An Uncomfortable Comparison

Clips of recent police behavior reminded me far too much of scenes from authoritarian Latin America.

“Protest against police violence – Justice for George Floyd” by Fibonacci Blue is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The behavior of some in law enforcement during this time of crisis is highly disturbing. Indeed, there are so many examples, it is hard to know where to begin, so let me just start with this clip from about a week ago in comparison to a clip from Chile in 1973

Note the following (at about the 1:20 mark) From a documentary about Chile (which fell to a violent military coup in 1973):

Look, I understand there is a world of difference between having a pepper ball shot at you from a paint gun and literally being gunned down in the streets, but the comparison is beyond striking. Moreover, despite the obvious different levels of consequence, the basic brazenness is still the same.

My most fundamental question, especially since this isn’t the only example I have seen, is: what kind of mindset does it take for law enforcement to use force against the press? The answer, quite troublingly, leads back to my post from yesterday.

Here are some other examples that I had bookmarked. There are plenty more where these came from. On the one hand, I recognize the problem with trying to make any solid generalizations from individual clips, but by the same token, we already have a broader context of police actions across space and time that suggest we have serious and rampant problem with too many in law enforcement equating might with right.

What is also disturbing is that these are from across the country (there are tweets from Minneapolis, NYC, Long Beach, DC, Cleveland, and Buffalo). We have a series and deeply embedded problem and these clips are just one manifestation of that problem.

Let me add this one, which is not violence aimed at the press, but instead at citizens on their own property.

And just in case you haven’t seen it, the incident in Buffalo:

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Latin America, US Politics, World 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. Stormy Dragon says:

    One important subsequent detail with the Buffalo clip you may not be aware of: after the two officers involved were suspended for the incident, all 57 other officers in the unit resigned to protest the fact those two were being held accountable (they’re still on the force and getting paid, but are not in the riot unit anymore).

    That kind of shows how the “few bad apples” argument is a lie. The entire police culture is so completed rotted that I don’t think anything short of a full on “denazification” campaign will work at this time. The Police unions need to be busted and every single police officer needs to be fired and the forces rebuilt from scratch. What few “good cops” actually exist can make their case for being allowed to reapply later.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    An activist group has complied a database of videos of police violence.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/george-floyd-public-spreadsheet-police-violence-videos.html

    There are several hundred of them.

    It does look like a police state doesn’t it.

    6
  3. @Stormy Dragon: Yes, I saw that. It is just digusting.

    3
  4. Jen says:

    This is appalling on so many levels. Where do these officers get off behaving like this? I was originally irritated at the calls to “de-fund the police,” but frankly the first thing that needs to go is the funding for all of this riot gear. Strip ’em down to their regular uniforms and let them police without the military-grade protection and crowd dispersal weapons.

    Some of those cops need to get sued, in particular the one who shot the journalist in the throat. Sue the whole city if you can’t determine which officer did it.

    6
  5. Gustopher says:

    What I’ve been unsure of is whether the police are acting this way to avoid scrutiny and hang onto their power, whether this is because of Trumpism trying to “free up the police to do what needs to be done,” or whether activists have worked hard over the past few years to ensure that they can keep the pressure on the police for longer when the next cases of filmed police brutality inevitably arise.

    I suppose the answer is likely all three plus five other things.

    Police in Seattle were always willing to brazenly lie about assaulting people and no one really cared — police lie, what can you do? — but the increased pressure and scrutiny has them pushing back hard which creates more scrutiny. Members of the city council went to the barricades last night to put themselves between the police and the protesters the police were attacking. Good times.

    The SPD posted a picture of an improvised incendiary device that they found at the protests. It was a candle.

    Even if you call a candle an incendiary device, it’s not improvised.

    8
  6. Lounsbury says:

    @Stormy Dragon: And you should mandate unicorns for all.

    Realistic reforms for your local police systems are not going to involve mass firings, nor is it realistic to expect union busting will work well.

    1
  7. Gustopher says:

    @Jen:

    Strip ’em down to their regular uniforms and let them police without the military-grade protection and crowd dispersal weapons.

    The regular uniforms in a lot of places have gotten darker and darker over the years, because black is manly and aggressive and each year the blue is a bit closer to black.

    I want them back in pastel blue shirts. Or pink. I would settle for pink.

    7
  8. gVOR08 says:

    Replacing and retraining will accomplish little if the incentives remain the same. Qualified immunity has to go. Police contracts need to be aggressively renegotiated. I have no idea how to address the codependency between cops and prosecutors. The military equipment has to go. I’m spitballing, but there are well thought out programs out there. But unless cops go to jail or are otherwise disciplined for bad behavior, nothing will change.

    10
  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Lounsbury:

    nor is it realistic to expect union busting will work well

    I keep hearing from Republicans about how well it’s worked for other industries, why not for law enforcement?

    17
  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @gVOR08:

    have no idea how to address the codependency between cops and prosecutors.

    Break up the crime investigation and the maintaining public peace functions of the police into two organizations: investigators in the prosecutors office investigate crimes and police are reduced to purely “observe and report” function. Most importantly, the police no longer have the power to arrest people, just to call a prosecutor investigator to come out and do it. It also means that when the police misbehave, they’re not investigating their own misbehavior.

    On the flip side, the prosecutor investigators aren’t wandering around looking for trouble, they can’t get involved unless some third party asks them to be.

    4
  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Lounsbury: So basically, you’re a “go along to get along” guy?

    @Gustopher: I like it! Pink IS the new black, you know.

    3
  12. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    The idea of an independent investigative force is an interesting one. But the problem with taking away the arrest function from cops and giving it to someone who has to be summoned to make the arrest could present problems. Some crimes-in-progress need to be stopped quickly, and that’s best done by taking the perpetrator into custody. Getaways need to be prevented. And…who detains the arrestee while the cops and the arrestee are waiting for the party who can effect the arrest to appear?

    4
  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    Some crimes-in-progress need to be stopped quickly, and that’s best done by taking the perpetrator into custody.

    1. If the police come upon someone committing a murder, rape, etc. they don’t need arrest power to stop it, they have the same power any other member of the public has to stop it.
    2. Police very rarely stop crime in progress as it is (go look at the clearance rates on property crimes). This is just held out as an excuse to justify the actual reason they want arrest power
    3. Police use arrest powers far more as a way of punishing the public for being insufficiently obedient then to stop actual crimes in progress.

    Getaways need to be prevented.

    Why? If the criminals have fled, peace has been restored and the crime is no longer in progress. The investigators can figure out who they were and arrest them later.

    11
  14. Mu Yixiao says:

    Just a note: Saying “all police are X” falls under the same umbrella as saying “All persons of Y race are X”.

    The notion that “all police are bad” is wrong. It’s based on prejudices and stereotypes. A lot of those come from our views of urban areas. About 80% of the US population lives in urban areas. I can’t be arsed to look up the data, but I’m betting that 80% of the police departments in the US don’t qualify as “urban”. Painting “Mulberry” with the same brush as NYC is wrong.

    I disagree with James about the Electoral Collage (though we do agree on some compromises). This is one of the reasons why. If the federal government starts dictating how police forces operate (besides violating the 10th, and probably 9th Amendments and sections of the main Constitution that I’m too tired to look up), they’ll do so based on NYC, LA, DC, Chicago, and a handful of other major cities. Situations like this are why rural America needs an equivalent representative voice.

    Our small city (3k) got a new police chief about a year ago (he spent 6 months as an interim Chief while serving as a county deputy, and then was officially offered the job). I interviewed him for the paper I publish. This comment stood out:

    Our goal is to keep people safe, allow their free movement throughout society without risk of harm, that obviously requires that rules and safety [protocols] be followed. So, unfortunately, at times we find ourselves having to enforce those things.

    (emphasis added)

    A couple months ago, we hired a new lieutenant. He described his approach in the same way.

    Every week, I get a list of all recorded event from our city police. The last one (encompassing 10 days) was composed of:

    138 incidents. The overwhelming number of which involved officers looking out for our community. And even with 26 traffic stops, only 4 tickets were issued.

    We had a “protest” on Friday evening. It was about 100 people standing around the 4-corners on Main Street. The Chief of Police and the Lieutenant leaned up against a storefront and chatted with passers-by. The only complaint they had was that a dumpster fire and a request for assistance from a nearby LEA prevented them from participating in a donation drive for the local food bank.

    My uncle was a cop in Chicago. I have no doubt that he was as dirty as they come. I wouldn’t blink an eye if someone told me he’d kill a hundred people just to make his job easier–though he’d have been motivated by money rather than racism.

    Bad cops exist. They need to be removed from power and aggressively prosecuted where appropriate (and it’s almost always appropriate).

    Passive cops exist. They look the other way because they’re afraid, they don’t want to rock the boat, or they
    “don’t have the balls” to do it themselves. They need to be taught the error of their ways where possible, and removed from the force where not.

    Good cops exist. We need to support them, promote them, and hold them up as examples. We need to put them in positions of influence and assure that they have the authority and power to make the changes that need to happen.

    The instant you believe “all X are bad” is the instant you become the enemy of justice.

    8
  15. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    No, prevented. That means the perpetrator would be stopped from fleeing/escaping.

    1
  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    Interesting data point: Police response time is NEGATIVELY correlated with clearance rate:

    http://www.restud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/DetectedResponse09.pdf

    Places where the police take longer to show up are actually more likely to solve the crimes than those that have super fast responses.

    1
  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Actually, ignore that last comment, I misread the paper. That data point actually argues in favor of CSK’s side of the argument.

    For some reason my mind turned “increase in response time” into “improvement in response time”.

    1
  18. Northerner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The Police unions need to be busted and every single police officer needs to be fired and the forces rebuilt from scratch.

    Interestingly enough many in both the far left and in the far right agree with this. Those in the far left advocating abolishing the police are suggesting that closing police departments will allow the money to go into social programs that will eliminate the social causes of crime (violent and non-violent), making enforcement unnecessary. Whereas those on the far right are saying closing police departments will lead to vigilante violence which they feel (very mistakenly I suspect) will benefit them and their firearms.

    My guess is both would be very surprised by just how chaotic a state without any law enforcement agency would be. And how quickly the police would be replaced by local warlords keeping order.

    The police in America are out of control, and need to be sharply pulled back and demilitarizes. But abolishing them is likely to lead to increased violence, especially given the number of firearms out there.

    If there’s no police, then its up to each citizen to decide which laws to enforce or to ignore. I can’t imagine how that would turn into anything but chaos.

    5
  19. CSK says:

    Abolishing police forces wholesale is probably not a great idea. The Montreal Police Strike of 1969 (look it up) is a pretty good illustration of that.

    5
  20. mattbernius says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    One important subsequent detail with the Buffalo clip you may not be aware of: after the two officers involved were suspended for the incident, all 57 other officers in the unit resigned to protest the fact those two were being held accountable (they’re still on the force and getting paid, but are not in the riot unit anymore).

    Yes. And further, due to police union contracts and systems of arbitration, it is unlikely that any of them will be able to be fired for this act. Which get’s to the underlying issues with @Mu Yixiao good/passive/bad formulation — its focused on individual performance versus structural issues. The reality is that the combination of qualified immunity and forced arbitration (not to mention a national registry of “bad” actors) creates a system that literally incentivizes the worst performance. Take this as an example:

    https://reason.com/2018/10/12/fla-worst-cop-german-bosque-reinstated/

    Or the fact that prosecutors regularly maintain lists of “Brady cops” — officers that they cannot call to testify due to repeated Brady violations (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brady_disclosure) but that the departments cannot fire.

    Hell, we keep seeing things like this:

    The Fort Lauderdale patrol officer who inflamed a tense demonstration on Sunday, knocking over a seated protester just before a peaceful protest against police abuse turned violent, has been reviewed by internal affairs for using force 79 times in his roughly three-and-half years on the force, according to department records.

    Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article243234261.html#storylink=cpy

    “The Green Lantern/one good cop” system of police improvement fails under the current system. There is little incentive to stick your neck out to be “good” when there is no effective way of eliminating the bad officers in most cases. Which, ironically is what the “one bad apple” thing is all about: “As one bad apple spoils the others, so you must show no quarter to sin or sinners.” (https://www.npr.org/2011/05/09/136017612/bad-apple-proverbs-theres-one-in-every-bunch)

    And it will continue to fail especially given how fragmented our criminal justice systems are.

    IIt’s sweet and all that you want the government’s hands-off your local police force. It’s even better that you’re willing to excuse how badly policing needs to be reformed everywhere else (and how many people are being hurt in the process), and actively fight against wide spread change, in order to preserve your local autonomy.

    That’s said, that has historically been the Conservative position and part of the reason why, at the Federal level, no one has had a spine to try and push even the most basic legislative regulation.

    4
  21. mattbernius says:

    Also, it needs to be stated that the meaning of de-fund the police and police abolition varies widely from group to group. I would highly recommend reading this piece in the Atlantic which is a well source explainer on the topic:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/defund-police/612682/

    The reality as well is that due to Federalism, the ability to defund (or even regulate) police forces will most likely fall to the states or large municipalities. There is very little that Congress can actually do to regulate state and local police forces (beyond things like eliminating Qualified Immunity). Further, the structure of Congress, and in particular the current positioning of the Republican party makes it highly unlikely that anything will happen (especially in an election year).

    The US is unique among most modern democracies in how decentralized our criminal justice systems are. So the reality is instead of doing this once, like you would in most major countries, we have to do it approximately 17,985 different times (unless State governments are willing to step in).

  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jen:
    @Northerner:

    The idea of tearing down the current police organization and starting fresh has been successfully tried. Camden NJ PD had one of worst reputation in the country, when it was decided to get rid of it and start over. Some departments can be reformed, others, like Minneapolis, need to start fresh. It really will be on a case by case basis.

    5
  23. Northerner says:

    @CSK:

    Abolishing police forces wholesale is probably not a great idea. The Montreal Police Strike of 1969 (look it up) is a pretty good illustration of that.

    Thanks, I never heard of that. I’m surprised it was that bad though — I guess there’s a reason police usually aren’t allowed to go on strike.

  24. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Northerner:

    My guess is both would be very surprised by just how chaotic a state without any law enforcement agency would be. And how quickly the police would be replaced by local warlords keeping order.

    Again, I think the “without heavy police presence, we’ll decay into anarchy” is largely police propoganda. The fact is the vast majority of crimes never get solved. The nationwide clearance rate for robbery, for example, is 13%. If you get robbed, all the police do is show up and give you a piece of paper you can give to the insurance company that says, “yes, this guy was robbed”.

    Crime is low because most people aren’t criminals and can be more successful without preying on the rest of their community, not because they’re afraid of the police stopping them.

    8
  25. Northerner says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The idea of tearing down the current police organization and starting fresh has been successfully tried. Camden NJ PD had one of worst reputation in the country, when it was decided to get rid of it and start over. Some departments can be reformed, others, like Minneapolis, need to start fresh. It really will be on a case by case basis.

    I think that makes a lot of sense. However, its very different than abolishing the police, which some people are advocating. In the long term diverting money from police into social services might well remove (or at least reduce) the need for policing (ie law enforcement), but I suspect that affect won’t be instantaneous, and going cold turkey on law enforcement (again, abolishing police) is likely to turn out like CSK’s link.

  26. Northerner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Crime is low because most people aren’t criminals and can be more successful without preying on the rest of their community, not because they’re afraid of the police stopping them.

    Its possible. I’ve read there were no police until the 18th century, and yet there wasn’t anarchy everywhere. I’m not so sure though — suppose only 5% of the population is given to using violence. How do you stop them, especially given the firearms already available in America? Putting in gun control is a non-starter, since you need enforcement to get the guns in the first place, as its clear most owners won’t voluntarily give up their firearms.

    The mechanism I think would happen (just judging by what happens in places where the state breaks down) is that people will band together for protection, and those bands begin competing with each other — in the end we’ll have replaced a central enforcement agency (the police) with armed private organizations. I have my doubts that it’d be an improvement.

    It’d be interesting to run an experiment (which might happen as it is). Some cities abolishing police (ie firing the police and not replacing them), some keeping them. The results would show the pro’s and cons of both approaches — and like most things in life, its probably a trade-off, both will have advantages and disadvantages.

    2
  27. CSK says:

    @Northerner:
    Same thing (more or less) happened when the Boston Police Department went on strike in 1919 over their right to unionize and better pay and working conditions (both the latter were dreadful). Calvin Coolidge, who was governor of Mass. at the time, called in the National Guard, but not before some heavy duty looting had occurred. Coolidge said: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” His actions in this instance helped launch him into the presidency of the U.S.

    The pay for a Boston cop at the time was 29 cents an hour.

    2
  28. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    Abolishing police forces wholesale is probably not a great idea. The Montreal Police Strike of 1969 (look it up) is a pretty good illustration of that.

    “We need to keep the current police force because they’re the only thing keeping the police’s supporters themselves from rioting” is not the knockout argument you seem to think it is.

    1
  29. Bill says:

    Call me crazy if you want.

    Matters are getting worse not better. Events are cascading on one another. Police violence on unarmed protestors and on video(!!) and an unhinged man in the oval office are making things worse.

    One of two things could very well happen

    This country has a revolution

    or

    coup d’é·tat

    Both could happen.

  30. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Northerner:

    Some cities abolishing police (ie firing the police and not replacing them), some keeping them.

    I’m not saying to get rid of all law enforcement and replace them with nothing. I’m saying get rid of the current law enforcement because it’s obviously completely out control of the law and the past few weeks have made it obvious they’ll violent resist even modest attempts at reform.

    4
  31. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Where did I make that argument? I do think that doing away with the police entirely is a bad idea, because then the bad guys run wild unchecked, as the Boston and Montreal examples demonstrate. But you’ll have to show me, by which I mean point out for me, exactly where I said: “We need to keep the current police force because they’re the only thing keeping the police’s supporters from rioting.” In fact, I don’t believe I even implied this.

    2
  32. Stormy Dragon says:

    @CSK:

    The Montreal example you gave: after police went on strike, police supporters in the taxi drivers union and police aligned biker gangs rioted and attack organizations opposing concessions to the police union (which included letting them basically ignore FQL terrorism).

    2
  33. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    So that translates into “we need to keep the current police force because they’re the only thing keeping the police’s supporters from rioting”????

    I’ll be damned. You learn something new every day.

    6
  34. Monala says:

    @Jen: There is also a journalist who was shot in the eye by police using rubber bullets, and is now blind. And apparently, shooting journalists in the eyes is a tactic that has been employed by police during protests in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Chile.

    2
  35. Kathy says:

    @Northerner:

    It’d be interesting to run an experiment (which might happen as it is). Some cities abolishing police (ie firing the police and not replacing them), some keeping them.

    It’s possible we may have answers sooner rather than later:

    Minneapolis city council pledges to defund city’s police department

    Most of Minneapolis City Council pledges to ‘begin the process of ending’ police department

    2
  36. Monala says:

    @Stormy Dragon: A recent Twitter thread asked people to share their experiences calling the police to deal with a crime, and how effective (or not) it was. The overwhelming response was that either the police were no help at all, or made the situation worse.

    Here are my stories, in which the police were no help at all:

    1) In my early teens, my family was watching TV one night, when our front window suddenly smashed in by what sounded like a bullet. (It turned out to be a rock). We called the police, who insisted that it must have been a boyfriend of my sister or me. My mother said that we didn’t date, and the cops just laughed. But it was true: at that time in our lives, my sister and I were shy, nerdy girls who had never dated. When my sister and I wouldn’t identify any so-called “boyfriends” who it might be, the cops left. (We later found out from kids at school that it was a boy we knew who was mad because my dad caught him getting high, and had told his mom).

    2) In my 20s, I was mugged while walking home from the subway late one night. The mugger, who stole my purse, was a young white guy. A middle-aged white man was driving by and witnessed it. He stuck around while I called the police. When they arrived, we both described the mugger. The cops kept trying to get us both to say that the mugger was Hispanic. We both insisted the guy was white. (The mugger had light brown hair, pale skin, and was tall. The Latinos in my neighborhood were primarily Salvadorans, who tend to be short). Since neither of us were giving the cops the answer they wanted, they shook their heads and left.

    There was never any follow-up by the police about either event, and I’m sure these crimes were low on their priority scale. But I’m also amazed by how they had their idea of what had happened in mind (a boyfriend did it, a Latino did it), and when we wouldn’t go along with it, they made it clear they wouldn’t take what we said seriously.

    11
  37. Teve says:

    the derisive label to attack the news media.

    “The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted.

    “They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs,” he continued. “They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

    linky

    1
  38. Tim says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    all 57 other officers in the unit resigned to protest the fact those two were being held accountable

    Actually, that “unanimous” support was coerced by the police union and definitely wasn’t as stated.

    https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/buffalo/public-safety/2020/06/06/buffalo-mayor–buffalo-police-union-is-on-the-wrong-side-of-history-

    “Spectrum News obtained emails from the president to union members, which said going forward, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association would not pay for ERT or swat members’ legal defense related to protests.”

    https://www.wkbw.com/news/local-news/exclusive-two-buffalo-police-ert-members-say-resignation-was-not-in-solidarity-with-suspended-officers

    The officers we spoke with said the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association’s statement asserting all 57 officers resigned from ERT in a “show of support” with the two officers that were suspended without pay is not true.

    “I don’t understand why the union said it’s a thing of solidarity. I think it sends the wrong message that ‘we’re backing our own’ and that’s not the case,” said one officer with whom we spoke.

    “We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting,” said another.

    4
  39. JKB says:

    When we’re saying “the government should intervene,” we’re saying “an organization with guns should threaten to lock people in cages if they don’t comply with its dictates.”
    –Art Carden, Econlog

    And if those people choose to resist being locked in a cage, there is a continuum of force employed to insist, as police are not permitted to walk away from resisting arrestees. And if the arrestee happens to slip over intentionally or unintentionally to being a reasonably believed imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the police officer or others, then deadly force will be used.

    So first and foremost, repeal all the petty laws and regulations the police are sent forth to enforce. Cops have recently been sent to harass and arrest people who were simply in a park with their child, or alone on a sailboard, without leave of the governor or mayor.

    And these days, you have a lot of Tactical Tommys, who grew up with their idea of police work as what is shown by Hollywood, where constitutional rights are an impediment to keeping the story flowing, arbitrary violence by the “hero” is justified as righteous action, and pretty much all of the cops on TV would be in prison if operating in the real world. Then they are given POST training that emphasizes tactical skills and paperwork. But longer training will mean more funds for the police, not less.

    PS. The Buffalo riot squad all resigned the duty because the police union decided they would not pay for legal assistance for officers for complaints filed as a result of actions taken while on that special detail.

    1
  40. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Kathy:

    It’s possible we may have answers sooner rather than later: Minneapolis city council pledges to defund city’s police department

    Came here to say that. Glad you did. The current militarized prison guards police force is not working.

    It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for ’em

    1
  41. @JKB:

    And if those people choose to resist being locked in a cage, there is a continuum of force employed to insist, as police are not permitted to walk away from resisting arrestees. And if the arrestee happens to slip over intentionally or unintentionally to being a reasonably believed imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the police officer or others, then deadly force will be used.

    None of which has anything whatsoever to do with shoving a 75-year-old to the ground or spraying pepper spray in the face of a reporter already facedown on the ground or, really anything else shown above.

    It certainly does not require kneeling on a man’s neck for nine minutes until he dies.

    10
  42. Northerner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m not saying to get rid of all law enforcement and replace them with nothing. I’m saying get rid of the current law enforcement because it’s obviously completely out control of the law and the past few weeks have made it obvious they’ll violent resist even modest attempts at reform.

    No, you never said that, and I didn’t mean to imply you did. However many (in fairly popular web sites and even national newspapers, as well as among protesters) are saying exactly that. Their model is that enforcement is never necessary, as it can be replaced by spending money on social programs to remove the urge for violence, and sending teams of unarmed negotiators to talk down anyone using violence for any reason. I think they’re naïve, but as Kathy pointed out, we may find out soon.

    On the other hand, firing many (perhaps even most) of current cops in some areas strikes me as a pretty reasonable course of action. Firing all of them — and with that losing everything they’ve learned — strikes me as asking for trouble. There’s a reason even hi-tech start-ups try to hire at least some people with previous development experience.

    2
  43. Mikey says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    The instant you believe “all X are bad” is the instant you become the enemy of justice.

    If there are 100 cops in a room and 1 of them is a bad cop but the other 99 say and do nothing about it, there are 100 bad cops in the room.

    Yeah, there’s an “enemy of justice” thing going on, but it ain’t the people who point this out.

    9
  44. KM says:

    @Tim:

    “Spectrum News obtained emails from the president to union members, which said going forward, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association would not pay for ERT or swat members’ legal defense related to protests.”

    Actually, that’s even worse then if they resigned due to supporting the officers in question. See, if it was a support thing, that means there’s a cultural bias that can be addressed. If the cops think they were being “targeted” because they were being held accountable, that’s something that the public can work with and discussions can be had. We can work on smoothing out hurt feelings or feeling persecuted because Cop A isn’t a “bad cop” when we’re rooting out Cop B.

    *However*, if they’re not willing to do the job because they’re not going to get free legal /defense help, it means they’re expecting to have to use it. If you’re not out roughing people up, you’re not getting hit with assault charges. If you do your job RIGHT, then you don’t get hit with lawsuits. When told there’s no get out of jail free card anymore for bad behavior, it seems nobody wants to play. Wonder why that is???

    5
  45. mattbernius says:

    I really recommend the John Oliver show on Defund the Police for those who haven’t taken the time to wrap their head around the concept. Even if you don’t think you agree with it wholesale, it’s worth listening to and engaging with as a thought experiment (if nothing beyond that):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf4cea5oObY&feature=youtu.be

    3
  46. KM says:

    @Mikey :

    If there are 100 cops in a room and 1 of them is a bad cop but the other 99 say and do nothing about it, there are 100 bad cops in the room.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    The Banality of Evil concept is that while one doesn’t intend good or evil as they are merely “following orders”, evil results from that behavior. Most people are reactionary and don’t really want to take decisive action to address issues. They will uncomfortably let something happen even as it bothers or even actively offends them. Standing by while someone is being “bad” is something that happens in everyone’s daily life – how many people have heard someone say something terrible and bit their tongue or watched a couple fight knowing there’s a chance it will turn violent when they’re out of the public’s eye? How many people call in the licences plates of speeders or report people they know are pulling frauds (disability or Medicare come to mind)? Because it’s so common, we collectively like to pretend that doesn’t make us complicit – we’re not “bad”, it just wasn’t our place to intervene.

    That’s why you’ll get pushback on this concept. You’re not saying they’re all “bad” in the same way but they’re not “good” as they are letting “bad” happen. “Bad” is a vague, broad concept that encapsulates assaulters to those who keep quiet and don’t report the assault. Since the job of the police is to deal with crime, anyone who lets crime go unaddressed is by definition *not* a good cop. It’s not a judgment call or stereotype; it’s them failing to meet the criteria of their jobs.

    4
  47. Northerner says:

    @Mikey:

    If there are 100 cops in a room and 1 of them is a bad cop but the other 99 say and do nothing about it, there are 100 bad cops in the room.

    Does that apply to other groups as well? Conservatives have used that argument to say for instance that any Muslim that didn’t condemn terrorism was pro-terrorist. Or that the family of say a gang member who doesn’t go to the police are themselves criminals. I’ve always maintained that guilt by association is a very bad concept, but its interesting how its making a comeback today. Being silent on any number of issues is being seen as being on the wrong side of it. By that measure everyone is guilty of a vast number of evils, given the thousands of worthy causes out there, too many for everyone to speak out meaningfully on.

    2
  48. MarkedMan says:

    @KM:

    *However*, if they’re not willing to do the job because they’re not going to get free legal /defense help, it means they’re expecting to have to use it.

    In general, I’m not defending the police but I think in this specific case it’s more complicated. Whether you are a doctor, or a tour guide, or a plumber, you need to have insurance to cover cases where people believe you are at fault, whether that belief is correct or incorrect. Even the best doctor would refuse to treat patients if they were unable to obtain malpractice insurance. Most doctors have been sued and even if the suit is without merit they can spend their entire life savings in defending themselves.

    When the union withdrew “insurance” they put the burden of any lawsuit onto the individual officers.

    3
  49. MarkedMan says:

    @Northerner:

    Does that apply to other groups as well?

    I can’t speak to legal requirements, but morally: hell, yes. If you know someone is going to bomb a christian church or shoot an abortion doctor then you should turn them in, at the very least anonymously.

    Personally, I make a partial exception for those people who would be targeted by violent gang members and have reason to be terrified that the police would not be able to keep their involvement quiet. It is telling that the justification of police officers remaining silent is that they view their fellow officers as the “violent gang” in this equation.

    2
  50. KM says:

    @MarkedMan:
    But it’s not being taken away in general, but rather in this specific context. Officers caused a very public issue and now the rest are being told you’re on your own in this scenario. In other words, we know what you’re going to do and we’re not paying for it. Malpractice insurance doesn’t get yanked from a whole hospital and every practicing doctor because of one incident or doctor’s actions. For the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association to take it away from nearly 60 officers in a time when they *really* need it is very telling. Insurance won’t cover you if you’re gonna be a drain and cost them money.

    The BPBA is essentially declaring all these officers have a pre-existing condition. It’s acknowledgment that there’s a problem and they don’t think it should be their problem anymore. As you noted, it’s prohibitively expensive to practice without insurance in case of accident or screw-up. If no one is willing to offer you coverage, what does that say about what they think is going to happen?

    3
  51. mattbernius says:

    @Mikey:

    If there are 100 cops in a room and 1 of them is a bad cop but the other 99 say and do nothing about it, there are 100 bad cops in the room.

    Again, I think this focus on individuals misses the bigger issue (and in doing so takes us down the wrong path). Ultimately this shouldn’t be us asking if X cop is good or bad. Rather we should be looking at whether or not a system incentivizes certain behaviors and whether or not the results are good or bad for the community.

    The current system, by and large, incentivizes (at best) ignoring bad behavior. It does this through things like Qualified Immunity and forced arbitration. The ultimate effect is one where there is no incentive and often high risks for trying to deal with “bad cops.” See for example: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvaqa3/buffalo-cop-loses-job-and-pension-after-she-intervenes-with-fellow-officer-choking-a-suspect

    Additionally, one other big problem is that the “current system” isn’t a singular system. Rather its more or less 17,000+ individual systems. Which makes systemic reform exceedingly difficult (and also allows bad actors to easily move around, only distributing the problems further).

    Honestly, the fragmented nature of our criminal justice systems doesn’t leave me with a lot of hope for reform. It’s another case where the way we are set up as a nation is, IMO, failing us (as citizens) in this particular moment.

    4
  52. MarkedMan says:

    @KM:

    For the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association to take it away from nearly 60 officers in a time when they *really* need it is very telling.

    I agree that it’s telling but I don’t think we agree on what, exactly, it is telling. My read is that the union probably told it’s members to resign from the riot squad in protest, and at least some of them refused. They pulled the coverage to force the cops hand.

    3
  53. KM says:

    @Northerner:

    Being silent on any number of issues is being seen as being on the wrong side of it. By that measure everyone is guilty of a vast number of evils, given the thousands of worthy causes out there, too many for everyone to speak out meaningfully on.

    Yes, we are. Just because everyone doesn’t want to admit it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Nobody’s hands are truly clean, nor are their conscience always quiet. People don’t like admitting they are at fault or flawed and gloss over many of the missteps they make. Not everything you do has to be meaningful or impactful; that’s a great way to dodge agency because “there’s too much to do!”. Making the effort is enough in and of itself.

    Criminals love to take advantage of this. Bullies thrive when no one steps up to stop them. Con men looks for the weak and flatter them into believing comfortable lies instead of inconvenient truths. Look, life is messy and justice is hard to achieve. The first step in addressing a problem is understanding and accepting there is a problem to address. The second step is accepting that it’s *your* responsibility to address it and not pass the buck. Fobbing off responsibility or agency is how reforms die – if we don’t demand accountability, then who will?

    6
  54. Moosebreath says:

    @Northerner:

    “Does that apply to other groups as well? Conservatives have used that argument to say for instance that any Muslim that didn’t condemn terrorism was pro-terrorist.”

    There’s a large difference in that the job of the police is to fight crime, including those crimes committed by their own members. Private citizens have no such duty.

    4
  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    If you get robbed, all the police do is show up and give you a piece of paper you can give to the insurance company that says, “yes, this guy was robbed”.

    When I lived in the unincorporated part of Kirkland, WA (patrolled by the county sheriff’s office) back 40 years ago, they didn’t even come to give you a report form. They mailed it to you–without a return envelope, as I recall.

  56. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    So first and foremost, repeal all the petty laws and regulations the police are sent forth to enforce. Cops have recently been sent to harass and arrest people who were simply in a park with their child, or alone on a sailboard, without leave of the governor or mayor.

    This is an example of propaganda, true to a very limited extent, but dishonestly presented in this context. It’s JKB’s standard procedure, to mix a little fact into a larger lie. It is deliberately dishonest, an attempt to deceive. A lie.

    I await the first comment by @JKB that manages to be true in its entirety.

    4
  57. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m sure there are other ex-criminals here, but as an acknowledged one, let me say that society had absolutely nothing to do with me stealing money. I stole money because I wanted money and thought I could get away with it. I wanted to travel, I couldn’t afford to, so I stole money. It wasn’t about a system that failed me, I was an arrogant sociopath and quite frankly I’d probably have done it again except I was arrested.

    What made me give up criming? I fell in love and grew up. So, based on personal experience:

    1) Yes, we need cops because without cops all of you are sheep and people like I was then are wolves, and we’d just eat you.

    2) I’m sure some of the guys I passed a couple weeks with in Contra Costa County and South Lake Tahoe jails were victims of society, but of those I spent any time interacting with, one was an actual Nazi who looked like Jackie Earl Haley; two were identical twin idiot drunks who looked like young Paul Newman and punched the wrong guy; one was a pro burglar who looked like Kevin Bacon; and one looked a bit like a young Richard Dreyfuss and had murdered an elderly woman and cut her fingers off to take her rings. And one guy claimed to have been in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, I forget what he was in for. All of us were white.

    3) Imagining that there is some systemic change that would control people like young Michael Reynolds is ridiculous. Dear Every STEM person: systems do not make decisions for individuals. The system didn’t force me to steal, I forced the system to deal with me. Stop pretending that people don’t have agency. Humans are not widgets.

    Crime does not require a system to reward it, and is largely indifferent to efforts by systems attempting to deter it. Virtually all crime is committed by men in the years between puberty and full brain development in their mid-20’s. I don’t know what to do with those people, but if you could somehow freeze them until their brains finished maturing you’d really be able to get rid of the police.

    5
  58. Northerner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I can’t speak to legal requirements, but morally: hell, yes. If you know someone is going to bomb a christian church or shoot an abortion doctor then you should turn them in, at the very least anonymously.

    Sure, but that seems to be a different standard than what Mikey was setting. He didn’t say the other 99 cops knew that the bad cop was about to do (or did) something bad, just that they knew (meaning heard via word of mouth, given that almost none would have done duty together with that cop) that the cop was bad.

    The three cops that watched the one cop murder George Floyd are bad cops, because they saw it happen. If other cops previously heard via the grapevine that the murder was a bad cop, does it make them bad for not acting on rumours? If so, if anyone hears through the grapevine that someone is an active criminal, are bad if they don’t act on those rumours?

    My take is that the cops should pass those rumours on to internal investigations (which are probably pretty bad themselves, given what they let cops get away with). And then after that, what? Go to the press with their rumours?

  59. Northerner says:

    @KM:

    Yes, we are. Just because everyone doesn’t want to admit it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Nobody’s hands are truly clean, nor are their conscience always quiet. People don’t like admitting they are at fault or flawed and gloss over many of the missteps they make. Not everything you do has to be meaningful or impactful; that’s a great way to dodge agency because “there’s too much to do!”. Making the effort is enough in and of itself.

    That was the criteria in the past, but it seems to be changing. Currently many are saying that being silent on an issue is condoning it, whether or not that person is involved in other issues or not. Its raising the bar to an impossible standard (again, there are thousands of worthy causes out there), and I suspect its more likely to get people to engage less than more, since there simply isn’t time to support every good cause.

  60. Northerner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    There’s a large difference in that the job of the police is to fight crime, including those crimes committed by their own members. Private citizens have no such duty.

    I agree, and that’s why the other three cops who stood there while George Floyd was murdered should be convicted, why cops who watch an old man being pushed and bleed out of his ear should be arrested. But most cops only know through rumour what other cops do, since they don’t share patrols. Their options currently are to pass it on to internal affairs (which are a slap on the wrist organization), or go to the press with rumours. Not great options.

    Restarting many police departments (ie firing and only rehiring ones with good reputations) can work, because rumor is enough to hire on, even if its not enough to arrest someone (unless you’re poor or a minority or just someone who annoys a cop or prosecutor).

  61. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It’s kind of interesting the number of people who can accept that cops can be vicious thugs but believe that no one involved in a protest march would ever display thuggish behavior.

    Thugs are everywhere.

    2
  62. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: what I think is promising is funding alternatives to help with community problems that aren’t serious crimes, leaving the latter for the police. So when your mentally ill relative has a breakdown, you have mental health professionals you can call to come help. Ditto social workers to help the homeless person sleeping somewhere they shouldn’t. Ditto youth workers when kids are being rowdy. As it stands now, the only people we have to call are police.

    1
  63. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Virtually all crime is committed by men in the years between puberty and full brain development in their mid-20’s. I don’t know what to do with those people, but if you could somehow freeze them until their brains finished maturing you’d really be able to get rid of the police.

    While this is an overstatement (or shifts a bit depending on how you define “crime”), Michael is generally correct. Which is also why sentencing reform is so critical. We are holding people for years after they are most likely the most “dangerous” and as a result making it far more difficult for them to successfully reenter society (which in turn increases recidivism and stresses our social safety nets).

    It’s also why improving our system of expungements and sealings of criminal records are so important. There are folks in the 30’s and 40 who have not been involved with the criminal justice system in years (if not decades) who still can’t get better jobs or professional licenses due to convictions from early adulthood.

    2
  64. mattbernius says:

    @Monala:

    what I think is promising is funding alternatives to help with community problems that aren’t serious crimes, leaving the latter for the police.

    Yes, and that’s the critical core of defunding — moving budget from police/law enforcement into the areas you were suggesting. It’s also why police departments will fight it tooth and nail. We’ve seen similiar things with prison and sentencing reform. While everyone likes to talk about “private prisions” typically the strongest opponents to shrinking the US prison footprints are actually corrections offices unions (because its a livelyhood issue).

    The other key thing with defund is also ensuring that those funds *actually go* to the services and are not simply returned to the tax payers in the form of tax cuts. Also, defunding will be difficult in areas that have turned to for-profit policing in order to keep the property and sales tax fundations (artificially) low.

    2
  65. a country lawyer says:

    While completely dismantling a police force may seem to be an extreme remedy there are things of a less drastic nature that can be done to stem police violence. One thing would be the de-militarization of the police a topic our hosts might look at in a future post. But for me one step which would go a long way would be a second look at the judicial doctrine of qualified immunity.

    The civil rights act, 42 USC 1983, gives citizens a private cause of action for violations of civil rights “under color of law”. The Supreme court as said that includes the right to monetary damages. The problem is that the courts have created the doctrine of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity. In a nutshell that doctrine is that officers are protected by that doctrine unless that conduct violated “clearly established law”. That term has come to mean, has this conduct been found by some court to be unlawful previously. Therein lies the problem. Unless some court in the past has found the conduct to be unlawful, supposedly the officer would have no reason to know his conduct is unlawful. The result is any first occurrence of that type of conduct will have no cause of action regardless of whether a civil right has been violated. The court will not even address the issue of whether a civil right has been violated.

    This turns the law of torts on its head. In almost any other situation the standard is whether a reasonable person in the same or similar situation would find the conduct unlawful.

    Because qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine it can be revised or abrogated completely by the courts. There a few cases working their way to the Supreme Court now which many on both the right and left have reason to believe could substantially change the doctrine.

    There is another and perhaps quicker way and that is by legislation. Because qualified immunity is basically a matter of statutory interpretation, Congress can simply change the law. Perhaps the recent events will give impetus the moving the congress critters to action

    1
  66. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    I’m late to this thread, but it’s important to note that the problem of policing in the United States is generally the opposite in Latin America, where policing is concentrated on the federal and state level. In the US you’d have dozens of police departments(Including campus police).

  67. mattbernius says:

    @a country lawyer:
    100% to everything you said about QI. Unfortunately…

    There is another and perhaps quicker way and that is by legislation. Because qualified immunity is basically a matter of statutory interpretation, Congress can simply change the law. Perhaps the recent events will give impetus the moving the congress critters to action

    This is correct and would be the best way to do things (though I’d still love to the SC drive a stake through its heart). However, there is no way that this makes it through the Senate under current conditions and even less chance of it passing with a veto proof majority (because it would get vetoed by the current PoTUS).

    Which to Steven’s points from many posts, demonstrates the structural problems within our government and why this, unfortunately, shifts to the courts.

    I remain cautiously optimistic about the SC spiking QI even with the constant overhang of stare decisis. Both Gorsuch and Thomas seem prepared to limit, if not overturn, QI. And Sotomayor has been there forever too (if memory serves).

  68. a country lawyer says:

    @mattbernius: It appears the Democrats new reform bill will address these issues. from the Washington Post:
    The bill contains several provisions that would make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct in civil and criminal court. One proposal long sought by civil rights advocates would change “qualified immunity,” the legal doctrine that shields officers from lawsuits, by lowering the bar for plaintiffs to sue officers for alleged civil rights violations.

    Another section would change federal law so that victims of excessive force or other violations need only show that officers “recklessly” deprived them of their rights. The current statute requires victims to show that officers’ actions were “willful.”

  69. mattbernius says:

    @a country lawyer:
    Sadly, that bill is going to pass the House and immediately die in the Senate. End of story.

    I’m sad to say that’s the case, but there is no way that McConnell can pass that in an election year. He barely could get the First Step Act through post-elections. Police reform is a third rail for the Republicans (and frankly, with more Democrats than anyone cares to admit). That’s part of why we are in the current situation.

    2
  70. mattbernius says:

    @a country lawyer:
    Sadly, that bill is going to pass the House and immediately die in the Senate. End of story.

    I’m sad to say that’s the case, but there is no way that McConnell can pass that in an election year. He barely could get the First Step Act through post-elections. Police reform is a third rail for the Republicans (and frankly, with more Democrats than anyone cares to admit). That’s part of why we are in the current situation.

  71. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: I’m probably too cynical, but I was always under the impression that the First Steps Act got through the Senate more in spite of Mitch than because of him. I don’t have any particular evidence to point to; it’s just a case of mistrust and bad faith on my part.

  72. mattbernius says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Based on my discussions with people on the inside, I think that is a correct read. I was just trying to be charitable.

    My understanding is that Kushner worked the field incredibly hard (to his credit) and they forced Mcconnell to make it happen. If Mcconnell had good druthers First Step would not have happened.

    It’s a big win for Kushner and a win for Trump. Unfortunately most of the Act was never adequately funded in budgets after it’s passage.

  73. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    Again, I think this focus on individuals misses the bigger issue (and in doing so takes us down the wrong path). Ultimately this shouldn’t be us asking if X cop is good or bad. Rather we should be looking at whether or not a system incentivizes certain behaviors and whether or not the results are good or bad for the community.

    Sadly, this position labels you as an unregenerate liberal, if not outright socialist. Conservative thought does not care about incentives or systemic consequences; it’s all about moral choices by autonomous agents with perfect free will, no matter what the system incentivizes. Conservatives literally do not care if their policies will make everyone more miserable, as long as they don’t ever reward anyone for making an immoral choice.

    1
  74. Northerner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Conservatives literally do not care if their policies will make everyone more miserable, as long as they don’t ever reward anyone for making an immoral choice.

    Unless the person making the immoral choice is one of their team, then its all good. The support for Trump has made that explicit. Not to mention the bank bailouts and other examples of privatising profit and socializing losses for people with money.