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The Militarization of Mayberry
July 17, 2006 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. Radley Balko (also mentioned here and here) has released a year long study of the militarization of police departments across the United States. Cato has a corresponding interactive map to track and filter botched paramilitary raids.
posted by ryoshu (84 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't really think this comes as a surprise to anyone.
posted by keswick at 12:28 PM on July 17, 2006


Everybody wants to be a hero. Not as many departments want to put the money and time into training to pull it off. Some have said that the way to start a SWAT team in your local police department is to ask for volunteers; then throw those applications away to weed out the cowboys.

Having said that, going up against well armed drug gangs or serving high risk warrents with a patrolman's six shot .38 is just stupid - thus the rise in the use of well armed and armored (and hopefully trained) assault teams.
posted by Standeck at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2006


That map is awesome. Cato is down with Web 2.0!

And the incidents would read as farce were they not so tragic...

After police forcibly enter the Sepulveda home, Alberto, his father, his mother, his sister, and his brother are ordered to lie face down on the floor with arms outstretched. Half a minute after the raid begins, the shotgun officer David Hawn has trained on Alberto's head discharges, instantly killing the eleven-year-old boy.

No drugs or weapons are found in the home.

posted by mr_roboto at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2006


Balko is, of course, also mentioned here.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:42 PM on July 17, 2006


Here's another good one:

According to the police account of the raid, as officers approach, one of them trips over a tree root, then falls forward, into the lead officer, causing his gun to accidentally discharge three times. One of the three bullets hits Colon in the side of the head, killing him.

Whoops!
posted by mr_roboto at 12:47 PM on July 17, 2006


I remember finding it weird about ten years ago when beat cops--your average Officer Friendly types--started wearing cargo pants, all black and driving darker colored police cars (I distinctly remember this trend from before 9/11). Fine, maybe you need extra pockets, but if you're a beat cop, you and your vehicle should stand out, not blend in (this isn't a problem in Europe as far as I can tell). Put your five to ten years in and then you can apply to be SWAT or undercover or plainclothes or what have you.

That said, SWAT guys have mixed reputations, obviously. In larger metropolitan areas, they're still the John Wayne types, usually, but they're also known for being pretty damn lazy--given the number of SWAT officers in major cities, they frankly don't have a hell of a lot to do in many cases.

My own bias is that a lot of these incidents happen in smaller towns where the pay and training is much lower than it is in major departments. Not to excuse this bullshit, but some of these incidents have "running for DA or Sheriff" written all over them.

DC or NYC or LA's cops have issues, no doubt, but you don't see this type of bungled stuff because they know any decent lawyer will take them for millions in a civil suit. As they rightfully should.
posted by bardic at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2006


This is very cool. Radley's a good guy, and he's doing the lords work over at CATO.
posted by Heminator at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2006


This should be a surprise keswick, though I know what you're saying. I'm devastated that so many people get injured or killed in the mist of overeager achiever... and I'm generally a fan our local NYC/NY cops (love the boys in blue). Is it supposed that the flagrant use of power under Bush administration is the catalyst for such abuses?

The CATO Institute being so conservative (circa 1989 definition) can't be a golly-good vote for anyone with this info.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2006


I've noticed the same thing bardic.
Our local police department recently spent (likely) hundred of thousands of dollars redesigning our police cars from the standard black and white to dark blue on darker blue.
One of the stated reasons was to "give the department a fresh new look" after a couple of scandals.

My questions as to why they didn't redesign with a high-viz color scheme à la most places in Europe did not receive a good answer.

Our drug "strike team" went away because of reduced funding, but there is a big push to pass a bond measure that would bring it back along with some other things.
posted by madajb at 1:07 PM on July 17, 2006


Reading descriptions of those incidents where an innocent was killed gave me 2 thoughts:

I can see how with a "no knock" warrant, the people inside would be afraid and panicking. There has to be a way to lessen that.

With the common American mentality that "if there are intruders in your home, protect yourself and your family with a gun" it's hardly surprizing that in the scary moments where a team of men in black with guns comes blazing into people's homes, that the people often pick up a gun to respond.
posted by raedyn at 1:12 PM on July 17, 2006


Didn't being 'right wing' or conservative once mean you were vehemently against this kind of shit - Janet Reno, the Black Helicopters etc etc?! 9/11 I guess - now the loudmouth yahoos are the ones running the show, and hey joe taxpayer is paying for the macho wankfest, ergo every little dimebag takedown means these bozos get to dress up in U.S. Cavalry ninja gear and sling machine guns around.

At least in publicizing this the Cato Institute is staying true to its principles.
posted by Flashman at 1:17 PM on July 17, 2006


It's not a mentality, it's a right. And I used to be very anti-gun for what it's worth, but the last ten years of American history have convinced me that a gun would be well worth owning.
posted by bardic at 1:24 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


Didn't being 'right wing' or conservative once mean you were vehemently against this kind of shit - Janet Reno, the Black Helicopters etc etc?!

Yes.

Now, however, only one Republican voted against the Real ID Act. It was a longtime rhetorical point among conservatives that a national id card would be quickly associated with a national gun registry, etc. but 9-11 apparently did change everything, at least for some people.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:28 PM on July 17, 2006


Drugs eh?

What if the drug money and laundering was a BIG part of the American economy and needed the government help to be established in America?

Now how crazy would it be to have SWAT teams?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:29 PM on July 17, 2006


Every time I see one of those programs on the Discovery/History/TLC/etc. channels, where they spend an hour showcasing all the new high-tech weaponry police and security services have at their disposal for "riot and terror control", I always have to remind myself that those are mostly intended for use against citizens.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:29 PM on July 17, 2006


It's scary to read all the "sorry, wrong address" accounts. I can't imagine what I would do if somebody kicked down my door in the middle of the night and chucked a flash grenade in the bedroom. People who respond with predictable force often face charges.

It's also sad to read about how nonchalant officers are about shooting people's dogs. Radley has a section on his blog devoted to paramilitary raids, and writes about several cases there.

Oh, and that map is really really cool.
posted by AgentRocket at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2006


bardic - AgentRocket said better what I was getting at:
I can't imagine what I would do if somebody kicked down my door in the middle of the night and chucked a flash grenade in the bedroom. People who respond with predictable force often face charges.
And in several cases, death.
posted by raedyn at 1:42 PM on July 17, 2006


Welcome to the new Stazi run East Germany, just like the old Stazi run East Germany . . .
posted by mk1gti at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2006


The best part is that you can't defend yourself against a police officer. They can come into your house on- or off-duty, without a warrant, without knocking, in uniform or out of it, and they can say or do anything to you. The moment you defend yourself, you will be killed, and the media will go after you with a speed and a singlemindedness you can't believe. You will be a troublemaker, a wacko. The police "investigating" it will leak reports of guns, drugs, and child pornography. If you survived, somehow, you will remain in jail for the rest of your life for daring to defend yourself from a police officer, no matter what the circumstances.

Trusting the police with your safety is like guarding your home with a rabid, abused pit bull. They might catch a bad guy every once in a while, but they will eventually turn on you. I stay as far away from them as possible.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:44 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


This probably won't be a popular opinion here but, as with teachers, the answer is to pay them more, train them more, and make the bar higher for getting the job (as it already is in most cities and major jurisdictions).

Sure, fighting City Hall is never easy, but a blanket condemnation of all cops, including good ones, accomplishes little. That said, there are plenty of recent examples of cops being pilloried for acting in what they thought was an entirely appropriate manner. And it's not as if millions upon millions of dollars are spent in order to resolve civil suits (and the money doesn't replace a life, obviously, but good departments are well aware of the fact that citizens have recourse if they screw up. To name just one example, there are very few jurisdictions where cops will now engage in high-speed pursuits. Why? Civil suits.).
posted by bardic at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2006


As a follow up to Bardic
About a decade ago one of our neighboring towns, Auburn, MA made a switch to black BDU's with blackout badges and insignia for uniforms and issued some variant of the AR-15 to all of its officers. Now at the time this was a town of 16,000 with maybe one or two minority families living in it at anyone time. Truly the picture of bland, boring, lily white suburbia. Overnight the cops went from extras in a Rockwell painting, to a small suburban army and just by virtue of their existence scared the crap out of a fair number of residents and most of the visitors coming in to shop. No idea if they still wear the ridiculous uniforms or carry the big dick swinging rifles today.

I always attributed these sorts of actions in smaller communities to an inferiority complex as a result of constantly needing support services from State and County law enforcement. Here in MA, the State Police have superb funding, great salaries, first rate gear and tend to inspire a sense of authority. That must be tough for some part time townie cop to see day after day and with just a little creative grant writing a small department can pull in enough D.A.R.E. Money to make everybody feel like Rambo. Of course not everybody will actually be Rambo, so we end up with towns full of wankers who never got the memo that the first few seasons of COPS were staged.

And for Chyme
I guess it depends whether or not you're the local King of Cars when the Police break into your house and you gun one down. (this is yet another crazy neighboring town)
posted by paxton at 1:57 PM on July 17, 2006


Cops here in Montgomery County (the MD county that "sits" on top of DC) could apply and train to get AR-15's in the wake of the Beltway Sniper. A friend of mine actually got one. Never used it though.

Then again, Montgomery County has a population of about one million.

I used to live in a town of 50,000 where the starting cop salary was around 28K. It was a pretty peaceful place, but still--someone with the power of life and death making 28K? The opportunity for abuse was rampant.
posted by bardic at 2:05 PM on July 17, 2006


That said, there are plenty of recent examples of cops being pilloried for acting in what they thought was an entirely appropriate manner.

Appropriate? He shot a passenger, and he shot from behind the vehicle.

"The third, and fatal, shot was fired after the SUV had swerved and was no longer bearing down on him."

Even if the officer had successfully killed the driver while the vehicle was heading in the officer's way, it would not have stopped the vehicle. Stowe displayed incredibly poor judgment and a kid died because of a fucking restaurant tab, a dumb friend, and an incompetent officer who thought that a 150g bullet would magically stop a 2,000 lb vehicle. Get out of the way, get the license number, and keep your goddamn gun holstered.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:08 PM on July 17, 2006


In October 1986, police raid the St. Louis home of Gary Miller, based on a tip from a confidential informant. In the course of the search, a Detective Clifford of the St. Louis Police Department steps on an infant baby's head while attempting to search the home's ceiling for drugs.

Police find no drugs or weapons, nor do they make any arrests. Police do, however, seize about $13,000 in cash from Mr. Miller. Under asset forfeiture laws, the police department gets to keep the money. Even though he is never charged with a crime, it is up to Mr. Miller to prove he didn't get the money through drug transactions.

In 1992, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that although there is no evidence of drug use or distribution on the part of Mr. Miller, he failed to prove he earned the money legitimately. The police get to keep the money they seized in the raid.


What. The. Fuck.

I'm more concerned with getting my door kicked in by the "confidentially informed" Barney-With-An-MP5 than I ever will be of becoming the victim of a Suicide Bomber at the goddamn Farmers Market; don't think I'm stupid enough to think the latter will ever occur. What a sad, pathetic piece of shit country this is. Go ahead, quote me on that and launch into a diatribe about my character and lack of historical perspective, whatever makes you feel better. You have nothing to hide, this could never happen to you, wrong address or not - you'd sort things out with your Joe-Six-Pack demeanor on the spot and your family would come out without a scratch, let alone a sucking hole in your skull.

Saddam, 9/11, Rah Rah Terrah Terrah, War is Peace, Slavery is Freedom, Drugs 'R Bad; Free Homeland Security training! Sign up today and be prepared to kick in the door of an innocent citizen tomorrow!

Remember Kids, Homeland Security Begins at Home!
posted by prostyle at 2:08 PM on July 17, 2006


Chiming in here to say that the police in my hometown like to dress up as well. I've seen their new look when I go back on holidays. The patrol cars are all black now with black rims. Uniforms are all black and most seem to prefer accessorizing with black fingerless gloves and mirrored Oakley sunglasses. These are the regular police, not the SWAT team. The cop moustache is de rigeur. I've seen more than one wearing bandanas in a doo-rag/spetsnaz style while they drive around.

The city in which I live has thankfully not gone this route yet. Police cars are white and officers must wear a white shirt and white hat. Frankly, they appear much more respectable this way.

If the police need to carry a rifle in their cars and wear a vest these days that is one thing but trying to look more thug than the thugs is pointless, juvenile theatre that only serves to attract more idiots into the force.
posted by well_balanced at 2:15 PM on July 17, 2006


bardic, I'm not sure if you read the paper (it is long), but Mr. Balko isn't issuing a blanket condemnation of police officers. He goes out of the way to point out that bad policy decisions often put officers in bad situations. Militarizing the police has negative consequences because police start thinking like soldiers (search and destroy) instead of thinking like civilian police (protect and serve).

The sheer absurdity of using a SWAT team to serve warrants to non-violent offenders is ridiculous. You have a paramilitary unit busting into someone's house in the dead of night. That's just begging for a confrontation and the officers often get that confrontation, sometimes at the expense of hurting or killing innocent people.

Too often when innocents are hurt or killed, civil suits are not effective and DAs fail to prosecute (my gun just went off!). In situations where police do a no-knock and a homeowner is justifiably thinking there is a break in, shooting an officer in self-defense can get you the death penalty.
posted by ryoshu at 2:26 PM on July 17, 2006


I actually like the Balko piece--I was resonding to comments in thread.
posted by bardic at 3:16 PM on July 17, 2006


"It's not a mentality, it's a right. And I used to be very anti-gun for what it's worth, but the last ten years of American history have convinced me that a gun would be well worth owning."

Absolutely. I'm a lefty progressive liberal tree hugger type, but I also absolutely believe in my constitutional rights, and the sensibility of having a basic mode of home defense.

There's no need to go hog wild and buy up an arsenal, but owning a single utilitarian rifle, shotgun, or pistol, as well as a highly functional competency in the maintenance, use, and safety of such a firearm is not at all a bad idea.

A decent shotgun is inexpensive, low maintenance, and very effective.

Personally, I have a WWII russian surplus Mosin Nagant infantry rifle. It sits unloaded, bolt out, in the corner of my bedroom. I keep the bolt and a seven round stripper clip in a handy but secure location. It's not expensive, it's highly reliable, and provides a basic defense capability, without having to get too highly involved in the world/mentality of gun nuttery.

A similar rifle such as the nagant, or a surplus 8mm mauser, can be had for $100 or less at Big 5. A box of twenty rounds is ~ six dollars.
posted by stenseng at 3:27 PM on July 17, 2006



“ ‘Didn't being 'right wing' or conservative once mean you were vehemently against this kind of shit - Janet Reno, the Black Helicopters etc etc?!’
‘Now, however, only one Republican voted against the Real ID Act. It was a longtime rhetorical point among conservatives that a national id card would be quickly associated with a national gun registry, etc.’”

A. Republicans are Conservatives? B. Yeah, I remember all the ‘left wingers’ on my side when I was bitching about law enforcement abuses during the Clinton administration.

Blended MCAT units would be far better at serving high risk warrants, with whomever is most familiar with the case given operational authority. It’s not so much a cowboy attitude within any given officer (although there is that) as it is that within the law enforcement community serving warrants is seen as grunt work, so that’s how the job is executed. It’s not making cases or anything, it’s just ‘go geddum.’ And those officers are unfamiliar with the particulars so they’re loaded for bear. Definately a result of systemic schizophrenia. There are several disconnects, one of which is (obviously) accountability. Prosecutors and D.A.s have to maintain a nice relationship with the police because their future cases depend on them. And that’s what’s important ultimately, that’s what’s being served - making a conviction. The goofy paramilitary costume is only part of the problem - it’s a side effect of calling it a war on ‘x’ - drugs or what have you. They could wear jackboots if the bottom line was they couldn’t get a conviction without abiding by due process. And those rules have been entirely loosened up. There is no way getting a warrent should be as casual as it is today. But y’know, been saying that since before Clinton was in office. Fell on deaf ears no matter who’s guy was in power.
But all of this can be overcome with resident vigilance, most particularly on a local level. You don’t like what your police department is doing, make sure your mayor and council know about it.
(A shotgun loaded with flechettes, bolo slugs for leg shots and/or dragons breath to repel from doors or windows will make the local police seriously reconsider storming your domicile)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:37 PM on July 17, 2006


(A shotgun loaded with flechettes, bolo slugs for leg shots and/or dragons breath to repel from doors or windows will make the local police seriously reconsider storming your domicile)
More likely it will just make them bring in armor and pull a Branch Davidian on your ass. They love it when they have a reason to play with their big toys.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:48 PM on July 17, 2006


I've lived in my current apartment for five years. In that time I've had my apartment raided by the law twice. Once by a local gang task force, all eight of them. The second time was a dozen federal marshals. Neither time was for me but only the first time was a mistake.
posted by effwerd at 4:01 PM on July 17, 2006


My own bias is that a lot of these incidents happen in smaller towns where the pay and training is much lower than it is in major departments. Not to excuse this bullshit, but some of these incidents have "running for DA or Sheriff" written all over them.

In smaller towns the SWAT guys tend to be regular patrol officers and detectives who double as SWAT members when the need arises, and the size of the department has little bearing on the level of training -- if you're serious about having a professional squad, you're going to make sure your guys are well-trained and well-drilled. Location is not an issue, because there's a whole industry of specialists whose job it is to travel department-to-department conducting training. Each department will designate a few officers as "training officers" and they'll take what they've learned and pass it along to the others.

I read the executive summary, and like many of these special reports, it kicks things off with the anecdotal lede -- pick the absolute worst examples where everything has gone horribly wrong to draw the reader's attention, and then 20 paragraphs down admit, "Oh, and by the way, it's really not that bad."

I think the report raises some important questions, but the authors really could have benefitted from playing things down, not up. The interactive map shows absolutely no incidents of SWAT actions gone wrong in my area, and it doesn't surprise me.

Off the top of my head, I can think of the times our local police have deployed their SWAT teams, and they've been completely professional and appriopriate every time:

-- When some nut was running through a downtown area shooting at everything in sight back around 2001. (He shot a cop in the hand and sent everyone else ducking into the stores and apartments.)
-- When another nut was running through a mall shooting an assault rifle last year. (He shot an army recruiter and hit another guy with shrapnel.)
-- When some idiot shot his wife and barricaded himself in his house a few years ago in my town.

So give credit where credit is due. There are stupid cops, but there are good cops. It's always been that way. I think a study like this could be more useful if it looked at the larger issue of police culture in the context of SWAT and paramilitary units.
posted by Alexandros at 4:26 PM on July 17, 2006


Alexandros writes "So give credit where credit is due. There are stupid cops, but there are good cops. It's always been that way. "

But as you point out, it's not an issue of the competence of individual officers as much as it is a strategy and leadership. In the situations you mention, a SWAT team makes sense. Serving a warrant? Not so much....
posted by mr_roboto at 4:31 PM on July 17, 2006


Alexandros writes: I read the executive summary, and like many of these special reports, it kicks things off with the anecdotal lede -- pick the absolute worst examples where everything has gone horribly wrong to draw the reader's attention, and then 20 paragraphs down admit, "Oh, and by the way, it's really not that bad."

Perhaps you should read more than the executive summary. The raid in the lead is typical, not exceptional. If anything, in that it targeted a guy who actually had some drugs on him, it's less outrageous than most of the 150+ other case studies in the appendix. There are dozens more where the target was completely innocent.

And nowhere do I write in the paper, "oh, and by the way, it's really not that bad."

Read the entire thing before assuming what the rest of the paper says, then get back to me.

__Radley Balko
posted by rbalko at 4:42 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


that's a special sort of awesome right there. rbalko, you're doing some good work, and I encourage you to keep it up.
posted by boo_radley at 4:50 PM on July 17, 2006


So how long is it before the fire department boys feel left out and want cool toys to?
posted by BillsR100 at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2006


I was just going to read this post and BOOM, the link is to the cops in MY suburban town. Double-yikes!
ryoshu, how did you pick Antioh CA as an example?
posted by cccorlew at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2006


Man, I'm glad our small Canadian cities don't have private police forces. I'm quite happy to have cops who are controlled by a reasonably good provincial & national management structure.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:16 PM on July 17, 2006


cccorlew, I had it bookmarked from a Drug War post somewhere. It may have been from The Agitator or possibly Drug War Rant.
posted by ryoshu at 5:36 PM on July 17, 2006


I thought this was a dupe, but it must have been someone linking in an article. I remember someone was suprised it was from "Cato! OMG".
posted by delmoi at 5:54 PM on July 17, 2006


No mention yet of Corey Maye, about whom Balko has written much.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:54 PM on July 17, 2006


Last week I was on the phone with my brother when there was a commotion outside. He walked to the back door and held up the phone - I could hear the Coeur d'Alene police bellowing for someone to come out. The neighbor's family had to sleep over because the street had been evacuated. Snipers were running through my brother's back yard. There was a standoff all night long and the seige ended with one dead suspect.

I'm not insinuating that there was malfeasance involved. But from half a continent away it was unnerving to listen to troops engaging mere feet from where my family lives.
posted by djeo at 6:58 PM on July 17, 2006


So how long is it before the fire department boys feel left out and want cool toys to?
What's cooler than an articulated tiller aerial truck? I mean, c'mon. The fire boys got it all over the po-po when it comes to cool toys.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 PM on July 17, 2006


And nowhere do I write in the paper, "oh, and by the way, it's really not that bad."

Read the entire thing before assuming what the rest of the paper says, then get back to me.


Yes it does, you smarmy fuck. There's a qualifying graph right smack in the middle of the executive summary where the authors admit the problem is not as awful as the worst examples might lead the reader to believe.

But what do I know? I've only participated in SWAT training sessions taught by NYPD instructors and been present (as a civilian) for the deployment of SWAT teams in two real-life situations involving suspects who had discharged firearms. Surely, this is not as much experience as you have.

The fact that there are 150 case studies is disturbing, and everyone will agree to that point, but the raid in the lead is not even close to "typical," and that's abundantly clear.
posted by Alexandros at 8:14 PM on July 17, 2006


Ah, I see now that you're the author of the paper. Excuse me while I bow to you in your infinite wisdom, and pardon me for not reading 200 pages of a shoddy report because the executive summary made it clear you weren't going to give the issue a fair shake.

Maybe that's why you work for CATO and not an organization that would do a serious job of looking at this issue.
posted by Alexandros at 8:19 PM on July 17, 2006


I thought this was a dupe, but it must have been someone linking in an article. I remember someone was suprised it was from "Cato! OMG".

I think you're thinking of the puppycide post. There's some overlap, but this paper has a much broader scope.
posted by homunculus at 8:21 PM on July 17, 2006


Metafilter: Yes it does, you smarmy fuck.
posted by Operation Afterglow at 8:51 PM on July 17, 2006


Alexandros, the fact taht some percentage of US troops in Iraq haven't raped and murdered any 14 year old girls doesn't mean there isn't a systematic problem. Same with this. Pointing out the most eggregious incididents is not some kind of attempt to make people think that all SWAT incidents are like that, but to show what can and does happen because of this broken culture.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:03 PM on July 17, 2006


I like how the U.S. government goes after monks.
posted by j-urb at 9:11 PM on July 17, 2006


Yes it does, you smarmy fuck. There's a qualifying graph right smack in the middle of the executive summary where the authors admit the problem is not as awful as the worst examples might lead the reader to believe.

I've read the executive summary both on the Cato site, and in the .pdf, and I haven't seen a graph smack in the middle. Could you point it out more explicitly?

But what do I know? I've only participated in SWAT training sessions taught by NYPD instructors and been present (as a civilian) for the deployment of SWAT teams in two real-life situations involving suspects who had discharged firearms.

Nice. Your rigorous refutation consists of watching a couple of NYPD raids.

Surely, this is not as much experience as you have.

And you called Balko a "smarmy fuck"?

The fact that there are 150 case studies is disturbing, and everyone will agree to that point, but the raid in the lead is not even close to "typical," and that's abundantly clear.

Good. We all agree that fewer than 20,000 of those 40,000 raids do not involve shooting/maiming/killing innocent people with wholly unnecessary force.

Ah, I see now that you're the author of the paper.

Must've been tough to figure that one out.

Maybe that's why you work for CATO and not an organization that would do a serious job of looking at this issue.

A pinch of ad hominem for good measure.

Excuse me while I bow to you in your infinite wisdom, and pardon me for not reading 200 pages of a shoddy report because the executive summary made it clear you weren't going to give the issue a fair shake.


"I haven't read it, but it's shoddy." An attitude proudly espoused by your garden-variety book burner.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:11 PM on July 17, 2006


Didn't being 'right wing' or conservative once mean you were vehemently against this kind of shit - Janet Reno, the Black Helicopters etc etc?! ... At least in publicizing this the Cato Institute is staying true to its principles.

Cato is libertarian enough, and its principles sufficiently divergent from both the Democrats' and Republicans', that it usually does a good job of pointing out bullshit regardless of which party is perpetrating it. That's one of the reasons I love Cato (the other is that, back when I was on various libertarian mailing lists, they sent me not one but two pocket copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, which I try to keep handy at all times so that I can be obstinate and obnoxious when government functionaries try to pull shit on me).

One of the most depressing and dispiriting things about contemporary politics is that it's all too hard to find people who are willing to speak out against abuses of power regardless of the source — maybe it's just me, but I find that most people who are outraged about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib don't give much of a damn about Waco or Ruby Ridge, and vice versa. Most people would rather protect "my side" than hold their politicians to any real standard.

The failure of "conservative" Republicans to oppose the Real ID act is a shining example; I'm reminded of Claire Wolfe, libertarian-anarchist author with the late, lamented Loompanics, who wrote in 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution, in 1996, that "America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." In 2005 she changed her mind: "...somewhere between passage of the Real ID act and the brutal bureaucratic botch after Hurricane Katrina, I was slapped into the conclusion that this is the time to shoot the bastards."
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:25 PM on July 17, 2006


Kwantsar - "We all agree that fewer than 20,000 of those 40,000 raids do not involve shooting/maiming/killing innocent people with wholly unnecessary force."

Slight lower than that. As I posted at DWR,

----
Balko speculates that there are as many as 40,000 raids each year. Doing some checking at his Interactive Raid Map, it turns out that,
in 2005, there were 14 unnecessary raids (0.035%) and 4 deaths (0.01%);
in 2004, there were 11 unnecessary raids (0.0275%) and 0 deaths (0.00%);
in 2003, there were 16 unnecessary raids (0.04%) and 1 deaths (0.0025%);
in 2002, there were 16 unnecessary raids (0.04%) and 4 deaths (0.01%);
in 2001, there were 12 unnecessary raids (0.03%) and 2 deaths (0.005%);
in 2000, there were 9 unnecessary raids (0.0225%) and 5 deaths (0.0125%).
----
posted by daksya at 9:30 PM on July 17, 2006


I'm glad for all the radicality in this thread, it makes me feel less alone. I've known to fear police when a cop in Kingman Arizona jammed his .357 magnum against the base of my skull and cocked it because I didn't follow his order fast enough -- because I didn't hear it over the sound of 18-wheelers racing past. Evidently I was supposed to turn around and spread-eagle against the hood, not lean slightly forward hollering "HUH? WHAT?" My crime was hitchhiking on I-40. I was 15 years old. I didn't die because a passing trucker pulled sharply up very quickly and started yelling about a big wreck down the road so the Statie had to let me go to investigate it. (It turned out to be fictitious: he'd heard about my predicament on the CB and "the Spirit led him" to make a false statement to a sworn peace officer.)
This by the way happened in 1978, before the events discussed in this thread; cops have never needed SWAT gear to be murderous assholes. It is seldom necessary, daksya, to even threaten to execute a skinny 15 year old who's already at gunpoint reaching for the sky and pissing his pants.
posted by davy at 9:42 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


I doubt the Raid Map is supposed to be covering all 40,000 estimated raids (if thats an estimated number, then pretty much by definition the data used in the raid map does not cover all raids, or they wouldn't need to estimate the total number!).

So those percentages are meaningless, daksya. (Could be higher or lower, really).

Would be nice to see how many raids were studied to get the map data, and how thoroughly.
posted by wildcrdj at 9:55 PM on July 17, 2006


I doubt the Raid Map is supposed to be covering all 40,000 estimated raids (if thats an estimated number, then pretty much by definition the data used in the raid map does not cover all raids, or they wouldn't need to estimate the total number!).

The database hasn't been compiled that way, i.e. scan all police reports of raids and present data. But on the basis of public events like media reports of a botched raid or lawsuits filed over a wrong address raid. It's likely that wrong address raids are underreported to a greater extent than deaths. So, the first figure of each year has a higher margin of error than the second. But at the same time, these figures do help establish a semblance of prevalence. It's very unlikely that there are 300 or more unnecessary raids and only 15 are reported. It's even more unlikely that 50 people are wrongfully killed and only 4 are reported. So the percentages aren't meaningless; they just aren't set in stone.
posted by daksya at 10:04 PM on July 17, 2006


"Who's agitatin' my cops? Are you agitatin' my cops?"
posted by ninjew at 11:02 PM on July 17, 2006


Yes it does, you smarmy fuck. There's a qualifying graph right smack in the middle of the executive summary where the authors admit the problem is not as awful as the worst examples might lead the reader to believe.
posted by Alexandros at 8:14 PM PST on July 17


Look at how stupid you are.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:45 AM on July 18, 2006


/thorzdad - flechettes & sabots pierce armor. And that’s not all I have. And I’ve got routes to the woods from my house. They might (eventually) kill me, but the attrition would be appalling. And I have friends.

“maybe it's just me, but I find that most people who are outraged about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib don't give much of a damn about Waco or Ruby Ridge, and vice versa.” - posted by IshmaelGraves

It’s not just you. I notice the same thing. There are a handful of folks though that see continuity there tho’.

The numbers, percentages, etc. don’t really matter so much. Certanly it’s an indicator of performance within the system, but that assumes the problem is not the system itself. There should be NO instances where a group of police officers kill innocent individuals when they have superior forces. There is no excuse for it in any situation given those conditions. There is no situation where the death of an infant can be justified. There is no situation where the death of a child can be justified.
Any failure is on the part of the single officer, either in his attitude or in his training. If it’s in his training, if he fires at an inappropriate time, if his weapon accidentally discharges, that mistake belongs to the department. If it’s in his attitude - whether he’s so afraid of death that he fires blindly or whether he refuses to value protecting the lives of innocent civilians above his own, or whether he’s just an asshole on a power trip, he shouldn’t be a police officer in the first place.

A warfighter does not have the luxury of controlling the environment, the circumstances, the levels of firepower in a firefight. They often cannot choose where and when to fight. It is for these reasons (and others) that military personnel kill. The police can exert high levels of control in all these areas and can dictate when and whether to engage when serving warrants. Not on an individual level of course - for example if someone pops out of a room with a pistol - but given proper intelligence and tactical preparation, that risk can be minimized.

For example: if the police bust through my door, they’re going to die by the carload. If, however, they blow a very large hole in the wall and come in large numbers, that should be enough to prevent me from retaking the initiative, most likely kill me.
If however, the police knock on my door, say they have a warrant, make clear my family and I are in no danger if I don’t resist, have enough beef in the area out in the open making clear they’re ready if I do, they’re probably not going to have any problems beyond my lawyer and we’ll all go home safe.

Given the choice any military commander would prefer live prisoners, if only for their intelligence value. Police can and should have the choice.
The problem therefore is not in the execution. The numbers of incidents do not matter, or rather, matter only in terms of how well a poor choice is carried out in the first place. The problem is in defining police method and procedure.

Hell, community policing has done more to reduce the crime rate than any amount of firepower. The social benefits aside, the intelligence value of having ‘x’ number of residents willing to talk to you about what’s going on is worth 20 times the number of armed officers backing you up.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:38 AM on July 18, 2006


Smedleyman - The numbers, percentages, etc. don’t really matter so much. Certanly it’s an indicator of performance within the system, but that assumes the problem is not the system itself.

It does not assume the problem is not the system. The observation checks whether the system is the problem. Given the very low percentages, it doesn't seem to be. 14 raids on wrong addresses, out of 40,000 is evidence not of a systemic defect, but of typical human error, which in this context, can have tragic outcomes. But the thing is it can't be eliminated. Further reduced? Maybe, but unlikely, given the already low rate of error.

There should be NO instances where a group of police officers kill innocent individuals when they have superior forces.

From a pragmatic perspective, this is the kind of thinking that leads to a War on Drugs in the first place: "zero tolerance". Effective policy requires one to realize that you can not eradicate errors, only minimize them. The problem here is that paramilitary tactics are being used to go after non-violent drug offenders. But there's no epidemic of SWAT mishaps. These are, by & large, rare and isolated incidents.
posted by daksya at 11:33 AM on July 18, 2006


SWAT Team Raids Gay Gym in Albuquerque, Ct'd...
posted by homunculus at 11:35 AM on July 18, 2006


Welcome to the new Stazi run East Germany, just like the old Stazi run East Germany . . .

And of course the new Stazi wouldn't be complete without unchecked government surrveilance. Thanks for nothing, Specter.
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on July 18, 2006


“...14 raids on wrong addresses, out of 40,000 is evidence not of a systemic defect, but of typical human error...”

How many innocent men have been put to death by the death penalty? Are there any statistics? Would those statistics matter? If one is wrong from first principles, any error count is irrelevant. You and I are apparently looking at two different things as being “the problem.”
We can for example avoid all instances of innocent men being executed by the state by ending the death penalty. In the same way, we can avoid these kinds of situations by changing the initial conditions.

I’ve accounted for human error in execution in my argument, but the ‘wrong address’ or ‘innocent’ part of the equations should be a non-issue to the on-scene officer.
The police - as an institution, can allow themselves a great deal of redundancy and having greater oversight on warrants would allow more and should eliminate any possibility of error.

Under the terms I’ve defined an error of: obtaining a warrant, issuing the warrant and serving the warrant - all at the wrong address - and harming innocent citizens in the course of executing the wrong warrant would only be possible if there was multiple failures from separate institutions.
Given proper oversight, all that should never happen (I’m not talking about an isolated on-scene mishap).
Ask a bomb expert about system redundancy. Know what the allowable failure rate for a bomb squad member is?

And I’m not asserting there is an epidemic of SWAT mishaps. Most of the SWAT members I’ve trained are competant individuals. My estimation is, and I think we agree, that the system is allowing inappropriate tactics to be used in situations where violence is not likely to be countered. I’m neutral to the idea it’s socially motivated. I can see how, but the evidence doesn’t convince me. But my assertion is that these mistakes can be avoided with some self-checking on different levels.
That would of course require changes either in procedure, the law or judicial rulings. I don’t see any department restricting it’s own policies any time soon.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2006


In the same way, we can avoid these kinds of situations by changing the initial conditions.

What are these initial conditions? We both agree that using SWAT teams for going after nonviolent drug offenders is 'overkill', but you won't eliminate tragic outcomes like deaths.
posted by daksya at 1:43 PM on July 18, 2006


What are these initial conditions?

Reliance on law and enforcement to make up for the inherent flaws of an unjust economic system?

A callous and callow order that makes - even encourages - people turn to drugs to deal with reality with the one hand but then demonizes them for doing so with the other?

A society of spectacle that ensures no one takes responsibility for the well-being of their neighbours and communities?

Racism?

Poverty?

Latent fascism?

Just a few guesses.
posted by poweredbybeard at 2:06 PM on July 18, 2006


poweredbybeard’s on point. There are a lot of variables there. I’d start with the assumptions - one of which is that killing an infant or child is an unavoidable outcome.
The goal defines the mission. You want zero innocent civilians killed during the execution of a warrant due to mistakes in addresses, etc. (not due to tactical mistakes or necessities at the scene, given that the address is correct, etc.) - or you don't. I do. So, I think we should change the nature and conditions of the warrant. Simple enough.

The counterargument there is that some criminals might get away, evidence might be destroyed (less convictions) etc. etc. But I’m willing to allow that in favor of a zero mistake rate (again - mistakes of those kinds, not an officer at the right address shooting someone who looks like they have a gun).
Mostly because I define the primary mission of law enforcement as protecting the rights of the people, not as catching criminals. And, in part, because if it was my 11 year old son or my baby lying dead on the floor I quit my job and my new job becomes killing police officers (‘cause if law enforcement is above the law, then there is no law). As a conservative I’m a bit of a hard ass when it comes to rule of law, but I’m not the only one with that kind of attitude.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:28 PM on July 18, 2006


You want zero innocent civilians killed during the execution of a warrant due to mistakes in addresses, etc. (not due to tactical mistakes or necessities at the scene, given that the address is correct, etc.)

The "wrong address" part is irrelevant. I presume that no SWAT officer intends to kill an infant, and no SWAT officer thinks that he's storming the wrong address before he finds out later. Any mishap is a tactical one, not the result of a wrong address. The latter compounds the tragedy but doesn't make it more likely given that neither the occupants of a wrong or right address know that they are about to be raided*.

*corruption aside
posted by daksya at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2006


Yes, if we’re speaking of strictly tactical errors on the scene made by SWAT members I’d agree daksya. That’s a more specific argument than the one I’ve been addressing, but one I’ve conceded. So we seem to be addressing different things.

In the bigger picture, there is a linear chain of events leading through the execution of the warrant where mistakes can happen and those can be avoided. In this context, I don’t think getting the wrong address is irrelevant. As an example police raiding my home would get very strong resistance. I’m armed as a matter of course. But let’s say I’m really groggy from sleeping pills and I only kill six before they kill me. As it so happens I’m a law abiding citizen and they got the wrong home. So who’s at fault?
The police raid on my home was illegal. The death of their officers and my death is the fault of the police department.
Whether it was a mistake or not matters as much legally as whether I knew how fast over the speed limit I was going. Their intentions, while a factor, should not be relevent to legal blame. Everyone involved in that warrant is responsible and it’s their asses that should sting. But such a thing is preventable by changing the way warrants are issued, served, etc. and so should never happen. If everything through that chain of events goes through properly, with the exception of a SWAT member mistakenly shooting the wrong person at the point of contact, he will have in place overwhelming support for his decision - e.g. he’s at the right place, the right particulars are nearby, they are potentially violent which necessitates preparation of the use of force, etc. etc. etc.
At the point of contact I’m prepared to trust an officer’s judgement and I share your presumption that he doesn’t want to shoot anyone.
Beyond that all of his actions should be guided by the rule of law and my argument in this case is not that his decision making or motives are poor, but that the rule of law is lax as it pertains to warrants and should be changed. And that would address some of the problems raised by the Cato paper.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:02 PM on July 18, 2006


to add: Balko suggests civilian review boards and greater transparancy, which should go without saying. Policymakers need to change the rules concerning how warrants are served (non-violent warrants, etc.) - in such a way that they are linked to the conviction process. It is the prosecutors (the D.A.) who decide if it’s worthwhile to prosecute a case and it is their office that would have the most to lose if a warrant is improperly executed.
Civilian boards and the city council are important. But if you really want to dictate how the department will act you make it a matter of conviction and the prosecutors’ offices will provide the sticks and carrots to that end.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:16 PM on July 18, 2006


Fuck, Smeds.

Flechettes?

I respect your ability to put together a cogent argument, but I gotta tell you, I am very very glad I don't live in your country.
posted by flabdablet at 8:28 AM on July 19, 2006


I presume that no SWAT officer intends to kill an infant, and no SWAT officer thinks that he's storming the wrong address before he finds out later.
posted by daksya at 4:02 PM PST on July 18


It's not that they intend to, it's that they don't care. Kill an innocent man? Kill a kid? Kill a dog? Take a two-week paid vacation and come back to work refreshed and ready to bust in some more doors! The fact that these people don't voluntarily retire from the police force after murdering someone speaks volumes about the attitude police - especially the black-clad, rifle-toting, milizarized ones - have toward the general public.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:32 AM on July 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Radley Balko has responded to some of the criticism. Since he has an account here, and has already replied in this thread, I'll take it up here.

Balko - A few people have employed some back-of-the-envelope statistics, and concluded that 300 or so botched raids in a country of 300 million isn't anything we ought to be worried about. Or that 300 mistakes drawn from 40,000 raids per year is a pretty good record.

First, a nitpick. Roughly, according to the map, there are 20 'mistakes' (wrong address or deaths..etc) in each year out of 40,000 estimated raids each year. That's an order of magnitude lower.

I suspect I've only found a small fraction of the actual number of botched raids out there. There's some evidence for this in the fact that when high-profile raids in which someone is killed happen in large cities, they're inevitably followed by dozens of people who come forward and say "this happened to me, too."

These people have come forward where? Newspapers? Dateline or 60 Minutes? Lawsuits? To Balko personally or his colleagues? If any of these, he should be able to cite them. Till then, this is self-serving speculation.

It took me just a few hours in Mississippi, for example, to find another victim of a mistaken no-knock raid by the Pear River Basin Narcotics Task Force. I suppose that could be purely coincidental. But my hunch is that if I had stayed down there another week, I'd have found several more.

Or maybe he just quickly found all the cases that were locally known and which hadn't seeped outside to the broader media. Even if you grant his hunch ,how many more? 3-4? 30-40? I suspect the former.

Raids before late 2005 were culled from research services and searches. Which means they'll be limited to larger newspapers, and to raids that received enough coverage to trigger search engines to the keywords I'm looking for.

This still helps put an upper limit. There won't have been 200 deaths and only 3 reported ones. More likely, 12-15 at the most, but given the yearly consistency in prevalence, set against the backdrop of the media world becoming smaller means that even localized mishaps are prone to receive wider coverage. Yet the prevalence has remained roughly constant. The figures I cited do not go earlier than 2000.

The 40,000 raids per year is in itself a big problem. That a decreasing percentage of these raids end in death, injury, or the terrorizing of innocents doesn't mean there isn't a problem, or that we shouldn't be concerned.

The percentage helps elucidate the type of the problem. 400 deaths out of 40,000 raids is a systemic problem; 4 is on-the-spot tactical outcome/human error.

My argument is not only that too many SWAT raids violate innocent people and/or cause needless violence. It's that sending SWAT teams to break down the doors of nonviolent offenders is in itself a bad idea, and not a police tactic free societies ought to tolerate.

As I have said repeatedly, I agree with the latter part. I dispute the contention that these incidents are not "isolated incidents".

If you're going to argue that there isn't a problem here because "only" 40 or so innocent people have been killed in paramilitary police raids since 1985, I wonder, what is a good number?

Most decisions at the societal/macro level involve some calculus. Not every driver with a blood alcohol limit below 0.08 is safe. In fact, studies do find an increased risk of accidents among drivers with a BAC of 0.05-0.07, yet a limit has to be set and 0.08 is it. I'm not going to specify a limit on the number of "allowable" raid deaths of innocents, but the calculus isn't personal, it's at a macro level. And at that level, there isn't (yet) a "problem".
posted by daksya at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2006


Daksya, the acceptable number of civilians murdered by police officers is zero. This is not "accidental discharge," this is not a mistake. We allow these officers to remain on the force. Why do we accept this insanity? Why do we allow police to keep their jobs after they force a dog back into a burning building? Why do we not bat an eye when an officer steps on an infant's head and then refuses to do the honorable act of blowing his own fucking brains out?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:54 AM on July 20, 2006


Why do we not bat an eye when an officer steps on an infant's head and then refuses to do the honorable act of blowing his own fucking brains out? - Optimus Chyme

Oh fuck off, Optimus. We do "bat an eye" when an officer steps on an infant's head or other bullshit. There are forces with problems and concerned citizens should be part of working towards solutions instead of just bitching about the "evil pigs" and saying that they should go kill themselves. Then you just sound like a lunatic and make anything the defenders spew seem logical by comparison. Many forces have come a long way in fixing the back-scratching and cover-ups of yesteryear.

It's totally unfair to paint an entire profession with such a broad brush of "Evil", and the side effect of being so agressively anti-police is that it puts people that are part of that establishment on the defensive. So their backs are up and they stop listening to you entirely. Then they miss the important things you're actually trying to bring to light.
posted by raedyn at 9:29 AM on July 20, 2006


...4 is on-the-spot tactical outcome/human error.
Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial.
...the side effect of being so agressively anti-police is that it puts people that are part of that establishment on the defensive.

Heavens, no! Fortunately the side effects of my actions will never involve the crushing of an infant skull or the killing of an innocent, but hey... I should show some compassion here, huh?
posted by prostyle at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2006


Optimus Chyme - This is not "accidental discharge," this is not a mistake. We allow these officers to remain on the force.

If it's not accidental, then there seem to be very few sadists among SWAT teams, considering that there's an average of 3-4 deaths, make that 10 (including potentially unreported ones) among 40,000 raids each year. All of which are conducted by "these officers" belonging to the SWAT division.
posted by daksya at 9:49 AM on July 20, 2006


concerned citizens should be part of working towards solutions

Joe Arpaio has an approval rating between 70% and 80%. We like our cops butal, incompetent, and corrupt here. Let me know when you figure out how to get rid of America's Worst (and Most Popular) Sheriff.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:52 AM on July 20, 2006


...the side effect of being so agressively anti-police is that it puts people that are part of that establishment on the defensive. - raedyn

Heavens, no! Fortunately the side effects of my actions will never involve the crushing of an infant skull or the killing of an innocent, but hey... I should show some compassion here, huh? - prostyle

I'm not defending the times that police screw up. I'm saying that if you want anything to change, you have to utilize intelligent criticism. If stomping around hollering wildly about all the Evil you percieve behind the badge makes you feel good, then by all means carry on. Just realize that it's ineffective. There are people that actually want to look for solutions to change the problems with the system. Some of them are even cops. These are the people that will make a difference, not those that just rail on the system without offering any ideas for change.
posted by raedyn at 9:59 AM on July 20, 2006


We like our cops butal, incompetent, and corrupt here. - Optimus Chyme

One of the differences between the culture in Canada (where I live) vs the US is this sort of mentality. Our penal system is (supposedly) skewed more towards rehabilitation than punishment. IMO, we've got the right sort of idea, but we've got our own problems with our execution of these strategies. Hearing about the types of issues raised here leads me to believe moving more in this direction is not the solution we need.

I don't pretend to be an expert on the penal system in either country. I'm just calling it like I see it. Bitching and whining about any issue doesn't move a society towards change.
posted by raedyn at 10:09 AM on July 20, 2006


If stomping around hollering wildly about all the Evil you perceive behind the badge makes you feel good, then by all means carry on.

I have not ascribed evil to any force or activities mentioned here, although I will admit I am rather predisposed to viewing them negatively. When the POTUS ascribes evil to entire nations in public addresses, I'd imagine you could spare me the persecution for viewing and describing police activity with a skeptical or derogatory eye. It's all relative; the loaded language and mobilization of forces to enact our global political presence is analogous to the enforcement we receive at home. That's where statistics fall short, and collateral damage becomes meaningless. In other words, when it's your infant or maybe even your own person that catches a slug in your skull I'm damned sure you aren't going to tolerate that outcome as completely acceptable. It's a war of ideas, and the peaceful side has been losing since day one.

Who enters a conversation to feel good? I hold these views and comment on them because I have been personally affected by these types of activities and am rather indignant. I really don't require any fuzzy notions of emotional feedback loops to justify my words, one way or another.

Just realize that it's ineffective.

Wake me up when any position presented in an online forum is "effective". Hysterically useless.
posted by prostyle at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2006


I have not ascribed evil to any force or activities mentioned here *snip* Who enters a conversation to feel good?

I'm sorry, those comments were really addressed more towards Optimus Chyme who appears more to be 'hollering wildly' as I so impolitely put it.

When the POTUS ascribes evil to entire nations in public addresses
.. it's ridiculous and stupid, yes.

when it's your infant or maybe even your own person that catches a slug in your skull I'm damned sure you aren't going to tolerate that outcome as completely acceptable.

I have never once suggested, nor do I hold the opinion that the outcomes described in the link are acceptable. I suspect you may be conflating my posts with those of other people who are saying "the percentages are so low, so obviously there isn't a problem". Go back and read what I've written. No where have I suggested that it's okay.

I'm also on the side that wishes to see lessons taken from these incidents and measures put in place so that no one else has to suffer at the hands of a group that is supposed to be "serving & protecting" us. The police must be held to a very high standard of conduct at all times, precisely because of the power that is given to them. There must be checks on that power. There must be consequences when it is abused.

Wake me up when any position presented in an online forum is "effective". - prostyle

Depends what you mean by effective. It's not like your local PD is sitting here reading this, stroking their chin going "hmm, good point. let's change our approach" But it is possible for online conversation to be part of educating each other, for testing out your own positions and being exposed to other positions. For exchanging and promoting ideas that you can take back to your offline community.

I think it's interesting that you ask "Who enters a concersation to feel good?" and then say that online discussions are "hysterically uselss". If you don't enter in the conversation in order to make a change anyone's mind or otherwise make an acutal difference, and you don't do it for reinforcement and affirmation, why do it at all? (honest question, no snarkiness intended)
posted by raedyn at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2006


I suspect you may be conflating my posts with those of other people who are saying "the percentages are so low, so obviously there isn't a problem". Go back and read what I've written. No where have I suggested that it's okay.

You are completely correct, I apologize for my confusion.

...why do it at all?

As you so very well put it, I participate because... it is possible for online conversation to be part of educating each other, for testing out your own positions and being exposed to other positions.

I simply do not believe you can actively and directly change anyones opinions or ideas by presentation alone, so I don't make it a priority or an expectation for the ensuing discourse. More than anything though, the abstract nature of my comment was directed towards the idea that our dialog can be quantified by a notion so basic as effectiveness. I apologize if I seemed facetious.
posted by prostyle at 1:40 PM on July 20, 2006


Don't you think, raedyn, that perhaps there's a significant cultural difference between Canada and the USA that accounts for a large part of the difference in attitudes toward the police?

I mean, shit, they just love killing one another down there. The statistics on gun deaths in the USA is simply horrifying, yet they don't seem to think they have a problem.

Meanwhile, we have a bajillion guns up in Canada yet remarkably few gun deaths. We're not a very violent people, and we're not in the habit of using guns to settle our differences.

Too, we have a professional national police force, whereas the USA is into these half-assed micro-forces. Every damn county seems to have its own police force, and every state has a different set of laws. It's stupid, it's unprofessional, and — no surprise — it's ripe for the kind of abuses we read about all the time.

Honestly, it is probably pointless for a Canadian and an American to talk about policing: we're worlds apart in implementation and in culture.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:46 PM on July 20, 2006


Botched Raid of the Day
posted by homunculus at 1:06 PM on July 22, 2006


Let's not forget about the ones that aren't botched raids but those the cops already know are simply bullying abuses of power. E.g., how about a cop that tells a woman he won't write her a traffic ticket if she blows him? There's something seriously wrong with anyone who'd join a police force, especially in a big American city.
posted by davy at 7:00 AM on July 26, 2006


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