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February 18, 2013

In Which Amerikkka Devolves into a Rabid Police State

Thank God someone is finally doing something about it:

Debbie McBride has nothing but contempt for the ongoing litigation. McBride is a street-hardened building superintendent in the heart of the South Bronx zone targeted by the NYCLU. When asked about TAP, also known as the Clean Halls program, she doesn’t mince words. “I love it!” she roars. “I’m serious, I love it. Me being a woman, I feel safe. I can get up at 4 AM and start working.”

McBride represents a type that seemingly lies outside the conceptual universe of the advocates and their enablers in elite law firms and the media: the inner-city crusader for bourgeois order. In 1999, McBride moved from Brooklyn to her present residence in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx. Her own intersections with street life had left her a three-time victim of rape and blind in one eye from assault—a boyfriend had struck her for refusing to try heroin—but she still wasn’t prepared for the South Bronx. “I had had none of this before,” she says. “It was like New Jack City. People were selling crack openly in the lobby.” She asked fellow tenants how long the lobby’s drug trade had been going on. Thirty years, they answered. “Desperate,” she says, about her building’s lawlessness, McBride started attending community meetings at the NYPD’s 44th Precinct and secretly partnering with a local cop to get rid of the dealers. “I used to give him the nod,” she recalls. The officer made so many arrests in her building that he won a promotion to detective.

In 2004, a new owner took over McBride’s building and offered her the superintendent’s job. “I don’t know nothing about plumbing,” she warned him, but his instinct for character proved flawless. Today, she roams her building’s immaculate halls, searching for stray cigarette butts, with a bouquet of black trash bags tied to her belt. Her biggest concern, however, is not trash but trespassers, since many indoor crimes are committed by nonresidents. Accordingly, McBride has an inviolate rule: no one loiters inside or outside her building, not even tenants. “We’re not playing here,” she says. “People try to get in, saying: ‘I’m looking for so-and-so.’ But I throw everyone out, because I’m not going back” to the way things were.

...To get the sharpest sense of what trespass means in high-crime neighborhoods, however, one must talk to the elderly. Petite Mrs. Sweeper, with hoop earrings and close-cropped hair, is a tenant of McBride’s building. She has been confined to a wheelchair since losing a foot to cancer, but her greatest impediment to mobility comes from fear: she dreads strangers lingering in and around her building. “As soon as [people] see that there’s no po-lice around, they ask you to let them into the lobby or to hold the door for them,” she observes from her airy, light-filled apartment, decorated with a Prayer for Obama on the wall and a Ringling Brothers toy elephant in the credenza. “ ‘I’m waiting on someone,’ they say.” And then, if the trespassers gain access, all hell breaks loose: “You can smell their stuff in the hallway; they’re cussing and urinating. Then I don’t want to come in because I’m scared. I’m scared just to stick my key in the door.”

The solution to such threatening disorder, in Mrs. Sweeper’s view, is the police: “As long as you see the po-lice, everything’s A-OK. The building is safe; you can come down and get your mail and talk to decent people.” TAP officers climb the stairwells and check the roof and elevators in Mrs. Sweeper’s building two or three times a week, but she wants to see them much more frequently. Several summers ago, the 44th Precinct erected a watchtower on the block to deter the gunfire that broke out after dark. “It was the peacefulest summer ever,” she recalls. “I could sit outside at night. I wish we’d get our po-lice back. Puh-leez, Jesus, send them back!”

Obviously the problem here is not criminals. It's laws. And law enforcement.

I'm being facetious here, but citing isolated news stories of cases where human beings (and cops are human, with all the flaws and failings that implies) doth not a "police state" make. Were we to check the laws of the state where this incident occurred, I'm fairly certain that a bumper sticker would fall outside the realm of reasonable suspicion. So no, it's not "OK" to pull people over because you don't like their bumper sticker.

I'm not actually hostile to careful, evidence based arguments that excessive use of police authority has tipped the risk/benefit calculation unacceptably to the "too risky" side. It's nice if such arguments actually include the harms posed by criminal activity in the analysis, though that is probably too much to ask.

I think SWAT teams are usually unnecessary, for instance. But I also happen to believe that assuming that our current state of security would continue if we got rid of every law we don't agree with is naive at best and at worst, actively dangerous. Chesterton said it best:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

Have at it, knuckle draggers.

Posted by Cassandra at February 18, 2013 08:32 AM

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Comments

Well, don't make the mistake of pulling the weakest of Eric's ongoing series. This article is about one cop who pulled someone over based on their bumper sticker, only to discover it was really an Ohio State Buckeye and not a marijuana leaf. This isn't a big deal.

On the other hand, the regular stories about SWAT teams serving warrants, the LAPD opening fire on innocent parties during their recent manhunt without anything like a positive ID on the vehicles they were shooting, warrantless searches, trespass by police to mount GPS tracking devices on cars, the budget crisis associated with state-level prisons, mandatory minimum sentencing, police in league with unions engaged in violent and unlawful protests....

So yeah, by itself the bumper sticker story is easy to mock. As a big picture, there's a problem.

That is not to say that the police should be entirely eliminated everywhere. As Tex and I were discussing recently, this is one of the parts of society that exists to protect the weak, including the very young and very old. Most of society is like that. We endure some of the evils of concentrated power in order to protect those who would otherwise be less able to protect themselves.

That doesn't mean we don't have to keep a careful watch on those granted power. When we see a long chain of abuses, we need to take action. Eric is merely drawing attention to the kind of abuses that concern him, and I think that's not unwise.

Posted by: Grim at February 18, 2013 10:02 AM

I don't think the police are the problem. I think it's the militarization of the police that's the problem. When SWAT officers begin calling themselves 'operators', a term normally reserved for Tier 1 military units, then we can see a clear departure from 'Serve and Protect' over to 'Recon by Fire'.

Posted by: Dan Irving at February 18, 2013 10:32 AM

There's a difference between drawing attention to certain things and saying that they are evidence that we live in a police state. If you care about the argument (and I actually do), such tactics make it far too easy to dismiss the larger question.

As to what constitutes a "long chain of abuses", we've had this discussion before. People who want to ban guns can show a "long chain of abuses" (mass murders committed with guns) that suggest (to them) that guns are so dangerous that they should be banned :p The "risk", they say, is unacceptable. That these things happen at all is unacceptable. I happen to think that's a spectacularly crappy argument.

Gun proponents try to counter this by looking at the context: the number of guns owners who never shoot anyone, for instance. Or the number of people who use guns successfully to foil crimes or protect themselves. Seems to me that the same logic ought to apply to any discussion of police tactics and the benefit/harm thereunto appertaining.

Simply pointing to the abuses with no context isn't a great argument. You have to look at the complete picture (# of shootings, population density/size, their characteristics, stats on violent crimes - the whole enchilada). What I am objecting to is the hyperbole and lack of context.

And I'll continue to object to anecdotal arguments every time I see them, because (just like the anti-gun lobby's tactics) they're emotionally manipulative and don't encourage responsible discussion.

Posted by: Cass at February 18, 2013 10:40 AM

Dan:

Interestingly enough, when my son was going through police academy, he was interested in trying out for SWAT. He ended up deciding against it for a whole host of reasons too long to go into here. But I tend to agree with you.

I think some SWAT teams may make sense, but paramilitary police units ought to be the very last resort. Unfortunately they cost money and there are perverse incentives to use them (and therefore justify the cost).

Posted by: Cass at February 18, 2013 10:42 AM

The problem with statistics, in this case, is that the police compile the statistics by which they will be judged. We don't have an independent standard.

When I lived in Savannah, there was a similar community/police outreach project going on in a neighborhood with lots of drugs. On the one hand, the leader of the community was happy to work with the police. On the other hand, he was quite clear that the police were manipulating the statistics in order to make it appear that crime was substantially lower than it really was -- filing reports for "trespassing" rather than "burglary" when things were stolen, for example, because FBI crime statistics don't track trespassing.

Looking into that claim further, I met a former Savannah PD guy who had copies of all the graphs. Sure enough, there had been a decline in "burglary" in the city that exactly matched an upswing in "trespassing" charges.

I talked him into giving me the graphs, and sent them to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They reported seeing no reasons for concern, but told me that they'd be passing my name and address to Savannah PD in case they had any 'further information' for me.

So I'd love to have an honest context, but I don't imagine one is forthcoming. Another thing I did in my youth was work for the District Attorney's office as an intern. They referred to the sheriff's departments across the state as "the Dixie Mafia" because of systemic corruption, from bribes to facilitating auto theft. And of course you've heard Watt's stories about his son's unit.

You don't read a lot about police corruption in the newspaper, because it's a dangerous thing to investigate. The context is hard to come by. That doesn't change the fact that they are a necessarily evil, though, and I certainly don't advocate for the elimination of all police departments everywhere. Especially in bigger cities, there really is no alternative. We just need to do what we can to keep a leash on the guard dog (so to speak).

Posted by: Grim at February 18, 2013 11:23 AM

Another thing I did down in Savannah, by the way, involved bounty hunting. I had approval to come inside the jail to return people who had jumped bail. "Don't beat them up too bad," the police told me, "or we'll make you take them to the emergency room before we'll accept them."

Not "or we'll arrest you for assault." No questions would be asked -- just, you'd better get them taped up before you bring them in for booking.

Posted by: Grim at February 18, 2013 11:26 AM

But I suppose that's anecdotal, as are the stories I could tell you about my friend who was a farrier but also a sniper for the sheriff department's SWAT team. He was a great guy, really, but the idea that the statistics capture an honest assessment of the brutality employed by the police is... well, undermined by the anecdotes. :)

Still, it doesn't provide you with the context you want. It just suggests that we aren't going to get an honest context for this problem. Murder rates by firearms are relatively easy to chart by comparison, because there is an adversarial relationship between the people committing the murders and the ones compiling the statistics. Here, instead, there is a worse problem even than complicity -- there is an identity between the people causing the problem and collecting the stats on how big the problem might be.

Posted by: Grim at February 18, 2013 11:31 AM

I think police corruption is a problem, Grim. As is corruption in the courts, government, and even private industry.

And I have no problem with principled scrutiny because that's how you fight corruption and rule breaking.

FWIW, there is no national tracking of police-involved shootings because Congress hasn't authorized it. This is one of those interesting areas where conservatives would traditionally say that police corruption/violence is a local matter and the feds should keep their big noses out of it. "We don't need no stinkin' independent statistics", if you will... :p

This guy has taken a shot at collecting his own database of police shootings. He has some interesting insights:

In 2011, according to data I have collected, police officers in the United States shot 1,146 people, killing 607. Since January 1, 2011, I have been using the internet to compile a national database of police involved shootings. The term "police involved shooting" pertains to law enforcement officers who, in the line of duty, discharge their guns. When journalists and police administrators use the term, they include the shooting of animals and shots that miss their targets. My case files only include instances in which a person is either killed or wounded by police gunfire. My data also includes off-duty officers who discharged their weapons in law enforcement situations. They don't include, for example, officers using their firearms to resolve personal disputes.

... A vast majority of the people shot by the police in 2011 were men between the ages 25 and 40 who had histories of crime. Overall, people shot by the police were much older than the typical first-time arrestee. A significant number of the people wounded and killed by the authorities were over fifty, some in their eighties. In 2011, the police shot two 15-year-olds, and a girl who was 16.

The police shot, in 2011, about 50 women, most of whom were armed with knives and had histories of emotional distress. Overall, about a quarter of those shot were either mentally ill and/or suicidal. Many of these were "suicide-by-cop" cases.

Most police shooting victims were armed with handguns. The next most common weapon involved vehicles (used as weapons), followed by knives (and other sharp objects), shotguns, and rifles. Very few of these people carried assault weapons, and a small percentage were unarmed. About 50 subjects were armed with BB-guns, pellet guns or replica firearms.

The situations that brought police shooters and their targets together included domestic and other disturbances; crimes in progress such as robbery, assault and carjacking; the execution of arrest warrants; drug raids; gang activities; routine traffic stops; car chases; and standoff and hostage events.

Finally:

Almost all police involved shootings, while investigated by special units, prosecutor's offices, or an outside police agency, were investigated by governmental law enforcement personnel. It is perhaps not surprising that more than 95 percent of all police involved shootings were ruled administratively and legally justified. A handful of cases led to wrongful death lawsuits. Even fewer will result in the criminal prosecution of officers.

Posted by: Cass at February 18, 2013 11:50 AM

I'm very sympathetic to a building manager with zero tolerance for loiterers, in her situation. On the other hand, I wouldn't willingly live in a community so unable to control itself that they had to cede to either the police or a supervisor the decision whether they should be permitted to stand in public areas.

One way I avoid being stuck in such a dilemma is to avoid New York City, or indeed any city that doesn't allow citizens to arm themselves. Another is not to live in an apartment building crowded with people with Obama prayers on their walls. I wonder if she sees the irony?

Posted by: Texan99 at February 18, 2013 03:52 PM

Cass,

I am perfectly willing to accept and concede that the vast and overwhelming majority of police officers are hard working public servants with an awful job that most people wouldn't have the stomach to do. Absolutely. The problem seems to be that there are a number of jurisdictions where when cops go rogue, their transgressions are covered over by their departments. There literally is zero excuse for the two shootings in LA during the Dornier manhunt. The two women shot in their truck said they had no warning or indication that they were to stop, and indeed the man shot in his truck was just leaving the presence of two other cops who had checked him out when his vehicle was rammed and shot up. Again, no warning, no commands to stop. In neither case has the LAPD come out and said "they were told to stop and get out of the vehicles," they just claim that the officers thought the drivers were acting in what could be construed as a suspicious manner. Now if any CCW bearer did anything remotely like the LAPD, they'd be sitting in a cell right now. But I want you to watch those cases carefully. I will even place a bet, if you like, that there will be no one losing his job over either of those shootings. Some unpaid administrative leave, perhaps. But criminal charges? Not on your life.

Does a few bad apples justify calling this country a police state? No. I am actually with you there. But it is VERY troubling when we have so many police chiefs of major cities who clearly think the Constitution is a problem for them, rather than what they're supposed to be upholding.
Ex:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/02/18/chicago-top-cop-likens-gun-lobby-influence-to/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/2nd-amendment-repeal-norm-stamper_n_2325745.html
http://www.redstate.com/dloesch/2013/02/17/chicago-police-chief-second-amendment-is-a-danger-to-public-safety/

But, I am ALSO gratified to report that this attitude seems to be contradicted by many law enforcement officers around the country:
http://www.infowars.com/pennsylvania-police-chief-proposes-2nd-amendment-preservation-ordinance/
http://www.westernjournalism.com/over-350-sheriffs-will-support-our-2nd-amendment-rights/
http://www.northescambia.com/2013/02/florida-sheriffs-promist-to-protect-second-amendment-rights
http://www.fox16.com/news/local/story/Arkansas-Sheriffs-Association-Issues-Statement/X_nsSMaMMUqyoDTSrUbgnA.cspx

Sorry about all the links, I expect this to need to worth through the spam filter.

Posted by: MikeD at February 19, 2013 09:05 AM

"We don't need no stinkin' independent statistics", if you will... :p

Personally, I don't trust the Feds to be independent. I've seen tax money used to fund political hit job research too many times already.

As for Jim Fisher, I couldn't find a link to his database, nor a post on his collection procedures. For example, would it collect wrong-house raids? Or note that the shooting was from that cause?

Jose Guerena died from the militarization of the police. But it would likely be reduced to "Man between 25-40 armed with a assault weapon during a drug raid with a wrongful death suit but no criminal conviction." All that is true, but hardly the complete story.

Yes, you run the risk of the suspect flushing the drugs down the toilet if you knock politely and hand over the warrant, but I'd rather risk that than an innocent's life.

But that's really a statement of principle, and not really subject to statistics.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 19, 2013 11:03 AM

Personally, I don't trust the Feds to be independent. I've seen tax money used to fund political hit job research too many times already.

Certainly, but that's a criticism that applies equally to private research orgs.

As for Jim Fisher, I couldn't find a link to his database, nor a post on his collection procedures. For example, would it collect wrong-house raids? Or note that the shooting was from that cause?

Don't know, but then I'm not sure we need to know that unless we're interested in the narrower point. Presumably, the sample of all police shootings is going to be larger than the sample of wrong-house raids. So it makes sense to look at the "police state" claims in light of the most friendly interpretation (the one with the largest sample). If it fails using the largest possible sample, then the odds aren't good it will succeed when a smaller sample is cited.

Yes, you run the risk of the suspect flushing the drugs down the toilet if you knock politely and hand over the warrant, but I'd rather risk that than an innocent's life.

This is a valid point, but the the anti-gun lobby would rather risk you being shot by a criminal b/c you didn't have a gun and the police didn't get there on time to the risk of you going berserk with an Uzi.

...or some rape-obsessed woman opening fire because she has PMS :p

OK, you can smack me now....

*running away*

Posted by: Cass at February 19, 2013 11:20 AM

The problem seems to be that there are a number of jurisdictions where when cops go rogue, their transgressions are covered over by their departments. There literally is zero excuse for the two shootings in LA during the Dornier manhunt. The two women shot in their truck said they had no warning or indication that they were to stop, and indeed the man shot in his truck was just leaving the presence of two other cops who had checked him out when his vehicle was rammed and shot up. Again, no warning, no commands to stop. In neither case has the LAPD come out and said "they were told to stop and get out of the vehicles," they just claim that the officers thought the drivers were acting in what could be construed as a suspicious manner. Now if any CCW bearer did anything remotely like the LAPD, they'd be sitting in a cell right now. But I want you to watch those cases carefully. I will even place a bet, if you like, that there will be no one losing his job over either of those shootings. Some unpaid administrative leave, perhaps. But criminal charges? Not on your life.

I don't know, Mike.

On the one hand, I can tell you lots of stories (b/c my son is a cop) of officers reprimanded for idiotic things where there was no news story to document it.

I agree that coverups can be a problem, but I also know from 30 years of watching military investigations that people gossip and speculate and then the investigation turns up information that wasn't conveyed via the rumor mill. And I don't exactly trust the press to get this stuff right either.

In a way, though, this is precisely my point. Anecdotal arguments - especially when they rely on sensational cases where things go spectacularly wrong - provide no real context for informed judgments about the frequency or seriousness of a problem.

The availability heuristic distorts our perceptions:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_heuristic

It's worth noting here that Dorner was a former cop. The Left would argue that he's evidence that it's dangerous for cops to have guns. But once again, we won't look at how many cops never commit sensational crimes because that would be like looking at how many legal gun owners never shoot anyone.

Posted by: Cass at February 19, 2013 11:29 AM

but the the anti-gun lobby would rather risk you being shot by a criminal b/c you didn't have a gun and the police didn't get there on time to the risk of you going berserk with an Uzi.

Yes, they would. It's also why I don't like stats based arguments over the 2A: They are arguing principle as well. Of course, that principle is that the physically weak should live at the mercy of the physically strong. A rather illiberal and regressive principle, but then that shoe fits most of the Dems these days.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 19, 2013 11:42 AM

On the one hand, I can tell you lots of stories (b/c my son is a cop) of officers reprimanded for idiotic things where there was no news story to document it.

I believe it. In fact, I know most HR departments will steadfastly refuse to divulge punishments meted out to employees for various infractions, mostly to avoid likely lawsuits. But the problem with that is that as far as the public can see, nothing happened. Especially when there's no firing or charges placed. My point still stands in this case, however. You or I would be arrested ON THE SPOT if we opened fire on a vehicle because "the driver was acting in a manner that could be construed as suspicious", and where every witness claimed that no warnings were given. And the cops are "in accordance with department policy" on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing. I get in some hot water with a lot of fellow travelers for this, but there is not a separate class of laws for soldiers and cops. We (and they) are not special classes of citizens deserving of more consideration than other citizens. If you'd arrest any other citizen for a given behavior, then a cop (or soldier) should be arrested for the same violation.

It's worth noting here that Dorner was a former cop. The Left would argue that he's evidence that it's dangerous for cops to have guns.
Ironically, it's the exact opposite. The claim is that we can trust soldiers and cops with dangerous weapons (like those scary black assault rifles with the grenade launching bayonet mount and pistol grip) that everyone else is too undisciplined to use. And yet, I cannot for the life of me construct a logical mindset where you have people (such as those on the left) so extremely distrustful of the police and military (see 2000-2008), and yet so absolutely willing to give them a monopoly on the use of lethal weapons. I had one friend turn this around on me, "If you DO trust them so much, why do you think you need guns?" My answer is that I CAN trust them, because having guns makes them (or the government) wary of me. The very fact that the people retain the right to exist allows me the space to trust the government (and the military, and law enforcement) further than I would ever be able to without it.

What's really funny is to confront the "special training" folks with the idea that, "well... since I had that same special training, shouldn't I be allowed to have the same weapons I used in the Army?" For some reason, they'd rather trust the 19 year old me than the 40 year old me. Which makes absolutely NO sense that I can come up with.

Posted by: MikeD at February 19, 2013 04:46 PM

I get in some hot water with a lot of fellow travelers for this, but there is not a separate class of laws for soldiers and cops. We (and they) are not special classes of citizens deserving of more consideration than other citizens. If you'd arrest any other citizen for a given behavior, then a cop (or soldier) should be arrested for the same violation.

I'm not so sure of that, Mike. For instance, the Maryland code (where I live) specifically excepts LEOs from the general rule that applies to citizens wrt to possession/discharge of firearms.

This is from the criminal code, I think. Now the officer may still be liable in tort to the victim, unless of course the state legislature has sovereign immunity laws in place. I happen to think those laws are a good idea in most cases.

We had an interesting conversation with a fellow Marine (now an attorney) who works for a large city in soCal. He told us that a new lawsuit against the city is filed at least once every single day.

That's simply stunning. Anyway, here's the Md law:


9-1-601. Possession or discharge of firearms.

(a) In this section, "firearm" includes a rifle, handgun, or shotgun as those terms are defined Criminal Law Article, ¤ 4-201 of the State Code.

(b) This section does not apply to a police officer acting in the line of duty. ...

(e) A person may not possess or discharge a firearm on the property of another unless, at the time of the possession or discharge of the firearm, the person has the express written permission of the owner, occupant, or lessee of the property on which the firearm is possessed or discharged. The written permission shall be signed by the owner, occupant, or lessee; shall include the dates on which the possession or discharge is authorized, and shall specify the parcel or property for which permission is granted. The written permission shall identify the persons for whom permission is granted, and the permission may not be transferred to another person or inferred or implied to include companions of authorized persons. When properly executed, a writing substantially in the following form is sufficient to constitute the written permission required by this subsection: "I, ________ (owner, occupant, or lessee) hereby authorize ________________ to possess or discharge any weapon or firearm on my property known as ______ and such permission is granted for the following time(s): ___. ______________________ (owner, occupant, or lessee)"

******************

If I recall correctly, my son (a cop in Arlington Cty VA who lived in Md) fell under the laws pertaining to Y'All Little People because he wasn't a MD cop. But I could very well be wrong on that one - he moved out of state a long time ago!

Posted by: Cassandra at February 19, 2013 05:31 PM

I don't think Mike was arguing the fact that the law treats cops as different. Rather, he is complaining about it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 19, 2013 06:05 PM

Oops! Thanks for the heads up. If I misunderstood, please overlook it.

Looooooooooooooooooooooong day at work.

FWIW, I doubt any police department could function if cops weren't treated differently under the law. They'd be sued out of existence and individual cops would be sued by every dirtbag out there.

When my husband went to the field in the mid-1990s, his command was informed that battalion commanders were now - due to a change in the law - personally liable if an environmental lawsuit was filed against the Marine Corps alleging any infraction against endangered tortoises or Mother Gaia.

Cities and police departments and governmental entities have deep pockets that draw lawsuits. It's a real problem, because even if the suit is completely frivolous, it must be defended - often at considerable expense.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 19, 2013 06:28 PM

FWIW, I doubt any police department could function if cops weren't treated differently under the law. They'd be sued out of existence and individual cops would be sued by every dirtbag out there.

That's a problem with the law, not the concept of "equal protection under the law". If it is possible for a criminal engaged in mischief to sue someone for stopping them, then the law is an ass (as the saying goes). It should not matter if I arrest him, you arrest him, or a police officer arrests him. The difference is, we pay a police officer to do this as his job. What was once a profession has become a different class of citizen over time. I think this is in clear violation of the whole concept of "equal protection under the law." We are not supposed to support the idea of castes in this nation. No one is supposed to be immune to the laws by virtue of their birth OR profession. And yet, we have done so.

I'm not a utopian, however, to stand athwart reality and say "this is how it should be, the facts be damned." I know and understand WHY those decisions were made, I just think we surrendered our soul, as a nation, when we took each of those steps. But it IS the facts on the ground right now, and I know it will not change. But I cannot help but think that it would have been better if we had written our laws to protect anyone (regardless of what they are paid to do) from unjust lawsuits designed to punish them for stopping a crime in progress or bringing a criminal to justice.

Let me provide a different example of what I'm on about for greater clarity. Reporters. There's talk of giving reporters shield laws to allow them to keep sources secret. But, I ask you... what makes someone a reporter. The standard answer is "press credentials". But all "press credentials" actually are is a little note from their employer saying "I pay Joe Schmuckatelli to be a reporter for my 'news organization'." I will be willing to bet, there will be no exception carved to protect you, Dear Hostess, or any other blogger from having to reveal sources if the law comes a-knockin'. And why? Because you're not a "real reporter". Which is BUNK! Freedom of the Press is not a freedom for people engaged in a certain occupation. It's freedom for EVERY US Citizen who wishes to distribute ideas. You don't need to OWN a press to have freedom to speak your mind. You don't even need a actual press (which is what it's referring to in the First Amendment), but we've somehow morphed the word "Press" to mean "anyone in the news business". But THEY are not the press. They are merely users of the press (and media organs that replicate that functionality). Under the intent of the First Amendment, you would have all the same rights and protections that Wolf Blitzer would have (to pull a name out of a hat), but were these shield laws to come to pass, he would have protections you and I will not, based upon the job he is paid to do, and all in the name of upholding the First Amendment. This is NOT equal protection under the law, it's wrong, and it is a defacto caste system where one's paid profession determines what laws apply to you rather than who your parents were.

Posted by: MikeD at February 20, 2013 09:28 AM

If it is possible for a criminal engaged in mischief to sue someone for stopping them, then the law is an ass (as the saying goes). It should not matter if I arrest him, you arrest him, or a police officer arrests him.

I really, really disagree with this, Mike.

We have to live in the real world, whereas policy debates typically don't consider all the depressing realities, proponents on both sides vastly preferring to entertain only the very best case scenario when pressing their own policy preferences and only the very worst case when opposing those of the opposition.

That's biased thinking. The truth is that most rules and laws aren't prompted by the 98% of us who manage to go through life not making waves. They spring into being because of the 2% who are unreasonable. I don't want you to be able to use force to "arrest" me if you - in your untrained glory - suspect me of committing a crime (or intending to).

The average citizen is utterly ignorant of the laws of the state he or she lives in. In the face of such overwhelming ignorance, the very determination of whether a law is being broken or a crime committed is suspect on its face.

Now you may say, "Gosh - if I arrest you wrongly, you can always sue me". That places an enormous financial burden on me that I'm not willing to assume. I trust the average (ignorant and untrained) citizen far less than I trust the average cop... and I don't trust the average cop all that far.

FWIW, I oppose shield laws and always have.

There are already legal mechanisms to hold cops who break the law (or are grossly negligent) to account. But in our overly litigious society, I think we need to live with the reality of the juicy target entities with deep pockets make. We can't just ignore it away. The danger of being sued is greater if you're a cop than a private citizen because you're not simply suing the individual - you're suing his employer.

And the taxpayer pays the costs of defending lawsuits where the master is sued for the actions of his or her agent.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 09:52 AM

Now you may say, "Gosh - if I arrest you wrongly, you can always sue me".

They could also have you thrown in jail, too. It would be almost certainly be False Imprisonment, and likely Assault and/or Battery.

Don't know if that would change the argument any, but there it is.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 20, 2013 11:01 AM

Mike is right, at least in Georgia. All citizens have the same power as police to arrest, except that citizens have to turn you over to the police or bring you before a magistrate within 24 hours.

Which, actually, is a really long time when you stop to think about it -- most of the time you'd expect it to be done within one hour.

But that points to just why the law is the way it is. In a natural disaster, for example, upholding the common peace and lawful order may well fall to local citizens whose authority is derived from their citizenship. They may be the only ones capable of dealing with looters, say: and therefore they must be empowered to do so lawfully.

And why not? Citizenship is an office, denoting membership in a political community and entailing both rights and duties. This particular right is still subject to checks and balances -- arguably far greater ones than the police, since they must convince a court and not an 'internal review board' that they have not broken the law through false arrest. It's a necessary, ordinary power that citizens have always had.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 03:55 PM

Sounds like bad law to me. The law could be written, "In times of natural disaster or whatever...". But a blanket permission to detain me by force for up to 24 hours before I have to be brought before a magistrate (like THAT's going to be possible in a time of natural disaster...).

Christ, Grim. No wonder you go armed. So would I, in such a state.

This particular right is still subject to checks and balances -- arguably far greater ones than the police, since they must convince a court and not an 'internal review board' that they have not broken the law through false arrest. It's a necessary, ordinary power that citizens have always had.

You seem to be forgetting about a little thing called an arraignment hearing:

Arrest Process
You can be arrested in Georgia on the basis of a warrant issued for probable cause or if the arresting officer sees you commit a crime. After your arrest, the officer must advise you of your right to remain silent and let you know that if you don't remain silent, whatever you say can be used against you in court. The officer must also tell you that you have the right to have a lawyer present during questioning. If the charge against you involves potential jail time, the court will appoint a lawyer for you if you can't afford one. Your income must fall below certain thresholds so you can qualify for a public defender. At a detention facility or jail, you'll be photographed and fingerprinted. All items in your possession will be taken and inventoried. You can call a lawyer or bond agent.

Bail and Release
At your initial court appearance, the judge will set a bond, release you on your own recognizance, or refuse to set bail. It depends on the severity of the offense you're charged with. The judge will also consider your ties to the community and your criminal history. You may be allowed to post a cash surety bond which represents 10 percent of the required bond, or you can use a bail bondsman.

Arraignment and Pleas
Your arraignment is typically held 48 hours after your arrest, or 72 hours if you were arrested on the basis of a warrant. The judge will ask you to enter a plea. If you plead guilty, you're admitting to the facts of the crime and that you committed the offense. If you plead not guilty, you're telling the court that you didn't commit the crime. The judge will set a pre-trial or trial date. If you plead no contest, you're not admitting to the charges but you're not disputing them either. A no contest plea is the same as a guilty plea, except it can't be used against you in a civil proceeding. You can also stand mute if you choose. The court will enter a plea of not guilty for you if you say nothing. In this case, you can attack any prior proceedings that you feel were irregular because you haven't admitted to any previous criminal charges.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:08 PM

One more thing. Again, we seem to be considering only the best case scenario (guilty criminal, noble citizen who knows the law and observes it). No consideration of malicious actors arresting someone for spite.

It's bad enough to be falsely accused of something, but at least when that happens, the people who come to arrest you aren't the very ones who are falsely accusing you with full knowledge that you're innocent!

In order to become a police officer in the first place, my son had to pass lie detector tests, pass a background test, take psychological tests, attend schooling and training in firearms, criminal law, and a whole lot of other topics including how to treat the public and the rights of civilians.

There is no way the average citizen goes through 1/10th of this. But you totally trust Joe SixPack to "arrest" people at gunpoint? Because no one would *ever* misuse such a power!

Remind me NOT ever to move to Georgia. That scares the crap out of me.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:17 PM

Oh, and despite the sneering about "internal review boards", a mere whiff of an accusation triggers a full investigation if the accused is a police officer.

I was against cameras in patrol vehicles until my son was falsely accused. The tape clearly showed his accuser was lying, but he still had to go through the investigation.

Where's the tape going to be with your citizens arrest? Where are the protections for the accused during the arrest? I'm not seeing any.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:19 PM

I'm not forgetting the arraignment, it's just not part of the citizen's powers. The citizen merely conducts the arrest and then turns the arrested person over to authorities -- presumably as soon as they arrive, which in a city won't be much more than an hour.

The University of Georgia newspaper had an article about it just a little while back, actually. It really hasn't caused any issues I can remember having ever read about here.

And really, what would you do if you saw someone committing a rape or a robbery? If you can't arrest them -- which, by law, includes stopping them from leaving until the police arrive -- once you convince them to stop raping or robbing, you'd just have to let them leave the scene. You might be able to give a great description to the police when they did arrive, but by that time they'd have a head start somewhere between several minutes to an hour or more (depending on whether it was in the city, or out here where we haven't any police to speak of).

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 04:26 PM

...despite the sneering about "internal review boards"...

I was thinking of your figure, from above, of a more-than 95% rate of clearing the police in shootings. It's nice that they do it a lot -- maybe the frequency somewhat mitigates the fact that police are almost always cleared by these internal processes.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 04:31 PM

I'm not forgetting the arraignment, it's just not part of the citizen's powers. The citizen merely conducts the arrest and then turns the arrested person over to authorities -- presumably as soon as they arrive, which in a city won't be much more than an hour.

"Presumably" is not what the law says. The law says 24 hours.

I can see such a concept used as a defense to an assault or battery suit but not as a general precept. Laws that that encourage nut jobs like this:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57398739-504083/militia-group-to-attempt-citizens-arrest-in-fla-shooting-of-trayvon-martin/

and this...

http://www.wbir.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=120662&catid=2

You can't only consider the best case scenario, Grim. You also have to consider the effect of idiots who think they have the right to arrest people when they don't.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:36 PM

The point of the arraignment is that it's a check on the POLICE. You said here that there were more checks on citizens arrests, but that's not actually true:

This particular right is still subject to checks and balances -- arguably far greater ones than the police, since they must convince a court and not an 'internal review board' that they have not broken the law through false arrest.

This is only if they are charged. Citizens don't bring criminal charges - the DA does. So if it's a he said/she said situation, you're still falsely arrested and the DA may not take the case. In which case the cost is on you.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:40 PM

I don't get the logic here.

Private citizens don't have to read anyone their rights. They can hold you for up to 24 hours before turning you over to police or the court. If it's night time, they can just plain shoot you, but there's no training to minimize unnecessary force or even lethal force from being used.

There's no camera filming your arrest.

But somehow, mysteriously, you have MORE rights as an arrestee than if you were arrested by the police? I'm not convinced.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:42 PM

I was thinking of your figure, from above, of a more-than 95% rate of clearing the police in shootings. It's nice that they do it a lot -- maybe the frequency somewhat mitigates the fact that police are almost always cleared by these internal processes.

On what evidentiary basis are we assuming that > 5% of police shootings are unjustified? Most police don't ever shoot anyone in their entire career.

Why do you assume the best of citizens, who are a mixed bag at best, and assume the worst of cops?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 04:44 PM

I've gone back to check my 20-year-old memory on the text of the law, in case it should have changed. It's actually up to 48 hours now, but there is (and maybe always was) a provision that there should be "no unreasonable delay" in turning the arrested party over.

A private person who makes an arrest pursuant to Code Section 17-4-60 shall, without any unnecessary delay, take the person arrested before a judicial officer, as provided in Code Section 17-4-62, or deliver the person and all effects removed from him to a peace officer of this state.... In every case of an arrest without a warrant, the person arresting shall, without delay, convey the offender before the most convenient judicial officer authorized to receive an affidavit and issue a warrant as provided for in Code Section 17-4-40. No such imprisonment shall be legal beyond a reasonable time allowed for this purpose; and any person who is not brought before such judicial officer within 48 hours of arrest shall be released.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 04:45 PM

Why do you assume the best of citizens, who are a mixed bag at best, and assume the worst of cops?

Didn't you just estimate that 98% of citizens don't make waves for anyone else? That's a substantial assumption of decency, which seems reasonable to me.

In any case, it's a truism of human nature that power corrupts. I don't mean that as an assertion that the police are corrupt because they have power! But I do mean that extra controls on people entrusted with power, vice those with only the ordinary rights of citizens, are sensible. If anything, strong oversight helps avoid the vulnerable among the police falling to temptation.

The same is true in the military. Discipline is the soul of the army, as Washington said.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 05:03 PM

No one's arguing that extra controls *aren't* required, though. And they exist, and in most cases are enforced if for no other reason than that most cities really do not want to be sued.

Hell, when he was up here, my son's department was forbidden to chase fleeing suspects! Cops are filmed all day while they work. I would not want to work under those conditions. They have to take sensitivity training just like the military.

Mike conceded earlier that most internal investigations and discipline never make the news. Yet you have suggested (on no real evidence I can see) that there are *more* checks on civil arrests than on police. I just don't get it. As to my 98%, that was an off the top of the head figure. There's no validity to it and it never occurred to me that anyone would think I was citing some sort of official statistic.

But let's say it's valid for a second. Police are screened, trained, and held to a higher standard than citizens. They are monitored with cameras while they work! But we're supposed to assume that a 95% clear rate on police shooting suggests corruption and we're not doing enough oversight?

What do you even base that on? A gut feeling?

It's those gut feelings I'm trying to challenge. I get it - you read a shocking story and it feels awful. But what are the facts? How often does this sort of thing even happen?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 05:17 PM

...that there are *more* checks on civil arrests than on police.

Well, just to be clear, I said the checks were arguably far greater, not that they were more numerous. This is because they are subject to criminal charges if they do it wrong, without the intervening review board, but straight to the District Attorney.

Also, if such a matter does go to trial, police receive great deference from juries compared to ordinary citizens. Likewise, numerous studies over the years have shown that police who actually are convicted of crimes receive lighter punishments than ordinary citizens charged with the same crimes.

Now, all of that suggests to me that it is arguable that there's a greater check on citizens arresting people wrongly. Maybe you don't buy the argument, but the force of the claim was simply that it wasn't an unchecked power: it was a power subject to checks that were at least arguably greater.

But we're supposed to assume that a 95% clear rate on police shooting suggests corruption and we're not doing enough oversight? What do you even base that on? A gut feeling?

Well, I've already run through a number of my experiences with the police. I've never had any trouble with the law myself, not more than a traffic ticket, but I've known cops all my life. I knew them growing up because they worked closely with the volunteer fire department. I knew them as an intern at the DA's office. I dealt with them in my first job, working with a private detective agency, and again in Savannah, and I've known them socially on many occasions.

So it's not just the one time that my eye doctor was shot and killed, while not resisting, by a SWAT team sent to arrest him on a nonviolent warrant, when he was well known to the undercover officer to be a mild man who didn't even own a gun. It's a generalized sense that comes from hundreds of interactions over the years.

Maybe I've just been unlucky in the ones I've come to know, but if I were to put the corruption percentage in a rough figure, I'd put it at well over 50%. More, if you count little things, but I don't mean to quibble about things like speeding or illegal parking when you have a FOP tag on your private vehicle, but know you won't get a ticket in that jurisdiction. I mean things like use of excessive force, taking bribes, trading in stolen auto parts and other equipment, molesting boys who came under your care during police-supervised juvenile rehabilitation, being involved in helping the drug trade slide along under the radar, falsifying reports, lying under oath in court because you don't even really remember what happened six months ago when you wrote the ticket, but you can't admit it to the judge or all your tickets will get tossed out.

Some of that stuff is big, and some of it is small, but I've personally known police officers guilty of all of it at one time or another. And they don't go to jail. They don't go to trial.

That's the world I've known. That doesn't mean I want to disband the police, not in places where they do nevertheless manage to do some real good in protecting the weak and vulnerable. But it does mean that, over the years, I've come to think of them as a class that is more susceptible to the corruptions of power than we would like to believe.

And of course I admire those who manage to avoid the temptation, and stand strong in their morals in spite of these temptations. It's good that there are men like that in uniform. I've just known a fair number who weren't. And again, I've never had a minute's trouble with the law beyond a very small number of traffic tickets -- never been arrested, never suffered personally at their hands. In fact I've generally gotten along well with the cops I've known. It's just that a surprising number of them have been corrupt.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 06:00 PM

And I guess, in answer to your question about internal review boards, one reason I don't trust them is that they tend to be what resolves these issues if they come up.

Now, the guy who molested the boys, he did get asked to leave the force. So there were some consequences... just no charges.

You know, the Catholic Church is an institution I have the greatest respect for, but they've been badly damaged by a similar scandal. These special, internal processes somehow just don't work all that well. The Church has finally learned, I think, that they need to turn cases of things like molestation over for formal prosecution. I think the police probably need that same lesson: instead of handling it internally, it should be investigated by an adversarial agency.

That's my general sense. And I point it at the Church, which is among the institutions I respect the most, as readily as I do the police. If you don't do this, you run some real risks that it will be just too hard to really push "one of our own," whether he's a priest, or a policeman.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 06:22 PM

Over 50%?

That explains the strong impression I have gotten from your comments - that you think police are worse than the general population.

I can't help wondering, though, what mechanism you're using to come up with that 50%. Seems awful high to me - so high that I doubt it on its face without having done a single lick of research.

That's not a rebuttal, by the way. Just an honest reaction, and whole lot of skepticism. I have known a fair number of police too.

And I've had unpleasant encounters with one or two. I think rural areas are worse supervised. Here in Fredneck, 2 of 3 encounters I've had with the police have been unpleasant, but I would never think such a small sample is in any way representative of an entire population that is far larger than that (and the vast majority of whom I have never encountered at all, which if more than 50% of them were corrupt, seems rather unlikely to me).

I don't really know what to say, except it seems to me that you are biased against police going in. Any time someone tells me they thing more than 50% of any group is corrupt, that sets off huge alarm bells.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 06:25 PM

Question. Can an officer arrest someone a week after the crime without a warrant? I ask because most citizen's arrests after the fact do require a warrant. Non warrant citizen's arrest may only be done if the citizen is a direct witness and must be done right then and there.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 20, 2013 06:25 PM

Georgia police officers may make an arrest without a court-backed warrant if an offender is attempting to escape from a police officer or if a crime is committed in the presence of law enforcement. Georgia police officers may also arrest an individual if police have reason to believe that family violence has been committed or the individual is about to commit a felony. If Georgia law enforcement officers believe a warrant has been issued, but one has not been issued, they may make an arrest.

I think it would be best for me to bow out of this discussion. Please feel free to continue without me.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 06:55 PM

Maybe I ought to do so as well. I have intended no offense, but only to give you an honest and direct answer to the question you put to me. I know it's a sensitive area for you, but I respect you too much not to tell you the truth as I see it. I would not be sorry to be wrong about what I believe to be true.

Posted by: Grim at February 20, 2013 07:11 PM

My personal feelings are irrelevant, but I can't deny that it pains me to hear the police have so little respect.

It would take overwhelming evidence for me to consider an entire class of people more likely than not to be corrupt. I wouldn't even say that of politicians, and I have no great love for that profession.

As with so many things, I'm not going to change anyone's mind and it's best for me just to withdraw. It's fine for you to say what you think, and in this case it confirmed my intuition. But I don't trust myself to continue.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 20, 2013 07:19 PM

but I can't deny that it pains me to hear the police have so little respect.

This used to not be true. But then, the popular perception of the police used to be Sheriff Griffith, not Operator Tacticool. I think the militarization of the police have gone a long way towards causing that erosion of trust.

No one wants to have to decide, at 3am, whether the black clad people who just broke down their door and yelling "Police" are lying to them or not. It scares them that this is even a question. I know it scares the hell out of me even though all my dealings with police have been exceedingly professional.

Its a tv show quote, but I like it:

There is a reason you separate the military and the police. The job of the military is to destroy the enemies of the State. The job of the police is to protect and serve the people. When the military become the police, the enemies of the state tend to become the people.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 21, 2013 09:12 AM

I'm both sorry, and not sorry to have missed this part of the conversation. And I certainly don't intend to drag anyone into a conversation they don't want to have. But I do feel the need to say I don't have the experiences everyone else seems to with police. I've been pulled over, sure... but universally those officers were polite (but firm, of course) and professional. And I never got the impression that police were any more or less corrupt than the rest of us. The difference is a matter of access and power. I don't think soldiers are any more or less virtuous than anyone else either. I respect the hell out of people who choose to take up public service and recognize the sacrifice of doing so. I did it. But by the same token, I knew thieves in the Army, I knew racists, I knew petty tyrants, and abusive people. But here's the key, they were no better or worse than anyone else, except in so far as they had official power over others, thus greater access to commit abuses.

My point is simply that regardless of profession, nothing makes anyone a better person except their own character. And to me, we founded a government on the concept that all men (and women) are equal before the law. Carving out protections for special circumstances because their job in public service requires those protections are a necessary evil. I would give the Soldier's and Sailor's Act as an example that gives deployed troops considerations that a civilian does not get, for the simple reason that the soldier or sailor does not get any say in when they get deployed. This is technically not "equal protection", but it is necessary. Likewise, I think police need some special protections because of their responsibilities. But my point was only that those protections should never be an absolute shield. And I fear when we see incidents like the shooting of the two ladies and one man during the Dornier manhunt, that we will never see any disciplinary actions on what (for anyone else) be considered a crime. And even if disciplinary action DOES take place, but they don't specify what it is (for all the usual reasons I mentioned previously) then the perception remains that nothing was done. And that can be just as poisonous.

I started my involvement in this conversation by specifically mentioning that being a police officer is a tough job that most of us wouldn't even consider doing. I don't hold the profession in any form of contempt, in fact I have great regard for them. But I do also temper that with suspicion based upon the fact that they hold such great power and responsibility. Is that wrong? Should I just trust that fallible humans will rise above their nature because they perform an important, tough, and dangerous job for the public good?

Posted by: MikeD at February 21, 2013 09:14 AM

Mike, first - thanks for the clarification. What you're saying here aligns very closely with my own take (police are no more/less corrupt than other professions but that police corruption has the potential to cause more damage b/c of the nature of their work).

My point wrt to comparing civilians and police is that police are screened, trained, and subject to more oversight than civilians.

That oversight is not perfect, and to answer your final question, I don't think you should just trust the police. But what is not being considered here is all the procedures that are already in place for that very reason - cameras in patrol cars, for instance. Name me another profession in which people are filmed during their entire work day?

And, as with the military, the mere allegation of wrongdoing causes an officer to be suspended from duty and there *has* to be an investigation. Now it is absolutely true that human frailty/weakness/corruption can take the fangs from even a rigorous system designed to combat those very qualities.

That's not surprising - the vast majority of security breaches are not caused by a lack of procedures or security measures, but by people who don't follow already existing rules.

When some spectacular abuse takes place, everyone starts calling for more rules, more oversight, more everything. Even conservatives do this. The unspoken (and even sometimes explicit) rationale being, "WE MUST STOP THIS FROM EVER HAPPENING AGAIN".

How realistic is that, if the real problem wasn't a lack of rules, but rather the human problem that people don't always follow the rules (and the implied corollary that we can't prevent people from being people).

I disagree with you all on the likely outcome of the Dorner shootings. I will be deeply shocked if those officers aren't sacked. But it will take time, because investigations take time.

As to their being prosecuted, I would have to look at the laws in California to even know what law they could be prosecuted under. I'm guessing it would be some variance on Manslaughter by gross negligence.

I'm not against such a prosecution if the facts warrant it, if that helps.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2013 11:28 AM

This used to not be true. But then, the popular perception of the police used to be Sheriff Griffith, not Operator Tacticool. I think the militarization of the police have gone a long way towards causing that erosion of trust.

Given that the vast majority of cops never shoot anyone during their entire careers, and that SWAT-type raids comprise a tiny fraction of all police interactions, I don't really think that's a valid basis for distrusting all police.

Cause for concern? Sure. But the police are being tarred with a very broad brush and I'm sorry, but I don't think that's reasonable. Of course that's only my personal opinion, but I see so many parallels with the military, and frankly the bulk of this argument is no different from what I hear from the Left about the scary dangers of having a standing military full of people with big guns.

Or simply a civilian populace who own lots of guns.

I would be 100% on board with a discussion about the advisability of abolishing no knock raids, for instance. But even here, the evidence has to matter. You can't have an informed discussion in the absence of context, perspective, and data. You have to weigh both the harm these tactics are meant to prevent and the actual harm they are causing.

The point of this post was that infringements on freedom come from multiple sources. Government is one, but the whole reason we HAVE government is because our fellow citizens also have the power to infringe upon our freedom.

There's a balance here. What I'm objecting to is the one-sidedness of only seeing half the threat. I'm sorry but I don't trust many of my fellow citizens as far as I can throw them. Some are out-and-out criminals and thugs, and many behave themselves only because they know there are laws and consequences for not doing so.

I often think that we're so secure in our daily lives that we've lost all appreciation for just how vicious ordinary people can be when the rule of law is weak.

Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2013 11:40 AM

I would be 100% on board with a discussion about the advisability of abolishing no knock raids,

I wouldn't. That might surprise you, but I don't.

What I think is that they should be reserved to cases where there is an imminent threat of violence. If the police want to raid a hostage situation because they have a reasonable belief that someone is about to get shot, that's perfectly appropriate. Go save lives, please.

My problem is conducting no-knock raids over things like student loan fraud and evidence retention. In these cases the police are creating a volatile and violent situation where none existed before. The police should de-escalate a situation if at all possible (recognizing that sometimes it's not).

The problem isn't that the police have a hammer, it's that they use it when the problem is a hole. And that this use is approved by their department heads and judges. To me that doesn't sound like bad apples not following the rules. They are working within the system and following the rules.

It's not the individual officer that is the problem.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 21, 2013 03:03 PM

And because it's not the individual officer that is the problem, that the fact that the vast majority of officers never use their weapon their entire careers doesn't really change things for me.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 21, 2013 03:17 PM

And as a complete aside, another job where you are on camera all day would be bank branch workers, convenience store clerks, and a good deal of retail stores are covered in cameras. They are not unknown in many school hallways. And they've already started making their way into classrooms. I never looked for cameras when I worked in a warehouse, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if they were there, too.

For good or ill, they are darn near ubiquitous these days.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 21, 2013 03:59 PM

Enjoy this relevant video. It's great to have a laugh with your friends when they get good news, like that all the charges against them were dropped without trial because their brother officer who cited them 'couldn't attend court that day.'

But it's not like anyone was killed in this case... well, that one grandmother. Even the judge thinks it's funny.

Posted by: Miller Time at February 21, 2013 04:09 PM

And what's the point, Miller Time?

This could be corruption, or it could be that there are facts not presented in the YouTube video. If the charges were dropped, they can be refiled and that doesn't preclude a civil suit.

If halfway decent evidence exists, a civil suit would almost certainly prevail (which means that there's probably a lawyer out there who would take the case on contingency).

And yes, anyone who would laugh at this is a low life. What are we to take from this - that this proves over 50% of police are corrupt?

Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2013 04:26 PM

Mike, first - thanks for the clarification.

A very relieved "you're welcome", ma'am. If you are ever in doubt as to "How did Mike mean this?" please feel free to assume that I misspoke and instead meant something less directly offensive. I do rarely intentionally try to offend, and when I do, it is by no means shrouded or subtle. It will be direct, unequivocal, and generally the last communication I have with that person. And I think I've done it twice ever. Inadvertently, ok... more likely, but still uncommon. Most times I offend, it is out of ignorance, stupidity, or just plain misspeaking.

My point wrt to comparing civilians and police is that police are screened, trained, and subject to more oversight than civilians.

And that just makes sense. You're putting people into positions of power and authority, there should be proper training and screening. Oversight as well. I generally don't need much oversight in arresting people, because I've never had to do it. It does NOT mean that if I see someone being raped, I'm going to just call the cops and wait. I'm intervening, and if possible, I'm detaining the guy rather than waiting for a cop to do it. If I get arrested or sued, so be it. But the idea that I have no permission to stop the crime in action troubles me. Now, should the cops be concerned if the perp makes an allegation that I used too much force, or grabbed the wrong guy, or somesuch? Sure. But again, you made the point earlier that you're not particularly worried about MikeD stopping a rape in progress, it's the fringe cases that would trouble you. Me too, in fact.

No system is, or ever will be perfect. But by abdicating all responsibility of keeping the public peace to only one group of citizens based upon their profession is a troubling one to me. And it's not just about oversight (though that is part of it), it's the whole concept of "special classes" of citizens. I mentioned the idea that "Freedom of the Press" is a freedom intended ONLY for people who work in the media industries. It is a freedom for you as a blogger, for me as a commenter, and for my wife who does neither. It is a freedom that says the government cannot put us in jail for distributing our ideas in public. Whether we do it in writing, in a radio broadcast, or in person on a street corner. And yet, it is rapidly coming to mean "for the special class of citizens who work for an 'accredited news source'." Accredited by whom? Why does the free weekly paper not get to sit in on the press conference held by the mayor when the daily newspaper does? Why does a blogger not have the same right to protect a source as a TV reporter? Sorry... got all ranty there again.

But what is not being considered here is all the procedures that are already in place for that very reason - cameras in patrol cars, for instance. Name me another profession in which people are filmed during their entire work day?

Well, several come to mind (bank tellers, blackjack dealers, cash handlers in amusement parks, convenience store employees...) but your point is still well taken. I do not dispute that those cameras are intrusive, but I'd also hasten to remind you, they're also there for the cops' protection. As you mentioned, it exonerated your son. At my work, we get people complain about our ticketing system, and how we demand that we handle their issues through the system rather than "off the record". Officially, we tell them it is for their own good, as it prevents issues from falling through the cracks if someone is out sick or something, but in reality it is for our protection as well. I cannot have someone later come back and say, "we never asked for this work to be done, we don't want to pay for it." I have an audit trail showing where they authorized the work and approved the work to be done. Were I to have to interface with most criminals, you better believe I'd rather have a camera on the action than EVER put myself into a he said/she said situation.

That's not surprising - the vast majority of security breaches are not caused by a lack of procedures or security measures, but by people who don't follow already existing rules.

The problem with gun control clearly stated in a different venue, but no less true. I worked MI in the Army, as I believe I said before. And we had yearly briefings on espionage and what to watch for. As part of those briefings, we were presented with actual espionage cases as examples, and in none of those cases were the perps "tricked" or "conned" into spying for the Soviets. None of them were people without security clearances. They were all people who knew they were breaking the law, and did it anyway. So your point (as usual) is well taken.

As to their being prosecuted, I would have to look at the laws in California to even know what law they could be prosecuted under. I'm guessing it would be some variance on Manslaughter by gross negligence.

Thankfully, no one was killed, so at worst it would be some form of assault or something. I doubt you'd even get "with a deadly weapon". And I hope you are correct, ma'am. Both for the sake of justice as well as for the public's trust in the system. To have it only be some form of undisclosed disciplinary action would erode that trust, and would not serve anyone.

I'm not against such a prosecution if the facts warrant it, if that helps.

And I never actually thought you were. :)

The point of this post was that infringements on freedom come from multiple sources. Government is one, but the whole reason we HAVE government is because our fellow citizens also have the power to infringe upon our freedom.

And that's absolutely true. The difficulty is the power differential between us and the government. If another citizen illegally enters my house with a weapon, I am fully allowed to kill him. If an armed officer of the law enters my house illegally (without a warrant or permission)... well, it sort of depends where I live as to what I can or cannot do. The Illinois State Supreme Court apparently thinks that if they enter my home illegally, I have the recourse of asking them not to, and suing later. Nevermind that they're not there legally. And my #1 problem with that concept (again, apart from the "no special class of citizens") is that you've now armed all home invaders with a potent weapon. All they need to do is scream "POLICE! NOBODY MOVE!" and they've immediately caused a law-abiding home owner to either hesitate or surrender without resistance. Sure, it's against the law. But since home invasion is as well, I'm not sure how concerned they'd be about the legal niceties.

There's a balance here. What I'm objecting to is the one-sidedness of only seeing half the threat. I'm sorry but I don't trust many of my fellow citizens as far as I can throw them. Some are out-and-out criminals and thugs, and many behave themselves only because they know there are laws and consequences for not doing so.

I'm with you here as well, but again, until and unless we live in a place like Chicago, I can at least know that I am facing my fellow citizens on even footing. I can be just as armed (or close to it) as any criminal. And the fact that they cannot know if I am armed or not makes me less of a target than said inhabitants of Chicago.

I often think that we're so secure in our daily lives that we've lost all appreciation for just how vicious ordinary people can be when the rule of law is weak.

And I will tell you, this knowledge tempers my passions on this issue. The tendency is for the sheep to fear the sheepdogs. Yes, the real fear should be the wolves, but when they're not around, the sheepdogs are the scariest things on the farm. Absolutely true, but knowing that most sheepdogs are only trying to protect the sheep doesn't help when one of them decides to snack on a lamb.

Posted by: MikeD at February 21, 2013 04:54 PM

It does NOT mean that if I see someone being raped, I'm going to just call the cops and wait. I'm intervening, and if possible, I'm detaining the guy rather than waiting for a cop to do it. If I get arrested or sued, so be it. But the idea that I have no permission to stop the crime in action troubles me.

Agreed, but I will say that even without the power to make a citizens arrest, you already had this power.

A person is authorized to use matching/necessary force in defense of self. But he is also authorized by law to use matching/necessary force in defense of others. I just want to point this out b/c it's really not an either/or situation here (i.e., that if you can't make a citizen's arrest, you can't intervene at all).

Posted by: Cassandra at February 21, 2013 05:12 PM

It means the commenter right before me was right: "To me that doesn't sound like bad apples not following the rules. They are working within the system and following the rules. It's not the individual officer that is the problem."

Posted by: Miller Time at February 21, 2013 06:07 PM

Well, I wouldn't have considered that "following the rules". "Following the rules" would mean that the other officer would have shown up.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 22, 2013 10:09 AM

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