Uploaded: Aug 14, 2014
Chicago's Mayor Malaprop, Richard Daley the Elder, earned a kind of fame in 1968 for announcing "…the policeman isn't there to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder."
That quote came in the midst of a well-publicized Chicago police riot clearing Grant Park of anti-war protesters during the Democratic Convention. His police force was accused by one US Senator of using "gestapo tactics."
The brutality thus exposed in living color on the evening TV news shocked middle America (if not various of its minority communities) at the time. Looking back on that footage (some of it linked above), however, it all seems rather tame. No tanks or armored vehicles, just a modified pick-up paddy wagon. No shields or body armor, either even the helmets looked better-suited to an equestrian event than to a combat exercise.
Contrast that scene with the images
from last evening in Ferguson MO, suburban St. Louis County. There, police sought to quell a fourth night of protest over the killing of yet another unarmed African American youth. By a police officer. The Ferguson cops were a heavily-armed-and-armored phalanx, using military tactics, and supported by military-grade weaponry and vehicles. Helicopters buzzed overhead. They drove a news team from its position with tear gas and occupied its station. Cops also raided a McDonald's (always an insurrection hotspot, or at least they had WiFi), then arrested, 'cuffed and roughed-up two reporters.
What's happening to us?
The recent killing of teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson is a partisan's dream. Only a few facts are known, leaving readers ample leeway to assume and fill-in facts that suit their preconceptions. Here was a menacing thug, struggling with a peace officer for his weapon. There was a college-bound kid and his buddy, strolling home from a 7/11, profiled, accosted and shot dead for … jay-walking? While black. The situation has not been helped by a police investigation perceived as unduly secretive, biased and slow, and heavy-handed tactics from the predominantly white Force, in a majority black 'burb.
There are a dozen directions for the story-line to jump from here but not enough is known yet to make most of them worthwhile. What I want to focus on is one thing that IS known the progressive militarization of police services in this country. It is encapsulated in those divergent images from 1968 to last night, and I am concerned about the implications.
Although US police departments have existed since 1843 and have been armed since the 1850s, the persistent image from the mid-20th century was the cop-on-the-beat
. The country was more 'Car 54 Where Are You,' than it was 'NYPD Blue.'
That began to change with funding from President Nixon's War on Drugs in the 1970s. As cops faced a perceived threat of well-armed drug dealers, money began to flow from the feds to fund investments in heavy-duty materiel and SWAT team formation. It reached flood stage in the 1980s with the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Agencies Act, became a raging torrent in the name of Homeland Security after 9/11, and continues to this day.
Thus it is that Neenah, WI has its own mine-resistant troop carrier (to address a crime rate 1/5 the national average), South Dakota's 800,000 inhabitants enjoy a $100 million investment in their security (if you were a terrorist, or even a self-respecting bandit, would you target Sioux Falls?), and Richland County SC has a modified tank proudly displayed on its website
. Police departments have absorbed almost 900 armored vehicles, 533 aircraft and 94,000(!) machine guns.
Okay, one might reasonably ask, it's for safety so what's wrong with that? A few things come to mind.
First, it is axiomatic that 'that which is owned gets used' often unnecessarily. Thus, SWAT teams have been dispatched to bust a string of clip joints in Florida, where the worst offense was barbering without a license. A speak-easy near Yale University was raided and found to condone under-age drinking. Libertarian journalist Radley Balko writes in his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop
that SWAT teams are 'mostly used to serve warrants for non-violent crimes.' * Call me old-fashioned, but that's not the American environment I wish to inhabit.
Secondly, as NPR's excellent Steve Inskeep points out in the Ferguson report, clothes do sometimes make the man. He quotes a police chief's rueful observation that when his officers show-up 'soft' in uniforms only, they tend to engage with people. But when they arrive in riot gear, well then, riots often ensue. It's a kind of a perverse Hawthorne Effect, where people act-out according to the evident expectation. As a Ferguson resident explained, when somebody's looking for a fight, that's what he'll get.
In a place like Ferguson, where frustration and passions are already running high, is it a good idea for the authorities to arrive in battle gear? I think not. I also believe it promotes an over-aggressive, shoot-first mentality that loses sight of the relative stakes, and may contribute to unnecessary further carnage. The police in Ferguson were there mostly to protect property, after all. Does that mission justify the tactics used, risking more personal tragedy and foreclosing the very American freedom of protest?
Mike Brown is only the latest unarmed civilian to be killed closer to home, the toy rifle kid in the North Bay also comes to mind. I can't claim causation, but there's enough smoke to raise the concern. Police work is sometimes gawdawfully difficult, and its subjects are often hostile. But since that is always true, do we really want to make it more so by signaling conflict at the outset? I want military tactics to be a last resort, not the first instinct.
Otherwise the policeman really is preserving or even fomenting disorder.
* As an animal welfare guy, I would also note that the collateral damage in too many of these raids is family pets, who don't have to be constitutional scholars to recognize an unreasonable invasion of their homes.
Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.
Posted by Alan Richardson,
a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 20, 2014 at 11:56 am
Wow, Tom Cushing, you have stooped to a new low! You were thoroughly trounced by a few good people that courageously dared to disagree with you and used unemotional reason, knowledge and experience to make better points. Pompous, supercilious, deceptive, dishonest, Alinsky, the goose is cooked. This is not conjecture, it is fat based on the evidence above. You are always the sad little teenager who has to have the last word, even when the argument is lost. Go ahead; take it, everyone who reads this knows your character now. You will probably delete this too, because you can't take the heat of the kitchen you built.
Absolutely no one has come up with anything that could counter Eric's well thought out response to your deceptive little blog entry. Just like your most recent entry, your little format is incredibly predictable, tired and exposed. This type of vote pandering, in lieu of moral fortitude and character is why my point still stands strong. Gangster lifestyle does not warrant inclusion with their definition of cultural and moral relativism. It is a sickness. The liberal Gov. of MO is an opportunist reverse racism pandering politician, with zero courage to let justice take its course without the race-baiting.
This is supposed to be about the militarization of the police force and Eric laid out some solid background that the weaponry deployed early on was not as militaristic as you implied. No one, absolutely no one, has been able to counter this with facts and logic.
You can try to outdo Roz's blog on gun's, but the fact is she out did you and then some. She has more character in her little finger than you. She had the courage to enter this space first and did it with dignity.
Here is an intellectual body slam for this emotional little illogical argument of yours. You see the facts on our side, so says the supreme court of these United States. Next up Pena vs CID! Oh and let's not forget the real character of your senator Lee, LOL. Sourced and fact checked with notes:
More emotional dribble from Tommy:
The number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high, upwards of 300 million, and now rises by about 10 million per year.1 Meanwhile, the firearm accident death rate has fallen to an all-time low, 0.2 per 100,000 population, down 94% since the all-time high in 1904.2 Since 1930, the annual number of firearm accident deaths has decreased 81%, while the U.S. population has more than doubled and the number of firearms has quintupled. Among children, such deaths have decreased 89% since 1975. Today, the odds are more than a million to one, against a child in the U.S. dying in a firearm accident.
Firearms are involved in 0.5% of accidental deaths nationally, compared to motor vehicles (29%), poisoning (27%), falls (21%), suffocation (5%), drowning (3%), fires (2%), medical mistakes (1.7%), environmental factors (1.3%), and pedal cycles (0.6%). Among children: motor vehicles (34%), suffocation (27%), drowning (17%), fires (7%), environmental factors (2.3%), poisoning (2.2%), falls (1.5%), firearm (1.5), pedal cycles (1.4%), and medical mistakes (1.3%).
Education decreases accidents. Voluntary training has decreased firearms accidents. NRA firearm safety programs are conducted by more than 93,000 NRA Certified Instructors nationwide. Youngsters learn firearm safety in NRA programs offered through civic groups such as the Boy Scouts, Jaycees, and American Legion, and schools.3 NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe program teaches children pre-K through 3rd grade that if they see a gun without supervision, they should "STOP! Don't Touch. Leave The Area. Tell An Adult." Since 1988, Eddie has been used by 26,000 schools, civic groups, and law enforcement agencies to reach more than 26 million children.4
The "cars and guns" myth. In the 1990s, gun control supporters claimed that driver licensing and vehicle registration caused motor vehicle accident deaths to decline between 1968 and 1991, and that gun registration and gun owner licensing would reduce gun accidents. However, vehicle registration and driver licensing laws were not imposed to reduce accidents, and did not do so. Most were imposed between the world wars, but motor vehicle accident deaths increased sharply after 1930 and didn't begin declining until 1970. Also, between 1968 and 1991 the motor vehicle accident death rate dropped only 37% with vehicle registration and driver licensing, while the firearm accident death rate dropped 50% without registration and licensing. Gun control supporters want registration and licensing only to acquire records necessary to make confiscation of privately owned firearms achievable in the future. Handgun Control, Inc. (since renamed Brady Campaign) once said that registration was the second step in the group's three-step plan for the confiscation of all handguns.5
Also, the purchase and ownership of arms is a right protected by the federal and most state constitutions,6 whereas driving a car on public roads is a privilege. A license and registration are not required to merely own a vehicle or operate it on private property, only to do so on public roads. Similarly, a license and permit are not typically required to buy or own a gun, or to keep a gun at home, but are usually required when hunting or carrying a gun for protection in public places.
Gun control supporters' "children and teens" deception: In the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century, gun control supporters claimed that firearms (homicides, suicides, and accidents combined) took the lives of a dozen or more "children" daily. To get that figure, they added the number among children (then about 1.7 per day) to the much larger numbers among juveniles (about four per day) and teenage adults (about nine per day), and calling the total "children."7 Having been called on the deception, gun control supporters now cite a single number for "children and teens," adding the number for juveniles and teenage adults (now about 10 per day) to the number for children (about one per day).
The CAP law myth: Also in the 1990s, "gun control" supporters pointed to a study (produced by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, a group active in the HELP Network) claiming that so-called "Child Access Prevention" (CAP) laws (which make it a crime, under some circumstances, to leave a gun accessible to a child who obtains and misuses it), imposed in 12 states between 1989-1993, decreased firearm accident deaths among children.8 Its flaws: Firearm accident deaths among children began declining in the mid-1970s, not in 1989, when "CAP" laws were first imposed. Also, such accidents had decreased nationwide, not only in "CAP" states. And it failed to note that also in 1989, NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program was introduced nationwide.
1. See BATFE, "Annual Firearm Manufacturers and Export Reports" (www.atf.gov/statistics).
2. Statistics from 1981 forward are available from the National Center for Health Statistics' "Wisqars" website.
Those prior to 1981 are available from the National Safety Council (www.nsc.org/).
3. For more on NRA training programs, visit www.nrahq.org/ (click "Education and Training") or call 703-267-1500.
4. For more on the Eddie Eagle program, visit www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/ or call 800-231-0752.
5. Pete Shields, quoted in The New Yorker, "A Reporter At Large: Handguns," July 26, 1976.
6. See Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). (www.nraila.org/media/PDFs/HellerOpinion.pdf)
7. NRA-ILA "Not 12 Per Day" fact sheet, www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=21 .
8. Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 1, 1997.
"When the people find they can vote themselves money,
that will herald the end of the republic." Benjamin Franklin