How Extensive is the Problem of Police Abuse?

 

shutterstock_144637685It seems that hardly a week goes by without a new story of a seemingly unwarranted police shooting, mistaken arrest, wrongful prosecution, or wrongful conviction making the news. We have had a rather fierce debate here on Ricochet about whether the police are out of hand, going back years in some cases. It’s not like we are starved for examples, whether they are SWAT raids gone awry, armed interventions to euthanize a deer, traffic stops where the officers seem to have overreacted, and so on.

The questions that have not been directly asked so far (though have been often debated in the comments) are: 1. How extensive are the actual problems? 2. Are we seeing an actual rise in problematic behaviors or are we merely noticing them more in this age of instantaneous outrage and ubiquitous cameras? 3. Were police abuses as common (or uncommon) in the past, but simply more hidden from view? 4. Are we conflating different problems? Specifically, are we painting with too broad a brush, or are we mixing different problem sets and thus missing the the actual state of things? I ask the latter with regards to the mixed jurisdictions and responsibilities of local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Dash cameras in cruisers are a fairly recent innovation. YouTube has existed for only a decade. Body cameras were impractical until very recently. Internet reporting, with its ability to rapidly disseminate information (or disinformation), only goes back 20 years. There is a strong argument to be made that we are all still novices in attempting to discern the real stories from the manufactured anger, and that we actually enjoy (or at least receive a certain satisfaction and endorphin rush) whenever some new abuse comes to light. Tabloid reporting, yellow journalism, and manufactured outrage are certainly nothing new in the news. Only the veneer of “objective reporting” is really new, and we know how thin that veneer really is. Ferguson demonstrated rather clearly that many on the left actively seek to undermine local and state authority if it will serve their own ends, and that the media seem to be the last to see or acknowledge the truth.

Then there is the issue of data. How many “bad cops” went undetected in the past? We will likely never know this, and this lack of data makes it rather difficult to make an honest assessment of the progress or regress of law enforcement today. Perhaps things really are better now because the likelihood is higher that certain abuses will eventually be caught. Perhaps, however, the reverse is true instead, and omnipresent recording devices and surveillance mean that the bad guys are better able to intimidate the public.

There is also the issue of public fear of law enforcement, a fear born of major changes in the last 20 years. Since the Clinton Administration, we have seen a new face of government activism in law enforcement. Raids like Ruby Ridge and Waco, and the general corruption of Janet Reno (whose prior history as the Florida Attorney General was horribly stained with witch-hunts) awoke many to the real dangers of a partisan and vindictive executive. The Patriot Act, Homeland Security, airport security kabuki, and mandatory interstate traffic searches have all been, operationally, treating US citizens as potential criminals who have to expose themselves to constant search. The overreach of the drug war, with property confiscation laws, ever-increasing scrutiny of our daily financial transactions, and limits on our ability to move our own money abroad, have also legitimately increased our fear of the heavy hand of the law.

To return to the questions at the beginning then, and to phrase them a bit differently: Where are the real problems? How extensive are these problems? Are we seeing shifts in the problems, or are we just noticing them more? Are the local agencies (the ones with whom we interact most often) suffering for the sins of others? Have the problems there always existed and we’re only noticing them now? Or are they really growing worse?

I’ll close this with an example from my own area. The village of New Rome, Ohio, was notorious for decades for its corruption. The village set a series of speed traps, suddenly choking down the speed limit from 55 to 35 to 25 on a major US highway. These traps earned them millions of dollars a year. These millions, of course, paid the mayor (who bought extensive property in Florida) and the police chief, and funded a large amount of equipment each year. New Rome’s infamy was well known for many decades — a village of fewer than 100 people, most of them related, voting for the same mayor (or his ancestors), running a private sinecure for their own enrichment. They operated under an old quirk in Ohio laws that allowed for Mayors’ Courts to operate autonomously, never meriting any scrutiny from the state police or county sheriffs for their long-standing abuses. What broke New Rome at last? The internet, and its facilitation of rapid communication.

New Rome’s abuses were longstanding, but its victims were isolated individuals, people just passing through. Yet the Internet allowed these disparate people to communicate with each other and draw attention to the problem. They made enough noise to get attention at the state level and shut the racket down at last.

New Rome was hardly atypical in Ohio. In fact, the problem it typified was extensive. Similar little villages had been fleecing motorists and shaking down citizens for generations. Only with the confluence of outrage and the Internet was it finally noticed and fixed.

Power corrupts. We all know that. There have always been bad cops and there always will be. But are they actually more prevalent now, or has the emergence of the camera culture merely brought more of them to light? If so, are we unfairly heaping blame on the rest of the law enforcement community, or are law enforcement abuses really on the rise? Or are we seeing the corruption at the top stain everyone’s perceptions?

There are 53 comments.

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  1. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    I think you’re asking the right questions, Skip. Funny anecdote: I represented a young kid one time (may have written about it somewhere) on some sort of resisting/interference charge. He was in a car with some friends (all intoxicated) and the driver was pulled over and arrested for a DUI. My client got out as the friend was being arrested, held his cellphone up in the air, started snapping pictures and shouting “Rodney King!!” The cops couldn’t get him to stop, and finally arrested him. The kid was even worse when he talked to me… obviously raised with a certain view (not skepticism, but hatred) of police. Of course, he was so young that he didn’t even know what had actually happened with Rodney King. I explained that even though the officers had initially released him, and he could easily have simply gone home, his own behavior landed him in jail.

    2nd anecdote is of another kid – ridiculously entitled little bastard, who was about as disrespectful to his attorney as I’ve ever experienced – whose dad had printed off one of those stupid “I know my rights” cards that some folks around here think are a brilliant innovation. Kid had a reason for every little thing in the report; he was driving so fast because he was late getting home, he was driving erratically because he was changing the music, his car is loud because the muffler is broken, his eyes were bloodshot because of allergies, and so on… he claimed to have only had 1 beer. Problem with whipping out the “I know my rights” and dripping contempt for the police officers in a situation like this is that you really do eliminate their ability to listen to you or take it easy. A lot of good cops will still do that. So you assume they’re all bad, and essentially lose the benefit of the possibility that not all of them are. In Washington, there is a legal presumption of intoxication if you don’t blow, and the absolute worst thing this kid could have done if he was really innocent was exactly what he did.

    So I’m of a mixed opinion. I’ve had my share of bad experiences with power-tripping cops. I distrust power as a general rule. But to say that we don’t create this atmosphere in many ways is to deny what I think is an obvious fact. Yes, there are bad cops, but the answer is not that we should make it extremely difficult to be a good cop…

    • #1
  2. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Interesting questions, and, as you suppose, a lack of data is a major problem. Law enforcement seems to have little interest in this, for obvious reasons. Of course, if you wish to reduce something, first you must measure it:

    “No one disputes the idea that police misconduct is wrong, but reasonable people do disagree about the scope of the problem and how it ought to be addressed. The purpose of this project is to gather reports of credible allegations of police misconduct so policymakers (and others) can make informed assessments of the nature and circumstances of police misconduct, and consider proposals that can minimize wrongdoing. Individuals who are victimized by police misconduct should expect a review process that will seriously investigate complaints. Police officers accused of wrongdoing should expect to be treated fairly and with due process. Our objective is to identify policies that consistently uphold high standards of ethics, honesty, and professionalism from police officers and critique the policies that do not. We believe good policy analysis can improve governmental decision making.”

    The DoJ does investigate police forces from time to time, but I’m not aware of any other systematic attempt to police the police, or to provide benchmarks on acceptable police behavior.

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  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Good questions, Skip. I’m betting that police departments were a lot less professional a few decades ago. My father joined his home-town force in 1964, but, had worked as a railroad detective before that in the early 1960’s. He interacted with the Chicago Police Department in that job. He had many interesting stories from both jobs. Unfortunately, I can’t remember all of the details.

    One story from Chicago was where a young Black man was caught breaking into some railroad facility. Two huge Black officers came and took custody of him. They conveyed a certain attitude of, “Boy, you’re making our people look bad.” At the court date, the young man was recovering from injuries received while resisting arrest. (He had not resisted when caught, so we’re supposed to believe that he later resisted when in the custody of two very large, armed men?)

    Then there were instances of prisoners falling down the courthouse stairs while being brought from the jail to a certain courtroom, even though they were on the same floor with no stairways on the path from one to another. On the police force, the older officers tended to try more of that kind of thing, since they were around long before police professionalism. During the 1960’s and 1970’s things improved markedly, at least in our city.

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  4. Ross C Member
    Ross C
    @RossC

     1) How extensive are the actual problems? 

    The FBI keeps data on police homicides but participation is voluntary, so some large states like New York are not represented in the data (as I understand it). I understand from news articles that the latest year had between 400-500 police homicides that were tallied.

    We would need some methodology of collecting all the data. There is a website out there that tracks news stories about police homicides and I believe it puts the number at about 1,000 per year.

    We could use more transparency on this from the police themselves who are not reporting it to the FBI though. Not only on the number of homicides but on the number of bullets fired in the line of duty. I suspect that data on bullets is recorded but it is not tabulated. My sense is that police departments are actively down playing these incidents and their extent (naturally) although that is less and less feasible any more for the reasons you suggest.

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  5. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Tuck, you’re not kidding about the data problem. With respect to lethal or potentially lethal force goes, we don’t know, because we don’t want to know. Careful records are kept about police officers injured or killed in the line of duty, so that we know that police work is much safer than it once was; not even in the most dangerous lines of work these days. (Kevlar is a big factor, and of course, most of the other dangerous jobs aren’t dangerous because your customers or clients might be trying to kill you.)

    But as far as injury and death meted out by police? We don’t keep good enough records to know, so we certainly don’t know how justified/unjustified those deaths and injuries might be. That means we’re stuck with anecdotes.

    Data about corrupt rather than physically violent acts is even more nonexistent. Both sets of phenomena are probably big enough that statistical sampling methodology needs to be used, while lethal force incidents are probably uncommon enough to examine them all.

    We might see two sorts of offenses: legal highway robbery, as in speed traps, mostly targeting people from out of the area, plus exploitation of local citizens via abusive administrative process such as asset forfeiture and related measures and creative use of administrative process. A recent lurid story about the downfall of a maraschino cherry magnate illustrates how that can work (in this case, pretty much on the up and up.)

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  6. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    It’s true that the Internet and ubiquitous video have introduced a new degree of transparency. Still, I can’t help thinking that it’s opened a window on policing approaches that are unprecendented: civil asset forfeiture, no-knock raids, SWAT for low-level offenses, etc. There’s evidence that these approaches were used much less frequently a generation ago. As you note, some of it comes from the drug war, and I think a lot of it comes from post-9/11 tools.

    The police are also enforcing an expanded scope of criminality. Even if police procedure hasn’t changed, they are called upon to police more offenses. For better or worse, they are the face that the citizen sees when picked up for selling loosies, or for running $10,000 across the street to the bank every hour, or for inadvertently violating draconian gun laws.

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  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Ontheleftcoast:Tuck, you’re not kidding about the data problem. With respect to lethal or potentially lethal force goes, we don’t know, because we don’t want to know.

    And we can never go backwards to collect equivalent data. We will never know if police violence was higher in the 1950’s or if there was some trend line where the violence went down over the decades, or whether the direction changed when a certain President was looking to put 10,000 officers on the street. We can try to analyze news stories, but it will not be the same as analyzing data going forward.

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  8. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Arahant:

    Ontheleftcoast:Tuck, you’re not kidding about the data problem. With respect to lethal or potentially lethal force goes, we don’t know, because we don’t want to know.

    And we can never go backwards to collect equivalent data. We will never know if police violence was higher in the 1950′s or if there was some trend line where the violence went down over the decades, or whether the direction changed when a certain President was looking to put 10,000 officers on the street. We can try to analyze news stories, but it will not be the same as analyzing data going forward.

    It is even harder when you consider the wide disparities between cities. I imagine Chicago circa 1925 would have been a major sinkhole of abuse and corruption (or today for that matter really). Then compare say Detroit 1950 to Detroit today. Some places have gotten better, some have gotten worse.

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  9. Ross C Member
    Ross C
    @RossC

    Interesting WSJ article on the problems in reporting of police homicides at all levels.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/hundreds-of-police-killings-are-uncounted-in-federal-statistics-1417577504

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  10. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Ross C:Interesting WSJ article on the problems in reporting of police homicides at all levels.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/hundreds-of-police-killings-are-uncounted-in-federal-statistics-1417577504

    “Law-enforcement experts long have lamented the lack of information about killings by police. “When cops are killed, there is a very careful account and there’s a national database,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia University. “Why not the other side of the ledger?””

    Er, cause they’re run by the police and for the police? LOL.

    • #10
  11. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    skipsul:

    Arahant:

    Ontheleftcoast:Tuck, you’re not kidding about the data problem. With respect to lethal or potentially lethal force goes, we don’t know, because we don’t want to know.

    And we can never go backwards to collect equivalent data. We will never know if police violence was higher in the 1950′s or if there was some trend line where the violence went down over the decades, or whether the direction changed when a certain President was looking to put 10,000 officers on the street. We can try to analyze news stories, but it will not be the same as analyzing data going forward.

    It is even harder when you consider the wide disparities between cities. I imagine Chicago circa 1925 would have been a major sinkhole of abuse and corruption (or today for that matter really). Then compare say Detroit 1950 to Detroit today. Some places have gotten better, some have gotten worse.

    Lack of data may be a problem. Neither imagination nor anecdote are sufficient substitutes. I have my own inklings, though. Many cases that are brought forth as examples of abuse turn out to be incomplete, inconclusive, or even wrong – certainly disputed as to assessment. The clear cases are the exception (when compared to the entire population of interactions with police, based on extremely rough back-of-the-envelope figuring). The tendency to toss questionable cases onto the pile in order to make a case that this is a bigger problem or trend, is itself a problem. Instead, let’s hold up and chase down the clear cases (like this one posted on a different thread) regardless of whether this fits the story line of out of control police running rampant everywhere.

    • #11
  12. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Arahant:Good questions, Skip. I’m betting that police departments were a lot less professional a few decades ago. My father joined his home-town force in 1964, but, had worked as a railroad detective before that in the early 1960′s. He interacted with the Chicago Police Department in that job. He had many interesting stories from both jobs. Unfortunately, I can’t remember all of the details.

    One story from Chicago was where a young Black man was caught breaking into some railroad facility. Two huge Black officers came and took custody of him. They conveyed a certain attitude of, “Boy, you’re making our people look bad.” At the court date, the young man was recovering from injuries received while resisting arrest. (He had not resisted when caught, so we’re supposed to believe that he later resisted when in the custody of two very large, armed men?)

    Then there were instances of prisoners falling down the courthouse stairs while being brought from the jail to a certain courtroom, even though they were on the same floor with no stairways on the path from one to another. On the police force, the older officers tended to try more of that kind of thing, since they were around long before police professionalism. During the 1960′s and 1970′s things improved markedly, at least in our city.

    There are tradeoffs, though, to eliminating or decreasing some of the off-the-books policing methods commonly employed a few generations ago. Transparency goes both ways, and discretion is both less appealing and less available of an option nowadays (so I’m told by current and past officers). Along with everpresent bad and errant cops, there was also the dynamic where cops knew the neighborhood, knew people, cared about the neighborhood and the people, knew where the trouble was coming from, and had means to keep that trouble in check even when prosecutable crimes and evidence weren’t available.

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  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Ed G.:There are tradeoffs, though, to eliminating or decreasing some of the off-the-books policing methods commonly employed a few generations ago. Transparency goes both ways, and discretion is both less appealing and less available of an option nowadays (so I’m told by current and past officers). Along with ever present bad and errant cops, there was also the dynamic where cops knew the neighborhood, knew people, cared about the neighborhood and the people, knew where the trouble was coming from, and had means to keep that trouble in check even when prosecutable crimes and evidence weren’t available.

    The abuses did not foster the neighborhood knowledge, etc. The neighborhood knowledge is often still there in smaller cities and in towns. Larger cities might lack that.

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  14. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Ed G.:

    Lack of data may be a problem. Neither imagination nor anecdote are sufficient substitutes. I have my own inklings, though. Many cases that are brought forth as examples of abuse turn out to be incomplete, inconclusive, or even wrong – certainly disputed as to assessment. The clear cases are the exception (when compared to the entire population of interactions with police, based on extremely rough back-of-the-envelope figuring). The tendency to toss questionable cases onto the pile in order to make a case that this is a bigger problem or trend, is itself a problem. Instead, let’s hold up and chase down the clear cases (like this one posted on a different thread) regardless of whether this fits the story line of out of control police running rampant everywhere.

    This is why I asked the questions I did. So many of the threads here seem to devolve into other things, but I just do not see many asking for a real analysis.

    Here’s a parallel example drawn from my own company. I see a customer something approaching 20,000 modules over 3 years. During that time I get 15 units on warranty claims. Of those 15, we reject the warranty claims on 4 because they were clearly installed wrong and fried. I reject another 8 claims because the returned units still function as intended, and the customer had mis-diagnosed the problem. This leave 3 units that actually failed, out of 20,000. That is a 0.015% field failure rate.

    Then this customer’s QC manager calls me up and is hyperventilating about those 3 units, suddenly demanding 3 years worth of production reports, extensive failure analysis reports, independent lab testing, and is threatening to drop us. Their response was utterly disproportionate to the scope of the issue, and moreover was predicated on the idea that the entire product was a failure. There was no attempt, on their part, to even analyze the individual failures, they just assumed a pattern of failure across everything.

    • #14
  15. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Arahant:

    Ed G.:There are tradeoffs, though, to eliminating or decreasing some of the off-the-books policing methods commonly employed a few generations ago. Transparency goes both ways, and discretion is both less appealing and less available of an option nowadays (so I’m told by current and past officers). Along with ever present bad and errant cops, there was also the dynamic where cops knew the neighborhood, knew people, cared about the neighborhood and the people, knew where the trouble was coming from, and had means to keep that trouble in check even when prosecutable crimes and evidence weren’t available.

    The abuses did not foster the neighborhood knowledge, etc. The neighborhood knowledge is often still there in smaller cities and in towns. Larger cities might lack that.

    I’m talking about a convergence of neighbors knowing, police knowing, and there being tactics available to keep those elements in check. I think the knowledge is still there for sure, but the toolbox is now smaller and limited in some ways by increased transparency and even ennabling (welfare, LINK cards, ignoring “minor” crimes with the thought of concentrating scarce resources on larger crimes).

    • #15
  16. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Ed G.

    There are tradeoffs, though, to eliminating or decreasing some of the off-the-books policing methods commonly employed a few generations ago. Transparency goes both ways, and discretion is both less appealing and less available of an option nowadays (so I’m told by current and past officers). Along with everpresent bad and errant cops, there was also the dynamic where cops knew the neighborhood, knew people, cared about the neighborhood and the people, knew where the trouble was coming from, and had means to keep that trouble in check even when prosecutable crimes and evidence weren’t available.

    The wife of an employee of mine works for a major bank. Because of the increased scrutiny and intrusion by the feds, and the never ending quest by the media to find evidence of corruption, corporate email is now almost forbidden. Since the feds demand access to every minute record of any activity, the bank has chosen to record nothing. Inter-office communications now go over an instant messaging service that wipes its history within 2 minutes of a message being read.

    So in this case the threat of ever increasing public scrutiny has meant that this bank errs on the side of recording as little as possible, no matter how benign.

    • #16
  17. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    skipsul:

    Ed G.:

    Lack of data may be a problem. Neither imagination nor anecdote are sufficient substitutes. I have my own inklings, though. Many cases that are brought forth as examples of abuse turn out to be incomplete, inconclusive, or even wrong – certainly disputed as to assessment. The clear cases are the exception (when compared to the entire population of interactions with police, based on extremely rough back-of-the-envelope figuring). The tendency to toss questionable cases onto the pile in order to make a case that this is a bigger problem or trend, is itself a problem. Instead, let’s hold up and chase down the clear cases (like this one posted on a different thread) regardless of whether this fits the story line of out of control police running rampant everywhere.

    This is why I asked the questions I did. So many of the threads here seem to devolve into other things, but I just do not see many asking for a real analysis.

    Here’s a parallel example drawn from my own company. I see a customer something approaching 20,000 modules over 3 years. During that time I get 15 units on warranty claims. Of those 15, we reject the warranty claims on 4 because they were clearly installed wrong and fried. I reject another 8 claims because the returned units still function as intended, and the customer had mis-diagnosed the problem. This leave 3 units that actually failed, out of 20,000. That is a 0.015% field failure rate.

    Then this customer’s QC manager calls me up and is hyperventilating about those 3 units, suddenly demanding 3 years worth of production reports, extensive failure analysis reports, independent lab testing, and is threatening to drop us. Their response was utterly disproportionate to the scope of the issue, and moreover was predicated on the idea that the entire product was a failure. There was no attempt, on their part, to even analyze the individual failures, they just assumed a pattern of failure across everything.

    Understood, and I agree that I’d like to be able to see exactly that kind of data. I also agree that’s it’s generally not available. However, we can still engage in that kind of rough estimation. Even allowing for the 400 police homicides per year referenced above, that is out of how many total police interactions? A million? That would be a .0004 homicide rate. Too high you say? How about 100,000? That would still be a .004 rate. That’s before we even consider how many of those were justified, how many were errors, how many were intentional abuse.

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  18. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Arahant:

    Ed G.:There are tradeoffs, though, to eliminating or decreasing some of the off-the-books policing methods commonly employed a few generations ago. Transparency goes both ways, and discretion is both less appealing and less available of an option nowadays (so I’m told by current and past officers). Along with ever present bad and errant cops, there was also the dynamic where cops knew the neighborhood, knew people, cared about the neighborhood and the people, knew where the trouble was coming from, and had means to keep that trouble in check even when prosecutable crimes and evidence weren’t available.

    The abuses did not foster the neighborhood knowledge, etc. The neighborhood knowledge is often still there in smaller cities and in towns. Larger cities might lack that.

    Undoubtedly abuse came along with that expanded toolbox. I happen to incline to the view that abuse is actually less now. As I said: tradeoffs.

    • #18
  19. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Have the problems there always existed and we’re only noticing them now? Or are they really growing worse?

    This is clearly a valid and important question, and accompanying judgement, requiring a comparison of current with previous data.

    Another, at-least-equally-important, question and judgement require a comparison of current data with principles: judging police behavior — and court decisions that may even support the behavior — against Founding principles, the Bill of Rights, etc.

    • #19
  20. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Owen Findy:“

    This is clearly a valid and important question, and accompanying judgement, requiring a comparison of current with previous data.

    Another, at-least-equally-important, question and judgement require a comparison of current data with principles: judging police behavior — and court decisions that may even support the behavior — against Founding principles, the Bill of Rights, etc.

    That is valid, but the scope is rather different to what I am addressing. Perhaps you could expand that into its own post?

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  21. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Owen Findy:“

    This is clearly a valid and important question, and accompanying judgement, requiring a comparison of current with previous data.

    Another, at-least-equally-important, question and judgement require a comparison of current data with principles: judging police behavior — and court decisions that may even support the behavior — against Founding principles, the Bill of Rights, etc.

    I’ve been giving this a bit more thought. On a number of the police threads here we have had some rather free ranging and acrimonious arguments, often even devolving into questioning whether we even need or want police. To go back to the story of my customer warranty situation, those kinds of wide open debates are not helpful. We have a number of issues, and to really get at the heart of fixing our society we need to actually keep the discussions of those issues separate – we need to get down to actually discussing the real scope of each issue, rather than a constant airing of laundry lists of grievances.

    SO my original questions were fairly narrowly tailored to just the issues of police professionalism (as Arahant put it).

    Owen, you and Spengler have touched on two related but distinct issues:

    1. The appropriateness and actual legality of the laws the police are supposed to enforce (to say nothing of the further scope of such laws).

    2. The appropriateness and legality of the tactics of enforcement.

    Take DUI laws:

    1. I would argue that DUI laws are appropriate on principle, but their scope is certainly up for discussion (legal limits, the right sort of tests to test for sobriety), as are the punishments for transgression.

    2. Sobriety checkpoints, on the other hand, are outrageous violations, as are things like automatic license revocation for refusing a breath test.

    I think this subject definitely merits its own post.

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  22. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    skipsul:

    Take DUI laws:

    1. I would argue that DUI laws are appropriate on principle, but their scope is certainly up for discussion (legal limits, the right sort of tests to test for sobriety), as are the punishments for transgression.

    2. Sobriety checkpoints, on the other hand, are outrageous violations, as are things like automatic license revocation for refusing a breath test.

    I think this subject definitely merits its own post.

    I just made this comment over on Barkha’s post, but I’ll repeat it (in summary) here. There are a lot of encroachments on freedoms coming from liberals. Economic freedom is perhaps the biggest, but look at the way our government has taken to the endorsement of social agendas, etc… Right now, I’m pretty concerned about government overreach, and if I was going to do something about it, I’d say about 1 billionth on my list is people being allowed to responsibly drink and drive or legally smoke pot. It isn’t that I don’t support those sorts of freedoms, but in the world of politics, there are realistic places we can make headway. Say what you will about freedom, police overreach still disproportionately impacts criminals. Illegal searches generally occur because an officer is acting on a hunch. Even profiling occurs because the officer is probably correct in his profile. Would we want it to happen to us? Of course not. But it also generally doesn’t (in spite of the occasional video where some old car enthusiast is harassed). Economic freedom, on the other hand, almost exclusively impacts the peaceful law-abiding citizen. So if we’re going to get up in arms about government overreach, I’m just not ready to waste my time protecting criminals on the off-chance that I could also be targeted. I’ll start with those overreaches that are directed at me and that are far more harmful to society in general, and only then will I give even 1/2 a crap about someone getting a DUI even though he had only consumed a single beer.

    [Note: I am not talking about discussion, here. I think the questions you asked are great and absolutely should be hashed out. I’m thinking more about Barkha’s post w/ the DUI attorney who comes up with little pamphlets to hang from your windows and makes videos about how to fight the cops at DUI checkpoints. That attorney wants money. He probably charges 5-10K for each DUI and this draws customers. He actually is a bottom dweller, and I don’t care how good he is at appealing to single-issue boneheaded libertarians. I have no respect for that nonsense. That is not to say we should shut up and not discuss it… everything is open to conversation, and this is no exception.]

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  23. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Question 1 is really worth answering. From my perspective I would say that yes it is extensive because the entire system is abusive at this point. The presumption of guilt on behalf of officers (which is perfectly legal but not conducive to great relationships between government and the governed) and the court puts every citizen in an adversarial relationship with the law. We are free citizens and are not going to just put up with being treated that way. We are going to push back, and this further erodes the relationship which causes the officers to sour towards the public. It is a death spiral–a self-perpetuating negative feedback loop.

    Questions 2 and 3 really can’t be answered because we simply cannot have the data required as they are lost to the past.

    On question 4 I would have to say no. Jurisdiction matters not to fundamental rights and liberties. We take #14 and incorporation pretty seriously as a people.

    This, of course, brings us to the point made by Owen. We have to answer affirmatively to there being a problem before we can ask about its severity. The is/is not question of the problem can only be answered by reference to principles.

    • #23
  24. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Ross C: The FBI keeps data on police homicides but participation is voluntary, so some large states like New York are not represented in the data (as I understand it).

    NY stopped reporting in 2006 (as I recall).

    • #24
  25. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    So if we’re going to get up in arms about government overreach, I’m just not ready to waste my time protecting criminals on the off-chance that I could also be targeted.

    You’d be surprised (though maybe not considering your occupation) how much of your private economy you’re willing to give up to regain your physical freedom.

    • #25
  26. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    The King Prawn:

    So if we’re going to get up in arms about government overreach, I’m just not ready to waste my time protecting criminals on the off-chance that I could also be targeted.

    You’d be surprised (though maybe not considering your occupation) how much of your private economy you’re willing to give up to regain your physical freedom.

    You do rather have an immediate perspective on this.

    • #26
  27. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    I was rather a law and order kind of guy until I was subjected to it. As law abiding citizens and conservatives we’re prone to not care much about how criminals are treated until we are treated in such a way. Only then do we realize how dehumanizing our system has become. We also very quickly realize how disjointed this behavior is with our founding principles. The civility of our polity really is measured by how we treat the worst of us, not in how we treat the rest of us. I still believe we should throw the book at criminals, and those in the system agree, but they differ in who they see as criminals. Today, they seem to view anyone they encounter in an official capacity as a criminal.

    • #27
  28. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    And now there is this. Obama is now pushing to further nationalize control of local policing.

    • #28
  29. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    The King Prawn:

    So if we’re going to get up in arms about government overreach, I’m just not ready to waste my time protecting criminals on the off-chance that I could also be targeted.

    You’d be surprised (though maybe not considering your occupation) how much of your private economy you’re willing to give up to regain your physical freedom.

    For law-abiding citizens, this is a low-frequency/high-severity event. I don’t discount the severity of it for those unjustly trapped in the system. The loss of economic freedom is a high-frequency/low-severity phenomenon. There’s a case to be made that we should give priority to first scaling back the state where its influence is pervasive, and then move to correct overreach that affects a small number of people (though it hits them unduly hard).

    • #29
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    skipsul:I think this subject definitely merits its own post.

    I believe he just said, “Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!”

    • #30

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