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No Golden Era on Police Brutality

Tam has an excellent posts that doesn’t merely give you a sense of perspective, it clocks you in the noggin with it:

In the Sixties, they’d have already turned the dogs and water cannons on the Ferguson protestors. In the Twenties, Andy and Barney would have broken the old Potato-Digger out of the armory and started mowing them down. The po-po used to be pretty quick to go weapons-free on unruly crowds, especially if such crowds were made up of black folk or commies.

Read the whole thing. The reason I’ve had relatively little to say on the matter is because I just can’t find much to agree with in what’s floating around out there. I think this was a good opportunity to raise awareness of police militarization, but a lot of the people who are crowing that line now would take their ARs and body armor replace them with tie-die and daisies. They aren’t really my allies. More from Ace of Spades:

I do not mind that the police should have the capacity to Armor Up and employ Fallujah Room-Clearing Tactics in serious situations, in apprehending serious criminals after serious investigations.

I want them to have that capability.

However, I do not want (and will not accept) them employing that capability for routine warrant services in the service of confiscating a meager amount of contraband drugs.

In Ferguson, the situation, as I see it, is different. There were major riots. The cops are not making up some pretext for going Rambo. As a strictly factual matter, there was rioting, shops were looted and burned to the ground.

I can concede — and in fact I endorse — Mary Katherine’s unstated point that the militarization of police has gone too far and is being employed for trivial matters, while not agreeing with her that protecting against further rioting is itself a trivial matter.

Ace offers a lot to think about. I’m not sure I agree with everything he has to say. I still remain very uncomfortable with police pointing guns at people who don’t outwardly appear to be doing anything worth pointing a gun at someone for. But do I really have a problem with the cops using a heavy, armored vehicle as defensive refuge in a riot situation? Not really.

The more I think about this, the more I agree with Professor Reynolds: the root of the problem is attitude. That’s what we have to fix. While there may be no golden era of policing, we can go back to a previous era and find a set of principles by which an ethical police force can operate.

28 Responses to “No Golden Era on Police Brutality”

  1. Chris from AK says:

    The issues I have with police TTPs and equipment are:

    1) Civilian LEOs should not be equipped with anything that is forbidden from non-LEO civilians. If ARs are banned for private ownership, then the police don’t need them and can make do with shotguns. If standard capacity mags are banned, then cops can make do with 1911s. If citizens can’t buy body armor, then the cops clearly don’t need it either (CT, anyone?).

    Because MO isn’t a Ban State this probably isn’t a huge issue unless the cops are running around with NFA stuff. If some civilians don’t need a SBR as a Personal Defensive Weapon or a full auto sear, then why do other civilians?

    This is the “what’s good for the goose…” rule for evaluating common usage that has previously been proposed here. If the tools deployed in Ferguson are truly common then why aren’t they equally protected for you and me to possess?

    2) The police are using tactics that are significantly more aggressive than the military authorizes. The field manual for riot control (FM 3-19.15) used by the National Guard gives at least one easy example:

    “The reserve forces, located at the rally point, can provide another lethal force of some size that can be brought forward, as needed. Each soldier in the control force formation should have a sidearm (9-millimeter pistol) or an M16 or M4 rifle. The rifle is slung diagonally across his back with the rifle butt over his left shoulder and the muzzle below his right hip. Lethal munitions are in a separate ammunition pouch that is isolated from NL munitions. This is to prevent the mixing of NL and lethal ammunition.”

    To contrast, cops are running around with ARs that have mags in the well (possible rounds in the chamber), pointed at civilian protesters. They are not slung with the muzzle down in condition four.
    http://windypundit.com/wordpress/wp-content/gallery/2014-editorial-images/Ferguson-20140812-nyti.jpg

    Another example from the field manual is the emphasis on recorders. Each Army riot control team is to have a recorder/photographer type element (that’s 1/4 of the force — one per four man team). In contrast, the police in Ferguson seem to be trying to herd journalists into Free Speech Zones and getting physical with people trying to film them. Part of the whole reason the riots kicked off is because Ferguson declines to have recording devices for their force, even though the US taxpayer already funded the equipment for them via a DOJ grant.

    If the cops want to have these military toys then they need to behave with the same professionalism and discipline as the military does today, in 2014. Just because the military firebombed civilians in Tokyo and the cops turned attack dogs on freedom riders back in the day doesn’t justify such conduct today.

    • Tam says:

      Just because the military firebombed civilians in Tokyo and the cops turned attack dogs on freedom riders back in the day doesn’t justify such conduct today.

      Didn’t say it did.

    • Rydak says:

      I could not get past the first point. The public is not tasked with law enforcement burdens, hostage rescue, riot control, arresting people who would rather die and/or kill a police officer than go to jail.

      So it makes sense to make such a demand.

      I do understand that line of thought though, because the laws that ban the public from owning those guns are silly and just plain wrong. However, you will not achieve the goal by forcing police to use only that which is available to the public simply because no politician would go for it. Especially since most items that they have ARE available to the public. Most M4’s are semi auto. And the public can but a full auto belt fed if they wish. And you can buy an uparmored vehicle if you wish…etc. About the only thing I think would be a bit rough would be the tear gas canisters for the 40mm launcher. Not the launcher itself, you can buy then easy at any gun show or online.

      For all that scary equipment…doesn’t anyone find it at-least a little bit interesting that all of those separate swat teams that were deployed did not shoot a single person? And to date not a single person has claimed that they were harmed by them? (Other than inhaling teargas, but I dont count that because I figure if you see police tell a group of rioters to move and stop throwing molitov cocktails and they dont and then the police announce that they are going to use tear gas, which they always do first and you stand there still….well you got what you asked for, so the “victim of police brutality” thing kinda degrades itself.

      PS: This statement aplies to those who live in the acutal United States of America. People living in NJ and CA. May god bless you.

      • Ian Argent says:

        The point of the Peelian Prinicples of Policing is that the police are no more than members of the public who have been tasked to extend their own boundaries of self defense to protect others. Thus the police should not have access to self-defense equipment that other members may have – it’s a transitive condition. The police may not have anything better than what the public has, but the public should have access to all that the police use as well.

        Up until 1934, this was the case.

      • Sebastian says:

        I’d be OK with the cops having all that surplus equipment if they opened the program up to civilians too :)

        But police and non-police are not equal when it comes to automatic weapons. Police don’t have to pay the transfer tax, and are allowed to own post-86 machine guns.

        I have no problem with the police having ARs, but I question whether automatic weapons have any place in ordinary police work. I think if they are truly useful, then they ought to be available to civilians too. I get politicians won’t go for that, but I’m speaking strictly on principle here.

        • Ian Argent says:

          FA weapons, perhaps not so much; given that the army dropped the option on the M4, yes? But if a 12-gauge shotgun with buckshot is useful in self-defense, the in strikes me that a 3-round burst option in an AR-pattern SBR might have some use in the self-defense role…

      • Kirk Parker says:

        doesn’t anyone find it at-least a little bit interesting that all of those separate swat teams that were deployed did not shoot a single person?

        I find it good.. but what is much more interesting is that no one shot any of the swat folks for aiming rifles at them while they were legitimately out-and-about in public places. Surely that’s what SWAT deserved for endangering the lives of others, do they not?

      • Chris from AK says:

        I could not get past the first point. The public is not tasked with law enforcement burdens, hostage rescue, riot control, arresting people who would rather die and/or kill a police officer than go to jail.

        The SCOTUS has said that the only weapons which can be banned are those which are not in common use which are both dangerous and unusual.

        Which exceptionally dangerous and unusual weapons do you want your local police armed up with?

        Maybe if I flip the argument around, you’ll find it more palatable:
        “Any weapons deployed by the civilian law enforcement authorities are by definition common and suitable for personal defense, and ought to be protected for civilian usage as well by the clear reading of Heller.

        Either AR-15s and Glocks are useful as personal defense weapons (and thus appropriate to be deployed by civilians and civil authorities alike), or they are exceptionally dangerous and unusual weapons of war which must be prohibited from all.

    • Brad says:

      “1) Civilian LEOs should not be equipped with anything that is forbidden from non-LEO civilians. If ARs are banned for private ownership, then the police don’t need them and can make do with shotguns. If standard capacity mags are banned, then cops can make do with 1911s. If citizens can’t buy body armor, then the cops clearly don’t need it either (CT, anyone?).”

      Exactly. This can be a very useful way to push gun rights in anti-gun states if we are clever. We can use this as a wedge issue that may drive police interests away from anti-gunners and drive black voters away from liberal legislators.

      If “assault weapons” are only useful for warfare and murder, then why do the assault-weapon bans exempt police? Police need murder weapons?

      If “saturday night specials” are unsafe and unreliable, and only useful for criminal activity, then why do the saturday-night-special bans exempt police? Police need unsafe weapons?

    • Geodkyt says:

      One of teh reasons the military riot control manual is written the way it is is because military units with very little specialized riot control training are generally used when the military gets called out for “civil disturbance”. The overwhelming amount of military force training is geared towards warzone ROE, as it should be.

      The majority of training I received on civil disturbance – as an NCO who was tasked with controlling a unit during riot control, was on how to wind the lanyard of my big stick, so I wouldn’t get snatched into the crowd.

      The military FM is written for LCD deployment by relative amateurs (amateurs in THIS field), presented in a fashion so leaders can easily bone up in the hours before they actually have to use it (including at least some attempt at reinforcing the basics to their troops).

      Doesn;t mean that I approve of everything I’ve seen the cops do in Ferguson — only that I wouldn’t expect them to use the military FM anymore than I would expect soldiers to use the same exact procedures on handling M4s in Afghanistan that the cops train for for use in a barricade procedure.

  2. janklow says:

    so as regards this concept:

    “I do not mind that the police should have the capacity to Armor Up and employ Fallujah Room-Clearing Tactics in serious situations, in apprehending serious criminals after serious investigations.”

    …as a notion? i agree. but as i live in a state where police officers go in front of legislatures and courts to testify that AR-15s and “high-capacity magazines” and so on are causing the streets to run with blood and i shouldn’t have them, and then these things get banned… well, then i frankly don’t think those police officers should have them either.

    • Kirk Parker says:

      God Damn the police who so testify, and I say that as someone who believes that the words “God” and “damn” actually have meaning.

  3. Ed says:

    Peaceful Streets Project’s 2nd Annual Police Accountability Summit, Radley Balko talks about his book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces”.

    Balko’s work has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court (Hudson v. Michigan), and cited and excerpted by the Mississippi State Supreme Court (Mississippi v. Edmonds).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMRqOBQqsOo

  4. Ed says:

    @radleybalko tweeted this earlier tonight…

    That police in Ferguson aren’t beheading reporters doesn’t excuse or diminish the outrage of arresting, pointing guns at, and gassing them.

    Great point!!!

  5. Lance Lot Link says:

    There is a huge argument here that’s being missed. One key argument by the pro 2A side (and correct if I might add) is that there should be no restrictions on the public if the arms are in use with the police. Anyone who has been around for more than a few weeks knows this line of thinking and how its been applied to both arms and magazines.

    But there’s a converse side to this equation too. It may go against the grain slightly, but think it through.

    If the militarization of the police is checked, then the arms that are covered by the 2A common use doctrine are also subject to greater restrictions.

    In other words, tying common use arms to what the police use both raises what citizens can possess, but also limits what the police can routinely use as well.

    This is a key argument that can be used against the left and anti 2A crowd in general, especially now since the progressives are jumping on the demilitarization of the police bandwagon.

    This approach also helps reduce another problem too, the growing divide between LEO and the general public. Its all too easy to fall into the Us vs Them mentality, and gun laws that carve out special exemptions for LEO, including off duty or retired, only helps reinforce this divide.

  6. Patrick H says:

    Radley Balko has a great article on how the police should respond to protests.

    He quotes the former Chiefs of Police of DC and Seattle with some great comments about how to handle it.

    Of course there wasn’t any gold standard of policing, but that’s missing the point. The point is how the police should behave. I find two big reasons why they are not behaving properly- police worship and ex-military on the forces.

    The first is being fixed, but the second I believe can’t (and maybe it shouldn’t?).

    • Ian Argent says:

      Are the bad actors former military, though? All the former military types I know have claimed that the RoE when they interaact with civilian malcontents are much more restrictive than what the police operate under – see the first ocmment for a field manual on topic

    • Chris from AK says:

      What makes you think that military personnel are as unprofessional or sucky at COIN as cops in these situations?

      The military has been doing COIN for over a decade now. Military folks who have been deployed to GWOT have a pretty good handle on concepts like “hearts and minds.”

      The tactics used by police in Ferguson are shitty COIN practice. If you view the problems in Ferguson through the lens of an insurgency, then you apply principles like those described in this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/08/14/after-ferguson-how-should-police-respond-to-protests/

      Not what the cops have been doing!

      Check out the COIN field manual…
      http://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf
      It highlights paradoxes that the cops in MO refuse to acknowledge:
      “Sometimes, the More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You May Be”
      “Sometimes, the More Force is Used, the Less Effective It Is ”
      “The More Successful the Counterinsurgency is, the Less Force Can Be Used and the More Risk Must Be Accepted”
      “Doing Nothing is Sometimes the Best Action ”
      “Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot”

      COIN doctrine embraces addressing the community’s immediate problems (not just security issues), finding root causes, integrating with non-armed agencies (especially local ones), cultural awareness, laser-focused missins when necessary with an ops-intel cycle, synchronizing with and empowering civil authority, and so on. For all the problems at the strategic level with nation building in the last decade, the .mil has gotten pretty good at making it work at the tactical/”village” level.

      If anything, the problem is that the cops have adopted the least important parts of the military: cops have the toys and a few of the tactics (mostly CQB stuff) but none of the better tools… Tools like a professional ethos (in the sense of Huntington’s definition of a profession), robust planning staffs, appropriate education for leaders, good doctrine, and so on. So they just flood the streets with scared, overequipped LEOs who apparently have insufficient training and leaders who are apparently not equipped with the staffs, authority, professionalism, education, or doctrine to make good choices.

      The Ferguson PD is headed by a guy with only a bachelor’s degree and the “Staff” consists of four other dudes. I think most folks with COIN experience will tell you that is an insufficient staff and command element for a problem as complex as that posed in Ferguson.

      • Ian Argent says:

        I’ve been thinking for a while what the police culture in the US needs more of is more veterans of the recent unpleasantness.

      • Geodkyt says:

        Frankly, 99% of COIN occurs when there isn’t active fighting or rioting going on.

        That’s where COIN campaigns are won, not so much in how well you handle riots once they occur.

        And of course, fewer cops are former military than in decades past. WWi, WWII, and the peacetime draft throughout most of the Cold War pretty much ensured that most 20th Century cops were veterans. . .

  7. Steve says:

    Jeez, Seb, this post makes me nauseous. Can’t find much to agree with? There’s a lot of perspectives out there – you have a virtual smorgasbord to choose from. Ferguson raises broader issues about the appropriate use of state force against civilians. I’m not rabidly anti-police, but given their authority I’m a big advocate of greater accountability, and view their arguments for using overwhelming force very suspiciously. SWAT raids are up, and used for increasingly pedestrian crimes. There’s a lot of room for criticism there, and those that do question the slide towards a more authoritarian relationship with the police are probably, in fact, still your allies.
    I think you missed Steyn’s more important point about the “fundamental problem”, and I think this article from Popehat responding to Sunil Dutta is something worth chewing on.
    http://www.popehat.com/2014/08/19/sunil-dutta-tells-it-like-it-is-about-american-policing
    Rand Paul’s editorial in Time was fantastic as well.
    NRO’s article on SWAT was a good read too.

    • Chris from AK says:

      Here’s another great example of the Thin Blue Line holding back the hordes:
      http://www.aclu-mo.org/newsviews/2014/08/20/aclu-asks-col-replogle-remove-inappropriate-officer

      “The officer pointed an assault weapon at civilians and threatened to kill them. When asked to identify himself, the officer responded with profanity.”

      The Army’s ROEs are WAY less confrontational, require closer supervision of their personnel, and don’t involve waving loaded M4s in people’s faces. They also don’t involve sending lone dudes out into the crowd. For good reason… This whole fiasco is showing that you can equip the cops like motorized infantry but that doesn’t mean they’re trained, responsible, or professional.

      On the plus side, the cop does have good trigger discipline, so I’ll give him that!

      • Kirk Parker says:

        The cop should have been shot in self-defense by anyone and/or everyone whom the officer placed a risk by pointing his firearm at them.

    • Sebastian says:

      Forgive me for being overly busy and not having time to read everything being written out there about Ferguson. Blogs tend to be the first thing I skim over when I just don’t have time. But most of the MSM and New Media sources have just had awful commentary.

      Perhaps this is becoming a sign I should just hang it up.

      • Ian Argent says:

        I hope not (says the man who did indeed hang it up because he got too busy).

        I will say, though, even just skimming some of the screens and screens of stuff written about Ferguson, it’s obvious that this is a fractal and ongoing charlie foxtrot of awesome proportions, both on the ground as it were, and the responses to it. It’s like the modern political equivalent of some serbian shooting a spare archduke in Sarajevo; except we’re not even through the July of that metaphor.

        Even if you don’t have time to read it directly, one of the reasons I love reading blogs with comments is that other people will chime in with links on related topics.

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