i love that saying, it applies to so many situations.
April 7, 2018 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Tracey Mears is helping police build trust with civilians: Policing: A Public Good Gone Bad
Probably the most important change we can make is to require policing agencies to take preservation of life seriously. Everyone’s life. A commitment to preserving life, in concert with no longer treating crime reduction as the highest goal, will necessarily rewrite the aims of policing. Officers currently treat traffic stops as necessary and perilous operations. If police work together with the communities they serve, it might become clear that stopping someone for a minor traffic violation is not even something police should be doing.
What Does Police Abolition Mean?, Derecka Purnell
Oppressed people must give up the systems that harm them. Police are not public, nor good. Departments arrest for profit and sell vulnerable people to jails and prisons to fill beds. Cities incentivize and reward police officers for maximizing their ticket writing and traffic stops. On college campuses, cops make drugs disappear; on the streets, cops make alleged dealers disappear. Police officers are prison–industrial complex foot soldiers, and poor people are its targets. Disadvantaged communities should not ask for law enforcement to ensure safety any more than someone should ask for poisoned water to quench thirst.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:50 PM on April 7, 2018 [37 favorites]

Thank you for posting this.
posted by greermahoney at 9:59 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Friend of mine is a police union lawyer. He's very, very to the right of my politics. The other summer he and I had beers and food and fun and got to talking like we used to in college. We got into the Black Lives Matter movement and I said - putting aside whether or not you think there's validity to the arguments of the BLM folks, don't you and your clients think it's an absolute disaster of policy that they've lost the trust of a community they're meant to safe guard so throughly? He agreed, but he laid the rift at the feet of city governments not working harder to attract top quality candidates into policing, leaving people of questionable qualifications to the job. Felt like a cop out to me, but I sometimes wonder if there's enough of a population of those in policing who care enough to try and improve the situation.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:14 PM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Making police unions illegal would be a good start to fixing the problem.
posted by Artw at 10:28 PM on April 7, 2018 [21 favorites]

the rift at the feet of city governments not working harder to attract top quality candidates into policing, leaving people of questionable qualifications to the job

Yeah, that feels like a cop-out (heh) to me too. In Ontario policing is a very well-paid job (base salary is $88-96,000 but about 80% earn well over $100,000 due to overtime). When, under Rob Ford, all city departments in Toronto were told to tighten their belts and cut spending and services, the police budget still boomed. It is also an incredibly safe job (nurses are off work due to violence at work four times as much as police) - there have been 40 Toronto police officers killed in the line of duty .... over the past 118 years., with not that many killed in the rest of Ontario. Neither Toronto nor Ontario is a violent and unsafe place. Yet our police kill and injure non-police people without censure the majority of the time. I know a lot of good people that were more than qualified to be police officers, but the macho blue line of corrupt cops either kept them out or drove them out. The police culture has to change.
posted by saucysault at 10:39 PM on April 7, 2018 [42 favorites]

Point of fact the guy is admitting that the problem is shitty cops, so at least he's not blaming the protesters.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:43 PM on April 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

Maybe this is a derail, but I absolutely believe that asset forfeiture has accelerated police abuse. It financially rewards predatory behavior.
posted by Beholder at 10:47 PM on April 7, 2018 [59 favorites]

I wrote the post below and almost decided to not post it. I know that I don't have a solid understanding of what life is like in the States and that I probably have some of it wrong. Anyway, for good or bad....


This is such a complicated issue, with so many different and vital aspects that it's challenging to really understand not only what the problems are, but also how to solve them and why they arose in the first place.

Let me give you some background about myself. I'm a white, male Canadian who's been at various stages of middle class throughout my life. I don't know what it's like to be disadvantaged, either economically, racially or sexually. I've got male white privilege all over me but I think that I'm sensitive enough to understand what being disadvantaged might be like. I'm also sensitive enough to realize that I'm probably wrong.

My experiences with the law in Canada have been positive, even when I've been on the guilty side.

In my twenties I had the opportunity to get to casually know a number of cops. Under different circumstances, we could have become friends, but that didn't happen. Sometimes they would tell me of their experiences. For many of them, being a cop was interesting, but not exciting. There was a lot of routine. They knew, though, that any situation, no matter how routine and safe it may appear to be, could unexpectedly turn into something terribly serious and that somebody, anybody, could get hurt.

One day, I'm at my bagel shop, enjoying my bagel and a coffee when I hear a commotion down the street. A man is walking up the street, surrounded by cops. They're yelling at him to get on the ground but he's not complying. One officer sprays him in the face with some sort of liquid. A lot of liquid. The man keeps walking with no reaction. Out come the guns. More spray, more yelling. Fortunately, the guy goes down and it all wraps up. After, I spoke to one of the cops. He said, "You were there? I'm glad, you would have been a good witness. Ashbury, I've never come so close to firing my weapon." He had a brief look on face - it might have been fear, or sadness, but I really don't know what he was feeling. This was one of the guys that I didn't like because he was cocky and arrogant. I still didn't like him but I felt a little better knowing that he didn't want to shoot the man.

These people, these cops that I knew, I respected them. They did things every day that made my society a little better. I felt safe around them. I wanted to be one of them. I also wanted to make the world in my city a little better. I didn't want to be a hero, I didn't want to catch killers. I just wanted to do those small things that could make a life better.

I hope that this is why most people become cops. They may change once they're on the job due to the horrible things they encounter, but I desperately hope that they want to help.

I think that being a cop in Canada is very different from being a cop in the U.S. I think that living in Canada is very different to living in the U.S. I don't know what it's like to live in the States but I read the news. I'll be honest, the U.S. scares me, a lot, and I won't go there unless I absolutely have to. There is a sickness there and one of the many symptoms is the issue of police brutality, corruption and shootings of unarmed black men. I view the U.S, rightly or wrongly, as a place that doesn't know how to right the wrongs; a culture that embraced some morally and ethically wrong tenets and won't let go of them; a society that places value on money and class and no value on those who don't have enough of either.

I'm painting with a big brush. I know that there are many people who want to change things, as seen in the links above. Some of the information in those links is really important: citizens need to know their rights but they also need to know that when confronted by a cop, bad things are going to happen if they try to run away, are abusive or confrontational. People can exercise their rights in ways that aren't confrontational. They need to be taught this. Police need to learn how to de-escalate instead of using force.

I am not excusing the police from their behaviour. I think that there are bad cops out there who will shoot somebody because they can, because they want to. They are a symptom of the problem.

The issues in the States aren't going to go away any time soon. A good start would be a change to gun regulations (any change, no matter how small, with regards to who can bear weapons and when they can be used would be welcome). Giving people better educations. Raising people up instead of beating them down. Access to health care. Access to mental health care. Access to social care. Giving people the opportunity to be happy. Not rewarding predatory behaviour.
posted by ashbury at 11:25 PM on April 7, 2018 [14 favorites]

He laid the rift at the feet of city governments not working harder to attract top quality candidates into policing, leaving people of questionable qualifications to the job

Next time, ask him the follow-up question why qualified people would apply for a job with an institution they do not trust.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:46 AM on April 8, 2018 [28 favorites]

Eh, the main difference between US and Canadian cops, that I've observed, is that there is less of a culture of gun violence overall in Canada. Canadian cops act violently toward vulnerable populations in Canadian ways: like ignoring or doing poor quality investigations of disappearances and murders of poor or First Nations women or gay men in Toronto, or dropping First Nations people outside of town at night in the middle of winter with insufficient clothing (no or flimsy coat, no or flimsy shoes). The RCMP was historically involved with collecting First Nations children for residential schools (or returning them when they ran away), too. And in Canada, it's the police who have been involved in large-scale clashes with First Nations land rights activists (eg. the Oka Crisis), rather than the military (Wounded Knee) as in the US. Just like in the US, however, in Canada there is also a long history of some police officers sexually harassing or assaulting sex workers or women perceived to be sex workers (eg. First Nations women with addictions issues) in their custody.
posted by eviemath at 1:47 AM on April 8, 2018 [36 favorites]

Side note. I know a lot of Republicans. It's inevitable where I live. No one I know trust the police.
posted by Beholder at 4:15 AM on April 8, 2018

Point of fact the guy is admitting that the problem is shitty cops, so at least he's not blaming the protesters

In a private conversation with a friend. In public it is Blue Lives Matter in both city council and on street protests in the cop neighborhood enclaves.

In Chicago it is understood that police impunity is part of what is on the table with the negotiation with the Fraternal Order of Police. In essence they take a slight (very slight) pay cut in exchange for the concessions on enforcement that the city makes that renders the police pretty much invulnerable to prosecution. The list of rules regarding investigating and charging police with an on-duty offense are pretty much a conspiracy and cover up wish list. Need time to get your story straight? Check. Need to exclude almost all evidence? Check. Need extremely biased investigators? Check. Need a higher standard of evidence? Check. Need defacto impunity from charges of perjury? Check. Need out in front of the story press manipulation? Check.

Chicago cops earn well over $100K a year and can pension out early with a luxurious manipulated final salary calculation thanks to credulous overtime policies. 6 of the top 10 city salaries in Chicago in 2016 were cops earning around $250K/year. The CPD paid out $170 million in overtime in 2016. Add to that over half a billion in police misconduct settlements in the past decade.

There are very few public jobs that provide as sweet a compensation package.

We pay for the best.

We get? Not the best.
posted by srboisvert at 6:34 AM on April 8, 2018 [45 favorites]

De-escalation is only for nonviolent suspects. Otherwise, do what you do.

I appreciate that Davenport is a force for positive change in the context of American policing, but this attitude of his is still a problem. Somehow cops in other countries, the Nordic ones in particular, are able to handle the majority of violent suspects without firing their weapons.

Violent AND armed? OK, "do what you do". For obvious reasons, this scenario is more common in the States than elsewhere. But the handling of unarmed violent suspects should default to nonlethal force, everywhere, always.
posted by jklaiho at 7:04 AM on April 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

Police deescalate with violent armed white people all the time.
posted by Artw at 7:07 AM on April 8, 2018 [68 favorites]

Oh, and by "nonlethal" (or "less lethal", I guess), I also mean trying to shoot at limbs rather than center mass or the head, if the use of a weapon cannot be avoided.

As an example, last year in Turku, Finland, there was a terrorist knife rampage where a Moroccan ISIS sympathizer killed two and wounded eight people. The local police stopped him by shooting him in the thigh, one of very few firearm discharges by police that year. The suspect later told investigators that he sought a martyr death. Thanks to the police, he failed. The judicial proceedings are ongoing, and there was no ISIS gloating over his deed, most likely due to the fact that he lived. (A similar and almost simultaneous attack in Siberia saw the perpetrator killed and ISIS more than happy to take credit.)

Around these parts, even legitimate islamic terrorists are handled nonlethally, if possible. I don't mean to imply that US cops wouldn't ever need to kill someone, but they really have no excuse for their trigger-happiness.
posted by jklaiho at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2018 [13 favorites]

Don't people try to keep police out of situations involving family violence with often disastrous results? Purnell seems to gloss over the dilemma that many partners of abusers who happen to come from marginalized groups find themselves in.
posted by Selena777 at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Aiming for limbs is a very, very bad idea. Guns should only be used when it is necesarry to kill, full stop. Handguns are quite inaccurate, all the more so in a stressful and unpredictable environment. Police aim for center mass to increase the chances of hitting the target and not hitting someone else by mistake.
posted by mikek at 9:41 AM on April 8, 2018 [13 favorites]

Violent AND armed? OK, "do what you do".

posted by Thorzdad at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Shoot as many times as necessary to end the threat. But if you shoot one unnecessary bullet, it can cost you your job or your freedom.

Really? Because that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening across the country. Seems to be if a cop shoots and kills someone they get a paid vacation and desk duty until they’re ultimately cleared of all wrong doing.
posted by photoslob at 9:52 AM on April 8, 2018 [18 favorites]

Making police unions illegal would be a good start to fixing the problem.

No no no no no. There is nothing wrong with unions. Every worker, public or not, should have the right to advocate for better treatment from their employer.

There are a lot of ways to solve this problem that police unions can and would support. For example: stop making police ticket infractions that don’t actually matter just so that the city can get paid. Police don’t like issuing tickets and they hate ticket quotas. Ticket quotas hurt everyone but the city pockets, and it is not a morally responsible way to raise money.

Give police a monetary bonus for bringing in violent suspects alive. Police unions would like it because everyone likes money and it’s the carrot rather than the stick. Citizens would like it because you are incentivizing their lives.

Give medals based on successful use of de escalation techniques in the field or years without firing your service weapon. Everybody loves shiny bling on the uniform, cops most of all.

Focus on changing the culture with a system of rewards and I’d bet police unions would be your biggest ally.
posted by corb at 10:41 AM on April 8, 2018 [25 favorites]

I like the idea of giving cops bonuses for bringing suspects in alive and unharmed. But I think it would be important to structure it as a percentage goal, rather than a per arrest bonus, otherwise we're just creating new perverse incentives. 100 percentage survival rate in a quarter? Bonus.
posted by postel's law at 11:02 AM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you need to bribe cops not to kill people, there's a deep problem.
posted by jeather at 11:35 AM on April 8, 2018 [39 favorites]

Oakland PD officer Robert Roche was fired after he shot a tear gas cannister at a group of people trying to help protester Scott Olsen - who had been hit directly in the head by a beanbag round fired by an officer who has never been identified. Olsen won a $4.5 million settlement against the OPD.

Robert Roche got his job back:
Oakland police fired Roche, saying that he had used unreasonable force when there was no immediate threat to officers, and that he had violated the department's policy on use of tear gas.

Roche countered that he and other officers had been ordered by then-Capt. Paul Figueroa to disperse protesters from the intersection. Figueroa is now assistant chief, the department's No. 2 official after Chief Sean Whent.

Arbitrator David Stiteler ordered Roche reinstated with full back pay and benefits. He said the officer's lobbing of the gas canister had been justified because he was following a superior officer's orders.


Roche has been involved in three fatal shootings in the city. He was cleared of wrongdoing each time and has been a member of the SWAT team and served as a firearms instructor.

Roche will rejoin the force "with all enthusiasm, with all alacrity," Buffington said.
Anyone who thinks this is some sort aberration is not paying attention.
posted by rtha at 12:00 PM on April 8, 2018 [28 favorites]

Really? Because that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening across the country. Seems to be if a cop shoots and kills someone they get a paid vacation and desk duty until they’re ultimately cleared of all wrong doing.

Yeah, I know way too many people who love the cop story genre. Unfortunately, almost every one of these stories seem to have a part where "Internal Affairs and the mayor's office are breathing down our necks" over the hero cop's strident pursuit of some rando. It takes me right out of the story -- I do not believe it happens. If you are not rich or politically connected in the US, the cops can do whatever they want to you. On every level (legally, politically, socially), we have made it clear that they will face no consequences for aggressive or unethical behavior.*

*Well okay, I guess the state of New York made it illegal for cops to have sex with people in their custody. So uh. I should definitely consider that next time I'm trying to suspend my disbelief during a cop show.
posted by grandiloquiet at 12:15 PM on April 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Making police unions illegal would be a good start to fixing the problem.

No no no no no. There is nothing wrong with unions. Every worker, public or not, should have the right to advocate for better treatment from their employer.

Yes, but it's very telling that the only union that Republicans like doing photo ops with are police unions.
posted by Beholder at 12:17 PM on April 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

They are real unions in roughly the way national socialists are real socialists. When's the last proper union you heard of that lobbies for the state to be able to more effectively oppress minorities? A police union is a criminal organisation that exists to allow it's members to commit violent crime. Police unions must be destroyed.
posted by Artw at 12:25 PM on April 8, 2018 [24 favorites]

As an example, last year in Turku, Finland, there was a terrorist knife rampage where a Moroccan ISIS sympathizer killed two and wounded eight people. The local police stopped him by shooting him in the thigh, one of very few firearm discharges by police that year

Unfortunately, in the US this instead creates a liability for police, similar to the "burglar tripped in your house" type cases. IIRC it's considered maiming.

Shoot as many times as necessary to end the threat. But if you shoot one unnecessary bullet, it can cost you your job or your freedom.

My understanding is that this is exactly wrong, and that contemporary jurisprudence (or law enforcement policy, whichever takes precedence) says that if the first shot is justified, they all are.

posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Possibly a detail but one of the finest things I have seen police officers do was in the gents of an international sporting event. There was a man, very drunk, shouting and being abusive and three police officers containing him physically. They weren’t holding him or threatening him but sort of ‘man-marking’ him into a corner of the room. It struck me that the easy thing would have been to cuff him and haul him away (slipping a boot or two in for good measure) but these cops were trying not to arrest him. They were giving him every chance to calm down and stop being a dickhead.

it was Lord’s Cricket Ground and the guy was posh and white.

Would that everyone was shown that same generosity.
posted by stanf at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

The job of the police is to enforce the status quo. Any attempts to stymie police reform by their constituent unions should be seen in economic terms as regulatory capture.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

The reason that police academies are far more demanding than universities is because police officers must deal daily with the real and not theoretical difficulties, challenges and life risks of society.

posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:30 PM on April 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

Police unions not being in the pocket of left-wing politicians or political opinions makes them immensely more powerful because everyone has to seek their support. When was the last time a Democratic officeholder really worried about the SEIU or UAW outside of vote farms where they had a plausible threat to primary them?
posted by MattD at 2:08 PM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Reading cops describe the "right" way to handle an incident has, for a long time, made me think they are applying OSHA-style incident analysis to their work, but not really coming to terms with the difference between, say, rendering a compressed gas cylinder safe by tying it a wall and rendering a civilian "safe" by handcuffing, incapacitating, controlling, etc. them.

The argument against deescalation in the 3rd link, which obsesses about "danger" purely in terms of danger to police and completely ignores civilians is par for the course here. (On its own terms, it works--policing is more dangerous than average professions but not much more dangerous. Many civilian jobs have far higher injury and death rates.)

Despite the framing, I didn't get the feeling that Davenport (in the OP) was at all leading change. It seemed like he was helping implement top-down change that he had mixed feelings about.
posted by mark k at 2:53 PM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Black Father Gives Son The Talk About Holding Literally Any Object

NORRISTOWN, PA—Deciding his firstborn was old enough to learn about the cultural dangers of having things in his hands, African American dad Aaron Mitchell pulled his son aside Thursday to have “the talk” about holding literally any object. “Listen, son, it’s time you learned how to conduct yourself in public. It may not make sense to you now, but you need to keep your hands empty at all times. And you might not like this, but for your mother’s and my sake, keep your pockets empty, too?” Mitchell said to his 12-year-old son, Aaron Jr., adding that his father had imparted the same advice to him. “You don’t want to give the impression that you have an object on you. Matter of fact, I don’t want you hanging out with those neighbor kids who are always carrying things. I know they’re your friends, but trust me, if you get in trouble with the law, the cops can say you were a known associate of individuals known to hold things, and therefore you were holding an object by association.” At press time, Mitchell was hastily confiscating the objects strewn around his son’s bedroom.

posted by blue_beetle at 2:54 PM on April 8, 2018 [13 favorites]

I don't have a problem with paying cops a lot of money. It's a tough job, I wouldn't do it. They certainly deserve it more than other people who make similarly high salaries like financiers and real estate agents.

I do have a problem with cops not being part of the communities they are policing. If you live with your spouse and kids in a leafy-green all-white suburb with virtually zero crime, and you drive an hour every day to your station where people look different and talk different and violent crime is a real possibility, you're going to have the attitude of an invading soldier. Because, effectively, you are an invading soldier.

I don't have a great solution though.
posted by miyabo at 4:19 PM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

sorry for the random question, but is there like a 'little book of de-escalation techniques' psychology manual one could buy, or like 'how to talk american cops down from killing you, just by leaving you out in the cold' sort of thing?
posted by ver at 4:44 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

i assume establishing that you're both people is the first step, like finding out names and things
posted by ver at 4:46 PM on April 8, 2018

but no wait i only saw that technique in a hostage movie :( i've googled up adverts for training courses about dealing with aggressive customers in businesses, but nothing like what de-escalation training courses would actually entail for police officers (other than teaching them not to be so fearful, and not to fire their guns as their first method of approach)

there must be a book / manual for this, though?
posted by ver at 5:02 PM on April 8, 2018

No no no no no. There is nothing wrong with unions.

Counterpoint: there is something wrong with cop unions.
posted by Jimbob at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2018 [14 favorites]

Reading cops describe the "right" way to handle an incident has, for a long time, made me think they are applying OSHA-style incident analysis to their work, but not really coming to terms with the difference between, say, rendering a compressed gas cylinder safe by tying it a wall and rendering a civilian "safe" by handcuffing, incapacitating, controlling, etc. them.

I think there's actually a really interesting point here! Because if you think about it, a lot of the danger factors have very little to do with the police but with the justice system and our system of laws that the police must then enforce - but may feel little power to change.

Like, for example - wealthy or upper-class people of all political stripes don't like 'nuisances' on their streets and will complain to the police whenever it's happening. They will make noise complaints, complaints about homeless people ranting or urinating or even littering, complaints about 'suspicious people', complaints about people who have been parked too long in a spot, or are burning trash, etc. etc. Wealthy people attempt to use the power of the state, or police power, to remove a lot of minor irritations that do not need police power. Every additional police interaction is another possibility of interactions going wrong, and most people don't think 'Does this interaction need armed men with the possibility of imprisoning people to show up, or does this interaction just need someone to mediate?'

And cities are using those minor irritations to make money, not to deter serious crime. Remember the 2015 NYPD "slowdown"? Where they stopped making all 'unnecessary' arrests for 'quality of life' crimes? DeBlasio had an emergency summit to get the police 'back to work', but the people on the streets being policed didn't really see much of an actual problem in the 94% reduction in arrests. And police were saying "hey actually, we kind of like this", but were getting a lot of pushback.

And another issue that increases the danger is simply how fucking terrible the justice system is right now. Someone without the money to hire a lawyer is also unlikely to be able to afford bail - meaning that being arrested even for a minor offense can be absolutely catastrophically destructive to their entire family. There's another FPP about how families are evicted over as little as 500$ or 600$ - or one week's worth of minimum wage pay in many states. And that's even before adding in how not having bail money increases the likelihood of a conviction and often maximum jail sentence. It is thus in their best interests to run or even fight back - even if either causes the police to chase and have their adrenaline pumping by the time they catch the individual - because if they're caught, it can ruin their entire life and the lives of others.

Like - I wonder how many people would run or fight if your first minor offense got you an automatic intervention with a rehabilitation court rather than a possible immediate jail sentence.
posted by corb at 6:45 PM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Just to make a few points:

* The median salary for a police officers should never exceed eighty percent of the median salary of teachers in the same area. Cops want more, pay teachers more. Teachers are more important in the long run in preventing violence and ending poverty.

* Police should have the right to collectively bargain. Citizens and their representatives should remember to follow the basic right of management and say, 'No,' to any request that allows officers exemptions from legal responsibilities.

* If a union makes demands that other unions refuse to support because, "Really? You need to be highly paid and have complete legal immunity because your job is dangerous? Would you like to meet these miners? How about some stevedores and longshoremen? Nurses? No? Then get back to work and stop trying to screw this up for everyone." Calling BS is everyone's responsibility.

* Never forget that the real path to judicial reform in the USA is currently through the reform of prosecuting attorneys offices. Even more than cops these are the folks who double down on the practices that lead to the USA'a leadership position in percentage of citizen incarceration.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 7:42 PM on April 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

One great resource for de-escalation policy and training is Dave Couper, the former police chief in Madison, WI (now a pastor as well as author). His blog is called Improving Police and his Twitter is @bocougar. One of my favorite things from that was a photo of de-escalation in practice via body language [TW, the blogger is a bit blunt about the teen in the viral photo].

I do have misgivings about the role of police, and I'm active on our city's African-American Liaison Advisory Committee (the leadership positions are held by black residents; my role is contributory and ex officio). I *believe* that we have a great, forward thinking department (the existence of a committee which itself believes so is promising, though all sides admit there is continued work to do as this remains one of the least diverse cities inh the US), and they showed a great example in a recent domestic violence incident.

So I'm not exactly on the barricades but maybe in the space between. I mean, I certainly like the idea of eliminating shootings wherever possible, but I suspect a lot of the abolition agenda is really, really unreachable politically in most of this country, certainly as long as the NRA's absolutist position on gun rights holds (I'm not optimistic this Parkland moment will last, but you gotta hope). I object to the characterizations out there that police only exist to oppress minorities or universally have some origin in slave-catdhing, or that for-profit prisons, as egregious as they may be, are actually an incentive for policing and conviction in places where they don't exist. (They're in a LOT of states, yes, but not mine.) Yet clear disparities exist [so there may be variant or broader explanations].

I do feel a blush of self-reflection to read corb's "Wealthy people attempt to use the power of the state, or police power, to remove a lot of minor irritations that do not need police power. " I'm by no means wealthy except by comparison with this neighborhood in particular, and sure, I've called the police about some of the "minor irritations", largely because I've had poor results trying to handle them myself.
* One neighboring property was routinely dumping garbage onto ours through a broken chain-link fence. I spoke with SEVEN adults in the residence and it continued -- beer bottles to candy wrappers to concrete blocks. Eventually a police captain intervened stressing I just wanted it to stop and worked with a couple of the adults and kids to clean up the latest dump, and it was resolved; they eventually got evicted for other reasons (there were plenty).
* Another address, same landlord (surprise!), harbored a long-running 24/7 porch party where people paid a few bucks to sit and drink the host's alcohol. A man came onto our property in broad daylight to urinate instead of using the host's perfectly adequate plumbing. My mother berated him and chased him off, but he physically shoved her and she fell (not seriously injured, whew). A sex offender with an alcohol problem, he eventually served two months in jail after violating his parole.
* I have gone out to ask people blaring music and causing commotion in the street to consider that people are sleeping and turn it down, only to be physically threatened ("get your ass back on your side of the street").
* And there's actual beyond-nuisance stuff like the time two dozen-ish youths got caught shoplifting by my tenants and followed them home throwing small rocks and full soda bottles at them, then one of them punched my tenant's kid on his porch. (Now, the police have actually kept close tabs on this group and have worked with the guardian -- a few of them are her own, but most are cousins she literally took under her wing to get them out of the gang violence of nearby cities, which I appreciate, but she is about the only adult for this large brood without supervision, and they have caused a lot of "minor nuisance" for most of last and this year. The police have access to resources like social workers and stuff but can't force anything to happen, so they've had middling success in getting them to tone it down.)

I could go on but you get the idea. I haven't found a way to even ask people to not park their cars in front of our driveway without getting an unnerving amount of rage and contempt back. So I'm open to ideas here. But I fall back on the cops because I'm not imbued with any authority and not trained in handling disputes. Maybe there's a civilian option here like someone from the local council might be in Britain. But for now, this is a tool that's imperfect, but not easily replaceable, and certainly not on a 24/7 basis. I grit my teeth and try to have something be serious enough, but I don't think that just because I don't live in a gated community I should have to put up with some of what goes on outside my door or even on my own property. Abuse me for that if you like.

And I'll throw in an aside here that as a landlord I certainly don't want to evict anyone, and even with Fitzwalkerstan adjustments to the landlord-tenant law it's virtually impossible to actually get someone out until they've run up a deficit of $1500-2500 not counting any cleanup/repair costs, so it's not like I can even conceive of just booting someone for a single month's rent (there are notice periods, filings, serving papers, and hearing calendars to contend with), but I gotta pay my mortgage or it will end up being sold by the bank to almost certainly someone who won't keep it up as well as I try. So while I like the idea, again, the execution leaves something to be desired. I'm sure many, maybe most, landlords believe they're "one of the good ones", but in the end it's a bit of a thankless, low-margin business, where like policing you deal with people on their worst days and have to set some of your own emotions aside.

The deeper issue with abolition proposals is that I don't know of a society that has NO police whatsoever. Even countries that aren't awash in guns like we are have crime, after all. And in addition to the nuisance stuff I'm willing to get dunked on for, I am a victim of violent crime -- twice, including a head injury in which I was concussed -- and I've had gunshots fired outside my door (thankfully none of those injured anyone, though in one case a baseball cap was allegedly shot off someone's head). It's not that I'm fearful enough I want to get my own gun -- a number of my neighbors have done that, but I don't want to be the kind of person who suddenly sees every problem as a nail just because he has a hammer. (Nor have I once feared that any of the drug dealers or gang members or disorderly whatnots are going to imminently invade my home, which is something I've heard people say but seems not the way any of these things usually go down.) I mean, some of these abolition scenarios sound a lot like *cough* horseshoe theory *cough* libertarian utopias where everyone has to defend themselves and the rule of law is a mere fiction. That doesn't seem very left to me as might and wealth will only have more unequal impact.

Given all that, I mitigate where I can: I throw myself into positive community-building projects and organizations and try to raise the neighborhood's collective efficacy^. I don't want to turn my back on the area, even though that's the easy path that a lot of people have taken, because I see what -- especially when it's clearly white flight -- that has done to both the areas left and the areas gone to. But it would certainly reduce my need to call on the resources of the police, I'll give you that.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 PM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

What do less-lethal cops from other countries say when they see firsthand how U.S. cops are operate? If they retrain through U.S. training, they ride along, do they end up writing chapters for a book about what's going on in the U.S? I would read it. Maybe they write "I was scared shitless of all the guns, I wanted to carry one too," or maybe they write "the Yanks have been trained to swagger into danger and then panic," or maybe it's "I didn't understand American racism at all, still don't." Even though that they're cops too and it's natural to take up what's considered normal where you're 'embedded', they might have some insights.

I looked up the International Police Organization's Active-Officer Exchange Program", though it sounds very small in numbers to the U.S.
posted by away for regrooving at 2:03 AM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

So, my reading is that they're using the 4th Amendment standard, and not the 8th Amendment? Because getting beaten for perceived "disrespect" is certainly cruel and unusual.
posted by mikelieman at 2:13 AM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oppressed people must give up the systems that harm them. Police are not public, nor good.

I struggle with this idea.

On one hand, yes, of course, duh. It is clear that the state and the police routinely harm, loot, and murder racial minorities and economically disadvantaged people and sex workers and immigrants etc etc etc.

But on the other hand, absolutely not, it's a ridiculous notion. Those of us who are significantly oppressed within what are commonly considered "private" spheres - such as within a private workplace or inside our homes or as part of religious communities? We depend on external power structures like the police and the state for our very lives.

Anarchism scares the crap out of me in the same way that laissez-faire libertarianism does. They are seductive ideas, to be sure. I spent much of my teens fervently believing in the latter and then my early twenties flirting with the former, but I've spent my own life at the wrong end of private power structures which exist and hold sway even when we are all SAYING we're against them (e.g. my ex was/is an ardent feminist but over the years he grew steadily more controlling and abusive regardless). I know first hand how profoundly I've depended on the "evil" state sanctioned legal system as I left that relationship. If "oppressed people must give up systems that harm them," then heterosexual relationships must also be on that list, surely. So should unpaid motherhood, and our manner of dressing, and the ways we speak, and every last bit of our socialization!

To put it another way, if oppressed people could indeed "give up" systems that oppress us, they would not be oppressive systems in the first place. None of us can opt out. We have no choice but to live in them and work within them - even if only to destroy them from within...

But I will not dismantle the police. I will not smash the state one window at a time. I won't even call them necessary evils. They are a check against private spheres of authority just as private power is a check against state hegemony. Ideally, they will work in balance. Ideally, neither will oppress, abuse, loot, or murder.
posted by MiraK at 5:35 AM on April 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

I had a big ol' thing here, trying to work through my reactions to the thread, when I realised it was culture shock: the frame of mind for these arguments to be cogent, vital and interesting is so alien to me that it's hard to fathom. The idea of a police officer teaching de-escalation techniques is banal. The idea that he's doing it while surrounded by equipment intended for police to act as a military force against unaware civilians in their own homes is the important bit, and yet that's just background colour.
posted by Merus at 8:29 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been kicking this around for a few days, and I find it still bugs me.

"Do what you do"

I hate euphemisms in general, people should say what they mean rather than trying to hide the truth behind obfuscating words. But euphemisms do often show culture and mindset. Not only in what we try to hide, but in the words we use to hide it.

"Do what you do"

Think about what has to be assumed for that to make sense as an euphemism for "shoot and kill a person".

For that euphemism to work you have to assume that what cops do, their main and central function, is killing people.

For that euphemism to work you have to assume that police **WANT** to kill people, that it is "what you do" and they are restrained, unfairly, unjustly, and prissily, from fulfilling their central role in life (killing people) by all these damn rules imposed on them by namby pamby outsiders. But here when they can claim that they thought someone was armed or dangerous there's finally a chance to just do what they do without all that bullshit about not killing people getting in the way.

"Do what you do"

The context makes the euphemism worse, because it makes it clear that while our cop was in theory teaching cops how not to kill, in fact he was teaching them how to find situations where killing was OK, or how to say certain words in court and on police reports that will make a killing OK. So they can be liberated from the unnatural restraints that keep them from doing what they do.

If any non-cop implied that what cops do is kill people they'd be assailed as a horrible anti-police sort of person.

I think we really need to just disarm the police. Let them have a shotgun locked in the trunk maybe, but the idea that a cop needs to go armed when they're on duty is demonstrably not working.
posted by sotonohito at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

"For activists who want the two Sacramento police officers who shot Stephon Clark on March 18 to be charged with murder, there’s an obvious information gap tainting public perception about the case: Clark’s criminal history is public record, but almost nothing is known about the officers who shot him, including whether they have ever been disciplined for misconduct.

“Good policing requires the trust of the community,” Skinner said. “There has to be that cooperation. Without transparency there is a deep suspicion in many communities of law enforcement.”

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, wants to loosen the state’s restrictions on publicizing police misconduct records and investigations into officer-involved shootings.

Her bill, SB1421, would give the public access to police disciplinary records when an officer has been found to have committed sexual assault or lied on the job, including by falsifying reports or planting evidence. Investigations and reports related to an officer’s serious or deadly use of force would also be releasable.

Those records, and all other police disciplinary investigations, are now off-limits from public view because of an exemption in the state’s public records laws for police agencies. The only other public employees with similar protections are members of the Legislature, and even there, lawmakers are reviewing their policies and have released some substantiated sexual harassment complaints in recent months.

“California has some of the most strict laws about police records,” Skinner said. “Even hiring agencies can’t get these records.”

Police groups say shielding disciplinary records from public view is needed to protect officers’ safety.

“Our big concern is having a media frenzy around a case where a case is tried in the media before it goes to trial,” said Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California. With 70,000 members, it’s the largest police union in the nation."

That's their concern? Really? Raise your hand if you believe that.
posted by rtha at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2018 [9 favorites]

Anarchism scares the crap out of me in the same way that laissez-faire libertarianism does.

Police abolition as a platform isn't anarchism and the people that are working to advance it share your concerns and have been thinking about them for literally decades. I'd recommend reading up on it some more.
posted by invitapriore at 1:51 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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