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Wed Feb 26, 2014, 11:36 PM

There are roughly 800,000 cops in the United States...

...according to the stats found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_police_officers

Now, before continuing from that, here are some annoyingly necessary disclaimers to hopefully reduce knee-jerk reactions to the inevitable straw men likely to be evoked by where this post is going:

1) I certainly believe that our police departments have many problems, especially in the way they've become increasingly militarized.

2) No, I don't hang out at "cop lovers dot com", I'm not involved in law enforcement myself, nor is anyone close to me involved.

3) I'm not trying to excuse any police officers terrible, especially murderous behavior.

4) I certainly don't like the way many cops "protect their own", when loyalty to the public should be higher than loyalty to each other when there's wrongdoing to cover up.

With that out of the way, I'd like to ask: What's the big picture on police brutality, on policing abusing their power?

What are the statistics behind the anecdotal evidence? How much do the horror stories we often hear characterize the behavior of cops on the whole?

Let us suppose there's one new horrible story of abusive police behavior every day of the year. Let's further suppose each one involves four different cops. If you post each and every one of those stories you'll definitely create a strong impression that cops are "out of control", that we're "living in a police state", etc.

If the above hypothetical case represents reality (and I'm not saying it does -- just go with me for a moment) that would mean roughly 1500 cops badly abuse their power every year. That would only be about 0.2% of all police officers per year.

OK, suppose you consider the reported stories only the "tip of the iceberg". If it's ten times worse than what we hear about (and I don't think we hear as many as 366 brand new horror stories per year, even if it seems like that on DU sometimes), we'd get up to around 2% of cops per year.

Is calling that "a few bad apples" way too dismissive? (Perhaps if it really were that much, one out of fifty, but I think we're rounding up a lot at this point.) Or is equating what's going on to living in a police state a greater exaggeration?

Does advocacy for victims of police brutality require ignoring whatever the actual percentage of bad cops is? Does it require being angry that I'd even write a post like this, because, as you see it, anyone's suggestion of putting things in some perspective can be nothing other than (queue the straw men) cop worship, dismissing all suffering of victims, and total obsequious submission to authority?

Oh, and does every bad cop thread require someone to reply "Yay, cops!" to that thread?

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Reply There are roughly 800,000 cops in the United States... (Original post)
Silent3 Feb 2014 OP
Scootaloo Feb 2014 #1
Silent3 Feb 2014 #8
Beach Rat Feb 2014 #41
pa28 Feb 2014 #2
Donald Ian Rankin Feb 2014 #67
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #85
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #3
Silent3 Feb 2014 #10
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #12
Silent3 Feb 2014 #13
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #15
Silent3 Feb 2014 #17
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #27
treestar Feb 2014 #62
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #71
treestar Feb 2014 #74
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #78
DisgustipatedinCA Feb 2014 #4
AgingAmerican Feb 2014 #5
30cal Feb 2014 #7
HughBeaumont Feb 2014 #81
30cal Feb 2014 #6
Silent3 Feb 2014 #11
TorchTheWitch Feb 2014 #88
Heidi Feb 2014 #9
struggle4progress Feb 2014 #14
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #16
struggle4progress Feb 2014 #19
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #20
struggle4progress Feb 2014 #21
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #22
HangOnKids Feb 2014 #24
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #36
Drew Richards Feb 2014 #90
struggle4progress Feb 2014 #91
Captain Stern Feb 2014 #38
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #40
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #82
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #79
EX500rider Feb 2014 #80
The Straight Story Feb 2014 #18
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #37
msanthrope Feb 2014 #58
MrScorpio Feb 2014 #23
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #30
defacto7 Feb 2014 #32
hfojvt Feb 2014 #33
pacalo Feb 2014 #39
Silent3 Feb 2014 #56
Silent3 Feb 2014 #57
treestar Feb 2014 #61
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #84
Coyotl Feb 2014 #25
AZ Progressive Feb 2014 #26
stevil Feb 2014 #28
Egalitarian Thug Feb 2014 #29
stevil Feb 2014 #31
Th1onein Feb 2014 #35
defacto7 Feb 2014 #34
Silent3 Feb 2014 #54
defacto7 Feb 2014 #76
MindPilot Feb 2014 #42
Silent3 Feb 2014 #47
Post removed Feb 2014 #43
COLGATE4 Feb 2014 #44
PowerToThePeople Feb 2014 #45
Silent3 Feb 2014 #48
FarCenter Feb 2014 #46
Silent3 Feb 2014 #49
FarCenter Feb 2014 #53
Rex Feb 2014 #50
DefenseLawyer Feb 2014 #51
DetlefK Feb 2014 #52
Silent3 Feb 2014 #55
HereSince1628 Feb 2014 #59
Silent3 Feb 2014 #65
HereSince1628 Feb 2014 #69
Silent3 Feb 2014 #75
HereSince1628 Feb 2014 #86
treestar Feb 2014 #60
L0oniX Feb 2014 #63
Silent3 Feb 2014 #64
L0oniX Feb 2014 #66
Silent3 Feb 2014 #68
L0oniX Feb 2014 #72
Silent3 Feb 2014 #73
Sunlei Feb 2014 #70
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #77
HereSince1628 Feb 2014 #87
Jeff In Milwaukee Feb 2014 #89
haele Feb 2014 #83

Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Wed Feb 26, 2014, 11:57 PM

1. A few responses

 

First things first... cops are entrusted with the maintenance of law and order in our society. Society gives them authority to capture, detain, even harm or kill in the course of accomplishing this. When a police officer exceeds their authority in these regards, it is thus magnified, due to the power they hold. when someone charged with upholding hte law, legally vested with those sorts of powers goes rogue, they become a real and legitimate danger to society, not just on the face of being dangerous person, but becuase of the corruptive influence their actions hold on the institution and the way people perceive it.

Second, yes, "a few bad apples" is too dismissive - at least as it's commonly used. The whole adage is more useful - "a few bad apples spoils the barrel." Meaning that if you have one rotten apple in the barrel, they spread the taint to everything else in that barrel, which needs to be thrown out. The problem is that when a police officer goes rogue, other officers are more interested in protecting their buddy - and covering their own asses - than protecting the public. Thus the entire department becomes an accomplice to hatever the original bad guy is doing... and once the lesson is learned, other cops are allowed to slide as well.

The "police state" comment comes from the fact our other government institutions not only turn a blind eye to all this but actually seem to encourage it - to say nothing of the media and its conflict fetishization. The cops are not just permitted to be corrupt, but are rewarded with more money, better technology, sycophantic back-patting, and of course, the fact that their testimony is apparently unimpeachable in the courts.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:42 AM

8. Is the impression that "government institutions... turn a blind eye"...

...actually the most common case, or merely the most common case in the stories that gain notoriety? How much selective bias is there in the reporting of these stories?

There certainly is a default assumption, not necessarily an earned one, that cops are telling the truth when they testify unless proven otherwise. That, however, is not a new problem nor a uniquely American problem, and I'm mostly interested in how the cops we have now in the US stack up by global and historical standards.

The cops are not just permitted to be corrupt, but are rewarded with more money, better technology...

Is "corrupt" a binary, yes/no quality? If any cops are corrupt, no matter what the number, the institution as a whole is characterized fully by the word "corrupt", and therefore the only right thing to do would be to cut their money and technology and not say one good thing about them until every last bit of corruption is rooted out?

No... I don't intend that rhetorical question as my own straw man, it's just my way of pointing out that you're begging the question. I'm trying to tease out the degree of corruption, and you're skipping right over that to treating it as a settled matter that cops are already beyond any boundary where "corrupt" becomes a fair generalized characterization.

Of course, to the extent that we're wasting so much money and causing so much collateral damage with the "war on drugs", I'd happily see budgets for that cut, which I think would go a long way in helping reduce police corruption and brutality no matter what the current level is, as it would both reduce the temptation of drug money that corrupts some cops, and help reduce the we're-under-seige mentality of others.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 09:01 AM

41. Don't ignore the hiring practices either!

There has been a real turn in the type of person that law enforcement has been hiring in the last decade. Aggressive authoritarian and emotionally immature candidates are being hired in droves. As officers of that ilk rise in rank, they hire new cops that are just like they are and it exacerbates the situation. I haven't had a lot of interaction with police lately, but when I have its been with young cops that have acted like jerks. That can't just be the luck of the draw.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:18 AM

2. 309 U.S. deaths by police action in 2013. 47 deaths by police action in the UK since 1922.

Edit: I see you do believe we have a problem. I just did not notice any solutions in the OP.

Somehow our friends in Europe manage to avoid a huge annual body count without descending into a state of lawlessness and chaos. What would you do?

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Response to pa28 (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:52 PM

67. Yes, but we have some of the best gun control around, and you have some of the worst.

And so most of our police don't need to carry guns, while most of yours do.

An awful lot of death come as a result of police believing, either rightly or wrongly, that they're about to be shot.

But, sadly, the second amendment remains near-universally popular, and there is zero chance of it being repealed in the forseeable future.

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Response to Donald Ian Rankin (Reply #67)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:22 PM

85. I think this hits the nail on the head...

American cops are on the street with highly armed and aggressive criminals, and so they behave in a hyper-aggressive state because they think they have to. And in some cases, they really do.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:28 AM

3. The percentage of bad cops approaches 100. All you have to do is judge it rationally.

 

We know beyond any debate that police all across the nation abuse their power every single day.

We also know beyond debate that the rate of investigations and prosecutions of these abuses is far lower than the numbers of complaints.

Finally, we know for certain that the number of cops that testify against cops is so small it is insignificant.

Now, how on earth do you justify these facts?

And "Yay cops!" results from the determined blindness to the facts, many just listed. If you're a cop, either testify against other cops or take the shit you've earned.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:48 AM

10. What have I tried to justify?

My OP isn't about justify anything, it's about whether people treat the real abuses that do occur as if they are the overall, most salient characterization of police in general.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #10)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:54 AM

12. Do you really not realize that yes, this is the only thing that matters regarding this issue?

 

That we have large gangs roaming our streets with lethal weapons and the license to use them, that they are regularly murdering innocent people, and that their follow "good cops" make it possible? Really?

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #12)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:03 AM

13. What also matters is whether cops, on the whole, do more harm than good.

That's also important.

For all of the problems and abuses, I for one certainly wouldn't disband all police forces if I had the power to do so.

And I think I made it clear that I certainly am all for doing as much as we can to reduce abuses of power and reform police behavior.

But given that no human institution, including the police, will ever be perfect, and that the power police necessarily require to do their jobs means that even a little imperfection can get very nasty, I still don't think we've strayed so far from whatever the best possible real-world behavior might be that anarchy would be an improvement -- yet I sometimes get the impression, from some people around here at least, that they'd rather that there be no cops at all.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #13)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:07 AM

15. No, it isn't. FFS, have we fallen so far down the rabbit hole that even this most fundamental

 

precept of civilization has to be explained, now?

The tipping point has been reached and we are indeed doomed.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #15)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:17 AM

17. So it's not important if cops do more harm than good?

OK, then. What fundamental precept am I missing?

If you're saying some chaos and random violence from strangers is better than supposed safety provided by abusive police, no, I'm not missing that.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #17)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:38 AM

27. The Contract. You get power over me so long as I benefit, too.

 

It's the very foundation upon which everything is built.

The people to whom we've granted power have reneged on every aspect, at every level of that deal.

The cops are at the very bottom of that structure, and even they have lost concern for the consequences of ignoring it.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:11 PM

62. you have nothing to support your conclusions

no statistics, no proof, nothing.

There have to be cops. Your position basically states there should be none. That no one can do that job well or honestly, which is ridiculous. But if we had no police, criminals could do whatever they wanted. As it is, they do, but at least there is a line working against them.

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Response to treestar (Reply #62)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 03:03 PM

71. It must be just awful living your entire life so in fear of bogey-men that

 

you are willing to sacrifice other people's lives so that you can maintain an illusion of personal safety.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #71)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:23 PM

74. Are you saying there is no crime?

That seems to be what you are saying. Of course you are being snarky, pretend I am "afraid of bogeymen" but rational persons are concerned about crime. You also didn't answer the question - are there to be any police at all? It's delusional to take the position there is no crime and no point to having any police at all. Yet from what you have given us here, that's what we would have to conclude is your point. I'm sure you will keep dodging the question though.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #71)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:06 PM

78. Bogey-man?

Jesus Christ, where do you live?

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:32 AM

4. OK, let's say most cops are good. Kindly point them out to me.

 

Is it that one in the blue uniform, or that other one in the blue uniform? Can't tell? Neither can I.

Therefore, given the daily police brutality stories we see, the only, only sane response is to not trust any cops until they clean up and begin to effectively police their own.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:33 AM

5. I work with a former cop

 

He told me that they all know who the bad ones are, and that all you can do is just stay away from them. He says that the way police culture works, they cannot speak out lest they become shunned by all. He also said that the force is 90% Republican.

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Response to AgingAmerican (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:42 AM

7. I think that it is about the only thing most Progressives and most Republicans

can agree on.

We and they (Republicans)..

Both groups do not trust the police

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Response to AgingAmerican (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:15 PM

81. "He also said that the force is 90% Republican.'

Kind of suspected as much, and I'm willing to bet that sort of pattern replicates throughout the U.S. THAT'S a problem.

After all, what happens with police action (or lack of) at Tea Party rallies vs what happens at a progressive protest?

It's not even comparable.








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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:35 AM

6. From a cops perspective it's us versus them.

We are them

Never invite them into your life , nothing ever good comes from it.

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Response to 30cal (Reply #6)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:53 AM

11. I have, once long ago, reported an assault to the police.

Nothing bad came from that, not to me anyway. Even the asshole who got out of his car and punched me through my car window didn't get in a huge amount of trouble (which was fine with me, it was a really weak punch thrown by a young kid, and I just wanted the idiot to get the message he can't just go around doing that sort of thing without be called on it).

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Response to 30cal (Reply #6)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 06:24 PM

88. from the massive cop hatred on DU I can see why they

would think that it's "us vs. them".

Sorry, but I'll never be so bigoted to either judge all people because of the job they do nor judge all the people that do that job because of a single personal bad incident with one.

DU is a fucking embarrassment when it comes to the nearly universal and utterly stupid cop hatred, and I've never understood why such blatant bigotry was always let go by mods and Admins. Unbelievably stupid crap like this is spewed forth by dozens of people in any thread that even mentions a cop.

I'll tell you what, I'd gladly invite every cop in the entire country into my life rather than the likes of anyone that thinks like you, and I guarantee I'd be better off for it.

>>>CLICK<<<

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:44 AM

9. The so-called "good cops" would be more convincing

if they'd put forth at least a tiny bit of effort to drum out the bad cops. Until that happens in a way that makes a meaningful and widespread dent in the problem, the "good cops" are complicit.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:06 AM

14. BJS maintains statistics on matters such as arrest-related deaths

http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2228

2003-2009: 4,813 deaths reported or about 690/yr

Eliminating 541 suicide deaths, 525 deaths due to intoxication, and 244 deaths attributed to natural causes leaves 2,931 homicides and 272 attributed to accidental injury, leaves 3203 or about 460/yr

That gives about one arrest-related death (by homicide or accidental injury) per every 2000 officers per year

... The FBI data shows that between 1980 and 2008, there was a slight decline in the total number of justifiable homicides by law enforcement officers. From 1980 to 1984, the average annual number was 395 such homicides, whereas for 2005 to 2008, the average number was 374 ...
Justifiable Homicides by Law Enforcement Officers (pdf)

This suggests about 418 - 374 = 44 arrest-related homicides annually, not found to be justified, with about another 40 arrest-related deaths due to accidental injury during or immediately after arrest



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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #14)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:10 AM

16. IOW, our police kill more Americans every year that the most successful terrorist attack in history.

 

Every year.

Year after year.

Forever.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:22 AM

19. Something like 31000 a year die from guns here and another 33000 in traffic accidents

Context matters in trying to make sense of the numbers

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #19)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:26 AM

20. Neither guns, motor vehicles, nor even terrorists are granted special license

 

to use deadly force in service to the government. Context does matter and the context here only makes the situation that much worse.

I expect that a terrorist wants to kill me, I'm supposed to believe that a cop wants to help me.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #20)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:55 AM

21. It's a bundle of problems worth considering, and if you have any useful ideas, I'm sure

many people would be delighted to contemplate them

I myself would not much favor (say) libertarian-style solutions, such as privatizing the police, since I don't think that promises any improvement; and I would say the same about vague anti-institutional anarchist ideas

Most police are under the control of local or state government, which means that the mechanisms of review ultimately lie with local or state voters

Various specific steps might bring the numbers down for varying reasons, such as reducing availability of guns on the streets (which might decrease both the number of confrontations with armed suspects and officer sensitivity to possible weapons), easier access to mental health services (which might decrease encounters with erratic citizens), improved stress counseling of officers, and so on







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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #21)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:01 AM

22. There are literally thousands of useful plans out there. Lack of alternatives is nowhere near

 

the problem. The problem lies entirely with the authoritarian notion of enforcement, in toto.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #22)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:12 AM

24. BINGO!

 

Notice the little Libertarian dig the other poster gave you. FFS it is so sophomoric.

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Response to HangOnKids (Reply #24)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:26 AM

36. I'm a radical. Libertarian, Communist, left-wing, hippie, looney, racist, feminazi, purist,

 

bleeding-heart, gun loving, capitalist pig from way back.

What I'm not, and this is what so many find so offensive here, is a team player.

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #21)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:48 PM

90. I have an idea not sure if its a good one...all complaints against police are filed by and interview

Ed by police internal affairs and one member of an independent citizen review board...no more threats and intimidation from trying to complain at the precent of the alledged violator.

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Response to Drew Richards (Reply #90)

Fri Feb 28, 2014, 01:12 AM

91. I think only larger police departments have something an Internal Affairs

The Citizens Review Board is a good idea IMO

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 07:08 AM

38. That doesn't appear to be true.

According to the above post, there are 690 arrest-related deaths per year.

2,996 people were killed in the WTC attack.

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Response to Captain Stern (Reply #38)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 08:44 AM

40. You're right, I mis-read the reply. It doesn't change the point at all. n/t

 

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #40)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:16 PM

82. It sort of DOES change your point

If your point is that more people die from police homicides every year than were killed on 9/11, then your point is grossly mistaken.

And my point in pointing this out is that when you toss around incendiary rhetoric and false statements, it makes it sort of hard to have a reasonable discussion on the matter.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:09 PM

79. Not even close...

One study shows 2,000 deaths over a three-year period, and half of those were suspects who overdosed, had heart attacks, or other medical complications.

That would be about 300-350 per year. Granted, that figure is much too high, but you're not even close.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21255937/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/study-died-police-custody-over-years/

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #16)


Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:20 AM

18. My take, as someone who was a deputy some years back

I get what you are saying when it comes to percents - as I have said on gun threads less than one percent of gun owners are the ones who are causing problems but they get all the press.

Back in my day I can say that there were a lot things going on behind the curtains. And there were good reasons to some of them. Cops did tend to mostly stick together (but certainly not always, there were cliques). The reason why is actually something quite simple we learned in training.

The criminals hate you and so does almost everyone else. People complain about crazy speeders, law gets passed changing the speed limit, you ticket someone, and they hate you. If you don't ticket people (and there are only so many cops) that others see speeding that hate you for not being around when they need you (apply just about anything to that, 'speeding' was just one example).

Internal affairs will bust you down, people will complain about you, and lots of bad people would love to see you hurt (i had one enterprising guy try to follow me home after work once).

Cops symbolize power and they can do things to you others cannot. We fear them.

So the folks tend to stick together - like after work, parties, etc. It's just a thing that is not always easy to explain unless you have been there.

Now - there are, from my exposure, a lot of asshole cops who abuse their power. I was a more by the book kind of guy and didn't make a lot of friends. I was young, naive, and idealistic.

For every one bad thing that might make the press there are many more that don't. It gets frustrating in that line of work - especially when you have people on your hands that killed kids, molesters, or just some bad scums in general.

I think cops should have mandatory counseling once a year or so myself. It is especially bad working in the jail where you are sitting a few feet away from someone you know did something bad (and don't give me this innocent until proven guilty stuff, some folks you know did things because they stand there and tell you - and they were just brought in from the scene. Like one guy who blew his wife's head off one night during a drunken fight).

Shit builds up. You see people walk, or get light sentences. You get spit on. Attacked. Pissed on. And any number of other things and then you just snap.

It is wrong, it is systemic problem that is not going away, and it is worse than the press is letting on.

Real solutions are not venting but preventing, and the key to that and many other ills of society start with listening, expanding dialog, and mental health professionals playing a role (especially since there is no one cause or solution - each one is different but there are underlying symptoms across the board in most cases).

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Response to The Straight Story (Reply #18)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:28 AM

37. You were a cop. What a shock. n/t

 

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #37)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:07 AM

58. And he offered some interesting information and solutions. nt

 

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:07 AM

23. If you look at the big picture...

Last edited Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:18 AM - Edit history (1)

You'll realize that cops, as an occupational class, are way more abusive and violent than they should be.

For example, in 2012, there were 587 people killed by police and in Germany the same year, there were only three.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforcement_officers_in_the_United_States_2012

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

I use Germany as an example because I've lived there for four years and had the opportunity to witness how they operate vs. how US cops operate in general. The difference is quite striking:

For example, American police are way more prone to escalate ANY given situation with immediate violence, they are usually disrespectful when dealing with citizens and are way more likely to stop, detain and search citizens without any sort of form of probable cause or even any kind of reasonable suspicion. Once an American cop interacts with someone, that cop usually intends to find something to cite or arrest the person they're stopping for. Even if it's something minor. American police are generally encouraged to violate citizen rights, and many times, there's a direct monetary incentive to do so, with the number of civil forfeiture laws that we have on the books in many jurisdictions. These laws are designed to allow police to legally take money and property from citizens who have not been charged with crimes. American police pretty much operate in this way without any fear of repercussion. Even when shown to have committed crimes themselves while on duty, many cops are never ever punished or removed from duty for violating the rights of citizens. The crimes that they're usually punished for usually revolve around things like drunk driving, drug use, theft and sexual assault of minors, problems with are at epidemic levels in many departments. While on the other hand, domestic violence is usually underreported and too many cops are never held accountable for abusing spouses and girlfriends, even when some of them are killed.

And most of all, think about the fact that, percentage-wise, the US incarcerates more people per capita, than any other country on the planet. America is literally the world's prison state. And it's that way because the police are the leading edge of an overworked justice system which makes it very easy to get in to and very difficult to get out of.

In Germany, you don't see this sort of overly-intrusive, overly-aggressive, over-violent behavior. They are trained to deescalate situations and are not used in lieu as armed social workers, the way that American cops are always used. Let me tell you, after spending four years in Germany, the first thing that struck me about US police behavior and methods were the way that US cops tend to harass citizens, violate their civil rights and abuse them so casually, frequently and and openly. They're basically bullies in blue with a bully's mentality and a bully's exaggerated sense of entitlement.

Basically, they're assholes and will stick up for each other, no matter how much of an asshole their fellow cops are. They're pretty much gang members in uniform.

I've got some resources here that might help you out:

http://behindthebluewall.blogspot.com
About Police domestic abusers

http://photographyisnotacrime.com
This site focuses on documenting police abuse on video

http://www.innocenceproject.org
This site focuses on the unjustly convicted and imprisoned

http://www.copblock.org
A police accountability site

https://twitter.com/radleybalko
Radley Balko's Twitter feed, a journalist and author who has reported on the militarization of US police departments

And last, but not least: http://www.policemisconduct.net/databases/
The crown jewel of reporting police misconduct in this country.


Tell you the truth, when looking at the big picture, I can't see how anyone can say that we don't have a huge problem with police misconduct and abuse. The collective evidence is way overwhelming… and these are just what's reported as you've noted. I'm just thinking that you're underestimating the extent of the problem and under-cutting the implications of what the overall picture looks like.

I'm sure that you hate to see it when people like Iggo and myself spout off with something like, "Yay, Cops! They're the best." But think about the fact that you're seeing that a lot because there are a lot of stories out there about and cops, and we're resolved at the point, in looking at these stories, of just expressing exasperation at all of it.

American cops are doing an overall poor job of protecting and serving our citizens. That much is clear.



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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 03:08 AM

30. There will be none of that fancified Big Picture gazing around here.

 

Very Serious People all know that without THE THIN BLUE LINE ©, we would all succumb to RAMPANT ANARCHY, RAPE, & PILLAGE!

There are millions and millions of radical deviants out there just waiting for their chance to pounce on Good White Americans & our Women!

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:04 AM

32. Great reply.

The systems in many European countries is exactly as you have depicted. The difference in philosophy and training between the US and Europe is about as polarized as you can imagine. One more US hitching to the laughing stock of shame.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:08 AM

33. 14,612 homicides in the United States annually

690 a year in Germany. Rate of 4.7 per 100,000 versus 0.8 per 100,000.

I don't know where you are seeing so much of this, unless you are wallowing in the stories of abuse "after spending four years in Germany, the first thing that struck me about US police behavior and methods were the way that US cops tend to harass citizens, violate their civil rights and abuse them so casually, frequently and and openly."

I think America tends to be anarchist. At least somebody told me once that Germans and other Europeans will always wait for a light to change before walking, whereas Americans will jaywalk when the street is empty.

I did find it ironic though when some people I had grown up with and known as thugs later became cops.

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Response to hfojvt (Reply #33)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 08:37 AM

39. I've read enough news accounts on DU to understand this is a big problem

in the U.S. without a doubt. The locations vary, yet the same brutal tactics & the same unnecessary, over-the-top combativeness are shown over & over.


I think America tends to be anarchist ... Americans will jaywalk when the street is empty.



Americans are generally an impatient fast-fulfillment society. But, yes, we have an anarchist tendency, too. There are good anarchists like OWS who stood up to greedy, heartless corporatists on behalf of the greater good. It's not acceptable when anarchists consist of police officers across the country who unnecessarily & unreasonably escalate situations as though they were practicing for riot-control drills.





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Response to pacalo (Reply #39)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:01 AM

56. Could it be, perhaps, that what's wrong with our cops is...

...a reflection of something wrong with America in general, amplified by guns and badges?

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:04 AM

57. I never said that the police don't need a lot of reforming, however, did I?

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:09 PM

61. Germans and Americans will approach cops differently

In Germany if you are a cop, you probably know that people will respect you and do as you say - you're the one with more power.

In America, a cop is just another person with a gun.

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Response to MrScorpio (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:20 PM

84. There's a big cultural difference

Take simply the number of U.S. officers who shot armed suspects in self defense, and you're going to get a larger number of dead suspects than in Germany. Because of our gun laws, we have a different class of criminals over here. And you could also argue that we a different class of cops.

A German cop doesn't assume that his next traffic stop is going to result in a bullet to the gut. Our cops are overly-aggressive and overly-violent -- but that's because they're dealing with a criminal element that is equally well-armed and equally aggressive.

I'm not trying to excuse the behavior of some genuinely bad cops, but given the environment that American cops are working in, I understand why they are the way they are.

Question is, what do we do about it?

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:14 AM

25. 314 million people (2012) / 800,000 = one per 392 people.

 

US has 256 cops per 100,000 people.

India = 130
China = 120
Iran = 80

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:34 AM

26. "a few bad apples spoils the barrel." is the full term, as Scootaloo said

You allow corruption to stay, it corrupts everyone else until most everyone is corrupt. Just look at the history of the NYPD.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:51 AM

28. Yay cops!

Your enemies until you need them. Not all police are assholes. Many are. And many advocate for victims. Not so cut and dried. How many cops do you know personally? I know quite a few, actually about 40+ in my small town, PALM SPRINGS.

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Response to stevil (Reply #28)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 03:00 AM

29. They're your enemies when you do need them as well.

 

They will however, cost you thousands of extra dollars while putting your life in danger.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #29)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 03:09 AM

31. Example?

And am asking for your own. I lived in NYC when standards were lowered and thugs were in charge.

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Response to stevil (Reply #31)


Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:16 AM

34. I can see the point on both ends of this argument.

But what really matters is the philosophy of law enforcement and training of the implementors and we can also add the judicial attitude and application as well. The rest are numbers that depict societal problems in general but they have little to do with cause, effect and solving the problem.

Our law enforcement system is flawed beyond reason. Fixing it? Hell if I know. But if you think America is capable of learning from successful systems in other countries, you are a better optimist than I. That'll be when hell serves ice cream.

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Response to defacto7 (Reply #34)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:51 AM

54. Nowhere have I suggested that there aren't big problems to fix

I'm not so optimistic, either, about our ability to get over our "America is number ONE!" mentality that prevents too many of our citizens and policy makers from looking at other countries for better examples of how to do things.

The main purpose of my OP is to merely suggest that, as bad as things are, I don't think it's so terrible that we're "living in a police state" (as if that's a binary, either/or proposition, and not a matter of degree), or to justify a broadly generalized hatred and/or distrust of all police that seems to emanate from DU much of the time.

The worst thing about our penal system is the unreasonable laws (mostly drug laws) the police are tasked with enforcing, and a public that, sadly, still either isn't aware, or much bothered by, the huge proportion of our population which is incarcerated. The blame for that doesn't lie largely with the police themselves, however.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #54)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:54 PM

76. My statement was general, not specific to you.

You certainly did not suggest that there aren't problems to fix. My last paragraph was also a universal "you" not specific to you personally; it could probably have been said better.

I agree with the idea that rhetoric concerning the police as a general negative is too broad. But I also see a trend that is moving through the law enforcement ranks that is almost pandemic, so I see both sides of the argument as valid to a point.

My addition to the argument is that the numbers don't tell us what we need to know to fix the issues. They tell us a basic story of a problematic society in general and that part of that problem is within th law enforcement community. If the numbers are useful it would be as a measurement of change upward of downward in time but it would not tell us what the problem is, it tells us only the results, although that is useful information it has little actual value.

The problem lies in the philosophy and application of law enforcement and the judicial system. That is where emphasis should be made. There are very successful law enforcement systems in other countries and I would like to think the US could embrace them... but America right now isn't known for it's ability to learn from other's success. The US and State governments would rather beat their own system harder and harder to make their failed system work no matter the cost or stupidity of it. It's the political ego that's at stake and America seems to think the ego is more important than success even if it kills us.

We need to learn to embrace what works and rid ourselves of what is faulty or the problems with law enforcement will continue to increase.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 09:15 AM

42. So you are willing to accept a 2% level of bad cops?

 

Would you be OK with the Post Office losing 2% of the mail? 2% of your credit card transactions being inaccurate? How about only 2% of commercial flights crash? Would that be acceptable? It's only two percent.

This whole attitude that a problem doesn't exist because it is only a small percentage or because it is worse in some other third world shithole is, I believe, at the core of our inability to address major issues like global warming.

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Response to MindPilot (Reply #42)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:33 AM

47. Like I said, queue the straw men.

Where in my OP is there any expression of a willingness to accept police abuse of power?

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)


Response to Post removed (Reply #43)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:04 AM

44. Thank you for your cogent, closely

reasoned and well documented response.

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Response to COLGATE4 (Reply #44)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:12 AM

45. You are welcome. eom

 

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Response to Post removed (Reply #43)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:36 AM

48. With the ALL CAPS response title, I thought you were being sarcastic.

But upon reading the rest of the post, I tend to think that you were being serious. It's hard to tell, since the wording is very close to parody, but missing just a little something to make it good parody.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:19 AM

46. It is probably twice that for total public criminal law enforcement

 

If you add in the FBI, DEA, prison guards, bailiffs, prosecutors and the other sundry employees of federal, state and local governments involved with criminal law enforcement.

Plus, I've seen estimates that private security guards and others employed by corporations and individuals doubles the number again.

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Response to FarCenter (Reply #46)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:40 AM

49. I'm not sure what you're arguing for, since the larger the number...

...of cops and other LEA personnel, the smaller the percentage of cops the stories we hear about bad cops represent.

What it does suggest, however, is that we're perhaps way too insecure and fearful, and, just like with our oversized military, we overdo police protection.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #49)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:51 AM

53. US law enforcement officers per 10,000 people looks about average

 

according to the wiki article that you reference. Some developed countries are higher and some lower.

I was just pointing out that in the US there is a much larger security establishment than just sworn LEOs.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:43 AM

50. I'm sure all the dead victims and the families left behind appreciate your statistic.

 

Whatever it takes for you to sleep better at night.

Some cops murder their suspects, some cops kill their suspects inadvertently - but if people need to deny that reality and make apology threads for the other cops then more power to them. If it helps people sleep at night.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:47 AM

51. I don't have any statistics

 

Just my own experience dealing with police for the last 20 years. One thing that has changed in that period of time, at least has it appears to me, is a huge increase in the number of people who join police forces after being in combat in the military. Of course you can't blame them, it may be the best job available to a former soldier. The "military" culture of most police agencies is certainly welcoming and familiar. However, the specific skills and life experiences gained in combat certainly don't translate very well into being a peace officer. When you toss PTSD into that mix, it becomes even more distressing. I have been paying a lot more attention to police shootings and it seems to be the norm that more often than not the shooter has been in combat. I don't have any statistics, it's just an observation.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:49 AM

52. It's not the number, it's whether criminal cops are treated like criminals.

How big is the US-military? Half a million?
If only 1000 of those soldiers kill civilians at will, torture prisoners, pillage, rape and abuse, is it right to say that something is wrong with the military?

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Response to DetlefK (Reply #52)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:58 AM

55. It wouldn't be wrong to say that there's something wrong with the military, or with the police.

But the attitude often seen on DU isn't "there's something wrong!", but a sadly almost gleeful desire to join in on cop bashing, an under-siege Us vs. The Cops attitude.

Many of those who love to sarcastically sneer "Yay, cops!" also don't seem to be able to see any middle ground between their own reaction and a diametrically opposed total denial of any problems whatsoever.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:03 PM

59. Cops as the base of the percentage seems wrong, indeed percentages seem minimally useful

It considers the risk of bad policing events compared to all cops. But cops, good and bad, are involved in many policing events everyday, and it's quite likely that even bad cops don't do 100% bad policing...

If you want to know the unconditioned risk of a bad policing event, such events should be measured against all policing events...a comparative base that would be many multiples of the actual number of police...and which would make the problem of bad events seem even smaller.

Much of society has a very low tolerance for bad policing events. But, what is needed/wanted is to really reduce the occurrence of these events, not to make the proportion of these events look smaller by playing with a denominator in a ratio.

Reducing occurrences requires identifying and managing hazards that contribute to bad events, so that the hazards can be anticipated and managed to reduce the occurrence of the actual events.

Because not all policing events are as likely to result in a bad policing event, initial detection of hazards that contribute to bad events must be studied among good and bad policing events where a suspect factor is present as well as where the suspect factor is absent.

Simple percents don't work very well for this.

Simple statistical tests like chi-square contingency tables can be used to analyze such data to detect factors that co-occur in patterns with the bad event, although in their simplest form chi-square type analysis doesn't distinguish features among bad events that co-occur in patterns but which are spurious with respect to causation.

Addressing spurious factors doesn't reduce risk, it misdirects resources. The analysis of the problem requires a bit more sophistication. And it should be obvious that referencing poorly considered percentages reduces the opportunity to obtain meaningful understanding.

Moreover, even after all the statistical analyses are completed, not every contributing hazard may be amenable to management. Management of a particular risk can only be directed and tractable hazards.

What is and isn't tractable isn't a question of statistics.

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Response to HereSince1628 (Reply #59)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:06 PM

65. There's nothing in what I wrote to suggest that simple percentages are the be-all...

...and end-all of understanding problems like police brutality and corruption.

They can be, however, especially along with more sophisticated analyses, a great boon to understanding and perspective compared to only having collections of scary stories which horrify, but provide no sense of scale or proportion.

As for "What is and isn't tractable isn't a question of statistics", of course not, but statistics can certainly help you prioritize what you try to fix, and how to try to fix it, before you decide (if you ever decide this at all) what's totally beyond your reach to fix.

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #65)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:50 PM

69. Percentages, like anecdotes must be considered carefully and compared to something

I do completely agree with you that creating a snowstorm of anecdotes without reference to some sense of scale can also be misinforming and misleading.

Yet, I can grasp that reports of uncommon occurrences of events even without a broader context CAN be informative. Consider the circumstance where there is zero or near zero tolerance for the occurrence of such events. In such circumstance even rare events can occur at an intolerable level (on DU an excellent example of a widely held zero/extremely near zero tolerance is for school shootings).

Threshold of tolerance for frequency of occurrence of an event can make all the difference in statistical interpretation, yet tolerance itself isn't determined statistically. It's a choice and its assignment can be contentious.

I suspect tolerance for police misconduct is low across much of American society and, among people who are sensitized to it, that threshold very closely approximates zero. For a person of such mind, ignoring whether the percentage is reasonably cast, a small value for a bad event doesn't interpret as overarching good, it means the occurrence is nonzero, and, therefore intolerable.

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Response to HereSince1628 (Reply #69)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:40 PM

75. Where's the threshold between appropriately sensitive and unrealistically idealistic?

From one point of view, any killing, done by cops or anyone else, is "intolerable". Even if only one murder happened per year over the entire planet, you could always say, "But that's no comfort to the family of the person who was murdered!"

In that deliberately exaggerated hypothetical scenario, would compassion for that one family require nothing less than dire denouncements of all mankind for our intolerable violence, and shaming all who might praise such a vast reduction in human violence as insensitive murderer lovers?

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #75)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:24 PM

86. Yes, exactly. It's a critical issue, and not really a matter of statistics per se

I think the question of dangerous cops isn't all that much different in character from the argument about dangerous mentally ill.

Yet, the mentally ill as a whole (which is to say, the viewpoint of unconditioned risk) aren't really more dangerous than are gun owners as a whole.

Reported statistics from the past 10 to 15 years suggests homicides by the mentally ill run between 4% of all US homicides per year and 10% although the later number is a projection based on best guesses of how many killers have undetected mental illness, and (on edit) both estimates don't exclude homicides related to drug use which other studies suggest double the risk of violence among the mentally.

Reported statistics for homicides by police in the same timeframe run around 2% of the total. (I do recognize there is likely overlap, as some police are very likely mentally ill. Depression, for example is extraordinarily common)

If the mentally ill are monsters, and there is zero tolerance for them, what % of nation's police officers semi-monsters and what tolerance should there be for them?

Police are trained and ought not to act with the failed cognition/uncontrolled emotion/ or behavioral impulsivity of a mentally ill person.

Shouldn't they meet a lower threshold than the mentally ill?

What sort of tolerance level do you suppose is related to mentally ill police officers?

I'm really not pushing the above. I spun the above argument the way I did, using 'facts' off government and institutional websites, because I am pretty sure the clash of gears would make grinding sounds.

That's the point.

People vary in their tolerance and they do so based on varying information and attitudes they've acquired in life to make sense out of their lives.


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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:05 PM

60. agreed, keep in perspective

I have a freezer friend who constantly posts every article he can find where a black person attacked a white person. He's trying to create bigotry against blacks with that. This is like that - trying to get us all to hate and distrust a group of professionals by constantly talking only of the things that go wrong.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:16 PM

63. When it happens to you then your silly op means nothing!

 

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Response to L0oniX (Reply #63)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:54 PM

64. The "when it happens to you" perspective is the most important one...

...that should override all other perspectives?

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #64)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:50 PM

66. Depends of how compassionate a person is about the victim.

 

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Response to L0oniX (Reply #66)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 01:58 PM

68. So the only way to properly express compassion...

...for a victim of police brutality is to view all police as brutal? That's what demonstrates true compassion?

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Response to Silent3 (Reply #68)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 03:27 PM

72. Seems like you have a list of reasons to be compassionate about the cops.

 

I'm not saying you shouldn't love the cops ...if it's your thing.

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Response to L0oniX (Reply #72)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 04:10 PM

73. What does what I'm saying have to do with being "compassionate" about cops...

...or "loving" them? Is everything so either/or, black/white with you? Your sense of the available alternatives of thought is cartoonish, not especially compassionate.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:58 PM

70. so many police because of the legal seizures of cash and assets from their 'war on drugs.'

All that extra 'free money' the locals can keep. Buy any military gear they want and hire some extra police.
Extra police (without much training) to stop and frisk people on the street, stop cars on the 'cash side' of the highways. The cycle continues.

If ALL the drug seizure money went directly to a State or Federal pool to pay for something else like public education we wouldn't have all these 'bad cops'. Power corrupts and the billions from the drug war funds them.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:04 PM

77. Couple of things....

According to a website called copblock.com which advocates for pursuing and punishing rogue cops, there were 5,986 reported cases of police brutality in a one-year period in 2009-2010. That's the number reported -- Lord knows how many suspects got roughed up but kept their mouths shut. And 382 fatalities resulting from those incidents. I'm sure that most of the reported cases (any those that were unreported) were the result of "repeat offenders" in this regard. But I'll concede that we're probably talking about 2% of all cops are basically psychopaths with badges.

Problem One: The Thin Blue Line. While only a small number of cops are inherently bad, there are a lot of cops who look the other way, and police unions who fight tooth and nail to prevent their members from ever being disciplined for their behavior. Don't get me wrong -- if you've been paying union dues for years, the union had damned well better have your back and not cut you loose the minute you need them. But there are attitudes that have to change.

Problem Two: Police are woefully unprepared to deal with mentally ill persons. Many of the worst videos that you see of cop beatings involved cops and homeless or otherwise mentally ill suspects. The typical police mantra of "Do as I say or get beat down" doesn't work in this context (and is on some pretty shaky moral ground in general). There are times when cops need to use force, and I fully support a cops right to go home alive at the end of a shift, but there are times when a more nuanced approach is better.

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Response to Jeff In Milwaukee (Reply #77)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:57 PM

87. It isn't just an issue of mental illness...it's the problem of cops dealing with noncompliance

Being deaf, walking across a street while whittling, and not responding to command can make you dead.

Being in a diabetic coma behind the wheel of a car at a stop sign, can get you dragged out and beaten to death.



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Response to HereSince1628 (Reply #87)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 07:38 PM

89. That's true...

As I said, the "Obey or Get Beat Down" approach just doesn't work.

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Response to Silent3 (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:16 PM

83. Bad cops are a sign of poor leadership in a community.

If the community leadership turns a blind eye on discriminatory practices, legal thuggery (i.e., police brutality and overt authoritarianism), and petty corruption, then you're going to have more police who do bad things to innocent - or even not so innocent - citizens.
When the "service" part of "to protect and to serve" is ignored, then you see bad cops. It's easy to "protect" - just carry around a hammer and hit anything that looks like a nail. It's much harder to serve.

So, if your community leadership is interested in protecting "the bottom line" you're going to end up with a police department that is just peachy with hiring the bottom of the barrel and playing the "thin blue line" song to the general public.

I saw it in the Navy all the time. When the leadership is poor, the lower levels of the hierarchy have no problems being jerks, slacking off, and causing problems with the quality of life for others and morale in general.
When there's good, responsible leadership with clear directions, quick response, and an interest in both the job and the people doing the job, the work force does what they're expected to do and the work gets done correctly (for the most part).

Haele

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