Don’t come to America


Honestly, if you’re thinking of moving here or even just vacationing here, don’t. You’ll get shot. By the police.

They’re out of control. They’re armored up, loaded with weapons, and poorly trained. 661 people have been murdered by the police this year, so far. It’s insane.

The latest incident occurred nearby, in mild, liberal Minneapolis. An Australian, Justine Damond, was shot for no good reason. She had apparently called the police to report a disturbance in an alley.

Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.

“Two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call of a possible assault just north of the 5100 block of Washburn Avenue S. just before 11:30 p.m. Saturday,” the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a news release. “At one point, an officer fired their weapon, fatally striking a woman.

“The BCA’s investigation is in its early stages. More information will be available once initial interviews with incident participants and any witnesses are complete. … The officers’ body cameras were not turned on at the time and the squad camera did not capture the incident. Investigators are attempting to determine whether any video of the incident exists.”

So, like, he just accidentally fired his gun across the car, past his partner, through the door, and into a woman in pajamas? He drew a weapon, but conveniently ‘forgot’ to turn on his camera?

No, really, don’t come here. And if by some frightful series of events you happen to end up here, under no circumstances should you call the police — they’ll just show up and randomly spew bullets. It’s all they know how to do, and they aren’t even particularly competent at that.

Comments

  1. Dauphni says

    Let’s see if that murderous thug will actually get indicted this time, considering that the innocent victim isn’t black for once.

  2. Snarki, child of Loki says

    @1: ha ha ha, no.

    Accountability is for the “little people” doncha know?

  3. Mark Labozzetta says

    My favorite is this idea (typically from the more rural/white parts of the country), that police have some insanely difficult job (despite having a lower murder rate than the general public).

    Police are allowed to shoot to kill on sight anything that they decide is a “threat”, people, animals, you name it.

    Can you imagine how easy your job would be if any time you came across something even remotely difficult you were just allowed to kill it?

  4. Zeppelin says

    If it comes down to potentially getting shot or potentially shooting someone innocent, I expect a police officer to eat the fucking bullet. That’s what they get paid for, that’s why they get all the training and equipment and privileges: so they can put themselves at risk for the benefit of everyone else. Instead, US police seem to get held to a lower standard than a random confused civilian acting in self-defense.

  5. says

    Police body cameras shouldn’t even have an off switch.

    And the footage should be automatically uploaded to a server under the control of an external oversight agency. No cop should ever have direct access to the raw data. If they think they need it, they can file an official request.

  6. says

    LykeX@#7:
    No cop should ever have direct access to the raw data.

    I was a consultant to Taser on some of the design of their cop-cam system (axon / evidence.com) The original design was “always on” but feedback from some of the police departments was that there would be too many ‘accidental’ cameras broken if the cameras couldn’t be turned off. I even came up with a super clever answer for how to encrypt data and stream it right off the device without impacting battery life, so the data wouldn’t be lost even if a cop ‘accidentally’ backed up over the unit.

    The cops don’t want to be monitored. That’s the bottom line. And, given that monitoring could exonerate the cops if they were falsely accused, the only reasonable assumption that can be made is that they want to avoid accountability. I.e.: they know they’re bad cops.

  7. says

    Zeppelin@#6:
    US police seem to get held to a lower standard than a random confused civilian acting in self-defense.

    Yep. Well-armed and unregulated militia, basically.

  8. cartomancer says

    ” And even at the present day many parts of Hellas still follow the old fashion, the Ozolian Locrians, for instance, the Aetolians, the Acarnanians, and that region of the continent; and the custom of carrying arms is still kept up among these continentals, from the old piratical habits.

    The whole of Hellas used once to carry arms, their habitations being unprotected, and their communication with each other unsafe; indeed, to wear arms was as much a part of everyday life with them as with the barbarians. And the fact that the people in these parts of Hellas are still living in the old way points to a time when the same mode of life was once equally common to all. The Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons, and to adopt an easier and more luxurious mode of life;”

    Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.5-6, late 4th century BC.

  9. mudpuddles says

    This whole thing is so fucking sickening, I feel nauseous thinking about it. I cannot imagine the despair and horror of Justine Damond’s family.

  10. nomadiq says

    I’d hope that the Australian government will step in here and demand a thorough investigation and legal consequences for the murder of one of its citizens. I hope that if justice is not forthcoming that it will become a diplomatic problem between the countries.

    I can always hope.

  11. says

    …feedback from some of the police departments was that there would be too many ‘accidental’ cameras broken if the cameras couldn’t be turned off.

    That’s actually kinda scary. It’s like an admission that the higher-ups really don’t have any control over the people with the guns. They only obey orders if they feel like it. So, you’ve basically got a nation-wide network of paramilitary groups, who aren’t respecting the civil administration, the laws, or the people, headed by a chain of command either unwilling or unable to restrain them.

    So why aren’t the politicians more worried? Are they stupid or do they know something I don’t? I look at this situation and see something very unstable and unpredictable. I’d be worried about who would tap into that force of armed maniacs. They’re like pre-packaged brown shirts; ready to go, just add violent rhetoric. Maybe they are worried, but keeping quiet about it.

  12. Dunc says

    So why aren’t the politicians more worried?

    Because deference to the rich and powerful is deeply ingrained, and they think they’re secure. However, as soon as that deference breaks down, they’re fucked. This is often what happens to elites on the downslope of empire… They imagine that their security details keep them safe, but there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll eventually turn on the people they’re supposed to be protecting.

    It’s not so much that they’re “stupid” as such, it’s just that most people aren’t very good at imagining futures which are significantly different from their present experiences.

  13. Alt-X says

    As an Aussie & PoC, I’ll stay the hell away. I’ll holiday in civilised nations like NZ, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.

  14. says

    LykeX:

    That’s actually kinda scary. It’s like an admission that the higher-ups really don’t have any control over the people with the guns.

    It’s more a matter of not being willing to exert control. Mandatory cameras – if a camera is broken, it’s a firing offense. No hearing, no pleas, nothing. No job. They’d learn. There are no standards for cops – outside of ones which are deemed “too intelligent” aren’t hired. When you hire thugs, you get to deal with thug behaviour.

  15. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    In cases where an officer’s use(s) of force is/are questioned and that officer has been issued a body cam, there needs to be a statute permitting triers of fact to infer criminal intent from the fact that a body cam was not being used at the time of the use(s) of force.

    You still have to have the evidence that the body cam was not used – it’s not a free pass to convict without evidence – but you can’t have cops turning those things on & off at their discretion without a reasonable person questioning why the thing was off when it was most important that it be on. The law in many places does not currently allow a person trying a case to actually be reasonable.

  16. says

    LykeX@#13:
    It’s like an admission that the higher-ups really don’t have any control over the people with the guns. They only obey orders if they feel like it.

    It’s not like an admission.
    Police have threatened that, if forced to wear cameras, they won’t do anything. I.e.: they’ll just sit and drink coffee and eat donuts or something.

    Which, would drop the casualty rate, so I’m in favor of it.

  17. jazzlet says

    Are there any police departments that aren’t like this? I have other reasons for not wanting to come to the USA, but should those change it would be nice to know.

  18. busterggi says

    Australian? Aren’t they close to the Phillippines which is known for having Muslims?

  19. handsomemrtoad says

    OK, let’s have a little perspective. Is that all right? I’m a loyal PZ fan, and the number is distressing, but can we hit the “pause” button on the freaking-out for just a few seconds? Please? This is, after all, supposed to be a forum for scientifically-literate and numerate readers. Take a deep breath, loosen your sphincters (that’s a line from Predator 2 (1990)), and consider:

    661 murders by cops on duty in 5.5 months is a lot, sure–if the trend stays level, it’ll be almost 1,500 by the end of the year, BUT, cops typically get called MORE THAN THIRTY MILLION times in USA per year. So if you call the cops, you face a risk of being killed by them of about one per twenty-thousand, zero point zero zero five percent (0.005%).

    I don’t mean to minimize the problem, which is an appalling problem, BUT it does NOT justify advising people not to visit USA! AND, does NOT justify advising people to not call the cops if you need them!

    Thank you for your indulgence. You may now resume freaking out.

  20. handsomemrtoad says

    UPDATE:

    Oops, I counted wrong: it’s 661 murders by on-duty cops in SIX point five months, not, as I said, five point five months. So if the trend stays level, it’ll be 1,126 by the end of the year, so your risk if you call the cops is only one per TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED FORTY, which is zero point zero zero three seven five percent (0.00375%). Sorry for the error.

  21. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    I visited the US a couple of years ago during the Obama administration. While I absolutely adored the national parks I visited – especially Zion! – I have to admit that I felt somewhat queasy while in towns or near groups of people. Probably mostly just paranoia, although to be fair not long afterwards a German exchange student was murdered by a guy laying a trap in his garage for an alleged thief, so who knows?
    That said, don’t worry: I definitely won’t be visiting any time soon. Not just because of the regular gun violence and police killings, but also because of the current administration further facilitating previously existing issues like this. Plus, I deem it a bit of a sign of protest. I don’t support Erdogan’s Turkey with my vacationing money, either.

  22. Mark Labozzetta says

    My risk may be 1/26,640, because I’m a white heterosexual male in a relatively middle class rural neighborhood, so if I call the cops I can be certain they won’t be responding with guns drawn.

    My friends who live in the downtown area of the city 15 miles away and are people of color have significantly higher risks.

  23. JoeBuddha says

    I’d argue hat this discussion is missing the point. Body cam or not, there are so many cop worshippers out there that there’s no way to get a jury that would convict a cop for any reason. Camera or not. I swear there are places in the US where a cop in uniform could go on a killing spree in Walmart and get away with it. Why should they do their job right if there are no consequences?

  24. says

    handsomemrtoad@21, it’s interesting to compare the US and Canadian rates of killings by police. It’s unclear what the exact Canadian figure is, due to how data is collected, but estimates are that between 15 and 25 people are killed by Canadian officers per year. Given that Canada is one tenth the population of the US if the US had the same rate of killings that would mean between 150 and 250 people would die per year. Instead, if the trend this year continues, the US rate will be 6 to 10 times the Canadian rate. And Canada is the country closest to the US in culture, including that Canadian police forces tend to follow a great deal of what their US counterparts do.

  25. Colin J says

    nomadiq @12:

    I’d hope that the Australian government will step in here and demand a thorough investigation and legal consequences for the murder of one of its citizens. I hope that if justice is not forthcoming that it will become a diplomatic problem between the countries.

    I can always hope.

    Hahahahahahahaha!!!! That’s the best joke I’ve heard in ages!

    Seriously, if the USA says “jump” Australia apologises for not having jumped already.

    I’ve travelled to the USA a few times and it’s a fantastically beautiful country. I’ve always found the people to be friendly and I’ve never felt under threat (speaking as a white male who has never had to deal with the police over there). But until there’s a regime change I’m not coming back. Like Saganite, the same goes for Turkey, which is a damn shame.

  26. mnb0 says

    “if you’re thinking …”
    I actually was, a couple of years ago.
    No way it’s gonna happen.
    Airport security is enough to destroy any desire of visiting the USA.

  27. chrislawson says

    handsomemrtoad: problems with your argument…

    1. The key figure is not killings per emergency call, it’s killings per capita. The US police kill 3.11 per million people per year. In the Western world, the next worst is Australia…at 0.21 per million per year. If your country has a police killing rate fifteen times higher than #2, then you’ve got a huge problem.

    2. That risk is averaged over the whole population. It’s three times higher for American blacks, so their per capita risk is around 9 per million per year.

    3. Now recall that this is the risk per year. If we do a rough calculation assuming a life expectancy of 75, that means the lifetime risk for a black person in the US is 3,300 per million, or about 1 in 300. I do not find this acceptable.

    4. Remember this is just for killings. It does not include non-fatal brain damage, spinal severing, or any other permanent disability, psychological damage, or time lost from work.

    5. Probability is not enough to determine how risk averse we should be — the repercussions of the outcome are also important. And when police killings are high, it’s not just the deaths that are the problem, it’s the effect this has on politics and culture.

    6. Police killings in the US are hugely preventable — we can see from international comparisons that there is no reason why you couldn’t reduce the killing rate by 93% just by developing a police culture like Australia’s (which is not even particularly good by OECD standards). All it takes is (1) proper training, and (2) accountability. The fact that nobody with political clout in the US wants to introduce two elements that should be non-negotiable foundations for any police force anywhere in the world shows how screwed up US police culture is.

  28. DanDare says

    Numbers aren’t the point. A population that loses trust in its law enforcement is in trouble. Killings when no other options are available are ok. We have seen deaths at the hands of the police that would be considered murder if anyone else did it.

  29. chrislawson says

    namdiq@12: The Australian government will no doubt make statements about investigating the incident thoroughly, but put pressure on the US? Not on your life. We didn’t even object when the US tortured an Australian citizen in Guantanamo for 6 years without trial. He was eventually tried (although still under coercive terms) due to the efforts of (1) his father, (2) Dick Smith, an Australian millionaire who took an interest in the case, and (3) a small number of American lawyers who fought what they saw as an unfair and unconstitutional prosecution. The Australian government? Didn’t give a damn.

  30. happyrabo says

    Oh great. Just to muddy the waters even more, the officer who fired the shot was apparently Mohamed Noor, the first Somali officer on the Mpls police force.

  31. Koshka says

    handsomemrtoad #21,
    I work in manufacturing and deal with risks and accidents. If there is a known risk of a death at 1 in 26,000 per year and I did nothing about it, the next death may well end up with me in jail for manslaughter.
    Personally I would not risk my self and my family at those odds. Maybe you would.
    Also the number means absolutely nothing to the family and friends of the dead woman.

  32. Ichthyic says

    I don’t mean to minimize the problem, which is an appalling problem, BUT it does NOT justify advising people not to visit USA!

    Justine Damond’s son:

    “America sucks, these cops need to get trained differently! I really need to think about leaving here.”

    THAT is the reality. deal with it or don’t, but this is where the US is, right now.

  33. Ichthyic says

    Dick Smith, an Australian millionaire who took an interest in the case,

    coincidence that Dick Smith’s electronic chain stores took a huge hit right after that, and closed all stores here in NZ?

    I wonder if his business was attacked because of the attention he was bringing to that case…

    meh, I hope not.

  34. Ichthyic says

    Because deference to the rich and powerful is deeply ingrained, and they think they’re secure. However, as soon as that deference breaks down, they’re fucked

    I am still waiting for that deference to break down. getting close to too late.

  35. says

    The Trumpian Wall is starting to sound better every day. To keep the rest of the world safe from the nutjobs by locking them inside. Good people may be allowed out by the sensible non US gate keepers.

  36. trevorn says

    #36
    coincidence that Dick Smith’s electronic chain stores took a huge hit right after that, and closed all stores here in NZ?
    I wonder if his business was attacked because of the attention he was bringing to that case…

    I doubt it. Most Kiwis would be on his side over it. DSE(NZ) failed for commercial reasons not political ones.

  37. Dunc says

    Ichthyic, @#37: Unfortunately, once things get to that stage, it’s not just the elite who suffer the consequences. A social rupture of that scale is an extremely dangerous and messy business.

  38. rorschach says

    “I don’t mean to minimize the problem, which is an appalling problem, BUT it does NOT justify advising people not to visit USA!”

    So say you. Bit thin on the argumentation there matey. I don’t visit USA because I don’t like underpaid undertrained fascists to lock me away for a week at Customs just because they feel like it, because not just cops but also the general populace is armed and trigger-happy, and because I don’t like having to study travel guides to know which suburb of what town I have a chance of surviving a visit to after dark.
    Your third-world theocracy can fuck itself why I spend my money in Hongkong or Singapore or Bangkok, or even Melbourne.

  39. snuffcurry says

    @happyrabo, 32

    Just to muddy the waters even more, the officer who fired the shot was apparently Mohamed Noor, the first Somali officer on the Mpls police force.

    Since you’ve elected to highlight this, no, this not accurate. Noor is the first Somali to serve as an officer in the city’s 5th Precinct; there are at least eight others throughout the department, some predating his 2015 hiring on.

  40. Muz says

    Icthyic

    Dick Smith himself sold out of his electronic stores some years earlier, when they were converted into “Medium Sized Box” appliance retailers.
    They were then raided and gutted by money vultures right under the nose of our regulators. It’s somewhat related to our (Australia’s) relationship to the US in that we act like a proving ground for many US style regulatory un-policies, but not directly concerned with citizens overseas in trouble.

    https://foragerfunds.com/bristlemouth/dick-smith-is-the-greatest-private-equity-heist-of-all-time/

  41. Ichthyic says

    @Muz

    thanks for the info.

    it’s still kinda scary to see that though. geez.

  42. Ichthyic says

    What type of a student was she?

    Any prior trouble with the law?

    likely one of those Aussie Pajama Thugs.

  43. Ichthyic says

    A social rupture of that scale is an extremely dangerous and messy business.

    I personally think we have already waited too long for it to end any other way, frankly.

    the rising tide of narcissistic neoliberals should have been nipped in the bud post Reagan.

    now they are very, very entrenched.

  44. Dunc says

    I personally think we have already waited too long for it to end any other way, frankly.

    Yeah, I’m afraid that you’re probably right.

  45. chrislawson says

    Ichthyic, as mentioned above, Dick Smith had sold off his electronics stores many years before the Hicks case. The stores kept his name because he had high brand recognition in Australia but he had no role in management since 1982. The main reason the business collapsed was a combination of poor business decisions and changing market conditions. Nothing to do with Smith.

    The other point against your theory is that Smith himself did not get much blowback from supporting Hicks — while few in Australia think much of Hicks himself (he was an open sympathiser of al Qaeda, not the kind of stance that wins you popularity contests here), but the common perception here was that he was owed a fair trial and the US’s abject failure to provide one was highly suggestive of the US not having a strong case. Plus the US’s blatantly hypocritical legal strategy didn’t help — they argued that he was not a combatant and therefore was not protected by the Geneva Convention, but at the same time he was a combatant so he could be tried in a military court. That kind of bullshit didn’t play well.

    But to go back to the original point…despite all this, the Australian government did almost nothing to protect Hicks’ legal rights. So I wouldn’t expect much from them in this case either.

  46. Ichthyic says

    Most Kiwis would be on his side over it.

    I did not intend to imply it would have been a public attack, more like what actually happened, venture capitalist rip and tear action.

    but, as has been pointed out, the timing is wrong anyway.

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