On Law Enforcement (wherein I dropkick the hornets nest)

I have been watching the ongoing police/#BlackLivesMatter/Social Justice strife unfold for the last near year and a half.  Of course on something this big, it would have to become a political issue.  The Democrats have (officially) sided with BLM.  The Republicans, to be contrarian, have sided with police.

Police vs. BLM is a false dichotomy that fails to recognize the major problem and therefore prevents them from being corrected.  Polarizing politics being what they are, America is being pushed headlong into this and the result will be absolute disaster.

I have been accused of being anti-cop.  I’m not.  I’m anti-bad cop, there is a difference, a difference that it seems many Republicans don’t want to make when opposing the pro-BLM Democrats.  I recognize the need for police in a civil society.  The lack of police presence has resulted in a crime wave in major American cities following anti-police protests, like one one in Baltimore that subsequently cause the murder rate to jump.

Pro-cop conservatives will make the excuse for any police misconduct with “he was a bad apple.”  Yes, and there is the old expression “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”  It’s true.  In 1971, a psychologist at Stanford named Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment that became known as the Stanford Prison Experiment.  He took a bunch of students, separated them into two groups – guards and prisoners – and locked them in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.  In less than two days, the guards were physically and emotionally abusing the prisoners.

The results of the experiment were (in a nutshell): When people in positions of power are given unchecked authority, a handful of people will very quickly begin to abuse that authority.  This creates an Us vs Them mentality between the groups.  If people in group with authority try to stand up to the abusers, they will be ostracized by the rest of the “Us” group.  In effect, the culture of the group with authority will be driven by the attitude and behavior of a minority of abusers.

This group psychology explains how, for example, run-of-the-mill young German men could carry out the mass executions and torture at Concentration Camps. Or how some National Guardsmen could sexually abuse prisoners in Iraq.  Because a handful of sadists set the culture (and no I’m not say Abu Ghraib and Auschwitz were the same, just that the psychology was).

If you think I’m just picking on law enforcement and military, I’m not.  I have a very good friend who works on Wall Street.  I asked him one time how so many smart, Ivy League educated people could be so blind when creating a bubble and the resulting financial crisis.  He explained that a minority of greedy managers set the culture.  The traders and financial managers who were more concerned about long term sustainability over short term high profits weren’t promoted and saw their bonuses reduced.  If they spoke up, they were fired.  A group of greedy managers set the culture on Wall Street that caused the financial crisis.

The good news is, that proper oversight can fix this.  By identifying the bad apples that set the culture and firing them is a start.  Identifying good officers and promoting them will create a new culture.  This type of oversight was one of the demands made by BLM.

So, what kind of culture are we talking about and why do we need to get rid of it?  Well, in NYC police on slow down were told to get back to work because the lack of tickets and citations being issued were causing a cash flow problem in NYC.  Think about that for a minute… the NYPD was not being used to serve and protect but to generate revenue.  Can anybody say “perverse incentive?”  How about a culture that allows an officer to back over a 101 year old woman with a squad car, killing her, and getting away with it?  Or perhaps blowing the face off a toddler with a stun grenade and justifying it at collateral damage.

It is a culture that puts police in paramilitary uniforms on our city streets.  When police dress like soldiers, they act like soldiers.  Do we really need police patrolling cities in MRAPs?

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I disagree with the BLM movement that police shootings are motivated by racism.  I’m not going to deny that racism exists and that there may be some racist cops.  But the Us vs Them mentality is enough to cause a police officer to shoot when he shouldn’t.

Then the police do themselves no favors when they encourage this abusive, warrior mindset.  Below is not acceptable.

The back of a commemorative DNC T-shirt sold by the Denver Police Protective Association bears the slogan "We Get Up Early to Beat the Crowds - 2008 DNC." The shirt was purchased froom the DPPA office Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008.
The back of a commemorative DNC T-shirt sold by the Denver Police Protective Association bears the slogan “We Get Up Early to Beat the Crowds – 2008 DNC.” The shirt was purchased froom the DPPA office Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008.

The ultimate problem this causes is a lack of trust and mutual respect between the citizenry and the police.  Policing through fear and intimidation might seem like an effective strategy, but in the long term it doesn’t work.  My sister lives in Baltimore, where snitches get stitches.  Yes, snitches get stitches is a problem with the criminal culture in Baltimore.  But it is also a problem with the Baltimore PD.  When the people don’t trust the police, they don’t call them.  They don’t expect the police to protect them and so they let a criminal culture dominate.

Trust in police is at a 22 year low.  Good, professional law enforcement recognizes the need for trust and how a lack of trust makes law enforcement more difficult.  The thing is, the behavior that encourages trust is not difficult to understand.  It is a matter of attitude.

Now I know some in the black community might say “but J.Kb., you’re middle class and white, what do you know about fearing cops?  People like you don’t get shot when unarmed.”

My answer is Canton, Ohio police officer Daniel Harless.  Harless was caught on camera, on multiple occasions, threatening to murder concealed carry permit holders.

Then there is Chicago Chief of Police, Gary McCarthy who said that is officers will shoot concealed carry permit holders on sight.

The good news is that Harless got fired.  The bad news is that he only got fired after the video of him went viral.  The previous complaints against him went unheeded.

This is where proper civilian oversight, government transparency, and a good law enforcement culture helps protect a citizenry and the reputation of a department from a bad apple.  This is one of the good demands being made by BLM.  But because Republicans have to Republican they can’t acknowledge that civilian oversight, along with ending police militarization and civil asset forfeiture, are not just reasonable but good positions to take.

Don’t think I’m letting BLM off the hook, many of their demands and the anti-cop culture they are pushing have resulted in crime waves and the deaths of police and regular civilians alike.  Their histrionics aren’t generating them any sympathy either.  Law enforcement killing of black suspects is genocide?  Um… no.  Members of my family were gassed at Treblinka.  The father of one of the women who helped raise me, floated over to Miami from Cuba after much of his family was stood against a wall and shot by the mass murderer darling icon of the Left, Che.  That’s a genocide.  BLM showing solidarity with the Palestinians ain’t helping their cause either.

What I am pushing for is recognizing that protecting or not punishing bad officers sets a bad culture in law enforcement.  That bad culture causes problems breeding anger and resentment withing the community.  That anger and resentment makes it harder for cops to do their jobs.  This can be fixed, and the fix is to improve the culture of law enforcement, and do it publicly.

I didn’t think it is an extremist (liberal) position to want my law enforcement to obey the law.  I want my civil servants to serve the public trust.  I don’t want my police department to patrol the streets of my city like it is Fallujah and see everybody without a badge as an enemy combatant.  I want to trust the police in my city and to be able to call them without the fear that they will show up at my house and shoot my dog or shove several feet of fiber optic cable up my ass.

I support good police.  I am anti-bad police.  Wholesale anti-cop politics causes crime waves.  Supporting the police with a blind eye to misconduct and abuse turns police into jackboot thugs.  I want neither.  We have to take reasonable (dare I say, bipartisan) action that fosters good, positive policing, to restore mutual trust and respect civil society.

This is not a new concept by any means.  As was said by the Roman powet Juvenal, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”  

“Who watches the watchmen?”

 

 

17 Replies to “On Law Enforcement (wherein I dropkick the hornets nest)”

  1. I would call this your best article to date. Well written, focused, and succinct. You have captured my feelings on Law Enforcement perfectly.
    Same as when I was in the military. Yes you back up your buddies, but if you see something wrong you correct it or report it, without fear of reprisals (hopefully).

    Integrity, honor, morals… doing the right thing even when no one is watching, needs to be a major part of everyone’s characture.

    Unfortunately, CYA seems to come first nowadays. That’s everyone, not just one particular group… BLM, police, average Joes… everyone.




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  2. The seeds of this problem were sown a long time ago in the late 70s and early 80s and they had very little to do with race, or partisan politics or firearms technology or choice of uniform. The current state of affairs became inevitable when police departments were mandated to put average women in uniform on the street. Note please that I didn’t say, and I’m not talking about, all women. There are women who were/are physically strong enough and personally aggressive enough to fit in and perform to, say, 1965 police standards. And of those who could/can do so there will be a few who actually want to. God Bless them. The average can’t. Not in 1975,and not in 2015.
    Everyone knows this even if no one can say it aloud. Virtually every law enforcement institution has a substantial portion of its officers on the street whom they know flatly can not win a physical fight. A physical fight not with the occasional monster criminal, but with virtually any male criminal who is not literally falling down drunk or taken totally by surprise. The institutions also know, (although again they can’t say it out loud), that the “less lethal” gadgets, tasers, sprays, etc. etc. etc. simply don’t work.all commercial hype and TV shows not withstanding. Then, to seal the deal, those “less lethal” instruments that do work, such as a 32 in oak baton,are verboten because #Brutality.
    So, what to do? Accept that a fair number of your officers are going to get beaten senseless,and a few of them killed on a regular basis? Well, no. Say hello to the “Officer Safety” movement. And, before the screaming starts, let’s acknowledge that a lot of things done under the general title of “Officer Safety” were good things. Vests and radio communications that actually worked leap to mind.
    But “Officer Safety” has also come to mean, stripped down to plain English, Shoot First, Keep Shooting Till It’s Done, then get on the radio and say the Magic Words; “I was in fear for my life.”, then Shut Up (let your lawyer do the talking, fool). Some people believe that “The cops can shoot anybody and they’ll get away with it.” Well, no, only if they follow the protocol. If they botch the protocol they can end up in court, and even in prison, just like the rest of us. Police officers are rarely stupid, they know all this, that’s why they practice the “correct” language to use on the radio, and the “correct” words to say in their debriefing, and the “correct” phrases to write in their official report. And it works. Remember, the system assumes that the officer is a 5′ 2″ 100 lbs woman and the criminal is a 6′ 2″ 200 lbs male, regardless of the specific facts of a specific incident. Again, police officers are rarely stupid, they know all this, but they are rarely stupid enough to talk about it with anyone not in the “Us” category mentioned in your post.
    So, what to do about all this? Frankly, I doubt we can do very much, at least anytime soon. I say again, this started in the 70s. Today virtually every LEO in the country is a product of “Officer Safety”,training. They truly, and sincerely believe, because they were trained to believe it, that they have the absolute right to “Shoot on fear.” and that if they don’t do it they will all die. Personally, I’d give quite a bit to see a large law enforcement institution go “back to the future” and reissue the baton. Train with it rigorously and use it enthusiastically. I firmly believe that both cop deaths and citizen deaths would go down.
    For what it’s worth,




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  3. Hey Bubba,
    ‘Was reading thru and hit the word “Zimbardo” and the “Stanford prison experimentt!! Just got out of the Navy at the end of ’70 and became a “Psych major” at San Diego Mesa College!! The next semester, the “Stanford prison Experiment!” hit us!! Then not long after were the Prison Riots, Atica and others!! WOW!!! The rest is history!! AND!, We ain’t learnin’ from it!!
    Got Gunz…….OUTLAW!!!!,
    III%,
    skybill-out




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  4. I generally agree with a lot of what you say, but for the love of God, can we stop using the Stanford Prison Experiment (and the earlier Milgram obedience study)?

    Those were hack jobs on the level of the “40% of gun purchases are made without background checks”, ” a gun in the home increases your chance of being shot”, and other myths.




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  5. The good news is that Harless got fired. The bad news is that he only got fired after the video of him went viral. The previous complaints against him went unheeded.

    It will no doubt fail to please you to learn that the union forced the department to rehire him.




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  6. I support the over all premise of this blog post. If I may add my own personal observation? The good cops in any squad, in the majority in most cases, know who the bad cops are. HOWEVER they cover for the bad cops everyday, or turn their back, or allow them cover under the Blue Shield.

    So when I am talking to law enforcement and they say to em, “We ain’t all bad”, I say back quickly, “You know who the bad ones are and do nothing about it. What does that say about you?”




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  7. My short comment: LEOs made the same mistake the Catholic Church did with the Child Molesting Priests.
    There is no way that the majority of cops in a department do not know who the bad apples are, but tribalism trumped common sense, reinforcing the bad behavior of those cops and it comes back to bite them in the ass as a group.

    The solution has to come from the inside and be drastic. You must clean your house before there is enough political outcry to have somebody imposed from the outside come and do bad cleaning and taking good officers with the bad ones.




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    1. “There is no way that the majority of cops in a department do not know who the bad apples are”

      Think about that REAL hard. If the “good cops” know who the bad cops are, but don’t report them, that’s called conspiracy to conceal a crime.

      “A conspiracy exists as long as measures are taken to conceal evidence of the crime. A person who did not participate in the original agreement can become a co-conspirator after the actual criminal act if the person joins in the concealment of the conspiracy. Whether a co-conspirator received personal benefit or profit is of no importance.”

      http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/conspiracy

      There are no good cops. Good cops end up like Serpico.

      PS Serpico was based on a true story.




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  8. This article is basically my opinion with more evidence and eloquence. It’s news to me that any intelligent human being can’t see that there are good cops and bad cops, and that the BLM has good points and bad points, and you have to sift through to find the right answers.

    It isn’t news to me that Republican leadership are taking the bad cops’ side in the “cops vs. blacks” false dichotomy. Our party leadership bought what the Democrat leadership were selling ages ago and no longer remember what the party actually stands for. This is part of the reason for the Tea Party movement, and part of the reason why establishment Republicans hate it so much.

    I think the problem with bad police is less that “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” and more that the whole bunch is mostly bad apples at this point and the whole system needs to be wiped and started over with a clean slate, much like the population of Republican politicians. Sadly, James Gordon is as much a fictional character as Bruce Wayne.




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  9. I truly believe the war on drugs caused a lot of this ramp up of the Us vs Them mentality. What are raids usually for? Drugs.

    Qualified Immunity also has not helped. That only encourages cops to do things they know they’ll get away with.

    Eliminated those two things, and of course having the good cops out the bad cops, and the situation will drastically improve.




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  10. A cop in my city told me that the negroes caught on quick and dress in black from head to toe (like the cops) and go around kicking in doors and robbing houses




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