Thoughts on the Breonna Taylor Case and Beyond

Considering Breonna Taylor's death, police shootings, and human rights.

” Dana L. Brown #BLM” by Dana L. Brown is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Note: I had written the bulk of the following yesterday, prior to James Joyner’s most recent post on the subject.

Before getting into a broader convsersation, let me acknowledge context. The death of Breonna Taylor is a tragedy, plain and simple. It was avoidable. The idea of being killed in one’s own home through no fault of your own in the middle of the night is a horrific notion. And regardless of the legalities of the actions undertaken by officers that day, this death adds to the tally of Black Americans unnecessarily killed because the operative paradigm of law enforcement (indeed, overlapping and self-reinforcing paradigms) is warfare.

While the phrases are not deployed as often as they used to be, we are fighting a war on crime and war on drugs. Our mentality is therefore that of warfighting, and the way police act, dress, and equip themselves reinforce those notions.

And a disclaimer: I am not anti-police. I have family members, friends, and former students in law enforcement. I have a family member who is a first responder who is often put in difficult situations and often needs police protection to do his job. I understand, although certainly not as well as some, that these are dangerous jobs. I further acknowledge that we, as a society, out a lot of pressure on them to “keep us safe” often with low pay and inadequate training.

But, the problem is the broader framework of America’s approach to crime. The fact that we wage “war” on crime and “war” on drugs is part of the problem. In war you win by using violence to make your opponent back down, often by killing them. This is a terrible framework for domestic law enforcement. After all, the wars in question aren’t actually fought against crime nor drugs, but against American citizens and human beings.

This an extremely important point. In war one attacks the enemy. The enemy can legally be killed. The enemy doesn’t have civil rights. The enemy is not a fellow citizen.

And I know that law enforcement tries to balance things like Miranda rights and other procedures within this warfare paradigm, but the bottom line remains that the warfighting mentality is not healthy for a situation in which citizens are dealing with citizens. And the bottom line is that suspects (because they are innocent under the law until proven guilty) are still citizens.

Further, battlefields have what is euphemistically called “collateral damage.” In war, innocents are killed and property is destroyed in the process of getting the bad guy. Breonna Taylor was collateral damage in the war on drugs, and worse she died because of her association with someone who might have possibly received drug deliveries at her home who wasn’t even present.

(And before it is noted, but to also risk going well outside my expertise, it is often the case as I understand it that soldiers in the field often have stricter rules of engagement than we see in the case of police).

It is frequently the case that these cases boil down to a moment when an officer feels threatened and they react. So, for example, I am not convinced that Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Philando Castile, had no choice but to shoot Castile. It seems to me that he just as much time to get out of a potential line of fire as he did to pull his weapon and start shooting (after all, Castile was seated in a car with the door closed–and probably still buckled in). I know that that is easy for me to say, but that doesn’t make Castile’s death just. But one thing is clear: the law was one Yanez’s side.

In the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the officers who inadvertently killed her had cause to feel threatened. After all, a shot had been fired. And the law, understandably, allows him to defend himself. And I say that without trying parse whether he should have shot without a clear line of sight and other issues. I am saying this because I have a very hard time seeing any jury convicting a police officer of the consequences of a shootout wherein the police where fired upon first.

I think, however, getting caught up in the exact incident misses the point. While the phrase “defund the police” is fraught, the foundational issue contained within it, I think, is “rethink law enforcement.” We need to rethink, for example, whether it is really necessary to be busting down doors in the middle of the night to find evidence against a small-time drug dealer.

Put another way, to the broader point about officers having to react with deadly force when threatened, how about not creating situations wherein they will very likely be threatened?

I recognize that a point of these types of raids is to catch people unaware so as to possibly forestall violence although it seems more than anything else about stopping them from destroying evidence. However, I also have a hard time believing that this kind of chaos creation, on balance, is really all that safe nor, ultimately, worth it.

Put another way, if officer safety is important (and it should be), maybe these kinds of raids aren’t a very good idea and are just a demonstration of the pernicious influence of a warfighting paradigm. At a minimum, there are a lot of guns out there and a lot of people who have been told they have the right to protect their homes with those guns.

And here is where I will readily note that I am not an expert on such tactics, and will concede that maybe I am missing something (even multiple somethings). But from a straightforward public policy and human rights point of view, I am not sure that the destruction of property and the disruption of lives is anywhere near worth it. Indeed, I know it isn’t. It isn’t like the only person harmed by these actions are criminals. Even if Taylor had not been shot, and even if the ex-boyfriend the police were looking for had been present, there still would have been a busted door and a destroyed apartment at the end of the event.

Is that really justified? Is the war on drugs really worth that collateral damage to people’s lives? Just think for a moment if a family member, unknown to you, was engaged in criminal activity and the police destroyed part of your home in the hopes that some amount of drugs might be found on your property. Or, worse, what if the police got the house wrong or, like in this case, the person they were looking for no longer lived with you?

What if, when you hear the noise at your door, you choose to do what Americans are constantly told they have the right to do and defend yourself with a firearm? That’s what Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker did on the night she died.

It is what Kathyrn Johnson did the night she was killed:

On November 11, 2006, three Atlanta police officers kicked in the door of a home on Neal Street in northwest Atlanta’s English Avenue community. The officers had a no-knock warrant, and they expected to find a drug haven. 

But they were at the wrong house. Instead of drugs, they found 92-year-old Johnston, armed with an old gun she kept for protection.

The elderly woman, frightened by the noise, fired once at the officers. The police officers fired 39 shots back in response. Five of the shots from officers struck Johnston, killing her. Some of the other shots hit the officers as friendly fire.

Source: 11 Alive, Elderly woman killed, baby injured | Prominent cases of no-knock warrants in metro Atlanta, which has other examples.

Of course, there’s a war going on and you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Or something.

Is it really a wonder that people are in the streets? Is it really a surprise that vast segments of our society don’t trust law enforcement? Is it shocking to hear things like “defund the police?”

Is it really any wonder why so many citizens read about these cases ask wonder why it seems that Black lives don’t matter?

We seriously need to rethink how we approach crime and policing and very much need to utterly start over on the topic of drugs.

Governing, indeed, life, is about making choices and setting priorities. We need to think more about the rights of citizens and less about wars on our own citizens. We need to find ways not to put law enforcement in a position wherein fear for their own safety leads to violence. And we need to rethink the laws that end up translating into near impunity for law enforcement to use violence against fellow citizens.

I understand the need to parse out the events of a given shooting, I understand that dispassionate laws govern these processes, not our passions and frustration in the aftermath of these tragedies. But we need to get beyond just asking, was X legal and justified? and ask: what were the steps that got us to X and how can we prevent them? And that isn’t just about doing current policing better, it is about really reconsidering what choices we are making in the first place and what our priorities ought to be.

To move fully into my area of academic expertise, I will note that if I was studying the quality of democratic governance in a country wherein law enforcement was empirically shown to be disproportionately using deadly force against a distinct minority group in that country, that would lead to an assessment to downgrade the quality of democracy in that country. Such outcomes matter in making assessments of democratic quality. While I usually write about other aspects of democratic governance, the reality is that the protection of citizens’ rights is an essential part of democracy. How the majority treats the minority (broadly defined) matters in assessing the quality of democracy.

In a more practical example, I know that in Colombia, in its fights both in the war on drugs but also the war against guerrillas and other subversive groups has frequently led to some pretty horrific collateral damage and this fact is part of why Colombia cannot be said to have a fully realized democratic state. When the state turns its own violent capacities against its own citizens, it needs to be extremely careful. The US is by no means Colombia, but we are not being careful enough in this arena.


To add to the above, I will also recommend Radley Balko’s piece in WaPo: Correcting the misinformation about Breonna Taylor.

I will share his concluding paragraphs, which dovetail with a good deal of what I said above:

To simply blow this off as a tragedy for which no one is to blame is an insult to the life and legacy of Taylor, but also to the dozens of innocent people who have been gunned down in their own homes before her. And the effort by Cameron and others to make all of this go away by feeding the public half-truths that blame the victims in this story — Taylor and Walker — for Taylor’s death is inexcusable.

We could prevent the next Breonna Taylor. We could ban forced entry raids to serve drug warrants. We could hold judges accountable for signing warrants that don’t pass constitutional muster. We could demand that police officers wear body cameras during these raids to hold them accountable, and that they be adequately punished when they fail to activate them. We could do a lot to make sure there are no more Breonna Taylors. The question is whether we want to.

The entire piece, which is lengthy and detailed, is very much worth your time.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Police, US Politics, ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    (And before it is noted, but to also risk going well outside my expertise, it is often the case as I understand it that soldiers in the field often have stricter rules of engagement than we see in the case of police).

    It’s much closer to my expertise and there’s simply no question but that this is true. As I’ve written before, soldiers tend to be better trained, better screened, and better led than police.

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  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    I really like this piece. I like how you look at the broader context, which is the really important part. You can parse over anything and find something that supports any impulse one might have to brush it off. Or you can look at broader, bigger patterns that are disturbing.

    I’ve stayed away from digging into the details of most of these cases, because it seems fruitless – for me, anyway. I already understand that there is a big problem with the mentality and leadership of the police, even while I understand that they have a dangerous job, and would rather not get shot.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    The elderly woman, frightened by the noise, fired once at the officers. The police officers fired 39 shots back in response. Five of the shots from officers struck Johnston, killing her. Some of the other shots hit the officers as friendly fire.

    Do you still have the Picard facepalm graphic? We want to think of the police as trained professionals, but this is a clown act. Flaws in the law aside, they are badly trained and badly supervised.

    Long ago, as a society we told the police part of their job was to keep the lower orders in line. That’s part of what the blue line flag represents. Us v them. But maybe we’re making some progress as a society in reversing the earlier message and telling them that they’re also supposed to serve and protect the Breanna Taylors.

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  4. Jon says:

    @James Joyner:

    As I’ve written before, soldiers tend to be better trained, better screened, and better led than police.

    And yet a large number of police are ex-military, and studies have shown they’re *more* likely to have discharged their firearms during the course of duty than non-ex-military cops.

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  5. Mark Griffith says:

    This is interesting and well thought out but unless we are willing to give up on the war on drugs the last paragraph simply suggests surrender. I am not willing to surrender since I have seen to many people destroyed by drugs so that is not the solution. We must train better but when police are fired on to think they won’t be trained to shoot back is naive. They knocked and then were shot at this is tragic but understandable.

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  6. @Mark Griffith: Thanks for the note, which I appreciate.

    Let me comment on this, however,

    but unless we are willing to give up on the war on drugs the last paragraph simply suggests surrender. I am not willing to surrender since I have seen to many people destroyed by drugs so that is not the solution.

    I would suggest that by using the word “surrender” you are fully buying into the war paradigm to the point that you cannot see other options. War is not the only way to deal with drugs or drug abuse.

    Further, we have been fighting this “war” for at least 50 years (and arguably much longer than that) and have spent billions doing so. Are we really any closer to “winning” than when we started?

    First, we need to recognize, as we partially have with marijuana, that not all drug use is drug abuse (regardless of one’s moral preferences).

    Second, we have to realize that drug abuse is better addressed as a medical/public health problem than a criminal one.

    Third, the war paradigm itself (and even the crime paradigm) is what makes a lot of this violence happen. A lot of gang activity happens because it is the black market in drugs that makes it such a lucrative enterprise.

    And the reality is (and I saw in Colombia and I see it in the US) there is profound collateral damage in the war in the drugs that far outstrips the successes.

    And, really, where is the winning that all of this effort should have produced? The answer is that isn’t there and we really need to rethink how we approach this topic.

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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mark Griffith:

    Question to ask yourself Mark, is the militarization of the police the best way to eliminate the scourge of drug usage?

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  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    The question is whether we want to.

    The answer, sadly is “no.” And in response to gVOR08’s comment about protecting and serving the Brionna Taylors of the world, I doubt that he or she would be surprised by it, but I suspect that we may well be in denial about how many of our fellow citizens would be willing to say that the Brionna Taylors of the city shouldn’t be involved with drug dealers if they want the protection and service of law enforcement.

    And I’m sorry I broke my word not to come back, but I did want to see Dr. Taylor’s take as he doesn’t often comment on this type of issue.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    There are something like 900,000 LEO’s in the United States. 48 were killed feloniously in the line of duty. That’s an annual death rate of 0.000053.

    The annual death rate from car accidents among all 330 million Americans is 0.0001.

    Enough with the poor, frightened police. Real life is not a cop show. These are the ten most dangerous occupations in the US:

    Fishers and related fishing workers – 99.8
    Logging Workers – 84.3
    Aircraft pilots and flight engineers – 48.6
    Roofers – 45.2
    Refuse and recyclable material collectors – 35
    Structural iron and steel workers – 33.4
    Driver/sales workers and truck drivers – 26.8
    Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers – 24
    First-line supervisors and construction trades and extraction workers – 21
    Grounds maintenance workers – 18.7

    Do you see cops on that list? And if we stopped the idiotic drug war they’d be safer still.

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  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: But we have always been at war with Eurasia against drugs.

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  11. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    but I suspect that we may well be in denial about how many of our fellow citizens would be willing to say that the Brionna Taylors of the city shouldn’t be involved with drug dealers if they want the protection and service of law enforcement.

    I think there is a substantial number of people who very much would have that attitude and would at least put part of the blame of her death on her. After all, what did she expect associating with a criminal? But this gets to what I wrote last month: the mentality that being a criminal (or in this case, associating with one) diminishes one’s value and leads many to assume that the victim deserved what they got.

    A root of a lot of this problem is simply that many citizens want to feel safe and they think that fighting a war on crime makes them safe without any regard as to whether that is true or not.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yeah, but if cops were safer, somebody would undoubtedly want them not to all carry guns. Then who’d want to be a cop?

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  13. @Just nutha ignint cracker: We have–at least since the late 19th cenutry.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    @Mark Griffith:

    This is interesting and well thought out but unless we are willing to give up on the war on drugs the last paragraph simply suggests surrender.

    What does winning look like? To take the war metaphor further, we are in a quagmire.

    We aren’t going to eliminate drugs, any more than we can eliminate murder, prostitution, shoplifting or jaywalking. We can keep it at a level we are comfortable with. The war on drugs is fighting a low level insurgency.

    Or to take the metaphor to its logical conclusion, one might even say we are relying upon our military to do policing.

    I am not willing to surrender since I have seen to many people destroyed by drugs so that is not the solution.

    Were they destroyed by drugs, or the situation that led to them turning to drugs? Were they harmed by the drugs themselves, or by the consequences of society’s response to the drugs.

    We need more beds in drug treatment centers. We need to fix the problems that push people towards drugs. We need to fix the criminalization of drug addiction. And we need to go after the suppliers with policing. That’s four knobs, and there are probably more. With a fixed amount of money, do we have the knobs adjusted right to help the most people?

    Also, you used “to” instead of “too”. Are you high? 🙂

    We must train better but when police are fired on to think they won’t be trained to shoot back is naive.

    Totally in agreement.

    They knocked and then were shot at this is tragic but understandable.

    There is significant dispute as to whether the police announced themselves, and body cameras were not turned on.

    One witness out of a dozen, after twice saying the police did not identify themselves, changed their story and said that they shouted “police” once. When someone is beating in your door in the middle of the night, that’s not enough of an identification, assuming that one witness is accurate.

    Part of the training police receive has to be how to handle situations like this, so we can reduce tragedies.

    And to turn on their body cameras.

    Back to the four knobs, I would:

    – decriminalize drug usage. This frees up a lot of money, and means people don’t go to jail, and don’t have a significant criminal record. Make it a misdemeanor or a ticket.

    – use part of the saved money to increase police training, and reform much of that policing — less of a war footing. Eliminate no-knock warrants, with rare exceptions, and train the police in how to do it better. Ensure there is body cam footage of every arrest, across the board — it’s a metric we can monitor and control. People behave better when they know they are being watched, and it would exonerate cops more often than incriminate them.

    – use the rest of the savings for drug treatment. I’d really rather go after the causes, but right now we have a crisis on both ends of the problem, and this is the more solvable crisis.

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  15. JohnMcC says:

    @Mark Griffith: Portugal surrendered. They started needle exchanges and safe zones for self injecting. They decriminalized. They had 4 overdose deaths PER MILLION citizens in 2017.

    Go fight your damn war on somebody else’s street, dude.

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  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mark Griffith:

    An addendum. It should be pointed out that the current wave of opiate addiction was not caused by street level or mid level dealers in the distribution chain and for that matter not even by the large South American and Asian drug cartels, though they are benefiting from it. The current wave was/is propagated by the pharmaceutical companies and pill pushing MD’s. Some have become targets of the cancel culture (yeah), a few have gone to jail, but mostly they are sitting in their mansions trying to deflect blame.

    If you want a juicy target for your righteousness, those should be your target.

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  17. mattbernius says:

    @Mark Griffith:
    Defunding the police and shifting significant amounts of said funding into health care–including substance use disorder treatment is a far more effective way of winning any “war” on drugs than any technique that has been deployed to date.

    The evidence is overwhelming for this. Decriminalization and regulation would also be a critical step forward towards addressing generations of systemic racism and over-policing within communities of color. This would also lead, necessarily, to a demilitarization of our police forces.

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  18. Teve says:

    Everyone in my father’s line has a problem with alcohol. Me, my dad, my granddad, his dad. And there have been studies on animals that have shown that 15% of mammals can’t control their alcohol use. It’s something genetic. Would arresting them, maybe putting them in prison, help anybody? People who have addiction problems need treatment, not incarceration.

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  19. Teve says:

    The GOP has been a scam since before I was in diapers

    “You want to know what this was really all about?” Ehrlichman asked, referring to the war on drugs.

    “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.”

    “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did,” he concluded, according to Baum.

    linky

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  20. JohnMcC says:

    @Teve: Was going to look for that. Thank you. My memory of the ‘drug war’ is that Nixon Is The One.

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  21. James Joyner says:

    @Jon: One imagines the subset of people who leave the military and join police departments are unrepresentative off the military but it’s hard to say.

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  22. mattbernius says:

    @Teve:
    It’s also with nothing that the criminalization of Marijuana also had it’s rooting in 20th century racism:

    https://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/how-did-marijuana-become-illegal-first-place

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  23. Michael Cain says:

    @mattbernius: It’s been interesting in the last few years that the casino industry has been one of the largest contributors against marijuana legalization. Apparently people who have been drinking make bad decisions, people high on weed don’t gamble at all.

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  24. @mattbernius: Indeed, one can link initial concern over opium to anti-Chinese sentiments. Anti-marijuana rules to Mexicans. Cocaine to Blacks back in the early 20th century and on and on.

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  25. Matt says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Car accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in the LEO profession…

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  26. Jon says:

    @James Joyner:

    One imagines the subset of people who leave the military and join police departments are unrepresentative off the military but it’s hard to say.

    Why would one imagine that? From the link I posted above:

    Though 6 percent of the general population has served in the military, 19 percent of police officers are veterans, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data performed by Gregory B. Lewis and Rahul Pathak of Georgia State University for The Marshall Project. Policing is the third most common occupation for veterans, behind truck driving and management.

    I find it hard to believe that the 3rd most common occupation for veterans is somehow only populated by unrepresentative members of the military.

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  27. JohnMcC says:

    @mattbernius: It’s hard to thoroughly account for the criminalization of marijuana without mentioning the federal bureaucracy built to enforce Prohibition having nothing to do after repeal and mentioning prominently also Mr Harry Anslinger. Jus’ sayin’.

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  28. @JohnMcC: Anslinger is a major, major figure in the war on marijuana.

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  29. DrDaveT says:

    Is that really justified? Is the war on drugs really worth that collateral damage to people’s lives?

    One of the key differences between liberals and conservatives is a willingness to understand public policy in terms of its statistical outcomes, rather than as an expression of morality. This can be seen in policy positions on welfare, abortion, drug use, etc.

    Framing the question of how the war on drugs should be prosecuted as being somehow related to the outcomes — whether people are better off in general with or without a war on drugs — immediately marks you as a liberal, and thus disqualifies your opinions in the eyes of conservatives. For them, it doesn’t matter whether everyone is worse off — drugs are evil, and so anything you do to stamp them out is justified. Especially the drugs used by those people.

    Every time a police chief stands up and defense the laws and policies that led to yet another innocent black being murdered, I want to hear them answer one question: What’s the number? How many innocent black lives do you think it is appropriate to sacrifice, on average, in order to save one police life? 10? 100? 1000? We can’t know if we’re getting it right if we don’t know the number.

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  30. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Jon: I’ll take this one Joyner– There is a pecking order to how the military evaluates the talent base of its recruits and assigns them to career fields.

    Lets just say the military police career field gets a few sharp pencils out of the pack–but not a lot of them. Further, talented young people in the career are usually offered the chance to cross train into another career field at about the 10 year point to keep the field from getting overly top heavy.

    So Dr Joyner’s observation mirrors my own–Military Cops—0n average–aren’t the same caliber as other specialties that regularly carry weapons. Compound that with how many of these local departments do not demand the same standards or hold people accountable as they would be in the military–and its really a moot point that many local cops are ex military. They adapt to the institution they are employed by.

    The bottom line is these local police departments are boss hawg operations that local city administrators are afraid to be adversarial with–far easier to let them have their way in poor zip codes. They’re poor, often dont vote, and are black–so that’s an extra bonus.

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  31. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @DrDaveT: Conservatives often have a challenge with non-linear thinking. Illegal Black Markets give exactly the wrong kind of people access to money and power that civil society doesn’t not want with money and power. How many lives did Al Capone, Escobar, El Chapo, (the list goes on and on) ruin. This men would not have had the opportunities to amass the wealth of riches to spread violence, death, and corruption without Gov’t created black markets.

    Since the US ended prohibition, how many people have been killed over liquor as opposed to during prohibition? The drug war is far more damaging than drug use itself. At least people choose to use drugs but many of the drug wars victims did not have a choice–they are fodder grinded up in a machine and spit out.

    We can do better–but only when we get smarter leadership. You can’t solve very problem with a frontal assault.

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  32. JohnMcC says:

    @DrDaveT: Excellent observation. One of those ‘wish I’d said that’ comments.

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  33. Jon says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I appreciate the response, but there is no mention in the study I quoted of the capacity in which the veterans served so we have no way to know if they were military police vs other career fields. The report was about veterans, in general and irrespective of their military career field, who after their military service join civilian police forces.

  34. Pylon says:

    I’d imagine use of weapons in the military is a lot different than in policing. In the military, in a real conflict, often every person at the other end of your rifle is an enemy, so burst firing in a general area occurs a fair bit.

    Police weapons use is supposed to be defensive only. In this case, there was a single person who (justifiably IMO) fired a shot at a group of policemen. They fired in an area, as if there were dozens of enemies, missing the shooter altogether. I think there was more than one reckless use of firearms by the police in that case.

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  35. James Joyner says:

    @Jon: Another article from the Marshall Project suggests that it’s a combination of high rates of PTSD, disproportionate assignments to the sorts of units that are more likely to engage in violent conflict, and laws that give veterans—and especially disabled veterans (including those with PTSD diagnosis)—huge preferences in hiring. Also, it’s worth noting that these veterans are drawn almost entirely from the enlisted ranks.

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  36. Jon says:

    @James Joyner: Oh for sure. No disagreement from me there. I guess the point I was trying to make was more that having military training does not seem to correlate to being a better cop. And, to your point, due to the vagaries of the hiring practices may actually lead to veterans being *less* good candidates in some instances.

    Which, to be fair, was a bit of an unspoken tangent from the original post. It just so-happened that I’d read that article about 10 minutes before seeing Dr. Taylor’s post so it was top of mind.

  37. de stijl says:

    I highly recommend Balko.

    Especially his back catalog of articles and his books.

    He has done yeoman work on this topic since the mid aughts.

  38. Ken_L says:

    A 12 year-old boy, Tamir Rice, was shot dead by police because they feared he was reaching for a handgun in his waistband. In fact, it was a toy. Many people claimed it was the kid’s own fault, because he (or someone) had removed the colored cap that is used to distinguish toys from the real thing.

    That incident seemed to me to demonstrate the core factor which explains police violence in America, namely that they fear every person they encounter is carrying a loaded gun, and it’s not unreasonable for them to hold that fear. In Australia, it would simply not occur to police that a 12 year-old kid in a park had a hand gun. Indeed it would never have occurred to the woman who saw him playing with a toy gun in the street to call 911. That’s because ownership of guns is strictly controlled here, illegal possession attracts very heavy penalties, and very few hand guns are in private hands. The situation is the same in most other countries.

    In other words police violence and police culture in America are by-products of the 2nd amendment. The knowledge that any member of the public might be packing a loaded hand gun naturally inclines police to regard them all with deep suspicion.

  39. @Ken_L: It is very much huge part of the problem.

  40. Pylon says: