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March 25, 2008 9:43 PM   Subscribe

NYPD in action. There is really not much anywhere written about this, but here is the youtube link of some policemen threatening and beating people in front of the UN building in New York. Some pics (stills from the video) here.
posted by dminor (111 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Made in China
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, that Pastor Wright sure was wrong when he said "God damn America." I mean, I just can't understand that attitude when I look at these videos of Officers Friendly serving and protecting.

And I know they're even more friendly if you're poor, or black, or unlikely to be believed when it's your word against theirs.
posted by orthogonality at 9:58 PM on March 25, 2008 [10 favorites]


NYPD: Truly, America's Finest
posted by hadjiboy at 10:06 PM on March 25, 2008


Hey 11th Century Retrogade Gelugist CIA Puke

Indymedia comments are a scream.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:07 PM on March 25, 2008


I thought at first that this post might be an overreaction, but when I saw the expression on the faces of some of the officers... I saw the look of a bully.

Did they not have permission for their protest? Were they acting violent? I don't understand what started this.
posted by niccolo at 10:07 PM on March 25, 2008


Why wasn't this on the news? ...or was it and I missed it?
posted by andythebean at 10:09 PM on March 25, 2008


Speaking as someone who lived a block away from the IMF/World Bank whilst attending GWU, someone always seems to ruin a perfectly good protest...its a roll of the dice whether its the cops, or someone more into the 'protest' aspect than the actual issue that they are ostensibly protesting. There are a lot of people genuinely committed to the idea of a free Tibet, or the IMF sucks, etc, but there are always a few who are there for the anti-authoritarian vibe.

Not at all saying that is the case here, but just something to realize before one gets all ZOMGCOPS!
posted by uaudio at 10:09 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why wasn't this on the news? ...or was it and I missed it?

Since when is it news that cops beat people up?
posted by delmoi at 10:10 PM on March 25, 2008 [9 favorites]


After listening to that narrator--well, who among us wouldn't club him?
posted by LarryC at 10:11 PM on March 25, 2008


I wouldn't club him, Larry.

That video makes me sick to my stomach.
posted by ryanhealy at 10:19 PM on March 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


After listening to that narrator--well, who among us wouldn't club him?

I'm surprised the narrator hasn't yet been disappeared, anally raped or shot 43 times for "evading arrest", for openly observing that a NYC police officer has committed a class D felony by making death threats, with intent to terrorize and intimidate a civilian.

It's especially ironic that a state antiterrorism statute enacted in response to the 9/11 attacks in New York City, specifically 2001 Chapter 300, NY Penal Law § 490.20, would appear to need application to an officer of the law in that same jurisdiction.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 PM on March 25, 2008 [10 favorites]


Maybe the police were just trying to be hospitable by making the protestors feel like they're in Tibet.
posted by homunculus at 11:09 PM on March 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


I appreciate the video and being informed about this incident, but... Alex Jones? Seriously?
posted by papakwanz at 11:42 PM on March 25, 2008


The Narrator was classic. He apparently never saw a cops nightstick before and was therefore STUNNED just STUNNED that the police had "clubs". Also, when the one cop said he "would kill you" narrator took that literally instead of as the hyperbole it certainly was.

I'm not going to add to the noise about the meat of the post (the beatings) other than to say I'm a'gin it.
posted by Bonzai at 11:58 PM on March 25, 2008


2. It shall be no defense to a prosecution pursuant to this section
that the defendant did not have the intent...of committing
the specified offense...

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


re: Why wasn't this on the news

Here's my guess. It's a local news from 3/14. Even if the videographer had gotten his tape to stations and papers by late afternoon, the footage would have arrived too late to conduct follow-up interviews with the NYPD and witnesses. Perhaps a couple news outlets held the story in consideration for the next day.

Which is when a giant crane collapsed, horrifying pretty much everyone, and devouring the news cycle.

The story did make some papers on 3/15. However, there are conflicting reports. Some state that six people were arrested in front of the UN (where the video takes place), where others cite six arrests outside of the Chinese Consulate...all the way on the opposite side of 42nd Street. Anyone know what's up with that?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:18 AM on March 26, 2008


Er..."It's a local news story from 3/14."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:04 AM on March 26, 2008


I don't know how to say this tactfully, so I'll just say it:

This video sucks.

The police brutality on display here is awful, and I believe that any cop who abuses his position in any way should be fired at the very very least, and the burden of proof should generally always be on the cop to prove that he or she didn't commit some kind of police brutality. I don't want to get started on the ways that we can work together as a society to create smarter, more effective cops that aren't essentially licensed bullies, because I don't have the answers and that's not my point here.

My point is that this video sucks. I really think that a big part of the reason so few people take Indymedia seriously is that they're such a bunch of amateurs, and don't show signs of getting any better.

I know it was a pretty heavy situation -- that much is clear from the video. But the frame is nearly always in motion, which often makes it hard to figure out exactly what's going on. It's as if the cameraman from Cloverfield decided to shoot some video of The Blair Witch Project. For a lot of it, it's pretty hard to make out what's going on at all.

Stop. Lock your frame. Find the story. Shoot it for as long as you possibly can, then move on to shooting the next thing. If the camera operator had found one relatively unobtrusive place to shoot from, and then held his camera still for just 90 (or even 60 or 30 or 15) seconds at a time, he would have had an undeniably damning and impartial piece of evidence.

What was with the freeze-frames? What was with those terrible fucking unreadable titles? How do you look at those titles and say, "Yeah, this is good stuff?" Why, with the advanced state of today's digital cameras, was the quality worse than that of that 8MM Bigfoot video? Why did the editing seem to jump around at random?

I'm not expecting Kubrick here. I don't think these guys should be held to the same standards as professional camera operators and photojournalists with years of experience and training. Hell, we don't even need to hold them to the same standard as the guy who shoots your wedding.

But this is important stuff. It's that bullshit policeman's sens of entitlement at its worst. Video is one of the greatest weapons we have against incidents like this, and it's vital that when that video is shot, it doesn't look like it was made by a hyperactive eight year old.

I dunno -- I might not make too many friends with these comments, but to anyone who says these guys are amateurs and we shouldn't expect much of them, I'd point to this video, which is nothing if not amateurish -- the camera zooms in and out and jiggles around a bit. But the camera operator (who shot it from his apartment) didn't futz around with wacky editing and shitty titles to make his point. He just found what he needed to shoot, focused his camera, and let the actions of the people he was shooting tell the story. That's really all you need.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:58 AM on March 26, 2008 [15 favorites]


Sorry, "bullshit policeman's sense of entitlement."
posted by hifiparasol at 2:00 AM on March 26, 2008


But I thought taking photographs of someone without their permission gave you an absolute license to administer a beat down?

Or is that just a Metafilter thing?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:00 AM on March 26, 2008


My point is that this video sucks.

The film student in me keeps yelling, "show, don't tell!" The narrator is rather unconvincing as a detached observer, and yet we pretty much have to rely on his testimony because the video is horrible.

I'm willing to guess, however, that part of that has to do with YouTube and poor compression. Whoever shot this should give a copy of the tapes/files to someone who knows how to compress and post high quality web video so we can see what's going on.
posted by chrominance at 2:19 AM on March 26, 2008


NY ♣ U
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:48 AM on March 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


The basic problem regarding American civil society and law enforcement is that cops simply are dumb people. They are the kids that passed their grades just barely. Out on the street they simply have no concept of the American constitution, the protections of the Bill of Rights, or just the general idea that the U.S. is not a police state and law enforcement officers are civil servants. They simply don't care and are largely authoritarian and aggressive. They get off on the power and the benefit of the doubt society has bestowed upon them in spades. None of this is going to change because people are idiots. I bet most Americans watching that video would side with the police. That's not to say in this video that the officers were entirely out of line. There probably is some legal requirement that protesters be permitted and maybe these weren't; I don't really know how it works in NY. The point is just on the equities it was disgusting.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 5:08 AM on March 26, 2008


where are the you tubes of the cops protecting abused spouses and getting kicked and spit on for their trouble? and that really outrage-inducing one a cop rescuing a kitty from a storm sewer? fucking cops get away with everything.
posted by quonsar at 5:14 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agreed with you, norabarnacl3, up until the "most Americans watching that video would side with the police." That I think is simply hyperbole. I think most Americans would find it distateful and tragic, but they would feel that there is nothing that can be done about it.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:18 AM on March 26, 2008


Any idea why YouTube thinks you should have to be 18 to see this video?
posted by etaoin at 5:32 AM on March 26, 2008


Excellent question, etaoin.
I don't have to be 18 to see Rodney King get savagely beaten.
I don't have to be 18 to see all those "Two Girls One Cup" reaction vids either.
posted by Dizzy at 6:08 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


quonsar: "where are the you tubes of the cops protecting abused spouses and getting kicked and spit on for their trouble? and that really outrage-inducing one a cop rescuing a kitty from a storm sewer? fucking cops get away with everything."

quonsar, protecting abused spouses, and rescuing kitties from trees is their job. This is just another case of "If you do your job right, nobody will notice, but mess up, and everyone does". We shouldn't notice the police at a non-violent protest.
posted by splatta at 6:09 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


...but you must have a "you tube" of a cop doing their job: here you go.
posted by splatta at 6:34 AM on March 26, 2008


According to the "comments" section of YouTube his name is Sgt. Wayne Guillory and I like what I see.
I'm glad you posted that, splatta.
posted by Dizzy at 6:38 AM on March 26, 2008


Also, when the one cop said he "would kill you" narrator took that literally instead of as the hyperbole it certainly was.

To that point, though, if you were at the protest and said to the cops "I'll kill you" in the exact same manner, you'd be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Is it only hyperbole if the person in power says it?
posted by inigo2 at 7:01 AM on March 26, 2008 [9 favorites]


If this is someone's definition of brutality, they need a new dictionary. My definition wouldn't include so much milling around, standing among the protestors, and talking.

Policeman: Is this being videotaped?
Cameraman: Yes it is.
Policeman: That's good.
(cameraman continues to record, policeman continues to basically just stand there and let him)

Oh my God! Policemen! Keeping protesters at a distance! Buddhist protesters! Outside the UN! In America! Holding clubs! And they had Stun Guns, too! But they never used them! And one cop apologized! For a comment! But it was heated!
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:10 AM on March 26, 2008


I've been to countless protests in NYC, and have been just a few feet away from a few really heinous incidents. They rarely made news.

At the RNC, it was reported that a cop was assaulted and beaten up. What wasn't reported was that that cop wasn't wearing a uniform, and that he drove totally unprovoked into a crowd of protesters on an unmarked scooter during a week when protesters were being threatened pretty regularly by people in the city, often while cops laughed and egged them on. In the ensuing scuffle, a bunch of people were hurt. I was literally three feet away, and if I could've reached him, I would've slugged him once or twice myself, the asshole.

Just after 911, a cop rode his horse into a crowd of protesters and hurt a number of people. This was just an hour or so after an army of NYPD charged into a crowd while swinging their nightsticks totally randomly, bloodying....I don't know, ten, twenty people. The explanation was that "someone had a weapon." Probed for further info, a community affairs officer revealed that they thought that someone was using a sign that had a wooden stick, instead of cardboard. I can't recall whether it was reported anywhere remarkable.

I could go on for hours. This won't be reported because they're protesters. Nobody likes protesters. And after 911, people REALLY don't like protesters. The gloves were off, and people in the city didn't care. They don't want to hear it. They hate your politics, they hate that you're blocking traffic, they hate that you're costing the city money in NYPD overtime. And frankly, a city full of Jewish people hates seeing signs like "Free Palestine" or anything equating Zionists with Nazis, whether it might be true or not.

I stopped going out about two years ago for two major reasons. First, I finally woke up to how little effect we were having, and started paying attention to how much scorn we drew from people in the city. We could turn out hundreds of thousands of people, and it might merit a 30 second mention on the news.

The NYPD was the other reason. This city is FULL of asshole cops. Are there exceptions? Of course. But the default face on most of the "officers" of this fine city is a smirk. They literally get away with murder. It's better since Giuliani left office, but not by much. After years of protests and abuse and violence at the hands of thuggish police, I got to the point where my heart would race just seeing a police car. It was ridiculous.

And the "cops are heroes" meme? No thanks. It's what they're paid to do. And just about every asshole, every racist and every bully I went to school with? All NYPD now.
posted by nevercalm at 7:23 AM on March 26, 2008 [15 favorites]


...[I]f you were at the protest and said to the cops "I'll kill you" in the exact same manner, you'd be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Is it only hyperbole if the person in power says it?

If you were obviously well-armed, with not one but *several* deadly weapons, and openly, clearly threatened an officer's life, he'd be pretty well justified in putting a bullet in your head.
posted by LordSludge at 7:28 AM on March 26, 2008


At the RNC, it was reported that a cop dog was assaulted and beaten up bitten by a man. What wasn't reported was that that cop wasn't wearing a uniform, and that he drove totally unprovoked into a crowd of protesters on an unmarked scooter during a week when protesters were being threatened pretty regularly by people in the city, often while cops laughed and egged them on. In the ensuing scuffle, a bunch of people were hurt. I was literally three feet away, and if I could've reached him, I would've slugged him once or twice myself, the asshole dog was trying to attack the man and the man retaliated.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:30 AM on March 26, 2008


Also, when the one cop said he "would kill you" narrator took that literally instead of as the hyperbole it certainly was.

The thing is, cops don't have the luxury of hyperbole. If a police officer makes a statement to you, you have to assume that he or she is intending it as an order (whether or not you choose to accept this order is a completely different discussion), but when in uniform, the words coming out of cops mouths are expected to be obeyed.

So if a cop comments on killing me, I'm going to take issue with it.

In a tense situation where people are keyed up, and assaults are happening all around me, if I hear someone who is well armed and has friends/ co-workers who I can see are hurting people, and this person threatens me? I'm not going to look for subtle undercurrents of meaning, I'm going to assume that this person has stated their intention to end my life, and I'm going to get the fuck out of there. I'm then going to make every effort to see to it that that officer is charged with making a death threat, in the exact same way that I would have been had the situation been reversed.
posted by quin at 7:57 AM on March 26, 2008


I don't understand the cop hate. Some are bullies. To say that all are, and the rest of the 'death to pigs' meme is just common variety bigotry. Nothing more noble than that.

I'm going to walk over to the UN today and see for myself. I've seen a lot of protests and just recently, St Patrick's day - clearly the most compelling case for unrestrained beatdowns in human experience - and NEVER have seen one instance of unprovoked police brutality in NYC. Sometimes, an over-reaction, yes, absolutely, but I'm more disgusted on balance with the hatred towards people ('this is their job' and 'they all are morons' comments) that do generally do great work, for low pay, and do put their lives on the line - not to take advantage of a severely overused cliche.
posted by sfts2 at 8:12 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


where are the you tubes of the cops protecting abused spouses and getting kicked and spit on for their trouble? and that really outrage-inducing one a cop rescuing a kitty from a storm sewer? fucking cops get away with everything.

I hear Ted Bundy was a great guy when he wasn't raping and murdering women.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:26 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Fucking college leftists.
posted by Snyder at 8:32 AM on March 26, 2008


I hear Ted Bundy was a great guy when he wasn't raping and murdering women.

Ted Bundy is one person. "all policemen" is not.

Where I grew up in the country, policemen were basically public servants who did exactly that sort of thing - got your cat out of a tree, made sure parties didn't get out of control, came and got the cows when they escaped into our backyard (on horseback! with a lasso). They were usually local kids who decided to stay in town and that was a decent way to make a living. Then I moved to the city and met a lot of assholish cops who abused the power given to them and basically remained immune to repercussions because of the whole "thin blue line" nonsense.

However, the fact that there are bad cops doesn't mean that the cops in my town were bad, that I was confused about what they did and who they are, or the fact that compared to a lot of people in town they were undereducated and underpaid for the sort of work they had to do, IF the shit hit the fan, which in smalltown USA it rarely did. It's a bad job in many respects. It is also a job that many people do badly. There is a certain structure to the power dynamic afforded to policemen that means that people inclined to abuse this power can get away with it and that sucks. I don't mean to be all "support the troops" about this, but the fact that bad people do bad things doesnt mean that all the people who have the same job as those people are necessarily bad.

MetaFilter gets totally ugly around police brutality issues, even moreso than talking about the war and I wonder if it's just that a lot of us either don't know or don't have any real world experience with police officers that aren't this negative sort of shit?
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter gets totally ugly around police brutality issues, even moreso than talking about the war and I wonder if it's just that a lot of us either don't know or don't have any real world experience with police officers that aren't this negative sort of shit?

I think that's it, pretty much.
posted by Snyder at 9:08 AM on March 26, 2008


I don't mean to be all "support the troops" about this, but the fact that bad people do bad things doesnt mean that all the people who have the same job as those people are necessarily bad.

I think this is a wildly gross mischaracterization of the criticism in this thread. It is truly sad that that kind of polemic gets trotted out to stifle discussion of police brutality, in a day and age when the authorities are afforded more power with less oversight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 AM on March 26, 2008


I think this is a wildly gross mischaracterization of the criticism in this thread.

It's a wildly gross characterization of all the criticism in this thread, sure. It is, however, a spot-on criticism of some of it.
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on March 26, 2008


I hate police brutality as much as the next guy, but it's a shame the video quality is so poor. And I thought it was goofy when the narrator kept talking about how they were Buddhists. But I hope that when I am beaten by the police someone is filming it and shouting "They're doing it to the JEWS!"
posted by ludwig_van at 9:33 AM on March 26, 2008


There is a certain structure to the power dynamic afforded to policemen that means that people inclined to abuse this power can get away with it and that sucks.

I think that's it, pretty much.
posted by nzero at 9:35 AM on March 26, 2008


It is, however, a spot-on criticism of some of it.

I might as well characterize your apologia as equivalent to saying that those nonviolent protesters deserved it, because all police officers aren't bad. That would be as "spot-on" as your "criticism", I think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 AM on March 26, 2008


I don't mean to be all "support the troops" about this, but the fact that bad people do bad things doesnt mean that all the people who have the same job as those people are necessarily bad.

But you are sorta being all "support the troops" about it. No, that there are bad cops doesn't mean there aren't also good cops. But even the good cops are part of an institutionalized system that seems to protect corruption and the abuse of power. You don't get a free pass on that because you're a good guy.
posted by Justinian at 9:41 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


No no, Snyder. I think you hit the nail on the head the first time with your "fucking college leftists" remark. No way could these people be ex-pats, or people who know what the hell they're outraged about, or just compassionate people who take the notion civic action in a purported democracy seriously. What a bunch of hippies, right?

Of course individual barbaric cops with an axe to grind against protesters are not representative of every police officer, nor do their actions have anything to say about the difficulty of their job. As an EMT I work with police every day and I (usually) receive the utmost respect; we need them to protect us, they need us to take care of injured people. It was one of the first things I noticed about working on an ambulance: my uniform granted me the courtesy, and fraternal respect that police should give everybody. Every firefighter I know says the exact same thing. But on my day off walking down the street in jeans and a sweater I've had police roll up next to me and rudely inquire as to where I was going, where I lived, etc.

I think this dichotomy is something police learn even before their training. I would bet that many of them by necessity have a fairly black-and-white worldview; to not see the world in stark terms of good guys vs. bad guys would make the job much more difficult to do. There's a reason why there are no Proustian types, wracked by moral nuances and ambiguities, wielding billy clubs. Usually they are earnest people who get into the profession for the right reasons, whose judgement on complicated matters is often colored by how difficult their jobs are and how much years and years of subconciously hardening stereotypes about people and situations eats away at their capacity to sympathize with and morally reason about people they encounter.

Things like Copwatch (or just the tendency for teenagers in Baltimore to have a camera for taping their friends do skateboard tricks) are great because they can help to hold individual officers accountable if they commit misconduct, which is the only way it can and should be dealt with. A slew of Youtube commenters (average IQ ~88) seeing this and typing "FUCK THE PIGS" doesn't help any one of us. It does however give us the names and badge numbers of officers evidently acting outside their protocols and such evidence can be used to discipline them appropriately (we hope).
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:59 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just think the situation is complicated and if you want to just armchair it up and say GRAWR GRAWR fucking pigs it's not helping understand why some cops are good, some are bad, and getting to the systemic problems of why the stuff like what happened in the video happened instead of just assuming that all cops are bad which comes along with, to my ears a "what can you do" handwavey dismissal. Things you can do like

- contribute to the copwatch database/project or a local group
- keep a copy of the copwatch booklet and the ACLU fighting police abuses booklets handy and spread it around your communities
- understand why and how police abuse happens internationally and locally
- ally with groups that have a decent chance of being heard, for example black cops against police brutality
- know your own rights.
- tell your candidates that "tough on crime" platforms that rely on fear and uncertainty to motivate votes do not motivate you
- be a witness and an outspoken critic of police abuses of power in more places than just MetaFilter. Get to know your local review board and newspaper editor/reporters. Write those letters.

More to the point, if you're in a postition of power relative to the people whose rights are being trampled (the poor and black people that orthogonality mentions above as well as immigrants, women, gay and transgendered people, mentally impaired/crazy, basically the people who are already getting a raw deal in various ways) lend your voice to theirs. Developing a "well fuck those guys" attitude doesn't really do much to deal with the entrenched power that allows abuses like this to continue while at the same time tarring a bunch of people with a brush that is overbroad and not particularly effective.
posted by jessamyn at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


I don't mean to be all "support the troops" about this, but the fact that bad people do bad things doesnt mean that all the people who have the same job as those people are necessarily bad.

It's funny how you say you don't mean to do it, and then do it. I agree with you that "Metafilter gets totally ugly around police brutality issues" and know that you are pretty much always a voice of reason, but it truly is impossible to talk about police brutality around here without being told you're overreacting, generalizing, whatever.

Of course there are good cops. But there are also truckloads of bad ones. What's the ratio of good to bad? Who knows? The point is that these are people with tons of power and little to no day-to-day oversight, and they tend to abuse that power because of the lack of people talking about just this sort of thing. Do they all do it? It would be ridiculous to say that. But a whole lot of them DO do it, and we should never fail to shine a really bright light on them. The fact that we as a nation often fail to is discouraging, to say the least.
posted by nevercalm at 10:05 AM on March 26, 2008


The protesters made a big mistake with their protesting in NYC: they were carrying flags with poles. Any sort of item (pole or stick) used to hold up a sign or flag at a protest is a no no. That doesn't excuse the death threat or the beat downs of people that were on the ground, but you'll notice in many cases of the cops clubbing people, they were clubbing people holding the poles.
posted by ryoshu at 10:09 AM on March 26, 2008


Things you can do like ...

Also, if you live in NYC and are unhappy with the cops, you could lobby for pay raises for the NYPD. Right now, starting salaries are about half what you can get in the suburbs and the policeforce is undermanned. That means less qualified people applying and fewer cops on the street here in the city (which leads to more stress and more chances of bad incidents). It's not mindless "support the troops" bullshit to say that if you want a decent police force, actually working to build one is a thousand times more useful than shaky-cam "news stories".
posted by Bookhouse at 10:12 AM on March 26, 2008


Where I grew up in the country, policemen were basically public servants who did exactly that sort of thing - got your cat out of a tree, made sure parties didn't get out of control, came and got the cows when they escaped into our backyard (on horseback! with a lasso).

Out of curiosity, what's your personal experience with the cops in that same town nowadays? I ask because I wouldn't trust my own understanding of what my local cops did in my hometown when I was anything under 16. Frankly, I grew up in Long Island suburbs and thought cops were just dandy until I was old enough to encounter the ones that give you shit for standing outside a 7-11, or who pull shotguns on your dog for stealing the neighbor's newspaper. I moved away from the area to go to school in upstate NY and discovered that cops actually get worse in more rural areas (in my personal experience) when they beat a black friend of mine over a misunderstanding and repeatedly refused to do anything about townies beating up the college kids because they knew all the kids. The sherriff told me to my face that "[townie x] is basically a good boy, and I don't want to bother his mother with this kind of thing."

Then I moved to the city and met a lot of assholish cops who abused the power given to them and basically remained immune to repercussions because of the whole "thin blue line" nonsense.

On a side note, that phrase comes from a trial in texas where a non-local man was charged and wrongly convicted of murdering an officer because the cops didn't want to charge the local boy who confessed to the crime. The prosecutor had said "thin blue line" to describe the police force in his closing arguments to the jury. The judge remarked that the line had choked him up a bit with its poignancy. It was well over a decade before Errol Morris came to town with his cameras to expose the injustice in his documentary called "The Thin Blue Line." It's a pretty scathing condemnation of small town police corruption.

MetaFilter gets totally ugly around police brutality issues, even moreso than talking about the war and I wonder if it's just that a lot of us either don't know or don't have any real world experience with police officers that aren't this negative sort of shit?

Is it possible that people don't have real world experience with officers that isn't "this negative sort of shit" because they have real world experience with officers that is almost universally "this negative sort of shit?" I mean, I think it's easy to think that people feel this way because they just don't know any cops, but people don't spontaneously pick up these feelings. The tv is full of good cops doing good policework, stopping criminals and really being very reasonable with speeders and everybody else. That thin blue line bullshit is everywhere. People have negative ideas of cops because they actually DO have real world experience with cops, and no matter where you live it's a good bet that it's not because they're rescuing your kitty out of a tree.

Now, it's plainly true that nora barnacle's comment used terms to make it sound like she was describing "all cops." clearly, not all cops are anything, good OR bad. but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to read her comment as a generalization rather than a sweeping statement of absolutes. The truth is that being an officer has a rather low barrier for entry in terms of education, and though it is an underpaid and thankless job it is also a better paying and better thanked job than being a mcdonald's server, so there are people who opt for it because their other choices aren't too hot. still, though, there are other government jobs with a similarly low barrier to entry. why don't these guys go for those? well, because the other attractive prospect to being an officer is being an authority figure, and while not all cops do so out of a misplaced sense of self-importance it is nonetheless a job that attracts self-important poorly educated people, no matter where you live. it is an intensely corrupt position, and it only gets less oversight the further you get from a metropolitan area.

In other words: it is not a lack of understanding of officers, or a lack of experience with them, that causes people to have a negative perception of them.
posted by shmegegge at 10:16 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


But you are sorta being all "support the troops" about it. No, that there are bad cops doesn't mean there aren't also good cops. But even the good cops are part of an institutionalized system that seems to protect corruption and the abuse of power. You don't get a free pass on that because you're a good guy.

Bingo. If the good cops were regularly firing, arresting, and prosecuting the bad cops, I'd be a lot more tolerant toward the police. Instead, the bad cops always seem to get oh-so-harsh "administrative leave" for doing things that would put me or any other civilian in jail for a good long time, and the good cops stand by and allow it to happen.

Police violence is institutionalized in this country -- that is to say, it is largely expected, it is largely excused, and it is largely exempt from appropriate punishment. Behaving as if the good cops aren't complicit in this is ridiculous, especially when cops themselves readily admit that precinct culture is the greatest influence on how police officers behave. Sorry, but I can't call any cop "good" so long as he works for a precinct that repeatedly slaps violent cops on the wrist and then puts them back on the street.

In short: if there are so many good cops in New York, then why are there so many bad cops in New York?
posted by vorfeed at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


What people consistently fail to understand and ignore is the fact that for every bad police officer, there are 100 good ones. We will never get rid of the bad ones until people can get over their irrational "all cops are pigs" mentality. Be an adult and deal with the situation like adults. I wish there was a way to get across how much people sound like a bratty high school kids when they go into the whole "cops are just dumb jocks who want to beat us up,and how come they can yell at me, but I can't yell back?"

Do you understand how much privilege you have to even be able to complain about the police? Are you aware of how much wrongly assumed privilege it takes to believe that we can somehow have society of laws and order without you personally ever being on the bottom end of an institutional power dynamic?

Grow up.

Is this one situation an example of Police abusing their power? Maybe it is. But where are the videos of people abusing their privilege? I've been to enough protests to know that there's always plenty examples of that as well.

I've been pulled over for driving while Black so many times, that I choose not to drive anymore. I've seen police at their worst. But I've also seen them at their best. And I choose to give them just as much credit for the good as I take away for the bad.

Because that's what it means to be a rational adult.

And to those of you who think that the good they do is "just their job" I challenge you to go spend some time talking to Police Officers about their jobs. Go watch them as they do their jobs. They deal with the worst that we as a society can come up with. And I really shouldn't have to tell you just how bad we can be. You think YOUR job sucks? You think YOUR customers are idiots? I've been robbed at gunpoint. I'd rather deal with an asshole cop than an asshole criminal any day of the week.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:22 AM on March 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


What's the ratio of good to bad?

I am a sample size of one, but I've dealt with probably a couple of dozen cops in prolonged face-to-face contact over the years. And in that time, I've dealt with only one who was truly loathsome (and two that were kinda dicks, but not professionally, so I don't really count it.)

The thing is, as much as I respect police officers, and know from personal experience that most of the ones around me are honest and good people who are trying to better their communities, it's that one really bad one that sticks in my head. It may not be fair to tar the entire law enforcement community by the actions of a few, but at least for me, it's hard to ignore the bad when the offenses are so egregious and the penalties are so minor.

I guess it would be easier to accept the fact that the occasional bully slipped through the training and made it to being an officer, if the very first time he acted inappropriately, he was called out and, if necessary, fired. The fact that it doesn't happen is where the mistrust comes from. I know that most police are good. But I don't want to have to deal with that couple that are assholes if I can avoid it.
posted by quin at 10:23 AM on March 26, 2008


Developing a "well fuck those guys" attitude doesn't really do much to deal with the entrenched power that allows abuses like this to continue while at the same time tarring a bunch of people with a brush that is overbroad and not particularly effective.

It should be said that tarring everyone with that "fuck those guys" brush in this thread doesn't help a whole lot, either. That's the kind of rhetorical trick used to shut down discussion, not further it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been robbed at gunpoint.

You've been hit by asset forfeiture laws?

I'd rather deal with an asshole cop than an asshole criminal any day of the week.

Criminals will be prosecuted for their crimes. Cops? Not so much.
posted by ryoshu at 10:37 AM on March 26, 2008


I agree that so many Mefis seem like knee-jerk, college pseudo-Leninists. They scream at all the wrong moments, just to be screaming. There is so much in that crappy video that we CANNOT SEE, so much that WAS STAGED. I get the distinct feeling that the protestors had inappropriately and illegally felt entitled to step, go, and do wherever and whatever they desired. Like good ol' bolsheviks. (Ends justifies means.) And that cops barked orders at them in order to get them to align on the sidewalk, not walk into traffic etc., and that the protestors simply disobeyed because they are not just pro-Tibet but also anti-authority (it's part of their daily work routine). (BTW: if Tibet could be truly free to act as it did in the 9th-15th cc, would we allow them to have bloody wars between monastic sects again? To rule as a theocracy?) Hey, Leninists!!! Nobody's perfect, and a world w/o basic civil society and laws for behavior on the streets is just going to Bladerunner-ville.

(Can't wait to hear them all sniffling that I'm a right-wing goon.) Nuff said. I believe that pseudo-Leninists will be the first ones hoisted up when this civilization does finally collapse (Jacobin violence, bolshevik murders and assassinations, etc.).

And did anyone see about a month ago the YouTube of Baltimore cop berating and pushing around the punk-ass little kid whom he had ordered to stop illegally skateboarding? I raised a toast to that cop... someone who like me hates sullen, nasty, filthy, antinomian behavior in public spaces. Those who wish to be so, should be so behind doors.

Pls, MetaFilter, don't delete this one just because you might be a leftist self-authorized deleter.
posted by yazi at 10:38 AM on March 26, 2008


I just think the situation is complicated and if you want to just armchair it up and say GRAWR GRAWR fucking pigs it's not helping understand why some cops are good, some are bad, and getting to the systemic problems of why the stuff like what happened in the video happened instead of just assuming that all cops are bad which comes along with, to my ears a "what can you do" handwavey dismissal.

armchair it up? "GRAWR GRAWR fucking pigs?" honestly, you're kind of a perfect example of why these threads can go south, right now. you've adopted a view of the opposing viewpoint that doesn't accurately represent what they're trying to say, you've paraphrased to the point of total inaccuracy and you're essentially quelling discussion by saying it would be more effective to go to copwatch. we're discussing what happened. that's what we do here. you know this. what on earth is it you imagine you're accomplishing by writing things like this?
posted by shmegegge at 10:46 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


(BTW: if Tibet could be truly free to act as it did in the 9th-15th cc, would we allow them to have bloody wars between monastic sects again? To rule as a theocracy?)
...
(Can't wait to hear them all sniffling that I'm a right-wing goon.)


honestly, right wing goon wasn't what occurred to me. to hear you siding with China against Tibet I'd figure a communist.
posted by shmegegge at 10:49 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


What people consistently fail to understand and ignore is the fact that for every bad police officer, there are 100 good ones.

I've thought about your comment and decided that you pulled this figure out of your ass.

If there really were 100 good cops for every bad cop, the bad cops would be drummed out of the police force or put in jail. I have no idea what the real ratio is, but it clearly isn't 100-1 or 1-100 in either direction.

There are enough bad cops that police officers who kill innocent people through negligence, poor police work, or illegally cutting corners are often given nothing more than a slap on the wrist and some administrative leave. When that changes, and cops who abuse their power are regularly drummed out of the force or put in jail (depending on the severity of what they do), then maybe you can make the claim that there are 100 good cops for every bad cop with a straight face.
posted by Justinian at 10:50 AM on March 26, 2008


what on earth is it you imagine you're accomplishing by writing things like this?

That's how the seething resentment on both sides of this issue sounds to me. That people in many cases don't respond to the actual content of a post but just basically unleash their anti-cop sentiments in another thread about cop issues. The discussions are self-quelling. It seems like there are better ways to be active and useful than just snarky and complacent but I may be overgeneralizing from my own experience here hanging out with the public defender who has to deal with bad cops all the time and has, to my mind, developed a bit of an attitude about them. I'll lay off, people can find me in the usual places.
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on March 26, 2008


I raised a toast to that cop...

Me too. But only because he was stupid enough to be caught, repeatedly, on camera being far more aggressive than any of the situations warranted.

It is bullies like him, who like to throw their weight around for no good reason, and have piss-poor situational awareness, that do far more to draw awareness to the inequities of discipline in the law enforcement community than someone like me ever could.

So yeah, Kudos to that bumblebee, traffic enforcement guy, he was great!
posted by quin at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2008


I agree that so many Mefis seem like knee-jerk, college pseudo-Leninists. They scream at all the wrong moments, just to be screaming.

Nice parody of the kind of reaction/mindset you're attempting to put down.
posted by juiceCake at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2008




SPLATTA: EXPLAINING THE OBVIOUS WHILE THE POINT WHOOSHES PAST OVERHEAD.
posted by quonsar at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2008


Nice parody of the kind of reaction/mindset you're attempting to put down.

don't feed the troll! (although i can see the temptation, since this one's kind of cute--i think i'll call him "yazi the nazi.")
posted by saulgoodman at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2008


What people consistently fail to understand and ignore is the fact that for every bad police officer, there are 100 good ones.

I'm sorry, but any cop who forms part of the Blue Wall of Silence is a bad cop. When good cops start testifying against bad cops, I'll get interested in the fact that there are good cops. Until then, I am mostly interested in one case of police brutality after another going unpunished.
posted by gum at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2008


Shmegegge: you repeat the silly conceit that we "know what happened" if we watch the incredulous video. Nonsense.
More important, you may not know enough about the history of communisms. The great mystical, lebensphilosophie-inspired utopia of Marx and Engels, with its chaotic philosophy of a sort of coming political rule by some incomprehensible self-selected uber-group, quickly decayed into tyrrany. Lenin and Stalin realized that nationalist upwellings would be better for their agenda, and they thus changed their interpretation of Marx/Engels. To wit, communism (as promoted with money and assassinations by the COmintern) proceeded to ally itself with nationalist violence, and as we all know, the latter encompassed imperialist-style oppression (in the name of whatever nationalist ideologies). THe PRC tyranny is a hybrid of a Lenin/Stalinism that was seduced by this new "nationalism-friendly" workings of the criminal Comintern. It is a faded and sad politics-manque.

If China were free, many of us old-fashion liberals (now associated with right-ism and with communism by the benighted) will be happy. I hope the Tibetans inspire an overthrowing of the entire PRC tyranny!! BUt, my gut feeling is that the little Leninist martinets on the streets of London and NYC have no understanding of life in Tibet and diaspora Tibet. The latter live in their own thousand-yr. history. Of course the real Tibetans (those not in the pay or thrall of the nomenklatura) will not want any sort of continuity with PRC communism, should they succeed. The little martinets say they are anti-PRC tyranny, but their shrieking tactics belie an inability to transcend lurking bolshevism.
posted by yazi at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2008


I don't understand the cop hate. Some are bullies. To say that all are, and the rest of the 'death to pigs' meme is just common variety bigotry.

Here's my standard response: who becomes a cop? What motivates someone to want to be the armed enforcer of state and status quo? The excellent pay? The thrilling excitement of sobriety-testing rednecks and writing traffic tickets? The Christlike altruism of wanting to serve thy fellow man by "rescuing kittens from storm drains" (give me a fucking break, by the way. More like "shoot your dog because it barks at him", which nearly happened to me once) and the like? Bullshit. The motivation to become a cop is to have petty power and the ability to use force. Who is attracted to petty power and the ability to use force? You guessed it: bullies.

Now, does that mean that's every cop's sole or primary reason for becoming a cop? No, some of them probably really thought they would be helping people or just wanted a solid job. But with rare exceptions, those that weren't already bullies become bullies. Don't look at the Officer Friendly shit you learned in grade school, look at their motivations for becoming cops in the first place. They weren't born cops. The only attraction of the job is the power.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2008


You've been hit by asset forfeiture laws?

No. I've been told to lie face down with a shotgun to the back of my head while an asshole with a bandana tied around his face rifled through my stuff, and decided at that moment if I should live or die. He didn't kill me, so maybe he was less of an asshole thanI give him credit for. But at that moment, he was the frontrunner for the Biggest asshole of all time trophy.

Criminals will be prosecuted for their crimes. Cops? Not so much.

This is a poor argument, and simply untrue. I'm going to spell this out as simply as possible.

I'm not saying cops are all angels, that our model of policing and justice in this country are perfect. Far from it. The system is broken in many fundamental ways. But the knee-jerk "cops are all dumb bullies who are above the law" argument, not only misses the real problem, but it's actually counter-productive.

We live in such privilege that we often forget that we are in a RELATIONSHIP with those who serve us. It is not a one way street.

If you really care, this is one aspect of our society that can realistically be addressed directly. You have the ability to improve the level of policing in your communities. It's one of the few areas of society where there are actual proven models for positive change. But a big part of making that change is a well reasoned and informed approach by the community at large. Many of the statements here simply do not reflect that approach.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:32 AM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


don't feed the troll! (although i can see the temptation, since this one's kind of cute--i think i'll call him "yazi the nazi.")

I'm always highly amused when someone argues against themselves. It's truly hilarious. I'm a fan of the absurd, intentional or not.
posted by juiceCake at 11:37 AM on March 26, 2008


Shmegegge: you repeat the silly conceit that we "know what happened" if we watch the incredulous video.

Did I? Mind telling me where?

let's move on to the rest of what you said.

blah blah blah.

nah, let's not. you're just sort of rambling and incoherent, right now. anyway, good luck convincing people of how horrible tibet was when it was free. I'm off to deal with the discussion we're actually having, instead of whatever your nonsense is about.
posted by shmegegge at 12:05 PM on March 26, 2008


Shmegegge: sorry, it was Jessamyn who referred to the video as something that gave us a reliable incident. And you were just quoting her sentence. But my discussion about communism (which you dismiss as incoherent and off-topic) was because you suggested that my ideas put me in the "communism" camp. The Tibetans in Tibet are not protesting against communism, per se, but against the racist, ethnic-cleansing, dollar-chasing PRC dictators. Ironically, a so-called true "communist" also would hate such thuggery. I loathe modern political communisms, and I loathe racist, ethnic cleansing, dollar-chasing thugs. The protestors in NY seemed like hateful, anti-authoritarian, fame-chasing thugs. Like bolsheviks. Not a good way to honor the real Tibetans.
posted by yazi at 12:17 PM on March 26, 2008


We live in such privilege that we often forget that we are in a RELATIONSHIP with those who serve us. It is not a one way street.

Surely you can see why this is difficult to believe, yeah? How two way is that street in compton, baltimore, detroit? honestly. We have fpps in our archive about people being threatened on camera by cops when they went to the precinct station to file a simple complaint against an officer. we have news reports from david simon's old reporter days describing the mire of political pressure and corruption in our cities that is essentially designed to punish honesty and reward further corruption. It is immune to oversight in many regards because almost everyone in power is in on the game. people talk about the people taking action to improve their police, but if you want to tell me it's proven to be possible I'd love you to tell me how and where. near as I can see, the police don't want to be improved, and the government doesn't want it improved, either. sometimes getting angry and protesting vocally, making a big god damn stink about it in other words, is the only thing that seems to get things done. people forget, it wasn't rodney king's beating that inspired the LA riots. it was the acquittal of the officers who did it. amadou diallo was shot 41 times for no reason and all the officers were acquitted. Abner Louima was beaten, raped and sodomized with a plunger in a police station bathroom by cops. Rubin Carter, Mumia Abu-Jamal (maybe), Randall Dale Adams, these are only the most famous of countless stories of police corruption and brutality that seem to be not only accepted but protected by the people we're supposed to be able to turn to in order to fix the problem. as I said, if there's some precedent for fixing these problems, hip me to it because I am honestly completely ignorant of anything BUT protest and getting angry in public being able to do something.
posted by shmegegge at 12:22 PM on March 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


you repeat the silly conceit that we "know what happened" if we watch the incredulous video. [...] The protestors in NY seemed like hateful, anti-authoritarian, fame-chasing thugs. Like bolsheviks. Not a good way to honor the real Tibetans.

So, the video is not reliable enough to give us any idea of what these cops were like... but it's reliable enough to give you a specific idea of what the protesters were like?

Come on, you really ought to have more of an argument than "your biases are all wrong and mine are right!" The hypocrisy in your posts is staggering.
posted by vorfeed at 12:31 PM on March 26, 2008


We live in such privilege that we often forget that we are in a RELATIONSHIP with those who serve us. It is not a one way street.

This tells me you can't possibly interact with cops much. Those who "Serve and Protect" us never do the former and aren't doing nearly as well as they might on the latter.

Shmegegge beat me to the list of innocent victims of their relationships with the police. Abner Louima's relationship to that plunger in the company of those good police serving and protecting him left him much better off. I shudder to think about all the war vets who have been forced into abusing prisoners come back here and become cops.

It's pretty tough to have a relationship with someone who has all the control, who dictates what happens and when. And if you get tazed before you can even open your mouth, the relationship changes a bit.

I think it's much more realistic to plumb the depths of what a couple commenters here have mentioned, that when good cops protect bad cops, it ruins them all.
posted by nevercalm at 12:35 PM on March 26, 2008


omg anti-authoritarian? they deserve a beat down.
posted by pinto at 12:42 PM on March 26, 2008


You have the ability to improve the level of policing in your communities.

Thanks, tried that. I was constantly harassed by those ordered to protect and serve for my efforts. I have personal interactions with officers that are good and bad. I've also tried to work within a system that doesn't want to change.

The Thin Blue Line exists, it extends to DAs and the city council, it extends throughout the mayor's office and pretty much the entire civil government depending on where you live.

If you want a good example of this happening right now, go check out Radley Balko's posts on Manassas Park.
posted by ryoshu at 12:51 PM on March 26, 2008


This crap cheapens authentic claims of police brutality.

The narrator is clearly more interested in proving the fascism of the US than he is in freeing Tibet. Sure, an armed and powerful man saying "I'm going to kill you" might be something to take seriously, but nobody in that video is taking the threat seriously, except as some kind of rock to hold over the police officer's head.
posted by nathan v at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2008


If I thought my cause were so right that I needed to avoid a permit, go and do whatever I desired, and defy cops's orders, I'd be prepared for the worst. If my cause were really right and required such defiance (hopefully nonviolent), then I'd hope that I'd win and history judge me well, despite the fact that I had defied the cops and got pushed, threatened, or whacked.

BTW: I did not assume that the video revealed only the true actions of protestors, and not the cops. How bad a reader you are to have assumed that. I felt that we know practically nothing from it, but (as I said), my gut instinct was that the protestors had not cooperated at all and had contrarily acted rude and illegally. It is certainly possible that cops showed up, confronted a group of people acting lawfully (not surging into streets, for example), and just started bashing and threatening them because of their politics. But highly unlikely.
posted by yazi at 1:04 PM on March 26, 2008


MetaFilter gets totally ugly around police brutality issues, even moreso than talking about the war and I wonder if it's just that a lot of us either don't know or don't have any real world experience with police officers that aren't this negative sort of shit?
posted by jessamyn at 11:57 AM on March 26


It's because people on Metafilter have an anti-authority streak that makes many people hear instinctively side with protestors and against the police.

Here's the problem. The police didn't ask for a protest or a demonstration. The protestors did. The protestors knew in advance they'd be interacting with the police because every demonstration of any kind interacts with the police. The police are the people making room on the street for your protest, and keeping back people on the sidewalks who might want to cave in a protestors' head.

But protestors have learned that they will never ever confront the people they are protesting against, so many have gotten the idea to use the police as a proxy for whatever it is that they are demonstrating against. They want to protest China, but the Chinese government certainly isn't going to confront them on the streets of NYC, so instead they scream and grapple with the cops. Watch the video again, notice that in the first 10 seconds, you see people screaming at a cop. Is the cop really repressing them, or is he being used as a stand in for China?

So even before the protest starts, the protestors know they are going to fight with the cops, not just work with them, but fight with them. It becomes a demonstration against the police.

Did some cops get out of line? Certainly. But calling them all dumb, or all facists is silly, and I suspect everyone doing this already knows how silly it is.

Someone breaks into your house, are you going to think twice about calling 911? That's what the cops are for. The cops are not your taxpayer subsidized surrogate for every authority you have a grievance against. The cops are what prevents the protestors from having their asses kicked by other New Yorkers who disagree with them. That's what the police are for.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:09 PM on March 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


Pastabagel has expressed it cogently. I agree 100%
posted by yazi at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2008


I've thought about your comment and decided that you pulled this figure out of your ass.

as I said, if there's some precedent for fixing these problems, hip me to it because I am honestly completely ignorant of anything BUT protest and getting angry in public being able to do something.

This tells me you can't possibly interact with cops much. Those who "Serve and Protect" us never do the former and aren't doing nearly as well as they might on the latter.

Well then you decided wrong. I will concede that there's no real way to gauge that number effectively, In my opinion it is a conservative estimate. Let's get real here. How many police/citizen interactions are there on a daily basis? What do you really think our society would look like if some of the assertions being made here were actually true?

You think I'm pulling things out of my ass? I am a Black man who chooses not to own a car because I think that racial profiling in traffic stops is simply too much for me to deal with. If you think I'm excusing police behavior inany way, you're as wrong as can be. But my take on this issue is not one of knee-jerk overreaction and useless stereotyping.

My negative interactions with Police came at an early age. 9 years old to be exact. Because Black kids in the "wrong" neighborhoods gets handcuffed to fences. Over the course of my life I havehad many run ins with The Police. Many completely unjustified. Some more than justified. I spent most of my teen years doing a lot of things I probably shouldn't have been doing. Many of those things were against the law. Either way, By the time I reached my early 20's my attitude towards police was pretty negative. Take every anti-police statement in this thread, and multiply it by a 2 and add a healthy dose of righteous angry young Black man in there.

My mother had a neighbor who was a police Lieutenant, and one day i had a conversation with him where I got a bit upset in discussing my views of the Police. And he listened. And he talked to me like an adult. And he agreed with a lot of what I had to say. And then he asked me what I thought that I could do about it. And I didn't really have an answer. I had been to community meetings, I had been to protests. And I had no idea how things could change. He said he didn't really know either, but that he had some ideas.

A month later he offered me a job. Not as a Police officer. He went to his higher ups and found some grant money through Americorps and made up a job title. He hired me and a white kid my same age who he had met to be "Community Outreach liasons". He gave us an unmarked car, a computer and a desk at the precinct. We weren't tasked with fixing anything, or solving anything. Simply told us that we were there to learn. He really and truly believed that maybe we would see or learn something that might be a spark an idea that might grow into a solution at some point.

Over the course of that year I saw and learned a lot. We went on patrol with Officers almost daily. We shared an office with them, we shared a locker room with them. We hung out with them after work. Over the course of that year There were exactly 2 officers that were not open and enthusiastic about our presence. The rest thought that what we were doing was a good thing, and many went out of their way to thank us.

It wasn't all friendly good times. I saw a racism, sexism, and some genuinely scary and bizarre behavior. At no time did I feel that any punches were being pulled because of our civilian presence. The exact opposite. the first few weeks or so, I think they went out of their way to try and be a little more badass than they really were. Did I see some questionable things? For sure. But I can honestly say that for a department that has been known to have it's fair share of controversy and problems, I only saw 2 or 3 incidences where any line was crossed in a major way. And each incidence was dealt with. And they had their place in the dept. There were a lot of Officers who had an "on shift" persona that was measurably rougher than their actual personalities. Guys who were straight up goofy fun guys would put their cop face on and scare the shit out of you.

I met female officers who in my mind are straight up fucking superheroes. You have no idea. Every single one of them should be issued a cape and a trophy.

And there were actual asshole, bully cops. And everyone knew who they were. And there were bad cops. As in not good at their jobs. Some of whom were assholes, same weren't. Some of the assholes were really good at Police work. I met Officers who I would not ever want pulling me over late at night, but would be the first person I'd want answering the call if I was in Danger. In the course of that year I met everything from first day rookies to the Chief of Police. And I only met two officers who I could honestly say probably shouldn't have had badges. and one of them was no longer an Officer by the time my year was up. Bad cops make other cops less safe, and it is a real concern, They may not always deal with it properly, but to think it's blindly tolerated is naive.

What I mostly saw was a lot of serious problems bridging the gap between the community at large, and the Police departments. There is very little communication outside of the purview of "police work" Everyone on both sides thinks they're getting a raw deal somehow. The police can be close minded defensive and reactionary. So can the public.

Both see way too much of each other at their worst and in stressful situations. There is a huge problem caused by Police not living in the communities they Police. There is huge problem with Police not being forced to adjust their policing to deal with cultural diversity. Racial Profiling has to stop. Has to. it hurts everyone.

But on the other side. People need to take responsibility for their communities. The Police have too many duties that they shouldn't have. They're not our babysitters, or psychologists. People need to realize that a lot of what they they think of as justified behavior in stressful situations actually prevents Officers from doing their job in the moment. People need to understand that it's rude not to thank people who put their lives on the line for you. I can't tell you how many times I saw Officers go above and beyond the call of duty, only to be treated like shit by the very person they just helped. It's inexcusable.

So excuse me if i'm not pissed off at the Police. I'm pissed off at the situation. I'm pissed off at society. Sometimes I'm even pissed off at myself for not doing more. And I'm pissed off at you if your attitude is part of the problem and not helping anything.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Black man in America who think Reverend Wright didn't say enough. I have no delusions about the dangers of abused power. I have no shortage of outrage when i see anyone suffer at the hands of the Police or at the hands of criminals. I cannot repeat enough times, racial profiling is a cancer on society that hurts EVERYONE. And I honestly sometimes believe that our society mat be broken to a point that maybe we're just doomed to live with some of this shit.

But I'm still calling bullshit on the backwards ass arguments being put forward in this thread. You don't know what you're talking about, and your ignorance is evident to anyone who has even attempted to think about this problem in a reasoned intelligent manner.

I don't know if my year of service made that much of a difference. I do know that one of the ideas that We implemented during my time is still in place 13 years later. Which means I have at least one example of the Blue Line being crossed. I talked, and someone listened. Thats enough for me. My biggest hope is that everyone in the world gets that experience at least once in their life. To talk and be listened to. Should you get your turn, I hope you have something intelligent to say.

I hope the first words out of your mouth are "thank you"

The Lieutenant who hired me made it as high as Assistant Chief. And he is a smart, thoughtful and caring man. He was no Bully. He was good police. The entire City Of Seattle should be proud that he worked his entire life serving and protecting them.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2008 [17 favorites]


Great comment billyfleetwood, and I'm not being snarky at all here, but I'm interested in how you square the great admiration you have for cops with not being able to own a car bc you constantly get pulled over for being black? It seems like there's a disconnect somewhere. You just rest assured that all those guys are great once you get to know them?

Again, I'm not being an asshole, I'm genuinely interested.
posted by nevercalm at 1:49 PM on March 26, 2008


BTW: I did not assume that the video revealed only the true actions of protestors, and not the cops. How bad a reader you are to have assumed that. I felt that we know practically nothing from it, but (as I said), my gut instinct was that the protestors had not cooperated at all and had contrarily acted rude and illegally. It is certainly possible that cops showed up, confronted a group of people acting lawfully (not surging into streets, for example), and just started bashing and threatening them because of their politics. But highly unlikely.

My point isn't that you think the video "reveals only the true actions of protesters and not the cops", it's that you claim that there's no real way to make a conclusion, yet you still think your "gut instinct" is somehow valid, while others' equal and opposite gut instincts are not. In short, your argument is based on precisely zero evidence, and zero evidence is not where you need to be if you're going to make grand declarations about "bolsheviks" and "Leninist martinets" who are "not cooperating at all". News flash: if we can know "practically nothing" from the video, then you don't know shit about these people.

Those who are arguing police brutality based on what's in the video have some evidence for their point of view, however shaky, because the cops are clearly hitting people in the video. In contrast, the protesters are not handing out copies of The Communist Manifesto or shouting bolshevik slogans, so your argument seems to come 100% from some sort of grudge you've got against the kind of people you think these guys are. Sorry, but that's a lame argument, and I think you know it.
posted by vorfeed at 1:50 PM on March 26, 2008


Vorfeed: My gut instinct. Sorry, I've been around five times over; been in street demos (civil-rights sitdowns); had run-ins (treated roughly) and also great experiences with cops; la la la. I'm not gonna stop having my instincts about what might/may have happened based on viewing squibs and dribs of a hack piece of video agitprop. Isn't it naive to think that we know something complete and culpatory from third-party info? When reading or viewing images, we all !!! end up making deductions and assumptions based on experience and gut instincts. I'd be happy to have been there and seen the whole thing from some certain angles, but I wasn't. I was here where I live, and there are things for me to see here.
posted by yazi at 2:10 PM on March 26, 2008


It is immune to oversight in many regards because almost everyone in power is in on the game. people talk about the people taking action to improve their police, but if you want to tell me it's proven to be possible I'd love you to tell me how and where. near as I can see, the police don't want to be improved, and the government doesn't want it improved, either.

A big part of the problem is that we're discussing systemic failure over time, using extreme examples of what happens when things break down. Those examples are horrible, and outrage is justifiable.

But I'm talking about change in your community. Your house. Your Block, Your precinct. Change can happen on that level. I've seen it. The first house I owned was was smack dab in the middle of an open air crack market. I spent my first day there repairing bullet holes. We demanded that that neighborhood be cleaned up, made safe, and done so without resorting to the measures that we feared the Police would take. Most of the kids in that neighborhood, were good kids, but looked just like the bad kids. Hell, I looked just liked the bad kids and I was a homeowner. It was difficult,but we got it done. It took 5 years, but in that time there were no "accidental" shootings, no harrasing of innocent people, and police assaults. There was also very little intimidation or retribution from the thugs. We simply made it clear to everyone involved that "the war" was not going to be fought on our block. period. We didn't wait until we had complaints to visit the precinct. We went in peace. We invited them into our homes. We introduced them to the good kids. And the parents of the good kids made sure their kids stayed good. We asked the officers to get out of their cars and walk our street. And when they did, we thanked them.

I know that doesnt fix the system. I've come to believe that maybe the system can't be fixed. But it can be made to work on the level that we need it to work. It can be made to work in just the right place for just long enough to raise your kids safely. Just good enough so that you don't have to be angry all the time and can focus on making your life better. Just well enough that you can show someone else how to do it.

And it can probably be fixed for a couple of hours while you protest injustice on the other side of the world.

P.S. I sold my house for 4 times what I paid for it. If that's not motivation enough, I don't know what is.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:16 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's what the cops are for. The cops are not your taxpayer subsidized surrogate for every authority you have a grievance against.

They damn sure don't seem to have a problem acting as those authorities' strong arms, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:30 PM on March 26, 2008


> Great comment billyfleetwood, and I'm not being snarky at all here, but I'm interested in how you square the great admiration you have for cops with not being able to own a car bc you constantly get pulled over for being black?

That's a good question. I should add the caveat that I am a shitty driver. And I'm prone to forgetting to pay tickets. I really would just rather not be bothered. Plus I moved to NYC where having a car isn't necessary. But I gave up my car 5 years before I moved here. In my mind it was the easiest way to solve that problem. Plus riding a bike is a good idea for everyone.

Like I said,I think the system is broken. I think a lot of good cops get rely on racial profiling not because they're racist, but because it makes their jobs easier. I just understand that for the most part, like the rest of us they're just people trying to do their job in a fucked up system.

I stick to my point. We're all in this together. It's a two way street. If we don't wake up to that fact soon, it will be too late, if it isn't already. My admiration for cops is the same as it is for Teachers, Bank Tellers, Nurses, bus drivers, etc. The people who are provide our daily interface with the broken systems that we have to deal with. The system is just as broken for them as it is for us.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2008


“I think this is a wildly gross mischaracterization of the criticism in this thread.”

So...wildly gross characterization of all criticism - bad. Wildly gross characterization of all police - basically ok. Some comments are doing that. Those specific to this act by these cops obviously aren’t.

“I think it's much more realistic to plumb the depths of what a couple commenters here have mentioned, that when good cops protect bad cops, it ruins them all.”

So, it’s ok to ask the good cops - “Say buddy, why do all you filthy power hungry bully pigs cover for each other?”
Yeah, that won’t make them defensive.

Meh. Either way, surely once we take all the guns away from the gun nuts, then all the cops will be good guys.

“The Thin Blue Line exists, it extends to DAs and the city council, it extends throughout the mayor's office and pretty much the entire civil government depending on where you live.”

And there’s no way to fight that. I quit. Let’s just bitch here about how much it all sux.
Actually, that Radley Balko link is interesting.

I maintain it’s more conducive to not only discourse but redress of criminal behavior by police officers to address them on an individual and case by case basis.
Oh, I’m as given to hyperbole as the next guy.
But as a matter of more serious discussion - whether the officer here meant or did not mean - or whether anyone took seriously his threat “I’ll kill you” - he should have had more restraint and discipline. That, it’s been my experience, goes back to training. (That’s a whole other discussion).
And I think any case of suspected police brutality should be investigated and procedures should be followed reasonably more stringently than with a civilian (police know more about the law after all).
But again, the police generally police themselves for the simple reason that there often is not enough civilian interest in oversight. Whether that is because it is discouraged or whether it’s apathy is irrelevent to assertion of control over such matters. It does take work to maintain.
And one cannot expect the “good” officers to come forward if one then simply hangs him out to dry afterwards because, hey, he’s a pig cop like all the rest of them.
Civilian oversight is less a matter of specific structure of “the system” or adversarial relationship and more a dynamic relationship among government agencies, the department and civil society encouraging openness to the press and a blending of the civilian external and internal oversight. (You are, after all, dealing with people. And people of whatever kind have their foibles, prejudices, quirks, preferences, and personalities.)
But you can go and vote for city council, push members to fund civilian complaint review boards and such. Law enforcement’s business, generally, is the public’s business, and therefore must be an open and transparent process.
(Lot of corruption going on in Chicago. But there’s been a change. Unfortunately any lasting change might be tricky since you need to address and maintain that political component as well and the Democratic party machine has a stranglehold on the city (not the Dems, the machine).)

But for the most part people don’t interact with cops. About 44 - odd million people have had a face to face with a cop (of about 300 - odd million people in the U.S.) 33 percent were asking for assistance, 32 percent were reporting a crime (victim or witness), the rest were arrests or citations, and of those about 1 percent said the police used or threatened to use force.
So - good cop 100:1 ratio - yeah, about.

But I’m not talking who is a good cop - ok, let’s say for the sake of argument perhaps 99 percent of them are evil, hateful men, but only about 1 percent of the time does any force or threat of it occur.
So in considering the act - yeah, about 100 to 1.

And that’s force alone, not excessive force. In about 98 percent of arrests where force was used, the police did not use a weapon. In just over 1 percent where a weapon was used, it was tear gas (CS - those little spray bottles) in half of a percent it was a flashlight, batons in .2 % of the cases, firearms displayed in 2.7% but used in .1%.
So force isn’t used that often.

Certainly that doesn’t mean excessive force isn’t a problem or shouldn’t be addressed.
And empathy - the Thin Blue Line - is a human reaction, doesn’t mean they’re covering up deliberately (and I’m not saying anyone is or isn’t), but there is a natural, predictable, human impulse involved - even in the absence of
external pressures, no law enforcement officer can examine an officer-involved shooting without saying at some level - “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Just as officers have to respond with an appropriate level of force (and, I’d add comportment and self discipline, such as not succumbing to the adrenaline rush, at least verbally, and shouting “I’ll kill you”) such as just enough to handcuff a suspect or more if someone has a gun - whatever the level of force commensurate with the situation - so too does oversight have to manage the risk of misconduct and balance accountability with the least aggressive option that works.
Shouting “pig,” bit too aggressive to be useful.
Promoting officers proven to embrace accountability and openness and interaction with the public to higher staff levels rather than political hacks you agree with - probably a bit more useful.

Even where a crime has been committed by a police officer - you get further with honey...and constant pressure, than you do with vinegar. And it eliminates the interdependance and the “there but for the grace of God” because a good officer that makes a mistake might be ok, but one that willfully abuses his position, anyone with a conscience can’t see themselves in that position. And there should be both systemic and dynamic assurances to that effect.

Bit too wordy there.

Found this kinda funny (in the inconguous sense that it sort of supports the assumption that it’s ok for the police to beat on people - even while the police themselves are logically part of the transnational corporate/western imperialist war criminals - in that photo thread):
“"Tibet" the provinces of Amdo, Kham, and Ü-Tsang are part of China and will remain so, despite transnational corporate/western imperialist war criminal attempts of separating them from the rest of China and installing the 11th century retrogade Gelugist theocratic clique.”
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on March 26, 2008


On a side note, that phrase comes from a trial in texas where a non-local man was charged and wrongly convicted of murdering an officer because the cops didn't want to charge the local boy who confessed to the crime. The prosecutor had said "thin blue line" to describe the police force in his closing arguments to the jury.

Actually, it was coined by William Parker in the 50s, not Errol Morris or anyone in his documentary, and is a reference to the "Thin Red Line" of the British Troops during the Crimean War.

As for cops and police brutality, I have to say there have been some comments in this thread from both sides that were idiotic and were broad stroke assesments that say absolutely nothing:

The basic problem regarding American civil society and law enforcement is that cops simply are dumb people. They are the kids that passed their grades just barely. Out on the street they simply have no concept of the American constitution, the protections of the Bill of Rights, or just the general idea that the U.S. is not a police state and law enforcement officers are civil servants. They simply don't care and are largely authoritarian and aggressive. They get off on the power and the benefit of the doubt society has bestowed upon them in spades.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 5:08 AM on March 26 [+] [!]


Fucking college leftists.
posted by Snyder at 8:32 AM on March 26 [+] [!]


Who is attracted to petty power and the ability to use force? You guessed it: bullies.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:30 AM on March 26 [+] [!]


As mentioned before, the question is not those who abuse their granted power, but what can we do as a society to equalize the problems between the bad cops and those that are good police officers. There should never be people beating little skaters; there should never have been a Stonewall riot; there should have never been an incident with Abner Louima... Mark Fuhrman = asshole... and there's many, many more. I think discussions of police brutality are essential to our nation, but the statements above don't help at all and it seems that a lot of people are just bringing up the same stereotypical falsehoods over and over again. That doesn't lead to any sort of rational argument, just a lot of names and crappy metatalk threads.

So, what do we do? I'm really not sure. I think the organizations linked by inoculatedcities and jessamyn above.

For what it's worth, my father's a cop (who was almost killed by someone just for being a cop--he suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, and concussion) and I'm mortified of police officers. I avoid them as much as possible. I've met many assholes who were police officers. I've had a gun pulled on me (which I completely understood and made sure to follow his every word closely--long story). I was told by an NYPD not to take a picture of the Verazano bridge because I may be a "towel head" in disguise. But, I've also met many wonderful people who had a sense that what they were doing was a job that gave back something to their community and the people who lived within it.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:43 PM on March 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Actually, it was coined by William Parker in the 50s, not Errol Morris or anyone in his documentary, and is a reference to the "Thin Red Line" of the British Troops during the Crimean War.

Learn something new. Thanks for that. I suppose I should have known better than to assume the judge would have known of the line before hearing it in that trial.
posted by shmegegge at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2008


No problem, shmegegge. I actually had to look it up, mainly because I knew I'd heard it before that movie.

I also wanted to add a few things. First, those are great comments, billyfleetwood. I think of my own problems reconciling cops with my problems with authority and I can't even imagine (well, I can imagine, but I can't know) how race plays into it.

Also, as has been brought up a few times, if you want a better police force/education system/city/etc., you have to have money to pay those people. Until then, in this country, you get what you pay for. I had thought that most metropolitan areas required a four-year degree because most police officers I know personally have had one. But apparently that's not true. Less than 5% of local police departments with more than 100 officers require four-year degrees, says Louis Mayo, executive director of the Police Association for College Education (link is USAToday, but it's the easiest to read that I could find.) So, maybe on top of a pay bump, education is in order as well?
posted by sleepy pete at 3:48 PM on March 26, 2008


But, I've also met many wonderful people who had a sense that what they were doing was a job that gave back something to their community and the people who lived within it.

Every last one of whom will lie on the stand to protect one of the bad ones.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:54 PM on March 26, 2008


Every last one of whom will lie on the stand to protect one of the bad ones.

Wrong.
posted by Snyder at 11:01 PM on March 26, 2008


Another isolated incident.
posted by telstar at 11:48 PM on March 26, 2008


The police often perform a difficult job in our society. They often perform their job very poorly, in my personal experience. If the footage shown in the countless police voyeur television programmes is in anyway representitive, they are not usually particularly effective or restrained in using violence, either against people or property. Assuming the footage in these programmes is vetted to represent the police in the best possible light, which I think is a fair assumption, it follows that there is much worse behaviour exhibited by police officers which is not being shown. Considering the hours of footage that must be available it seems there is scant footage of police officers showing any degree of professionalism.
posted by asok at 9:25 AM on March 27, 2008


"I'm interested in how you square the great admiration you have for cops with not being able to own a car bc you constantly get pulled over for being black? It seems like there's a disconnect somewhere. You just rest assured that all those guys are great once you get to know them?"

It's because you, and many other people here, can't hold two similar but different thoughts in your head at the same time:

1. Some cops are good.

2. Some cops are bad.

Those two statements are both true, at the same time. {gasp!} Some people need to simplify every problem down to an "all or nothing" mentality, and then are shocked when their naiveté is pointed out.
posted by bravelittletoaster at 9:49 AM on March 27, 2008


Monks disrupt Tibet media visit
posted by homunculus at 10:11 AM on March 27, 2008


that's a ridiculous view to take on this bravelittletoaster. most of the people in this thread who have a general problem with cops do so not because they think that ALL cops are bad, but because they think the problem is widespread enough, and has too little done about it, that the entire system needs an overhaul to fix it. It's not that we can't accept that there are good cops, it's that the good cops aren't keeping the system good. Look at Serpico. The man's a legend for fighting police corruption, and for as much as he's done in 30 years the police still suffer from the same corruption they did back in his day. We know there are good cops. We also believe that there are still some very serious problems. What you should see in us isn't someone who hates all cops, but someone who doesn't see nearly the number of good cops that someone like billyfleetwood does. Where billyfleetwood says "I know they're good people, even though they do some fucked up things because of a fucked up system" (a valid viewpoint, by the way. I'm not criticizing him or his beliefs) I and people like me say "They may be good people, but they're bad cops and they do bad things because they refuse to fix a fucked up system and they do what they can to keep us from fixing it, too." you can disagree all you want, but we don't feel the way we do because we refuse to believe cops can be good. your characterization of us is absurd.
posted by shmegegge at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2008


“They may be good people, but they're bad cops and they do bad things because they refuse to fix a fucked up system and they do what they can to keep us from fixing it, too.”

Well, again - *all* of them are attempting to prevent anyone from fixing the system? It’s not their job to fix their own system, it’s your job. The people’s job. I’m not saying there aren’t some cops, prosecutors, etc. who don’t have a vested interest in whatever poor status quo exists wherever, but there are more who would have an interest in a system that isn’t broken. Myriad reasons. But if only for job satisfaction. No one wants to dread going to work every day.
(Unless one buys into the idea that all the people who become police officers are inhuman monsters).

“So, maybe on top of a pay bump, education is in order as well?”
Actually, it might look like that. But cops are pretty well compensated. The big issue is time and cost for training. Most of the Chicago cops like(d) desk work because hey, it’s 9-5, you get home to see your kids, all that. So time you work is a factor as is equability. So if you’ve been in the police union longer or you’ve got rank, you can catch what shift you want over the new guy. Which has the result that the new guys are working the more dangerous shifts which require more experience. Plus you have to find time to work out (if you want to be y’know, useful) study (to make rank, advance, etc.) maybe attend seminars and on top of that to fulfill training requirements (you have to qualify to shoot - for example).
A lot of that time is not compensated but eats into your homelife. Which, really, is what burns a lot of cops out. Not much point in working any job if you never get to be at home with your family, always miss holidays, special days, your kid’s play, stuff like that. So time is a bigger problem than money. No amount of money is going to replace you missing your kids whole childhood (well, for some people, but if we’re granting cops go into the profession for certain reasons, let’s grant that making big money from civil service isn’t one of them)

More money should be spent on in-house training or training within the police sphere.
Higher education is valuable, but policing is a practice profession, like nursing or any other dynamic, task oriented profession. Not a whole lot you can learn in a classroom in terms of the actual job. And most colleges don’t have those types of programs. E.g. for nursing, you have beds, practice dummy patients, actual monitoring equipment, and real-life scenario training. Not a lot of opportunity to do that in policing at most colleges. Too specialized really. Even many teachers say they learn more as student teachers than they do in the classroom.

So more money for training and more support in terms of time to study and such - not so much more money in their pocket. Right now most of the focus is on equipment (stun guns, etc.) because it’s not an ongoing cost. Making a cop go to the gym or do physical confrontation drills and so forth - big chunk of ongoing dollars there. But you get a better officer. A guy who is supremely confident in his physical capabilities and is disciplined through hardship in attaining that skill level is not going to flip out and threaten to kill someone, he’s just going to execute the way he’s been trained.
Incoming punch - ok, wrap, pull, twist, bind, etc. No incoming punch = no threat = no problem. Words aren’t going to affect him as much because he’s going to judge intent - and know instinctively because it’s been drilled into him - by body language and movement.
Some guy who’s standing off balance, who the cop knows how to drop 5 different ways from 3 or 4 different working positions, who says “I’m going to kill you cop” isn’t going to be seen as a valid threat. Or rather, the cop is going to physically react to the physical instead of the verbal. And since he’s confident in reacting physically, words aren’t going to upset him as much.
And there’s methods in training against that as well (verbal abuse).

But again, not a whole lot of money going into that. It’s easy to just hand a guy a stun gun and give him ‘x’ hours behind it, and that’s it, rather than every week for ‘x’ hours he has to go to a class to keep drilling. But that would stop a lot of police brutality. Even the guys who were bastards - in a stress situation - you act and react the way you train.
Remember the Rodney King beating? I watched that dispassionately a while back solely from the position of effectiveness. They were swinging their batons wildly, kicking with no power, struggling off balance, getting in each others way, etc. - anyone who was trained to do real damage could have killed or disabled King with a few well placed blows from the baton - and they would have acted in a coordinated manner with their fellows.
Obviously I’m not advocating training police officers to better harm people, but their choices under stress would be fall back on their training (which would be focused on neutralization, not harm) or be out of control and fall all over each other, swing wildly, all that.
So, not that if those cops were trained they suddenly wouldn’t be racist thugs. But rather there would be no blurred line. It would be very very obvious where they were using moves they had been trained to use and were working to neutralize and incapacitate a suspect in contrast with just trying to beat on someone.
And the ‘bad’ cops would get automatically weeded out in force application situations, since they wouldn’t be acting in coordination with their fellows, and most likely - in close quarters - be getting in their way and very obviously exposing them to harm (trying to just angrily flail on some guy).

That’s where extra funding should go. And of course, that should be integrated with civilian oversight so those boards, and people, know what cops are trained to do and can question why they deviated from training when/if they do.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on March 27, 2008


Also - from the other side
Useful. Especially the “How to Talk About Innocence-Related Issues with Elected Officials, Organizations, Media, and Others.”
posted by Smedleyman at 12:18 PM on March 27, 2008


Well, again - *all* of them are attempting to prevent anyone from fixing the system?

I'm not sure how much more clearly I can say that I'm not saying anything about ALL cops. I'm making a generalization, sure. But the police forces in this country, in my opinion, are generally fucked. there is systemic corruption which to my mind makes it okay to speak in generalizations. If your entire point is that one shouldn't paint all cops with the bad cop brush, then fear not, I'm not doing that. I'm speaking to the systemic problems, not the problems with individual officers.

It’s not their job to fix their own system, it’s your job.

this is more of the kind of talk that quells discussion. "do something about it if you don't like it" is nonsense rhetoric. part of doing something about it is talking about it with people. we're talking about it, here. it may not be their job to fix their organization, but it's also not their job to beat protestors. it's also not their job to sodomize prisoners. you'll pardon me, I hope, for not giving two shits what you or they see their job as being. whatever it is, too many of them aren't doing it and the rest aren't making sure they do.

I’m not saying there aren’t some cops, prosecutors, etc. who don’t have a vested interest in whatever poor status quo exists wherever, but there are more who would have an interest in a system that isn’t broken.

And look at all they've accomplished! You may claim whatever ratios you want. There isn't a census of corrupt politicians and officers that anyone can point to as evidence. If you want to say it's more, I'll give you the benefit of the argument because the ratio isn't important. However many good ones there are, they aren't keeping the system good and they're not giving us voice to protest the injustice when so many of their comrades are shutting us down and quieting us. You want to fill me with anecdotes about all the good cops you know? Awesome, fire away. Then go tell the almost 10% of our nation's population that is currently in jail how it's their job to fix the injustice in the system (which won't let them vote for another 25 years after they get out, btw) and not to get all mad at the cops who sacrificed them for the sake of convenience to the prison industrial complex because it's not their job to fix the system.

I saw your little statistics experiment to justify that 100 good to 1 bad figure. since you didn't link to any citations, I'm going to assume for the benefit of the argument that it's a real figure that comes from an actual study. But my question is "who was polled?" I know for sure I wasn't. I feel pretty confident that no convicted criminals were either, but absent a citation it's impossible for me to know. Outside of that, surely you understand that excessive force isn't the only metric by which we measure a bad cop, yeah? Especially in a situation where we all know that cops hold all the cards in a confrontation so we do everything we can to keep them from using force since they'll just get what they want however they can. I know there's always a contingent that defends the cop whenever a video of unnecessary tasering gets linked to the blue, so maybe it seems like people have no reason to fear an encounter with the police. But the honest truth is that most people aren't going to insist on their rights when bothered by a cop because it's not worth the risk if you can just placate him and get him to piss off. Even most really bad cops need a reason to really let loose on someone, so most of us try not to give them a reason since nothing they do will ever be punished. If you don't see an entire system as being complicit in that situation, including the people within that system who are otherwise good that let shit like that slide, then I'm inclined to think you wouldn't ever find real fault with the cops no matter what.

The way we fix the system when we can't depend on the cops to do it is to find fault with the cops. Not all cops, and if I have to explain that again I'm simply abandoning this discussion, but the police in general. The reason for this is that the avenues available to us for complaint, protest and civil restitution are blocked. And they're not blocked by a nebulous institution of bureaucracy and red tape and poor legislation, either. They're blocked by a thin blue line of bullies and their better minded enablers.
posted by shmegegge at 1:08 PM on March 27, 2008


Thanks for illustrating your own lame-brained concept by doing it, bravelittletoaster. Please go back to wherever you came from.
posted by nevercalm at 2:30 PM on March 27, 2008


“there is systemic corruption which to my mind makes it okay to speak in generalizations.”

Fair enough. Misunderstood your direction there. I agree with that.

“this is more of the kind of talk that quells discussion. "do something about it if you don't like it" is nonsense rhetoric.”

No, it’s an attempt to delineate where the actual power derives from. The people. Without that input then the system is going to run down to the lowest common denominator and put in minimal effort in order to get things done.
This is endemic to to any organization, but most especially in government work.
So, Joe Wage slave has a lot more say about the direction of the company than the stockholders?
No. The cops are supposed to take orders from their superiors who take orders from the civilian leadership who take orders from the electorate.
Seemed a fairly self-evident point.
And in any event it’s obvious that it’s not their jobs as cops to fix the system anymore than it’s Joe IT’s job to fix Microsoft.

Now - is it the cops job as a citizen, like anyone else? Sure.
But not their job as cops.
There’s an internal affairs department set up to do that. That’s their job. There are also civilian oversight committees, their job as well. Joe Cop should not usurp the authority of those bodies in his capacity as a police officer. He does not have the right, in his capacity as a police officer.
Furthermore - how can one bitch about all the cops covering for each other, and yet demand change from within the system by the very people you assert all cover for each other? Conflict of interest much?

“you'll pardon me, I hope, for not giving two shits what you or they see their job as being. whatever it is, too many of them aren't doing it and the rest aren't making sure they do.”

You’re the one championing apathy and ignorance in favor of generalized anger, apparently. Think that’s really conducive to discussion do ya? Or getting anything done?
You’ll pardon me if I think sharing actual information and presenting actionable plans is more “doing something” here or elsewhere than simply venting rage. To wit -

“If you don't see an entire system as being complicit in that situation, including the people within that system who are otherwise good that let shit like that slide, then I'm inclined to think you wouldn't ever find real fault with the cops no matter what.”

Ok, the system is broken. Cops are part of it. And they suck for that. Swell point there. We going to just sit there and find “real” fault or maybe talk about the hows? You don’t think at all that I’ve already considered and accepted your position and moved past it to thinking about remedies?
Naw, can’t be.

“The way we fix the system when we can't depend on the cops to do it is to find fault with the cops.... the police in general. The reason for this is that the avenues available to us for complaint, protest and civil restitution are blocked. And they're not blocked by a nebulous institution of bureaucracy and red tape and poor legislation, either”

So if I’m following you here, it’s not organizing on the civilian level, petitioning elected officials, funding lawyers to fight cases that will change anything it’s that the cops are blocking avenues by which people complain or vote or petition their elected officials, form civilian oversight committees etc. - and the way to get the cops to stop that is to blame them?

And who’s this “us” you keep saying. I live in Chicago. We had a bunch of problems with the police force. A bunch of corrupt cops got nailed. Units were investigated and shut down. There are ongoing court cases against those who participated. The State’s Attorney is kicking asses all over town. A new superintendent was hired. And there have been many structural changes with many comissioners fired.

All this stemming from petitioning the aldermen of the city council and bringing heat from citizens groups and the press on the mayor’s office.
My only misgiving is if the political clout system - again - gets involved. Otherwise, while it’s not fixed yet, it’s working quite well toward reform.

But you want Joe Cop - a guy who is just a beat dude - to reform the system from within (and while being goaded as a “pig” no less)?
First off he’s got no pull - so he’s going to have to make detective. But that’s just investigation, not personnel, for the sweeping changes he’s going to need to be in charge of people. Ok, so he makes Sgt.

Well, that gives him only a few people. So he makes Lieutenant - no, let’s have him jump over Captain to Commander. Well, there’s 25 districts in Chicago. So our guy is one voice out of 25 trying to reform the whole system. If he makes Deputy Chief he’s still got to listen to the Asst. Superintendent, the Chief, the Deputy Supt. - and the Supt. who’s STILL under the Mayor.

Why the hell wouldn’t you start at the top with the Mayor? He’s an elected official.

Your argument is predicated - or appears to be - on there being some intrinsic resistance to fixing the system or to bullying by every police officer in the department.
You say “I don’t mean all” and yet you say citizens are “...blocked by a thin blue line of bullies and their better minded enablers.”
Well, gee, I passed 3rd grade English, I can identify a sentence - looks like that one means “all” plus some more.

Either cops are people who are trained to do a job or they’re some other class of being that are naturally inclined towards corruption and bullying.
I don’t buy the latter.

And I think there’s no question the problem is the system as well.

But when I - and many other people - explain how to fix the system, real actual fixes that have had practical results, there’s this hyperbole about beating protestors and sodomizing prisoners.

Then! When I - and others - address that, in as much that not all cops do that, then the argument goes back to “well, it’s the systemic problems, not the individuals” or “they all cover for each other” etc. etc.

What the hell does it take to make anyone realize it’s their civic responsibility to be involved in good government? NOT the fucking job of the civil servants?

Because, yeah, they’ll cover each other’s asses, yeah, they’ll try to get away with what excesses they can, yeah, they’ll fuck around and not do their jobs if they can get away with it because they’re like anyone else. In the case of the cops, they have guns, so it’s worse.

But again - I’m saying more “civilian oversight,” greater accountability and transparancy - that all works if you put your mind to it.
There are police departments in the Chicago suburbs that are exemplary. And there are ones that suck. There are justice systems that are good and bad. Our Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) is absolutely squared away and clean (her dad, not so much) for example.
We’ve got one of the finest, if not absolutely the finest United States Attorney (for the Northern District of Illinois - perhaps you’ve heard of Patrick Fitzgerald?) in the country.
So don’t tell me that - generally - it all sucks when - generally - there are bright spots and bad spots and that depends heavily on community involvement. Much like schools, and how well they do.

Now - is there systemic corruption leading to greater incarceration rates for minorities - all that - sure.
That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about cops.
And yes, it’s all related. But you cannot tear down your whole engine to change out a dead spark plug.

Want to fix the cops, police brutality? I - and others - have cited information and posted links on how.

Want to address the high incarceration rates? Go deal with that. Plenty of social justice groups out there doing exactly that.

Want to address this particular bit of video violence, well hell, I don’t have an opinion on it. If it looks like what it is, they should be investigated. Plenty of ways on the civilian level to chase that down.
It’s not my town, so I can’t get into it. But I can, and have, addressed it generally.

“I'm going to assume for the benefit of the argument that it's a real figure that comes from an actual study”

Gee, thanks. Stats are from the Vera Institute of Justice and the Ford Foundation's Program on Peace and Social Justice.
They have the same wacky idea I do about collaboration between law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations as a way to foster, y’know, social justice.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:02 PM on March 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


smedley, you're getting awfully worked up, here. I'm going to take this time to do a real quick recap of how my part in this thread got to where I replied to you, and hopefully this will explain a bit better where I'm coming from. You're assigning a lot of viewpoints to me that I don't hold and haven't given you any reason to think I hold.

The first point where I came in the thread was to respond to an accusation by Jessamyn that the mefites who have a problem with cops are that way because they don't have real world experience with cops. The entirety of my point was that people from all over have adequate reasons to have a general problem with cops, though they may phrase them in absolute-ier absolutes than they should.

the second was a further reply to a jessamyn comment that had popped up while I had been typing my first comment, where I said that she was mischaracterizing people who had a problem with cops as all irrational cop haters.

the third was an aside with yazi about his bizarre first comment in the thread.

the 4th was a continuation of the yazi aside where I clarified that he was mistaken about what I'd said and essentially ended my participation in his aside.

the 5th was when I responded to billyfleetwood explaining why I found it hard to believe that there was much an individual could do to improve their relationship with their local officers without fostering systemic change. I asked him what he was thinking of when he said that local action was proven to work, since I was unaware of it. It should be noted here that he gave a remarkable response where he outlined precisely what had been done and what the effect was. I favorited it. It's possibly my favorite comment in the thread.

the 6th was to thank sleepy pete for correcting my misapprehension of the origin of the "thin blue line" phrase.

the 7th was a reply to a comment by bravelittletoaster where he had accused someone who had asked billyfleetwood a good faith question about his relationship with cops of having a binary viewpoint which was incapable of understanding that some cops are good. it should be noted that this is the first comment of mine which you replied to. I started this comment off by saying that no one thinks ALL cops are bad, but blahblahblah you know the rest of my point. It was an attempt, much like my first 2 comments, to address an unfair depiction of commenters in this thread. bravelittletoaster had said, among other things, "{gasp!} Some people need to simplify every problem down to an "all or nothing" mentality, and then are shocked when their naiveté is pointed out." which is just mind numbingly stupid and in my opinion needed to not be the finale to the thread.

I'm not sure why, but after that you took one sentence from that comment, the one about how we see good cops letting bad cop work continue, and replied to it. So I defended my point that it is possible to see the situation as involving good cops letting too much slide. It seems to me that that's part of discussing the solution to the problem, is helping identify the fullness of its extent in the first place. I hope that you can see that this is me trying to discuss the possibility of solutions, that I haven't just been bitching about cops the whole time but rather have been trying to debunk unfair mischaracterizations and to have discussions about the possibility of change. I can't help but feel like you're not just responding to what I say, but to earlier things someone else might have said which you mistakenly believe I said. or something. otherwise, I just don't know where you're coming from.
posted by shmegegge at 9:11 AM on March 28, 2008


“You're assigning a lot of viewpoints to me that I don't hold and haven't given you any reason to think I hold.”

My apologies for that. It’s easy to get spun out and not address the issue with precision. I do mean some folks generally just go off on cops as opposed to your participation specifically being counterproductive.

“I hope that you can see that this is me trying to discuss the possibility of solutions, that I haven't just been bitching about cops the whole time but rather have been trying to debunk unfair mischaracterizations and to have discussions about the possibility of change”

I do. Again, my apologies. I was defending a broader point as opposed to directly refuting your position, so I can totally see how you can take that as not responding to what you’re saying.

In response to your point(s) specifically, I think we disagree on some (minor) details, but we generally agree on systemic change.

It seems like in these kinds of discussions one can speak to the crowd or to one person in general or both or switch off between them.
And what often further clouds communication (apart from the passion folks, myself included, can get wrapped up in) is where there is agreement.
So where I diverge for example is that one comment - so it seems like I’m narrowly focused on something as opposed to being in agreement generally except for ‘this.’ A ‘yes but’ as opposed to ‘no, this.’ So it can look like mischaracterization.
That is, it’s often harder to argue a point with someone you are mostly in agreement with, than it is to argue with someone with whom you are directly or more fully in opposition to.
Tough to get clarity on that. Since you’re going the same sort of direction. Kinda like two people dancing and both trying to lead.

But in terms of letting the good cops slide - sure, I can see how folks can have some angst there, but it’s like blaming the troops for the war. You can only hold people accountable for what they have power over and for their acts personally.

Cops who cross the line, beat on someone, all that, they’re bad they should be nailed. Cops who cover for those guys, they’re not good either. But there are a lot of guys on the beat who have never been involved in anything like that. Just doing their jobs, never been talked to by IA or seen another cop hit someone, all that.

The best way to change how cops act is to change the environment that governs their actions. I forgot who said it, but the system should be set up such that it could be run by devils, and yet the people suffer no harm.
That can be done. Even bad cops can be neutralized such that it doesn’t matter what their character is - control their training you control their means for survival, they will behave as the system dictates.
Support the cops who come forward, create incentives for transparency and accountability and the bullies won’t be able to exist in the environment.
You’re right, morally, about cops looking the other way (who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act). But the way to prevent that as a practical matter is not to focus on the individual, but to alter the environment. Cops can’t do that from within, nor do they have the right to.

"It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error." -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson
posted by Smedleyman at 11:24 AM on March 28, 2008




you know, I'm all for speaking truth to power, but that is the lamest thing I have ever seen.
posted by shmegegge at 2:26 PM on April 23, 2008


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