Monday, March 6, 2017

Serpico's Monday

Book-shop clerk:  "Perhaps you'd come back tomorrow, and -- "

[Interruption as a door at the back is opened, revealing disarray of items being moved around the room.  Jonesy sticks his head out, gets called back in, and closes the door again, after muttering, "Hurry up, will ya?"]

Book-shop clerk:  "Perhaps you could come back -- "

Marlowe:  "His name's Lundgren, isn't it?"

-- Just whadda - you want?

-- Who's the other guy?

-- You'd better come around tomorrow.

-- In the morning?  Early?
-- Yes.  Early.
-- 'Cause it looks like you're movin' today.

{The Big Sleep, 1946}

The American Conservative

"Seven Reasons Police Brutality Is Systemic, Not Anecdotal"

July 2, 2014

-------------------------------- [continued] -------------------------- 6.  Police are increasingly militarized.

During President Obama's gun control push, he argued that "weapons of war have no place on our streets"; but as Radley Balko has amply documented in his 2013 book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, local police are often equipped with weapons powerful enough to conquer a small country. 

Police use of highly armed SWAT teams has risen by 1,500 percent in the last two decades, and many police departments have cultivated an "us vs. them" mentality toward the public they ostensibly serve. 

Although possession of these weapons does not cause misconduct, as the old saying goes, when you have a hammer everything begins to look like a nail.

7.  Police themselves say misconduct is remarkably widespread.

Here's the real clincher.  A Department of Justice study revealed that a whopping 84 percent of police officers report that they've seen colleagues use excessive force on civilians, and 61 percent admit they don't always report "even serious criminal violations that involve abuse of authority by fellow officers."

This self-reporting moves us well beyond anecdote into the realm of data:  Police brutality is a pervasive problem, exacerbated by systemic failures to curb it. 

That's not to say that every officer is ill-intentioned or abusive, but it is to suggest that the common assumption that police are generally using their authority in a trustworthy manner merits serious reconsideration. 

As John Adams wrote to Jefferson, "Power always thinks it has a great soul," and it cannot be trusted if left unchecked.

--------------------------- The good news is that the first step toward preventing police brutality is well-documented and fairly simple:  Keep police constantly on camera. 

A 2012 study in Rialto, California found that when officers were required to wear cameras recording all their interactions with citizens, "public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months. 

Officers' use of force fell by 60%."  The simple knowledge that they were being watched dramatically altered police behavior.

Coupled with additional reforms, like making officers pay their own settlements and providing better training for dealing with pets, camera use could produce a significant decrease in police misconduct. 

It is not unrealistic to think that police brutality reports could be made far more unusual -- but only once we acknowledge that it's not just a few bad apples.

-------------------------- By Bonnie Kristian, a writer who lives in the Twin Cities.  She is a communications consultant for Young Americans for Liberty and a graduate student at Bethel Seminary. 

Reader Comments (The American Conservative)

John Lewis:
Why is there no mention of lack of training for the public on how they need to act when police are involved, or the proliferation of guns in our society or the violent nature of large segments of our society?  These are all elements that impact how police need to do their jobs today, which increasingly means stabilizing situations before they have a chance to escalate.

Matthew says:
Training the public beyond what is done already on how to act with police is tacitly admitting that the police are dangerous and unpredictable....

Besides, the problem with police brutality is not just that deadly criminals are being mistreated, but that innocents and nonviolent offenders are also getting abused and / or killed.  For all the reasons above, we as a society can no longer take for granted that the police are doing the right thing or are acting in good faith.

The police often escalate the situation by roughly handling citizens.  The little Asian woman was roughly grabbed for no reason.  That's an aggressive action.  Have you ever been forcefully grabbed by someone?  It prompts an angry reaction if you aren't used to having someone in your "personal space."

We should not need to be conditioned to be submissive sheep whenever a police officer enters the room in order to avoid provoking him.  It should be a part of their training to handle uncooperative, nonviolent civilians. 

It is their responsibility to de-escalate any unstable situations.  If it requires putting themselves in danger, that is okay.  They signed up for the job and should know that it can be dangerous. 

I would rather have injured police officers that asked for the danger than injured innocent civilians that just want to go about their day.

Police are people, too.  They should not get any more respect than an engineer, a doctor, or a teacher.

The author leaves out the obvious:  Police forces are monopolies.  Monopolies always deteriorate, charging more and providing less quality service.  Just like the state, the police claim a geographical monopoly on the legitimate use of force.  We need to privatize the police!

Re:  "6.  Police are increasingly militarized."
The problem transcends the military weapons cops now have access to.  Law enforcement now attracts self-entitled sociopaths.  Unfortunately, what happens between the ears of [an unbalanced] [policeman] with a weapon can't be fixed regardless of the weapon's heritage.   


painting by John Salminen


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