So, Lt. Javier Ortiz, the head of Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police, tweeted last night/early this morning after the Vegas shooting that
— Miami FOP 20 (@MiamiFOP20) October 2, 2017
I could, of course, just say, “fuck that tweet” and stay classy, but you know I’m not classy. So let’s dig in.
First, what is the beef that police have with NFL players following Colin Kaepernick’s lead? It’s already illegal for police to respond with certain amounts of force in certain situations, else we couldn’t have the concept of “excessive force”. Being a cop doesn’t entitle you to break the law, it simply means that different laws apply to you when you’re on duty (or represent yourself as being on duty).
Though being covered by these laws does make it easier for an officer to use force and does make it easier to prosecute those who use force against an officer (and ups the penalties for similar assaults when the victim is a law enforcement officer), there is no sense in which “if an officer does it, that means it’s legal” could possibly be true.
If you are a LEO who believes in enforcing the law, and if your fellow officer breaks the law, you really get pissed at the people who ask for the police and their political supervisors to weed out the lawbreakers from the LEOs? What the Freud for? So on a fundamental level, I don’t understand the beef. Intellectually I can say that there are certainly jerks that claim excessive force when there wasn’t any, and that going through a disciplinary process because some scumbag lied is frustrating, but hey! That’s what body cams are for. But beyond that fundamental failure to grok why Lt Ortiz wants the ranks of the Miami PD filled out with a nice sample of violent criminals, there’s the content of the tweet itself, which is (quite obviously) offensive as Freud. He continued, of course. According to the Miami New Times:
“While NFL players express a false perception of police officers by inciting hate and division by disrespecting the U.S. flag, the reality is law enforcement risks their lives every day for America,” Ortiz said in a text message.
Ignoring, to the extent possible, the tortured English here, no one doubts that every day in the US quite a number of LEOs will risk their lives in a good cause. The question being bandied about by the more mainstream center-leftists is how much room good officers should choose to make in their ranks for violent, thuggish colleagues. This is also among the questions raised by most of the NFL players protesting (but click that link, please, to get the full picture of what the more general NFL player protest is intended to mean), though Kaepernick himself asks more fundamental questions about the premises from which US law enforcement derives its conventional wisdom.
It is actually these questions posed by Kaepernick, questions about why we entrust beat cops with firearms, why we send surplus military equipment to domestic police departments, and what motivates decisions to stop or arrest a person, that are truly at odds with the views of Ortiz. Ortiz makes this quite clear in other tweets. Again, from the Miami New Times:
just before the NFL tweet, Ortiz suggested the Vegas shooting showed why police need military weapons
The tweet itself reads:
Prayers to the victims. This is why #POLICE need militarized equipment, in order to protect the innocent from evil.
But of course the Las Vegas shooting does no such thing. Though the last I looked the shooter, said to be Stephen Craig Paddock, had killed 58 people and wounded more than 500, more of whom might yet die from their injuries, there was no attempt at all to kill or injure the police who came to stop him. From what we know has been reported, Paddock fired down on concert goers from his hotel room on the 32nd floor. He used automatic gunfire suitable for directing at knots of people from that distance, but not picking out single individuals who might look like police. When officers did arrive at his room, Paddock killed himself.
That’s right. Paddock was more afraid of being taken alive than of dying. Given this, a taser would have been a much more frightening weapon to Paddock than a sidearm or even an M-16.
So, no, Ortiz. In addition to being a racist fuck who endorses fascist policing, you’re also just plain wrong on the facts: the Las Vegas shooting does not demonstrate the need for increasing militarization of LEOs in the US today.
Let’s make no mistake: there are dangerous, evil people in the US, and the police who responded to Paddock’s room could not know he would kill himself. They deserve to have the best body armor we can provide and they need a certain amount of offensive capability to break into a room and stop someone like Paddock involuntarily if such a shooter doesn’t stop on their own (to commit suicide or otherwise). But when Ortiz says that “This is why #POLICE need militarized equipment,” he’s simply in error.
There’s a famous incident from Los Angeles frequently called “the North Hollywood shootout”. A pair of bank robbers had collected and built enough body armor to thoroughly cover themselves. Armed with weapons that were legal until home-modified by the robbers, they were able to inflict a tremendous amount of terror and damage and shoot 12 police officers and 8 civilians. It was higher-power weaponry brought by a SWAT team that was able to penetrate the robbers’ armor and end a conflict that saw 2000 or more rounds fired over 44 minutes. The North Hollywood shootout is frequently used as a justification for well-armed SWAT teams, and it make a hell of a lot more logical sense deployed in that way than the Vegas shooting. But even here you have to ask: why the Freud are we allowing those guns out among the general public in the first place. If the robbers had had the same body armor and no guns, they could certainly have ignored police tasers, but gang tackling would have sufficed to capture them, no SWAT needed.
It is the militarization of our country that justifies the militarization of our police. But the militarization of our police doesn’t change that trend and doesn’t protect citizens. Banning guns does.
The Vegas shooting is horrific, but Ortiz’s racism and military fetish are the worst possible public response.