Cops Should Not Look Like Soldiers

Pentagon officials are speaking out about the militarization of police.

Since news of mysterious federal agents disappearing protestors in Portland started circulating, I have here and elsewhere expressed concern over said agents wearing “Army-style camouflage.” It appears that, in this particular instance, my views do in fact represent the Department of Defense.

Business Insider (“Defense Department says it’s concerned about law enforcement dressing up in Army uniforms“):

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made the Trump administration aware of his concerns with the appropriation of the US military’s uniforms by law-enforcement agencies as they face off with protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.

“We saw this take place back in June, when there were some law enforcement that wore uniforms that make them appear military,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said to reporters, referencing the George Floyd protests throughout the country earlier this year.

“The secretary has a expressed a concern of this within the administration, that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he added.

The confusion became apparent after video footage and pictures showed law-enforcement officials, many of whom refused to identify themselves or the agency they were working for, wearing the US Army’s camouflage uniform as they confronted demonstrators.

This confusion has been compounded after other activists, such as members of the Boogaloo movement, wore pieces of the same uniform or carried with them military-style gear to the same protests throughout the country.

Customs and Border Protection’s immediate-response force, also known as the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, often wear military uniforms with custom patches.

[…]

US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously highlighted his concerns about the optics of law-enforcement officials dressing like military service members while responding to protests, saying there needs to be clear “visual distinction” between the two organizations.

“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley said during a congressional hearing on July 9. “Because when you start introducing the military, you’re talking about a different level of effort there.”

I wrote “Army-style” yesterday because, while the uniforms pictured looked to me identical to the Operational Camouflage Pattern the Army has been wearing since 2015 (and the Air Force adopted in 2018) I wasn’t sure. But the Defense Department has now confirmed my instinct.

My concern has been about optics and tactics. There are instances where it makes sense for law enforcement officers to wear military-style camouflage, although I can’t think of a rationale for doing so on American streets. Indeed, in a riot control situation, blending in is the precise opposite of what officers should want: they should be extremely visible as a deterrent to violence. If anything, the bright orange worn by hunters would be more appropriate.

But Esper and company are right that there are also civil-military relations issues at work here. American citizens ought to be able to immediately distinguish their police from their soldiers, the latter of whom are only rarely authorized to support civil authorities in a law enforcement capacity. (Indeed, if I had my druthers, National Guardsmen acting in support of state governors would be more clearly identifiable; most citizens lack familiarity with unit patches.)

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Police
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Wearing bright orange would make them targets – exceedingly easy to identify and range. Let’s be realistic – they aren’t trying to chaperone a delightful, ongoing bake sale here. I think that the disconnect comes from people intent on trying to characterize it as one because they are uncomfortable with acknowledging that we essentially have a war in all but name being conducted on the streets of an American city and they empathize with the insurgents, not the soldiers.

    These officers are dealing with extremists, at least some of whom intend to cause them harm. Expecting them to make themselves easier to target while they’re doing that might be a bit much …

    3
  2. mattbernius says:

    I, for one, think the absolute best commenter look is for someone who never served in the military lecturing a West Point Graduate who served in the first Gulf War what a war looks like…

    32
  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattbernius:

    That’s a vivid lesson on the perils of speaking based on assumptions. I served.

    Did you?

    Also congrats to James on having West Point added to his CV.

    But thanks for (as usual) attacking the messenger instead of the message. Par for the course.

    2
  4. Kingdaddy says:

    Let’s just skip the 100 or so posts having an ultimately pointless faux debate over the definition of war. If protests against police violence were a war, it’s still up to the military to prosecute a war, not the police. There’s a clear dividing line between the two. That dividing line is made manifestly clear in the mission, organization, training, equipment, command authority, and yes, the attire of the military versus police. Nothing good comes of blurring those lines.

    31
  5. @HarvardLaw92:

    These officers are dealing with extremists


    ‘Wall of Moms’ at Portland protests on getting tear-gassed: ‘We held the line’

    “It was a little bit before 11 p.m. (Saturday) when (federal agents) came marching up the street fully camouflaged with rifles pointing at us,” said Michelle Schardt. “One of them did a full-on, two-arm running shove at one of the moms. They threw flash-bangs at our feet. They threw gas at us right away. And that felt really wrong to me.”

    […]

    Barnum said that approximately 200 moms were “gassed right in the face.”

    “I want to make this really clear. We weren’t throwing water bottles. We weren’t throwing bricks. We weren’t throwing anything,” she said. “We weren’t yelling expletives. We were chanting ‘Feds go home; leave our kids alone.'”

    “Nobody was doing anything even close to rioting,” said Pritchard. “We were putting our hands up, peacefully protesting and chanting.”

    A line of women chanting in protest are American citizens exercising their constitutional rights, they are not extremists. And there was no need to violently disperse them.

    And even those citizens engaged in criminal activity tend to be doing do so in a relatively petty way (I do not condone throwing rocks or vandalism, but those are not extremist actions).

    47
  6. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    You begin with saying you want to avoid 100+ posts arguing about the definition of war, then segue straight into a pedantic examination of the word in search of that bake sale.

    Military. Paramilitary. I think the only differentiating factor there is your (dis)comfort level. You seem to think that the police should be camp counselors leading everybody in a sing-a-long. I see them as the front line of defense protecting civil society from uncivil society. Of course, the law actually does allow for a scenario that would deploy the actual military to Portland. I mean, I wouldn’t argue with that, but I suspect you wouldn’t like it very much.

    2
  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Oh look – I’ll throw up this one cherry picked example and try to pretend that it’s indicative of everybody on the street in Portland.

    If you think throwing rocks and vandalism isn’t extremist, there isn’t much hope for you. I suspect you’d feel differently if they were being thrown at you. That’s the beauty of armchair quarterbacking though – you never have to worry about being blitzed.

    1
  8. Jon says:

    Yay, another thread where HL92 hijacks it and makes it all about how right they are!

    24
  9. James Joyner says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Policing and war are completely different constructs.

    A soldier in a war zone is, with rare exceptions, entitled to kill enemy combatants with impunity. Blending in with the environment to protect their own lives is essential. (But, even there, it gets extremely complicated in hybrid environments such as the post-regime-change phases in Iraq and Afganistan.)

    Domestic police officers, as you surely know in more granularity than I do, are authorized to use deadly force as a last resort in very limited situations. They should be in distinctive gear immediately recognizable to the citizenry for all manner of reasons which should be obvious.

    I am more vehemently anti-rioter than Steven or most of the commentariat here. But police can’t simply shoot them on sight even if they’re in the midst of toppling statues, burning buildings, and the like. As you well know. They are, therefore, in no meaningful way “at war.”

    43
  10. mattbernius says:

    My favorite part is the whiplash of someone effusively praising John Lewis (as one of the good ones) and then within 48 hours referring to protesters as domestic insurgents who deserve military style treatment.

    Mazel Tov!

    15
  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jon:

    Aka “oh look, another argument I dislike but won’t try to rebut”

    Point taken though. Silly me positing a rebuttal to an argument and thinking that’s what this place is supposed to be about. Mea culpa. You may resume your regularly scheduled mutual admiration society meeting. 🙄

  12. mattbernius says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That’s a vivid lesson on the perils of speaking based on assumptions. I served.

    Thank you for the correction. You’re right. It was an assumption. I apologize for making it and won’t make the mistake again.

    Did you?

    Nope.

    3
  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattberniusLast time I checked, John Lewis never threw rocks or vandalized buildings. Honorable people don’t stoop to violent tactics. Trying to deputize him into your argument is ridiculous.

    Kudos on doubling down though.

  14. mattbernius says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    But thanks for (as usual) attacking the messenger instead of the message. Par for the course.

    Fair as well, I started to and realized that (1) that ultimately this is a subjective issue and I know better than to attempt to debate that with you, (2) that James would do it far better than I would based on his experience and overall level of expertise.

    So I opted for the low road and a bit of catharsis (with that and my above posting).

    5
  15. Scott says:

    I helped build a police force in Iraq. We refused to dress them in camo.

    This was in the Post 2 days ago.

    A couple of points:

    In the United States, the police maintain law and order in society, and the military defends the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. There is a critical distinction between police officers and soldiers.

    Pointed out 3 cultural differences between soldiers and police:

    First, while soldiers and police both “bear arms,” a police officer’s main goal wielding a weapon is to keep the peace, control the population and apprehend criminals. Professional militaries, on the other hand, vow to defend nations; they use weapons to threaten, intimidate and kill adversaries. Great police forces, the MP commander emphasized, are trained in ways to be less threatening, so they can protect and serve their communities while also apprehending criminals. While some police units certainly have Special Weapons and Tactics units, or SWAT teams, those units require extensive training and are reserved for dire circumstances. Use them too often or incorrectly, and you lose the trust of the citizens that the police are asked to protect and serve.

    Second, there is the matter of uniforms…..Camo should be saved for when you’re trying to blend in or hide, not when you’re patrolling the streets on foot or in cars.

    The third difference involves accountability…..If a police officer doesn’t understand their accountability to the law they are sworn to uphold and the citizens they swear to protect and defend, they have the potential to turn into something worse than criminals.

    Finally,

    Specific training, uniforms and accountability to standards — for deadly actions on foreign battlefields or keeping the peace on the streets of our nation — are geared to radically different missions, and they are not interchangeable in any functioning democratic society.

    15
  16. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    That presumes that the folks on the other side will play by the rules as well. They aren’t, and they haven’t been for a while now. I don’t believe that a proportionally symmetrical response is unjustifiable.

    I’m well cognizant of the realities of actual war, for the same reasons you are, and I’m not arguing that we should be shooting protestors in the streets (although I’d point out that a sizable segment of the population is making exactly that argument). The difference here IMO is one regarding the degree of the conflict, not so much the nature of it. We have violent anarchists engaging in violence and property destruction on the streets of American cities. The rules you’re espousing are for people who follow them in turn. These people don’t, so how should we engage that if not with proportional violence in response?

  17. Kingdaddy says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Your contempt for everyone here is extremely clear. Nothing more to say.

    28
  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @mattbernius:

    Fair enough. Point taken.

    1
  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    I’ve never pretended not to have contempt for the ivory tower of academia, which tends to lead to a presumption of qualification to posit one’s self as an expert on any situation from the safety of usually not having had to directly experience it. I’ve been engaged in law enforcement. I suspect that you haven’t.

    That having been said, I’m pretty certain that you knew the context of what was being argued and chose to engage in pedantry because you disliked the argument but didn’t want to address its substance. I’m not sure what else you expected me to do with that.

    Enough sniping though. At least James addressed it head on.

  20. mattbernius says:

    Now that I’m a bit cooler headed (apologies for before) I think it’s again worthwhile to historically contextualize positions.

    For instance, in 1970 A Gallup Poll, conducted for Newsweek the day after the shootings, showed that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students, 11 percent blamed the National Guard and 31 percent expressed no opinion.

    Scan of historic source material: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/13598112/campus-unrest-linked-to-drugs/

    3
  21. a country lawyer says:

    @HarvardLaw92: No one is suggesting that police should wear orange jump suits, only that they dress like police officers and not soldiers. When police wear military uniforms they tend to act like soldiers not police and worse the public perceives them as military. When Robert Peel created the modern police force in mid 19th century London, he made all of the officers wear a distinctive blue uniform that stood out from the civilians. That blue has been adopted by police forces around the world including the US. Blue uniforms are uniformly recognized as the police uniform color. Have the federal officers wear the traditional blue with markings to show their organization (FBI, DEA, ICE, etc.). Leave the military uniforms to the military.

    17
  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    Camouflage has a purpose, to make it harder for an enemy combatant to target you. Camouflage is absurd on a street. This is fascist cosplay, with mediocrities posing as soldiers for the gratification of fascist wanna-bes, Likudniks like @HL92, and the sick old man in the White House.

    33
  23. Kathy says:

    Someone’s trolling early today.

    21
  24. @HarvardLaw92:

    I’ve never pretended not to have contempt for the ivory tower of academia,

    Which is, of course, why you spend all this time at a website authored by academics.

    And, also, why your moniker is designed to leverage your affiliation with an academic institution.

    40
  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Which is, of course, why you spend all this time at a website authored by academics.

    And, also, why your moniker is designed to leverage your affiliation with an academic institution.

    I know, right? The anti-elitist ‘Harvard Lawyer.’ Sort of like an anti-royalist Fifth Marquess of Snobbottom. I’m a high school drop-out. I at least have some standing to dis academics. I committed!

    19
  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @a country lawyer:

    again, that presumes that the folks being policed also play by the rules. What do you do when, as in this instance, those people do not? You might as well have cops walking around with “throw rocks here” signs. They’re supposed to just stand there and get hit by rocks?

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Given you own admitted criminal past, I can see why you might be sympathizing with the anarchists here.

    When someone is throwing rocks, bottles, and in some cases molotovs at police officers, what can they possibly be called besides enemy combatants?

    I’m assumed there that you don’t support such tactics. I hope I’m not wrong about that.

  28. Slugger says:

    Nobody is shooting at the federal officers in Portland, and no one is suggesting orange outfits. I doubt that the camo gear provides much safety from rock throwers. I am strongly in favor of lawfulness and deplore the lawbreaking by the protestors. Our law enforcement must likewise act lawfully; actually I think the cops have a bigger duty to be law abiding than some ordinary citizens. These paramilitaries teargassing any assembly are stirring up the pot and not acting to cool and defuse.

    19
  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So in your view one has to be a fawning sycophant of academia in order to visit? I can’t say I find that attitude shocking at … all … 😀

    That said, I’m going to ignore anything that isn’t a direct rebuttal of / commentary on the substance of what I posted. If people have their parties twisted up over the content and want to vent their outrage instead of engaging, that’s their problem.

  30. @Slugger: To be fair, James did say in the OP:

    If anything, the bright orange worn by hunters would be more appropriate.

    2
  31. Teve says:

    @BFriedmanDC

    Police nationwide should be banned from wearing camouflage. It serves no tactical purpose and does nothing to keep them safer. It’s just cops playing dress-up and pretending they’re at war.

    12
  32. Scott F. says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The rules you’re espousing are for people who follow them in turn. These people don’t, so how should we engage that if not with proportional violence in response?

    You’re a data based guy. Do you see any indication that “proportional violence in response” is working?

    The city and state leaders are saying disengage. If there’s no one to throw rocks at, then rocks don’t get thrown at Feds. Vandalism can be repaired. In the American city of Portland, at least as reported everywhere I’m seeing, the violence and property damage is isolated to the periphery of the Hatfield Center, so the city isn’t in chaos.

    Why not the de-escalation approach favored by the locals?

    17
  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Slugger:

    We’ve had multiple officers shot over the course of these protests / riots / whatever the PC term of the day is now, so it might be more accurate to say that nobody is shooting at them in Portland yet

  34. a country lawyer says:

    @HarvardLaw92: So wearing camouflage will keep people from throwing rocks? For 12 months in 1967-68 I wore Marine green and I assure, as much as I love that uniform and its tradition it didn’t protect me from projectiles. It’s not the color of the uniform that protects you. Flak jackets and hard hats come in blue as well as camouflage. When the police wear army colors the public perceives that they are under military attack or rule and can be expected to respond accordingly. Optics matter.

    17
  35. gVOR08 says:

    After Lafayette Square I commented here to ask why Gen. Milley was wearing cammo in the White House.

    Trump’s running a culture war and cammo is a flag for one side in that war.

    13
  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Scott F.:

    How did de-escalation work out in Minneapolis, et al? If anything, the response has been disproportionately gentle IMO. We will never agree on the acceptability of property damage, so let’s not burden anybody with 100 rounds about that.

    If you fail to respond to disorder, the message received by those perpetrating it is their violent tactics are working. All that does is incentivize them to keep escalating, keep pushing the boundaries further, keep becoming more violent, until they get what they want. That’s rule by the mob. I can’t rationalize that as being ok, regardless of the stated goals.

    Problem there is eventually they’re going to want something you aren’t prepared to give up either.

    1
  37. @HarvardLaw92: I am not playing your game at this point.

    You want to be taken Very Seriously because of your credentials at the same time you want to be rude about the professional backgrounds of the hosts of the site. I am not asking for fawning. Quite frankly, at this point, it would be great if you just wouldn’t be an utter, pompous ass who clearly wants to stir things up. And while you act like you are engaging in argument, you are mostly just trolling, albeit in a more sophisticated manner than most.

    It is beyond belief, quite frankly, that your main claim to fame is that you went to Harvard Law School and yet your schtick is to be disdainful of academics.

    Meanwhile, you largely just engage in fallacious arguments from authority. You went to Harvard Law School. You know Donald Trump. You were involved in the electoral college SCOTUS case. And, just today, you are a combat veteran with law enforcement experience. (and so forth).

    All of these things may be true, some of them may be true, none of them may be true. I don’t know.

    But, please, the Master of the Universe shtick as linked to your self-proclaimed mission to stir up all us peasants up is tiresome. It is just Guarneri will a bit more skill and a willingness to stick around in the comments.

    You are certainly not living up to your own pompous self-image. After all, the peasants haven’t crowned you king yet.

    38
  38. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @a country lawyer:

    This bunch of the public is, IMO, going to be hostile to police officers regardless of what they are wearing. I’m just arguing that maybe we shouldn’t be making them easier for those folks to target.

    The rules only work when both sides follow them. These people don’t. The police exist to protect the folks that do from these folks who believe that their righteous ends justify any means of achieving them.

  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As I said, I won’t be further engaging anything that doesn’t address the substance of what I posted. If you wish to continue to snipe, that’s your choice.

  40. KM says:

    @Scott F.:

    Why not the de-escalation approach favored by the locals?

    Because it’s amazingly clear what the locals want is irrelevant to Law and Order types. After all, it’s not like the point is protecting the population of taxpayers but rather protecting federal property and enforcing specific authority. It’s really interesting to me that a lot of “how dare you tell me what to do” types also are those who think the cops should crack the whip instead of working with the community to settle issues. The entire point of these protests were cops acting badly and destroying community faith with their abuses of power…. but the solution is for them to play dress-up and increase the chances of meaningless aggro over paint on the wall?

    Police serve the community. If the community wants them to stop dressing in camo, then they should stop. If the community wants them gone because they’re freaking people out with the fascism practice, they go. If the community says the rules are being broken but they don’t think it warrants breaking skulls, guess what the cops should not be doing? Police serve at the pleasure of the community that hires and pays them – they are not our overlords or gang bosses. We need to have a separation of military and police for some very good reasons were seeing play out in Portland.

    13
  41. Teve says:

    It’s really interesting to me that a lot of “how dare you tell me what to do” types

    in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind,

    also are those who think the cops should crack the whip

    on out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

    11
  42. Sleeping Dog says:

    It should be pointed out that the reason for Federal LEO’s dispatched to Portland is to create a wedge issue for a certain someone running for reelection. Any discussion of tactics, clothing, equipment etc. is secondary to the authoritarian turn by the chief executive.

    The use of Federal LEO’s in local situations is a political issue to be sorted out by Congress, with a simple solution that starts with a recognition of Federalism and removal from the President’s power to dispatch at will, Federal forces to deal with local situations. Federal intervention should only occur, with narrow exceptions, at the request of the governor of the effected state.

    9
  43. drj says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    the ivory tower of academia

    presumption of qualification

    If you wish to continue to snipe, that’s your choice.

    Accusing someone else of one’s own shitty behavior tends to be quite effective in getting a rise out of people. But that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it?

    You’re being pathetically transparent.

    14
  44. Scott F. says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    If you fail to respond to disorder, the message received by those perpetrating it is their violent tactics are working. All that does is incentivize them to keep escalating…

    As I asked, what indications are you seeing that escalation by the Feds is incentivizing a return to “order?” You describe a slippery slope to mob rule, but I could just as easily put forth the maxims that violence begets violence and it takes two to tango. I see provocation leading to further escalation.

    If your premise is an overwhelming show of force by the Feds will quell the violence and send everybody home, then what’s your Plan B. Because your Plan A is not working.

    15
  45. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “But thanks for (as usual) attacking the messenger instead of the message. Par for the course”

    I think he let you off easy that way. Because your “message” is that the government is literally at war with American civilians. And of course in a war, the army’s job is to kill as many of the enemy as possible. You are essentially endorsing the mass murder of American citizens for the crime of spray-painting public property. That is a vile message and one deserving of condemnation from every sane human being. That he merely criticized you as the messenger was an act of mercy.

    16
  46. EddieInCA says:

    One of the problems with social media and the current 24/7 news cycle is that situations on the ground get over-dramatized when spread on cable news and social media.

    I know firsthand because every time their is a fire or earthquake in So. California, which might be 50-200 miles away, I get calls from friends and relatives all over the country asking me if I’m safe from the fire or earthquake. Most of the time, my response is “What fire?” or “What earthquake?”

    I have several friends in Portland. What they tell me is that Portland is not a “war zone”. On the ground, they’re living their normal lives, with little if any issue with the daily protests. It’s not as big, nor as dangerous, as portrayed on Fox or Social Media.

    Additionally, the protests were winding down, with less than 100 people per night, with less people coming every night… UNTIL the Feds showed up. Now you have Mothers siding with the protesters. Think about that for a moment. Mothers are lining up to protect the “terrorists” and “extremists”. Mothers. If you have mothers lining up to protect protesters, it’s pretty obvious what side you should be on.

    32
  47. drj says:

    @wr:

    Because your “message” is…

    No need to interpret HL92. In his own words:

    we essentially have a war in all but name being conducted on the streets of an American city

    This is wholly unserious. Again, he is simply trying to get a rise out of people.

    20
  48. Teve says:
  49. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “All of these things may be true, some of them may be true, none of them may be true.”

    It is fascinating that after years of posting here and constantly using his superior knowledge based on his first-hand experience to make his points, today he has suddenly gained not only military but also police experience. Perhaps tomorrow we will learn that his handicapped baby sister was murdered by radical protesters, or that in his college days he secretly infiltrated Antifa meetings where he heard them discuss plans to take over the USA.

    12
  50. @EddieInCA:

    One of the problems with social media and the current 24/7 news cycle is that situations on the ground get over-dramatized when spread on cable news and social media.

    Indeed, or even normal news in general. It is hard to have a sense of scale from afar.

    Even mass-level weather events in the SE are far more localized than they often appear on TV.

    I lived in Bogotá, Colombia in the mid-1990s–a period when drug violence was rampant and the FARC and ELN were quite active, even in the confines of the city (they often attached police facilities in the poorer parts of town and even managed to sneak a bomb into the capitol where some renovations were being done–blew a nice two-story hole in the facade). I heard gunfire at night with frequency. Yet, the degree to which any of that personally impacted me was zero, save for the cautions that it induced.

    I once witnessed a small riot at the National University that involved police in riot gear, a crowd-control vehicle, and students throwing rocks (and, to my amusement, the police throwing rocks back). It eventually led to a tear-gassing.

    And, btw, when one is aware of and understands guerrilla activity and the realities thereof, a little rock-throwing is hard to put in the “extremist” category regardless of whether I want rocks thrown anywhere near me or not.

    BTW, I think that tear-gassing a rock-throwing mob may well be appropriate. Gassing peaceful protesters to show them what-for is yet another.

    11
  51. @Steven L. Taylor: All of which was to say that the exact scope of what is happening in Portland and elsewhere is likely far, far smaller than it seems on TV.

    8
  52. @wr: Indeed.

    5
  53. SKI says:

    Kinda telling that the Troll paints all the protesters with a broad brush based on the actions of a minute percentage but demands that no one paint the actually organized and managed law enforcement with the practices and policies they are carrying out.

    And that most of his posts are substance-free but complains about others reacting to his intentional provocation by declaring that they are substance-free.

    10
  54. Michael Reynolds says:

    The city of Portland covers 144.8 square miles. At least 144 square miles of that are protest-free.

    Portland has a population of 654,741. At least 650,000 of those people are not protesting.

    Portland has a regional product of $158.8 billion. At least 158 billion of that is unaffected.

    So obviously we should panic and send in federal troops to round up civilians.

    20
  55. Blue Galangal says:

    @wr:

    It is fascinating that after years of posting here and constantly using his superior knowledge based on his first-hand experience to make his points, today he has suddenly gained not only military but also police experience.

    I am in no way defending any kind of trolling behavior. I do recall the last time that HL92 acted so uncharacteristically emotionally had to do with police. I believe (my memory is not the best) that he has family who are /were police officers and he said at that time that he could not discuss their safety from a dispassionate viewpoint. He took a lengthy break from OTB and I missed him at that time because in other areas I valued his commentary. I know this is a hot button issue for many of us (to this day, Tamir Rice’s very name brings tears to my eyes and my response to his death will never be dispassionate or rational).

    Also: MOMS ARE BEING TEARGASSED. My mother, a TRUMP VOTER who will vote for Trump again without batting an eye, is going to BLM protests. George Floyd was deliberately killed by cops who laughed and joked and didn’t seem to care. That made an impact on my mom.

    14
  56. Michael Reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Given you own admitted criminal past, I can see why you might be sympathizing with the anarchists here.

    When someone is throwing rocks, bottles, and in some cases molotovs at police officers, what can they possibly be called besides enemy combatants?

    Actually, burglars are not anarchists, and anarchists are not burglars. I mean, sure, we are all ‘those people,’ but professional criminals don’t dislike cops. We’re just opposing teams in the same corrupt game, there’s no hate, no contempt on the part of burglars or cops. Anarchists are political, burglars are capitalists.

    As for ‘enemy combatants’ you know, for a Harvard Lawyer you’re pretty lazy with your use of language. I always thought Harvard Lawyers were precise, measured. Back at Wilmer Cutler I worked with quite a few Harvard Lawyers and not a one was as intellectually sloppy as you. I’ve even employed some Harvard Lawyers to do my bidding, but had any of my Harvard Lawyers displayed such slovenly thinking, I’d have fired them.

    And by the way, Harvard Lawyer, don’t forget that you’re the guy who’d work for me, not the other way around. I can wave some money under the nose of your managing partner and you’re my bitch. I work for myself; you do what you’re told.

    14
  57. Scott F. says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Mothers are lining up to protect the “terrorists” and “extremists”. Mothers. If you have mothers lining up to protect protesters, it’s pretty obvious what side you should be on.

    Did you see that Fathers showed up last night with leaf blowers to protect the Wall of Moms from tear gas? That side is being pretty clever.

    11
  58. Sleeping Dog says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I have several friends in Portland. What they tell me is that Portland is not a “war zone”.

    I can second that. We have a nephew living in Portland and in recent communication he noted that if you go to the area where the protests are going on, it is pretty scary (his word), but the rest of the city is normal.

    I’ll repeat that this police action is perpetrated by the one seeking reelection, looking for enemies that he believes he can use to scare the bejeebers out of suburbanites.

    10
  59. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I’ve never pretended not to have contempt for the ivory tower of academia

    That sounds like an entirely consistent statement from someone who calls himself HarvardLaw92.

    7
  60. James Joyner says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That presumes that the folks on the other side will play by the rules as well. They aren’t, and they haven’t been for a while now. I don’t believe that a proportionally symmetrical response is unjustifiable.

    As you well know, this argument doesn’t fly even under the Law of Armed Conflict. It certainly doesn’t under US domestic law.

    I’m well cognizant of the realities of actual war, for the same reasons you are, and I’m not arguing that we should be shooting protestors in the streets (although I’d point out that a sizable segment of the population is making exactly that argument).

    Public opinion isn’t the standard. It’s why we put laws in place.

    The difference here IMO is one regarding the degree of the conflict, not so much the nature of it. We have violent anarchists engaging in violence and property destruction on the streets of American cities. The rules you’re espousing are for people who follow them in turn. These people don’t, so how should we engage that if not with proportional violence in response?

    Assuming the standard academic track, you would have finished your undergraduate education the year after I did. I didn’t go to Harvard’s or any other law school. But the case law as of when I took ConLaw as an undergrad (basically, through Tennessee v Garner) strictly limited the use of deadly force by police officers and subsequent cases have reinforced that.

    Cops are allowed to defend themselves and others. But, no, they can’t use deadly force to protect property.

    25
  61. JKB says:

    Domestic police officers, as you surely know in more granularity than I do, are authorized to use deadly force as a last resort in very limited situations.

    Police officers have the same right to use deadly force as anyone is, in self defense or defense of others.

    What they are “authorized” to do is interfere with the actions of people, with probable cause, which can provoke the individual to become an imminent threat. They can bring their gun to bear on someone who refuses their lawful order, especially if the actions are indicative of someone seeking to draw a weapon. They may justifiably discharge a firearm at a person fleeing under strict conditions that are usually denied in statute to non-law enforcement individuals.

    Police snipers are problematic, as technically they can only act in self or as they are at a distance, defense of others. But there are cases such as with Randy Weaver, where police (FBI) snipers acted without clear justification but on direction from frustrated political leadership who ensured the non-accountability of the shooter.

    1
  62. Gustopher says:

    Dressing people up causes them to play the part — if you want your police to act like they think soldiers act, dress them like soldiers and give them all the accessories.

    7
  63. mattbernius says:

    Again, its pretty wonderful to watch people desperately try to thread a needle where police/state action against the white… I mean “right” type of anti-government activists (you know the Bundy’s, WACO) is the result of immoral politicians (i.e. Democrats) while finding a way not to have to call out state violence against people they don’t support (hippies and uppity thugs protesting government overeach of police forces) that are the results of very publicly frustrated political leadership from someone they support deploying Federal Forces against fellow citizens (just not the white… darn autocorrect… right type of citizens).

    9
  64. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Wearing bright orange would make them targets – exceedingly easy to identify and range. Let’s be realistic – they aren’t trying to chaperone a delightful, ongoing bake sale here. I think that the disconnect comes from people intent on trying to characterize it as one because they are uncomfortable with acknowledging that we essentially have a war in all but name being conducted on the streets of an American city and they empathize with the insurgents, not the soldiers.

    Police violence doesn’t seem to be stopping protests and “riots” about police violence. Perhaps treating it like a war is not an effective strategy.

    14
  65. Blue Galangal says:

    @Gustopher:

    Perhaps treating it like a war is not an effective strategy.

    What this is about is getting footage to feed the fear-based conservatainment complex. That’s what it’s being used for – right wing media thrives on creating fear so that their credulous pawns will buy gold/aquarium cleaner/bleach and keep their eyeballs on the screens that feed their fear and reinforce that they are white, I mean right.

    10
  66. Pylon says:

    @HarvardLaw92: John Lewis described these very protests as the same “good trouble” he engaged in. MLK said riots were a the means of communication of oppressed people. And I can think of no reason to wear camo in the streets of Portland. Police should be easy to identify, from the service right down to the officer’s identity. And speaking of cherry picking – Molotov cocktails? I can recall maybe one example since the BLM protests began, and probably not by BLM supporters.

    10
  67. gVOR08 says:

    @EddieInCA:

    On the ground, they’re living their normal lives, with little if any issue with the daily protests. It’s not as big, nor as dangerous, as portrayed on Fox or Social Media.

    Additionally, the protests were winding down, with less than 100 people per night, with less people coming every night

    Which is the problem Trump or some minion is trying to solve. In order to run on lawnorder they need some riots. So they’re trying to make some, or at least the appearance of some.

    11
  68. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve:

    Defense Department says it’s concerned about law enforcement dressing up in Army uniforms

    Maybe the military could set an example by not wearing combat fatigues to their office jobs, @gVOR08:

    6
  69. Pylon says:

    @Gustopher: There are pics of the forces there using suppressors on their rifles. I can think of no reason that would be necessary, just like the camo.

    2
  70. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    What this is about is getting footage to feed the fear-based conservatainment complex. That’s what it’s being used for – right wing media thrives on creating fear so that their credulous pawns will buy gold/aquarium cleaner/bleach and keep their eyeballs on the screens that feed their fear and reinforce that they are white, I mean right.

    Except our esteemed Harvard Graduate Friend, Esquire is not looking to bask in fear, or rile up the rubes with pictures of unrest. Taking him at his word (and I think we can), he thinks that police violence is the solution. Somehow. To protests about police violence.

    The same logic that led to “we have to destroy the village to save it”.

    Our esteemed friend is the rube who has been riled up.

    5
  71. steve says:

    James- I think I mostly agree with you here. As I think you know I was both officer and enlisted, also served in Desert Storm. I have been concerned for a while with both the lionization of our troops and the militarization of the police. I do not understand the purpose of wearing camouflage in the city. It isn’t going to camouflage you. I think it is possible that it gives those wearing it the wrong idea about how they should behave. In other situations where police have worn camo they have behaved at much lower standards, I believe, than actual real live military police would behave. Since it serves no positive purpose, and has potential negative consequences, I would prefer they stop wearing it. I think it also has the potential for decreasing trust in our military. I dont want them lionized but I dont want them thought of as the type of people who will push old people down and crack their skulls for no real reason. Be police. Coming from Philadelphia, I also dont want people associating the military with that degree of corruption. (My security people were off duty police and they used to fix tickets for us and when I bought a car that was a lemon offered to have it stolen for me so I could get the insurance. And of course there were the 3 that were convicted for raping pts on the way to the hospital when they were transporting them.)

    Steve

    7
  72. inhumans99 says:

    Steven, James, Kingdaddy…if one of you prevented my admittedly dumb, silly, and just not useful comment from earlier this morning from showing up in this thread that was much appreciated.

    You saved me from myself. I need to start counting to 10 again before I hit the post/publish button.

    If someone is wondering what the heck I am talking about, I had a post that only added noise but no signal to this thread that was caught as spam by the site’s filters and that was a good thing…lol.

    3
  73. steve says:

    “Maybe the military could set an example by not wearing combat fatigues to their office jobs”

    One of the many reasons I decided not to make a career out of the military, the wife threatening to leave me if I stayed in being at the top, is the military obsession with clothing and appearance. I thought it bizarre that 10% (from memory) of my promotion rating came from my official photo. So, I was quite happy to wear BDUs all of the time. (Suspect this is probably a factor in the military preferring police not wear military uniforms.)

    Steve

  74. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Teve: This is a gift horse issue for Biden to capitalize on.

    “On day 1, I will order my Attorney General to establish and mandate a utility uniform for our deployed Federal Officer that is clearly distinctive from any Department of Defense uniform.”

    He should have already tweeted it out….

    5
  75. Teve says:

    Unlike the PoPo, in the military they follow rules of engagement very seriously, and somebody said, yeah, that’s because in the military if you break the rules and hurt people there are consequences.

    3
  76. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @gVOR08: Much of that is because the office uniform is so damn uncomfortable. There is no office casual uniform–and we are–the actual Military.

    Pre 9-11 it wasn’t that way–you only were in camouflage if in the field or deployed.

    3
  77. Joe says:

    If the community wants them gone because they’re freaking people out with the fascism practice, they go.

    While I generally agree with you here, KM, I think we need to carefully define “the community.” There have been times before – civil rights era – and will be again when the American community want a different style of policing in a particular region, state or municipality despite what the community in that area has in mind.

    Frankly, I don’t remember HL92 ever being such a dick before. I assume, Steven L. Taylor or James Joyner, you can see HL92’s email address and are confident this isn’t somebody spoofing HL92’s handle.

    6
  78. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I want to break this down so people understand why HL92 is so invested in his position. I don’t think he’s bullshitting anyone about his background. But what I’ve learned from people in a similar demographic is that they, under no circumstances, want a face to face or physical confrontation with the hoi polloi. This is why they need the police to take the hardest line possible to deter these people from ever getting into a position where they come into their physical space. They aren’t built to fend for themselves tete a tete. Their forte is using money, institutions, and the law to create a comfortable standoff between them and the losers of society–regardless of color. As HL92 has noted many times–most of the protestors these days are white and his venom has the same intensity as it did for black protestors during the Freddy Gray protests.

    Remember the whole “leaving the country” bit after Trump was elected? Exhibit 1 for conflict aversion. Im not saying he’s a coward Im saying he prefers a different type of fight with the dirty work left to people built for those type of engagement. Much like the McCloskeys in St Louis, who clearly panicked and endangered themselves when all the space they’d created between themselves and commoners was no longer there. A long time ago, the military was the place rich elites were socialized with regular people–their isn’t an institution that does that now which translates into those with means creating more and more space between themselves and the unwashed as possible–police being the barrier of last resort. If they go–they just might have to look eye to eye with “the others”

    Now contrast that to my black a$$, who grew up in neighborhoods where your older brother or uncle would take to you his friend’s houses to fight their younger brother or nephew for fun. Ive also been in uniform, deployed, and toted weapons “outside the wire” serving this country. Im no stranger to conflict or confrontation and while I do not like them, I have a switch I can flick to channel the right mental frame of mind to meet the challenge if required. Im not threatened by protestors of any flavor (including the 2nd amendment nuts) unless they express a direct threat to me physically. Otherwise, life is full or inconveniences–people expressing their grievances is but one.

    27
  79. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Excellent analysis.

    But I will call it cowardice. Nothing has disappointed me more than cowardice which I had always assumed was only a feature of a minority of people. Turns out, nope, lots of cowards. Most people, in fact.

    My ball-tightening moments are not as intense or as legitimate, as yours, but there have been more than a few. I’ve been credibly threatened by guys with the ability to carry out those threats, including the robber who stuck a nine (might have been a .40) in my face, and the time a guy kicked my door in around 2 AM roaring that he was going to kill me. And of course, my blessedly brief time in jails. And cutting my way through the roof of an open and full restaurant and emptying the safe. The Angels on choppers who chased me through Crockett, CA. The 22 years of knowing a chance encounter could put me back in handcuffs and on a (coach!)* flight back to California.

    Granted 90% of my ‘uh oh!’ moments were entirely my fault. But it’s good to be well and truly shit-scared a few times and survive. No one knows how, or if, they’ll cope until they do.

    *The really scary part.

    4
  80. gVOR08 says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Much of that is because the office uniform is so damn uncomfortable. There is no office casual uniform

    That seems a situation that could be readily addressed.

    3
  81. Northerner says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Throwing rocks can be deadly if the targets aren’t wearing helmets, and can do a lot of damage even if they are. Anyone picking up rocks and throwing them at random strangers is likely to be quickly stopped by the police.

    However, its still a long ways from what is generally called extreme in an industrial society. Shooting people, running them down with cars, using explosives — those are considered to be extreme.

    Should people throwing rocks be arrested? Of course. Should the police shoot them? Of course not — the police should be wearing helmets which removes the deadly aspect, and responding to non-deadly force with deadly force is wrong for everyone, including law enforcement.

    9
  82. KM says:

    @Joe:
    Agreed. Part of the problem I had typing up my post was all the words I wanted to use had even more unintended baggage. We The People, the public, citizens, voters, taxpayers, civilians, Americans, residents, Average Joes, not-police…. all form a grouping that excludes others who would have a vested interested in how police behave. Part of this is somewhat deliberate as certain terms have been claimed or at least heavily tainted with a specific connotation in politics.

    I suppose my overall point is that the police need to be much more mindful of their status – namely, we collectively are the boss of them and not the other way around. Police in America have become a force until themselves with a distinct culture that views its members as separate and above those they are supposed to be serving. Yes, their job is to deal with lawbreakers constantly but it’s an extreme failure of police culture to not keep the concepts of “lawbreaker” and “public” separate. You don’t see firemen treating everyone they meet like a potential firebug nor paramedic like everyone’s a second away from OD’d or managing to mangle themselves. It’s only police that seems to look at the community they are in and go think “you’re a potential threat” with each and every interaction. Different communities would like different standards and rigor of enforcement (HOAs, why are you a thing?) so the police need to be more flexible and fluid with their cultural understanding and applications. That’s an adjustment they all have to make at a deep psychological and structural level – you’re only in charge because we *let* you be in charge. We can, will and should get rid of you should you abuse the honor of policing and protection our communities. We set the standards and those standards can change.

    5
  83. @inhumans99: The filter caught it–and based on this comment I went ahead and deleted it.

  84. @Joe:

    Frankly, I don’t remember HL92 ever being such a dick before. I assume, Steven L. Taylor or James Joyner, you can see HL92’s email address and are confident this isn’t somebody spoofing HL92’s handle.

    I had thought this might be the case a few weeks ago, and best I can tell our esteemed, disdainful veteran, and alumnus of Harvard Law is the same guy for the last ~8 years. I can’t guarantee it, as the amount of evidence I have is limited, but what I have tracks enough that I have no reason to assume it isn’t the same person.

    He has clearly gotten more belligerent and self-important of late. But he has on occasion shown the ability to be more than a bit of a jerk in the past.

    9
  85. Teve says:

    @Pylon:

    there are pics of the forces there using suppressors on their rifles.

    I thought those looked more like teargas shooters.

  86. An Interested Party says:

    It bears repeating that not only do we have a president who is a bully and a coward, but he has henchmen who are just as loathsome as he is…these people have totally misread this situation and are responding in an aggressive and unnecessary way…the November election is the only thing that is going to stop them…meanwhile, as I was reading Jim Brown 32 describe how certain people want nothing to do with the riffraff, I couldn’t help but think of Elizabeth Warren and “you didn’t build that”…for all the whining that the rich and powerful do about how they already pay too much in taxes compared to other people, it is simply amazing how the systems in place in this country, like infrastructure, law enforcement, and the law itself, protect these people from so much…this is directly linked to what all these protests are about in the first place…there needs to be a reckoning in this country to make life fairer and more just for all of its citizens…

    6
  87. CSK says:

    Uniformed law enforcement should be easily identifiable as law enforcement.
    Uniformed military should be easily identifiable as military.

    4
  88. Monala says:

    @HarvardLaw92: By definition, criminals are people who don’t play by the rules. So by your argument, police should always act as soldiers at war.

    6
  89. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: You are nothing if not entertaining.

    Sadly, you are not entertaining.

    I have no idea why you have set out on your apparent quest to find your inner Bircher (with a side of “well, they’re just as bad”), but

    …make peace with your god,
    Whatever you perceive him to be – hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin.

    Ta-ta for now.

    2
  90. flat earth luddite says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    and
    @EddieInCA:
    I don’t live in Portland. I live in the burbs, about 15 minutes south. I’ve been into town numerous times over the past month. Taking night-time shots of the comet, and city scapes, and whatever else catches my old dude eye.

    Your friends are correct. IF you’re near the area around the courthouses (County & Federal) it can be pretty uncomfortable and/or scary. Bothers the absolute freaking heck out of me because I was there for SOME of the riots in Seattle circa 1968-71. Both before and after chemo, I have aversion to tear gas. Having had teachers who were in the Resistance in Europe circa 1939-44, I have an antipathy towards brownshirts/blackshirts or that kind of behavior.

    That being said, I roam where I want, when I want. If the blackshirts don’t like it, and smack me around and put me in the back of the Black Maria, I’ll likely leak my colostomy bag all over them. Besides, won’t be my first rodeo.

    Going back to my cave now. Carry on, gentlebeings.

    10
  91. Pylon says:
  92. The Q says:

    If I may paraphrase Voltaire regarding that pedantic putz HL92, I’d be willing to bet he is neither a veteran, an attorney nor a Harvard graduate. In fact, his moniker should mimic Trump’s blatant insecurity and read “Ihavebighands92”, which probably was a close second choice to his current ego stroking appellation.

  93. Rick DeMent says:

    I can’t help but be astonished at the difference in approach between the whole Bundy standoff and the stand off at the wildlife refuge. On one hand, we have armed civilians in open conflict with the law and not only did they largely get away with it, a lot of people took their side.

    In Portland and other cities, unarmed protesters and some vandalism on the periphery. No one bothers to sort out if the people doing the vandalism had anything to do with the protesters, we just lumped them all in the same boat uncritically and send in guys with a military posture.

    Is vandalism wrong? Absolutely. But the vandalism was perpetrated but a very small segment of the crowd as a whole. As for what is and what is not “extremism”, my god, more shit get’s broke when sports teams win championships. The only “riot” I was ever involved in was the immediate aftermath of the 1984 Detroit Tigers World Series victory. Yes there was real live tear gas, but the irony there was it wasn’t thrown by police, it was a bunch of chuckleheads that got the trunk of a police opened and looted the tear gas canisters. They were called a lot of things, thugs, criminals and looters by never extremists.

    Sports Riot

    (personally as soon as I saw the trunk of the cop car open with the tear gas we ran in the opposite direction. Didn’t have to look back, got a healthy whiff of it.)

    Let’s also not forget that The Boston Tea Party is taught to school children as some kind of acceptable form of protest. Over an excise tax increase no less. I’m pretty sure that whatever the word for extremist was back then, but the people who perpetrated that event where assuredly called that as well.

    4
  94. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    The arrogance isn’t what strikes me, it’s the sudden degradation of his debate skills. He leaves holes you could drive a tank through. His arguments are emotional bordering on hysterical at times, and he doesn’t cover his rear at all, doesn’t anticipate counter-arguments. In effect he’s being a lousy lawyer. He shouldn’t be this easy to beat up on. He used to be smarter than this.

    5
  95. PJ says:

    @HarvardLaw92: @HarvardLaw92: To begin with your Headline “Cops should Not Look like Soldiers”. They Absolutely SHOULD be uniformed in “Protective Battle Gear” ! They are being sent into the midst of an army of Morons that are continually manipulated (Quite easily) into Destructive Violent Mobs by Organized Infiltrating Anarchists.
    Further, If one were to pay attention to the details of video footage, One would Notice that these Anarchists are themselves in a Uniform of sorts being clothed in All Black, head to toe and often with attached accessorized tactical belts.
    These are NOT “Peaceful Protestors!
    Further, Be they hand launched or not Projectiles (Rocks, Bricks etc.) are Deadly.
    In other words, “They Maim, and Kill”.
    No More Giving Ground. It only emboldens them, making things Far Worse!
    Deadly Assault needs to be met and countered with Deadly Force.
    As to the Majority of the hapless idiots in the crowds, They appear to be Largely composed of college students. Our Next upcoming generation, God help America ! Their parents who likely suffer and sacrifice so much (financially) for their “Higher Education” must be So Proud of the results of their sacrifices. Still, If These hapless Morons are going to be out in the midst of a Rioting Mob, and subsequently suffer traumatic injury (Be it at the hands of police, or fellow Rioters) So Be It! Though young, they are none the less Grown Men & Women and therefore responsible for their own actions and decisions.
    Including the decision to Be There in the Midst of a situation like that!