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Curfew is declared in a 10 block area of a small Arkansas town
August 13, 2008 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Curfew is declared in a 10 block area of a small Arkansas town.

From the local newspaper: Community declares war on crime-Mayor issues curfew order and Ark. city neighborhood under 24-hour curfew. The mayor has been the subject of controversy in the past.
posted by Daddy-O (90 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Full text of the ACLU letter
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:11 AM on August 13, 2008


This is an interesting story. Not sure that the only link on the main page should have been the Wikipedia article, and then you have to click more inside to get to the actual story links, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:13 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is that town really so crime-ridden? My parents live in a Ontario town a little smaller than Helena and the thought of such measures there is completely ridiculous. Everybody knows everybody else.
posted by orange swan at 10:13 AM on August 13, 2008


It's intresting that they are also trying "diplomacy" in this "war on crime" as well
“The police department will use both diplomacy with the ‘ring leaders’ and saturation of the affected area to bring resolve to this matter,” stated Valley in his executive order. “Diplomacy with the ‘ring leaders’ will entail the issuance of a cease and desist order. Saturation will include additional manpower, overtime, extra hours, long shifts and the issuance of tickets. Saturation also involves serving warrants and subpoenas.”
I wonder what that entails.
posted by delmoi at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2008


During this 3 day operation, the department has netted a total of 32 arrests, of which 22 were misdemeanors and 10 felonies. The majority of these arrests were weapons violations and drug possessions to include the following:

* 2 simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms
* 7 possession with intent to deliver
* 1 fugitive warrant served
* 4 misdemeanor possession of firearm
* 2 misdemeanor possession of marijuana
* 18 existing outstanding warrants

a) 7 suspended d/l
b) 8 FTA
c) 3 no d/l

During this 3 day period, arrests were 26% of last month's arrest total.


From Mayor Valley's blog, The Police Department's Saturation Zone Plan of Action.
posted by carsonb at 10:22 AM on August 13, 2008


It was still in place Sunday, a police dispatcher said. Thursday night, 18 to 20 police officers carrying M-16 rifles, shotguns and night-vision scopes patrolled the "curfew zone." They arrested about eight people and confiscated drugs and loaded weapons, police said.

Paramilitarization.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Doesn't this seem more appropriate to, say, Sadr City?

Thursday night, 18 to 20 police officers carrying M-16 rifles, shotguns and night-vision scopes patrolled the "curfew zone."

Also:

Officers can stop and investigate all foot traffic, bicycle, horseback, mo-ped, motorcycle, riding mower, golf cart or other means of transportation. [emphasis mine]

Stop that man!

posted by Halloween Jack at 10:27 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Paramilitarization.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

I disagree that there's a creeping paramilitarization, as you defined in your other post, and shrill accusations don't help.

I do see, however, enormous stupidity. What could have been a great opportunity to increase foot patrols and community policing and the general visibility of law and order gets drowned in a likely mismanaged curfew effort. No one will remember the police taking steps to stop the guys from firing guns in the air. Everyone will remember the time when the mayor placed a ban on "hanging out."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:36 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Someone get Simon Pegg on the case!
posted by mark242 at 10:44 AM on August 13, 2008


I did a google search to see if the mayor was white or black and this came up.
posted by goethean at 10:45 AM on August 13, 2008


>Everyone will remember the time when the mayor placed a ban on "hanging out."

I don't know about that. I bet people will remember the time 18 to 20 police officers carrying M-16 rifles, shotguns and night-vision scopes stopped people on riding mowers and golf carts.
posted by Sailormom at 10:47 AM on August 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I do see, however, enormous stupidity. What could have been a great opportunity to increase foot patrols and community policing and the general visibility of law and order gets drowned in a likely mismanaged curfew effort. No one will remember the police taking steps to stop the guys from firing guns in the air. Everyone will remember the time when the mayor placed a ban on "hanging out."

The strategy has been updated, probably to address the objections of the ACLU.

"The Curfew shall be applied to minors at all times are required by the city code. Adults will be observed on a case by case basis and dealt with in accord with established state and federal law." (sic)

"The Department has not made any arrest, to date, for curfew violations. All violators which have been processed were for other breaks with the law. However, we are proceeding with zero tolerance on crimes and traffic in the relevant zones."

From Mayor Valley's blog, The Police Department's Saturation Zone Plan of Action.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:49 AM on August 13, 2008


shrill accusations don't help

I don't believe a town of 6323 residents requires a paramilitary force walking around with M16 military assault rifles. It's a disproportionate (and illegal) response to maintaining civil order. I don't think it is shrill to point that out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 AM on August 13, 2008 [17 favorites]


I'm starting to think that anyone who is elected to public office should be required to take and pass a U.S. Constitution test before they can take office.
posted by PhillC at 10:52 AM on August 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you don't know what to manage, manage what you know.
posted by boo_radley at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2008


I was in Hollywood during the LA Riots. There was a curfew. National Guardsmen stood on street corners in front of the Chinese Theater and Hollywood and Vine in full uniform with automatic weapons unslung and in their hands. It was unreal and terrifying and did not make me feel like order had been restored, but had gone so completely out the window that our ownly remaining choice was to turn my neighborhood into what looked like a war zone.

I just can't imagine doing sometimg similar to 10 square blocks of Helena is going to make anyone think a problem is being solved.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2008


never used baby shoes writes: Full text of the ACLU letter

Holy Christmas, that's some kind of cease-and-desist order. I can't wait for the smackdown these sons of bitches are going to get in federal court...
posted by Mayor West at 10:54 AM on August 13, 2008


I don't think it is shrill to point that out.

I was unclear; I was referencing your previous post and you tossing out the F-word -- fascism. It gets used like a backdoor Godwin these days.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:55 AM on August 13, 2008


Paramilitarization.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:24 PM on August 13

Does anyone remember this wild 1997 shootout in LA in which the police were severely outgunned?
posted by Daddy-O at 10:58 AM on August 13, 2008


I was in Hollywood during the LA Riots ... It ... did not make me feel like order had been restored

I was there, too, covering it as a journalist. I've actually been in three full-blown riots (L.A., Huntington Beach and Palm Springs). The National Guardsmen didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy, but I much preferred the weekend warriors to the guy that pointed a handgun at me while he was relieving the Circuit City of its excess inventory.

Although, the guys that really didn't make me feel safe were the Korean shop-owners with the "kill 'em all" headbands and the meticulously clean automatic weapons they apparently had stashed in the back rooms for just such occasions.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:00 AM on August 13, 2008


I was unclear; I was referencing your previous post and you tossing out the F-word -- fascism. It gets used like a backdoor Godwin these days.

Not really sure how to respond to this, other than it is sad that the term "Godwin" is so easily thrown out to shut down discussions of where the country is headed. Put me down for yet another shrill response.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:00 AM on August 13, 2008


Wait, what? From Daddy-O's link: "However, we are proceeding with zero tolerance on crimes and traffic in the relevant zones"
Zero tolerance on traffic? No traffic?
posted by boo_radley at 11:02 AM on August 13, 2008


Yeah, Blaze is right. This is beyond illegal, and people like that mayor have to be stopped.
posted by dejah420 at 11:03 AM on August 13, 2008


That was a lucky escape. One shot fired to enforce this illegal curfew would have really set the cat among the pigeons, and just imagine the consequences of a cop getting killed trying to execute an illegal search, or an opportunist thug using it as an excuse to get even.

Why does nobody ever talk about the damage that violent video games can do to public officials.
posted by an egg at 11:04 AM on August 13, 2008


Not really sure how to respond to this

Well, gee, for starters we could have a discussion about policing and civil rights without making thread-killing assertions about fascism. Night vision goggles do not brownshirts make.

Here, I'll start -- is it ever legislatively OK to enact and enforce a curfew on anyone, anywhere in the U.S. for any reason?

Police in Arkansas use M-16s? I highly doubt it. More like the semi-automatic AR-15 version, which is widely carried around the U.S. by police departments, and which will kill you just as dead as their service pistol, only at a longer range and with a bigger clip. Anyone want to have a discussion about bad journalism standards?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:16 AM on August 13, 2008


Arkansas is having trouble: One person was shot Wednesday at the Little Rock, Arkansas, headquarters of the state Democratic Party, police said.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:17 AM on August 13, 2008


When I was growing up in Indiana there was a curfew for under-18s. As a kid, it was awful and just a way for capricious cops to fuck with us. I didn't understand how it could possible be legal (and it seems like it wasn't).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2008


One shot fired to enforce this illegal curfew...

This is beyond illegal...

Holy Christmas, that's some kind of cease-and-desist order. I can't wait for the smackdown these sons of bitches are going to get in federal court...

According to my reading the mayor's blog referenced above, the illegal aspects of the curfew seem to have been rescinded and the ACLU's valid points have been addressed. It seems to me that some people here are too eager to rant and they have missed some aspects of the evolving story. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:22 AM on August 13, 2008



According to my reading the mayor's blog referenced above, the illegal aspects of the curfew seem to have been rescinded and the ACLU's valid points have been addressed. It seems to me that some people here are too eager to rant and they have missed some aspects of the evolving story. Please correct me if I'm wrong.


Er...

Well, for one thing, that kind of blanket "Go nowhere ever" curfew for minors is still unconstitutional.


This article points out that under the revised plan, "Police say adults will be stopped and questioned on a case by case basis." Under other circumstances, that might not seem so horrible, but given the outrageous extent of constitutional violation this whole escapade has involved, I'm not even close to giving this mayor the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:35 AM on August 13, 2008


Upon rereading the ACLU's letter, it seems to me that the curfew imposed upon minors is unconstitutional, and stopping everyone in the zone amounts to illegal searches.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:42 AM on August 13, 2008


Night vision goggles do not brownshirts make.

This is true, and your point about malice and stupidity is well taken. But an excessively authoritarian government (to avoid the F-word) doesn't have to come about by malice. You can get the same results if a lot of people in positions of power independently act stupidly.

I don't think Blazecock's saying we live in a Fascist state. Saying this would be disrespectful to citizens of actual fascist states and totalitarian regimes. I believe he's pointing out what lies at the bottom of this slope, and that some of our steps lead in its direction.
posted by echo target at 11:46 AM on August 13, 2008


Here, I'll start -- is it ever legislatively OK to enact and enforce a curfew on anyone, anywhere in the U.S. for any reason?


From the ACLU letter:

This order is blatantly unconstitutional on numerous grounds. First, such curfews have never been allowed under the laws of the United States, barring riot, insurrection, or natural disaster.
posted by spicynuts at 11:49 AM on August 13, 2008


A mental exercise - any lawyers here want to say whether or not a case could be built that a high crime rate can be interpreted as an 'insurrection'? Are there specific legal definitions or precedents that establish what qualifies as an insurrection?
posted by spicynuts at 11:51 AM on August 13, 2008


Insurrections are organized and specifically directed against the government. Documents like the Insurrection Act 1807 don't define, or call out any specific definition of "insurrection," so I don't think there's a substantively different legal meaning of the word.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Arkansas is having trouble: One person was shot Wednesday at the Little Rock, Arkansas, headquarters of the state Democratic Party, police said.

That would be the state party chairman. Hang in there, Mr. Gwatney.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:33 PM on August 13, 2008


Some story behind the story: a little reading of archived news and perusal of Google maps suggests this is a town in serious economic crisis, which recently consolidated two small city governments, Helena and West Helena (and presumably also consolidated services like police and fire) to slash municipal costs, with few decent jobs (median family income is $19k -- the Federal poverty level for a family of four is $21k), whose "hope" for economic revival lies in having re-opened their previously-closed regional landfill. Google maps shows the "Second St" area mentioned in the lockdown articles is in West Helena, adjacent to bleak industrial and commercial areas, separated from Helena proper by a wooded ridge.

The mayor made the news in June as well when he released a bunch of stray dogs from the city animal shelter into the nearby state forest, claiming they were better off that way.
posted by aught at 12:36 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


For the most part these things all seem like victimless "crimes". All combinations of failure-to-do-paperwork (possession of firearms, no driver's license) and non-violent drug offenses. We can't know what the the 18 outstanding warrants are for, but presumably more of the above. I have no idea what crime "FTA" is, and surely people driving without valid licenses is not a valid reason to impose a curfew.
posted by Teppy at 12:40 PM on August 13, 2008


Some story behind the story:

That's pretty accurate, yeah. Thanks for bringing context (and anything beyond OMG POLICE STATE) into it. Helena's pretty fucking desperate. That's not to excuse it, of course, but they're really bad off over there.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:48 PM on August 13, 2008


The Associated Press article on this issue gives quite a bit more background. For one thing, as noted above, Helena-West Helena is in serious economic trouble. This isn't the small-town that orange swan is thinking of; "Helena-West Helena, with 15,000 residents at the edge of Arkansas' eastern rice fields and farmland, is in one of the nation's poorest regions, trailing even parts of Appalachia in its standard of living."

Of course, the AP article also contains some gems like, "As far as I'm concerned, at 3 o'clock in the morning, nobody has any business being on the street, except the law" (quoting Councilman Eugene "Red" Johnson) and "Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I'm fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here," Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."
posted by librarylis at 12:49 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Failed To Appear.
posted by quonsar at 12:49 PM on August 13, 2008


"we are proceeding with zero tolerance on crimes and traffic in the relevant zones"
I'm glad I'm white and live in a nice neighborhood.
No excuse me while I do a line of blow off this hooker's ass.
posted by 2sheets at 12:52 PM on August 13, 2008


"The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."

what
posted by languagehat at 1:16 PM on August 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


what what
posted by boo_radley at 1:19 PM on August 13, 2008


We've got a community of impoverished and desperate citizens who are lashing out against society's laws... how about let's post bionic-looking enforcers all over the streets, with orders to assume everyone's up to no good, and have them tote high-powered rifles for emphasis. That'll learn 'em to not be economically, politically, and socially marginalized! "People! We will stop treating everyone like criminals just as soon as you all stop acting poor, hopeless, and frustrated!"
posted by krippledkonscious at 1:21 PM on August 13, 2008


Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."

Maybe CPB is right, this mayor really is a dumbass, completely oblivious to the words coming out of his own mouth, even as he says them.

All that said, what he did was still blatantly illegal and I hope the courts make an example out of him.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:22 PM on August 13, 2008


Am I the only one who finds his blog's mix of automated "Word of the day!" frivolity and "Oh, hey, EVERYTHING IS ILLEGAL BUT IT IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD OKAY GUYS OKAY" amusing?
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:26 PM on August 13, 2008


"The Department has not made any arrest, to date, for curfew violations. All violators which have been processed were for other breaks with the law. However, we are proceeding with zero tolerance on crimes and traffic in the relevant zones."

So they admit that they're not really concerned about the curfew violations and it's just an excuse for "your papers, please".
posted by Challahtronix at 2:07 PM on August 13, 2008


goethean: "I did a google search to see if the mayor was white or black and this came up."

Not sure why it matters, but black. CNN did a story and interviewed him.
posted by WCityMike at 2:12 PM on August 13, 2008


We've got a community of impoverished and desperate citizens who are lashing out against society's laws... how about let's post bionic-looking enforcers all over the streets, with orders to assume everyone's up to no good, and have them tote high-powered rifles for emphasis. That'll learn 'em to not be economically, politically, and socially marginalized! "People! We will stop treating everyone like criminals just as soon as you all stop acting poor, hopeless, and frustrated!"

Coming soon to a struggling community near you!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:24 PM on August 13, 2008


The mayor made the news in June as well when he released a bunch of stray dogs from the city animal shelter into the nearby state forest, claiming they were better off that way.

Jesus H. Christ. What a douchebag.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:38 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thursday night, 18 to 20 police officers carrying M-16 rifles, shotguns and night-vision scopes patrolled the "curfew zone."

Holy crap. Where did the officers and equipment come from? According the Wikipedia article, Helena is the same size as my town and we don't even have that many officers total, let alone that many to cover one shift, even if they called in the county guys. As for rifles, our police department has seven rifles total (shared among the shifts) and no shotguns. As for night-vision, they have one monocular night-vision lens, and the fire department has a thermal imaging camera that the policer officers can borrow if they need to. It's an eye-opener to me that two towns of the same population can be so totally different law-enforcement-wise.
posted by amyms at 2:54 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I spent a few days in Helena-West Helena a few years back.

Picking cotton used to be a very labor-intensive operation, and now it is not. The jobs are gone, but the people have no place to go and don't have any training. It was a very depressing place, with many buildings that were built to last but have had no maintenance in years, and tons of people standing around with nothing to do.

I don't think that this is a case of government abusing authority to gain some feeling of power. I think that it is more a case of people wanting to do something, even if they know it is not really the right thing.

While I was there, I had to fight down the urge to tell people to leave, that any place was better than the place they were at. I was pretty sure that they weren't interested in hearing anything from me, though.
posted by Quonab at 3:21 PM on August 13, 2008


Holy crap. Where did the officers and equipment come from?

I don't think this is terribly unusual for any police department. Shotguns are ubiquitous. As I mentioned before, these are likely not M-16s at all, but semi-automatic AR-15s, which have become quite common for its long-range accuracy and the increasing public availability of body armor (wanna buy some? right here, buddy). The standard AR-15 doesn't even have a particularly high caliber round, either, like an AK-based weapon.

Night vision gear is cheap, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:29 PM on August 13, 2008


I don't think this is terribly unusual for any police department.

I was just curious because it would be terribly unusual for my town's police department and we are the same population as Helena.
posted by amyms at 3:41 PM on August 13, 2008


Although, the guys that really didn't make me feel safe were the Korean shop-owners with the "kill 'em all" headbands and the meticulously clean automatic weapons they apparently had stashed in the back rooms for just such occasions.

I doubt your feelings of safety were the point. Korean shops were being targeted during the riots, to the tune of thousands of businesses burnt and looted. The chief reason why many of them were left standing afterwards was the armed and organized Korean response. I don't see why these shop owners should have been expected to stand by peacefully as they lost their livelihoods and possibly their lives, especially after the LA police withdrew and essentially told everyone that they were on their own. I suppose you'd have preferred more of this, this, and this rather than more of this and this, eh?
posted by vorfeed at 4:33 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is terribly unusual for any police department. Shotguns are ubiquitous. As I mentioned before, these are likely not M-16s at all, but semi-automatic AR-15s, which have become quite common for its long-range accuracy and the increasing public availability of body armor (wanna buy some? right here, buddy). The standard AR-15 doesn't even have a particularly high caliber round, either, like an AK-based weapon.

Nope, no increasing militarization here, no sirree.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:56 PM on August 13, 2008


Nope, no increasing militarization here, no sirree.

I fail to see how explaining that shotguns have been around since the literal dawn of firearms, and that an AR-15 isn't a fully-automatic, million-rounds-a-minute, baby-killing machinegun helps your argument any. Back to the dirtynumbangel drawing board for you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:09 PM on August 13, 2008


Dude. You were pretty soundly smacked down in the other thread dealing with this. Nobody is arguing either conspiracy or malice. What we are saying, and what is borne out by evidence, is that police forces across the USA are increasingly turning to military-style tactics and gear to deal with what they perceive as problems. You can have the blinders on as much as you like, but those of us who live in the real world--as opposed to that which is run by ideology--are rather more understanding of how, you know, reality is.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:55 PM on August 13, 2008


While I was there, I had to fight down the urge to tell people to leave, that any place was better than the place they were at. I was pretty sure that they weren't interested in hearing anything from me, though.

I felt the same way when I lived in Nebraska, working for a non-profit that's whole purpose was to try and train the town leaders in ways to revitalize--or at least sustain--their communities. I visited a few of the top-10 poorest communities in the country while I was there, and like you, felt an over-arching desire to tell them, "Folks, time to pack up and head to the cities where there are jobs and possibly a future."

But it's kind of a Catch-22. The problem is, the closer you get to cities, the higher the property values go... which means the people that would most benefit from getting the hell out of there don't have the means to leave and wouldn't be able to sustain themselves even if they could. The places with the most jobs are also the places that cost the most.

The funny thing is, when I lived in Brooklyn I was telling my friends the same damned thing: "Get the fuck out of here, guys! The cost of living is so high that you'll never build any capital!" One of the very reasons I moved to Nebraska was to test that theory, and in the end there's no winning solution. Capitalism is intrinsically a fucked system that devours itself. The sad part is you can't explain this to the rubes that live in these small towns without stirring up the flag-wavers and the torches and pitchforks, nor can you explain this to the city-sophisticates with dreams of golden townhouses and season tickets.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:06 PM on August 13, 2008


an AR-15 isn't a fully-automatic, million-rounds-a-minute, baby-killing machinegun

It can chuck a .50cal rifle round through a quarter-inch of solid steel, though.

Using your link for earlier, I'm not sure if even the Type IV ceramic plates would do the job.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:17 PM on August 13, 2008


It can chuck a .50cal rifle round through a quarter-inch of solid steel, though.

No, it can't. It doesn't even fire that kind of round.

Besides, an semi-automatic AR-15 (assuming CPB is correct,) is nothing but a regular old rifle.
posted by Snyder at 10:55 PM on August 13, 2008


From the ACLU letter:

In fact, "state of emergency" curfews imposed upon youth aimed at addressing youth crime have been declared unconstitutional. Ramos v. Town of Vernon, 353 F.3d 171 (2d Cir. 2003); Nunez v. City of San Diego, 114 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 1997); Hutchins v. District of Columbia, 942 F.Supp. 665 (D.D.C. 1996); Walters v. Barry, 711 F.Supp. 1125 (D.D.C. 1989); McCollester v. City of Keene, 586 F.Supp. 1381 (D.N.H. 1984); Johnson v. City of Opelousas, 658 F.2d 1065 (5th Cir. 1981); Naprstek v. City of Norwich, 545 F.2d 815, 818 (2d Cir. 1976); State v. J.P., 907 So.2s 1101 (Fla. 2004); City of Sumner v. Walsh, 148 Wn.2d 490 (2003).

I think they've got enough precidents to make their point.
posted by Pseudology at 11:01 PM on August 13, 2008



* 2 simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms
* 7 possession with intent to deliver
* 1 fugitive warrant served
* 4 misdemeanor possession of firearm
* 2 misdemeanor possession of marijuana
* 18 existing outstanding warrants


I don't know about the US but in Canada, it would be considered excessive to go to all this trouble just to arrest the Pineapple Express guys.
posted by Pseudology at 11:03 PM on August 13, 2008


No, it can't. It doesn't even fire that kind of round.

According to wiki, an AR-15 can be fitted to fire either one of two different .50 rifle rounds, one of which has, on its accompanying page, a photo of a quarter inch plate which was pierced by the round. I'm aware that that round wasn't fired by any sort of AR-15, but an AR-15 with around the same barrel length (which isn't hard) fired the same round (which it apparently can), it seems reasonable that it would do the same thing.

The Special Forces guys can fire a .458 round from an M4/M16 variant, so it doesn't seem like .50 cal would be a ridiculous leap. But it is also clearly not a standard issue thing, and indeed may only be available as a custom after-market change.

But none of that means that this configuration is anything close to commonplace, which I failed to grasp, because I read too quickly and was sloppy.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:34 PM on August 13, 2008


Hartford, CT announces curfew. The mayor and the police chief announce 5 strategic efforts.
posted by Daddy-O at 12:38 AM on August 14, 2008


an AR-15 can be fitted to fire either one of two different .50 rifle rounds

Yeah, maybe, but no one actually does that. An AR-15 shoots 5.56x45 NATO. Saying an AR-15 shoots .50 caliber rounds makes you sound stupid and uninformed.

(Not saying that you are stupid and uninformed—just that your speech matches those patterns)
posted by ryanrs at 1:50 AM on August 14, 2008


The punk kids roaming the streets are pissed but the adults are happy. Get off my lawn street punk.
posted by caddis at 1:59 AM on August 14, 2008


Yeah, maybe, but no one actually does that. An AR-15 shoots 5.56x45 NATO. Saying an AR-15 shoots .50 caliber rounds makes you sound stupid and uninformed.

I guess that would be why I said:

But none of that means that this configuration is anything close to commonplace, which I failed to grasp, because I read too quickly and was sloppy.

Thanks, though, for correcting me after I already corrected myself.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:42 AM on August 14, 2008


Sorry, I had sort of tuned out after the first paragraph. I really shouldn't have responded while on autopilot.
posted by ryanrs at 3:22 AM on August 14, 2008


Happens to everybody sooner or later, right? It's all good.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:43 AM on August 14, 2008


"Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."

Maybe CPB is right, this mayor really is a dumbass, completely oblivious to the words coming out of his own mouth, even as he says them.

All that said, what he did was still blatantly illegal and I hope the courts make an example out of him."

At least he isn't president..... could you imagine having someone like that in the white house???
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:14 AM on August 14, 2008


According to wiki, an AR-15 can be fitted to fire either one of two different .50 rifle rounds

If it has a different receiver and a different barrel, you're not fitting anything to an AR-15. You're fitting the stock and grip of your AR-15 to a different gun.

I don't think this is terribly unusual for any police department.

This is what people are telling you, Cool Papa Bell. It's now very common for cops to have immediate access to, and routinely train with, weapons that are far more powerful than a standard police-issue pistol. This, along with shifts in tactics to use the new weapons they train with, is what people mean by "increasing paramilitarization."

Increasing paramilitarization does not require that they have A-10s and thermonuclear weapons. It requires only that they routinely have more than a pistol.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:51 AM on August 14, 2008


Increasing paramilitarization does not require that they have A-10s and thermonuclear weapons. It requires only that they routinely have more than a pistol.

Let's be precise, here: it requires them to be using military-style weapons and tactics. Cops have had "more than a pistol" in their patrol cars for decades -- shotguns and rifles have always had a place in their kit, and as I said above, the AR-15 is hugely popular as a civilian arm, and is not significantly functionally different from the deer rifles cops used to carry. When the main functional difference between the AR and other rifles is the ability to carry it from the top handle and/or attach a flashlight to it, I don't see where it's a huge deal. The AR-15 is simply not all that paramilitary; it's a varmint gun, for crying out loud!

That's assuming, of course, that these cops aren't carrying real, full-auto M16s; it's not at all unlikely, as that's where M16s go when the military is done with them, thanks to the government's National Defense Authorization Security Act. Therein lies the problem -- it's the increasing ubiquity of SWAT-style equipment, tactics, and training handed down from the military (we're talking armored vehicles, full body armor, full-auto weapons, and aggressive rather than defensive response, including no-knock home entry), not the adoption of civilian arms like the AR-15. If anything, the AR-15 is actually a more appropriate weapon for a cop than the rifles they used to have. It is very accurate at common distances, and fires a relatively small-caliber round, both of which ought to cut down on civilian deaths... assuming our police are trained to use their weapons appropriately.

Of course, that last part is a fantasy -- we've gone from using SWAT to respond to hostage takers and violent riots to using it to make routine patrols and serve everyday drug warrants. This has made formerly-military equipment like APCs and the M16 commonplace, and escalation of force almost inevitable, as the line between police departments and the military blurs.

Make no mistake, though, this is all about the Drug War and the Federal money which flows from it. If you want to end the paramilitary raids, legalize drugs and repeal the Drug-War-inspired military surplus programs. Very few police forces could (or would even have a reason to bother to) afford militarized equipment and training if it weren't for the cash and military equipment discount programs which come directly from the Drug War.
posted by vorfeed at 9:46 AM on August 14, 2008


Let's be precise, here: it requires them to be using military-style weapons and tactics.

I don't think so. It merely requires anything stronger than traditional police weapons and tactics.

shotguns and rifles have always had a place in their kit

I'd be interested in a cite that carrying police-issued shotguns and rifles was routine before 1950 or 1960. My understanding was that SWAT teams were formed in part because these weapons were very much not routine, and that even medium-sized to large urban areas might not have them in use. I know full well that shotguns, rifles, and automatic weapons were in some occasional use, so accent on the routine.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2008


If I can join the conversation here. The use of M16s and other military weapons is not routine in normal policing. In fact they rarely have a use for them. On average police don't even need to use their pistol. It is just good to have in case it is needed. I don't mind the police using them if they are needed. However there is an saying "I would rather have a gun and never need it than need a gun and not have it!"

As for being increasingly paramilitary, yes police are. Years ago, normal street criminals did not have AKs, Uzis, or other small automatic weapons. Only the mob did and so did the FBI. Police did not need them to keep the peace. Now a days with crime evolving, police need to have access to something with more of a punch to combat assault rifles, sub machine guns, and whatever else is thrown at them. I'm sorry but an average semi-auto 9mm isn't going to cut it against an AK47. Also the access to these weapons is easy. All you need to do to be better armed than the police is go to a gun show with about 300-400 bucks. You can buy an AK47 (semi-auto) and ammo. Normal type 3a body armor won't stop a rifle round. Please note that 3a armor is pretty thick and heavy. Most police use either 3 or 2a with trauma plates, which are thinner and lighter. That being said, if an office wants to have a shotgun in the front and an automatic m16 in the trunk then let them.

Now your all thinking... "dude get to the point!" Ok here it comes:
Being a police officer 99.9% of the time you are never ever ever going to need an automatic weapon. It will not be routine. You could serve 30+ years and never shoot your pistol once. However .1% of the time you might come across a drug dealer/arms runner/post office employee with a gun bigger and better than yours plus wearing type 4 or 5 body armor(steel plated armor)((it stops pretty much all pistol rounds)). At that point the non-routine, collecting dust m16 that you were forced to qualify with every year for no good reason has just become your best friend. This of course is an exaggeration. Police should not routinely walk around armed with assault rifles. They keep the peace not fight the wars.


Back on topic: I'm really in the gray over this issue. At one point if crime has gone that bad in this city then maybe police armed with m16s is a good way to even the playing field. However on the other side, this is not a war zone. Freedoms are being restricted and I don't think that a mayor should be able to say "Hey Martial Law everybody!" There are different ways it could have been handled. The governor should have been called in and had the state police or had the national guard come in and be the ones with the big guns. Local police should not have to do this type of action or be seen in this way by the community. A month from now the citizens are still going to remember how office Smith looked carrying an automatic. Policing works a lot better when the community works with the police as friends not when the community is stripped of their freedoms. This just shows how intelligent the leaders of this town really are. They are the ones who should have seen things getting worse and worse and did something not so drastic then. Pro-activity works best in police not reactivity.

In short, policing is one of the hardest jobs in the world. You need to be a counselor, a director, a town asshole(sorry noone likes getting tickets), and a soldier They need to be able to switch from friendly neighborhood cop to paramilitary land warrior in a snap.

Sorry for the rant, I'm done... I promise.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2008


At that point the non-routine, collecting dust m16 that you were forced to qualify with every year for no good reason has just become your best friend.

But we're not talking about the rifle that's gathering dust and that you question the need to qualify with.

We're talking about the well-maintained, very not dusty rifle that you qualify with every year because you use it several times every year when you're doing raids instead of investigatory police work.

However .1% of the time you might come across a drug dealer/arms runner/post office employee with a gun bigger and better than yours plus wearing type 4 or 5 body armor(steel plated armor)((it stops pretty much all pistol rounds))

In the real world, you meet such a person surely much less than .1% of the time. More like "One particularly crazy outfit did that once, and it hasn't happened again."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2008


Nitpick:

I'm sorry but an average semi-auto 9mm isn't going to cut it against an AK47.

Sure it can. AK47s aren't used to stop 9mm bullets. An experienced shooter can be quite effective with a handgun. Put the AK47 in the hands of a common street thug and the 9mm in the hands of a marksman trained in CQB, my money's not going on the criminal.

Physical surroundings also matter. Purely anecdotal, but consider: for my father's service in Vietnam, he was issued both an M-16 and a .45 pistol. In combat, he much preferred his sidearm. It was lighter weight, more maneuverable, could be fired from very tight surroundings, didn't necessitate the tunnel vision of sighting down a rifle barrel, wouldn't jam, and was every bit as effective at ending someone's life.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:29 PM on August 14, 2008


Welcome to the new police state. This is exactly what McCain proposed as a way to fight crime.
posted by mike3k at 1:12 PM on August 14, 2008


On a lighter note, I clicked the link and then didn't get back to reading it until later. As I was reading I thought it was Helena, Montana. I passed through there once, and at the time it had a 7-11, an elementary school and a grain elevator. I just kept thinking, "Wow, that place has changed !"
posted by milovoo at 3:24 PM on August 14, 2008


Really, for the average person, it doesn't matter if the cop has a 9mm or an AR-15 (or even M-16). It doesn't really make them any more deadly against an unarmed person (hint: either way, they're going to be able to kill you). It only matters in that it might conceivably be useful against an armored criminal (which is extremely unlikely, but the only real justification). So I don't know why it matters. Either way, the cop is better armed than me, and hopefully trained, such that they are in control of the situation (which is as intended). Focusing on what weapon they have is missing the point.

The actual concern would be about the tactics they use, NOT the armament.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:13 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Put the AK47 in the hands of a common street thug and the 9mm in the hands of a marksman trained in CQB, my money's not going on the criminal.

I'm no expert, but this is probably true, in most situations. Although some solid cover that protects against a 9mm round won't against a 7.62x39mm round from an AK-47, and I wouldn't put my money on the person with the pistol in a non CQB situation, (like, for example, a hostage situation inside, say, a bank.)

However, police aren't generally trained as marksmen, and get little firearm training as is, so even in a CQB situation that is likely to occur between 9mm armed police and an AK-47 armed criminal, I wouldn't neccessairly put my money on any given cop, due to their training.
posted by Snyder at 5:16 PM on August 14, 2008


The actual concern would be about the tactics they use, NOT the armament.

Hear, hear. Does it matter whether the rifles the police are marching around the neighborhood with as they search people at random and enforce curfew are automatic, lever-action, or freakin' blunderbusses?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:11 PM on August 14, 2008


I think it does. The average person is going to feel more intimidated by a squad of cops carrying AR-15s than say a bolt action Remington 700/.308 or semi-auto Remington 7400/.308.
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 PM on August 14, 2008


I don't think so. It merely requires anything stronger than traditional police weapons and tactics.

Please define "stronger" and "traditional". By this loose definition, you could very easily call the routine use of two-man patrol cars, radios, pepper spray, and semi-auto handguns "paramilitary"! I don't see why we need to use weasel-words here, when the meaning of the word is perfectly clear: "Of, relating to, or being a group of civilians organized in a military fashion". Military, not "traditional police".

I'd be interested in a cite that carrying police-issued shotguns and rifles was routine before 1950 or 1960. My understanding was that SWAT teams were formed in part because these weapons were very much not routine, and that even medium-sized to large urban areas might not have them in use. I know full well that shotguns, rifles, and automatic weapons were in some occasional use, so accent on the routine.

I find it interesting that you're asking for cites from 20 years before SWAT came about ('67). Perhaps it's because you know full well that cops around the country were carrying shotguns in their cars throughout the 50s and 60s? At any rate, I've got your cites: this history of the Knoxville police department mentions that "Many of the early officers also routinely chose to have access to a shotgun of some type as part of their arsenal. Sometime in the 1940s, however, it was decided that allowing each officer free and unrestricted use of this weapon was undesirable [...] the policy was later changed to allow for the assignment of six shotguns to the desk sergeant from whom the patrol officer could check out the weapon when he needed it."

This site claims that among Rhode Island State Police, "two Winchester twelve gauge shotguns and ammunition were assigned to each of the designated patrol commanders" beginning in 1925.

The first mention of shotguns in Wilmington, MA is from 1940: "Sgt. Sidelinker invents and patents a leather holster that allows a shotgun to be carried in the police cruiser. According to local reporter Richard F. Davis, the zippered leather case '...which allows speedy grasping of the weapon while driving with one hand has aroused the interest of a number of other departments'." The entry from 1960 mentions "they receive extensive firearms training, becoming proficient with their revolvers, the 30-30 rifle, the .45 cal. semi-automatic rifle, the .45 cal. submachine gun, the 12 ga. shotgun, and the gas grenade gun."

By 1950, the Bowling Green, KY police department had new equipment including "two-way mobile radio equipment for three vehicles, eight 12 gauge shotguns, two rifles, tear gas equipment and two bulletproof human-silhouette shields", for a department of just 28 officers.

As for rifles, the first reference to a rifle squad I could find comes from the 1920s. Milwaukee police had rifles "during Prohibition"; they trained regularly with "service revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and machine guns".

I'll be the first to admit that rifles were not as commonly carried as shotguns, at least up until recently, but the idea that cops never routinely carried "more than a pistol" before the 50s is just plain bunk. The shotgun has been commonly found in the police car ever since there were police cars. Hell, police paramilitarization itself is not at all a new phenomenon; it was law enforcement's reaction during the Prohibition of the 1920s, just as it has been during our modern Prohibition.
posted by vorfeed at 11:18 PM on August 14, 2008


Bonnie and Clyde had BARs. The current punks are quite underpowered by comparison.
posted by caddis at 12:45 AM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


"In the real world, you meet such a person surely much less than .1% of the time. More like "One particularly crazy outfit did that once, and it hasn't happened again."

Hi ROU,

One thing about this, if someone did it once... monkey see.. monkey do! Someone will think that this would have worked only if they did this!

Back on topic: Even if police are routinely using automatic weapons in raids and for enforcement, they should be able to use them to even the playing field. Because lets face it, 9 out of 10 times a rifle is better than a pistol. If I had to go into a drug house with only a pistol, I would be concerned. Drug dealers are sometimes very well armed. I guess it boils down to the fact that criminals will do whatever it takes to be one step above the police. Police in order to protect society need to be able to stay above them. If being more paramilitary on a day to day basis is that step then I say go ahead (for certain situations). Where I will draw the line is when everyday police officers need to carry an automatic for everyday police work (traffic stops, investigations, responding to crimes that have already happened, etc. not high risk raids.) At that point we need to ask ourselves as a society what are we doing wrong? There are far more effective ways to deal with crime than brute force. This incident in Helena should have been stopped before it got this bad. A little community policing can go a long way, more proactive approaches, also asking for help too. The mayor and the chief should have asked for state police, county sheriffs, their state bureau of investigation, national guard, etc to come in and help them. I'm all for protecting police officers and ensuring justice is served but at the same point I want to protect our basic freedoms too. Law enforcement in this country has a set of rules they need to follow. They should never be allowed to break them. They broke them here for a good reason here... it seriously got that bad. However for the next department , is their reason going to be just as good or is it going to be a little less serious? Police departments and their officers already have enough power. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:03 AM on August 15, 2008


If I had to go into a drug house with only a pistol, I would be concerned. Drug dealers are sometimes very well armed.

The problem here is that cops are creating these dangerous home entry situations in the first place. Violent, unannounced paramilitary raids are unnecessary overkill for most of the drug warrants police serve on a day-to-day basis. Sure, drug dealers are sometimes very well armed, but most of them are not interested in starting a shootout with five or six heavily-armed cops (a shootout with another drug dealer, maybe; with the entire SWAT team, not so much). The police could avoid most of the danger in these warrant calls by taking up defensive positions around the house and then announcing their presence, rather than pre-emptively rushing in like robbers in the middle of the night. Violent entry tactics ought to be reserved for situations in which the suspect doesn't cooperate, rather than used as the first resort (often against Grandma, the family pet, Mr. & Mrs. Concealed Carry Holder, etc etc.)

Sorry, but when you're charging into somebody's house in the middle of the night, dressed in a ski-mask balaclava and head-to-toe black, without first identifying yourself as a police officer, you can't act surprised when someone shoots back at you. The police should not be routinely creating situations in which the "I thought he was a home invader, not a cop" excuse applies. IMHO, "police in order to protect society need to be able to stay above them" should apply to behavior as well as firepower.
posted by vorfeed at 11:57 AM on August 15, 2008


If I had to go into a drug house with only a pistol, I would be concerned. Drug dealers are sometimes very well armed.

Inside a house? A pistol would be way better than a rifle. Much easier to aim. I suppose a machine pistol would be better, but do police departments carry those? I haven't heard of them being used.
posted by Quonab at 12:15 AM on August 16, 2008


I suppose a machine pistol would be better, but do police departments carry those?

Most regular cops carry semi-automatic pistols, like Glocks. The teams who do the paramilitary crap at drug houses carry rifles. Lord knows why. Maybe they think it looks more imposing? It certainly isn't practical.
posted by amyms at 12:44 AM on August 16, 2008


I suppose a machine pistol would be better, but do police departments carry those?

Most regular cops carry semi-automatic pistols, like Glocks. The teams who do the paramilitary crap at drug houses carry rifles. Lord knows why. Maybe they think it looks more imposing? It certainly isn't practical.
posted by amyms at 12:47 AM on August 16, 2008


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