Yet another demonstration of the need to defund the police


I never want to see what the local police are saying about the citizens they “serve and protect”. I suspect that some of it will be like what was exposed when text messages between Eureka, CA police officers were leaked. It’s a lot of contempt for the homeless and mentally ill, sexual descriptions of women they see on the street, and macho promises to shoot and beat hippies, drug addicts, and protesters.

Among the most appalling stories there was that the local public health department was asking these untrained, unprofessional, abusive thugs to check up on people who contracted COVID-19. The police called them “outbreak monkeys”. And these are the people expected to aid public health officials? Inappropriate much?

Take away a big chunk of the money spent on assholes with guns and recommit it to EMTs and social workers and people who actually know something other than how to threaten and harm others. At least some people are aware of what needs to change.

Banter like that captured in the Eureka text messages shows the rare, unvarnished reality of how some officers view their work, said Stinson, who used to work for a police department himself.

“This is the police subculture of that agency unmasked,” Stinson said. “This is the officers in their natural habitat, talking amongst themselves. It’s an us-versus-them mentality. It’s a sexualized environment where policing is violent. It’s ugly.”

The messages also show an environment resistant to change in the city, which for years has also struggled with a swell of drug abuse, homelessness and overwhelmed social services.

One officer in the Eureka texts appeared to ridicule efforts to ban chokeholds and other deadly restraints against suspects. In one text exchange, an officer shared a YouTube video about “control techniques” being barred in New York City. “(Gov. Gavin) Newsom is already j—- off with excitement hoping he can get it here I’m sure,” another officer wrote.

“At the end of the day, whether somebody was joking or not joking, or intended to to be offensive or not, we have to be responsible and accountable for our words and our actions,” Watson said. “And we have to be careful that everything that we do on and off duty reflects in a positive light, that reinforces trust with our community.”

Robinson, the former chief in Phoenix, said comments like those in the text messages are detrimental to the good work the vast majority of law enforcement officers are trying to do — especially given the recent reckoning facing law enforcement.

He said, based on the text messages, they need a cultural change.

Yeah, right. Two of the officers responsible for some of the worst messages have been put on paid leave; their co-conspirators in the department are probably just waiting for the heat to die down so they can put them back on the streets.

Comments

  1. says

    Robinson, the former chief in Phoenix, said comments like those in the text messages are detrimental to the good work the vast majority of law enforcement officers are trying to do

    Assumes facts not in evidence, counselor. How does this happen with some mythical, virtuous majority in supposed existence? What are they doing while this happens? Are they silent? They sit back and allow this to go on around them?

  2. raven says

    This points up one of the main problems with the police in cities.
    Much of what they do isn’t really police work.
    Much of what they are called on to do, they don’t have to training to do either.

    These include the usual, dealing with the homeless, mentally ill, runaways and pushouts, drug addiction, welfare checks, domestic disputes, and so on.

    To take just one example, the mentally ill. We used to have mental health programs that would aid people unable for one reason or another to take care of themselves. Ronald Reagan was famous for dismantling the one in California. A lot of people ended up dead after he shut down the state system. The idea was to transfer the patients to community centers. Those community centers never even existed!!! They literally ended up on the streets.

    Strangely enough, there are solutions to this.
    Eugene Oregon has an innovative program.

    White Bird Clinic.org
    OCTOBER 29, 2020
    What is CAHOOTS?
    31 years ago the City of Eugene, Oregon developed an innovative community-based public safety system to provide mental health first response for crises involving mental illness, homelessness, and addiction. White Bird Clinic launched CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) as a community policing initiative in 1989.

  3. raven says

    This program is inexpensive, works well, and saves the city of Eugene a lot of money.
    It’s a good alternative to criminalizing mental illness and poverty.

    The tl;dr version.
    The CAHOOTS teams deal with a wide range of mental health-related crises, including conflict resolution, welfare checks, substance abuse, suicide threats, and more, relying on trauma-informed de-escalation and harm reduction techniques. CAHOOTS staff are not law enforcement officers and do not carry weapons;
    and
    In 2017, the CAHOOTS teams answered 17% of the Eugene Police Department’s overall call volume. The program saves the city of Eugene an estimated $8.5 million in public safety spending annually.

    The CAHOOTS model has been in the spotlight recently as our nation struggles to reimagine public safety. The program mobilizes two-person teams consisting of a medic (a nurse, paramedic, or EMT) and a crisis worker who has substantial training and experience in the mental health field. The CAHOOTS teams deal with a wide range of mental health-related crises, including conflict resolution, welfare checks, substance abuse, suicide threats, and more, relying on trauma-informed de-escalation and harm reduction techniques. CAHOOTS staff are not law enforcement officers and do not carry weapons; their training and experience are the tools they use to ensure a non-violent resolution of crisis situations. They also handle non-emergent medical issues, avoiding costly ambulance transport and emergency room treatment.

    A November 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine estimated that 20% to 50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involved an individual with a mental illness. The CAHOOTS model demonstrates that these fatal encounters are not inevitable. Last year, out of a total of roughly 24,000 CAHOOTS calls, police backup was requested only 150 times.

    The cost savings are considerable. The CAHOOTS program budget is about $2.1 million annually, while the combined annual budgets for the Eugene and Springfield police departments are $90 million. In 2017, the CAHOOTS teams answered 17% of the Eugene Police Department’s overall call volume. The program saves the city of Eugene an estimated $8.5 million in public safety spending annually.

  4. says

    Banter like that isn’t just inappropriate for cops. It’s inappropriate for any man in a position of authority to talk like that. That’s straight up hardcore toxic masculinity. Saw it all the time in the service industry. Had an old boss who encouraged that kind of talk. We fired him for sexual harassment EVENTUALLY. Now he makes 6 figures as a restaurant GM. BTW he works for Rogue Brewing. I will never buy their beer again because of that one single man. I’m sorry if I ruined your Dead Guy Ale, but enabling that kind of corporate culture is not something I would ever do.

  5. wzrd1 says

    I find a solution readily at hand.
    Send them back out on the same duty – unarmed. Utterly disarmed, as UK constables are.
    FOP objectors get the same duty via press gang methods, albeit getting to perform those duties naked. Let them enjoy .22 short jokes from the ‘.38 special’ crowd.

  6. consciousness razor says

    Take away a big chunk of the money spent on assholes with guns and recommit it to EMTs and social workers and people who actually know something other than how to threaten and harm others. At least some people are aware of what needs to change.

    Apparently not many in Congress though. The bill they’re naming after George Floyd which passed again in the House would explicitly give them nearly a billion more dollars ($875M by my count) in 2022-2024 to investigate themselves and to conduct studies on how to be less shitty. In addition, they would also be appropriated “such sums as are necessary” (no telling how much, but probably a lot) for reporting incidents which involve the use of force.

  7. says

    @#8, consciousness razor:

    Well, of course. That was what Biden explicitly said the Democrats would do under him if he was nominated. This is a campaign promise he’s keeping, you should write it down to use in his defense! I remember pointing out in several places, back during the primaries, that he wanted to increase police funding using this excuse and people — including some of the Usual Gang of Denialist Democrats on here — telling me I was being too critical.

  8. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The real fix is personal civil and criminal accountability for the cops and their corrupt pals in the prosecutor’s office. This involves two things, both of which society at large doesn’t seem to have the appetite for.

    1- Stop the myth that we need a thin blue line to protect us from anarchy from runaway crime. Some policing is necessary for that, but the kind of military-style policing promoted in TV cop shows is not needed. We need to recreate the rules of engagement for cops. Famously for me, back in circa 1800, there were published manuals on the rules of engagement for their version of cops, and these manuals had extensive and detailed scenarios and examples, and violation of these manuals carried some presumption of fault in court. We need that. We need to write manuals like that today which carry legal weight in court.

    We also need to write those manuals without the “thin blue line” mentality where we are terrified of criminals but not terrified of police. I sincerely believe that a good argument could be made that more unjust violence happens today in the US from the police than from criminals. We need to fear criminals less, and fear police more. This needs to be reflected in the code of conduct manuals that we need to write. I’ll quote this again, just to drive this point home:

    “It always embarrassed Samuel Vimes when civilians tried to speak to him in what they thought was ‘policeman’. If it came to that, he hated thinking of them as civilians. What was a policeman, if not a civilian with a uniform and a badge? But they tended to use the term these days as a way of describing people who were not policemen. It was a dangerous habit: once policemen stopped being civilians the only other thing they could be was soldiers. “ — from Snuff by Terry Pratchett

    We must stop viewing police as something other than civilians with a badge. As much as possible, they should have no special immunities, rights, powers, or other privileges regarding the use of force, detention, arrest, trespass and forced entry for searches, seizure of property, carrying and use of weapons, etc. They really should be civilians with a badge and a uniform, who should rely almost exclusively upon actual honest to goodness warrants in hand from an actual judge or other magistrate for any powers above that of a typical citizen e.g. citizen’s arrest.

    Consider this. Our country used to operate like this for a hundred years, and our country didn’t fall apart before the modern militarization of the police. As recently as 1900, the US Supreme Court defended the common law right of a person to shoot a cop for wrongful arrest – see the case “Bad Elk”. Police used to have to obey the rules of requiring an actual warrant in hand to arrest or rely on citizen’s arrest. Yet we were not overrun with criminals. The idea that we need to militarize our police with special police powers to keep us safe – it is a lie.

    The spoiler is that our modern police forces are the very things that the founders warned us about, and while the founders were highly flawed individuals (who often disagreed on many topics), they were spot-on about this. A modern police force, aka a standing army, is the enemy of the people wherever it exists. It is the enemy of freedom and safety.

    Unfortunately, I suspect that a great many people here will disagree with me, and that they think that “if only they had better training” or “if only they had better oversight”, “then we could invest lots of special police powers in the police”.

    2- Once we accept that we need to radically reform the powers of the police (aka almost completely eliminate the special powers of police), then the second step is to ensure personal accountability in civil and criminal court for individual cops. Civil court accountability is simple – just eliminate qualified immunity and all other “good faith” defenses for actually unlawful acts. The harder part is criminal accountability.

    Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I like to think that access to the courts is the best solution to the problems that we face. Courts are far from perfect, especially because of the time, money, and expertise that it can require to use courts effectively, but I don’t know any better solution that doesn’t at least incorporate a major role for courts. Specifically, by “access to the courts”, I mean a victim-driven process in the courts. The problem that we see here is the government prosecutors are best buds with the police, and do their best to avoid holding police accountable. That’s the second problem.

    Again, maybe I’m fetishizing the past too much, but the founders had a solution to this too. Let me ease you into it. Imagine if someone breaks a contract with you. Imagine how annoying it would be to go to a government official to politely request that they do something about it in civil court on your behalf. Imagine this government official was backlogged and prioritized other things and never got around to it. That’s the problem that we have today with cops and criminal accountability. (Also prosecutors themselves and criminal accountability.)

    What I’m proposing is to bring back the common law right of the victim, family of the victim, and friends of the victim, of a crime to go before a grand jury to appoint a prosecutor (themself or any counsel of their choosing) and seek an indictment to prosecute the case against the named accused in a criminal court. If the victim et al decline, then it reverts to officials of the government of jurisdiction to prosecute. This is a very minor change. Most cases will still be prosecuted by government prosecutors. It’s just in those rare cases where we think that government prosecutors will do a bad job, the victim (or family or friends of the victim) can hire their own lawyer to do the prosecution.

    I tend to think that this victim-driven approach is the best approach, but I’m not convinced that it’s necessary. Perhaps some other solution could be found, but it must address the fundamental problem that prosecutors and cops in the current system become best buddies as a side effect of the system, and therefore we need a systemic change to address this systemic problem.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    The Vicar @9:

    some of the Usual Gang of Denialist Democrats on here

    Can you name some? My memory tells me that folk hereabouts (with notable exceptions including you) understand the difference between “Biden better than Trump” and “Biden good”.

    By the way, how is Dick Cheney working out as Biden”s foreign policy advisor?

  10. billyum says

    Fuhrman’s sin, as far as the LA DA’s office was concerned, was not racism. It was being politically incorrect and lying about it on the stand and getting caught. The DA’s office had been quite content to turn a blind eye to and go along with Fuhrman’s racism for years, as long as he got convictions.

    Defunding the police is not enough. The problem is deeper and broader than that. It’s not just the bad apples, but those who enable them that are at the heart of the problem. OC, we can condemn the criminal justice system and society as a whole, but that does not tell us concrete actions to take.

  11. consciousness razor says

    The Vicar, #9:

    That was what Biden explicitly said the Democrats would do under him if he was nominated.

    I remember. They also voted for the exact same thing last summer, so they clearly haven’t learned anything since.

    (No surprises so far.)

    This is a campaign promise he’s keeping, you should write it down to use in his defense!

    Well, I’ll be kind of busy for the foreseeable future, but maybe if I find the time….

  12. flange says

    In many cases, police officers learn this culture though parents, relatives, and friends who were on the job. A good percentage of these are racist officers who routinely provoke, humiliate, maim, and kill people of color—in other words, they’re assholes. You cannot “train” an asshole to not be an asshole.
    Most police departments need to start over from scratch. Dump the military warrior chain-of-command bullshit. And start with a new mission statement. Maybe, “Helping Our Community.”

  13. says

    I remember pointing out in several places, back during the primaries, that he wanted to increase police funding using this excuse and people — including some of the Usual Gang of Denialist Democrats on here — telling me I was being too critical.

    I’d like to see those quotes, Vicar, because I seriously doubt that people were saying that it was a good decision or that you shouldn’t be critical of that policy. Instead I suspect people were saying that as fucked up as that is, the electoral system of the USA creates constraints on the power of any candidate other than the nominees of one of the 2 major parties, and therefore using this policy issue – completely legit as it is – to vote Trump or decline to vote at all would be foolishness. Simply put: the threat from Trump was and is much greater than the threat from Biden.

    Since we know empirically that it would be impossible to launch a late 3rd party candidate that was better than both and could get the needed electoral college victory, by the time of last summer encouraging people to vote for a 3rd party candidate, or even encouraging people to not vote for Biden, had become a far more dangerous strategy than encouraging people to vote for Biden.

    I loathe Biden from a policy and political history perspective, but I actually understand the empirical facts: Trump was and is more dangerous and he had to be defeated.

  14. publicola says

    Just as the priesthood attracts pedophiles, policing attracts bullies, misogynists, etc. There needs to be much more thorough psychological screening to weed out these types of individuals, and it has to start at the top. There are good cops, just as there are good priests, but if they’re afraid to speak out for fear of backlash and harassment, ( see Frank Serpico,) then the culture can’t be changed from within, only from without. As far as more funding for police, if it has the right strings attached to it, e.g. money to hire psychologists, social workers, etc. who are an autonomous part of the police dept., and who can perform the jobs that police are neither trained for nor adept at, then I say lets try it.

  15. felixmagister says

    Basically, anyone who wants to have power over fellow humans is almost certainly the sort of person who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near such power.

  16. dstatton says

    As an aside, many years ago when I got my first workplace email account, I was told that they are not private communications, and that someone may very well read them someday.

  17. says

    If police officers don’t want people to think that All Cops Are Bastards, perhaps they should start to crack down on those of their colleagues who behave in ways that justify thinking All Cops Are Bastards.

  18. Prax says

    flange @14,

    You cannot “train” an asshole to not be an asshole.

    I mean, you can, we do it with children all the time. Usually it involves a combination of taking away privileges and teaching them that they can protect themselves in ways that don’t involve hurting others.

    Of course that would run completely counter to both current US police training and the average white American’s understanding of what policing is, but it’s not logically impossible. Just send all cops to cop rehab!

    felixmagister @17,

    Basically, anyone who wants to have power over fellow humans is almost certainly the sort of person who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near such power.

    I would qualify power with “unidirectional” there. Almost everyone who goes into health care, education or social services wants to have some degree of power over their fellow humans, but it’s an exchange. I have authority over my classroom, but students are allowed to leave my classroom. I can try to break up disputes, but if I lay a hand on a student while doing it I had better have an extremely good explanation ready for both the administration and the student’s family. It is understood that any power I exercise over students is temporarily granted to me by them and their family, in return for assisting them in achieving their life goals.

    But police deal with Bad Guys, and we’re told that Bad Guys deserve no rights and no consideration. The police officer’s power over the Bad Guy must be absolute–and as you say, anyone who likes the sound of that is probably not actually a Good Guy.

    cubist @20,

    If police officers don’t want people to think that All Cops Are Bastards, perhaps they should start to crack down on those of their colleagues who behave in ways that justify thinking All Cops Are Bastards.

    Individual officers have been known to try. Unfortunately, since The Majority Of Cops Are Bastards Including All The Ones In Charge, whistleblowers don’t last long.

  19. John Morales says

    Prax:

    flange @14,

    You cannot “train” an asshole to not be an asshole.

    I mean, you can, we do it with children all the time.

    Maybe some children, some of the time. The mouldable ones.

  20. snarkrates says

    I haven’t read this yet, but I heard Rosa Brooks interviewed, and she struck me as thoughtful and humane. She is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich and shares many of her mother’s values, so it is an interesting take on a difficult problem.

    https://www.amazon.com/Tangled-Up-Blue-Policing-American/dp/0525557857

    I’ve known good cops. I also know that the way the system is set up, being a good cop is not easy or rewarded.

  21. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    WMDKitty — Survivor
    Note: I agree that in any proper system, good training must be there, as well as a selection process to remove “bad apples”. However, I firmly think that proper training and proper selection process of cops cannot be a substitute for the lack of personal accountability for cops in civil and criminal court.

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