Why (some among) US police behave so violently?


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Like many people all around the world I saw images of police violence, I heard or read about American policemen shooting teenagers or children, and I'm puzzled. I don't judge but try to understand.

From abroad it seems to me some policemen act like an occupation army's soldiers: "I identify a potential threat in a hostile zone, being the most likely target in the area, no caring much as these people are not mine (if not openly my enemy), I shot. If I was right I saved my life, if I was wrong this violent behavior will intimidate locals. Last but not least, as I'm in a warzone I'm protected and won't be prosecuted as long as I'm not committing a war crime (rape, mass slaughter, etc...)".

On the other hand I always thought the job of police was to bring suspects to justice or die trying. Which means you can be killed because you don't shoot first.
It's more difficult (and sometime more dangerous) but the main difference with the soldier is that you operate in your own country and, logically, among the people you create a nation with.
Besides, if you're afraid to be the target of criminals, you can always choose another profession.

To those who know American police and policemen I've the following questions:
- Why it seems the few policemen using excessive violence are covered and not sanctioned (even "just" fired)?
- Why policemen shoot so quickly? Considering only force will solve the problem.
- Is it that these policemen are fearful or that they want to enforce a morale or a concept of society of their own?
- Does killing someone as a policeman improves your image among your colleagues?


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Angstspawn wrote:
Like many people all around the world I saw images of police violence, I heard or read about American policemen shooting teenagers or children, and I'm puzzled. I don't judge but try to understand.

Police do this in every country, but the US' capitalism is even more exploitative and their stance against the working class is even harsher than in most other parts of western society.

Basically, there's four methods of keeping the workers in line in a capitalist society:
#1 Give them some extra scraps so our lives are at least somewhat reasonable; healthcare, social security etc, so we keep calm b/c even with exploitation we have more to lose by fighting.
#2 Beat us, and beat us hard, so we won't dare do anything.
#3 Divide us, whether between the destitute and the workers with a stable economy, or through racism, sexism, homophobia etc.
#4 Good old propaganda, about capitalism being great, about there being no alternatives etc.

All capitalist countries use some combination of these in various amounts, and they tend to intersect a lot too. Countries like Sweden put a larger focus on method #1, due to us historically having very aggressive and effective worker's movements, while a country like the US puts a very heavy focus on #2 and #4.

Most countries are somewhere inbetween, but US is probably the western country that puts the largest focus on #2, especially combined with #3. Through putting a huge focus on "the good worker" and "the american dream" etc, they can get "the middle class" to accept the extreme repression of any dissidents, any "bad workers", and especially in the context of racism and the historical commodification and chattel slavery of black people.

The US wages a war against it's workers, so you're damn right it looks like a warzone; that's what it is, though the primary weapon of the aggressor is the economy; the cops are just there to protect the weapon. In most other western countries, the war also exists, but it's less visible. As Europe faces a neo-liberal/neo-fascist reactionary movement, we too will face a situation more similar to the US. Just look at how the situation is in Italy, Romania, France, Spain and Ukraine right now; neo-nazis roaming the streets and parliaments, concentration camps for romani, forced yellow triangles for homeless people, and an EU- and NATO-supported neo-nazi coup d'etat.


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Damn, that escalated quickly. The second post and we're already talking neo-nazism. Then again, I'm not saying that's all untrue.

The Exchange

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Angstspawn wrote:

Like many people all around the world I saw images of police violence, I heard or read about American policemen shooting teenagers or children, and I'm puzzled. I don't judge but try to understand.

From abroad it seems to me some policemen act like an occupation army's soldiers: "I identify a potential threat in a hostile zone, being the most likely target in the area, no caring much as these people are not mine (if not openly my enemy), I shot. If I was right I saved my life, if I was wrong this violent behavior will intimidate locals. Last but not least, as I'm in a warzone I'm protected and won't be prosecuted as long as I'm not committing a war crime (rape, mass slaughter, etc...)".

On the other hand I always thought the job of police was to bring suspects to justice or die trying. Which means you can be killed because you don't shoot first.
It's more difficult (and sometime more dangerous) but the main difference with the soldier is that you operate in your own country and, logically, among the people you create a nation with.
Besides, if you're afraid to be the target of criminals, you can always choose another profession.

To those who know American police and policemen I've the following questions:
- Why it seems the few policemen using excessive violence are covered and not sanctioned (even "just" fired)?
- Why policemen shoot so quickly? Considering only force will solve the problem.
- Is it that these policemen are fearful or that they want to enforce a morale or a concept of society of their own?
- Does killing someone as a policeman improves your image among your colleagues?

'Besides, if you're afraid to be the target of criminals, you can always choose another profession.' likely the reason for being a cop is fear. This job allows violent retaliation in response to feeling powerless and threatened, a distinction from being powerless.

Dark Archive

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That's not exclusive to the USA. It happens right here in the Netherlands too.

A guy running around with a tomahawk was shot in the back while he was running away from the police. Happened right in front of my apartment.
The guy hit a member of the neighbourhood watch, and subsequently got hit by a neighbour for hitting a 5 foot tall woman. The guy fled to his apartment grabbed a small axe and went back outside only to find the police had just arrived as the neighbourhood watch had requested backup. Instead of dropping the axe and surrendering, he fled into a backyard and tried to climb the fence and now he's pushing up daisies.
There was an investigation to determine wether or not the officer did the right thing and it was determined that he did.

Lessons to be learned here.
1. Don't hit the neighbourhood watch.
2. Don't hire 5 foot tall women for the neighbourhood watch.
3. Doing whatever a police officer tells you to do might save your live.

Now I'm not saying that the local law enforcement should kill everyone who doesn't cooperate. I'm just saying that cooperating with the local law enforcement might save your live.

Liberty's Edge

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It might seem like it happens a lot,but the truth is, over all it doesn't. There are thousands of cities across the U. S. and many of those with their own police force, not to mention state and national law enforcement agencies, and other random law enforcement agencies (like tribal police). And still, most officers never fire their weapon.

Also, no a policeman's job is not to bring the suspect in alive or die trying, that would be ridiculous. Their job is to serve and protect the public interest. Sometimes that requires violence, but it should never require the officer surrender his life.

Where America falls down is in following up on shootings. Look at the Michael Brown shooting for instance, that might have been a good shooting or it might not have, but the response to it by the police has been horrible. (If the circumstances had been reversed and Brown had shot an officer I bet they damn sure would have gotten crime scene photos, dead batteries not with standing.)

Which isn't to say that the police in America aren't overly violent, especially against minorities, but it isn't a nationwide plot to oppress people, it is a few bad apples who get away with murder because they're buddies with the people who are investigating.


Angstspawn wrote:

Like many people all around the world I saw images of police violence, I heard or read about American policemen shooting teenagers or children, and I'm puzzled. I don't judge but try to understand.

From abroad it seems to me some policemen act like an occupation army's soldiers: "I identify a potential threat in a hostile zone, being the most likely target in the area, no caring much as these people are not mine (if not openly my enemy), I shot. If I was right I saved my life, if I was wrong this violent behavior will intimidate locals. Last but not least, as I'm in a warzone I'm protected and won't be prosecuted as long as I'm not committing a war crime (rape, mass slaughter, etc...)".

On the other hand I always thought the job of police was to bring suspects to justice or die trying. Which means you can be killed because you don't shoot first.
It's more difficult (and sometime more dangerous) but the main difference with the soldier is that you operate in your own country and, logically, among the people you create a nation with.
Besides, if you're afraid to be the target of criminals, you can always choose another profession.

To those who know American police and policemen I've the following questions:
- Why it seems the few policemen using excessive violence are covered and not sanctioned (even "just" fired)?
- Why policemen shoot so quickly? Considering only force will solve the problem.
- Is it that these policemen are fearful or that they want to enforce a morale or a concept of society of their own?
- Does killing someone as a policeman improves your image among your colleagues?

I don't think this is particularly symptomatic of the USA as a whole, but rather when it does happen in the states, it is likely to get picked up news media. There are something like...three big cases going on in the country right now, in three different cases. I've had friends and family in law enforcement, and none of them are only in it for the sake of power or as an excuse to kill. In fact, I bet a significant portion of the US police force has never fired their gun at a suspect.

As for why things might be different (and I am not sure they are so much)

I haven't checked recently, but A lot of urban areas have higher crime rates than comparable cities in at least Western European cities, at least as far as violent crime. That higher crime rate is probably due to having a really poor support system for the poor and mentally ill, as well, as well as a society that is still dealing with the more subtle influences from past generations of racism. Also the whole jails as business and excessive laws that criminalize a lot of things that shouldn't be, or give excessive sentences

Militarization of the Police: politicians really want to give police surplus military equipment, which I think contributes to a US vs them attitude between police and civilians.

Easy availability of fire-arms which increases the chances that a police officer may be in danger.

For various reasons, Police often end up policing communities that they themselves are not part of. See Ferguson.

As for your specific questions:
Cops generally circle the wagons, like any group. Also the media tends to more often focus on the initial claims, and does not do the follow up on later evidence.

Hindsight is always great, but if you are stopping a suspect in the dark with no back-up, and absolutely no foreknowledge if a suspect is armed, bad decisions can be made. Bear in mind that between 100-200 officers are killed each year in the line of duty

I don't think any police officer wants to enact their own morals on anyone. Most just want to make it to pension and get the hell out (from my limited experience)

God No. It does get you mandatory psych counseling in at least some states, suspensions, and legal worries


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MMCJawa wrote:
I don't think this is particularly symptomatic of the USA as a whole, but rather when it does happen in the states, it is likely to get picked up news media. There are something like...three big cases going on in the country right now, in three different cases. I've had friends and family in law enforcement, and none of them are only in it for the sake of power or as an excuse to kill. In fact, I bet a significant portion of the US police force has never fired their gun at a suspect.

There are three (Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Tamil Rice, I assume you're thinking of) big cases in the media in the US right now. There are many more, most of which don't hit the media big time.

Levar Jones.
Darrien Hunt.
Akai Gurley.

Just a few more off the top of my head. With a little digging I could find more.

That's ignoring the very good chance there are many more that never make a splash because the circumstances make it harder to challenge to cop's story.


Quote:
From abroad it seems to me some policemen act like an occupation army's soldiers: "I identify a potential threat in a hostile zone, being the most likely target in the area, no caring much as these people are not mine (if not openly my enemy), I shot. If I was right I saved my life, if I was wrong this violent behavior will intimidate locals. Last but not least, as I'm in a warzone I'm protected and won't be prosecuted as long as I'm not committing a war crime (rape, mass slaughter, etc...)".

Because in a lot of urban areas all of that holds true. They are in a dangerous area, they are outsiders to the community, no one that writes their paycheck really cares about the lives of those people enough to make the police hesitant about shooting them. In my lily white neighborhood you'd get fired for shooting someone's dog. In an urban area rife with guns though...

I think a large part of it that hasn't been mentioned is that most police sign up to be dirty harry, they wind up being a glorified hall monitor and on call marriage bouncer for 99% of their careers.

Also something to remember for europeans is that the US is freaking huge. you have this many cops spread out over this many different areas something bad/weird is going to happen.


BigNorseWolf wrote:

From abroad it seems to me some policemen act like an occupation army's soldiers: "I identify a potential threat in a hostile zone, being the most likely target in the area, no caring much as these people are not mine (if not openly my enemy), I shot. If I was right I saved my life, if I was wrong this violent behavior will intimidate locals. Last but not least, as I'm in a warzone I'm protected and won't be prosecuted as long as I'm not committing a war crime (rape, mass slaughter, etc...)".

Because in a lot of urban areas all of that holds true. They are in a dangerous area, they are outsiders to the community, no one that writes their paycheck really cares about the lives of those people enough to make the police hesitant about shooting them. In my lily white neighborhood you'd get fired for shooting someone's dog.

I think a large part of it that hasn't been mentioned is that most police sign up to be dirty harry, they wind up being a glorified hall monitor and on call marriage bouncer for 99% of their careers.

In some urban areas the first part is true and not easily avoidable.

The rest is most of the problem and fixing it would go a long way towards fixing the first part.
We know how to do this. Community policing. Recruit from the local community. Have cops actually walking the beat, building relationships with locals, not harassing them.
Even in the urban areas, we have managed to turn some really bad departments around, mostly after they came under federal supervision following civil rights court cases. We can do this. We just don't have the will. Or, enough people approve of the police keeping "those people" in their place, that we really don't want to.


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I think part of the problem is that police protect their own too much. There may only be a few bad cops, but when the rest of the force protects them above their charges, then the problem escalates.


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True

The indictment proceedings for the Ferguson case were really weird, and not how they normally proceed in criminal cases. The Prosecution went out of its way to show that the cop was innocent. He might be (I don't think this case is as black and white as people made it out to be), but either they should have gone through normal proceedings and proved the cop innocent at trial, or if they didn't think there was a case, not gone through the proceedings at all.


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I found this article to be pretty dead on about the current state of policing in the US:
The American Justice System Is Not Broken

The US has a long history of mistreating minorities, especially black people. While things have been very slowly improving since the civil war, institutional racism never disappeared, it just became more subtle. While you can't own a black person these days, you can own stock in a private prison company, that works with the government/police/court system to increase business (inmates). The plantation has been replaced by the prison.

The Ferguson case and the Eric Garner case highlight the fact that police and the courts ARE above the law. They can essentially act with impunity, because there is really no police for the police. In order to control The State, you are are only allowed to work within The State, which very obviously prioritizes it's own over "justice", "rights" or the "law".

Like many aspects of the US, problems are labeled as exceptions, bad apples, or mistakes, but if you follow the money/power you can see that these things are intentional, and are going to keep happening.


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I have a fair amount of experience with NYC cops, and there are several things that influence their behavior. I suspect that some of these behaviors are most prominent in NYC, but exist in different degrees in other parts of the country.

Police feel that they are "under siege" not just from criminals (many of whom do have ill intent), but also politicians, voters, protestors, courts, their bosses (whiteshirts), their union, etc. In many respects most cops are the lowest rung on the government ladder and have a culture of feeling persecuted. Naturally, the people who perceive themselves to be at the bottom are always looking to put someone under them.

This might be more specific to NYC, but the NYPD view themselves as the front line in the "War on Terror". But since there is absolutely nothing they can do in this respect, they end up acting in confused ways. They have many squads know as something silly like "Hercules Squads" that hang out in full black combat body armor and carry automatic weapons in crowded places. They treat protestors and others as working for the terrorists, or at least interfering with or distracting from their "war on terror." It makes no sense, but it is VERY ingrained in police culture. No matter how stupid something is, "...because September 11" is an acceptable answer.

Police culture is very insular. Police work, socialize, and even live in neighborhoods with other police. They read police websites, newspapers (NYpost and daily news) and get their information from police unions and whiteshirts. Like mafia life in Goodfellas, after a while it all seems normal. It breeds some b~%#$%$ crazy and racist stuff, but most non-police never hear about it.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/features/n_8286/
"...And there are the Hercules Teams, elite, heavily armed, Special Forces–type police units that pop up daily around the city. It can be at the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, or the stock exchange, wherever the day's intelligence reports suggest they could be needed. These small teams arrive in black Suburbans, sheathed in armor-plated vests and carrying 9-mm. submachine guns—sometimes with air or sea support. Their purpose is to intimidate and to very publicly mount a show of force. "

Liberty's Edge

There's also that law envy enforcement is a popular career for military veterans which contributes somewhat to the militarization and since almost all recent veterans are combat veterans there's likely a decent amount of under our untreated PTSD floating around.

And before anyone says it I am not saying that vets are dangerous or violent or crazy, just that PTSD is a real problem we still don't take seriously enough that is one of many factors at play.


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Krensky wrote:


And before anyone says it I am not saying that vets are dangerous or violent or crazy, just that PTSD is a real problem we still don't take seriously enough that is one of many factors at play.

Not to derail the thread,

Military derail:
but there is a connection between military service and committing some of the worst crimes in our nations history. Tim McVeigh, Lee Harvey Oswald, the DC sniper, etc. Vets ARE more dangerous and crazy then the general population, and I think it would be a great thing to take better care of the people we train to kill. I think military personnel have special rights and special responsibilities that are different then civilians. It might also be good to ask why many questionable military tactics are taught to foreign military personnel. This was part of the US drive to use "dirty tactics" against insurgents in Iraq, a counterinsurgency doctrine known as "fighting terror with terror," and one that had previously been exercised by the US in other theaters, including Vietnam and El Salvador

Statistics on police shootings Business Insider Link.

Discuss....

Liberty's Edge

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Correlation does not equal causation Fergie, and you haven't even shown that. Just as many, heck, more violent crimes have been committed by civilians.

Also, there are massive differences in kind between those three events that make linking them together ridiculous.


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Even considering that it was a terrible mistake, why not firing the officer from police forces?

If it's possible to fire a firewoman posing topless it should be possible to consider shooting dead unarmed people as an inappropriate (or excessive) behavior too, no?


Angstspawn wrote:

Even considering that it was a terrible mistake, why not firing the officer from police forces?

If it's possible to fire a firewoman posing topless it should be possible to consider shooting dead unarmed people as an inappropriate (or excessive) behavior too, no?

Easier said than done when the union (and despite the blows they have taken in the private sector, govt unions are still powerful) will circle the wagons as well. When the person is 'cleared of any wrongdoing' by a police run investigation, and a grand jury fails to indict, there isn't the justification needed to fire someone from a government job. Although the case in NYC may be able to have that outcome, seeing as how the guy used a hold banned by department procedures.

Shadow Lodge

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Gee, they deal with the worst scum of humanity on a day-to-day basis. I can't understand why some of them become cynical.


Kthulhu wrote:
Gee, they deal with the worst scum of humanity on a day-to-day basis. I can't understand why some of them become cynical.

I don't know whether to make a lawyer joke, a cop joke, or what here... Soooo many options!

More derail:

Krensky wrote:

Correlation does not equal causation Fergie, and you haven't even shown that. Just as many, heck, more violent crimes have been committed by civilians.

Also, there are massive differences in kind between those three events that make linking them together ridiculous.

Just out of curiosity, what things are known to cause crime as opposed to just correlate with crime rates? I can't think of any myself.

As I have said before, there are no statistics for who commits crimes, only who gets accused or convicted of them.
"No one knows how many veterans are incarcerated, but the most recent survey, compiled by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2004, found that nearly one in 10 inmates in U.S. jails had prior military service. Extrapolated to the total prison population, this means that approximately 200,000 veterans were behind bars."
From, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/28/from-ptsd-to-prison-why-ve terans-become-criminals.html

Note: I just pulled three examples of former military committing famous crimes off the top of my head. The broad range of crime type and time span indicates that the issue itself is vast. Pick a major famous murder spree or other major tragic event, and there is a surprising good chance that the person involved had military training. Another example- the guy who shot those people from the clock tower. The military gives people training and experience to do things that are often criminal when done outside of a war setting. Is it really so odd to question what they do with these skills after they leave the military?


Kthulhu wrote:
Gee, they deal with the worst scum of humanity on a day-to-day basis. I can't understand why some of them become cynical.

While the end result is perfectly understandable, the potential fallout for everyone else is something that needs to be addressed as well. The mere perception reduces trust between the populace and the police department, which in turn isolates them more from the public, in a perpetual motion generator of suck that reaches out and costs people their lives, freedom, or (least of the three) property too often.


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Krensky wrote:
Correlation does not equal causation Fergie, and you haven't even shown that. Just as many, heck, more violent crimes have been committed by civilians.

That is NOT how you show correlation. You need to take it as a percentage of the people comiting the acts vs their percentage in the general population, not reach a majority.

To get causation you'd have to ideally account for every other factor, and there's no actual set way of technically proving causation.

One big thing to account for is gender: most vets are male and so are most people that go on killing sprees.


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A year ago, I'd have said police officers should wear cameras for both there own protection from complaints (of you can show a video of the person complaining about being talked to was naked, smothered in mayo and wielding a 2x4 then the complaint tends to be less likely to take too seriously) and for the public's protection, but honestly...we've seen police officers shooting people to death, choking people to death and in one video that still haunts my dreams spending ten minutes beating a mentally ill man to death while he screams for his daddy to save him.

And none of these of are apparently crimes.

Even when police officers are literally caught on film using illegal actions such as chokes banned for twenty years, shooting people without warning and lying in there report afterwards they get off. It's frankly terrifying, and one of the reasons my wife refuses to go back to the US even to visit these days.

So at least part of the reason some American officers are behaving badly is because they can get away with it. In the case of Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson was not only not fired, he was placed on what amounted to a fully paid vacation. Despite his report not matching this reality of the multi-verse, he was not only cleared but has ended up a millionaire.

Honestly, when I was last in the States, I was far more afraid of the police than the possible criminals I saw. And that was over while back.

I know that the people doing this are a small group, but the larger system seems to be geared to not just allow this, but to protect and even encourage this sort of behaviour. Until officers who are guilty of using there position to commit what amounts to murder get punished rather than rewarded, there is no reason for the other bad eggs within the police force to be any better.

Liberty's Edge

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Krensky wrote:
Correlation does not equal causation Fergie, and you haven't even shown that. Just as many, heck, more violent crimes have been committed by civilians.

That is NOT how you show correlation. You need to take it as a percentage of the people comiting the acts vs their percentage in the general population, not reach a majority.

To get causation you'd have to ideally account for every other factor, and there's no actual set way of technically proving causation.

One big thing to account for is gender: most vets are male and so are most people that go on killing sprees.

I'm not the one who needs to prove either BNW, I'm not the one who claimed that vets were crazy violent killers waiting to snap.


Its also dangerous for the cops. Having seen what happens if you don't resist the chokehold I'm more inclined to find an alternative.


The 8th Dwarf wrote:

Statistics on police shootings Business Insider Link.

Discuss....

Those statistics are inaccurate.

There are 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. Those accrued statistics account for roughly 750 of them, or 0.4%. While most of the larger agencies do report, it probably represents much more than 0.4% of all officers.

Highly inaccurate numbers developed from media reports puts the number of killings just over 1000, but again that's reliant on the media reporting on every incident and that the researchers were able to compile a complete list of all reports.

Daily Show does a piece on lack of police shooting statistics.


For the month of August, 2014, there was at least 108 people killed by police officers.

Now, some of those aren't strictly relevant to the topic. 4 suicides (one included a double-murder prior to the suicide) and two other murders, but that's still 100 people shot by officers in the line of duty in one month.

Some of those were justified. Some clearly were not (like the young man shot because he was carrying an air rifle in Walmart, he was there to purchase it).


My point was a lot of people were saying that the death rate by police would be the same in most other western countries- clearly it's not. 6 in one year for Australia comes closest... The UK went a whole year without the police shooting somebody. In 3 years they discharged their weapons 18 times for 9 fatalities.


The UK cops don't carry guns, see? Lucky they don't have any violence in their perfect, non-violent society...

Oh, and BTW, 750 of 17000 is 4%, not 0,4%.


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Because (some among) US police appear to believe that there is no problem that can't be solved by shooting/beating/killing the nearest dark-skinned person.

It's a tiny minority, to be sure, but until law enforcement as a whole gets over this "thin blue line" crap, it isn't going away.


Krensky wrote:

There's also that law envy enforcement is a popular career for military veterans which contributes somewhat to the militarization and since almost all recent veterans are combat veterans there's likely a decent amount of under our untreated PTSD floating around.

And before anyone says it I am not saying that vets are dangerous or violent or crazy, just that PTSD is a real problem we still don't take seriously enough that is one of many factors at play.

Funny enough, in Ferguson the National Guard got a reputation for not being particularly violent. I think it comes into discipline. Soldiers are trained to keep cool in much worse environments than a heated protest. Which gives me a thought. What if police were somewhat de-militarized equipment wise, and trained to be hesitant to use aggression, but at the same time had a military level of discipline when it came to training? As in, they don't have the aggression training of soldiers (I don't think that would be good, after all), but they do have a similar level of training and discipline in not losing their cool and in maintaining proper bearing and professionalism. If we add that to actually prosecuting corruption and investigating shooting outside of departments, it might work well.

Liberty's Edge

It also helps that, in general, when the National Guard is deployed for civilian missions their weapons are not loaded.


The 8th Dwarf wrote:
My point was a lot of people were saying that the death rate by police would be the same in most other western countries- clearly it's not. 6 in one year for Australia comes closest... The UK went a whole year without the police shooting somebody. In 3 years they discharged their weapons 18 times for 9 fatalities.

Yes, my point was that the problem may be larger than those numbers suggest.

Sissyl wrote:

The UK cops don't carry guns, see? Lucky they don't have any violence in their perfect, non-violent society...

Oh, and BTW, 750 of 17000 is 4%, not 0,4%.

You're right, I made an error while doing math. It happens.

Liberty's Edge

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Angstspawn wrote:

To those who know American police and policemen I've the following questions:

- Why it seems the few policemen using excessive violence are covered and not sanctioned (even "just" fired)?
- Why policemen shoot so quickly? Considering only force will solve the problem.
- Is it that these policemen are fearful or that they want to enforce a morale or a concept of society of their own?
- Does killing someone as a policeman improves your image among your colleagues?

I know several police officers. Most of the responses to your questions here make me sick.

My police officer friend has a stellar multi-year record in law enforcement. He testifies as a expert witness. He should not have to have a camera on him to prove his innocence, his word should be good enough unless evidence shows something to the contrary.

My friend has a wife and kids. He is active in the community.

Say he tells a big guy to get down on the ground (the guy just roughed up a shopkeeper). The big guy attacks, punches my friend, fights him in his squad car.

Should my friend die for this felon? Or should he shoot the criminal and go home to his family?

My friend deals with the scum of the earth. Child molesters, child abusers, pimps, rapists you name it. He needs to be able to threaten them and rough them up if they don't comply so he can stay safe and so can the rest of us.

How about an armed intruder? Say some criminal goes to an elementary school and is killing kids and teachers. If my friend is first on the scene he may have to go in alone to protect those people. He has training and gear but so many things can go wrong. Yet cops go in to those situations all the time to protect life. And what other option is there? No police response? Those opposed to police officers using violence should decide what other option is there? Criminals running over everyone?

Do some small number of cops violate procedure or break the law? Sure. Should all cops be judged as guilty until proven innocent? Hell no.

If you threaten a cop you should expect to get hurt. If you violently punch a cop you should expect to get shot. That way the cop protects me and he or she gets to go home to his or her family at night.

You say you don't want to be hurt or shot? Then don't commit crimes, do obey a police officer's directions, and don't punch cops. If the police officer is wrong you can sue and pursue justice for yourself later. If you are wrong you go to jail. That is how it should work.

In other words, put yourself in a police officer's shoes. If someone was trying to kill you or others would you kill them to stop them? What if it was your job to have make life or death decisions like that? How well would you do?


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But should I expect to get hurt for not complying fast enough? Or for just being the wrong color? should i get hurt for not obeying a directive the officer has no legal authority to give?

Liberty's Edge

Squeakmaan wrote:
But should I expect to get hurt for not complying fast enough?

If you fight with a police officer, yes it might happen.

Squeakmaan wrote:
Or for just being the wrong color?

Only if you blame your color for making you fight a police officer. If, instead, you judge a person by action then no. Being a police officer does not make you a racist. In most cases, it makes you a hero.

Squeakmaan wrote:
should i get hurt for not obeying a directive the officer has no legal authority to give?

Yes. A police officer has the authority to use force and knows the law better than you do. You may disagree with the police officer but the best way to do so is through the legal system and not by disobeying a police officer in a tense situation. It may turn out the police officer was wrong, but you'll be in better shape if you let a judge or jury decide that rather than your own sense of justice. In fact, if someone does choose to interfere with a police officer it is likely to get someone hurt or killed (probably the person interfering with the police officer).

Liberty's Edge

A police officer is more trustworthy and valuable to society than a criminal. So if a person can be proven to be a criminal (robbed and roughed up someone on video, hit a police officer, etc.) and gets hurt by the police, I would side with the police in that case. I do not want to live in a society where the police have to prove they are trustworthy if they have done nothing wrong and criminals can hurt people without fear of police using deadly force against them.

It makes no sense to me to trust criminals and feel bad for them at the expense of police officers who have no record of wrong doing. Especially when the trauma of a violent confrontation with a criminal will be something the police officer has to live with the rest of his or her life. Or hopefully he or she gets to live with, if the police officer survives in the first place.


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Of course, sometimes you still get shot when you comply.


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Sometimes you get shot asking for help.

Liberty's Edge

Durngrun Stonebreaker wrote:
Of course, sometimes you still get shot when you comply.

True. Police officers make mistakes and both citizens and the police officer pay the price: South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert has been fired and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature for shooting 35-year-old Levar Jones, after Groubert pulled him over for not wearing a seatbelt.

I rode along with a police officer one night. He always put his thumb print on the trunk and checked to make sure it was shut. He shone his light in the car before approaching the driver.

You know why? Because police officers get shot all the time on routine traffic stops. The thumb print was placed there in case the policy officer was killed to help investigators find his killers.

So yes, the stress causes mistakes. And both the police officer and the citizen have to pay the price for making the wrong call.

Which is exactly my point. Police officers risk their lives for their fellow citizens. Those citizens mistrust them and their bosses fire them if they make an error. Very few people have a police officer's back other than another police officer.

You notice in this story no one looked at training issues, leadership issues, or other possible failures at a department level (for example something like encouraging racial profiling). Only the police officer is determined to be at fault by the very person who would likely next take the blame if the police officer had poor training or directives. The very people who may contribute to the problem at a larger level investigate themselves and their organization. Do I know if other problems besides his own misjudgment contributed to this tragedy? No. But neither do any of us.


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You make good points, Charlie

However, in the two cases being talked about the most here, the two "Criminals" in question were not accused of "roughing up a shopkeeper"

There were criminals in the sense that they
A) were walking in the street in a neighborhood that has no sidewalks

B) Maybe* selling un taxed cigarettes

*It was never shown, conclusively, nor did the officers testify, that they actually witnessed the individual selling untaxed cigarettes, they simply knew him and knew he had a history of doing this, on the other hand the officer in question also has his own history.

Now, I also have a very dear friend who is a retired police officer, and he has different opinions from the one your friend has.

I believe the opinions of our friends are not relevant

We expect our police officers to be the best people they can be, but they are, ultimately people, just like you and me, and capable of making mistakes

All of us, regardless of the difficult responsibilities we face, must be held accountable for our own actions, including our mistakes

Body cameras are a start, however, in the second case it would not have made a difference as the event was video recorded

Something horrible was done, and a man with a "history" of criminal behavior walked away, not because a trial and jury found him innocent, but because the system refused to acknowledge his crime.

Liberty's Edge

Durngrun Stonebreaker wrote:
Sometimes you get shot asking for help.

And sometimes a twenty-five year old deputy is

killed on duty pursuing a criminal.

Violence and death are bummers. They are part of police officers' lives and the police officers accept that fact so that violence and death don't have to be part of most of our lives.


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Charlie D. wrote:
Angstspawn wrote:

To those who know American police and policemen I've the following questions:

- Why it seems the few policemen using excessive violence are covered and not sanctioned (even "just" fired)?
- Why policemen shoot so quickly? Considering only force will solve the problem.
- Is it that these policemen are fearful or that they want to enforce a morale or a concept of society of their own?
- Does killing someone as a policeman improves your image among your colleagues?

I know several police officers. Most of the responses to your questions here make me sick.

My police officer friend has a stellar multi-year record in law enforcement. He testifies as a expert witness. He should not have to have a camera on him to prove his innocence, his word should be good enough unless evidence shows something to the contrary.

My friend has a wife and kids. He is active in the community.

Say he tells a big guy to get down on the ground (the guy just roughed up a shopkeeper). The big guy attacks, punches my friend, fights him in his squad car.

Should my friend die for this felon? Or should he shoot the criminal and go home to his family?

My friend deals with the scum of the earth. Child molesters, child abusers, pimps, rapists you name it. He needs to be able to threaten them and rough them up if they don't comply so he can stay safe and so can the rest of us.

How about an armed intruder? Say some criminal goes to an elementary school and is killing kids and teachers. If my friend is first on the scene he may have to go in alone to protect those people. He has training and gear but so many things can go wrong. Yet cops go in to those situations all the time to protect life. And what other option is there? No police response? Those opposed to police officers using violence should decide what other option is there? Criminals running over everyone?

Do some small number of cops violate procedure or break the law? Sure. Should all cops be judged as guilty until proven innocent? Hell...

And if he didn't actually threaten the cop or punch him or didn't actually have a weapon, well he's dead now and can't contradict the story. Don't worry, the cops investigating the case and prosecutor who's deciding whether or not to charge the officer have his back.

It's also of course not possible that his expectations and experiences dealing with the scum of the earth color his perception when he's dealing with people who live in the same areas and look the same, but aren't actually the scum of the earth. He's got to be able to threaten them and rough them up to, just in case. And if they, like any of us who haven't done anything wrong get a little upset and don't respond fast enough or do exactly what he says or do it in a way he doesn't expect (like reaching back into the car for a license, without explicitly asking permission or giving him backtalk like explicitly asking permission for something he told you to do), then suddenly we're a threat and need to be shot or choked or beaten.

And seriously, reread Officer Wilson's description of his encounter with Mike Brown and tell me he's not either hallucinating or drawing on the old racist stereotypes of the giant scary Negro:

Wilson:
"when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan." -- Brown was big, 6'4" and 250+lbs, but Wilson is 6'2" and ~210lb. Either Brown was superhuman or ...?

"it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked." Dehumanizing him

"I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him" -- Now he's a cartoon character running off in a cloud of dust.

"At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him." -- I don't even know what that means. Does Wilson really think black people can just ignore bullets at will?

If this accurately reflects Wilson's thoughts at the time, it's not at all a rational assessment of threat. He's being terrified by the black boogeyman.

Liberty's Edge

Terquem wrote:

You make good points, Charlie

However, in the two cases being talked about the most here, the two "Criminals" in question were not accused of "roughing up a shopkeeper"

There were criminals in the sense that they
A) were walking in the street in a neighborhood that has no sidewalks

B) Maybe* selling un taxed cigarettes

*It was never shown, conclusively, nor did the officers testify, that they actually witnessed the individual selling untaxed cigarettes, they simply knew him and knew he had a history of doing this, on the other hand the officer in question also has his own history.

Now, I also have a very dear friend who is a retired police officer, and he has different opinions from the one your friend has.

I believe the opinions of our friends are not relevant

We expect our police officers to be the best people they can be, but they are, ultimately people, just like you and me, and capable of making mistakes

All of us, regardless of the difficult responsibilities we face, must be held accountable for our own actions, including our mistakes

Body cameras are a start, however, in the second case it would not have made a difference as the event was video recorded

Something horrible was done, and a man with a "history" of criminal behavior walked away, not because a trial and jury found him innocent, but because the system refused to acknowledge his crime.

I don't know which two cases you are referring to, but I agree we have to accept responsibility for our actions. I will say, however, that police officers do not operate in a vacuum. Those who train them, direct them, and equip them need to be held responsible as well. If two rookies are sent out and one shoots an unarmed man, the rookie gets busted. However, the department rules state a rookie always goes with an experienced officer. The rookie was set up to fail, so his commander needs to pay a price as well for his or her part in the shooting.

As to putting cameras on police officers I think anyone who works for another person should have camera on their person. We might steal something at work for example. We should also have cameras in our cars to catch us if we have road rage or text while driving. Guilty until proven innocent makes the make sense.

The above paragraph is hyperbole of course. I am highly opposed to monitoring the actions of anyone who has committed no wrong doing.


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Charlie D. wrote:
You know why? Because police officers get shot all the time on routine traffic stops. The thumb print was placed there in case the policy officer was killed to help investigators find his killers.

All the time is a bit of a stretch there. It does happen, but an officer is far more likely to die in a traffic accident than get shot in a traffic stop.

That they're stressed about it does add to the chances of them killing innocent people though. I'll agree with that.

Charlie D. wrote:
Which is exactly my point. Police officers risk their lives for their fellow citizens. Those citizens mistrust them and their bosses fire them if they make an error. Very few people have a police officer's back other than another police officer.

And the prosecutors. And the jurors. And generally the whole rest of the law enforcement system. And a good chunk of the public.

And that's when they've just shot an unarmed man. Once in a long while it blows up into a media storm and the public support dips a little.

Charlie D. wrote:
You notice in this story no one looked at training issues, leadership issues, or other possible failures at a department level (for example something like encouraging racial profiling). Only the police officer is determined to be at fault by the very person who would likely next take the blame if the police officer had poor training or directives. The very people who may contribute to the problem at a larger level investigate themselves and their organization. Do I know if other problems besides his own misjudgment contributed to this tragedy? No. But neither do any of us.

This I agree with very much. Individual cops may be a problem, but the real issues are systemic. Training, a hardening of attitudes over time, encouragement of the use of force, a policy of harassment of people in the community, a lack of connection with those people, systemic racism - more in terms of stereotypes of minorities as criminal and other than in terms of actual race hatred.


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Charlie D. wrote:
Terquem wrote:

You make good points, Charlie

However, in the two cases being talked about the most here, the two "Criminals" in question were not accused of "roughing up a shopkeeper"

There were criminals in the sense that they
A) were walking in the street in a neighborhood that has no sidewalks

B) Maybe* selling un taxed cigarettes

*It was never shown, conclusively, nor did the officers testify, that they actually witnessed the individual selling untaxed cigarettes, they simply knew him and knew he had a history of doing this, on the other hand the officer in question also has his own history.

Now, I also have a very dear friend who is a retired police officer, and he has different opinions from the one your friend has.

I believe the opinions of our friends are not relevant

We expect our police officers to be the best people they can be, but they are, ultimately people, just like you and me, and capable of making mistakes

All of us, regardless of the difficult responsibilities we face, must be held accountable for our own actions, including our mistakes

Body cameras are a start, however, in the second case it would not have made a difference as the event was video recorded

Something horrible was done, and a man with a "history" of criminal behavior walked away, not because a trial and jury found him innocent, but because the system refused to acknowledge his crime.

I don't know which two cases you are referring to, but I agree we have to accept responsibility for our actions. I will say, however, that police officers do not operate in a vacuum. Those who train them, direct them, and equip them need to be held responsible as well. If two rookies are sent out and one shoots an unarmed man, the rookie gets busted. However, the department rules state a rookie always goes with an experienced officer. The rookie was set up to fail, so his commander needs to pay a price as well for his or her part in the shooting.

As to putting cameras on police officers I think...

Cameras on police also help to protect them against false accusations of abuse and brutality. If, for example, Darren Wilson's version of his encounter with Brown is true and he had had a camera on, then both Brown's initial attack on him and his final charge at him would have been captured on film and there would have been little to no controversy over it.


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Sometimes you get shot while out shopping.


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Sometimes you get shot not responding fast enough. (Your reaction time is less than 1+1/2 seconds I hope.)

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