Steyn on the Police

I am tempted to blockquote almost the whole of this piece, but that would be unfair. Nevertheless, I should say that I agree with almost everything he says, except perhaps to question some of the figures. He says that 120,000 American police have generated substantially more homicides than the entire nations of Canada or Australia in any given year; but I think the correct figure is closer to 780,000 American police who have done so.

The philosophical justification for the blue uniforms is an interesting one. "The police is the public; the public are the police." That's a maxim similar to the one I use myself in describing the proper role of the police as a kind of full-time citizen, with no greater powers (nor access to arms) than anyone else, just performing the citizen's role of upholding the common peace and lawful order full-time.

26 comments:

Eric Blair said...

It gets my hair up when the police refer to everybody else as 'civilians'. They are setting themselves apart and not in a good way.

Every single cop can, if they feel like it, turn in their badge and weapon and say "I quit", with no sort of penalty.

I couldn't do that when I was in the service, (which I suppose is one of the reasons it is called service in the first place).

But Steyn makes a great point about both police cameras and the habitual lying by police on their reports.

Elise said...

I understand and appreciate a lot of the uneasiness being expressed at police equipment, police behavior, and police attitude. However, I can also remember dimly a time when there was a lot of uneasiness about the fact that we were asking police officers armed with handguns to go up against drug gangs armed with automatic weapons.

Something went wrong somewhere and the current state of the police is a symptom. Of course, once the police started changing they also, I think, became a contributing factor to things going more wrong still. I'm not sure what the solution is. Perhaps it is (as I heard mentioned somewhere) using the National Guard rather than police in situations that seem to call for anything approaching a military presence. It's a scary thought, using the military to "police" parts of the country, but perhaps less scary than using militarized police.

And I think this anecdotal viewpoint is worth throwing in the mix.

Ymar Sakar said...

"I understand and appreciate a lot of the uneasiness being expressed at police equipment, police behavior, and police attitude. However, I can also remember dimly a time when there was a lot of uneasiness about the fact that we were asking police officers armed with handguns to go up against drug gangs armed with automatic weapons."

It's not the tools that is a problem. The issue at hand is that the Leftist alliance is instigating collapse, engineered demolition, for emergency power. This is not happenstance, bad luck, or merely incompetence on the part of government tyros.

It's something much bigger than people generally want to know.

There is no solution without breaking the Left. There is no solution, essentially, no matter whether people get on tv talking less weapons, more weapons, whatever. They're not talking about the bigger picture, and as such they will fail, as intended.

Ymar Sakar said...

There are two primary triggers for why people think there's less crime in the US.

The statistics are being cooked by every police union in existence, if their base is in a Democrat controlled city or state.

Secondly, the reason why stuff goes down is because the police are moving in and doing most of the killings, homicides, and executions. So there's less "stuff" for the petty crims to take up the slack.

Grim said...

I share the anecdotal author's hope that the policeman will resign if he is reduced in arms. I also hope he will be reduced in arms, and his SWAT team disbanded.

I don't object at all to the police having body armor, to protect themselves from being shot. With adequate armor, though, the police can easily tackle every challenge facing them without military grade weapons. A .30-30 rifle, a pump-action shotgun, these tools are perfectly adequate for the challenge. I wouldn't fear to storm a house such as the one described with good armor, a well-trained team, and such ordinary civilian weapons.

Now if the house is filled with disciplined guerrillas who have RPGs and AKs, who know how and are prepared to use them, then a pump action shotgun is not sufficient. But neither, really, is the AR-15 or the M4. That's a perfect case for calling fires, in places like Iraq; you shouldn't ask anybody to storm such a house (although brave Marines sometimes do).

Fortunately, for now, that is not the challenge we face. If we come to face it, we really need the military -- not to enforce the law, but to reconquer territory that has become lost to an enemy army.

Ymar Sakar said...

A .30-30 rifle, a pump-action shotgun, these tools are perfectly adequate for the challenge.

And a katana or wakizashi for close range work.

It would cut down on the grappling issues with only having a firearm trained force.

"Now if the house is filled with disciplined guerrillas who have RPGs and AKs, who know how and are prepared to use them, then a pump action shotgun is not sufficient."

Usually the booby traps are more dangerous than the users of those. Accuracy issue.

Don't worry, they're working on loading up military grade weapons. Why do people think the US-Mexico border is defunct? The supply channels can't always come from Democrat Californians and their gun runners. There's a limit to how many weapons they can supply to criminal agencies. But not once the border is processed.

Dad29 said...

The National Guard is typically under the control of the State's Governor, not the Feds.

Ergo, "posse comitatus" rules do not come into play.

I have yet to figure out why the local cops insist on up-armoring w/full-auto M16A2s and APCs. Perhaps it's a macho thing over "size of my budget is bigger than...." or maybe the locals hate to call in the Guard, which was commonplace in the 1960's.

Elise said...

The way I see it, the police felt outgunned, reasonably got more equipment, and then didn't know when to stop. Their getting more equipment fed problems which made them feel they needed still more equipment. Thus the interesting points to me about the letter in the link I provided were:

The neighbors lived in fear because of this house, but didn’t call the police. [snip]
Until we deal with why someone would so casually shoot at the police, I’ll take my military-style tactics and equipment ...


This relates to:

not to enforce the law, but to reconquer territory that has become lost to an enemy army.

because I think that in some areas the police feel they have lost territory to an enemy army. I don't know how accurate this is but the idea that police are the public and the public are the police has to go both ways.

If the police believe they are unsupported and not respected, they will want more firepower to keep themselves safe. The more firepower they have, the less support and respect they will get. And so it goes.

Elise said...

Ymar, I cannot find it again but a few months back I read an interesting post (can't remember the blogger) claiming that progressives need a heavy-handed police force. The argument was that progressive policies are causing serious social breakdown in many communities and only policing on steroids (so to speak) would keep crime from getting totally out of control. So, although they would never acknowledge it, progressives relied on aggressive policing to essentially "hide" the inevitable effects of their policies.

It was an interesting argument and is somewhat echoed (without the direct blaming of progressive policies) in this from Ross Douthat:

I cheered Paul’s comments, I support most of the reforms under consideration, I want lower incarceration rates and fewer people dying when a no-knock raid goes wrong. But there may be trade-offs here: In an era of atomization, distrust and economic stress, our punitive system may be a big part of what’s keeping crime rates as low as they are now, making criminal justice reform more complicated than a simple pro-liberty free lunch.

Grim said...

But it doesn't have to go that way. Just like the governor could step in and stop the escalation, bring back guys in blue with sidearms, so can we on a broader scale.

If drug gangs are this big of a problem, the National Guard is probably the answer in certain places. Otherwise, you know, everybody in the big scary house has to leave to get food sometimes. You can shut off power and water to it if they won't just come out or peacefully submit to an inspection. Even if you don't try to arrest anyone, they'll move on at some point.

Grim said...

... our punitive system may be a big part of what’s keeping crime rates as low as they are now...

That's possible, but The Economist points out that it is probably not so. The crime rate is falling across the developed world, even in countries that have reduced their imprisoned populations -- even in US states, like New York, that have.

Elise said...

Grim, I agree that we (as a society) can change things on a broader scale but I don't know how we go about doing that. I'm pretty sure there are laws against turning off water and power to a house which has paid its bills. I suspect that the people in the big scary house are perfectly capable of sending 10-year-olds out to buy them food. As for the National Guard being the answer if the situation is so bad it calls for militarized action, I opened with that.

I'm not arguing against scaling down the militarization of the police; I agree with Douthat that small towns getting serious equipment doesn't make sense. And camouflage costumes in middle America are just silly. To refer to a later post of yours, I think review boards for police shootings are a good idea (although it seems to me that that has been done elsewhere or elsewhen and I'm not sure how that turned out). To reference a post I read somewhere, I think police cars should all come equipped with dashboard cams and the failure to do so is a deliberate decision that lends weight to presumptions of misbehavior.

However, my view is that society is sick and the state of the police is the fever. People who focus solely on the police believe we can fix the sickness if we bring the fever down. Maybe we can but we're asking the police to bet their lives that we're right. I'd like to know exactly why the police think they need all this super-duper equipment. (And I chuckle at the idea of a law at the national level forbidding the Feds from handing it out.)

As for crime rates, I do know they are going down. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't be higher in the US without aggressive policing. Maybe gearing down the police would result in greater community trust which would result in less crime. Again, we don't know until we try and we're asking the police to take that on faith.

Ymar Sakar said...

"So, although they would never acknowledge it, progressives relied on aggressive policing to essentially "hide" the inevitable effects of their policies."

The Leftist alliance is de facto controlling both sides. For the blacks, the Overseers Jackson and Sharpton runs the shakedown with money and BLack Panther thugs (bodyguards!).

On the other side, the police unions run right over any LEO that thinks he is somehow serving America or American citizens. That one is nailed down flat and first. This results in creating an internal and external enemy for the Left to top down totalitarian authorize.

They need an external and internal enemy to fight against, and in this case it just happens to be another wing of the Leftist alliance.

The Left is not composed of ideologically pure believers and fighters. Neither is Islam but that is another different issue.

The people trying to reform the police system won't be able to solve the issue. They may temporarily back stop it for a time in certain local areas and states, but that's about it. The Leftist agency is principled on Hydra Principles, which means it regenerates when any one part is damaged. They don't know who their real enemy is, thus they can't begin to come up with a counter that works.

They can reform the "system" so to speak in the police, and that'll empower LEOs that want to actually do their jobs well. But all of this will still be funneled into the centralized authority regime of the police unions, and hence unto the money laundering that powers much of the Leftist alliance. This money will then go to subsidize rioting, Sharptons, and more gang elements (with weapons if need be), creating a backlash against the LEOs that "just want to do their jobs" (because they are going to die first, as engineered by the System).

Ymar Sakar said...

" I'd like to know exactly why the police think they need all this super-duper equipment."

Both DHS and the Pentagon are training their operatives to go up against survivalists, preppers, and various other anti government citizen groups.

They think this threat is a bigger thing than AQ. So essentially the various funding Bush II authorized for fighting against foreign terrorists, somehow got turned into chaff when Hussein declared AQ was over and that we were no longer allowed to fight a foreign threat. So people's attention naturally went after the low hanging fruit... other Americans. Those are the Real Terrorists, like the Tea Party. They will CRUSH them using the military power of the DHS and Pentagon, or whatever else works. That makes the police "equal" with the big boys in the Army and Marines. LEOs find themselves culturally more attuned to the "military" side of things than the "civilian" side of things. After all, all those criminals and AQ come from civilians right?

Ymar Sakar said...

As for a first aid patch, try this.

http://gunssavelives.net/category/self-defense/

Given the amount of ammo and weapons training that citizens have undergone ever since the Age of Aquarius (aka Obamaca, not America), I would be surprised if even Detroit's criminal gangs have an easy time penetrating individual home security. In fact, one of the police chiefs of Detroit said he liked citizens having guns, since it made his job a lot easier and produced less police fatalities.

Bottom down hierarchies like citizen networks prevent a lot of crime. But it's not sexy. The only thing people in the majority pay attention to is how many police were there to "stop" rioting and how many lootings were stopped. Bottom up networks don't stop as many lootings, so they are considered amateurs at best. However, the number of lootings they "prevent" is about 10x what the police can "stop".

Grim said...

Well, if it isn't legal to cut off water and power, you can change the laws. Rather than having the police storm the place, you can grant them authority -- given a lawful warrant, and resistance to its being served -- to cut off water and power. (I'm not sure they can't already, in cases of emergency -- it would be odd to tell the fire department that you couldn't cut off the gas lines to a burning house because they've paid their bills!)

I'm not sure we disagree all that much. We agree with disarming them. We agree that the National Guard is a better solution for the rare case that really requires military levels of force. We agree that there is a kind of basic sickness afflicting American society, and that the problems with the police are somehow related to it.

Still, there remains the fact that crime rates continue to fall even in places that have cut their aggressive imprisoning of citizens. Also, the fact that crime rates are really down a very great deal overall. We don't have a good explanation for either of these facts, but they seem to hold.

Some diseases are exacerbated by the body's own defense mechanisms. You take an antihistamine to block histamines, which are supposed to defend you but can cause serious reactions (even death). There are other cases too, involving white blood cells that end up aggressively attacking where the aggression itself is problematic.

It may be that the sickness afflicting society isn't helped by imprisoning more people. Maybe it isn't even related to crime per se, which is why we can observe the sickness and also, at the same time, decreasing levels of all forms of crime. People are more lawful, and also worse.

That suggests a different toolset is needed than law enforcement. Obedience to the law is not the problem: people are already more likely to obey the law than a generation ago, or a generation before that. Yet the sickness is worse.

Ymar Sakar said...

We agree that the National Guard is a better solution for the rare case that really requires military levels of force.

I prefer the Marines for the job of COIN in dirt bag Democrat plantations like Detroit or Chicago. Utilizing the Guard for internal National politics, is only going to corrupt the Guard itself in due time.

In fact, I mentioned this very damn issue in 2007-2008. What I say will happen, one way or another. If they are going to Burn, they're going to Burn.

Grim said...

Utilizing the Guard for internal National politics, is only going to corrupt the Guard itself in due time.

That doesn't follow, but it has been true in the past that state National Guard units have refused to obey Federal orders (in cases where the state government was at odds with the Feds). During the early desegregation case in Little Rock, for example, it was necessary for the Feds to bring in the 101st Airborne to enforce its will on the community because the Guard and the governor were as opposed as the rest of the electorate of Arkansas.

Ymar Sakar said...

That doesn't follow, but it has been true in the past that state National Guard units have refused to obey Federal orders (in cases where the state government was at odds with the Feds).

I'm not calculating those potential instances in the grid. Rather, I note how the National Guard was used in New Orleans during Katrina, to help the local police forcibly confiscate guns from local residents, opening the way to crime and police AWOLs. Or maybe the AWOLs came before, when the police realized what they were ordered to do and what it would led to, and decided to ditch instead to protect their families.

It's difficult to verify the eye witness testimonies though, even from the people who said they participated in this op after returning from Iraq. And the police tend to be armed like soldiers too.

Now if this was merely the Governor of Louisiana doing the CYA thing as most Democrats do, it's one thing. But it's quite another if this happened after the 3 days they stalled for time and the NG was federalized. That means the orders were being suborned at the time the NG was obeying federal orders.

In situations where the NG can be suborned by State or Federal Authorities, it's not a good idea to be the guy on the local city street calling in reinforcements. Cause those reinforcements may be ordered to aid in the extermination of local "anti government" citizens aka criminals. This is strategic level development, not tactical capabilities. This cannot be conducted in a few years time, because the planning stages must be decades long in length. Good thing for the Left they had decades to plan for this.

The Marine Corps have a very strong esprit de corps that is based partially on patriotism and partially on warrior traditions in the long history of their line. The time estimated projection for corruption of an alien culture is measured in centuries or multiple generations, not merely decades. Thus they should have a bit more resistance to such and their ability to refuse to Obey Authority, even for a military unit, would have a higher chance of success in situations where they do not agree with their military orders.

No military unit is immune to the Left's influence or power, of course. But the National Guard do not have cultural firebreaks or firewalls protecting them, compared to the Marine Corps. Thus using them invites in strategic turn over.

Ymar Sakar said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relief_response_to_Hurricane_Katrina

Rereading things, some clarifications. By "federalized", I don't mean Bush II authorized the federalized seizure of national guard units. As I recall, he refused to do that, since it would look like Republicans invading the South again.

There were some increasingly confusing reports at the time and in post action accounts. I had heard that there were national army units involved, not just the NG. Which means the various units would come under federal command, unless their chain of command was superseded by the local Governor or the NG. This then goes back to the first square, whose orders were the NG obeying and why?

While this makes for a somewhat chaotic situation, it still leaves the issues as I described.

douglas said...

If the police believe they are unsupported and not respected, they will want more firepower to keep themselves safe. The more firepower they have, the less support and respect they will get. And so it goes."

And they believe this because when there is a shooting, the instant reaction is essentially, 'let's hang the cop' -that's the translation for what people in Ferguson are calling 'justice'.

If I were a Police Officer in Ferguson, I'd resign right now, and encourage all officers to do the same. Just as we've a right to ask for real, meaningful and honest investigations, the police have a right to receive the same.

The 'Us vs. Them' attitude didn't start with the police...

Grim said...

The resignation of the entire force might be a good idea. It's hard to read this otherwise than as a vote of no confidence in the police force by much of the community, combined with a display by the same police that, manifestly, no confidence is warranted. The best thing for everybody might be to create a new force led by the members of the community who are behaving responsibly during this crisis.

Elise said...

Well, if it isn't legal to cut off water and power, you can change the laws. Rather than having the police storm the place, you can grant them authority -- given a lawful warrant, and resistance to its being served -- to cut off water and power.

In the case described at the link I provided, this means a police officer would attempt to serve a warrant, would be shot at, and would then leave. He would request that the water and power be turned off and wait for the bad guys to leave the house. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

people are already more likely to obey the law than a generation ago, or a generation before that.

I'm not sure this is true across the board. I wonder if this varies by community and/or neighborhood. I also wonder if this varies by type of law. My experience in my little increasingly urban corner of the Northeast is that people are more and more ignoring the "small" laws regarding traffic, noise, littering, etc.

Grim said...

In the case described at the link I provided, this means a police officer would attempt to serve a warrant, would be shot at, and would then leave. He would request that the water and power be turned off and wait for the bad guys to leave the house.

It wouldn't have to be shot at; it could be even a refusal to open the door. If you're shot at, you might well surround the house as well as cutting off water and power.

But if there are 50,000 SWAT-served warrants a year, that would mean that in ~49,000 cases there would prove to be no resistance at all. That might cut down substantially on the hundreds of people being killed by police annually. I could name a number of cases from just the last year where the people were killed in their homes "resisting" a SWAT team that shot them before they had time to fully understand what was happening to their house.

That's a better standard, I think.

I'm not sure this is true across the board. I wonder if this varies by community and/or neighborhood. I also wonder if this varies by type of law.

All those things are possible. It's also true that there are a lot more laws than there used to be, so we are probably all violating some of them every day without knowing it.

But, if we stick to the traditional violations of the law that are serious enough to be carefully tracked, it seems as though it is true at least for that class of traditional, serious crimes.

Ymar Sakar said...

"The best thing for everybody might be to create a new force led by the members of the community who are behaving responsibly during this crisis."

It's relatively easy to train citizens that proactively defend their own neighborhood from looters. Even with great technical deficiency, the raw resource is already several grades ahead of the local competition.

Of course, unions exist to keep the riff raff out.

My experience in my little increasingly urban corner of the Northeast is that people are more and more ignoring the "small" laws regarding traffic, noise, littering, etc.

Americans used to be full of individuals, that did the right thing because it was the right thing, not because police or the Regime said "do this or die".

So for people who act right without laws, they are far superior to the people who only act right when told to act right (like zombies).

America, because there are more zombies around, will then only do good things when someone in Authority tells them to do good things. And for traffic, when there is no Authority around, the mice will play.

Ymar Sakar said...

If I recall, the various state governments for student loans, also have SWAT teams and have used them to track down students.

What's to stop them from using one to aid the IRS, "accidentally killing" a resident of a house that belonged to a faction that wanted the IRS to be cleaned?

How many of these "accidents" are really accidents?

No matter what you think you know about the Left, there is always one level deeper.