Better And Better

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Friday, August 17, 2012

The militarization of law enforcement.

In comments on the previous blog entry, Greg mentioned "the increasing militarization of law enforcement in this country."

I think that it's a concern worth having, but I also think that, by and large, our concerns are about issues more theoretical than practical.

We all shake our heads at the pictures of NYPD cops in full tactical gear (BDUs, tac vests, M4s, helmets) standing out front of their city administration buildings, and at cops going full-on dynamic entry on what should be a simple warrant service. We grimace upon learning that yet another federal agency has a SWAT team.

How about letting the U.S. Marshal's Service do the SWAT gig, and let the other agencies work with them for the most part? Oh, I can see having a Special Response Team within the Secret Service, perhaps. But the rest? They need to farm it out if for no other reason than economy. We don't require the silly redundancy. But more importantly, when you have a SWAT team, you tend to feel like you need to use it. The already unnecessary Department Of Education doesn't need to be looking at their jobs and saying, "How could we put our SWAT team to work solving this issue?"

But the fact is, those stories and pictures are in the news because they actually are news. The norm is not news. Sure, we definitely need to keep a weather eye on those guys and prevent them from becoming the norm, but day in, day out, the vast, vast majority of us never tac out, almost never pull the black rifle out of the trunk except for routine administrative purposes, and have never put on a helmet.

That said, giving a patrol officer some gear to deal with exigent circumstances as the first responder is NOT militarizing the police departments. Sure I've got a tac vest in the back of the car. I've put it on once in the past year, while setting up a perimeter around a mentally-ill armed man's house, and we took that guy into custody by knocking on the door and talking him into stepping outside. Yes, I've got a short AR in the patrol car. It's a damned sight better way to deal with an active shooter than trying to get lucky with my pistol.  Just because the military also use an AR-pattern carbine doesn't mean that having one in my patrol car is making me militarized. It's just an overlap in gear. I promise you that Marshal Dillon would have had one if he could have. I'll further point out that his Winchester lever rifle (which model? M.1892?) was pretty much the assault rifle of that era. (Yes, I am aware that I'm speaking of a fictional law enforcement officer, but I promise you that most people critical of militarization of law enforcement would probably like to see Matt Dillon. Well, that or Andy Taylor, but if you can't see the foolishness of that fictional rarely-armed Sheriff employing an inept family member deputy, then I can't help you.)

When you see that your local cop pulls a shotgun from his cruiser to answer a robbery call, you may notice that it's likely to have a black synthetic stock on it, these days. That's not a militarization issue-- it's a practical one. These days, you pay extra for wood over synthetic, and frankly, the synthetic is more durable, usually is lighter, is is less susceptible to water or oil soaking into it, and doesn't look bad when it's been scratched by daily patrol tours. When he pulls a carbine out of the car, consider that a single round of .223 into the bad guy is a LOT better than throwing stray rounds of pistol around a neighborhood (believe it or not, the .223 won't over-penetrate as badly as a duty pistol round will.) or a load of .36 caliber buckshot pellets that start off at 1300 feet per second. And make no mistake, if a cop has to fire on a bad guy, I WANT him using a long gun. A properly-used long gun will end a fight far faster than a pistol. If it's time to shoot a threat, I want that threat shot well. I want the least number of shots taken. If a gun fight looks likely, I want that police officer picking up a long gun.

That's not to say that I believe in the "show 'em you mean business, so they won't mess with you" school of law enforcement, because I don't. If a cop is on routine patrol, I want that rifle or shotgun secured. I don't like balaclavas, even on raids. I don't like cops wearing leather gloves when they're out on patrol unless it's cold or they're about to perform a pat-down. (This goes double --no, triple-- for fingerless gloves.) While I'm fine with cargo pants, I find fatigue type uniforms to be distasteful. I hate drop thigh pistol holster rigs. If a cop is wearing a tactical vest, he'd better be doing something tactical, like serving a warrant. (I almost wrote "high risk warrant," but a lot of people don't want to go to jail even for a misdemeanor, so I'll put up with being somewhat tactical on any arrest, so long as we're not kicking in doors on no-knock warrants.)

The last time that I put on a tac vest and grabbed the carbine on a call, we were responding to a call of a heavily-armed mentally ill person who needed to be taken into custody and who had proven he was dangerous. We talked him out, and cuffed him, and got him some help, as police officers, not as a tactical unit. But we were damned happy to have the long guns, and the extra ammo, and the extra protection that the tactical vests provided, as we first responders from different rural agencies performed that role, that night. Then we put the gear back up, and went back on patrol.

Because we're not soldiers; we're patrolmen.



Labels: , , , ,

43 Comments:

At Friday, August 17, 2012 10:31:00 AM, Blogger Suz said...

The concern stems from the (very real) fear of abuse. Unfortunately there are a lot of corrupt law enforcement agencies in this country, and the last thing they should have is more "power tools." That said, I agree that cops need better equipment and training.

You're fortunate to be in Texas, where citizen involvement and oversight keeps agencies relatively in line. I don't see many "abuse of police power" stories coming out of well-armed states like Texas; your citizens simply would not tolerate it. That environment give you the freedom to do your job well and ethically.

I was never a big fan of Texas' massive ego, but I think the rest of the nation could use a little Texas-style defiance. It would radically reduce the need to fear well armed law enforcement.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2012 3:03:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Well said Matt, and you are correct, if they 'have' one, they have to 'justify' it's use to continue to fund it...

 
At Friday, August 17, 2012 6:00:00 PM, Blogger Farm.Dad said...

My concern with "The militarization of law enforcement" is not with the toys that Pauly Patrolman is issued , or comes up with . Rather I am concerned with the attitudes being fostered through academy teachings, hype , and dept. level institutional legacy via unsuitable ( to me anyway ) ftos.
After all you have ex officers actively training people who spout things like " BTW. When I was on SWAT our view is that "We will always win....even if we have to burn down your entire house by bombing it....we will win". Losing is not an option. " . This mindset being espoused among officers , much less to the public is pretty much what I see as the " problem " area here .
Agencies have developed ( on the whole ) a bunker mentality where they tend to defend the officers actions at any cost , and make any excuse to blame the citizen for tragic results .
So we have a series of high profile swat screw-ups , being excused by the weakest of possibly plausible stories rather than anything approaching the “ honest remorse “ that courts and society expect of the rest of the members of civilization .Is it any wonder that folks fear the trappings of militarization when you have forces that act more like an occupying army than public servants charged with the pursuit of justice ? And it follows logically that the entire profession gets painted with the stench of the uniformed gang members unfortunate enough to be caught, blogged , or put on youtube which is the new way to the press coverage that should be there from the get go .
Most of the guys/gals in Small Dept. USA are going to be responsible in action and word because they are much more accessible by and accountable to the public they serve . They tend to live where they police and take an interest in their community that goes beyond the job , forming friendships with the folks they serve . This creates a mindset far different from larger agencies and tends in most cases to weed out problem officers in quick order .

 
At Friday, August 17, 2012 6:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to want to be a cop...
Reading you blog tends to make me consider going through with it.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2012 6:52:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

@Anonymous:

Don't do it because you'll get specialized equipment (which is usually very NON-specialized to the job at hand) to play with; the armament is just not really a player in police officer's day-to-day life. Do it because you really think that you could help people, and are driven to do so, in spite of being criticized daily.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2012 6:56:00 PM, Blogger Kristopher said...

Besides, the NOAA fish police really need firearms.

Fishermen might get angry with them.

At least they haven't progressed to Fish SWAT yet.

 
At Friday, August 17, 2012 9:37:00 PM, Blogger Well Seasoned Fool said...

You are a Peace Officer. Wish we had more like you.

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2012 3:32:00 AM, Anonymous Greg Tag said...

Matt:

Your comments are well taken.

I did not intend to impugn the integrity of anyone, and merely wished to red flag the proliferation of small, ridiculously inappropriate ( and expensive) heavily armed enforcement divisions of wildly improbable Federal agencies- basically Barney Fife with web gear,armor and an MP-5.

I also was not suggesting peace officers not have adequate equipments such as an effective patrol carbine. Texas Parks & Wildlife issues M4's to their Game Wardens, and that is perfectly reasonable for the threat they live with-alone and without backup ,facing drug gangs they bump into while looking for deer poachers.

I was really discussing mindset.

I was trained as a soldier, to wit " Kill as many as you can during the engagement, and then accept surrender of the survivors". Shooting, and mortaring and application of tank main gun is the First Resort in the soldier biz.

This is far different from the police approach - we expect cops to " Use minimum necessary force to effect an arrest; shoot as a Last Resort", especially in a constitutional Republic.

The kevlar helmet, balaclava, gargoyle shades, all black equipment, thigh holsters and full auto systems, i.e. the EQUIPMENT of the soldier, convey , I believe usually unintentionally, the idea that American policing is drifting dangerously towards the soldier approach.

If various police agencies around the country spent a bit more time learning to read street addresses and strip maps that would perhaps be a good thing, too.

I do not believe this is the case,at least at the state and local level, but I want to know that American cops still subscribe to Sir Robert Peels principles of policing, and havent succumbed to the Centurian mindset, because such thinking is anathema to a republic.

The Texas DPS Troopers who taught my CHL Instructor Course were very much free of the Centurian worldview, they spoke and acted as "Peace Officers" fully aware of their obligations as officers who swore a constitutional oath- I was very impressed.

I hope every cop in the country thinks in the same way, and his or her managers, trainers, Sergeants, Chiefs and Sheriffs insist on it- or they get fired as "unfit".

Regards

GKT

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2012 5:46:00 AM, Blogger Gaffer said...

Well said, sir. You restore my faith in the system.
Plus...youre a darn good writer!

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2012 9:28:00 AM, Blogger TBeck said...

Your post made me smile briefly as I remembered LawDog's post about the tac team chasing the ghosts out of the old lady's house.

I believe that every patrolman should have immediate access to a carbine, be it select-fire or semiautomatic. A rifle sound suppressor is also a good idea. Body armor and ballistic helmet, too. All kept in the patrol car for use at need.

I agree with you that balaclavas don't have a place in the police uniform with the sole exception of preserving the anonymity of undercover officers.

What really bugs me is the casual use of no-knock warrants with the property damage, pet deaths, and emotional trauma that results when all too typically the team is busting down the wrong door. That either needs to stop or the officer in charge should be made personally liable for stupid mistakes.

 
At Saturday, August 18, 2012 1:41:00 PM, Blogger Comrade Misfit said...

So why all of the cops with the "high and tight" haircuts, or even shaved heads?

Back when I was a kid, civilian cops looked like civilians. Now they tend to look like Jarheads.

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 8:12:00 AM, Blogger J.R.Shirley said...

Greg Tag,

The sad thing is that the military is being told to use minimum force, while many police agencies are buying tac gear with "war on terror" Federal funds.

"Comrade", I wear my hair very short because it's thinning. So sorry to offend your sense of aesthetics.

Good post, Matt.

John

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 8:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So why all of the cops with the "high and tight" haircuts, or even shaved heads?

Back when I was a kid, civilian cops looked like civilians. Now they tend to look like Jarheads."

That pretty much describes a lot of young civilian men's hairstyles. Jarhead look is in.

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 12:04:00 PM, Blogger J.R.Shirley said...

Greg Tag,

The sad thing is that the military is being told to use minimum force, while many police agencies are buying tac gear with "war on terror" Federal funds.

"Comrade", I wear my hair very short because it's thinning. So sorry to offend your sense of aesthetics.

Good post, Matt.

John

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 2:07:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

I cut my hair short because, like John, my hairline is receding (mine is dropping back faster than John's sadly). Also? I keep my hair neat and professional for pennies a year, using the electric clippers that I bought years ago, with a #2 guard on the top and a #1 guard on the side. I don't ever go get my hair professionally cut. I reckon this saves me a minimum of $120 a year, and countless hours of my life. It's simple.

When I was a kid, police definitely had longer hair. That said, I was a kid in the '70s and early '80s, when such was commonplace. When my father was a kid (in the '40s and '50s), I promise you that a police officer kept his hair cut very short.

I don't have a problem with police keeping their appearence uniform, and even somewhat para-military. You want us to be neat in our appearence. You want us to be held to a common standard. Trust me. Lack of discipline in the ranks of police is every bit as dangerous as lack of discipline among soldiers.

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 4:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt, I think you write, and police, from the heart. But this statement aches from naivety:

"They need to farm it out if for no other reason than economy. We don't require the silly redundancy. But more importantly, when you have a SWAT team, you tend to feel like you need to use it."

That's a good chunk of practical logic there. Unfortunately practical logic is turned inside out here; there could be no more chicken/egg question than "which comes first, the money or the swat?"

But make no mistake. It's about the money. And power. And politics. Talk about redundant.

Always follow the money.

PB

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 6:59:00 PM, Blogger Gewehr98 said...

But do you refer to the good folks you protect and serve as "civilians"?

That chaps those of us who get our paychecks from the Department of Defense...

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 8:04:00 PM, Blogger Firehand said...

Well put.

My concerns are the same as Farm Dad's: the attitude being trained into a lot of cops. And, like you, I hate seeing cops in masks: they're a symptom of the attitude being trained in, I think.

Grew up around state cops, and I'll tell you something: when you've sat in a car with 15, 20, 25-year guys and listened to them talking about the attitude problems of a lot of the younger guys, it makes an impression.

 
At Sunday, August 19, 2012 8:38:00 PM, Blogger Heath J said...

Well written post.

Only quibble I have is that a 556 will zip through 1/4" plate every time, and I've yet to meet a pistol rnd that can do that.

I completely agree that a rifle is the way to go if you know trouble is imminent, but I don't believe that it's a safer way of lobbing rnds aside from being more accurate.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 1:56:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Heath, 5.56 will absolutely go through a quarter inch steel plate like pretty much any pistol round will not. But when confronted with multiple walls constructed of dry wall, the pistol bullet will go through more. This has been documented.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 9:24:00 AM, Blogger SpeakerTweaker said...

So, it turns out, there really are good cops out there. I can personally testify to this one, in fact. There are few better officers in the country.

This was my comment when I shared this post on Facebook. Proof? Read Matt's last post. His concern is for drywall instead of steel plates. Why? Because there's no drywall in body armor, and there's no steel plates in the walls in my house. I want the guy worried about my walls deciding what to grab from his trunk.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Zack said...

@Gewehr 98

No, we don't call them civilians. We call them citizens.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 11:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying that there is a lot of corrupt agency is unfair and frankly wrong. I would say there are corrupt officers at many different agencies. Even if you look at the amount of officers that are arrested it is a small percentage. I'm a police officer and personally never violated anyone's civil rights. I've never seen anyone's rights violated.
Regarding tactical gear: The police department I work for issues a level 2 vest that stops majority of handguns but not .223 or 7.62. So for us if we want any kind of protection we have to purchase our own Tactical best with ballistic plates to protect our selves. We can only put it on when we have a call where someone is possibly armed with assault weapons. This is something we had to fight for. It's not trying to look cool. It's about survival.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 1:42:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Gewehr98: No, I don't. I'm a civilian, and we're not under martial law. As Zach said, I call them "Citizens," which actually is frequently incorrect, because a lot of the people that I serve are not citizens of this country at all. But they're citizens of some country, somewhere.

PB, I suppose that I could be naïve. I probably am on some issues. But I've been a libertarian since I was a voter, and I've been on the government payroll for a good dozen years, as well as having earned a degree or two in critical discussion of government process. I don't miss the "use it or lose it" feature of the net widening philosophy.

SpeakerTweaker: You're too kind. Seriously. Lots of us are worried about overpenetration.

Anon, you're carrying a vest that will stop 7.62? That's a heavy damned vest for tactical work, sir.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 9:27:00 PM, Blogger Zendo Deb said...

An annonymous poster said: "Even if you look at the amount of officers that are arrested it is a small percentage."

Sorry, but I have to direct you to Tam who had an entire series about LEOs driving drunk, yet somehow never getting called on it. Something about SOP not being followed, or evidence not admissible. Similar things have happened in Chicago.

Color me surprised to find that "very few" members of the Chicago PD have ever been arrested. When they do, it is for things so far outside the boundaries... well, Google "Jon Burge and the Midnight Crew from Area 2," or the Chicago PD Special Operations Section. (That last was shut down only after it rose - or sank - to the level of murder-for-hire, and organized kidnapping and extortion.) Once you are familiar with that (or Rampart in LA, or the behavior of NOLA PD after Katrina) then we can discuss why cops don't get arrested for stretching the truth, or aggressive interrogations or whatever.

Look up Brett Darrow, and the death threats he received. (Or if you don't think those came from LEOs, YouTube probably still has the video of the cops staking out his house for the crime of having busted a corrupt cop.).

Tampa Sheriff's deputy dumping a quadriplegic out of his wheelchair and onto the floor because he didn't obey her order to "stand up." (See the wheelchair if you are confused.) And the other members of Tampa Sheriff's dept on tape laughing at the guy on the ground. No one was arrested for assault.

I could actually go on for quite a long time.

Of course if LEOs make an "honest mistake" and take a SWAT team into the wrong house, they cannot be arrested, even if they murder an innocent person. Immunity is a wonderful thing - if you are on the right side of that line.

In each of the instances where cops were found doing something underhanded, do you think they were caught on video the very first time? Do you think none of their "brother officers" knew the skulduggery was going on? The officers?

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 9:34:00 PM, Blogger TBeck said...

An SBR AR-15 with a good sound suppressor is IMO better than a shotgun for a home defense longarm.

Matt is absolutely correct about 5.56mm terminal ballistics in wallboard; the bullets frequently begin fragmenting before exiting the second layer of wallboard.

In this month's issue of AMERICAN RIFLEMAN a Hornady Critical Defense 9mm round is fired into ballistic gelatin after passing through a layer of wallboard. This is a round designed to mushroom when striking any surface and it still penetrated over thirteen inches of gelatin and expanded to .57 inches.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, Let me tell you why all the small towns in my area formed SWAT teams, about 15 to 20 years ago.
In one of the these cities, a man decided firing shots at random in the neighborhood was the thing to do. Responding officers and the Chief cleared the neighbors out and attempted to talk to him. When he attempted to shoot the Chief (who had approached him) he was shot by several officers and as a result was disabled.
He sued the city on the basis that since it did not have a trained response team, the city was responsible for his injuries. There was an undisclosed settlement and a gag order put on all the proceedings.
All the neighboring small towns thus felt they had to form SWAT teams trained under the auspices of local Big City to avoid liability. The SWAT teams were the red headed stepchildren of patrol, in most cases, out of necessity, and mostly funded by their members (who of course functioned primarily as patrolmen).
Sorry, no desire for power, just a response to the the court system and city insurance carriers.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:58:00 AM, Anonymous ILTim said...

I'll tell you what I don't like, and I think I can keep it succinct.

I don't like anything that separates law enforcement officers from other citizens.

LEO's ARE civilians, uniforms or not. No privileges, immunities, special rules, extra spicy weapons, reduced enforcement, or leeway of any kind at all is permissible. If *I* can't do it, *they* can't. They are not different from me. I think everyone see's different aspects as 'militarization', but any and every degree of separation from ordinary is a step in that direction.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should also point out, in the last few years there have been more officer deaths due to assaults than auto crashes, an unheard of reversal.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 2:06:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

@Anonymous 10:19: Nope, that's been the case for many years, or at least since I've been reading the NIJ stats. (I started studying criminal justice stats when I made it my college major back in '93.)

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 2:13:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

There are a lot of reasons, good and bad, to have SWAT teams. You want people to practice the intricate katas that are required for safe, precise entries, searches, detentions, and extractions. You don't need everyone practicing that, though. SWAT doesn't mean "super cop." It means Special Weapons And Tactics. I.E., stuff not used routinely.

In our area, SWAT guys are all patrolmen who agree to be on call, and train a lot extra. It takes more dedication that I frankly would be willing to put in, at this stage in my life. But I want people to have that skill, and I don't want to have to call them out from Dallas or Houston or OKC and wait while they assemble. When I want them, I want them PDQ.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 2:17:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Edited to add: Yes, every street cop should be able to perform low-risk entries, searches, detentions, and even extractions. Every street cop should be trained and practice to respond immediately in high-risk situations if the situation warrants immediate action without time to call in SWAT. But it's worth pointing out that a lot of times, having the SWAT option actually causes officers to take a breath, evaluate whether this requires immediate intervention, or whether it's better to hold the status quo, call in specially trained others, and proceed with caution.

Yeah, that's right-- I just pointed to a philosophy where Special Ops teams are a symbol of cautious law enforcement. Who knew, right?

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 2:21:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

@Zendo Deb:
I'm not going to turn this into your forum to talk about your perception of the endemic problem of dirty cops, but I will point out: Generally you learn of a bad cop from other cops' actions. Also, you know what the opposite of data is, right? Anecdote.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 3:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not impugning your intelligence, Matt G, nor especially your personal politics.

Rather, my disdain is for the thirst for power/money that is systemically inherent in organizations such as unions, churches, or any political body, which LE agencies certainly are.

It is this disconnect that leads to the tail wagging the dog with little regard for the actual needs of peace officers, their original mission statement, and the public they purportedly serve.

And that is why our jails and prisons are full of non-violent "offenders", the apprehension and incarceration of whom "necessitate" the paramilitary equipment and psych-eval'ed mindset that permeates even smalltown agencies today. The end (high arrest/conviction ratios) justifies the means, and the only score that matters is expanded budget and extended regimes. Power/money, money/power.

PB

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 3:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

" Should also point out, in the last few years there have been more officer deaths due to assaults than auto crashes, an unheard of reversal.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:19:00 AM"
That's what I THOUGHT I got from the Street Survival Webinar last night, better look at it again and see what else I misunderstood.
Enjoy your blog, I also work in a small town, with my backup being a Deputy Sheriff or sometimes when they are behind going to back them or secure their scene. So mostly I don't get to see how other folks handle things. So it's neat to read how you do things. Enjoy the family stories and recipes (migas).
Best, Les
Just really mean this as an aside for you, up to you if you want to publish it.

 
At Tuesday, August 21, 2012 3:38:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

The jails are full of non-violent offenders because our legislators get into a frenzy to prove that they're "tougher on crime," and do nothing more than raise the penalties for what should be at worst simple misdemeanors, if crimes at all. You can't expect a cop not to make an arrest for a felony in his view, nor to investigate them when they're so prevalent. The thing is, many of those crimes shouldn't be felonies.

I don't personally know any cops that are in unions. But I'm from semi-rural Texas, where such things are rare-to-nonexistant.

 
At Wednesday, August 22, 2012 6:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt, that you don't or won't grok my point illustrates my earlier comment that your take on cause-and-effect here seemed naive.

The problem seems to be that you make a distinction between the politics and self-interest (money/power) of LE hierarchy and that of every other bureaucracy that becomes redirected from the needs and purposes of their rank-and-file...and more importantly, of their constituents.

There ain't none, Matt.

PB

 
At Wednesday, August 22, 2012 7:38:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

No, that's not actually what I was doing.

Also, there is a legitimate need.

 
At Wednesday, August 22, 2012 7:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That the level of "legitimate need" is irrelevant to the level of pursuit and purpose is the crux exactly.

 
At Thursday, August 23, 2012 8:11:00 AM, Anonymous TJIC said...

@MattG:

> The jails are full of non-violent offenders because our legislators get into a frenzy to prove that they're "tougher on crime,"

Well, that, yes. And, of course, half a million police who are "just following orders" when they arrest these non-violent folks who are enjoying freedoms guaranteed to them under the 9th and 10th amendments.

You can't outsource your morality.

If you can't take the paycheck without violating people's rights, you shouldn't take the paycheck.

 
At Thursday, August 23, 2012 8:29:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Depends, there, TJIC. For example, with regard to drugs-- there are different ways of dealing with it.

Marijuana uses often find their weed poured out and a citation for paraphernalia.

Meth? I don't want meth heads in my town. I don't like how we as a society deal with it, but I have only one voice there. Meth users sadly are addicted to a substance that they now struggle daily to feed. Often the best way to help them is to prevent them for a few days from having access to it. So I lock them up the second that I find them with it. This has the additional effect of incapacitating a very high risk burglar and thief, and of sending the word: if you're going to do it, don't do it in my town. I can't stop crime everywhere, but I can push it (some of it) out of my town.

We've got some very stupid weapons laws, which we often have to overlook just to get through the day.

But do you see the problem here, TJIC? Now you're asking the cop to decide what laws are best, and what laws not to enforce. This leads to inequal enforcement, and the near guarantee of discrimination. The police officer's role in personal rights should be considering how to uphold the citizens' rights while enforcing the law, not deciding which laws are just enough to enforce.

 
At Thursday, August 23, 2012 9:01:00 AM, Anonymous TJIC said...


> Depends, there, TJIC. For example, with regard to drugs-- there are different ways of dealing with it.
>
> Marijuana uses often find their weed poured out and a citation for paraphernalia.

I agree that this sort of discretion is better than sending someone to jail for a year.

...but it's clearly not a pro-liberty position.

Let's say that some slightly different laws are in place, and you found me with a copy of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Now, clearly, you're a good guy, and you don't want to send me to jail for three years for something that, in your opinion, is protected under the Constitution.

So you decide to exercise discretion and take my property from me, throw it down a storm drain, and just cite me for the paraphernalia (the bookmark I was using to keep my place). $100 find and I'm good to go.

Now, is this better than going to jail?

Yes.

Is this the action of an individual who respects the Constitution and individual liberty?

No.

> Meth? I don't want meth heads in my town.

Me either. But I've had far more trouble with alcoholics. So I'd prefer to live in a town without alchoholics. However, under both natural law and the Constitution, people are free to use alcohol (and meth), so there is nothing that one can do about it.

> Meth users sadly are addicted to a substance that they now struggle daily to feed. Often the best way to help them is to prevent them for a few days from having access to it. So I lock them up the second that I find them with it.

I question the word "addicted". They feel a large psychological desire (and a smaller physical desire) to engage in their consumption. ...but that's an argument for another day.

> But do you see the problem here, TJIC? Now you're asking the cop to decide what laws are best, and what laws not to enforce.

No. I'm asking an INDIVIDUAL if he's happy to take a paycheck for enforcing laws that are immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust.

It's a question I'd ask an individual in the US in 2012, in Communist China in 2012, in Stalinist Russia in 1950, and in Germany in 1943.

> The police officer's role in personal rights should be considering how to uphold the citizens' rights while enforcing the law, not deciding which laws are just enough to enforce.

If a policeman (or a member of a jury) is going to try to "uphold citizens' rights" withough spending any time thinking about whether the laws are just, then he or she has already made his decision: obeying orders and receiving a paycheck matters more than freedom.

If a policeman (or a member of a jury) decides that it's above his or her paygrade to think about what rights a citizen has then the Republic is dead.

...which is seems to be.

tl;dr : people can't outsource morality. "Just following orders" doesn't cut it in, even in things that are matters of rights and not life and death.

[ Btw, thanks for allowing me to present my views - I have a lot of respect for someone who tolerates the free exchange of ideas, even/especially from someone who radically disagrees with them. ]

 
At Monday, August 27, 2012 1:38:00 AM, Blogger John B said...

I'm usually more worried about a cop who openly proclaims himself to be "A soldier in the war on drugs!" Since Officer Friendly didn't train to be a soldier, he shouldn't consider himself one. When non-soldiers think of themselves as soldiers, My Lai scenarios tend to play out all too often. That nonsense in New York this previous week for example.

 

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