasoning. Either we accept police brutality from the Baltiomore PD or — in their view — the streets will turn to anarchy.

          Because they’re the thin blue line standing between “us” and, I guess, “us”? I dunno, the absence of police officers doesn’t make me feel like committing crimes but maybe I’m an outlier.

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  6. Also, having seen Maniac Cop 3, I don’t know how bad the original was but the third was a weird schlock affair with a catchy sound track that asked the question “What if Jason Voorhees was given a cop uniform and falls for another female cop who can make a perfectly accurate shot after taking a bullet to the head?”

    Seriously. 10/10 for bad movie nights.

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  7. I fully agree with this.

    If cadets aren’t currently experiencing arrest at acadmy, that should start immediately. I’d like to think that of course they do, but I’m guessing what I’d like to think is just that and nothing more whatsoever.

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  8. Crime is in steady decline in the United States;

    Well, only if you don’t include cops shooting unarmed black men as a crime. (Heh!)

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    • Many municipalities apparently don’t.

      On the other hand, I suppose if you shoot an unarmed black dude these days, you’d be charged with criminal impersonation of a law enforcement officer.

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  9. A couple of things I have found helpful:

    Say to the cop:
    I know the elements of a section 1983 action.

    Their demeanor changes after hearing this.

    Alternatively . . .

    Pull out an old copy of Pre-Law magazine and a Sharpie, and write:
    I hope to God I get to represent a cop in a divorce one day
    on the cover, then hand it to the officer.

    (I’ve never actually handed it to the officer. I like to walk it in to the station, hand it to the dispatcher, and request that it be given to Officer Friendly at the earliest convenience.)

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    • Having every law enforcement officer wear one to carry out their everyday duties suggests that they see themselves as being in a constant state of warfare with the general population, which they perhaps do. I take it you do as well. However, it seems fairly uncontroversial to say that there is at present a great deal of tension between the police and the public and, yes, I think that dressing like they’re expecting gun battles in every public place at all times adds to that tension.

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      • I worked at a nearly-complete construction site for two weeks in May. Despite the fact that it was unlikely anything would fall on us, we were all required to wear hard hats daily. I don’t think the presence of hard hats indicated we thought the contractor had built the building poorly, nor do I think it made anyone scared to see us wearing them. We could have the same conversation about kids being forced to wear seat belts. I mean seriously, is that what you want to hang police reform on?

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        • I mean seriously, is that what you want to hang police reform on?

          Of course not. It’s just your strange misreading of what I wrote. I wrote that it’s weird and unnerving to see meter maids in flack jackets and suggested that, hey, maybe not every officer has to go out in bullet proof vests if we’re trying to bring down the level of tension. Full stop. That’s the full extent of what I wrote in one paragraph of an 1100 word post.

          In fact, up until about three years ago, I never saw parking enforcement cops in flack jackets, which means that either what I’m saying is not so nutty or up until a few years ago they were getting shot at a pretty terrible rate. Or at least comparable, according to you, to the number of automobile accidents per year. I didn’t see the humvees either. Actually, our city recently bought a tank for the police and we’re fishing Canadians! So, if it’s so important for meter maids to go out dressed for gunfire, I can live with that. I’d be perfectly fine getting rid of the tanks instead.

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  10. Trying to look at some hard facts I found the following site* which attempts to aggregate the number of people killed by the police based on news stories. Not a perfect science but I’ll use it for the purposes of this comment. Below I did some quick math on how this breaks down along racial lines for the 430 shootings so far in 2015 where they listed the race of the person killed. I then added in the % of the population for that race and calculated the variance.

    Race  |  Count  |  % Killed by Police  |  % of Population  |  Variance
    Asian    |    7&    |    1.63%    |    4.40%    |    -2.77%
    Black    |    139    |    32.33%    |    13.20%    |    19.13%
    Latino    |    74    |    17.21%    |    17.10%    |    0.11%
    White    |    197    |    45.81%    |    77.70%    |    -31.89%

    Asians come in under their population %. Latinos are right on target. Whites are nearly 32% under their population % and blacks are 19% over theirs. So I think it’s safe to say this is a black/white conversation.

    What I find interesting is that if someone left a comment here saying that 90% of the white people they know have observed more bad behavior out of blacks than whites, they would be called a racist, or at the very least told that their opinion is subjective. On the other hand, blacks say that they have been mistreated by cops and we take it as an irrefutable truth. The cop-bashing that goes on around here is striking for how willing folks are to rely on anecdotal data to support the anti-police position when I am certain that they would not accept anecdotal evidence in the other direction.

    The two numbers we can argue about are the -32% variance for whites and the +19% variance for blacks. The question is, does that reflect true crime numbers, or just how willing the police are to arrest one or the other? This is an old discussion. Cynics will say that more blacks are charged with crimes because they get more scrutiny. This means they believe that whites and blacks commit crimes at the same rate. I’ve seen a lot of evidence to both support and refute this claim and I’m not the best person to judge the validity of either. What I do know is this:

    – If we project out roughly 300 blacks killed by the police in 2015, this is 0.0008% of the black population.
    – If we assume 50 police killed by guns in 2015 based on the 2014 numbers this is 0.0045% of that population.

    So police are dying at a 5 times higher rate for their population than blacks and yet people around this site are saying it’s one of the safest jobs out there, they should abandon their bullet-proof vests and that they are basically terrorizing society. Are we that bored that we arguing over fractions of a percentage? Pyre’s suggestion sounds really, really good to me, but in lieu of that I would just love for the cop-bashers on this site to pledge to not call the police for any reason over the next two years. It seems like a reasonable start.

    * http://www.killedbypolice.net/

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        • “By guns”

          If we’re going to include deaths where one cop was shot by another cop in pursuit of a criminal (who then gets charged with the murder of the first cop) as a “gun death” (and why wouldn’t we?), then we’re talking about a situation where we could improve the hypothetical outcomes for police by little more than having them shoot fewer people.

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          • I kinda want to make a comment here of “What if the cop that was shot was black? Does that count in both categories?”

            or

            “We could also improve the hypothetical outcome by just not having the police around for a week.”

            Which I guess that I just did so …. yay me?

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    • So police are dying at a 5 times higher rate for their population than blacks and yet …

      If cops shoot a few more black folks those numbers will equal out. Then being a cop will be just as dangerous as being black!

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    • Committing a crime and getting killed by police are not perfectly correlated. Just ask Tamir Rice, John Crawford, or Freddie Gray.

      Also, Google Scholar would do you some good.

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    • Re: cop-bashers not calling cops.

      So, I can’t use govt services and yet advocate for those services to be provided better? Do you feel this way about schools, or parks, or libraries or the water department or any local government service, or is it just cops who are to receive such anti-democratic protection?

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        • Then get your vision checked. The principle allegations around here about the thin blue line are:

          (a) violent cops are almost impossible to convict [blame the prosecutors],
          (b) cops across the US are systematically being directed to police minority communities in a far more aggressive manner than their white counterparts [blame the police chiefs and city councilmen],
          (c) many cops as recently shown in New York and Baltimore have a truly shocking sense of entitlement [blame the cops, but for their attitude, not corruption];
          (d) the culture of the thin blue line works to silence good cops from rooting out bad ones;
          (e) whenever atrocious behavior is caught on video, supporters [such as yourself] will pop up to minimize the cop’s conduct and demonize the affected community.

          [Your comment in the last thread to the effect of walling off a community and letting people inside police themselves was a classic of the genre.]

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    • o police are dying at a 5 times higher rate for their population than blacks and yet people around this site are saying it’s one of the safest jobs out there

      Where did this number come from? BTW — last time I checked the police deaths, the number one cause of death for an on-duty officer was ‘vehicle accident’.

      And nobody is saying “it’s one of the safest jobs out there” — people are saying there are more dangerous jobs (lumberjack, for instance). It’s weird that you make that claim. Nobody here has MADE that claim, yet you assert it straightforwardly. Are you arguing with us? Or someone else?

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      • The view he’s countering hasn’t been argued by any of the “cop bashers”, as far as I know. It strikes me as being of a piece, tho, with the view that if black folk really do engage in more crime than law-abiding white people, then it’s a freakin war out there, one in which the cops are exhibiting restraint because they haven’t killed as many black folk (per capita) or citizens generally as citizens have killed cops (per capita). Or something. I really don’t know, to be honest. Just guessing.

        That said, if the phrase “apples and oranges” has ever perfectly captured why a comparison is misguided, comparing cop-deaths “by gun” (that is, the deaths of those tasked by gummint to enforce the law and are compensated for their efforts) with black people’s death by cop is it.

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        • But the crime rate has been falling drastically since the mid-90s. The streets are considerably SAFER now. And it’s not “broken windows policing” or anything — it’s safer everywhere, regardless of what fad police did or didn’t follow.

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    • Concerning this:

      – If we project out roughly 300 blacks killed by the police in 2015, this is 0.0008% of the black population.
      – If we assume 50 police killed by guns in 2015 based on the 2014 numbers this is 0.0045% of that population.

      You’re claiming that this:

      police are dying at a 5 times higher rate for their population than blacks

      is an accurate summary of it? Wow.

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  11. this time around, while the psychopath cop is cutting a swath of carnage through the city, in order to update the story, there should be plenty of glib fatuous talking heads on cable television arguing that the public needs to give him leeway to do his job.

    “I disapprove of this maniac cop primarily because he’s going to get some good cops killed. People need to respect the uniform!”

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  12. The Guardian is keeping recording police shootings this year in the US, right now, they tally is 500; probably 501 now, since they’ve just announced the dude who opened fire on a police station is dead. That’s one I don’t have much problem with, truth be told.

    This year, there have been 54 deaths in the line of duty, 14 of which were by gunfire; and 15 were accidents (presuming auto).

    And I would wonder if that might be a spike over last year and the year before, since it seems a particularly nasty year for goodwill toward cops, and I can think of a couple of shootings that were retaliation for bad behavior. I would expect to see it increase, and expect to see cops expecting that, and react accordingly.

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  13. Here’s Balko, five myths about America’s police.

    1. The job of a police officer is increasingly dangerous. it hasn’t crime against cops has dropped just like all other crime;

    2. YouTube videos and cellphone footage prove that today’s cops are out of control. This one’s counterintuitive; cops used to be worse, and are better now because they actions are being documented;

    3. With more criminals wielding heavy-duty weapons, police must militarize to catch up. Small caliber weapons are used in most cop shootings; and shootings have declined despite increases in gun owhership;

    4. Aggressive, confrontational policing is the best way to control crime. The data is mixed on this, because the one area of crime that hasn’t dropped is drug crimes, and that’s where military swat stuff is mostly used; but Balko stresses the success of community policing (as opposed to patrol policing, my words there);

    5. Tasers and other “less lethal” weapons allow cops to use less force. Tasers were meant to help subdue people, Balko says they’ve become a compliance tool for people who don’t require subduing; for instance, in 2011 in NYC, 60% did not meet criteria recommend for use (American Civil Liberties Union, to source it fairly).

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    • I thought the taser thing was obvious. It’s a pain stick that leaves no marks and is sold as ‘safe’. Why not zap someone who isn’t moving fast enough or isn’t showing enough respect? From a cop’s perspective, what’s the downside?

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  14. I have an additional “modest proposal” although I’m actually serious:
    Immediately require anyone who discharges his/her gun to be transferred permanently to a position that does not require carrying a gun.
    I do not mean they would be fired, demoted, lose their pension, etc.
    I mean there’s a “one shot” policy.
    If most police offices never fire their weapons while fighting crime (http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/11/weekinreview/ideas-trends-don-t-shoot-the-culture-of-cops-and-guns.html) , this would be targeted to the small percentage that are more likely to use violence in their interactions with the public.

    We seem to be in a stalemate of “following procedures” is treated the same as if there is no way to change the behavior or responses of the police.

    Shooting a person, a living, breathing, unique human, should be treated as a traumatic, horrible event. The police officer who had to do that shouldn’t be forced to repeat that experience.
    And, frankly, if they didn’t find it a horrible experience, I don’t want them running around armed.

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  15. While there’s much to like about this proposal it seems to rest on a questionable assumption. To whit, that cops don’t understand the trauma and terror they’re inflicting. I don’t believe that for a second.

    I see three primary issues at play. First, there’s some small percentage that are just sadistic assholes. Second, there’s a much broader inculcation of paranoia via faulty training. And third, there’s the overt militarization that tends to reinforce the paranoia (hey, they must be giving us this gear for a reason, amirite?) and provides cultural signifiers that breeds an us vs them attitude, like soldiers occupying hostile territory.

    Finally, wrt to my last point, I have to wonder how many of these guys actually ARE veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan occupations and simply carry that baggage with them. We sent a whole lot of guys over there for multiple tours of what amounted to really shitty and dangerous police work. It would be surprising if that didn’t carry over into civilian life.

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