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June 19, 2008 7:44 AM   Subscribe

"We like to play gladiator. You know what I mean? Let two gangs beat each other up without weapons, and the winner gets to deal on the corner. Or, we grab a bunch of muggers, or maybe two crews who steal cars, and tell them, “Okay, you all fight each other — the one still standing gets to avoid jail.” I know: it sounds awful, but believe me, this really works."

Cops tell Freakonomics "the things that cops do to keep the peace that no one wants to know about.”"
posted by plexi (92 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
These guys are completely full of shit. Really, they're completely full of bullshit.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Freakonomics: We do what social scientists have been doing for decades, exept we ignore all their previous work, use the word "economics" and "marginal" a lot. Also peer-review is for pussies. The marginal value provided by peer review does not outweigh the opportunity cost of not blogging for the NYT.
posted by delmoi at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2008 [21 favorites]


I wish Freakonomics had more to do with early '90s animated comedy superhero Freakazoid. Now that's keapin' the peace!
posted by fuq at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Who knew Grand Theft Auto was an educational game?
posted by b1tr0t at 8:09 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I knew this dude who grew up in the heart of South Philly and he told me about the gladiator street fights he was forced to participate in as a kid. Kids would strip to the waist and the entire block would flood out of their row homes and gather in a big circle. A cop or two would be there, walking the perimeter, basically just controlling the crowd. The kids would beat each other to a pulp and the loser's parents would carry him home, telling him what an embarrassment he was while wiping the blood off his face.

The guy I knew ran away when his turn eventually came, which was like the ultimate offense. His dad came into his bedroom where he was hiding with belt in hand, saying he better get out there and fight because if he didn't he was going to get it a lot worse right here and now. So his dad dragged him back to the corner and threw him in the circle where he proceeded to have his ass completely whooped in front of throngs of bloodthirsty neighbors.

He felt that this and other similar childhood events common to growing up in the rougher parts of Philly had something to do with his having become a heroin addict years later.
posted by The Straightener at 8:10 AM on June 19, 2008 [13 favorites]


5. You have to let people get revenge. One time, I caught a guy who was running around stealing jewelry. So I asked the women — the ones who got their rings stolen — if they’d like to come over to his place and take something. Two of them said, “Hell yeah!”

I brought them to this guy’s house, and they took a bunch of his things — a TV, a painting! It was hilarious. This doesn’t happen often, but I think it would be a great way to stop people from doing the little things — you know, robbing, shoplifting, beating up people.
I know all the reasons this is wrong, but I think this is excellent.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:18 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stay gold, Ponyboy!
posted by inigo2 at 8:21 AM on June 19, 2008


it sounds awful, but believe me, this really works.

Before I even see the "proof" of this statement, I'd like to know the metric.
posted by DU at 8:23 AM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


what crap... this idiot talks to five bad cops and publishes it in the NYT as if he's done research....
posted by HuronBob at 8:25 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I especially love is how the Freakonomics blogger, after a page-long free preview of Cops Gone Wild VII: Chicago Spring Break, invokes Jane Jacobs' "eyes on the street" idea.

Note to Freakonomics: "eyes on the street" typically refers to urban design that forms a streetwall of living and working units so that residents will be in a physical position to keep an eye on the street. Less so staging cage matches between carjacking crews or calling up pimps on a whim and saying that Janey needs an extra $500.

But hey, maybe it was all in one of her later books.
posted by bicyclefish at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


Carl wanted to make a single point: he felt cops should have the freedom to act as “judge on-site.”

Boy, that sounds like a great idea...one that could never possibly go disastrously wrong.

I have a feeling there's a lot of leg-pulling going on here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:29 AM on June 19, 2008


I'm pretty skeptical that this is still going on in NYC or Chicago. Maybe leaving a domestic violence perp on the hood of the police car for a while, but the extortion would be impossible to hide for long in most modern urban police forces.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:30 AM on June 19, 2008


...the extortion would be impossible to hide for long in most modern urban police forces.

Frank Serpico
posted by DU at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought the last time that cops acted as judge on site some people burned L.A. and some trucker got his head bashed in.
posted by spicynuts at 8:35 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read shit like this (as well as Straightener's story) and it just makes me pray harder for that big doomsday asteroid to get here soon.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would be pretty upset by this if it wasn't one hundred percent bullshit.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't read this without feeling sick.

Our big, burly, stupid, wonderful, daredevil, naive, criminally foolish teenage son went to "moderate" a gang fight in the wrong part of our nice town last week.

His puerile, romantic logic was something to do with seeing how ad hoc justice works at street level.

He ended up needing twelve stitches in his mouth and also got his back flayed with the same baseball bat.

Screw police approval for how this crap "works".
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:40 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


"You laugh, but the good cops never let problems get to judges. They are judge on-site, I like to say."

What makes a police officer capable of rationally deciding who's in the wrong and what the punishment should be? Is it the training? It must be one hell of a training manual if that's the reason. No wait, a better answer. He carries a gun.

I see it all the time, though not to the extreme presented in this article, in my city. And we all do in every city. Two cars are speeding along side of each other and obviously a cop can only pull over one. Well which driver gets the ticket? Cops show up on the scene of a bar fight and only arrest one guy. They take the word of the other guy, or his friends, or the bartender who caught the end of it. I've seen this happen more times than I can remember. Seriously, cops act as the jury every single day and frankly, they're not capable of such a privilege.

Morons in blue.

Fuck the police.
posted by trueluk at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Frank Serpico

Right. 1971 is not modern.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:46 AM on June 19, 2008


I thought the last time that cops acted as judge on site some people burned L.A. and some trucker got his head bashed in.

Thank God that Rodney King incident was the last time cops did anything like that. It's hard to believe it's already been sixteen years since police brutality in the US ended.
posted by flarbuse at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2008 [15 favorites]


I remember a story about a graffiti artist/tagger who got caught. The judge let all the building owners whose property he damaged take all his belongings and go town with cans of
spray paint. That's payback.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:48 AM on June 19, 2008


publishes it in the NYT as if he's done research....

Or people interpret blog posts as if it's research.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 AM on June 19, 2008


Freakonomics: We do what social scientists have been doing incompetently for decades and sometimes do it better.

Fixed that for you.

Also peer-review is for pussies. The marginal value provided by peer review does not outweigh the opportunity cost of not blogging for the NYT.

Are you saying that Venkatesh and certain other people who blog on Freakonomics have never published in peer-reviewed journals, or that it is forbidden for an academic to blog for a newspaper?
posted by Krrrlson at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


That's payback.

Payback != justice. We have rules for a reason.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:55 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Right. 1971 is not modern.

What specifically has changed since 1971 that makes widespread corruption and abuse now impossible? The only thing I'm aware of that makes this kind of thing impossible is transparency, which means immediate, open investigations (by outside agencies) into allegations with real repercussions if they prove true. Is the NYPD transparent?

Many of the responses in this thread indicate that transparency is not important to a lot of people.
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on June 19, 2008


(and by "impossible" I mean "reduced")
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on June 19, 2008


Again, this is why drugs need to be legalized.
posted by empath at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Freakonomics: We do what social scientists have been doing incompetently for decades and sometimes do it better.

Where is the evidence they actually do anything better?
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I saw the article writer speak once. He seems like he knows his shit. I wonder sometimes if class-appropriate or social-context approach to governance and law enforcement is ultimately the best way to go. Of course it looks bad from the outside, but you gotta meet people where they are.
posted by sandking at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


What specifically has changed since 1971 that makes widespread corruption and abuse now impossible? The only thing I'm aware of that makes this kind of thing impossible is transparency, which means immediate, open investigations (by outside agencies) into allegations with real repercussions if they prove true. Is the NYPD transparent?

According to one of my friends who's a public defender in downtown LA, there's a pretty linear relationship between police corruption and number of cops on the street. The more cops you have on the street, the better able they are to police themselves.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:10 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where is the evidence they actually do anything better?

Have you read the actual Freakonomics book and the (peer-reviewed) journal articles behind it?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:11 AM on June 19, 2008


"Morons in blue.

Fuck the police."


oh wait, I thought you said "Morons ON the blue", and it was a self reference...
posted by HuronBob at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


...a pretty linear relationship between police corruption and number of cops on the street. The more cops you have on the street, the better able they are to police themselves.

Is there independent proof of that second sentence or is this a non-sequitur? I would be more likely to hypothesize that a municipal administration interested in a real drop in the crime rate would do it both within and without the force, causing both phenomena you cite. I.e. reduce corruption at the same time as increasing the size of the force to fight crime in the city.
posted by DU at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2008


It is a very interesting problem.. In Ontario, COPs have recently been given the authority to impound cars for 7 days, and this law has been heavily criticized because of all the impounds, virtually none have resulted in formal charges/penalties.

Clearly there is a problem.. I mean, the courts aren't effective, the cops aren't effective, and the media is infantile. But, how do you navigate that reality to create effective policy?

On the surface I kind of like the 7 day thing, but then I think about a friend who was driving me back to a transit station after a non alcoholic party a few years ago..

So it's early Sunday morning in Peel region near Toronto. While stopped at a traffic light, my friend points out that a cop has been following us for a couple of minutes. We're young men, and he's a 'brown' person, so he 'knows' what's up. I had no idea. Not 5 minutes later the cop has us pulled over and says my friend was driving 110km/h in a 60km/h zone. A total fabrication. Completely absurd. Cop says, "I'm going to drop it to 75km/h, so you won't get any points taken off." You know, because he's such a nice guy.

My friend decides to fight the ticket, and I become his witness. Before the hearing the cop stops him outside the court room and says, "If you continue into the hearing, we'll bump the charge back up to 110km/h, so you better think about this." That was a lie, of course, a blatant attempt to intimidate. Before the judge/justice/whatever, I screwed up my friends case, because I testified to the lies the cops were telling instead of testifying to the fact that he was never speeding at all. Judge says "It doesn't matter what the cops said, if you were going 1km/h over the speed limit, you were speeding, and this ticket stands."

Considering the scenario that night.. I can just imagine how the new 7-day impound law might have played out. Say, if my friend wasn't as level headed as he was..
posted by Chuckles at 9:17 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thank God that Rodney King incident was the last time cops did anything like that. It's hard to believe it's already been sixteen years since police brutality in the US ended.

Perhaps you missed my subtle sarcasm.
posted by spicynuts at 9:19 AM on June 19, 2008


I think this is excellent.

I agree, and I've got an excellent way in which this idea can be extended. Given how committed these police officers are to the idea of informal social justice, administered in the community, by the community, why don't we also utilize this principle in instances of police corruption and unnecessary use of force?

I've got every confidence that members of minority communities, when presented with the arguments about an individual officers culpability, would be extremely fair when it comes to deciding who is guilty and who is innocent, and what that punishment should be.

So, for example, a cop found guilty of demanding free sexual services from female sex workers, would be forced to put on womens clothes and service the men at those truckstops where the truckers have a penchant for transgendered sex workers. Or a cop found guilty of physical abuse might be forced to act as a street sweeper in that community -- using a broom which has a handle that's been rammed eighteen inches deep into his arse.

When they've been apprehended for bullying smaller, weaker members of the community, we could turn the tables by equipping those people with solid aluminum baseball bats, and giving the victim any number of free swings before they actually get subjected to a few poundings.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


I think these cops were just kind of bored and enjoyed exaggerating and making stuff up.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 AM on June 19, 2008


Hmm. I was really hoping that would have been more like the Freakonomics book. Ah well. I's quite fond of some good pulp fiction. I've known a few cops, and this sample is as randomly selected and non-representative as the sample for this blog, but every last one of them was an intolerable boaster and exaggerater. They didn't embarrass themselves quite as badly as, say, a tough-guy mall security guard, but it was a near thing sometimes. So I'm betting these stories are one part actual events and two parts fantasizing.

Or, I'm telling myself that so that I don't grow even more afraid of John Law than I am already. Because make no mistake, bloggy bullshit notwithstanding, some of these guys really are just thugs with badges.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:24 AM on June 19, 2008


I don't know what to make of this.

It's sad for me that police in the United States have entered what sports journalist Bill Simmons calls "the Tyson Zone": a status wherein if a friend said, "Did you hear that some cops just (fill in the insane behavior: murdered someone in cold blood in front of a judge and gotten away with it, started making drug dealers wear clown suits, etc.)?", I would have no problem believing it was true.

I know I'd sleep better thinking it was complete bullshit.

But at this point, after having been treated many times by the cops in ways that a lot of people tell me never, ever, happens to anyone who hasn't done anything to provoke them, and having listened to stories from some friends from my old neighborhood who are on the wrong side of the law, the things described in that blog seem all too plausible to me.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:29 AM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]





These guys are completely full of shit. Really, they're completely full of bullshit.


I agree. That was a complete fraud. Either Sudhir Venkatesh made the entire thing up or the supposed "cop" did. I suspect he's pulling a Jason Blair or he's being played. Mark my words. This dude will go down in flames.
posted by tkchrist at 9:35 AM on June 19, 2008


And, wow, that policing is working so well, isn't it. You tell us that nobody trusts the courts, but why should we trust you?

If this is true -- if this is that prevalent, we're screwed.
posted by eriko at 9:36 AM on June 19, 2008


I would be pretty upset by this if it wasn't one hundred percent bullshit.

You think the author was just making it all up? Or what?

I think these cops were just kind of bored and enjoyed exaggerating and making stuff up.

Yeah, 'cause cops would never do shit like that. And all the people who claim cops do stuff like that to them, they're just lying. 'Cause poor/minority people are kind of bored and enjoy exaggerating and making stuff up too.
posted by languagehat at 9:37 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the truth of it: Fighting leads to killing. and killing gets to warring, and that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now - busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain. But we've learned, by the dust of 'em all, Bartertown's learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here, and it finishes here. Two men enter, one man leaves.

Two men enter, one man leaves.
Two men enter, one man leaves.
TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES.
TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES!
TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES!
TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES!
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I really recommend reading Venkatesh's book Gang Leader For a Day. He describes the projects in the early 90's but I bet very little has changed. When police are scarce and ambulances never show up, gangs pick up the slack and all kinds of de facto justice appears as a necessity. The few police who do hold any kind of power within these communities are forced to play by the (sometimes ugly) rules of law that the community has established, because otherwise things would get even worse. Police doing "drastic" things like this is just in a day's work. There's so many other factors contributing to the situation than a simple blog post has room to elaborate on.
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on June 19, 2008


And of course cops don't trust the judicial system, no street gang does.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:46 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I AM THE LAW!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2008


Probably the one thing that disappoints me more than the stories themselves was the people saying that it was a good thing.
posted by drezdn at 9:49 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe it (mostly). Haven't you ever done something crazy and wild at your job? One that makes a good story later on at the bar, or years later at a cocktail party? Haven't you made the story sound a little better than what actually happened? Didn't you laugh about it with your buddies?
posted by infinitewindow at 9:50 AM on June 19, 2008


Wow - cops confessing to criminally extorting others, to encouraging others to theft, to causing fights... these guys are worse than the "criminals" - they are, in fact, by breaking the law, criminals themselves.

I, nor our legal system, wants these bozos out there thinking that they are little kings of their own mini-fiefdoms. They are cops. Their job is to hunt down and deliver criminals into a legal system that includes things like habeas corpus, trial by a jury of your peers, etc. We elect the people who create the laws that the police are supposed to be following. WE the people, ultimately, make the rules that the police follow.

For them to just make up their own rules is anti-democratic, tending towards fascism. I don't care how much they think they are above the law, or they *are* the law - they must follow the laws and rules that we all agree upon to govern ourselves or all we have left is anarchy.

They should be indicted and tried by a jury of their peers.
posted by MythMaker at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure who I hate more: cops or the freakanomics assholes.
posted by serazin at 10:08 AM on June 19, 2008


Some of y'all are surprisingly naive about inner-city life.
posted by batmonkey at 10:27 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should be indicted and tried by a jury of their peers.

You mean wife-beaters, gangbangers, and burglars?
posted by Krrrlson at 10:36 AM on June 19, 2008


Yeah, 'cause cops would never do shit like that. And all the people who claim cops do stuff like that to them, they're just lying. 'Cause poor/minority people are kind of bored and enjoy exaggerating and making stuff up too.

Where are the throngs of poor people saying cops made them fight Gladiatorial matches? Please cite this.

Are there many LEOs who're corrupt? Certainly. In some cities the practice of shakedown and protection schemes is common practice.

But the many of the stories in that article are total bullshit. Gladiatorial matches? As a common practice? Come frigg'n on. You realize a single Youtube video of that would bring down the entire police force.

Plus I live is Seattle (where some of these stories are supposedly from). I train with cops every week. I hear about all sorts of egregious shit some cops do. Stuff that would curl your toes. But I never once heard of this Gladiatorial bullshit. It might have been done once in Chicago where there is more activity to camouflage shit like that, but I don't very much it was anything like a regular occurrence.

This article (like the Russian office worker berserk video) is tripping my finely tuned bullshit detectors.
posted by tkchrist at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


You think the author was just making it all up? Or what?

No, I think he is getting his leg pulled and not realizing it.

For instance: If a drug addict robbed somebody, we used to take his drugs away and give them to someone else. Then we used to make him watch his buddy smoke all his stuff. THAT was real pain!

One. Hundred. Percent. Bullshit. I mean, look, you know that I am no fan of law enforcement. They do all sorts of things a million times worse, especially here in Joe Arpaio's home county. Chasing dogs into burning buildings? You bet. Arresting designated drivers with a BAC of 0 for drunk driving as retaliation against a DUI lawyer? Oh yeah. Threatening journalists? All the time.

But what they don't do is give free drugs to the "buddies" (their word, not mine) of petty thieves to punish said thieves. That is a story that is made up: a couple of cops said to each other "that would be pretty funny." And it would be. And it may have even happened once or twice in the history of U.S. law enforcement. But as something LEOs do even semi-regularly to "keep the peace"? Hell fucking no.

(Also, police complaining about an unsympathetic justice system is like Dick Cheney complaining about Bush's vice-presidential search committee. It couldn't be more stacked in their favor if every defense lawyer in the country decided to move to the fucking Moon.)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


he felt cops should have the freedom to act as “judge on-site.”

He went on to say "I am the Law!" before drawing his Lawgiver Mark III and firing into a crowd of thugs engaged in a 'block war'.
posted by quin at 10:45 AM on June 19, 2008


No, I think he is getting his leg pulled and not realizing it.

I agree.

Look. This guys tells the reporter the eminently believable "Cops on the take" story. But we all know that one. So how do you spice it up to get a reporter to squirt in his shorts? Add "then we make them fight in the Thunderdome!"

Whoa. Now that's NEWS!

As he goes on he peppers the stuff we all know with these absurd over the top details at exactly the right points in the article. All of it is just too conveniently designed to appeal to the most prurient prejudices of the reader.
posted by tkchrist at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2008


Has anyone commenting in this thread grown up in an inner-city high-crime area?
posted by Brian James at 10:55 AM on June 19, 2008


Freakonomics: We do what social scientists have been doing for decades

Sure, that blog post would have been better if were written by someone with a PhD in sociology or, better yet, an actual professor of sociology at, say, an Ivy league school like Columbia. Maybe someone with a bunch of published articles in peer-reviewed journals like American Journal of Sociology or Annual Review of Sociology.

If only.
posted by mhum at 10:56 AM on June 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


If there is a decent percentage of police out there who think/act like this, then count me as terrified. Judge on site? Listen you have to make judgment calls but you should not be judge, jury and executioner. The only way something like that could fly would be if there were total transparency. Every time you act on-the-spot, afterward the whole thing is reviewed and audited. To be certain you never abused your power, also the penalties for power abuse would have to be extremely severe.

Until you can assure me that all cops are perfect saints, I don't want to give them any more power.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


But I never once heard of this Gladiatorial bullshit. It might have been done once in Chicago where there is more activity to camouflage shit like that, but I don't very much it was anything like a regular occurrence.

well, tkchrist, there is at least one person in this thread anecdotally confirming that part of the story. and that was in philly, not chicago.

(still, me, i'm leaning toward thinking either these guys experiences are unrepresentative because they all just happen to be crooked, or that police practices actually are much worse in really low-income urban areas than many of us are comfortable admitting.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:00 AM on June 19, 2008


Hey Truluk,

Why don't you fawk yourself? Seriously, I hate your type. It is easy to pick out a few bad apples and then say their all bad. Grant it some officers deserve what they get, however, most of them are just trying to make society a better safer place for all of us to live. Your I hate people telling me what to do attitude is annoying. Grow up and get over your problem with authority. We all know your "yes officer, I'll never do that again" when they are around... and well we just saw how you act when they are not around.

Anyways, a few points:

1). This article only focuses on older retired officers. Way back in the day, this sort of thing was tolerated. Now a days it is not. As the criminal mind grows as does the police. The training alone has gone from a weekend at the bar to 2000+ hrs of classroom training. People are now going to college for degrees and academy training to become officers. Back in the day being a police officer was considered the you screwed up job.

2). Back when these cops were the top of the crop, this was seen as justice served. Now it is just wrong. Police should be held to the same laws they swore to protect. No ifs ands or buts about it. For an officer has to break a law to punish someone... that is not right. It is not their job to be judge, jury and executioner. If this were true how many innocent people would be sent to jail?

3). Please don't judge all police officers by this article. Like I said before, most of them are good people. Look at it this way, they don't know you from Adam. For all they know you just committed a crime. If a police officer approached everyone without any suspicion, they would end up getting hurt. Criminals are experts at looking like normal people.

4). Regardless how rude or pissy a police officer might seem, they saved your life at one point. How dangerous is a drunk driver??? How many drunk drivers do cops pull over, regardless if they get arrested or not. It gets a potential threat off the roads. Believe it or not but they make our society a safer place.

5). It is a thankless job that takes it's toll on them. It stresses the officer, their family, and their friends out. Dealing with the shit of society day in and day out is not easy. So as a favor to me please be kind to the next officer you see. You just might make their day.

Lastly, imagine if you will: Your responding to a DV. You get there and the woman is on the floor bleeding from her head (not moving), the dude has already blown his head off with a shotgun(pussy)... brains are on the ceiling, and there are two children standing at the top of the stairs. Go see that, and deal with something like that and then say Fuck the police. Asshole....
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:21 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Has anyone commenting in this thread grown up in an inner-city high-crime area?

63rd Street between Race and Vine in West Philly. We moved away when I was real young but my grandparents stayed so we were in the neighborhood a couple times a week until I was a teenager. I was just back there the other day because the most killer ice cream shop ever is on the corner of the block we used to live on. Looks like our old neighbor's place was recently converted to a crackhouse, which isn't surprising.

And the gladiator story I heard was South Philly rite of passage stuff, you know, working class Italian families teaching their kids to be men. Chronically sociopathic men with crippling drug addictions, that is.
posted by The Straightener at 11:23 AM on June 19, 2008


well, tkchrist, there is at least one person in this thread anecdotally confirming that part of the story. and that was in philly, not chicago.

Sualgoodman did you even read Straightners post?

It had NOTHING to do with cops putting on Gladiator matches. He was talking about FIGHTS.

And the gladiator story I heard was South Philly rite of passage stuff, you know, working class Italian families teaching their kids to be men. Chronically sociopathic men with crippling drug addictions, that is.

On Preview.

EXACTLY.

Other wise known as fights.

This was not regular event at the behest, organization, and patronage of the local Police to settle drug dealing disputes.

I seriously question Mefi's totally gullibility to obvious incredulity sometimes.
posted by tkchrist at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2008


It is a thankless job that takes it's toll on them. It stresses the officer, their family, and their friends out. Dealing with the shit of society day in and day out is not easy. So as a favor to me please be kind to the next officer you see. You just might make their day.

Over the years I have watched my brother go from a shiny, happy, save-the-world academy grad to a bitter, angry disillusioned cop. Cops are hated by the public and battered down by beauracracy. They get it from both sides. And unfortunately some cops end up taking out their bitterness on the people they are supposed to protect. My brother counts the days until retirement and hates every single member of the public he has to deal with. He's not a bad cop. He's fair in his dealings. But he no longer wants to save the world. He barely has it in him these days to serve let alone protect.

God knows I love cops. There's nearly no better group of guys and gals to have your back (and they're almost all fiercely loyal, not only to each other but to their familes and friends) but there are plenty of bad apples out there. I have heard enough stories from my brother and his buddies to know that I need to keep a wary eye out when dealing with any police officer. And while most of these stories sound like exaggerations I wouldn't totally discount them. There are a lot of assholes out there. Some of them carry badges and guns and have the power to do a great deal of damage if they've got a mind to.
posted by lysistrata at 11:38 AM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


BTW. The Straightener's story was still second hand. So let's just all calm down and take that grain of salt already.
posted by tkchrist at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2008


Surprise, surprise.

I believe every word. Yuck.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:50 AM on June 19, 2008


Some of them carry badges and guns and have the power to do a great deal of damage if they've got a mind to.

Also, the steroids can't be helping matters much.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, the steroids can't be helping matters much.

Now that is true.

However once you understand the physical demands of the job — AND in the sense that your physical appearance must appear vital and strong or crooks will challenge you—you can kind of understand why a thirty five or forty five year old cop on the down slope of his/her physical abilities would be tempted to do roids.
posted by tkchrist at 12:06 PM on June 19, 2008


Since the "gladiator" stuff seems to be getting attention, I decided to type out this passage from Gang Leader for a Day. Sudhir (the blog author) is speaking with a director of the Boys & Girls Club located in the Robert Taylor Homes of Chicago.

"[W]e settle shit when it gets out of hand. Like the other day - Barry knifed somebody from a different gang because the other boy was hanging out near his building. Just for hanging out! So I called my friend Officer Reggie, and we let the two fight it out."

"Fight it out? I thought you said you settled it."

"We did. That's how you settle shit sometimes. Let boys fight each other - no guns, no knives. Then you tell them, 'Okay, you-all see that you can fight without killing each other?"

Autry told me that the club played a broad peacekeeping role in the community. He and other staff members worked with school authorities, social workers, and police officers to informally mediate all kinds of problems, rather than ushering young men and women into the criminal-justice system. The police regularly brought shoplifters, vandals, and car thieves to the club, where Autry and the others would negotiate the return of stolen property as well as, perhaps, some kind of restitution.

(Later on, he actually witnesses a mediation between two rival gang leaders, with a church pastor and police officers mediating the dispute. The resolution was to allow one of the gangs to deal crack on neutral territory for a week. You can call bullshit on all of this if you want, but Venkatesh is describing real people and places in Chicago, from his seven years of hanging out with the Black Kings. If this stuff was made up, he'd have been called out by now.)
posted by naju at 12:13 PM on June 19, 2008


It had NOTHING to do with cops putting on Gladiator matches. He was talking about FIGHTS.

tkchrist: According to the (admittedly second-hand) story from The Straightener:

A cop or two would be there, walking the perimeter, basically just controlling the crowd

So I guess, taking that account as true, your reaction would depend on how much weight you put on whether the cops were 'putting on Gladiator matches' themselves or just tolerating/participating in them passively.
4. We like to play gladiator. You know what I mean? Let two gangs beat each other up without weapons, and the winner gets to deal on the corner. Or, we grab a bunch of muggers, or maybe two crews who steal cars, and tell them, “Okay, you all fight each other — the one still standing gets to avoid jail.” I know: it sounds awful, but believe me, this really works.
It's not implausible to me that cops sometimes let neighborhood thugs settle their grudges by letting them fight it out. But yeah, some of the later claims the cop makes in the cited passage have a whiff of exaggeration to them.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:32 PM on June 19, 2008


"Fight it out? I thought you said you settled it."

"We did. That's how you settle shit sometimes. Let boys fight each other - no guns, no knives. Then you tell them, 'Okay, you-all see that you can fight without killing each other?"


A MUCH different characterization than in the article. Yes. Taking kids to a Boy & Girls Club to BOX is hardly the same as organizing gang street fight to settle drug disputes. And yes things like that are common. But I'd hardly describe it as gladiatorial.
posted by tkchrist at 12:57 PM on June 19, 2008


Not sure boxing equipment was on the budget at that facility, tkchrist, from the book it sounds like basketball was pretty much it. Fair point though. Google isn't turning up any information.
posted by naju at 1:29 PM on June 19, 2008


So I guess, taking that account as true, your reaction would depend on how much weight you put on whether the cops were 'putting on Gladiator matches' themselves or just tolerating/participating in them passively.

Dang you guys. I sear you guys will hold onto something until grim death. I applaud your tenacity but we have nothing in the way of FACTS to confirm much of the most outlandish stuff this article described.

Again from The Straightener: And the gladiator story I heard was South Philly rite of passage stuff, you know, working class Italian families teaching their kids to be men. Chronically sociopathic men with crippling drug addictions, that is.

Nothing in this stated it was not organized BY the police to settle "Drug Disputes."

We all know American Law Enforcement can, and has been guilty of numerous egregious abuses and illegal activities. Yeah. So what. What I'm interested in the tone and tenor of this article having a frigg'n agenda and it used nothing but hearsay and anecdote to illustrate a series of faulty premises.

Yeesh. That article held not not just exaggerations but clearly outright inventions. Look. The facts are an indictment enough. We don't need bullshit like this article.
posted by tkchrist at 1:39 PM on June 19, 2008


Nothing in this stated it was not organized BY the police to settle "Drug Disputes."

err. "it was organized..."
posted by tkchrist at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2008


Dang you guys. I sear you guys will hold onto something until grim death.

Hold on a minute, tkchrist--I've said all along I'm agnostic on this one. I want you or someone else to persuade me to take one side or the other here, not to accuse me of having already made up my mind when it ain't so!

Ah, hell. Forget it. I'm just not going to take a side this time.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:12 PM on June 19, 2008


Brian James inquired:
"Has anyone commenting in this thread grown up in an inner-city high-crime area?"

Not sure about others, but I did.

The wards in Houston (3rd, mostly, but you end up with experiences in 2-5 if you're in 3) as well as depressed neighbourhoods at the perimeter of the city (South Houston & Pasadena). I also spent a while in South Oak Cliff in Dallas, aka "Dallas DMZ" or "The Warzone", just after the California gangs established strongholds there and started sorting out what belonged to whom.

As an adult, I've lived other places in both cities in addition to adding Albuquerque & Seattle to the list, and it was quite eye-opening to realise that not everyone grows up the way we did and can't wrap their heads around the realities of such an upbringing/life, even when they live mere blocks away from it all (but particularly when they live in a comfortable bubble with just enough real crime to feel like they've experienced everything there is to experience in that realm). Amazing.
posted by batmonkey at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2008



Freakonomics: We do what social scientists have been doing for decades

Freakonomics: We do what social scientists have been doing incompetently for decades and sometimes do it better.

that blog post would have been better if were written by someone with a PhD in sociology

Let me tell you a little story about sociology.


Back in the 1980s, I happened to take the sociology GRE subject exam. (It doesn't exist any more -- maybe this is why.) My score was in the 80th percentile. Not great, I suppose, but then I had never taken a single course in sociology; in fact, I probably had about 40 or 50 credits, tops (mostly Ds in physics and calc).

Who were my "competition"? Presumably, recent or soon-to-be graduates from UG soc programs who wanted to get into soc graduate programs.

Re-cap: a repeat college dropout with no academic background in the subject beat 4 out of 5 sociology majors nationally on the exam for a shot at a sociology PhD.

The conclusion is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, and is left as an exercise for the student.
posted by Herodios at 2:22 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is stupid. But stop pointing to Judge Dredd as an example of why it is stupid. That's like saying "An invulnerable flying man would declare himself a god and rule the world in heartless tyranny!" and pointing to Superman. The whole point of Dredd as character and plot device is that he is worthy. Born and raised to be what he is. He's not a "real" human being, even within the context of the story. He's a clone, which even in the Mega-City marks him as less than fully free. He was presumed to, and does, follow his progenitor's path. (There's a distinct YHWH/Michael/Samael thing going on with Fargo, Dredd and Rico.) Grant Morrison and Alan Moore wrote for Dredd, and those are just two of the greatest comic writers alive. Don't assume it's a "dumb comic story with lazers pew pew". One of the major themes of the overall story is the failure of democracy, and the equal or worse failure of a fascist police state, to keep order and ensure the safety of citizens.

The flip side of the Dredd proposition is that real human beings aren't worthy. Only after decades of brainwashing and training can a person to be said to be of Mega-City Judge caliber, and even then, a fairly high number turn out corrupt in various ways. They aren't allowed to own property (that's been retconned a bit over the years), participate fully in the city's social and economic life, go "off duty" except basically to eat and sleep, and they aren't allowed sexual relationships or even close friendships, because both of those are a direct threat to their objective enforcement of the Law.

If some cop wants to be Judge Dredd, well, that's great, but he might as well put a towel around his shoulders and declare himself Superman.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:02 PM on June 19, 2008


But what they don't do is give free drugs to the "buddies" (their word, not mine) of petty thieves to punish said thieves. That is a story that is made up: a couple of cops said to each other "that would be pretty funny." And it would be. And it may have even happened once or twice in the history of U.S. law enforcement. But as something LEOs do even semi-regularly to "keep the peace"? Hell fucking no.

Fair enough.

(Also, police complaining about an unsympathetic justice system is like Dick Cheney complaining about Bush's vice-presidential search committee. It couldn't be more stacked in their favor if every defense lawyer in the country decided to move to the fucking Moon.)

But there I disagree. The fact that an objective observer sees that the justice system is stacked in their favor is irrelevant. If a single person they've arrested gets off, they're going to bitch about it. That's just human nature.
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on June 19, 2008


The conclusion is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, and is left as an exercise for the student.

That the GREs are poorly designed tests?

Oh, wait, I see, you were grinding your axe there. Sorry.

Carry on.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:04 PM on June 19, 2008


Sure, that blog post would have been better if were written by someone with a PhD in sociology or, better yet, an actual professor of sociology at, say, an Ivy league school like Columbia. Maybe someone with a bunch of published articles in peer-reviewed journals like American Journal of Sociology or Annual Review of Sociology.

Thank you for that. I do enjoy a good, how you Americans say, "slapping of bitch."
posted by Krrrlson at 3:16 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The conclusion is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, and is left as an exercise for the student.

That the GREs are poorly designed tests?


Sure, that works too.
posted by Herodios at 3:20 PM on June 19, 2008


Lastly, imagine if you will: Your responding to a DV. You get there and the woman is on the floor bleeding from her head (not moving), the dude has already blown his head off with a shotgun(pussy)... brains are on the ceiling, and there are two children standing at the top of the stairs. Go see that, and deal with something like that and then say Fuck the police. Asshole....

B.T.Barlow: Mr. Mayor, I have a question for you.....what if YOU came home one night to find your family tid up and gagged, with SOCKS in their mouths.They're screaming.Your trying to get in but there's too much BLOOD on the knob!!!!!
Mayor Joe Quimby : What is your question about?
B.T.Barlow: It's about the budget sir.
posted by monkeymike at 4:08 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


zero surprises in the article.
posted by telstar at 4:54 PM on June 19, 2008


I don't know about you guys, but this crack is really more-ish.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:57 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your responding to a DV. You get there and the woman is on the floor bleeding from her head (not moving), the dude has already blown his head off with a shotgun(pussy)... brains are on the ceiling, and there are two children standing at the top of the stairs. Go see that, and deal with something like that and then say Fuck the police. Asshole....

B.T.Barlow: Mr. Mayor, I have a question for you.....what if YOU came home one night to find your family tid up and gagged, with SOCKS in their mouths.They're screaming.Your trying to get in but there's too much BLOOD on the knob!!!!!
Mayor Joe Quimby : What is your question about?
B.T.Barlow: It's about the budget sir.

Mayor Joe Quimby : What do you call your act?
B.T.Barlow:"The Aristocrats!"

My first FTFY!
posted by Herodios at 5:08 PM on June 19, 2008


Lastly, imagine if you will: Your responding to a DV. You get there and the woman is on the floor bleeding from her head (not moving), the dude has already blown his head off with a shotgun(pussy)... brains are on the ceiling, and there are two children standing at the top of the stairs. Go see that, and deal with something like that and then say Fuck the police. Asshole....

1. There was a murder-suicide
2. Profit????
3. Hooray for all police everywhere no matter what!
4. Surely, this...

Wait, no, I did that wrong...
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2008


Yeah, 'cause cops would never do shit like that. And all the people who claim cops do stuff like that to them, they're just lying. 'Cause poor/minority people are kind of bored and enjoy exaggerating and making stuff up too.

To be clear, I don't think calling the cops cited in this article on their looseness with the truth is equivalent to denying that the cops get away with weird, God-awful stuff in poor neighborhoods.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:12 AM on June 20, 2008


I think it's fair to say that there's some "wouldn't that be great" and bragging in the statements quoted in the Freakonomics article. After all, it is titled How Cops Really Want to Police. If you want to read less literate, less cleaned-up, casually racist versions of what the cops "really want to do," well, I'm sure that forums like Domelights (Philly PD) aren't unique.
posted by desuetude at 8:09 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I really hope this article is some sort of horrible joke.
posted by Target Practice at 2:36 PM on June 20, 2008


Stupid.
This article is BS. IF these are real cops they're idiots. NOT even creative idiots at that.
D U M B
posted by petersn1 at 3:12 PM on June 20, 2008


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