It’s the only way to be sure. There’s something wrong with those damn people, as the latest incident reveals: a dozen armed police descended on a report from a Dollar Store that a child had shoplifted a doll, and they abused and threatened a young family with murder over it. The force is a gang of thugs drunk on power.
This is madness. Those policemen are not competent or of an appropriate temperament to do their jobs.
Not of appropriate temperament? I would say they are sadistic psychopaths.
Start with Phoenix, but don’t stop there. Run all the corrupt fuckers out.
Relevant: To Protect and Slur: Inside hate groups on FB, police officers trade racist memes, conspiracy theories, and Islamophobia
And: Spotlight: In A Study of Cops’ Facebook Accounts, 1 in 5 Had Posted Racist, Violent Content
Bloody hell. I live in Canada and we can have some nasty police but this reminds me why vacationing in Damascus looks safer than Miami. Phoenix? Not a hope.
Those guys are insane.
The appropriate action with rabid animals is to put them down, swiftly and humanely. These police, and so, so many others are no better than rabid dogs. The solution is obvious.
Oh, I should add that most Canadian police officers are incredibly helpful. We get the occasional idiot but almost all are very, very good. I mean even when talking about my kidnapped kitten, the officer was incredibly polite and sympathic.
Rob Grigjanis says
jrkrideau @5: That’s been my experience as well. But I’m not a young black man.
David Utidjian says
@5 and @6: That has been my experience also. But then I have been white and male and so on … all of my life. From the situation in the video and others I have witnessed directly… it seems there is a lot of fear in the cops voices and actions.
I have been stopped multiple times by Canadian police for walking while trans. I have a slightly different opinion of our cops.
The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) says
Apparently they’re also not so kindly if you’re First Nations.
Mike Smith says
yeah there are no good cops
Akira MacKenzie says
Yeah, send this story to anyone who has one of those “We Back The Badge” yard signs.
Oh, how am I kidding. They’d love this sadistic shit!
I remember seeing what initially started out similar, but the LEO’s calmed down a lot when they realized how many neighbors had rifles close at hand.
One part of their complaint is bogus though, the claimed “dead arm” is nonsense, as dead arm is a repetitive motion injury. It’d be far more likely that the child received a rotator cuff tear.
One, on the matter of handling a small child, toddler or infant, I’d love to know where the officer received training to grab a small child by the neck, then yank an arm out of its socket.
I know that even the US Army didn’t train anyone to do that and I’ve held small children while mom was cleared of possible weapons and frankly, I handled those children as carefully as I handled our children and after, grandchildren.
Now, excuse me while I go for an exchange transfusion, that entire incident has made my blood boil.
@ 7 8 & 9
Never said they were perfect but overall not too bad. They often are racially prejudiced and homophobic but I have never had an officer draw a gun on me. Came close in university when two officers got out of the car, hand on gun, but one officer was an old schoolmate. He said “Hi John”, I replied “Hi John”. The police then left and I still do not know what the issue was but it was very serious.
On the other hand, as a naive tourist I walked up to a policeman in Paris to get directions. Police officer looked a bit shocked but gave me excellent directions. It was only a few minutes later that I realized he was commanding a squad of anti-terrorist police a block away from the French senate during a visit by the President of the Republic. Vive la France.
Tabby Lavalamp says
Yeah, LGBTQ, First Nations, and black Canadians have a much different experience with cops. Don’t forget the “starlight tours” in Saskatoon, for example.
How are your communities so disfunctional?
Nope can’t deal with it, not watching it today.
How did it come to be this way, you mean? That’s the sort of question that entire libraries have been written to answer. The short answer is: systemic, pervasive racism.
A slightly longer answer is that racism has always been a useful tool for the Powers That Be (hereafter PTB), since before the United States was a country. Much of the systemic racism originated with slavery, from propaganda designed to keep white indentured servants from sympathizing too much with black slaves and possibly teaming up to fight back against the wealthy PTB who oppressed both groups. Racism remains a useful tool for keeping the proles divided, but it’s also long since taken on a life of it’s own.
The police exist to enforce the will of the PTB. They aren’t there to “Serve and Protect” the public; they’re there to protect the status quo and the holdings of the PTB. That’s why property crimes tend to be prosecuted so viciously, while violence against the powerless is so often ignored. That’s why the police respond to peaceful left-wing protests by stomping them flat while dressed for war.
Of course, if everyone understood that that’s what the police are there for then the cops wouldn’t be very popular, so there’s a huge 24-7 propaganda blitz lionizing the cops as heroes. There are dozens of cop shows on TV at any given time showing the police as a group of increasingly beleaguered heroes. It’s interesting, to compare the cop shows of today to the ones they made in the 1970s or ‘80s- the behavior of the cops in the modern shows is worse (often much worse), but the sentiment that they’re heroes who only the truly sinister would dare question is even stronger.
For example: I caught an episode of one cop show wherein one of the main character cops tortured a suspect for information by shooting him through both legs. This was presented a heroic action. In a later episode, this was done again, and it was played for laughs (needless to say, the cop who did it was still considered a hero).
Most media isn’t that blatant, but the police are regularly shown as heroes for violating people’s most basic rights, and anyone who tries to reign them in is inevitably cast as the villain. It’s not just on television either, but in novels, games, and perhaps worst of all, in the news media.
The major news networks/papers, being another wholly-coopted organ of the rich fucks who run the US, always bends over backwards to give the police the benefit of the doubt, no matter how unjustified it might be. It takes truly egregious misbehavior for the talking heads to question the police, and even then they slather on plenty of “it’s just these few bad actors, most cops are heroes beyond reproach.”
Police have, within my lifetime I think, gone from being considered a slightly-unpleasant-but-necessary part of a stable society to figures of outright worship. I believe that this is a deliberate result of a long propaganda campaign, and I suspect it’s just going to keep getting worse. The United States is a police state now.
I hope this helps to answer your question.
Ya, for sure. Fire ’em all. And then what? The police aren’t a power exclusively unto themselves. Voters have to elect reasonable officials, and they have to step-in and ensure that leadership changes… then the long process of righting things can begin. Albuquerque had a lengthy history of overly aggressive policing and invited a federal monitor about 3 years ago… looks as though we are about 70% of the way better. A new, liberal, mayor has helped. But, it “takes a village.”
An fn dollar store and 4 year old child. WTH I couldn’t even read it earlier this week I knew it was awful.
Is it just me? Seems to be that cops used to look like regular people. Now they all look like power lifters stoked with ‘roid rage.
In any case, what’s new is the militarization of policing. For starters, it makes dialing back the racism that much more difficult.
More blowback from the Iraq war festering in perpetuity.
you know it kind of sounds like maybe the turn of the century 1900 -1930’s with the added tension of more and easier access to fire arms and the proliferation of modern combat vet’s.
the level of fear and aggression is echoed in the population in general. and yes to police have always been more pro rich and powerful (legal and illegal) then the poorer and powerless in the population. reflecting society in general as in a fun house mirror.
this illustrates clearly why when ever I have to interact with police that i have always knew that this is what can happen if I can not de-escalate the situation quickly and relieve the fear and dissipate the aggression just under the surface. yes it is shitty that i have to do that but it is a lot better then ending up lying in the dirt face down. It iss the world as it is now. I grew up watching Hoppy and the Lone Ranger, dirty harry was a criminal but far more common
Akira MacKenzie says
You don’t necessarily need a gun to murder someone.
A muslim killed somebody. Kill all the muslims! A cop harrassed somebody extremely seriously. Fire and blacklist all the cops!
One of the basic precepts of liberalism is that you don’t punish people when others commit crimes. I’m shocked that PZ histrionically ignores that idea.
Everybody who responded, except perhaps MountainBob @18, seems careful to agree with the awfulness of the police behavior, and careful not to criticize PZ’s intemperance.
@ mikehuben, #24
The Phoenix Police Department is a cohesive, hierarchical organization- every cop in that video directly answers to officers above them, who answer to those above them, etc. Failure to obey the dictates of those higher up in the chain of command is, at the very least, a firing offense. The same is true of a failure to report egregious deviations from orders by fellow officers. Police departments in the US are organized in a pyramid, like paramilitary organizations, and in such an organization the people higher up in the chain of command are answerable for the conduct of their subordinates, unless those subordinates are directly disobeying the orders of their commanders.
The sort of misbehavior recorded in this video seems to be very common, given how often new videos of PPD officers abusing members of the public surfaces. It is absolutely proper and rational to hold the entire organization accountable for these repeated, well-documented instances of misbehavior. The refusal of the organization to punish the miscreants makes such a course not only just, but necessary.
Islam is a major world religion, with multiple sects, numerous schisms, and adherents from all walks of life. There is no central authority, no universally-accepted interpretation of the central tenets, and the beings theoretically at the top of any Islamic hierarchy are beyond mortal means of accountability. It would be irrational in the extreme to suggest that all Muslims should be held accountable for the actions of fringe extremists whose behavior the majority of Muslims condemn.
In short, your analogy is a complete failure, and the conclusions you derive from is are therefore wrong.
@ vucodlak, #25
” It is absolutely proper and rational to hold the entire organization accountable for these repeated, well-documented instances of misbehavior.”
What pompous twaddle. If A has subordinates B and C, and A and B are guilty, that does not make C guilty of anything. Every INDIVIDUAL cop or officer would have to be individually investigated and a case made for his/her firing, else Phoenix would be wide open to lawsuits about improper process.
I have no problem with firing or prosecuting people up the chain of command, based on appropriate cases being made.
Oh, and blacklisting is illegal in 29 of the 50 states. Including Arizona. Do you think PZ intends to violate the law or is just ignorant? Enquiring minds would like to know.
As for your argument strategy, everybody knows that at some point EVERY analogy fails. The question is whether the analogy, taken to the extent of the original arguer intended, is informative. We repeatedly see blanket condemnations by PZ of many different groups of people. Many I agree with. But proposing punishments for entire groups violates norms of liberalism. No matter if they are hierarchical groups or more loosely constructed.
I think PZ is very good at identifying social ills. Not always so good at prescribing solutions. The solution suggested in the title is foolish, immoderate, unworkable and illegal.
As MountainBob pointed out, there are other solutions rather than “kill them all and let god sort them out.” Hey, that’s another analogy! But it communicates.
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
So a created law enforcement group with a pervasive pattern of behavior is like a race?
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
Calling out the Phoenix police department is like calling out “other groups of people”.
I hope I’m wrong.
@ mikehuben, #26
Those are patrol cops. They’re not higher-ups; you can tell by the lack of desk stapled to their asses. At least some of them are bottom rung officers, just like in every other video of PPD abusing people. This is a pattern of behavior that they clearly haven’t been called out on. The whole barrel is rotten.
Your analogy fails in its most basic premise. It doesn’t hold up to even the most cursory scrutiny, and I will do you the courtesy of assuming here that you’re not actually fool enough to believe it does.
Your analogy was a lie. It’s a tortured bit of sophistry designed to let you proclaim that both sides are exactly the same, while you are the brave, wise, and principled one for standing exactly in the middle. You use it to suggest individual solutions to systemic problems, knowing full well that such things don’t work and, most importantly, won’t disturb you, the “moderate.”
I’m being generous here- it could be you’re just a fucking fascist.
Yes it does! Specifically, it communicates a falsehood. It’s another lie, just like the original analogy I objected to, and the wisest thing for you to have done would have been to flush it, rather than presenting it here like it’s some kind of prize. I’m not impressed.
In case anyone reading is confused by any of this, I’ll spell it out: Calling for a group of people to be relieved of their employment because they have shown a pattern of grossly abusing their power and banning them from holding similar positions in the future is not at all like advocating genocide. No, the difference is not merely a matter of degree; there is no moral equivalence, and attempting to draw one is foolish at best. At worst, it’s an intentional minimization of actual crimes against humanity.
vucodlak @ 29:
“The whole barrel is rotten.”
Why, that’s an analogy! But there is no bacteria or fungus involved in those police offenses, so “Your analogy fails in its most basic premise.” So much for your “argument”. Nor have you established that every officer is culpable: you are simply using a weak analogy to claim so. We can find lots of other analogies that work differently, such as “the fish rots from the head”.
“You use it to suggest individual solutions to systemic problems, knowing full well that such things don’t work ”
No, I point out that LEGALLY we are required to address firing-level complaints individually. And also according to basic principles of liberalism, which I hope we share.
And of course there are other options that DO WORK, such as the one mountainbob pointed out.
“there is no moral equivalence”
You are ignoring the important aspect of moral equivalence that I’ve been emphasizing: group judgements and punishments. If you judge and punish an entire police force, it is the same sort of GROUP punishment as genocide. Some cops will be innocent, just like some members of a genocided group will be innocent. That’s the basic point that you and PZ don’t seem to understand. It’s a basic principle of liberalism that you cannot be punished because others committed an offense.
“I’m being generous here- it could be you’re just a fucking fascist.”
Ah, the stench of your “rationality” presents itself.
“Some members of a genocided group will be innocent”
The more serious proposals I’ve seen is completely restart a department from scratch, and investigate everyone for bad behavior before any rehires, from the top down.
robertbaden @ 33
That sounds like a good methodology. Has it been used elsewhere?
“Some members of a genocided group will be innocent”
Of whatever charges are used to justify the genocide. It’s never just “because they are X”: it is always that X does this or that and so must be exterminated. Is that clear enough?
ck, the Irate Lump says
Genocide? Calm the hell down. Let’s use another analogy since you’re so fond of them. I assume not everyone working for the Al Capone crime family was engaged with criminal enterprises. Does that mean they should not have been shut down? It’s unfair to punish those who had nothing to do with the crimes for the actions of “a few bad apples”. Yet, they were punished by losing their lucrative jobs and contracts.
ck, the Irate Lump @ 35:
No member of the Capone family went to jail without a trial for their individual charges.
However, as civil servants they are entitled to due administrative process individually.
The police chief in Phoenix is a woman of color. I suspect that she is also outraged, and will take more moderate steps than PZ suggested.
@ mikehuben, #31
Yes, it’s an analogy. I don’t object to the use of analogies, unless they’re so horrifically wrong as to, oh, I don’t know, equate getting fired with having your entire people wiped out.
It’s like when people describe having to pay taxes as “slavery” or “rape.” It’s not just incorrect, not merely a poor analogy or bad taste- it’s actively malignant, and I can’t just let it pass without comment.
I’m not ignoring anything, because firing a pack of asshole is not equivalent to genocide.
Jesus fucking Christ, are you really that goddamn stupid? Is this really so difficult a concept? Can you not see how incredibly offensive and wrong your comparison is?
Well, I guess that answers that question: it’s not stupidity (or, at least, not only stupidity). You really are deliberately minimizing genocide.
Let me try this one last time:
Being fired sucks. It’s a huge hassle at the very least. It can result in homeless and hunger and broken families.
Being prevented from working in your chosen field sucks, too, but there are other jobs, and a great many people have to put up with doing something other than their dream job.
Neither of those things hold a candle to being murdered, tortured, raped, etc. along with all your friends, family, and neighbors.
“Some of the victims of genocide had it coming” is what you’re saying here. If you don’t see what’s wrong with that, I can’t help you.
I see here that you’ve got me confused with one of those assholes who claims to be perfectly “objective” and “rational” in all things. Nah. My reaction to your execrable arguments is as much emotional as it is rational- your argument is repugnant not because it’s a poor analogy (though it is), but because minimizing genocide is a fucking despicable thing to do.
So yes, I am indeed angry. I cut a lot of profanity out of that last post, but it’s still not hard to pick up on. If pissing people off is what you’re after, well, congratulations. Your vile analogy has successfully annoyed at least one creature. You can be a proud apologist for atrocity today.
Sortof. One of the major sticking points for the Good Friday Agreement, which ended(? paused?) the civil war in N.Ireland, was how to reconstruct the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) into the PSNI (Police Service N.Ireland). The RUC was famously pro-“loyalist”, and the preferred solution of the “provos” was to do pretty much exactly what was suggested, “restart a department from scratch, and investigate [applicants] for bad behavior before [hiring], from the top down.” That is, an RUC member could reapply to join the PSNI, but would be investigated, just like any applicant without “priors”.
However, the “loyalists” could not be convinced to go along with this, and instead agreed to a much more vague scheme of 50:50 catholic:protestant, thus conflating multiple issues; as one example, catholic:protestant is not the same as the on-the-ground reality of “nationalist”:community:”loyalist” (itself a simplification)). The 50:50 has not (yet?) been achieved, albeit the PSNI has managed to gain the support of the major political groupings in N.Ireland.
vucodlak @ 37:
I wrote : here are other solutions rather than “kill them all and let god sort them out.”
You interpreted that as genocide. That’s YOUR stupidity. The expression is commonly used in warfare, showing a disregard for innocent civilians.
Enjoy your Emily Litella moment. At least she concluded with “Oh, that’s different! Never mind.”
Kip T.W. says
I must be stupid too. I interpreted “kill them all…” as genocidal, despite its well-known origin (paraphrased: “kill our people along with theirs if need be, and ours will go to Heaven”). Yeah, who could possibly derive genocide from that, unless they were hell-bent on putting the worst possible bad-faith spin on good old indiscriminate mass murder?
[Insert link to random Monty Python or SCTV sketch here, to show how cool I am.]
@ mikehuben, #39
I know, let’s go on a retrospective, and see if we can figure out where I came to the conclusion (which you insist is erroneous) that you were talking about genocide. C’mon, it’ll be fun!
From your #24, the first comment you made in this thread:
I can’t imagine how I got genocide out of that second line. Sure, you’re talking about exterminating a group of people based on their religious affiliation, but can we really call that genocide?
Ok, so that’s what the UN would call it, but what do they know about genocide?
From your #26:
Hmm… well, you don’t specify a “them” so I guess that’s not technically genocide. I think it would be a reasonable conclusion that you’re continuing from your “Kill all the [M]uslims!” bit in #24, but we’ve already established that I’m a testerical over-reacter, so what do I know?
Ha, silly me for thinking that the first thing you wrote should have any bearing on what was said in the second, just because we’re talking about the same topic. I blame my archaic insistence on viewing life through a chronological lens.
From your #31:
So you weren’t talking about how PZ’s suggestion compares to genocide but, now that I mention it, it’s just like genocide? Well, what a fortuitous coincidence that I should bring it up, eh?
Also from your #31:
Yeah, still not seeing where I got the idea that you were comparing firing a group for cause to genocide. It’s not like you defended the idea or anything.
Just to satisfy my own morbid curiosity: who deserves genocide, and is there a lot of overlap with Santa’s naughty list?
From your #39
Haha, yeah, hearing-impaired old people, huh? Hilarious. And the repeal of that silly fairness doctrine sure has worked out great for the world, didn’t it?
Nothing like a dated sketch comedy reference to cap off a round of inept gaslighting.
I admit it: I was wrong. That wasn’t fun at all.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
When you hold state certification, you can be prevented from taking future jobs if you lose that certification, but that does not count as illegal blacklisting. Not in Arizona or in any other jurisdiction in the US with anti-blacklisting laws.
As for whether such blacklisting should take place in Phoenix, specifically, I don’t know. I haven’t followed their police department over time. I believe that there are many police departments and law enforcement agencies not so corrupt as to require wholesale replacement. But quite a few are – more than the vast majority of white people (or people generally) are willing to admit.
One situation that I’m certain I favor, however, is to ban possession and use of firearms of any kind while on duty for the first 3 years of any law enforcement officer’s career, and for the 4th and 5th years, only bean-bad shotguns are permissible: nothing that shoots slugs is allowed for the full first 5 years. Not just in Phoenix, but throughout the entire United States. Circumstances requiring a firearm to respond are vanishingly rare. Even when the proverbial bad guy with a gun is shooting, within a certain range tasers and/or bean bag rounds and are a viable response. But more importantly, if there’s a report of shooting or threats involving a gun, you can simply send one or more officers that have been on the force long enough to qualify to carry a gun.
During that 5 years, training has to focus entirely on problem solving through de-escalation. Use of force reports take time, time for the authors, time for the reviewers. If we’re not paying them to do paperwork, we can afford the increased time at the scene for waiting for a mental health intervention officer or for an agitated person to calm, etc. You also save money in lawsuits b/c settlements for shooting someone are much higher than those for body slamming someone.
Finally, with procedures in place for unarmed officers on the payroll, you can decertify someone to carry a weapon on much lesser evidence since they won’t lose salary, nor will the department lose their work. Nonetheless, there will still be stigma for those who lose their weapon certification too often or too long. This is a good thing.
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
So I guess we can’t critisize the government or political parties as groups either? Is that like genocide?
vucodlak @ 41:
My apologies: you are correct that I used an example of genocide. I hadn’t checked the thread back far enough. Sorry for the unjustified snark.
Very simply, my point was that PZ was over-reacting in illiberal ways. Proposing genocide is also an illiberal overreaction. That was the purpose, and if you prefer we could use another example of right-wing over-reaction that isn’t genocide, such as proposals to expel all illegal aliens including Dreamers, or excluding all refugees.
Crip Dyke @ 42:
PZ proposed blacklisting, which as I said is illegal in 29 of the 50 states. Do you mean to point out that he is incorrect in using the term blacklisting?
And removing state certification ALSO requires an individual process. It cannot be done to a group wholesale.
Your reform proposal is very interesting: do you know if it has been tried in the US? The major drawback that I see to it is that it might result in more new cops dying on duty; the cops would justifiably resist such changes. Essentially, you are saying that the new cops would have less armament for self-defense than civilians or security guards, in a more dangerous role in the most heavily armed nation in the world.
Brony @ 43:
The point is that PZ was over-reacting in illiberal ways. PZ’s criticism is fine but his proposals for action are illiberal and incorrect/illegal.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
I mean that taking away law enforcement certification is not the same as blacklisting. If PZ intended to say that they should be put on a list and not hired even if they had appropriate certification and were qualified, that would, legally speaking, be blacklisting.
HOWEVER, there’s no reason that we have to do things that way. So even if PZ had a specific methodology in mind (and I don’t believe he did), we can reach the same effect perfectly legally in a manner that doesn’t meet the legal definition of blacklisting, even if colloquial uses might still apply.
My objection was that once you say, “This is a legal issue,” you have to abide by the legal definition, and since the methodology is here unspecified, you can’t possibly say that it meets the legal definition.
For instance, according to the statute (ARS Chapter 23 § 1361):
Therefore a simplistic assertion, “blacklisting is illegal” is false. A nuanced assertion, “done in the wrong way, this might be illegal, so either the legal guidelines would have to be carefully followed or there would have to be new state legislation” is perfectly fine, but you didn’t make a nuanced assertion.
It actually can. There have been situations where a group of officers had to redo their certification within X time or automatically lose it. I don’t know if this has happened in Arizona, but the usual situation under which this occurs is where certification requires training (initial and/or ongoing) and that provided by a particular agency is retroactively deemed not to meet state requirements because such training had been inadequate, but the inadequacy of that agency’s training was not known to regulators in sufficient time to prevent new recruits or persons in need of ongoing continuing education credits from taking that deficient agency’s training.
Also, I think you’re neglecting the fact that for an effective blacklist, you need the cooperation of other employers – indeed, to truly “blacklist” you would have to have the cooperation of every other single law enforcement employer in the state, if not the country. Because of the wildly different perceptions of police violence by different persons in this country, this simply cannot happen.
Therefore, I think inherent in PZ’s (albeit colloquial) use of “blacklist” is an implication that action be taken at the state level, where certification takes place. The most efficient and effective way to do this is through new legislation. If we accept that as a given, then what is currently legal is largely irrelevant: the new legislation can specify any mechanism deemed appropriate up to the limits provided for in the constitution of the United States. The constitution of Arizona also provides limits, but those limiting constitutional provisions – if indeed there are any that apply, and I’m not sure whether or not that’s true – can simply be amended.
Since we’re contemplating new legislation as a mechanism for abolishing and reconstituting law enforcement in Phoenix (again, I don’t know if that’s deserved in Phoenix, but it’s clearly deserved in some US jurisdictions) your concerns about requirements for individualized processes in revoking certification are also able to be addressed through that same legislative process. (If, indeed, it must be addressed at all.)
I don’t believe it has. However, there have been experiments done in the opposite direction: increasing weaponization of police forces have resulted in a greater percentage of arrests being violent. For European police forces where guns are not always issued to every cop, the rates of violence during arrest are lower. There are quite a few studies that show that possessing a firearm emboldens a cop to engage in escalation rather than deescalation. It is exactly this data that leads me to believe you need to instill deescalation habits over the long term before you can introduce lethal weapons to a cop’s equipment.
Further, there is also data that when the citizenry knows that officers are armed, most folks respond non-violently, but most folks would anyway. Those who will be confrontational have been found in at least some studies to be more confrontational when cops are known to be armed with slug-throwing guns (as opposed to guns loaded with bean-bag rounds and other less-lethal ammunition.)
I am MOST CERTAINLY NOT an expert in these areas, and the data I’ve seen might be misrepresentative of the overall state of research, but I have seen such data, and so there’s at least some reason to believe this reflects what we currently know to be true.
It might, but I think that based on what I’ve seen (which again might be remembered inaccurately or might not be representative, but I have to go on what I know) it would likely save more lives than it costs.
Lives would be lost, if any, in jurisdictions that don’t take seriously what it means to have some unarmed cops. Even with lethally armed cops you have situations where someone pulled over is, unbeknownst to the cop, fleeing a serious crime for which they are unwilling to go to jail, or simply murderously hostile to cops. There have been cops shot at the side of the road in such situations and in those cases they typically never even pull their service firearm. I imagine that when officers are killed while unarmed, police unions will reflexively blame it on policies that put them on duty without a lethal weapon. But just because they’re willing to say it doesn’t make it true.
Also, I worked as an emergency call center operator for brief time (one year – not that brief, but I didn’t make a career out of it or anything, and I’m certainly not “expert” at what goes on there, just mildly experienced). From my training and experience I’m aware that we know quite a lot about which calls are more dangerous and which are less. It’s easily possible to have an officer on scene with a lethal weapon at those most dangerous calls even if not EVERY officer at the scene has a lethal weapon.
I don’t recommend that my comment be the entirety of any new policy. But I believe that the gist of my policy – no lethal weapons for 5 years and certain powerful but less-lethal weapons being unavailable for the first 3 – can be implemented in a manner that not only reduces the rate at which civilians are killed by cops, but in reducing the level and frequency of confrontations also reduces the rate at which cops are injured or killed by civilians (or by careless use of lethal weapons by other cops). The manner of implementation will require entire new books of policies and recommended best practices, but I do think it will increase everyone’s safety.
Will officers unions and police forces resist such a new policy anyway? You bet your boots. But that’s why we have PhD criminologists and psychologists and legislators who (at least theoretically) listen to them. Just because you’re good at being a cop doesn’t mean you have an accurate understanding of how population safety changes with a given proposed policy. (And just because you’re a cop doesn’t mean you’re a good cop.)
You also don’t have to take my word for it. Read this BBC article about how 3-4 cops are killed in the line of duty in England, Scotland and Wales per year compared with over 100 per year in the US (the US has about 5x the population, therefore this is equivalent to having15-20 deaths in England, Scotland & Wales per year – thus we can say that the US has 5-8 times the death rate). From that article:
The people who know this stuff better than either of us think developing relationships is key, but relationship building is sabotaged if the community is afraid of officers and if the officers are quick to resort to violence – both of which are likelier to occur when cops are lethally armed.
Pfft. No I’m not. Let’s break this in two:
This policy recognizes that the vast majority of civilians are unarmed during the vast majority of encounters with police officers. Any police officer with a taser would be more heavily armed than the vast, vast majority of civilians, and probably more heavily armed than a bare majority of security guards since quite a lot of mall cops as well as most guards at the “reception desk” area of many buildings are also entirely unarmed. Sure, some places arm their security guards, but not all. Although I have no knowledge of the rate at which security guards are armed industry-wide, my personal experience when I was in the United States was that an armed security guard is less common than an unarmed one. I think rather than using my personal experience or your assertion, if it is important to your argument that cops would be armed less than security guards you should produce some actual data.
Further, as someone who has worked in a 911 call center, I know that many calls for officer assistance involve things like traffic control (setting up cones to detour vehicles around a disabled car after an accident, for instance) or wellness checks (someone is in their own home or in a known public location from which they’re unlikely to move and someone else is concerned about their health, but they don’t know for sure there’s a medical emergency so it’s more efficient to send a cop just to check and see if they need further help).
You don’t need guns to set up traffic cones. You don’t need guns to knock on a door and ask someone how they’re doing.
Your statements here seem to assume that most policing involves danger and that most danger can be mitigated only by the use of lethal weapons. In fact, in most years (2016 being the exception) the biggest cause of death for on-duty police officers is traffic accidents – either on a high speed chase, when outside their vehicles setting up cones, or when outside their vehicles while conducting a traffic stop. Tasers don’t change this risk. Upgrading from tasers to handguns or even all the way to assault rifles or submachine guns wouldn’t mitigate this risk. But also, since more cops die from suicide than from any on-duty cause and since suicide attempts are much more likely to cause long-term harm or death when the attempt is via gun, if fewer cops had guns more cops would survive the inevitable periods of depression that at least some officers will suffer. Being less lethally armed is actually safer when the biggest threat to your life is your own weapon.
Yes, there are situations where a violent assault with a potentially lethal weapon is more likely than during a wellness check. However, refusing to issue lethal weapons (to only some cops, remember) does not mean we would refuse to issue body armor. All cops would still have body armor. Moreover, it should always be the policy for certain types of calls to respond with a minimum of two officers (domestic violence incidents, for instance), and unless more than half your agency has less than five years experience, it should be easy (if not almost automatic) even without an intentional policy to have a lethally armed cop on the scene. Policy should specify that this is mandatory. If there are times and places where it wouldn’t be feasible to have 2 cops to show up to the scene of domestic violence (this is bad for other reasons, BTW, even if every cop is lethally armed, because you’ll need to question people in different rooms and in the worst possible circumstance of two or more people engaging in more-or-less mutual violence may very well need two or more police bodies to impose space between two persons fighting – if there’s only one cop, they can just swing around you and still hit each other because your body isn’t as wide as their arms are long), then it’s simply a bona fide job requirement that people have their 5 years in and are lethal-weapon certified before they can work certain shifts in certain areas where backup is limited.
Note also that being armed is a very, very bad thing in certain circumstances. There are, unfortunately, a number of people every year who want to kill themselves but can’t make the decision to do so. Instead some of these people will choose to try and force cops to kill them. But what if the cops come and none of the cops have a gun? You can hold your flimsy steak knife or your toy gun or unloaded gun to try to bait cops into killing you, but if they aren’t carrying lethal weapons, that’s doomed to fail. This is a good thing. We don’t want to kill suicidal people. We want to help them. And yet, when family members call cops to tell them that they’re concerned about a relative who may be suicidal, the cops can and do show up armed, looking for conflict, and ready to kill in a number of cases every single year.
Being over-armed can be a bad thing. Imagine if suicidal people knew the cops weren’t going to be lethally armed? Imagine if good cops, doing what they’re trained to do, are charged by someone with a steak knife only because that person wants to die and not because they want to hurt the cop. In the current climate, they shoot to kill and find out later that the person was never threatening them and only wanted to die. For the rest of their lives, such good officers have to live with taking a life without the justification of self-defense. For the rest of their lives, such good officers have to worry and stress over how they failed someone in need. This is a particularly important point given that more officers lose their lives to suicide than to any on-duty cause.
If it is normal to have unarmed officers, then the specially trained unit who responds to persons dealing with mental health crises can be unarmed without being considered “lesser”. If the cops who respond to these situations are unarmed, and if the civilian population knows that they will be unarmed, then no one can plan suicide-by-cop. (Or at least they can’t do so without credibly threatening someone, for instance by taking a hostage.) This would be a very good thing.
And for those who need to be deterred by force – e.g. large, well-armed gangs with a history of murder – cops in the united states actually have TANKS. Serious tanks. Armored personnel carriers. Full body armor with ballistic shields and helmets. Snipers. Although I also think we should de-militarize the police, this first proposal of mine does nothing to prevent a single out-gunned officer from calling in completely overwhelming backup.
Merely requiring extensive training and experience before we authorize someone to kill others is not some radical proposal for giving armed thugs free reign. It’s not pie in the sky, or something only a hippy peacenik could support. I haven’t said that cops can’t use an armlock or kick the legs out from underneath someone.
When we give a cop a lethal weapon and the discretion that we do, we are literally authorizing them to kill. The very least we should demand is that someone is expert in all the ways of resolving dangerous situations without killing people before we authorize them to kill, so that then if they do kill, we have more confidence that it really was a last resort.
Okay, separately I’m just going to say that this really isn’t true. While we might have more “civilian” weapons than any other nation, that doesn’t mean we have more weapons in the hands of persons who might threaten cops. You have active civil wars in a number of spots around the globe and those weapons carried by rebels are generally not counted in the number of “civilian” weapons. Yet just because they’re not counted as civilian weapons doesn’t mean they’re not a threat to the local police. And in countries where illegal weapons and military weapons held by rebels are common, they’re also potentially much more deadly. US cops don’t have to deal with rocket propelled grenades, after all, yet in some parts of the world they do.
On the nit-picky side, I could also call out countries like Switzerland and Israel where a huge percentage of the population is actually enrolled in the military reserve. In both Switzerland and Israel, there are large numbers of weapons in civilian homes that are technically owned by the military but kept by reservists, often in locations that could be accessed by any family member (or, unfortunately, burglar).
The threat to US cops on duty is real and serious. I’m glad we issue them body armor. I don’t want any of them hurt. But let’s not misrepresent the risk through use of misleading statistics that count some weapons as civilian and some not even when both types are kept in private homes, much less that assume that because weapons are “military” they aren’t a danger to cops in those many nations around the world where some part of the population is engaged in armed rebellion.
The US, as bad as it is, isn’t anywhere near the most dangerous nation in the world to be a cop. This is true even when counting sources of injury and death like car accidents that could never be prevented by carrying lethal weapons. For instance, you might wish to consider nations like Sri Lanka, where in 1990 cops were specifically targeted for mass slaughter. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know which countries’ present dangers in 2019 are similar to the dangers present in Sri Lanka in 1990, but it would shock the hell out of me if the US was anywhere near the most dangerous country in which to be a cop.
Crip Dyke @ 46:
A very comprehensive and well-researched response. You make a plausible case that there is a legal loophole for recertification requirements and some exemptions from the blacklist law. (Not being a legal expert, I’m not qualified to guess the interpretation by the courts.)
I’m more skeptical of your arguments for your policy suggestion, but arguing them would be a typical never ending morass and they would be well worth an experiment. Some times you need to cut the Gordian Knot of argument with some experiments. Charter schools were such an experiment; now we know that most of their argument didn’t pan out.
In summary, while it may be legal to blacklist all the officers, that is still an illiberal solution. Liberalism includes the idea of justice for accused individuals, which excludes group punishments. That is why I find PZ’s title offensive.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
Agreed. As I’ve said, I’m not any sort of expert in what makes officers most safe. I can read experts in articles, etc., but that’s not the same as being intimately familiar with the state of the research. Based on the little I know, I think this is worth doing, but I’m not going to say I know exactly how it will turn out in practice. Even if done well it’s always positive, as you say with charter schools, humans being humans it won’t always be done well.
What does it take to do it well? Is it possible to do it well sufficiently frequently to make the failures worth it? These are things that not being an expert I think we will probably only know after some real world attempts.
I understand this impulse, and I think it’s what we should tend towards absent other factors.
However, have you considered that when a business goes bankrupt from incompetent management, the line workers are “punished” because of group membership and nothing else? Should the government buy bankrupt businesses and keep them going merely so that group members can keep their jobs?
I think losing one’s job is fundamentally different, not least because governments shutter departments and business go belly up all the time. So I think – and maybe you disagree – that the initial mass firing as a hypothetical police department is emptied out for the purposes of a fresh start is not an illiberal punishment as we’re understanding that term here.
So we’re back at blacklisting alone: and I understand you oppose that, and that’s fine. I’m not saying you’re bad or wrong. However, I think that we have a duty to ensure that the people we authorize to kill at their own discretion ought to be exquisitely trained. We clearly do not have that in the US today. I don’t think that the problem in Phoenix is larger than the problem in Baltimore (because holy fuck, Baltimore, right?), but I don’t have any problem with state government saying to a large group of folks at some agency where misconduct is rampant, “Clearly the training standards and background checks that allowed officers at your department were lacking. We’re dramatically increasing minimum state standards for certification. We’re also revoking your current certifications, but you’re welcome to apply for new certification under the new, more stringent standards.”
Maybe this isn’t the type of thing you oppose, since there’s an individual process for recertification. Maybe it is, because decertification happens first and the individual process is to get certification back rather than prevent its loss.
In any case, I think that this would probably be considered by many to be blacklisting in the colloquial sense, and might be considered by some to be group punishment for the department’s failings, but I think that this is a completely reasonable response. The problems of too many law enforcement agencies have been too resistant to change for too long.
Crip Dyke @ 48:
I think we see very much eye to eye, but are approaching the issue from different angles. As somebody who has been subject to illegitimate attempts to fire me and has seen several friends subjected to the same, I am rather keen on justice for employees.
“However, have you considered that when a business goes bankrupt from incompetent management, the line workers are “punished” because of group membership and nothing else?”
Of course: and I’ve been laid off several times in the software industry as things shake out due to competition, as opposed to incompetence. This is why we have things such as unemployment insurance, rather than government support for failing businesses. Additionally, is a good jobs environment, that “punishment” is relatively light. It wouldn’t be light in a case of blacklisting. Keep in mind that people train for extensive periods to become police officers, and being blacklisted can unjustly render their hard-earned skills valueless.
“the initial mass firing as a hypothetical police department is emptied out for the purposes of a fresh start is not an illiberal punishment as we’re understanding that term here.”
PZ’s INTENT is pretty clearly punishment: hence the blacklisting. But the assumption that today’s norms of hiring and firing fit well with liberal principles is not justified. We can point to many societies (such as Japan) where lifetime employment is the norm, rather than the churn in the USA. We are perfectly capable, as liberals, at looking at companies going belly up as a bad thing and finding solutions to the harms from it. And we are perfectly capable of looking at mass firings as being a management abuse of workers, even if it is a common practice today.
“because holy fuck, Baltimore, right?”
“I think that we have a duty to ensure that the people we authorize to kill at their own discretion ought to be exquisitely trained.”
No problem with that, and a recertification process is a good way to go. However, it should be gradual and fair: something that blacklisting is not. For example, announcing that recertification will be required within X years, and stating clearly the rules for recertification and alternative standards for decertification such as abusive behavior. Another alternative, that you may not like, is grandfathering some certifications: this has happened a lot in education and was necessary for union approval. People, if they can change, need time and training to make the changes.
Gadzooks! We’re discussing this civilly and with much agreement! Isn’t that a sign that the world is coming to an end?
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
How do those boots taste?
PZ Myers says
“illiberal.” Gosh. The thing is, I think we’re way beyond “liberal” vs “conservative”. We’re in a country rapidly transforming into a corrupt, fascist state in which the police are some of the tools of violence and murder used by that state to enforce oppression. A finger-wag and a tut-tut that the opposition isn’t being nice doesn’t have quite the moral force it used to.
“A finger-wag and a tut-tut that the opposition isn’t being nice doesn’t have quite the moral force it used to.”
Oh, is that your excuse for violating the individual rights of your political opponents? In a way that could easily be turned against you by that same fascist state? Haven’t Republicans been howling for liberal colleges to be shut down? Surely you wouldn’t mind being fired and blacklisted.
“illiberal” in the sense of violating ideas of philosophical liberalism is not the opposite of “liberal” in the modern political sense as the opposite of conservative.
False balance. Look, a rhetorical expression of justifiable anger, however hyperbolic, isn’t a call for violating anybody’s “individual rights.” (Let’s keep in mind whose rights were probably violated here.)
But feel free to continue making your own hyperbolic assertions. I promise that I for one won’t feel violated, only amused. I’ve seen Russian trolls do a better job of dissembling.
And I probably don’t need to say it, but nobody is going to disband the police–clean house maybe, but not disband. I don’t see that this is a situation like ICE, which can have its functions maintained but administratively redistributed in a major reorganization.
stroppy @ 54:
If PZ wanted to say he was being hyperbolic, he would. He can defend himself just fine without your pretended mind reading.
You sound like all those Trump apologists, saying he didn’t mean those things, it was only rhetoric. Gonna say “alternative facts” soon?
We’re probably agreed about ICE.
For pity sake! The thing about figures like hyperbole, you don’t have to attach explanatory riders every time you use it. Otherwise why bother?
As for the continued false equivalence. What exactly are you accusing PZ of? How do you think I should characterize your own use of hyperbole?
Trump is often hyperbolic. What distinguishes Trump is that he’s also a corrupt, solipsistic arsehole. That people couldn’t figure this out from the beginning is on them: The Emperor has no clothes! Who knew!
Getting bored now.