FBI Arrived with Guns Drawn at Felicity Huffman’s House

An over-the-top police response to a non-violent offense.

LAT (“Felicity Huffman awoke to FBI agents with guns drawn at her L.A. home in college cheating raid“):

When Felicity Huffman opened the door to her Los Angeles home at 6 a.m. Tuesday, she was met by FBI agents with their guns drawn, according a source familiar with the incident.

The agents informed her of the charges in a sweeping college admissions fraud case and handcuffed her, the source said. Huffman spent hours in federal custody at a detention center in downtown Los Angeles.

On Tuesday afternoon, Huffman made a brief court appearance. She answered “yes” to several questions from the federal magistrate, including whether she understood the charges against her. She was seated in a glassed-off area with several other defendants. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, sat in court as the magistrate ordered her free on $250,000 bail.

She is expected to appear in a Boston courtroom March 29 to address the charges.

Huffman is accused of disguising a $15,000 charitable payment in the bribery scheme, according to court records. Prosecutors alleged Huffman met with a confidential witness who explained that he could control an SAT testing center and could arrange for someone to proctor her daughter’s test and correct it.

I’ve expressed my thoughts on the overall case yesterday afternoon and don’t have anything to add at this juncture. But, surely, FBI agents showing up at dawn with their guns drawn is an over-the-top police response to a non-violent offense? Huffman is 57 years old.  Macy is 69.  They’re rich, famous people—and thus with a hell of a lot to lose—with no history of violence. Did agents really think their lives were in danger?

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. Dave Schuler says:

    I think that this sort of show of force from the FBI may now be deemed a pattern. It may even be a policy.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: I think that’s right. I find it unprofessional and another example of the militarization of policing. It’s not how the agents of a free society ought treat its citizens.

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  3. This is problematic and unnecessary.

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  4. @James Joyner: Agreed.

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  5. CSK says:

    This has been going on for decades. I once did a bit of consulting work for a municipal police department, and every time they did a joint operation the local cops would complain about how overblown the FBI response would be. Same with the DEA.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another day ending in Y.

    @James Joyner: Some years back my youngest son missed a court date (for a DWI) that neither he nor his attorney had been notified of. Early in the AM they sent out a “Fugitive Apprehension Team”. He came out of his apartment to walk his dogs just in time to see a cop in full SWAT kit sneaking around a corner.

    Fortunately, “Can I help you?” was not responded to with the emptying of a full mag from the M-4s they were carrying.

    ETA for context this was in Baton Rouge

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  7. KM says:

    But, surely, FBI agents showing up at dawn with their guns drawn is an over-the-top police response to a non-violent offense?

    Yes, it is and if the sentiment had ended there we’d be in complete agreement. But the next lines bother me greatly and I believe represent a reason why this happened…

    Huffman is 57 years old. Macy is 69.

    So? What, older folks can’t fight back? It’s not like they’re infirm!!! Honestly, Boomers need to make up their minds – either 50 is the new 30 and “too young” or they’re so old it’s a shocking crime to consider using force against them.

    As the NRA is fond of telling us, guns are the great equalizer and help elderly individuals defend themselves in situations exactly like this one – a group of armed men invading your home unexpectedly. That the men were cops instead of robbers doesn’t change the fact that age wouldn’t have been so big an issue in self-defense. Good aim is good aim.

    Please stop using age as an excuse or rationale for why this sort of thing is wrong. Excessive force is excessive force, period. Trying to paint this as “beating up on old people” is the same kind of crap they tried to cite for Roger Stone and he’s anything but defenseless. Old =/= harmless!

    They’re rich, famous people—and thus with a hell of a lot to lose—with no history of violence.

    What, poor people are liable to fight back and violent because they’re poor and thus brutish? This is an *incredibly* problematic statement that implies wealthy folks are inherently less violent simply because they have money. BS! Most people have no history of violence and aren’t likely to cause an issue but they get no-knock visits and guns drawn anyway. Why should the rich expect a different police response then your average citizen? Also, poor people have more to lose statistically because they’ll get longer sentences in harsher conditions then the rich guy who might skate with a fine but retain their freedom.

    Please stop using wealth as an excuse or rationale for why this sort of thing is wrong. Excessive force is excessive force, period. Rich people are going to be *more* likely to get away with acting out on the cops because they can afford decent lawyers and will likely draw a jury or judge with this exact mentality. “Hell of a lot to lose” is a relative statement, look at Manafort…..

    Did agents really think their lives were in danger?

    YES. They’ve been conditioned that way to always low-key expect it.

    They do that because the culture keeps reinforcing in their minds that their job is a 24/7 death trap. America has fostered a police culture that constantly feels like people are out to get them and there’s a bullet with their name on it around every corner. Gun culture and post 9/11 mentality allowed this notion to flourish and gave them military-grade tools to “fight back”. This have been the new norm for some time now and siege mentality is very hard to break.

    Look, I think this was all excessive as hell. But I’m seeing more and more conservatives get pissy with the world they created now that it’s being used against them and those with privilege. These complaints are only surfacing because what’s normal for the rest of us is now finally affecting them. Much like with the opioid “crisis”, it’s only a crisis now that the wrong people are dying or having their lives ruined. Old, rich, white – *none* of those things should matter in the outrage over this incident but that’s what critics will keep going back to. This is the new standard procedure – maybe instead of asking why it was so disturbing it happened this time to these specific folks, let’s ask why it’s taken until now for people to start finding it disturbing.

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  8. Tyrell says:

    @Dave Schuler: I certainly agree that this is becoming more common place. I watched videos of the arrest of Roger Stone. That looked like some sort of storm troopers or SWAT team.
    If this is now the standard procedure, where does that leave the average citizen? How about some long forgotten unpaid parking ticket or something like that? That concern is on my mind now as I see these sort of operations increasing.
    What is the reason for this? Is this part of something larger?

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  9. mattbernius says:

    But, surely, FBI agents showing up at dawn with their guns drawn is an over-the-top police response to a non-violent offense?

    It is over-the-top (though there is some good rational for the timing and the size of the force — especially if the goal is also to get documents before there is an opportunity to destroy them or contact other conspirators). It’s also pretty common for certain non-violent offenses.

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  10. James Joyner says:

    @KM: I’ve been writing about police abuse and the militarization of police pretty regularly over the 16-year history of the site. I find it outrageous when committed against poor, young minorities, not just rich, older, white folks.

    My point with age and income here is context. Older people are simply less violent, all things being equal. Even people who were hardened criminals in their youth tend to age out of violent behavior.

    Similarly, Huffman and Macy are multi-millionaires with plenty of resources to throw at lawyers. They have future earning potential to protect. Did the FBI agents really think they were going to initiate an OK Corral shootout to avoid being arrested for fraud charges for which they likely escape with a fine?

    Context matters.

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  11. Franklin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: What? They didn’t at least shoot your son’s dogs?

    That might be a first.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    I expect James and supporting commenters are sincere and would be equally offended on learning the cops raided some poor black family at 6 AM with guns drawn over a non-violent offense. But of course we won’t find out about it because it won’t be news. At least with Huffman they had the right address and didn’t actually shoot anyone.

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  13. drj says:

    @KM:

    This should get a thousand upvotes.

    What, poor people are liable to fight back and violent because they’re poor and thus brutish? This is an *incredibly* problematic statement that implies wealthy folks are inherently less violent simply because they have money. BS! Most people have no history of violence and aren’t likely to cause an issue but they get no-knock visits and guns drawn anyway. Why should the rich expect a different police response then your average citizen?

    To be fair, it’s not just Joyner. We, as society, have always been (and continue to be) taught to fear the underprivileged.

    Whether it’s “savage negroes,” “hysterical women,” “pro-communist agitators,” or “degenerate homosexuals,” there is always an excuse to preserve and reinforce the existing power structure.

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  14. drj says:

    @gVOR08:

    I expect James and supporting commenters are sincere and would be equally offended on learning the cops raided some poor black family at 6 AM with guns drawn over a non-violent offense.

    Sure. But the difference is generally that the poor black family doesn’t as easily get the benefit of the doubt as those who are rich or white.

    And that – through the presence or absence of a public backlash – has a very real impact on how different communities are policed.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) don’t do context, they follow what amounts to force protection policies. An LEO’s #1 priority is to establish control, in order to protect themselves, at least in theory, though there’s an obvious element of intimidation as well. They think they’re in Afghanistan kicking in doors with a vehicle-mounted .50 caliber in the yard and a Predator circling overhead.

    American LEO’s are much more thuggish than cops in many developed nations. Our prisons are more brutal than just about any civilized nation. Our criminal justice system is manifestly unfair to the poor. Basically we do a pretty lousy job with law enforcement, but since this thuggishness and unfairness and corruption don’t usually touch the rich and the white no one cares.

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  16. Teve says:

    Samantha Ruddy
    @samlymatters
    ·
    1h
    Women tend to have way more interesting scandals than men. Dudes usually get in trouble because they were horny or they were angry. We get in trouble because we start a fake blood company or pay $500k to get our kid on a rowing team.

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  17. KM says:

    @James:
    It wasn’t a jab at you personally. I’m aware and appreciate that you regularly write about these issues. What else could we comment on if you didn’t? 🙂

    Still, my point about people repeatedly citing the ages of recent high-profile arrests is valid. We as a society are seeing people live longer and stay healthier for vast stretches of the time. 50 is no longer “old”, it’s middle-aged. Hell, even people in their 70’s aren’t as frail as they used to be – one of my yoga instructors is 73 and can bend in ways the rest of us just can’t. Yes, being young and hot-blooded is a thing but to simply go “oh, they’re over 50, they’ll likely go quietly” flies in the face of how rage-filled our society currently is. Anger is a real issue and we’re seeing more and more folks losing it in situations that you wouldn’t traditionally expect. Frankly, it’s somewhat ageist to think someone’s is less of a threat just because they pass the half-century mark, especially if they have a tool that renders physical exertion irrelevant.

    Meanwhile, the cops are probably thinking “Breathing, therefore capable of resisting arrest. Therefore potential threat” because they view us all in those terms. You never know who’s gonna go psycho and fight back, after all. Maybe they’re harmless old women, maybe they’re gun-nuts with a grudge who won’t be taken alive. Best to just suit up in full gear, bring SWAT and break the &$*$(* door down at dawn because then risk one hair on their heads being rational and proportional.

    At least they’re not being ageist or sexist in their “thinking” so….. yeah cops for being progressive??

    Similarly, Huffman and Macy are multi-millionaires with plenty of resources to throw at lawyers. They have future earning potential to protect.

    Yeah? It also means that if they *did* punch a cop or resist arrest, they’re *far* more likely to skate then you or me. Yes, future earnings *might* be affected but in today’s world, they might just be able to parlay that cred into a different line of work (aka wingnut welfare). They’d lose money, you and I would lose our freedom for a few years. You are speaking in terms of material loss, something they can get back but I’m talking about *time*. You don’t get those days /weeks/ years behind bars back so if anything, someone with the ability to toss money at lawyers has less to lose because victory is more assured.

    Context matters because 99% of us are looking at this going “WTF, that could happen to me and nobody’s going to write a think-piece defending me. They defend the police instead because ‘law and order'”. I’m young, female, blonde, pale as hell and moderately well-off and if I got a visit like this, there wouldn’t be a thing in the news crying about how unfair it was to treat me like that. No cries about police brutality or excessive force – just “what did she do to deserve that? Must be bad! Discuss!”

    All we’re seeing is rich folks complaining about being treated like scum in a police state like the rest of us. Welcome to the club, Huffman – this is how regular Americans live.

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  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    For me this comes down to whether it policy, or not.
    Given the recent Roger Stone kerfuffle, I imagine it is policy.
    Is the policy over-blown? Perhaps.
    I have my problems with law enforcement, trust me, but I do not envy them having to approach a car with dark windows or a house with a closed door.

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  19. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Similarly, Huffman and Macy are multi-millionaires with plenty of resources to throw at lawyers. They have future earning potential to protect.

    Dude, you are doing it AGAIN.

    You are quite strongly implying here that people without “future earning potential to protect” can be reasonably expected to initiate an OK Corral-style shootout with the FBI.

    Another way to put this would be to say that, contrary to rich people, poor people are irrational and prone to violence; and, moreover, that law enforcement should act on that distinction.

    I’m pretty sure (at least, I hope) that you didn’t intend to say this, but you DID.

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  20. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    They think they’re in Afghanistan kicking in doors with a vehicle-mounted .50 caliber in the yard and a Predator circling overhead.

    Maybe some LEOs approach it like this, but FBI agents generally don’t.

    Then again, the selection and training processes for FBI agents are significantly more stringent and extensive than for city/county/state police departments.

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  21. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Another way to put this would be to say that, contrary to rich people, poor people are irrational and prone to violence; and, moreover, that law enforcement should act on that distinction.

    Fair enough. As a general rule, I don’t think police ought to show up with guns drawn for people accused of nonviolent offenses. Still, to the extent police are weighing the probability of danger, people without much to lose are more of a risk factor.

    @KM:

    All we’re seeing is rich folks complaining about being treated like scum in a police state like the rest of us.

    Well, this is me complaining about their being treated like scum. But, as I say, I think this isn’t how police ought treat citizens.

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  22. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Still, to the extent police are weighing the probability of danger, people without much to lose are more of a risk factor.

    Again, I don’t think you are doing it intentionally, but you are, in fact, dehumanizing the poor.

    Lacking “future earning potential to protect” ≠ “people without much to lose”

    Poor people might have kids, for instance, or a hobby even.

    They are NOT going to start a firefight with the FBI because they can’t make rent this month.

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  23. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: Agreed. In Stone’s case, they had *some* justification (him bragging about being armed and ready for the Deep State), but in this case it’s clearly BS.

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  24. R. Dave says:

    @KM: Frankly, it’s somewhat ageist to think someone’s is less of a threat just because they pass the half-century mark, especially if they have a tool that renders physical exertion irrelevant.

    It’s not, though. As James pointed out, older people are statistically MUCH less likely to engage in violent behavior. It’s not biased or discriminatory to acknowledge that fact and adjust expectations and tactics accordingly. A potential counterpoint, or course, is that this logic would (perversely) seem to justify using more aggressive police tactics against black people because black people are statistically more likely to engage in violent crime than white people in the US, but the contextual differences make that an inapt extension of the logic. There’s no history of virulent bigotry and oppression on the basis of age like there is when it comes to race, so the optics and implications are completely different.

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  25. R. Dave says:

    @drj: Lacking “future earning potential to protect” ≠ “people without much to lose”

    This is true, but I think Joyner’s conclusion is valid even though his reasoning is flawed. Rich people aren’t less likely to violently resist because they have more to lose, but because (i) they have the means to resist non-violently within the system, (ii) they’re less likely to have been habituated to violence by their environment and social milieu, and (iii) their arrest is less likely to feel like the final straw in a lifetime of frustration and disaffection with the system.

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  26. Paul L. says:

    How dare you question the FBI the US’s premiere and most elite law enforcement agency.
    You are undermining Law Enforcement and the Rule of Law.

    Or so I am told by progressives.

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  27. R. Dave says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Early in the AM they sent out a “Fugitive Apprehension Team”. He came out of his apartment to walk his dogs just in time to see a cop in full SWAT kit sneaking around a corner. Fortunately, “Can I help you?” was not responded to with the emptying of a full mag from the M-4s they were carrying.

    What happened to the dogs? I gather they didn’t shoot them, but what did they do with them – take them to the pound, hand them off to a neighbor or family member, or what? I’ve always wondered what would happen if I got arrested while out walking my dog. Not that I’m on the lam for anything, of course. Just one of those random “huh, I wonder…” things.

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  28. James Joyner says:

    @R. Dave:

    This is true, but I think Joyner’s conclusion is valid even though his reasoning is flawed. Rich people aren’t less likely to violently resist because they have more to lose, but because (i) they have the means to resist non-violently within the system, (ii) they’re less likely to have been habituated to violence by their environment and social milieu, and (iii) their arrest is less likely to feel like the final straw in a lifetime of frustration and disaffection with the system.

    “Not much to lose” is perhaps a poor shorthand for a lot of this. It’s not my area of expertise by any stretch but there is tons of data linking poverty/socioeconomic status and violence, although the causality goes both ways.

    The interplay is exceedingly complicated:

    The connection is so strong that, according to the World Bank, a simple measure of inequality predicts about half of the variance in murder rates between American states and between countries around the world. When inequality is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status – like a good job and the ability to support a family – matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately.

    Inequality predicts homicide rates “better than any other variable”, says Martin Daly, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario and author of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide.

    This includes factors like rates of gun ownership (which also rise when inequality does) and cultural traits like placing more emphasis on “honor” (this, too, turns out to be linked with inequality). “About 60 [academic] papers show that a very common result of greater inequality is more violence, usually measured by homicide rates,” says Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level and co-founder of the Equality Trust.

    According to the FBI, just over half of murders in which the precipitating circumstances were known were set off by what is called the “other argument” – not a robbery, a love triangle, drugs, domestic violence or money, but simply the sense that someone had been dissed.

    When someone bumps into someone on the dance floor, looks too long at someone else’s girlfriend or makes an insulting remark, it doesn’t threaten the self-respect of people who have other types of status the way it can when you feel this is your only source of value.

    “If your social reputation in that milieu is all you’ve got, you’ve got to defend it,” says Daly. “Inequality makes these confrontations more fraught because there’s much more at stake when there are winners and losers and you can see that you are on track to be one of the losers.”

    Harold Pollack, co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, agrees. “If you foreclose [mainstream] opportunities for respect, status and personal advancement, people will find other ways to pursue those things.”

    Obviously, potential murderers don’t check the local Gini Index – the most commonly used measure of inequality that looks at how wealth is distributed – before deciding whether to get a gun. But they are keenly attuned to their own level of status in society and whether it allows them to get what they need to live a decent life. If they can’t, while others visibly bask in luxury that seems both impossible to attain and unfairly won, those far from the top often become desperate.

    Let’s just say Huffman and Macey have other status to fall back on.

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  29. Teve says:

    @R. Dave: I feel you. I have a weird interest in logistics. Like if I read that Lenin was exiled to Germany for a few years, I’m the guy who’s thinking did he sleep on friends’ couches? did he have money in the bank? How much did meals cost in Germany in the early nineteen-hundreds?

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  30. Dave Schuler says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The irony of that is that in Chicago at least the homicide rate per 100K for Chicago police officers is lower than the homicide rate for Chicagoans, generally. In other words what are they afraid of? It’s safer to be a police officer than to be a Chicagoan.

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  31. Jay L Gischer says:

    Huh. While pondering how the wealth/age dimension affects things, I’ve got to wondering. Might it not be that while the rich and privileged might well be less violent, they might also be less compliant with law enforcement? More inclined to try to negotiate, or argue, or just insist on wrapping up a few things, making a few calls, and so on?

    And of course, those few things, and few calls could be destruction of evidence and warning co-conspirators. And if you’re the police, you probably want, as much as you can, to treat the rich powerful suspects about the same as the less powerful ones. I can see how that might get you to the policy we observe.

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  32. Eric Florack says:

    Roger Stone and Elian Gonzalez were unavailable for comment….

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  33. Guarneri says:

    Of course it was over the top, and deplorable. But remind me, did OTB do pieces on Mueller/FBI and Manafort??

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  34. Teve says:

    They should have taken down Roger Stone Joe Arpaio-style.

    Radley Balko
    @radleybalko

    Arpaio once sent 40 SWAT cops, a bomb robot, K9 units, and Steven Seagal to arrest a man suspected of cockfighting. Seagal drove an APC into the man’s living room. They destroyed the guy’s house with explosives, then filmed it all for a reality TV show.

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  35. James Joyner says:

    @Guarneri:

    did OTB do pieces on Mueller/FBI and Manafort??

    I honestly have no idea what you’re asking here. Doug has written a truckload of posts on Mueller and Manafort. I don’t know what Mueller/FBI means.

    @Teve: I think Arpaio should be in jail and the sort of tactics he used as sheriff should have been the subject of DOJ civil rights suits. I hope Radley was being tongue-in-cheek, though, in suggesting that this would have justified police misconduct in his arrest.

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  36. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    there is tons of data linking poverty/socioeconomic status and violence, although the causality goes both ways.

    Of course, the question is not whether poor people in the aggregate are more violent than rich people, but whether that difference is sufficient reason for law enforcement officers to be more threatening or violent (or to reasonably expect a shootout) when arresting specific people of lower socioeconomic status.

    For starters, suspects starting a firefight with the police is exceedingly rare compared to the total number of arrests that are being made daily.

    Admittedly, that risk is higher when dealing with suspects of low socioeconomic status.

    So we are dealing with an unspecified increase to a very small risk, with the resulting total risk still being very small.

    And you are saying this should enough to justify class-based policing.

    I am not trying to be unfair here, but earlier you considered a Congressman’s request to Amazon to pull dangerous anti-vax nonsense a threat to liberty. But class-based policing and the (obvious) concomitant threat to legal equality is now OK?

    This simply does not compute.

    By the way, did you happen to read the APA page you linked to? It says that exposure to violence is a bigger risk factor for subsequently committing violence than either age or socioeconomic status. So what do you think will happen if poor people are more likely to be policed with excessive force?

    Hint: it starts with “self-fulfilling” and ends with “prophecy.”

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  37. James Joyner says:

    @drj: Again, I think police should use minimal displays of force in arrests absent legitimate reason to think their lives or those of the surrounding public are in danger. That requires taking the totality of circumstances into account. And, yes, this principle would redound overwhelmingly to the benefit of poor people, who are far more likely to be arrested.

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  38. motopilot says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) don’t do context, they follow what amounts to force protection policies. An LEO’s #1 priority is to establish control, in order to protect themselves, at least in theory, though there’s an obvious element of intimidation as well.

    I had a park ranger draw down on my because he initially thought the firewood I was tossing down a hillside to a potential campsite along a lake was trash. At first I thought that was pretty over-the-top, but then realized that these guys deal with some serious loons with firearms out there.

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  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    If I had a more scholarly bent I’d be interested in studying the effect of TV, movies, books, fictional portrayals of LEOs in general, on police behavior and vice versa. There’s a symbiosis there. In order to make fiction work we’ve steadily ratcheted up the action portrayed, and we have – I think shamefully and recklessly – endorsed the idea of cops who ‘break the rules.’ Fiction writers have groomed the public to accept this, not out of any dark motive, just in service to an action scene.

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  40. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Meantime; Manafort gets another light sentence, and the Airline lobbyist running the FAA refuses to ground a dangerous aircraft.

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  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @motopilot:
    An armed population = a militarized, trigger-happy police force. It’s the American cycle of death: more guns equals more need for more guns to counter more guns. We’re in an arms race with ourselves.

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  42. R. Dave says:

    @drj: I am not trying to be unfair here, but earlier you considered a Congressman’s request to Amazon to pull dangerous anti-vax nonsense a threat to liberty. But class-based policing and the (obvious) concomitant threat to legal equality is now OK?

    I don’t understand how commenters keep misinterpreting James’ point so wildly. At no point did I get the impression that he thinks it’s “ok” for cops to use more force with poor suspects than rich ones. On the contrary, he’s repeatedly and explicitly rejected that view in this thread. All he’s said is that the excessive display of force here is that much more ridiculous than usual because the targets are statistically less likely than usual to pose a threat.

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  43. R. Dave says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Meantime; Manafort gets another light sentence….

    Correction: He got a reasonable sentence. The fact that others get unreasonably harsh sentences doesn’t make a reasonable one “light”.

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  44. KM says:

    @R. Dave:

    All he’s said is that the excessive display of force here is that much more ridiculous than usual because the targets are statistically less likely than usual to pose a threat.

    That’s not what he actually said – that’s what you inferred. As James himself was saying, context matters. Here’s the OP phrase – “They’re rich, famous people—and thus with a hell of a lot to lose” which sets up the false dichotomy that rich =valuable things to lose so will not act up and poor = has nothing so they’ll be more dangerous. He got rightly called out on the verbiage and noted it was a poor turn of phrase. What he meant to reference was the notion of security making one less likely to be rash due to possession of other options but instead landed on a stereotype that the poor will be naturally brutish because they lack material success and are cornered.

    The context here – citing privilege as a reason for good behavior – didn’t come across as he intended. Ridiculous doesn’t mean unheard of or even rare. In fact, celebrities getting arrested tends to be a public sideshow specifically *because* they tend to act up, resist and otherwise act in a ridiculous fashion. It was tinged with elitist classism because it presumes rich, famous people will interact the cops much, much better then anyone else….. and it’s not true as even a basic Google search can tell you.

    I never said he thought it was OK for the cops to do what they did – my first post started with my agreement that it was wrong. I pointed that his stated rationale for *why* is was wrong strayed into problematic explanations and logic. His premise is sound – his work getting there, not so much.

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  45. steve says:

    I’ma thinking this must be fake news. Conservatives have informed us that this stuff only happens to upstanding Americans and Trump supporters (the same thing in their universe). The truth is that the corrupt FBI is singling out good people for this treatment, meaning true conservatives. See, there isn’t anything that cant be explained away by the true Trump believers.

    Steve

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  46. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    All he’s said is that the excessive display of force here is that much more ridiculous than usual because the targets are statistically less likely than usual to pose a threat.

    Which means that in Joyner’s opinion, it is less ridiculous to go in with drawn guns when dealing with poor suspects.

    Which is less than optimal if you don’t like the notion of a two-tiered justice system.

    …because the targets are statistically less likely than usual to pose a threat.

    Also, see all the arguments against ethnic profiling.

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  47. Steve V says:

    @Guarneri: The republican complaints about the arrest of Stone was that it was not just over the top, but suspicious in some way. The response was, we agree this was over the top but it wasn’t unusual or suspicious. This would seem to confirm the responses.

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  48. Pylon says:

    I see Trump caved on grounding the 737 Max. Leading from behind.

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  49. @Guarneri: The other day you were complaining that all the posts are about Trump. Today, you take a post that has nothing to do with Trump and make it Trump adjacent.

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  50. R. Dave says:

    @KM: That’s not what he actually said – that’s what you inferred.

    Fair enough, but you likewise inferred that Joyner was citing age and wealth as the “rationale for why this sort of thing is wrong”. drj went even further and inferred that Joyner’s comments implied that “contrary to rich people, poor people are irrational and prone to violence; and, moreover, that law enforcement should act on that distinction”. So yes, I inferred Joyner’s underlying point from his comments, as did you and drj. The difference is that my inference was correct, and yours was not.

    I think the reason for your error is that you and drj seem to have filtered Joyner’s comments through your generalized frustration about biased policing and selective media coverage / popular outrage and thus interpreted them in the most uncharitable way possible. I mean honestly, if you step back for a minute and look at the OP again, do you really think the fairest, most plausible reading of it is that James Joyner believes the only (or even the primary) reason these arrest tactics were excessive is that the suspects were wealthy older people? Is my read of his intended point – i.e., that the tactics were excessive in and of themselves and that the suspects’ age and socio-economic status simply added to the ridiculousness of it all – not the far more reasonable one?

    I raise this not just to score points on the internet, but because I think it’s this kind of uncharitable reading and response that makes our contemporary political discourse so needlessly fraught. You, drj, and James all appear to agree that police routinely engage in excessive displays of force these days, that this is an example of that phenomenon, and that it’s a serious problem for our society, and yet much of this thread has been taken up by you and drj “calling out” James for the “problematic” phrasing and “disturbing” implications of his comments, followed by James (and now me) countering the call-out. How is that helpful or illuminating?

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  51. Franklin says:

    What I’m confused about is why the right (like Don Jr.) seems to think this whole thing is some lefty Hollywood problem. I realize he’s just playing the base against the “enemy,” but anybody with a neuron still firing knows that 2 actresses out of 50 rich people isn’t much of a pattern. Seems more likely that most of those rich people vote Republican, to be honest: they tend to support bribery in the form of campaign contributions.

    Oh, in case anybody needs my opinion: I am against the militarization of the police, against drawing guns for arrests on bribery, and against shooting dogs (usually).

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  52. drj says:

    @R. Dave:

    How is that helpful or illuminating?

    I tried to show that the same line of reasoning that led Joyner to conclude that the FBI displayed excessive force in this particular case can be also used to find that such a display of force might be more justified in different circumstances, partly or perhaps even mainly because the suspect is poor – which I think is morally abhorrent.

    More generally, this should alert you to the fact that it’s not just the conclusion that matters, but also the path that was taken to reach that conclusion.

    Whether you find that helpful or illuminating is up to you.

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  53. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If I had a more scholarly bent I’d be interested in studying the effect of TV, movies, books, fictional portrayals of LEOs in general, on police behavior and vice versa.

    IIRC, in all the years of Dragnet, Friday was never shown firing his weapon in anger. There was one episode in which he shot a perp, but the episode centered on the Internal Affairs investigation, the shooting having occurred off camera before the action. Cop shows have come a long way since then, mostly downhill.

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  54. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @gVOR08: My dad, who spent a few years as an Army MP and CID agent, hated when cop shows started going “downhill.” As entertaining as “Hill Street Blues” was, it glorified dirtbags as cops. Then again, the movies did it first with “Dirty Harry” and the like. And the glorification of violence with pseudo-real-life things like “Walking Tall.” They really went over the cliff with “Cops” and its progeny.

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  55. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    My dad, who spent a few years as an Army MP and CID agent, hated when cop shows started going “downhill.”

    A non-facetious question: how did he feel when real cops started shooting first?

    I’ve been having trouble tracking down exactly when this happened. I remember it being an issue when the first SWAT teams were formed, that the sniper role violated this norm. It was treated as a justifiable exception in (say) hostage situations. But I completely missed the transition for beat cops.

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  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: Dude, get a hearing test. What you think you are hearing is not what is being said. Poor hearing results in poor decoding of oral messages and misunderstanding what was said. I’m hard of hearing myself and know what an obstacle it can be. Modern hearing aids can be quite inexpensive and make a world of difference. They may even be covered in your company or Obamacare health policy.

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  57. Kathy says:

    Completely irrelevant and maybe ven flippant, but all these mentions of Felicity Huffman have me recalling episodes of Sports Night.

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  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Eric Florack: This Elian Gonzales?

    In 2015, González was studying to be an industrial engineer, and hoped to marry his high school sweetheart and fiancée, after finishing college. He stated that although he did not regret returning to Cuba, he would like to travel to the United States one day “to give my love to the American people”.[42] In July 2016, he received a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Matanzas, and read a letter to Fidel Castro from his graduating class, vowing “to fight from whatever trench the revolution demands”.[57]

    ETA: If so, I’m not sure what your point is. On the other hand, not understanding what you’re talking about isn’t all that unusual around here. You might try writing longer comments with less connotative meta-messages.

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  59. dazedandconfused says:

    Somehow force protection, the SOPhilosophy of the military became conflated with public protection, the SOP of police. There’s a big difference between the two, nevertheless. Perhaps the influx of ex-mil people in the ranks of police since Gulf War 1 is the root cause. I really don’t know.

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  60. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Franklin: I’m with you on the militarization of the police, but less so on the dogs. Then again, I seem to live in “let my rottweiler run loose and snarl and snap at people” capital of the world. (Although it is better here than it used to be before I left to go to Korea. Maybe they don’t realize I’m back.)

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  61. Kathy says:

    @Franklin:

    Other than a rabid dog, there’s little rational reason to shoot any dog. Few domestic dogs pose a lethal threat, or even much of a threat of bodily harm, against an adult, much less an adult in good shape.

    A few of the larger breeds might pose a real threat, if aggressive.

    But in the first place, dogs aren’t just property. They’re part of a family. Shooting one is like shooting a son, a mother, an aunt or a grandfather.

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  62. An Interested Party says:

    Roger Stone and Elian Gonzalez were unavailable for comment…

    One of these things is really, really, really not like the other…of course you would think that Roger Stone deserves some kind of sympathy…the poor dear…

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  63. Franklin says:

    @Kathy: Rabid was the case I was thinking.

    But I’m sympathetic to @Just nutha ignint cracker: There was a dog put down after sending my mom to the hospital. (Yes, it was down south.) Luckily, it stopped after munching on her leg for a bit, perhaps because she played dead?

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  64. Gustopher says:

    It’s always a shame when they start treating our betters like the poors… maybe that will change things.

    First they came for the poor blacks, but I said nothing because I am not port and black.
    Then they came for Felicity Huffman, but that was too much because I loved her on Desperate Housewives and Sports Night.

    I mean, that’s at least some level of empathy.

    I’m not even sure why these people should have been proactively arrested, rather than just called up and told to report for arrest with their lawyers. I’m not sure why the majority of people are proactively arrested.

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  65. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m not even sure why these people should have been proactively arrested, rather than just called up and told to report for arrest with their lawyers. I’m not sure why the majority of people are proactively arrested.

    I tend to agree. The only caveat here is that there may need to be an element of surprise in conducting the search. If they need to confiscate computers, mobile phones, and the like to search for additional evidence, giving them a heads’ up to delete incriminating evidence might not be a good practice.

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  66. gVOR08 says:

    An exercise for the reader: Write a draft policy that allows the police to show up with guns drawn in some circumstances but not for Huffman. For extra credit, estimate how many hours from implimentation to the first court case.

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  67. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    A non-facetious question: how did he feel when real cops started shooting first?

    He was generally opposed to the militarization of police and the SWAT phenomenon. I think he understood it in terms of Los Angeles and hostage situations but not in terms of small towns. He thought cops should be a combination of Joe Friday and Andy Taylor.

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  68. wr says:

    @gVOR08: “An exercise for the reader: Write a draft policy that allows the police to show up with guns drawn in some circumstances but not for Huffman.”

    Without issuing an actual position paper, I tend to think it would have something to do with the nature of the offense — if the suspect is wanted in relation with a violent felony, or any kind of assault or weapons charge, guns seem appropriate. If the charge is paying some creep to photoshop their kid into pictures of the crew team, maybe pepper spray and batons is enough.

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  69. Tyrell says:

    @Gustopher: With Muellers’s “investigation” winding down (more like fizzling out), Representative Nadler of New York says he has hundreds of subpoenas ready to go out. As I have said before; this thing started with some politicians and bureaucrats and would spread to the regular people out here in local levels. There is something else going on here.
    “Then they came for the people next door and the school crossing guard”

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