Featured Post

Where to begin with Ferguson, MO

buyvzekm18jvryznabtx

There’s a lot to discuss when it comes the ongoing ‘events’ taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. I put scare quotes around ‘events’ because part of what’s at stake as Ferguson continues developing into a national news story and culturally significant moment is how we define the circumstances surrounding it.

Is Ferguson home to ‘social unrest’ or more accurately ‘under siege?’ In the wake of looting over the weekend, some are quick to construe community-wide ‘protests’ as ‘riots’ based only on the actions of a few. Police on the other hand are thought to be acting with ‘restraint’ and ‘non-violently’ as long as they merely shoot tear gas to disperse crowds rather than firing rounds of ‘non-lethal’ ammunitions for the purposes of ‘crowd control.’

I wanted to post something on the subject, anything really, because Ordinary Times has already gone too long without at the very least drawing attention to the miniature police state that has formed in Ferguson. Whether it’s the decades long militarization of local law enforcement, persistent social and economic disparities between white and black communities, or the unique pathologies of fear that perhaps animate so many of the United States’ fundamental contradictions when it comes to the rights and liberties we are afforded as its citizens versus how those rights and liberties are protected and safeguarded, and for whom, there’s plenty to talk about.

Race, though, is the essential issue cascading through out all of the others, and yet it’s surely the one which is hardest to address and build consensus around. This is partially why, I think, the story has moved so quickly beyond the shooting of one black kid by a white police officer to the Storm Trooper-esc image police ‘forces’ across the country have been cultivating with help from the funds made available by the ‘War on Terror, Inc.‘ The militarization of police is something that, even though it disproportionately impacts people of color, white people can also self-interestedly rally against. For those white people who are more afraid of the black people protesting in Ferguson than the martial law they’ve been subjected to, a debate over the proper role and equipping of law enforcement isn’t likely to go very far, but for everyone else it’s a tangible starting place for something productive to happen.

As someone who could be characterized as ‘radical’ on many of these questions (yes to reparations, yes to a guaranteed income, yes to robust affirmative action programs, etc.), I’m not really interested with trying to breakthrough to this kind of person. For everyone else who is even marginally conflicted about what’s going on in Ferguson though, a greater understanding, sensitivity, and empathy when it comes to race can come later. Sometimes it’s crucially important to recognize how we and our institutions treat people differently based on race, sex, class, etc. Other times it’s imperative to focus on how superficial these differences should be in practice because we are all human beings equally deserving of respect, compassion, and justice.

Casting Ferguson in the light of a ‘race relations’ problem, which doesn’t even come close to capturing what’s going on there, overlooks a simpler starting place: U.S. citizens in Ferguson, Missouri are having their rights abused, or ignored altogether, which for one citizen in particular, Michael Brown, cost him his life.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

304 thoughts on “Where to begin with Ferguson, MO

  1. Thanks for writing this. I was stunned when I came yesterday and nobody had said anything.

    I sold out a long time ago, in many respects. I have a comfortable white collar job working for an oil company. I taught my children to dress well, mind their manners, and act beyond reproach. It’s important not to feed ugly stereotypes.

    When I was young, I was a black nationalist with a lot of hostility. I even had a Black Panthers outfit that I made for Halloween one year. Every now and again something will happen in the news and I’ll put it on and go out. Nobody knows what it represents, but it’s a matter of solidarity with my old self. He was a young fool, but he wasn’t wrong.

    What’s going on is sickening. I’m too old and I’ve seen too much to think that the result of all of this is going to be a conversation that we really need to have. It will end up about something else besides that our children are being killed, and how when we get upset about it, it justifies come what may.

    Jesus Christ. Race relations may be complicated. But this? This is EASY. It’s about as simple and straightforward as it comes. Even this we can’t get right. This is only made complicated through steadfast denial of the simple. This is America, and that shouldn’t change just because it involves a lot of upset black folks.

    So anyway, yesterday I wore my hat.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Don’t be confused. Riots aren’t started because people are upset. Riots are deliberately started by professional troublemakers. (Sometimes, they’re criminals. Flashmobs in Philly spring to mind. Often they’re not: some of the globalization protests).

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Kim,
        Now is not an appropriate time for this kind of idiocy. As if African-Americans don’t have sufficient motivation to riot against police brutality without having a professional to get them started.

        You really are a rather horrible person, and if this is all you can contribute you should apologize and just go away.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I thought she was calling the police “professional troublemakers”.

        (And, to go off on a tangent, she’s got some truth on her side. There were protests a number of years ago in Quebec City (I can’t remember what exactly it was, something like the G8 or G20 or WTO) and it was proven that Surete du Quebec (the Quebec police force) planted agent provocateurs to create riot conditions and justify a brutal response.

        I am not suggesting that’s happening in Ferguson. There it just seems to be regular old cops terrorizing protesters, media and residents.)

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Jonathan,

        I thought about that too — undercover police provocateurs aren’t that unknown (I suspect they’re probably even more common now), but not for this. Too quick. Big protests organized in advance? Sure. Stuff that coalesced in a few days from an unexpected incident? No.

        Although right now? I can’t blame anyone throwing crap at the police. It’s probably a really bad idea (and yes, very criminal) but at this point, well — the provocateurs here are the ones with the guns and badges.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Jon,
        oh, hell no, I totally wasn’t going there. Also, with the police force mainly white, that would seem difficult to actually get to work (I’m picturing one of the 3 black guys on the force going: “you want me to do WHAT? Now??”).

        Wow, I’m totally shocked anyone managed to prove anything involving police actually provoking a riot from inside the protest.

        The police are of course being provocative, in multiple ways…

        (I’m actually declining to speculate on who these provacateurs might be, as I lack all data. Do you have surveillance photos? Maybe you’d care to speculate?)

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • OK, I wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean to suggest (or suggest that Kim was suggesting) that there were agent provocateurs in Ferguson. That was totally just an aside.

        I am, however, perfectly comfortable calling the cops in Ferguson (in their uniforms, military gear and tanks) “professional troublemakers”. That seems completely 100% accurate in this situation.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • The “professional troublemakers”, if that’s what we’re calling the cops who escalate tense situations until they become riots, don’t need to be undercover to do so, though sometimes it helps if they want to maintain a more convincing pretense after the fact that the violence was started on the other side.

        They just need to show up in riot gear and start shooting teargas and swinging truncheons over every minor infraction until people start fighting back. And the “fighting back” needn’t consist of much. If just one person puts their shirt over their mouth and nose to pick up just one teargas canister and throw it away from a crowd of people back toward police, the news media will show the footage of the “masked anarchist” on repeat until that’s the only image their viewers can call to mind from the entire event.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Barry,
        I know someone who studies such things (yes, I know, I love to cite personal interviews). I’m certain you can track down “vocational protestors” (folks who do the whole WorldBank/G12/etc. circuit — they may not actually be getting paid, but they do this /frequently/).

        The police, for whatever it’s worth and whatever credibility you assign to them, arrested some folks they labeled as “rioting”. They subsequently reported these people as being “not from the area”. Make of that what you will.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • Jesus Christ. Race relations may be complicated. But this? This is EASY. It’s about as simple and straightforward as it comes. Even this we can’t get right. This is only made complicated through steadfast denial of the simple.

      Bingo. Simple works. Obvious works as well. Transparent would work, except that so many folks are so invested in layering up so much opacity in an effort to accommodate their priors. Here’s the thing that gets me. I heard a quote attributed to Sharpton today saying that this issue requires federal involvement to resolve, and my thought was one of exasperation and incredulity: what the fuck is the federal gummint gonna do about this issue? Part and parcel ya know? The real problem is that there isn’t any independent check on cop abuse and cop power. And by independent I mean “non-governmental”. If the reports about the initial interaction between the cop and the kid are even remotely accurate, the cop should be in front of a jury with the highest paid lawyers he can afford defending himself from a murder charge.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  2. Another factor is that the Democratic Governor of Missouri is AWOL and not responding even though he would not have won without the vote of Black-Americans.

    I think we have to simply conclude that a large percentage of Americans actively want and enjoy the idea of a militarized police and are sketchy on the concept of civil liberties. Many Americans seem to have a very feared based way of looking at the world and nothing can shake this out of existence. Crime has been decreasing of decades but many Americans still seem to think that it is a dystopia anarchy out there and the Purge is fact instead of fiction. There is also the problem that the militarized police generally goes after the minorities and the poor. They don’t usually go after middle class and above people. You will probably never see a SWAT team in a gated suburb.

    There has always been a deeply puritanical and punitive streak in American culture. Until liberals and libertarians learn how to combat this streak, stories like Ferguson are going to continue. The media has a lot of blame as well because they generally frame minorities as being thuggish when these stories come out.

    And then we can get into the problem of the Thin Blue Line and the general toothlessness of civilian review boards.

    Last week, I read about a study where a psychologist went to NYC and SF and showed two sets of mugshots. One set had 25% of the mugshots belong to Black Americans, the other set it at 45%. The people who saw the set with more black mugshots refused to sign a petition to recall three strikes even if they expressed opposition to three strikes in the first place.

    All of this and the death of Eric Gardner on Staten Island are a result of Broken Windows policing but Americans seem to like Broken Windows policing and I am afraid it might get worse.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • What Saul said. When it comes to things like the militarization of the police, we might be running into the Pauline Kael’s Nixon problem. We liberals and libertarians do not like it and can find many reasons why its a bad thing but we are talking amongst ourselves and not with millions of Americans that can’t see any personal problem with it because they can’t even imagine being on the wrong end of a police action. Its the same reason why scaling back on airport security is impossible. Americans who have to fly frequently hate it for being an inconvenience at the very least if not a violation of our civil liberties. The majority of Americans who fly infrequently aren’t troubled by it. It makes them feel safe. The militarization of police also makes many Americans feel safe.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • “You will probably never see a SWAT team in a gated suburb.”

      Except for, you know, those Boston suburbs where residents were ordered to stay inside until LEOs in armored vehicles could drag them out at gunpoint on the off chance there might be a wounded teenager hiding in their boat.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  3. Ironically, Ferguson has been named a “Playful City USA community.”

    The conflicting stories about what precipitated the shooting are an example of why police should have cameras on at all times when they are on duty.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • Consider they’ve taken to tear gassing reporters and confiscating their equipment, I think you can safely assume an ‘equipment error’ would have rendered that footage unrecoverable.

        Sorry, the police cam was just on the fritz that day. We have paperwork going back months proving it, ignore the way the ink smears….

        *shrug*. I think you can sum up Ferguson in a few simple points:

        1) For all the talk of jackbooted federal thugs, in my experience the smaller the government the higher the chances of corruption and abuse of power. People watch the federal government like hawks, it’s national news when things go awry. Who pays that close of attention to your local cops or school board? Or the guys on some weird little state commission — who even knows it exists, much less how much money they may handle?

        2) The increasing problem of ‘siege mentality’ with police. Let’s be blunt — most of the people police interact with are criminals, which leads them to start viewing everyone as criminals. (If 90% of the people you spoke to, day in and day out, were giant a**holes, you’d start to simply assume anyone that approached you was going to be an a**hole).

        3) Mostly black town, mostly white cops. Yeah, racism is an issue.

        4) Militarization of police. Arm them like soldiers, tell them they’re at war (crimes, drugs, whatever) and they’ll believe it. Why else do they have assault rifles, if the streets aren’t filled with armed, violent criminals? Why would the government be handing them out if they weren’t needed?

        And I’ll add this: I suspect police corruption and abuse there has been going on a very, very long time. Nobody’s flailing overreaction to a single incident includes grounding helicopters, tear-gassing reporters, and basically running around town dressed like soldiers trying to assault dug-in enemy fortifications. You do stuff like that when you’re used to being king of the hill, able to squash anyone who complains.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • morat20,
        we do, around here. Several FBI cases.
        You want a clean city? you keep an eye on your government.

        it’s the places where you see zilch in terms of issues that you gotta watch out for. (part of it’s cultural: south is prone to a lot of corruption).

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I generally agree with number 1 which is one of the reasons and possibly the primary reason I am concerned with the death of local newspapers and newssources. Most of the corruption stories I hear happen at the municipal and state legislature level. There was a town in Southern California which had a huge corruption problem with local officials overpaying themselves. There is also the Leland Yee saga in SF and other stories in NY.

        For number 2, this is also a huge problem and one that I am not sure how to deal with. There is also the fact that they do have to sort of treat everyone as a suspect. This is a tricky psychological issue. How does it change someone’s perceptions if the person who reports a crime ends up being the person who committed the crime? This is probably rare but common enough and there seem to be plenty of sensational murder stories in the media where this is the case.

        Even very liberal cities like Portland and San Francisco and Seattle seem to have a police with a siege mentality and I would say that the SFPD generally tries to be good liberal citizens in ways that are not common with the police and make the citizens of SF happy.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • morat20, on 4; I’m firm believer that the problem with the War on Drugs and other miltiarization of the police issues isn’t that drugs are illegal but that we declared war on them. If drugs were illegal but we took a more passive view on them, apprending and punishing those that break the law but not actively trying to stomp out drugs from society than things would be calmer probably.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Rialto, CA has seen excellent results from their body camera roll-out. Both use of force and complaints are way down.
        I’m not surprised it’s worked well. I’m surprised it happened at all, given the loathing of police to be filmed on the job.

        Body camera + firm rules of evidence (ie, malfunctioning body cam? Case dismissed. I don’t care if it’s murder. If the missing footage could even potentially have evidence of use to the defense, case gone.) would do wonders for everyone, but it’d seriously crimp the way a lot of cops act now.

        Heck, they don’t even like taser cams and that only shows footage once they yank it out — doesn’t record anything that happened beforehand.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  4. One reason why many Americans probably don’t care that much about incidents like the one in Fergusson and other issues relating to the militarization of the police and other civil liberities abuses is a failure of the imagination. Lots of Americans can perceive themselves as in a situation where they are going to need the 1st or 2nd Amendment and not wanting those rights violated. Very few can perceive themselves, especially if they are heterosexual white people, as being in a situation where they are going to need the 4th, 5th, 6th, or 8th Amendments. They are good people and obey the law and therefore have nothing to worry about from the police. What many Americans can imagine themselves as is victims of crime and therefore don’t really care much about the civil liberties of criminals.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • To their credit, I’d argue that many of them do sincerely care about civil liberties issues for various reasons. Some are so atomized as individuals that they view on group infringement on an individual as wrong. They might not have anything directly at stake like an African-American or Hispanic-American would but their highly individualized conception of themselves does give the power of imagination to see themselves at the wrong end of a police action. Others just simply thing this sort of infringment on civil liberties is wrong because it is a threat to freedom.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Issue: militarized police/police brutality.
        that’s exactly the question, why is this an important principle for them but not other white Americans.

        I’m not asking about liberals because by and large law enforcement isn’t an issue we care about (yes, liberals care about stop and frisk, profiling, etc., but it’s not nearly as prioritized as it is for libertarians).

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I don’t know what liberals you’re hanging out with, but I think it’s a pretty important issue for most of those I hang out with.

        As for libertarians, it’s really pretty simple. We distrust government. All government inevitably rests on force, and while folks like LWA try to convince us that’s not necessarily a bad thing, we think it’s an exceptionally dangerous thing. And this kind of thing demonstrates why it’s so dangerous and why we distrust government.

        The fact that we’re not the ones most likely to be the target is irrelevant.* Talk to any libertarian who isn’t a clown wearing the clothes of the founding fathers and they’ll be blunt about their expectations that the relatively well off, well educated, racial majority have the least to fear, and that it’s the poorer, less educated, and racial minorities who are most vulnerable.

        But that message gets outshouted by those who scream about the Kochtopus and tell everyone who’ll listen that libertarians are all about making sure white men get theirs and fuck everyone else. And I guess that storyline is being promulgated a lot more successfully than our, “government force sucks and it sucks most for the weakest” storyline.

        _________________
        *But even good middle class white people can get abused by the police. I have a friend, a libertarian no less, who lives in an upscale suburb of Indianapolis (median household income >$100k), who was accosted by police when he was sitting in his car in front of his house. He was listening to NPR as he drove home and wanted to hear the rest of the story. The police thought he was acting suspicious, refused to believe he was in front of his own house, and it all ended with him being thrown down with his arms twisted behind his back, causing a shoulder injury, and the police looking at his ID and suddenly realizing he did in fact live there.

        This year there was another incident. His neighbor called the police about his dog being off-leash. The dog’s a bichon frise that weighs about 8 pounds soaking weight and is the least aggressive animal ever, which the neighbor knows, but the neighbor hates my friend (called him a nigger lover, because he married an African woman), so he called the police. The police didn’t show up and politely ask him about his dog. No, for an off-leash dog violation, the policeman screeched to a stop in front of his house and ran up the driveway with his gun drawn screaming at my friend to identify himself.

        But god knows why libertarians care about this sort of thing. It’s one of the mysteries of the universe. It’s like Bill O’Reilly talking about the tide, “You can’t explain that.”

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • To the extent that there’s a difference between liberals and libertarians on these issues I would wager that it stems from our disparate attitudes towards government writ large.

        To many libertarians such incidents serve as exemplars of why government at a fundamental level is an existential failure.

        To liberals they serve as examples of a generally good and useful thing fouled up by scummy conservatives.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Re: libertarians on Ferguson. The problem is people like to conflate Repub’s with a slight libertarian streak with libertarians. The Paul’s, IMHO, are republicans first. Amash is a republican. Oh sure they may espouse and believe in some libertarian ideas but they are repubs and will mostly fall in line with repubs. They certainly aren’t fighting back hard at all the bilge spewing from the consevosphere. Actual true libertarians, defined as something like Balko, are on the side of angels, along with us cherubic liberals of course, on police militarization etc.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • The two pols you mentioned are the only two Republican pols in Congress that can be described as having libertarian leanings, but I think libertarianism is large enough to say that they’re outright libertarians. The thing is, there’s only two of them, and Amash is almost the definition of a backbencher – he certainly isn’t what I’d call a high profile politician.

        In any event, I think you may want to take back your suggestion that they’ve been silent on this, which is an assertion that seems to have made the rounds today. It’s a somewhat silly assertion to even make in the first place, since there’s exactly two of them, and Congress is in recess right now, but in any event:

        Paul’s strongly worded and unequivocal piece in Time: http://time.com/3111474/rand-paul-ferguson-police/

        Amash’s Twitter feed (again, Amash is not a terribly high-profile pol, and with Congress in recess, you’re not going to get much more out of his staff): https://twitter.com/repjustinamash

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I’d seen Paul’s quote and didn’t mean to suggest he had said nothing. He has spoken up and good for him. I’m a bit more skeptical of him though about how far he would really push the R’s to actually do something. I see him more as an R with lib leanings but that isnt’ really all that important. I’m not all that sure what can be done at a Fed level to affect the militarization of the cops, but i’d be impressed if i saw Paul sitting with O and Pelosi taking some concrete action. That would be a horrible photo op for him. I’ll also be impressed if i see something significant in his Prez platform about this, not just a nice white paper but real commitment to action. But this also all a digression from the goings on in Fergsuson.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I always wonder why libertarian politicians choose to run under the r-label instead of the d-label.

        This often makes me think that they care more about economic deregulation and business rights over civil liberty/social liberty.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • The thing is that I’m pretty sure that Paul is the first federal politician who has even raised the issue of police militarization. And of course whether Paul/Amash are trying to change the GOP on this issue, and whether they are able to, are two very different things. And Paul’s been more than just vocal about his thoughts on these criminal justice issues – he’s repeatedly teamed up with Democrats to sponsor or introduce legislation in this arena. E.g., http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/07/08/cory-booker-rand-paul-team-up-on-sentencing-reform-bill/
        https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/619/cosponsors

        There’s also an awful lot that the federal government can do about police militarization specifically – awhile back (and I’m sure more recently, as well) Balko pretty extensively documented how the militarization has occurred because of DoD surplus programs, DEA and other War on Drugs grants, and Homeland Security grants.

        Additionally, it seems like it’s a rarity that the FBI or DOJ get involved in the investigation of officer-involved shootings. They should be investigating every single officer involved shooting if you ask me, even if they lack jurisdiction to do more than file civil rights charges under 18 USC 242: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/242

        To me, it seems, whenever someone is killed or severely injured by an on-duty officer, that person has been deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. The only question at that point is whether that deprivation was legally justified, and I don’t see why the feds should just be able to assume justification in all but the most high-profile cases, as is the current practice.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I always wonder why libertarian politicians choose to run under the r-label instead of the d-label.

        The short answer is that there is a history of libertarian-conservative fusion that goes back to the post-WW2 era, largely enabled by a joint opposition to communism and the mixed economy.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to discuss Paul in the next couple years and i really don’t want to turn him into a major sub topic. We’ll see about him.

        I’d be all for stopping giving away old mil stuff to the Mayberry PD. Having the FBI investigate every police involved shooting sounds great to me. Fed level oversight is a good thing in a lot of cases. I agree about the WOD etc but i think there is an underlying fetishization of violence in the US that supports all of it. Many americans see violence as cleansing and into strong authority. We need the feds to keep a sharp eye on local govs.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • “We distrust government. … But that message gets outshouted by those who scream … that libertarians are all about making sure white men get theirs and fuck everyone else. And I guess that storyline is being promulgated a lot more successfully than our, “government force sucks and it sucks most for the weakest” storyline.”

        Well, the core message might have a tiny bit more traction if elected officials and leading members of your movement didn’t do their level best to focus almost entirely on removing government assistance for the weakest. Focus less, for example, on the ACA and more on the other billions of dollars in various subsidies embedded in the tax code.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Liberals care about law enforcement but see things differently than libertarians. Libertarians perceive the problems revoliving around the police as part and parcel of their distrust of government. A liberal is more likely to view law enfrocement problems through the lens of race in the United States than anything else.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I’d be all for stopping giving away old mil stuff to the Mayberry PD. Having the FBI investigate every police involved shooting sounds great to me. Fed level oversight is a good thing in a lot of cases.

        This gets to the heart of some of the disagreements between progressives and libertarians. Progressives want to empower the government to help attain all sorts of progressive ends. Many libertarians agree on the desirability of those ends (although some don’t), but question the means. The crux of the libertarian critique is that government authority is ultimately a golem. It can do some of the things that you want it to do, but you cannot control it with any real precision.

        You can get the feds to watch local police, but in the long run they’ll probably end up giving them grants to buy surplus tanks and high speed tactical gear. In theory you think that you can pick and choose your ends, but that is not how it works in the real world.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • There are, at the moment, exactly two libertarian-ish politicians in Congress. This is not a large sample size, especially when you consider that one of the two state governors in recent memory that sought to fit under the libertarian rubric was a Democrat (Schweitzer). And, for what it’s worth, George McGovern at least arguably qualified as a libertarian: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-21/george-mcgovern-s-legacy-as-a-libertarian-hero.html

        There are a lot of reasons libertarians in general are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats, though, and only one of them has to do with de-prioritizing civil liberties – and even that one amounts to “libertarians are no different from other people”:
        1. The GOP gives libertarian-leaning politicians a better chance to win in the primaries.
        2. The states with the strongest libertarian political bases all tend to be deeply Republican, so getting involved in Democratic party politics would be an exercise in futility.
        3. That the historic roots of the libertarian movement are in opposing FDR, who wasn’t just an economic statist but also the man who gave us internment and wasn’t exactly someone who took a stand against civil rights abuses in the South. In a two-party system, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, political coalitions have little to do with a single unified political philosophy and everything to do with binding disparate interest groups together in a political marriage of convenience.
        4. Libertarian theory has just about always held that economic statism leads to civil and social liberties abuses – this is certainly the theme of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Particularly in the early part of the libertarian movement, this was a message that was extremely attractive to the GOP’s moneyed base and hostile to the remnants of the New Deal Coalition, so the GOP was a lot more welcoming.
        5. Democrats are not remotely as good on civil liberties issues, even today, as they like to think. Yes, there are the true blue liberals like Ron Wyden, Rush Holt, etc. But on the national level, when was the last time that the Democrats in Congress took a strong collective stand for civil libertarianism? This is relevant because Republicans, likewise, are nowhere near as libertarian on economic issues as they like to claim, and never have been – historically Republicans have just been somewhat more supportive of big business, but support for big business can just as easily be anti-libertarian as pro-libertarian.
        6. The Second Amendment, like it or not, is a civil liberties issue, and one that is particularly relevant in states where libertarian leanings have long been the strongest.
        7. Libertarians are no less susceptible to voting their economic interests than any other group on the planet. “It’s the economy, stupid” was an effective campaign slogan for a reason, and it had nothing whatsoever with trying to get the incredibly small number of people who called themselves libertarians in 1992 to vote for a Democrat.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Everybody wants the gov set up to move towards their desired ends. And while are aim might be precise what we get is often different from what we hope. The heart of our disagreements isn’t’ just our aims but will our tools actually hit the target or break someones window.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Francis,
        the core message might have a tiny bit more traction if elected officials and leading members of your movement didn’t do their level best to focus almost entirely on removing government assistance for the weakest.

        I’m sure selection bias plays absolutely no role in the definition of “leading members.”

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I might add that our spiritual guides and leaders, Saints Charles and David of Koch, did give $20 million to the ACLU to fight the Patriot Act, which by some report is more than the sum of all their donations to political candidates.

        Reason regularly reports on police abuses, and Cato runs the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project.

        The Libertarian Party (for whatever they’re actually worth, but it surely counts as part of the leadership of the “movement”) has a clear stance in its platform opposing the war on drugs and supporting due process rights, and has called for the police in Ferguson to stand down.

        Rand Paul (for whatever he’s worth, but he keeps getting listed as a libertarian leader) has spoken out against what’s happening in Ferguson.

        And of course there’s Balko, who has done more to bring the country’s attention to the issues of police militarization than anyone.

        I guess what I’m wondering is, who are you talking about? Could you give us a list of these alleged leaders and some evidence that they downplay the issue of police abuse?

        You must know who they are and what they’re doing, to have made the statement you did, so, maybe a few specifics and some cites?

          Quote  Link

        Report

  5. DailyKos has a bunch of eyewitness testimony, and video. At first, I was inclined to at least listen to the cops (two sides to every dispute, after all). I think by now, they’ve lost all credibility.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  6. Scattered Thoughts:

    (a) I find it interesting that all the folks who supported Bundy (on his ranch with his gun-toting militia supporters) against the BLM… don’t have anything to say about the police or protesters in Ferguson. Or if they do, they’re talking about how violence is deplorable, especially against folks just doing their jobs. Although this (in and of itself) doesn’t point to anything in particular, it does sorta illustrate why folks on the Right are sometimes interpreted by uncharitable folks as being racist. White guy flagrantly breaks law, arms self against government, let’s support him 24/7. Black folks protest the shooting of an unarmed black guy, let’s talk about how the facts aren’t in yet or how the police are acting responsibly. Or – finally – let’s consider talking about the police problem, but only after we register our sensible takeways that “justice is a process”, “rioting is bad”, and “don’t forget to slam Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton”. Those three of course must be stated first.

    (b) The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown campaign is really depressing, and it’s really a terrible indictment of the media in general. In all of the Treyvon Martin coverage, I remember precisely two photographs being used, over and over.

    (c) More people need to read Radley Balko.

    (d) Given the state of affairs in the last two years, the political push to arm the citizenry in some quarters, and the success of that legal campaign, it’s astonishing to me that nobody on the edge (or close to it) has yet taken the opportunity to pull a gun on a police officer abusing his authority. That says something interesting, but I’m not sure what it is yet.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I find it interesting that all the folks who supported Bundy (on his ranch with his gun-toting militia supporters) against the BLM… don’t have anything to say about the police or protesters in Ferguson.

      Unfortunately, lots of those people do have something to say about Furgeson and, as you point out, much of it back asswards. There is nothing uncharitable about calling racism what it is. The conservative movement has, in many ways, run out of steam and has just defaulted to white populism. And I say this as someone who was an early defender of the Tea Party types against what I felt at the time were unwarranted accusations of racism. Wherever this movement began, it is pretty clear where it is now.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • On (d) — let’s be honest. The push to arm citizenry has been about white people arming themselves against scary black people, more than anything else. Government thugs take a distant second — nobody’s making laws making it okay to shoot police busting in the wrong door, just other citizens making you feel threatened.

      The police shot and killed an unarmed black man. You know what difference him having a gun would have made? People would have been able to justify it.

      In America, by and large — an armed black man is a “thug” and a “threat”, not a citizen exercising his second amendment rights. The fact that the original victim was unarmed was the ONLY reason this wasn’t the millionth iteration of “Black man killed in confrontation with police” and the pesky specifics swept under the rug.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  7. After seeing the police lines with the sniper sitting on top of an armored vehicle aiming his gun at the crowd, I can’t help but wonder what the situation in Ferguson would be like if the black community had armed themselves like those range stealing white Bundyites.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • Not looting? Bundy had been looting you and me for years; leasing public lands, not paying their leases (which were well below the lease rates for private land) and overgrazing it; which is pretty much like busing up someone’s shop, causing lots of damage that’s expensive to repair. Bundy is responsible for millions of dollars of looting, .

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Have you seen what’s happened tonight, with the police respecting the protesters? No looting, no violence, just peaceful protesters. Like there were peaceful protesters last night. Like there were peaceful protesters Tuesday night. Like there were peaceful protesters Monday night.

        The police violently broke up a vigil, and looting ensued. Once that spasm of anger, righteous anger I’d say, was over, the protests have been nothing but peaceful. The police have been nothing but violent. Until tonight, when the state police took over and made the conscience decision to respect the people. The conscience decision to respect the people.

        Seriously dude, you clearly haven’t been paying attention.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • This is an interesting thought, Dex. And I’m serious.

      Do you think that the cops would have avoided shooting folks had they known that any/every bystander in the city was armed and just *ITCHING* to start firing the way that their modern version of their Iron John group has been talking about?

      Do you think that they would have been shooting even more folks than they had before and talking about how, hey, it’s okay because the person was armed?

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Indeterminate. We’ve got Waco and Ruby Ridge on the one hand, Bundyville and the Arvada Theater shooting on the other. One thing I think we know is that cops won’t *engage* unless they know they have superior numbers. Or, at least sufficient numbers that the threat to their ownselves is really small. So maybe you’re thinking about this issue from the wrong angle.

          Quote  Link

        Report


      • I think we know the answer to this.
        It would be a- correct that- It HAS been an arms race, one that the police can win, every time.
        The militarization we are seeing didn’t happen out of nowhere- it was justified by the stories of heavily armed drug gangs.

        If the black folks in Ferguson carried semiautomatics, the cops would have full auto. If the folks carried guns, the cops would carry RPGS- and so on.

        Countering heavily armed, fearful people by adding more arms and fear, has never worked out well.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  8. It’s shocking and horrible this is happening. One thing I know: lefties, liberals, and libertarians should be of one mind on this topic. Cops ain’t soldiers. Stop this shit.

    (I had to call the police last night. A young Asian woman randomly came up to me on the street, grabbed my hand, and begged me to help her because she was “afraid of her mom,” who was standing right there. I asked the young woman if I could call the police. She said yes. I did. She wouldn’t let go of my hand until the police arrived.)

    (The two Boston police officers who arrived were entirely professional. Besides their side arms and batons, they carried no gear of war.)

      Quote  Link

    Report

  9. For just a bit of smug political humor, someone on my Twitter feed quipped: “Notice how the same people ranting about black people looting named their political movement after a bunch of dudes who threw tea off a ship.”

      Quote  Link

    Report

  10. One thing I seriously hope somebody digs into is the training these officers have.

    I think there are several former-military here who can speak more articulately than I can on the topic, but there’s some serious training that goes into holding a sniper rifle, pointed at real-live humans. I have some grave concerns that the general local PD requirements have a lack of proper training for the job they do anyway, but getting up in military gear, and going out to police a crowd of protestors with a gun seems like a step beyond nearly any and all training the average cop receives; this is specialized work, and requires a specific set of skills (the ability to keep your cool and refrain from pulling the trigger even under stress being primary).

    Creating these militarized police forces by arming them is a small percentage of the problem; they need long and careful training; and I’ve seen little evidence that this has happened/not-happened.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • SWAT teams are mostly used for warrants now days. (It turns out hostage situations rarely occur, go figure. Same with heavily armed, crazy criminals). That turns out about how you’d expect (flash-banged babies, dead dogs and grandmas, etc).

      Some of the tweets were from veterans noting these guys were carrying more ammo than actual soldiers in a war zone, others mocking them for their ‘camo’ (camo — not even urban camo — with highly reflective ‘POLICE’ stickers seems to be a strange decision, among other things), their heavily armed vehicles, etc

      *shrug*. I don’t think training them would help. Now you’d have very EXPENSIVE highly trained cop ‘special forces’ guys sitting around, being a drain on your budget. Gotta justify the line item, so you find a use for them.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • I think the expense of training is the best push-back against the expensive line item.

        I once interviewed a veteran, a sniper who served several tours in Iraq, and also provided security for the Salt Lake Olympics. My topic was how military service translates to civilian jobs, and this job — sitting on a rifle for hours on end without having your attention waver or overreacting in fluid crowds — was a difficult job to translate to non-military duty. So we dug in to what he did, the training and skills required deeply. I walked away from that interview with a powerful respect for the training this guy had received, and I’d point out that nobody at Salt Lake was shot by rubber bullets; except in the sporting events, there were no bullets fired at all.

        So I do think training matters; and I think most police are not properly trained. (To be a cop in my state, you have to be enrolled, at your employer’s expense, in the Police Acadamy, an 18-week course that mostly focuses on driving skills. My state is not unique. There is one officer in the state with a degree in psychology, who has the job of dealing with every case, state-wide, of mentally deranged people; this in a land where we turn to the police instead of the health-care system to deal with mental illness.)

        Training matters in police work, and it matters a great deal.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Zic,

        You should READ some of the training cops are getting. The ACLU’s been digging into it with FIOA requests, and between completely crazy trainers and ridiculous material….

        We’re still dealing with 2001, even today. And part of that was the entire law-and-order community getting inundated with military hardware and new training about how they were gonna be under attack be evil-doers out to murder children.

        Heck, the police here? Probably trained. Unfortunately their training was probably all about how violent the riots were gonna get, and that it was instigated by terrorists, and how it was basically gonna be a war in the streets.

        I’m afraid Ferguson might just be the point where the ludicrous training in the post-9/11 world met a police force without enough sane cops to call BS on it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • That’s probably a good part of what I’m talking about; thank you for pointing it out. Inappropriate training for the work is as bad as lack of training; but I would still guess there’s lack of training for most of the guys wearing all that gear. A few may have it, most don’t; or they have a few hours here and there as ongoing ‘professional development.’

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Here is a link to twitter reactions of vets to what they are seeing in Ferguson. Interesting.
        https://storify.com/AthertonKD/veterans-on-ferguson

        Training is so important. I just had to testify on a case yesterday where the state police up here did a great job with a gun wielding mentally ill woman. They deescalated the situation and arrested her without incident even after she had brandished a gun at them. They must have been well trained. But it doesn’t take to many incidents like Ferguson to destroy the good will some cops have actually worked hard to build up.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • greg,
        it helps when folks meet cops, know them by name. I’m not saying that needs to be done everywhere, but if you’ve got a place where folks have a hard time trusting the cops, you get the cops out there. Being seen to be human (and not just a CopCar) is a start.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • Zic,

      “…but getting up in military gear, and going out to police a crowd of protestors with a gun seems like a step beyond nearly any and all training the average cop receives…”

      Most police departments train their officers to deal with mob situations. My grandfather helped write the curriculum for Louisville back in the 60s when riots were becoming a common occurrence. And they all carry guns. What’s supposedly different here is that they are holding their guns at the ready instead of holstered pistols, but even that isn’t new. During the 1968 riots here in Louisville all of the officers carried shotguns and rifles in plain view of the citizens. So…other than the tactical gear looking a bit scarier to the uninformed, I don’t see any problem with the tools they are using. We can certainly debate tactics though…

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • My grandfather helped write the curriculum for Louisville back in the 60s when riots were becoming a common occurrence.

        Please don’t misconstrue my question here, it’s that the training is unknown and from the perspective of military training, it’s outright wrong in tactics. I don’t know what your grandfather came up with; but if it’s what these cops are using, I’s suggest it’s a bit outdated. The tactics should fit the gear.

        And as with all things about guns, what a super-informed gun fan may know to be true vs. what the uninformed citizen on the street knows is apples and oranges; if you are not taking into consideration that most folk on the street don’t know, and they will react from that lack of knowledge, you’ve failed to plan properly. Looks matter in triggering mob reactions.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Of course it is a tactic, however, with a rifle or shotgun you don’t have much choice on how to hold them. The tactical decision is made before you ever pick that gun up. In that sense it’s like if officers started just walking around with their service pistols in their hands. We are accustomed to knowing that a drawn pistol means the shit is about to hit the fan. With tactical rifles the line is getting blurry.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Pity we’ve apparently defined mobs down to “A handful of guys” or even “Some reporters at McDonald’s”.

        *shrug*. Policing and occupying are two different skillsets, two different kinds of training, and two different mindsets.

        It’s pretty obvious the Ferguson police feel they’re occupying Ferguson, hostile territory that would otherwise be under the sway of ‘enemies’ rather than policing their own community.

        Sadly, other than being really tone deaf in the PR department — I don’t think they’re that far out of the mainstream. I think this is where policing is heading, rapidly.

        I do find it amusing that the Nevada bunch hasn’t shown up in protest. Probably for the best. They’d actually get shot by the Ferguson PD, whereas the federal government just eyerolled at hte posturing.

          Quote  Link

        Report


      • Thanks for shedding light on it. That’s the sort of first-hand knowledge/understanding of fire arms I lack.

        (I think?) I understand the advantages of a shotgun in such a situation. What advantages does a rifle yield over a pistol in these situations?

        My sense is that the cons of a rifle (less maneuverability; necessarily holding it at the ready) far outweigh the benefits (greater accuracy over a longer distance; greater firepower). If anything, those “benefits” seem problematic in that cops being able to shoot people from further away with greater force seems a step in the wrong direction.

        But, again, I don’t understand the mechanics of guns nearly as well as though.

        Thanks.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • MD, I just can’t disagree with you strongly enough. a) what mob? b) it’s simply false that you have no choice how to hold a rifle. You can choose to aim it directly at unarmed protestors, or you can choose not to. You can choose to sling it behind your back until necessary. You can choose to leave it in the vehicle. You can even choose not to use tax dollars to buy them in the first place, even though they’re super cool.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • The benefit of a rifle is increased capacity and accuracy (the latter factor is most important IMO). If you have to actually start shooting in these situations, aimed fire from a rifle is going to be the most effective.

        No one carries rifles slung on their back in an active situation. Google pictures of military personnel and see how they hold their guns even in a non-combat scenario. You will notice in picture that accompanied the OP those guns are not actually pointed at anyone. They are pointed at the ground. It’s a subtle difference that a lot of people are going to miss. You should also re-read my comments. I said pretty clearly that the decision to use those rifles is a tactical one and it’s then that they should better consider the situation.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Of course it is a tactic, however, with a rifle or shotgun you don’t have much choice on how to hold them.

        That is not true at all. You can’t holster a rifle, but you can sling it. You can also carry it at the patrol ready, the low ready, or the high ready. Any one of those positions entails a conscious choice about your intentions and your readiness to use deadly force.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I am a former infantry officer. I have led platoon operations in Iraq. I am vaguely familiar with how rifles work, thank you. The idea that once someone made the bad decision to deploy a SWAT team, there are no more escalation of force decisions to be made, is simply false. Find some of the pictures of ‘police’ looking down the sights of long rifles on top of trucks, or the famous picture of a group of ‘police’ drawing down on a man with his hands up, and tell me that this is an appropriate use of equipment.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • And I would back up a little further–it is a fundamental mistake to evaluate police behavior based on what an active duty soldier in a combat zone would do (ie ‘they can’t sling their weapons because an infantryman wouldn’t). Look at how easily the language slips, and how easily military equipment becomes its own justification.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Show of force is really dependent on if the police are dealing with a riot, or just a protest with the potential to become riotous. If the riot is in full swing, then a show of force is called for. If the crowd is still just a protest, then a show of force is extremely counter-productive.

        See here:
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/08/14/after-ferguson-how-should-police-respond-to-protests/

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • In today’s NYT Room for Debate: Are the Police too heavily Armed includes a quote from Eugene O’Donnell of John Jay College Dept. of justice that goes to training:

      ut far from producing military machines, police departments give most of their recruits very rudimentary training in using force, and little more than the basics of firearms proficiency. Cops are encouraged to avoid using lethal force, but when they do they often miss their adversaries, even at close range. Witness the Empire State shooting in 2012, when nine pedestrians suffered wounds after officers unleashed a hail of gunfire at a man wielding a pistol who had just killed a former co-worker.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  11. Police forces need to work to know the community better. That means walking the beat — and, yes, it means profiling folks, not based on skin color, but based on all sorts of informative things. “That guy’s a hothead!” or “That guy’s a pusher, but he won’t use a gun if he can help it.”

    And most importantly, develop some friends in the community. You’re not going to get anything done if the community doesn’t trust you.

    When cops know the community, they can identify the leaders of a peaceful protest (generally as friends), and know how to treat them like people who are honestly aggrieved. A cop in my city kneeled down in the streets with the protestors, after the Martin verdict came down. She rerouted traffic to allow the protest to continue — and it turned into something like a somber street party, affirming community and letting people bond over a tragedy.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  12. I kind of thought that libertarians would take a look at a situation like this and home in on the most important issue: the police are way the hell out of line and need to be replaced by an outside police force – from outside the state itself, if necessary. The cops are jacking up the tension and have to go. Local protesters could step back and any continuing looting could be dealt with as property crime.

    Also: dangers of giving military equipment to guys who aren’t psychologically ready to deal with it is a Bad Thing. Radley Balko has been vindicated, Part 47.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • This is a great point: the police force that was involved in the shooting responding to the rallies/protests/whatever is absurd. It’d be like letting Michael Brown’s family run the investigation into the shooting. There is simply too much conflict of interest.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • One of the problems is that there appear to be at least three overlapping authorities operating here. The Ferguson police force proper has 54 officers. The much larger St. Louis County police department has ~800 officers. The county cooperates for air and SWAT operations with the (independent city of) St. Louis police department, with ~1400 officers. There are now rumors that the governor will order the St. Louis County officers out of Ferguson this afternoon. Who did the shooting, and who is/will be doing the investigation, who’s been hassling reporters — maybe it’s locals, maybe it’s officers who have never worked in Ferguson.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • From what I hear, the state is basically stepping in and standing the local cops down. Here’s hoping that helps — not exactly like it could get worse.

      Maybe they’ll confiscate the police’s tanks, machine guns (tripod-mounted ones, not their assault rifles) and other pointless military hardware since they’ve shown themselves incapable of using it responsibly.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  13. I heard they declared a no-fly zone over the town. PLEASE tell me that isn’t true. Black folks may be all kinds of bad, but surely they’re not worse than Russian separatists!

      Quote  Link

    Report

  14. I wonder how effective the following idea would be…

    Require that any and all successful lawsuits filed against a police department come out of their individual budget with no ability to recoup the funding. So if a police force has a budget of $50M for the year but they get slapped with a $10M wrongful death suit and lose, well, now they’re down to $40M. Cut back on overtime, sell off some toys, fire some officers… whatever. You had $50M to do your job and you blew $10M of it because some asshole was trigger happy or decided to use an illegal choke hold. How quickly would PD leaders get their forces in order?

    I guess expecting this sort of accountability is a pipe dream.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • In my experience (it’s happened twice in Colorado Springs in my recollection, both times when I was living downtown), cutting back police budgets tends to lead to fewer helpful, friendly beat officers and worse working conditions for those folks (including way less *good* training). Selling toys, scaling down special teams, etc., rarely seem to be a priority when cutting back.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • True. I just think it still wouldn’t make the difference we wish it would. Problems like this don’t occur without corrupt leadership, and corrupt leadership wouldn’t get rid of the stuff we think they don’t need, they’d get rid of the stuff we actually want them to do.

        Much the same problem with body cams – IMO, they mostly wouldn’t be used in the cases where we need them used, they’d mostly be used to punish good cops in petty ways. I think in cases where they might do some good, they would be mysteriously missing data.

        I am deeply cynical about cop reform.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Fair points, . My hope would be that making the department financially accountable for their fuckups might be the only way to put a dent in the number and intensity of fuckups. But you’re probably right that all sorts of other perverse things would happen. “Oh… some ‘upstanding citizen’ wants to sue us and eat up 1/10th of our budget? Well, let’s see how fast we respond to 911 calls in that neighborhood.”

        Sigh. Presumably, that would lead to more lawsuits which eventually bankrupt the department and lead to wholesale change, though A) things will get worse before they get better and B) that change might not actually be an improvement.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • The problem with this is that it treats the police budget as money we give them for their own benefit, and that’s not how it should be.

        If they have more budget than they need to do their jobs, then it should be cut regardless, not to punish them, but because it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

        If the budget is just as big as it needs to be, then cutting it will prevent them from doing their jobs, which means citizens are punished.

        I think it makes more sense to make the budget what it needs to be and no more, and punish individual officers more aggressively when they do things wrong. Of course, the police unions make both of these things difficult.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  15. Here is another thought I’ve had about the tensions of being an elected official and supporting civil liberties and other progressive values. A friend of mine just lambasted Mayor De Blasio on fb because De Blasio made a statement about not resisting arrest. The statement was about how Democratic Politicians take the black vote for granted.

    I think he is right but at the same time I think it would be very strange to see a politician especially an executive one make a statement about resisting arrest. Maybe a city council member or state legislature member can take such a provocative stance because of the size of their constituency.

    Politicians need to balance between their ideology and making sure things run smoothly. A less dire example would be a liberal politician during a Public Transit strike. How do you balance between pro union and pro-right to strike views while also making sure to not piss off the massive number of people who are screwed by the transit strike?

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • A lot of the debates on how local governments reacted to Occupy revolved around this issue. Occupy protests tended to take place in public areas and remain their for weeks. The liberals that were somewhat sympathetic to the shut down of the Occupy protests argued that local government did have something of an obligation to ensure that public parks remained open to the public for their purpose rather than dominated by never ending protest. Others disagreed.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  16. So when are the Second Amendment purists – those guys walking around in Texas with their automatic weapons in their hands because they’re free Amuricans, gosh-dang it – going to start claiming brotherhood with the families getting tear gassed in their own neighbourhoods and offering to walk with them in solidarity? I mean, surely, if you’re arming to protect yourself from government dictatorship this would be right up their alley. And the stand-your-grounders – where are they?

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • As an aside, what the NJ DA is doing to that woman from PA is almost as bad. Poor black woman (whose only mistake was following the law in PA & being honest to a NJ cop) gets no consideration for a 1st time offender deferment program, but a white judge who is convicted of spousal abuse gets the nod no problem.

        What’s worse is liberals in NJ (re: Bryan Miller) being just fine with it because she was a gun owner.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • What, go some place they might actually get shot?

      Besides, the people of Ferguson don’t really look like the NRA type, if you know what I mean. They’re not the, um, demographic for SYG, you know?

        Quote  Link

      Report

  17. Just don’t know why the police station isn’t a pile of ashes. Hell, if police want to adopt war like rules of engagement, I say its time communities should make a few of their own.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • That is an amusing article. Here is my favorite line:

      You can find articles about Ferguson on the website of Reason, the libertarian magazine. But the politicians and conservative media figures who claim to be the most fervent advocates of individual freedom and to care the most about misuse of government power have been silent.

      Not quite sure that Waldman knows what a libertarian is.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • His piece is pretty clear: Reason is genuinely concerned about what’s going on in Ferguson: Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and the rest of the “politicians and conservative media figures who claim to be the most fervent advocates of individual freedom” are not. Waldman’s reporting is entirely correct; you’re criticizing him for getting the labels wrong, as if that were the most important thing.

          Quote  Link

        Report


      • Yes, it does look like Paul hasn’t been silent on this; good for him. And I’m glad he understands that the enemy is Washington, D.C.; we all know that local police had a wonderful relationship with African-Americans back in the good old days.


        Yes, we both agree that conservative politicians and media figures aren’t libertarian. If only we could get them to stop using that word to describe their opposition to any taxes that don’t target the working poor.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • – We weren’t talking about whether Paul (or libertarians in general) had correctly identified all root causes and prescriptions.

        We were talking about Waldman’s claim that libertarians are silent on Ferguson, despite claiming to care about govt. overreach and abuse.

        A claim that is only “correct” if we discount some of libertarianism’s best-known publications and politicians (which, as Mark notes in his comment, are pretty comparatively small fish in the big picture; but that fact doesn’t make Waldman’s claim true either).

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I agree the idea that libertarians were silent is wrong. I’m skeptical of Paul though. Sniping at libertarians about this topic has been pissy and pointless. Somewhere up there i noted that actual libertarians have been good guys on this. R’s in general havn’t been quite as good though but i applauded Paul’s statement. Good for him.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • From the first link MRS posted:

        Waldman is right that libertarian-leaning Republican politicians Justin Amash and Rand Paul had not yet commented on Ferguson at the time he wrote his post.

        Goddam liberals, never using their fishing time machines.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I’m going to go one step further. Not to argue that libertarians are more perfecter than thou in every way, but they were way out ahead of liberals on the war on drugs, ahead of them on the militarization of police, and if you read, say, Popehat you’ll see they’re still out ahead of liberals on recognizing just how bad our criminal “justice” system is. Which makes Francis’ criticism above about libertarians not focusing on these issues enough all the more ironic.

        But liberals–although not necessarily Dem pols–get on board quickly when they become aware, so I’m not trying to bash them, just that particular criticism, which–based on what commenters here are saying–I wouldn’t even call a liberal criticism.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • James,

        I think it goes back to being more aware of where people disagree with you than where they agree.

        In terms of liberals/conservatives, the last couple of decades — since the 60s at least — the liberals have tended to be the ones burned by police, whereas conservatives have been big on ‘tough on crime’ and ‘law and order’.

        They both bought heavily into the war on drugs, which is where this godawful trend really got started.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • The point, more than anything, is that it’s totally ridiculous to make generalized statements about a movement or group of people because a sample size of exactly two people (who may or may not be in that group), who happen to be in the middle of a Congressional recess at the moment and don’t have any connection to the State of Missouri, failed to immediately respond to the situation. It’s even more absurd to say that there’s been “near total silence from prominent libertarians” by defining “prominent libertarians” to mean exactly three people.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Morat,
        That’s probably right, and libertarians do have that unfortunate history of alliance with Republicans that still causes people to treat it as a variety of conservativism.

        But I keep–foolishly, I guess–expecting better from folks who hang out here.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • James,

        I suspect that many times it’s you getting lumped in with people you don’t agree with, but who are real and use the same label as you — and at others a poster knows that doesn’t represent you and mentally doesn’t tag you as believing it, but doesn’t put “Some” in front of “libertarian” or “Except James…” at the end.

        Same thing with being a Democrat. Or a Republican. or a Christian. Or a Muslim. Or anything with a label, or a group identity of any sort.

        Fluid and kinda sucky. I try to go with the benefit of the doubt until they expressly tell me that “All x” or “You specifically”…you know, make it REAL clear they’re saying it’s about me personally, too. That I’m part of the group they’re talking about in specific, rather than just being part of the same nebulous identity.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Actually, I think his comment implicitly distinguished me from the so-called leaders of the movement, thereby marginalizing me and indicating that my position on this issue is not broadly shared among libertarians.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Jesus Schilling, let it go!

        Or should we see just how long it took key liberal “political leaders” to sound off about this?

        I mean, from what I can tell, liberal/progressive icon Warren just recently said something public about this.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • James,

        Yeah, re: your 6:04 comment about libertarians being front of liberal about this stuff. I’ve been out front of myself on those issues, so it’s a wonder why I don’t incline more towards libertarianism. But you’re absolutely correct about all that. Libartarians put that stuff front and center, liberals (I should say, the liberals I know in my unique geographic location) really could give a rats ass about all that stuff. If that’s a disagreement (and I think it is!) then so be it. You’re overestimating us, bro. At least wrt that issue.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • As an example:

        I once got into a quite aggressive argument with a person who tried to defend the cops who shot Amadou Diallo 42 times outside his own apartment. When I tried to explain that part of the job of being a cop was to not shoot people who present their wallet as evidence of their citizenship, I was educated about the psychological impediments preventing each of those public defenders from acting more rationally in the situation. And that I should sympathize with their suffering a bit more than I apparently was.

        That was a long night.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Oh for Christ’s sake:

        A. The actual Libertarian Party reliably gets about 1% of the vote. So in terms of elected officials who might actually have the apparent authority to speak for the movement, it doesn’t exist.

        B. Internet libertarians are a dime a dozen. Which says something about the relationship between political reality and people who have the time, wealth, skills and jobs to post comments on the internet on a regular basis. There are also no membership criteria.

        C. If you take a look at — for example — the body of work of Megan McArdle’s or the Volokh conspiracy or the Paul family (who may or may not be libertarians, depending on the day of the week and who’s setting the rules), the vast majority of it is mostly about punching down. Government is bad, so therefore the first target for rollbacks should be those services provided to the poor. (For example, I clearly remember when Bush briefly proposed privatizing social security. People who called themselves libertarians were cheering the idea. Or roads — Reason was a great promoter of quasi-private toll roads.)

        D. So R. Balko gets full marks for someone who writes consistently, thoughtfully and passionately from a libertarian position about an abusive aspect of government that most commonly affects the poorest Americans. Great. You should honestly be proud of him. And the group at Bleeding Heart Libertarians seem to me to have their heart in the right place. (Although I’m not sure just how big a following they have.) But the vast remaining majority of people who claim to write from a libertarian perspective certainly appear to me to spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy worrying about the fact that someone, somewhere is getting a helping hand from the government.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I have to say, I loved your rant and agree with nearly every word of it.

        But, let’s be fair. This is one of those rare cases when the libertarians are both useful and right. We should kick them in the knee?

        Let’s do that another day on another subject.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • that link is priceless.

        FYI, Here’s their mission statement:

        The objective of the Saint Louis Police Officers’ Association shall be to advance the moral, social and material standing of the members of the Association by honorable and lawful means. As a labor organization the Association shall endeavor to achieve Collective Bargaining with Binding Arbiration.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Kolohe,

        That’s a nice link. The Orwellian nature of this statement caught my eye. Maybe it’s just me, tho.

        The fact that no lawful protesters suffered any injuries is a testament to the manner in which the situation was being handled at the time.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • But the vast remaining majority of people who claim to write from a libertarian perspective certainly appear to me to spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy worrying about the fact that someone, somewhere is getting a helping hand from the government.

        If that statement is true, it is a negative reflection on your powers of perception rather than any honest accounting of what libertarians are actually writing about.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  18. Just some food for thought here: last night, the justification for the teargassing was that the protest had gone beyond peaceful. (I thought I’d posted the gist of this comment earlier, but it seems to have vanished or not posted, sorry if it’s redundant.)

    But we quickly forget our history, don’t we? Peaceful protests of the civil rights era were not spontaneous; they were planned and the participants trained for them. When you commit to peaceful protest, you are surrendering your right to self defense; the right to protect yourself from assault by police or other violent citizens; surrendering the right to protect your family from such assault. Peacefully protesting requires a tremendous amount of forethought and discipline. Yet it’s the standard we’re supposed to adopt, and if we fail there we’re guilty of mob behavior and inciting violence.

    There’s an enormous double standard — Cliven Bundy and his cohorts clung dearly to that right of self defense; it was upon the Feds to step down due to the human shield of woman and children those cowards chose to put at the front of their lines. OWS? If they defended themselves, they were troublemakers. Blacks in Ferguson? The same.

    It’s important to remember that peaceful protest means giving up the most basic right each of us has; that it’s something to do with full thought, not the natural norm of protest.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  19. The problem here, by the way, is not simply the militarization of police. The underlying problem in Ferguson has been going on since long before the drug war and body armor. The problem is that black communities are basically under siege by police, who view residents (particularly men and young women), largely, as targets, or the enemy. You see this in the 3 shootings of unarmed black men in the past week, you see it with Eric Garner, you see it with stop and frisk, with “broken window” policing, with the way police talk about black people in black communities (“gang affiliated,” or, when they shot the mentally disabled man lying on the ground in Los Angeles earlier this week, “investigating whether he had any gang affiliations”), you see it with the disparity in stop and search and arrest rates in Ferguson. The relationship between mostly black communities and police is completely broken, and shootings like this are the inevitable result of that break.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  20. FWIW, I don’t have a lot of criticism of the libertarians, wrt this particular episode- I even give rand Paul props for his message.

    Having said that-
    The argument that “government sucks, and sucks most for the weakest” isn’t so much wrong, as it is an empty one, without the power to impel action.
    How does this message help the black citizens of Ferguson? How does it lead to a productive solution?

    Isn’t the history of the civil rights movement one where on branch of government, came to the assistance of the victims of another branch of government?

    Telling the oppressed people that the Civil Rights division of the federal gov’t indistinguishable from the white police force of Ferguson is laughably unpersuasive.

    They have witnessed- personally, in most cases- where the federal government used its power to right wrongs, and create justice. Your claims that “government” is somehow intrinsically malign is flatly contradicted by this incredibly powerful eyewitness experience.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • There’s also the fact that, you know, police are sort of one of those intrinsic functions of government. Basic law and order, all that jazz. I am sure there are some people out there who don’t think the government should be involved in basic policing, but…well, yeah. That’s kind of a non-starter.

      So, you know, cops kinda HAVE to exist in any real society. So talking about how government sucks and can’t do anything, well — unfortunately THIS is an activity that government sorta has to do. So you’re gonna need a bit more than “government sucks” here, and unfortunately “police” is about as local government as you can get.

      You really can’t go any further down unless you go “Screw it” and either outsource it (privatized police sounds dandy!) or try some very fun “citizen’s police” thing that just sounds delightful, and since again — neither of those is on the table or going to be on the table anytime in the near, medium, or long-term future they’re non-starters as well.

      So what do you do when local government’s provision of basic and necessary — questionably only by a very fringe of society in terms of necessity — goes just off the rails?

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • “So what do you do”
        You explain to the chief why his tactics are effed up and if they continue that he and his officers could suffer unfortunate accidents performing said tactics.

        That’s what has worked in my neck of the woods.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I talked to the chief myself,

        They are not threats, just voicing probable outcomes when deploying less than optimum tactics.

        You speak like vigilante is a bad word or something, sometimes it is a better solution than what currently exists.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I talk like somehow who finds “volunteer individual action” a rather poor solution to a systemic problem.

        Mostly because, you know, I’ve met people. Read about crowd studies and how masses react.

        And, you know, interacted with authority figures enough to realize how 95% of them will react when Joe Random tries to tell them how to do their job.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • LWA,
      We’ve had enough conversations that I’d like to think you could actually think this through on your own. If you can’t, that’s on you.

      Morat,
      Who has called for eliminating the police? Not me. Not Balko. Not Randy Barnett. Not Cato, not Reason, not the Libertarian Party. Not Rand Paul, not Ron Paul, not Michael Badnarik, not John Huntsman. Not John Stossel, not Drew Carey, not Penn and Teller. Not Kolohe, not Roger, not Jason K., not David, not Brandon B.

      Maybe Damon, but I’m not sure.

      So, maybe as honest and reasoned conversationalist we could avoid the strawmen?

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • James,
        I’ve seen a few. Not here, as far as I can tell. I was trying to point out that “government sucks” is a pretty pointless statement, because police isn’t really an optional part of working government.

        I dunno where to go with this. Honestly, it just seems to keep getting worse.

        These idiots occupying their own town like they’ve conquered an enemy is just a really obvious example, but decades of “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” and increasing militarization has created a monster I’m not sure how you slay. Or even beat back until it’s tolerable.

        If they hadn’t gone full idiot here, it’d just be another cop killing another guy for no reason, swept under the rug. The fact that one dead kid is probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of abuse, corruption, and misuse of power for one town…….

        What do you do? How do we back away from the ledge? The standard slogans — left, right, liberal, conservative, Green, libertarian, anarchist, whatever — they’re kinda pointless.

        Personally, I think the only thing that’s even got a prayer at making a dent is simply wiring the cops for video and audio when on duty, because being on camera seems to be the only darn thing that holds them back these days. Make it a condition of conviction that full footage of every police encounter is taped — make sure they know every stop, every interaction, is recorded permanently and subject to FIOA — and make sure it’s a camera they can’t confiscate and destroy.

        Literally that’s all I’ve got. I don’t even know what you’d do with the abuse footage. Community review panels? Lawsuits?

        I dunno. Taping interrogations seems to have done a wonder for professionalism. Maybe taping beat cops will too.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • You realize what you quoted was me quoting LWA, right? So literally your response was to LWA, but addressed to me? Like you ascribed something to ME that was literally a quote I pulled from LWA.

        Seriously, I responded to LWA with “Yep, that’s a pretty useless solution” — which we all admit — and said nothing about how popular or unpopular a solution was, other than clarifying that no one here had said it at all.

        Then I went on at length about how I didn’t feel any of the normal political group’s stock responses had much to offer to the militarization of the police.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Having re-read both comments, especially your first one, I honestly don’t see that. You followed him up by appearing to imply my argument led toward a “no police” position, then responded to me by reiterating that “government sucks”–which was clearly LWA quoting and responding to me–isn’t useful. So, no, I don’t see much match with this most recent post.

        If this last post is what you really meant, I’ll take it on your word.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Yeah, I could have written it better. But I really meant “Yes, I agree, useless response” and I did mean “i’ve seen a few idiots use it, nobody here” followed by “Seriously, nobody’s stock party lines really apply here”.

        Maybe liberals from 40 years ago, when they hadn’t been beaten with decades of losing the PR battle on ‘tough on crime’. Old school Democrats, so to speak — the ones that wanted to rehabilitate addicts, not jail them and would have flipped their lid over handing off military equipment to small town police forces.

        They ain’t around, and neither are the sorts of old school Republican who would have felt the same way for different reasons.

        Only way to even mitigate this garbage that I can see getting through the current batch is requiring cameras. You might be able to sell one or both parties on that, if using different arguments, and there’s some good evidence that it tamps down on the corruption.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Then please accept my apologies.

        I’ve been watching police abuse videos all day to make a library of them for a class, and thinking about Ferguson, and I’m depressed and edgy.

        In all truth, every time LWA glorifies the collective and treats “society’s” collective values as the only legitimate set of values, these are the kind of issues I think about. Because it’s not evident to me that there aren’t more Americans who support the police when they kill black kids than when who don’t.

        Do you have any idea how many of those police videos show people disobeying police orders, or trying to resist being handcuffed? And I know if I show those a good number of students will latch onto that as justification for what follows. So those collective values LWA lauds? They include the value that the police can respond to uncooperative people by punching them, slamming their heads into the concrete, even shooting them. Do you know what led the police to arrest Eric Garner, resulting in his death from a chokehold? He was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

        And yet LWA wonders what good the claim that the weak suffer most from government power can do? Compared to the claim that if it’s a social value it’s justified, because, he has asked, how else can you justify values except through social consensus?

        And I don’t think that even yet he realizes the absolute evil that can be justified that way. He’s not remotely evil himself, but his own arguments are foundational justifications for a society that believes young black men deserve to be killed by the police. He’s not an unjust man, he’s simply that foolish man who inadvertently justifies injustice while being appalled by it.

        And in the context of an issue like this, and on a day like I’ve had, it’s all more than I can stomach

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I honestly don’t disagree with the diagnoses of government here.
        Its the prescription that I find lacking.

        As I mentioned, I don’t have criticisms of the libertarians wrt Ferguson; I just don’t see how any libertarian prescription could have prevented or fixed this.

        I’m not seeing any collective vs individual issues here, really.
        Is it a collective value that is being enforced by the cops? Or is the notion that the protestors have rights, is this a universally applicable value? One that we can all agree to? Or just some guy’s opinion?

        It seems strikingly clear that the near-universal revulsion to the cops’ tactics [fer Chrissake, even RedState has condemned it!] demonstrates a collective value, widely shared, about human dignity and moral worth; that no one should be treat this way.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • WI just passed a law requiring that every investigation into the killing of a citizen by an officer be conducted by an outside agency. I’m not sure how that will work in practice, but it’s a hopeful step.

        Politico had something on it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I wasn’t aware of that, thanks for the info. I’m gonna have to look into that. I was actually mulling a post with the argument that outside investigation needs to be a primary policy aim in dealing with uses of deadly force by police nationwide. The whos hows and whens are tough to work, out though, since the/a primary value of police departments is precisely to be able to conduct credible investigations into potential lawbreaking. It’s not clear that organizations other than police or at least LEAs capable of doing credible investigations abound in many areas of the country. And I’m not sure that keeping it in official law enforcement but always kicking these investigations up one level will work given the numbers of them. (It might.) And then what triggers outside investigation? Any use of life-threatening force by officers? Any use of deadly force where it turns out officers weren’t facing weapons? Something in between?

        Regardless, the status quo is one in which credible investigations are acutely lacking in many cases, so some comprehensive reform seems in order.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Here’s a link on the law MRS mentions: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/23463-wisconsin-passes-first-state-law-requiring-independent-investigations-of-police-custody-deaths

        A couple of things to note. The main force behind the law was the father of a young man who was shot and killed in Kenosha in 2004 in front of his mother and sister. Another advocate was the family of a young Madison musicial who was shot and killed when he drunkenly tried to return home to the wrong address two blocks down from where I lived for my last three years in Madison before coming up to the Twin Cites. A third family in this group of advocates was of a man who died of aesphyxiation in the back f a squad car in Milwaukee. I don;t know about the last victim, but what two of these three have in common is that they are members of the privileged white community in Wisconsin. It’s great that Wisconsin has a forward-thinking law like this on the books, but it’s clear that what moves the needle politically and what doesn’t isn’t different in our state from many other places.

        Another thing to note is that no LEA in state had apparently ever deemed a killing that it committed against a citizen not “justifiable.” Ever, in the 129-year history of there being police forces in Wisconsin. Another reason to be too proud of this law. It was clearly needed. What I wonder is how much of an outlier this makes Wisconsin? I’m guessing the numbers are small everywhere. But is there any other state where police forces (or other agencies reviewing them) have never found a police killing to be unjustifiable?

        Lastly, the above mitigating factors notwitstanding (though thy do indeed mitigate this feeling considerably), and despite apparently needing to be arm-twisted into signing the bill rather than being eager to do so, Scott Walker signing this thing actually does move the tolerability needle on him for me a perceptible anount. I can’t say I know of any other action of his governorship so far that I can say that about. So: (limited, qualified) good on you for signing this, Governor. It’s a law we needed in place, and its existence deserves to be more publicized in the wake of the events in Missouri. (So again thanks to for bringing it to our attention.)

          Quote  Link

        Report

  21. If cops want to be militarized, perhaps they should be governed by a set of laws that are harsher and have a lot less leeway on their range of behaviors. Something akin to the UCMJ, but applied to all police departments and designed from a deescalation first standpoint.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I think an argument can be made “that no equipment shall be provided to, acquired by, or deployed by civilian law enforcement personnel that is not legally accessible by the general public” is a good place to start.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • A bill has just been introduced to cut back on giving Mil gear cops. Here:
        http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/hank-johnson-stop-militarizing-law-enforcement-act

        I’m not sure saying the cops can only have what civs can have will do much given what civs can have in this country. That pretty only takes away full auto weapons, although with the right permit people can have those. Really i can’t see what that would remove…tear gas maybe.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Tear gas, flash bang grenades, helmets, body armor, encrypted radios, tanks. Just about everywhere.

        I can see great reasons to get rid of 1 & 2. If you’ve got big enough social unrest that you need tear gas, call the National Guard out.

        3 & 4 would probably result in the decriminalization of body armor, which I think is a great idea for all sorts of reasons.

        I can see great reasons for transparency to get rid of 5.

        6 is just crazy and was never needed since about 1994; if getting into crack houses is still a problem, call the DEA.

        Anywhere where there are gun laws prohibiting civilians from owning X, Y, Z, now cops can’t own that either (which, in CA, would immediately result in all of the existing assault weapons coming right off the line, since everything the cops use is military surplus and all of the military surplus is currently covered by CA’s assault weapons ban).

        The major reason to do this, though, is that it would make cops stop and think about what sorts of equipment they procure.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I’m fine with encrypted radios, the cops should, though, have to have complete copies of everything they say kept on file forever. Helmets…meh…what you want to say a cop couldn’t even where a football helmet. Helmets made sense. Is body armor illegal? Armored cars should be rare at most and only in big cities. But then again is it illegal for a civilians to build their own armored car. No.

        But the point is people can own giant arsenals of all sorts of infantry weapons up to fully auto heavy machine guns ( with the correct permit). I don’t’ like the over use of flash bangs but i’m a bit more concenred about seeing some dipshit cop on top of an armored car pointing a machine gun at a crowd.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I’m fine with encrypted radios, the cops should, though, have to have complete copies of everything they say kept on file forever.

        There are two drawbacks to encrypted radios. The first is that civilians cannot, in real-time, under normal operations, monitor police activity in their area. This is a big deal for a lot of folks, it’s not trivial.

        The second is that encrypted radios are a huge barrier to working under abnormal operations. In very large scale disasters, we’ve seen organizational interoperation capabilities go *down* since 9/11 since every first responder organization since 9/11 has picked up encrypted radios and they don’t work with each other, and the encrypted radios don’t work with civilian emergency responders, who rely on HAM radio.

        The flip side to this is that bad guys can’t listen in on normal radio chatter any more, either. But I have yet to have anyone give a convincing argument that this was a pervasive problem, ever.

        The middle ground would be radios that defaulted to working without encryption but could be toggled in the event of an event requiring it (but of course, they wouldn’t be used that way).

        Helmets…meh…what you want to say a cop couldn’t even where a football helmet. Helmets made sense. Is body armor illegal?

        It used to be in CA. Apparently it isn’t any longer, huh.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • A state trooper who used to work on my floor told me about the fancy new radios they got after 911. Technically he could talk to any other trooper any place in AK. Well that is if he knew how to work the gizmo and it worked properly. He was a handy guy but i’m not sure he could program his vcr. I can see how they could f up things though. I think there are situations; hostage crises, Bundy ranch, armed suspects on the loose, where cop radios should be encrypted. I’ve also heard from peopel who had scanners that a majority of cop talk is running license plates which is even less exciting then it sounds.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • greg,
        we had an armed shooter in a mental hospital. You had 5+ police departments converging. I can tell you that man wasn’t listening on the radio!

        Yes, there should be proper procedure (the prankster calling in bomb threats may very well be listening…). But make some guidelines!

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • re: recording of radios, body cameras

        In order to do this right & avoid the problem of “equipment failure” after the fact, the recorded data would need to be stored off-site & there should ideally be two such stores, held by different entities, so even if the police did manage to convince both entities to lose some recording, the metadata would show a profound mismatch & would be evidence of police tampering.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I know that technically, doing this is easy, the technology is already in place & relatively mature.

        Politically, I doubt PDs will be open to allowing such evidence to not be in their direct control. I think it will involve communities telling the police to suck it up & deal with the new realities.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  22. Also, between the initial shooting, the initial reaction to a crowd forming around the shooting, the initial treatment of a peaceful vigil as a hostile crowd, and subsequent treatment of protesters for days now, it looks to me like the Ferguson, St. Louis County, and other departments there have completely forgotten what their job is and whom it is they serve. Which is pretty much the problem with police in this country more generally, particularly police in black and Hispanic communities.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • The question of the responsiveness of political and thus state-power structures to demographic and cultural change in our society is I think at once the most important and fundamental problem underlying this particular episode, as well as one of the biggest long-term problem our country will face this century. Really a signal micromanifestation of a key macro social trend to an extent we don’t often see in such a direct way. The governing political structure in Ferguson is clearly a holdover that has completely stopped representing its constituency. Why did demographic and social change not produce political change more quickly in Ferguson? Why might it do so more quickly elsewhere? Really key questions. If you want good, peace-oriented community policing, you’re only going to get if the political structures are in place to establish police forces committed to learning how, and constituting themselves so they are able, to do that. Political structures are much more likely to be that way if, in general, local politics are more, rather than less responsive in a place like Ferguson. (OTOH, in places with demographic and social compositions not like Ferguson, responsiveness may actually not promote such approaches – it may have to be done against the wishes of significant parts of the population. It’s tricky. But in Ferguson, responsiveness should have promoted better policing.)

        Quote  Link

      Report

  23. Why didn’t I write about this?

    1. A lot of stuff seemed to be happening really fast and I was afraid of getting caught with a major fact wrong. Only no, it still looks like “The cops shot a guy who was in a posture of surrender and responded to people protesting about it by implementing martial law” is pretty much right.

    2. When I did look at what seemed to be reported made me feel ashamed to be white, ashamed to be American. Ashamed that the thing that re-grabbed my attention was when the reporters got hassled and arrested, not just the regular citizens protesting. The more time passes and the more I see, the more I realize that yeah, that was the right reaction. The whole ongoing saga is shameful.

    3. I just don’t want to believe that there’s a real-life, good-guys-versus-bad-guys thing going on and the police are the bad guys. But guess what.

    4. At some point, someone with a cool head has to step in, right? But guess what.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • At the end of the day, the American people will mark this as a high tide in police insanity. Police will mark this as a dark day, when some fools made everyone’s job harder.
      And things will be fixed. Not completely, not totally, and with this Congress it will take a while… But change is gonna come. People are not going to just sit back and say “That happened.”
      Because that’s not the American way. We demand stuff from our government — and one of the things is that it gets better about doing its job. We don’t let the government kill innocent old ladies anymore. This too will get better.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Yeah I admit to a healthy dose of liberal guilt here with all the contradictions inherent in that. The chances that the police are going to lock down my entire city are damn low. On the one hand, I like that for myself. On the other hand, isn’t it bullshit that anyone should have to have that be a possibility?

        And why does race matter? Because it’s pretty coincident with the escalating possibility of police going over the line.

        As for “all the facts,” we will never have all of them. How much information is enough?

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Burt,
        they did lock pittsburgh down (and I know a guy who nearly got shot during that — yes, he was an idiot, but he needed to get that damn check deposited on time. Surprising on-edge cops rarely goes well)

          Quote  Link

        Report

  24. I think you people might have missed some local news.
    First of all, the Klan is still very active in STLCO (the City of St. Louis lies within no county; the county surrounds the city like a crescent). See the Rosa Parks Highway for a pretty cool story about it.

    I forget if it was this summer or the last, but a STLCO police lieutenant was disciplined for directing the officers under his supervision to target blacks.

    Yes, race is a *HUGE* issue in this.
    The STLCO gov’t is fairly corrupt, and I could give some good, concrete examples; but I refrain.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  25. How would we go about saying “we have come to the conclusion that we have too many police, we have come to the conclusion that crime is low enough that having this many cops on the payroll is doing more harm than good”?

    How would we go about defunding the cops? I’m not saying tie settlements to the budget like Kazzy (excellent suggestion, Kazzy, but I’d tie the settlements to the pension fund) but to say “okay, the police force we have in 2014 is more appropriate for 2004. We are getting rid of 20% of the police as we can always hire new ones if it comes to that.”

    Downsizing/Rightsizing is the term for when this happens in corporate.

    I mean, I’d suggest putting the police on trial for murder one with aggravating conditions that the murder one was done under color of law if I thought that that’d not result in the same outcome as, say, the Rodney King trial.

    How do we, as a society, rectify the whole thing that we’ve got too many police going after too many non-criminals for non-crimes?

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • How do we determine if there’s a supply/demand problem with cops, anyways? What’s the current cop/citizen ratio, and how does it compare to the past? And if it appears there’s too many, how much of that is the broken windows concept? (Which doesn’t really appear to do anything but harass a lot of minorities).

      Heck, downsizing right now might make the problem worse — fewer cops covering the same number of people leads to cops cutting more corners.

      I think the problem is more one of attitude: We’re gearing them — and in many cases TRAINING them — to occupy their towns, not police them. Warrior cops, as Balko put it.

      That’s not even getting into the drug war side. Cops wear a lot of hats — first responder, arrests and investigations, traffic patrol and handling, etc. One of the common screwups in business is to slash headcount across departments, instead of just where it’s necessary. If police have too many bodies on drug busts and not enough on traffic duty, cutting headcount 20% across the board will probably hurt more than it helps. And I’ve seen municipalities do stuff exactly that stupid when it comes to local budgets. ‘Slash staffing by 10% across all departments” rather than “Slash headcount by 10% overall”.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • I’d sure as hell say we need more training for cops and some of that training might even be done by other cops. Also maybe having a larger internal affairs depts at least at state level to investigate local depts might be good. In some cases going back to two cops in car might even be smart: one cop, by reg, with a camera watching the other and providing back up.

        There are likely many and various parts that do into fixing what is wrong with cops today. Cutting down the WOD and less mil gear is definitely part of it. But it might be wise to think through all the other things we could do also

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Well, actually , our response is probably, “let’s have 30% less cops in the lily white suburb where the worst violent crime is the occasional burglary and get 30% more cops, who are hopefully younger, better trained, and not all white to the actual problems areas in the community.”

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Do you have any idea what it is like to be expected to always make life and death decision instantaneously and perfectly and then second guessed by a liberal who already dislikes police?

        Yes, actually.

        Frankly, I don’t give a shit. That’s the job. You carry a badge, and more importantly you carry a gun. You have the ability to end someone’s life, and you have reasonable grounds to assume that it’s pretty likely that if you do it unjustly you’ll skate, because the system invests you with an enormous amount of power and authority and a pretty scant amount of real oversight.

        That’s on you. It’s all on you. It’s a terrible job. I don’t want it (I for one used to think I could be a pretty righteous cop and then I came across a story where I said, “Hiyup, I’m pretty sure I’d summarily execute that guy, and I wouldn’t feel bad about it at all… man, I’d make a terrible cop”

        If you swear the oath and carry the badge and carry the gun, you better goddamn well be aware of what you’re getting yourself into.

        If you can’t deal with it, lobby to turn the standard police force into bobbies. Take a desk job. Work in forensics. I don’t care.

        But don’t walk around packing a gun and make bad decisions. People get dead that way.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • I mean, I’d suggest putting the police on trial for murder one with aggravating conditions that the murder one was done under color of law if I thought that that’d not result in the same outcome as, say, the Rodney King trial.

      You know, LAPD is still no band of angels (probably too big for that), but there were lots of positive consequences of Rodney King.

      Putting the police on trial, even if they wind up not going to jail, is still a costly and scary as hell prospect for the police getting put on trial. Probably would actually have a constructive deterrent effect.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • One thing that sticks out to me is the big resistance to body cameras for police. Look, say I’m a good cop, trying to do a good job. I’d WANT a freaking camera, every minute on the job, so that anyone who tries to claim I was overstepping my authority or misusing force or planting evidence can be quickly dismissed as a liar.

        If anyone should be under constant surveillance, it’s the guy with a badge, a gun, and the right to arrest you. Anything worth looking at the tape over is gonna be something involving a citizen. An arrest, an altercation, a confrontation, a horrible tragedy, whatever….

        Whatever my camera logged, was pretty much by default not a ‘private event’. i was in public, working for the state, on the job and it’s gonna involve a citizen. I don’t think ‘Privacy concerns’ really apply.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • While I agree with you, Morat (in terms of “I would want a camera”) it’s definitely true that most folks don’t want to be under surveillance during their normal working hours, so some portion of the reluctance to agree to wearing cameras can easily come from that.

        There’s also misrepresentation. Read the post on restraining 17 year olds and keep in mind that a good amount of what cops do *legitimately* probably looks scary/dangerous/etc as hell to the average uninformed civilian… and those average uninformed citizens make up a decent chunk of your average jury.

        So I get those two pushbacks. I (personally) don’t think it outweighs the defense that you’d gain from having a camera, but then I’m not a cop.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Patrick,
        that’s why you have expert witnesses. “This was a by the book takedown.”
        i mean, even when the officer was WRONG, you can have 5 officers testify that “yep, that looked like a gun-grab.” (and show photographic evidence that helps to prove it). So you can talk through “I shot an unarmed man. Oh, my god. I thought he was armed.”

          Quote  Link

        Report

  26. There needs to be an absolute ton of suites against the police department and individual police and a ton of awards. The community probably needs to stagger a bit from the weight of them. That’d snap things around. Also some politicians and LEO bureaucrats, preferably a lot of them, need to lose their jobs over this. That’d pucker some government sphincters and make the powers that be start taking civil rights seriously.

    And also cops in general need to have cameras on them while they’re on duty. Funding it federally if necessary would be worth every penny.

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • You know, I walked out of the Staples Center on the night the Lakers won their first championship with Shaq.

        I walked right through “the looting and the burning” that happened after that championship and got in my car and drove home. At no point did I fear violence done upon me. At no point did I see any significant number of folks doing anything that I hadn’t seen on Isla Vista at Halloween when I was in college or on the Strip in Vegas *every New Year* in the last twenty years.

        I have also seen “looting and burning” where the “burning” part was kinda significant, having a nice eagle eye view of Los Angeles after Rodney King.

        I have seen enough of what riots look like worldwide to know when a riot is really something that endangers general health and welfare. So have you. Look at pictures of Egypt or Palestine or the Watts Riots.

        The “riots and looting and burning” we have in most cases breathlessly reported on by our news media are “random guys taking advantage of a bunch of people drawing cops’ collective attention to engage in the random property crime that they’d engage in at some point this year anyway”. They’re not “Jesus, the cops need to go to DefCon 1 or a hospital is going to go down like in Mad Max”.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Well Notme, if the kid does turn out to have been shot unarmed then wrongful death. Then a ton of lawsuits over the way they’ve been dealing with the protests. Then a huge one about how they’ve been treating the reporters and people with cameras in flagrant and direct violation of the law. Pile those civil judgements up on the police. If the community is down with that they’re doing then they should be happy to raise taxes to pay for it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  27. Ethan:

    Why not start with the fact that right now the facts are still quite unclear. As typically happens here these threads degenerate into liberal group think speculations about those bad, racist, militarized cops.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • It may be unclear what happened to spark this fire, but the results are not unclear, .

      In the name of controlling protests, police have tear-gassed people in their own yards; they’ve arrested reporters, shot people with rubber bullets. That’s not unclear.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Zic:

        You are right. Some folks used the tragedy to loot, burn and vandalize. The police in an attempt to restore order had to use those measures. If you were a business owner I doubt you would whine about the measures.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • As typically happens here these threads degenerate into liberal group think speculations about those bad, racist, militarized cops.

      I don’t think Jaybird, James, or Mark qualify as “liberals”.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  28. Does anyone want to try to sketch out the argument that we’re not best described as really dealing with two distinct problems here – those most directly raised by the incident involving Michael Brown, where the problem is poor police-community relations, either bad patrol tactics or murderous intent on the part of a single police officer armed the way police officers have always been armed, and institutional racism in the criminal justice system, and then separately the militarization of police, which is raised by the response to protest in Ferguson? I’m open to the argument, but to me it really looks like concern over the militarized police response is drowning out concern over issues implicated in the Brown incident.

    This isn’t necessarilly wrong in any way. The issues raised by the response are urgent and comeplling given.. the reality of the police response. Also, I certainly understand the ways in which the militarization of the police intensifies all of the problems directly related to the Brown incident. But those issues are issues apart from and prior to the militarization of the police.

    So to focus on the militarization to me looks like it leaves those more basic issues largely unaddressed, at least presently in the dominant conversation about this week’s events. I just wonder whether trying to separate them out is a good forst step to trying to make sure that the issues specifically related to the incident are eventually given their proper consideration in the major mainstream conversation about all this.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • As I said above, the police killing unarmed black men with impunity precedes the militarization of police by many decades, centuries even. The militarization of the police is the problem in the aftermath: the police were in riot gear with armored vehicles within a couple hours of the shooting, and after they broke up a peaceful vigil a spasm of anger resulted in brief looting on one night (@notme), they decided to treat all of the subsequent gatherings, which were all peaceful, as unruly mobs. So they showed up and pointed guns at peaceful protesters, fired rubber bullets, fired tear gas, arrested journalists and politicians, and trained snipers on peaceful protesters (God fucking damn it!).

      But the underlying problem, what got us here, is the police killing a black teenager, right after killing an unarmed black man in a Walmart, less than a month after choking an unarmed black man to death on the streets of New York, and just before killing an unarmed black man lying on the ground on the street of L.A. Four in one month, and it’s not like these cases are unique. This is a pattern, and if the militarization of police has anything to do with it, it’s in exacerbating the problem, not creating it. As the War on Drugs does. As segregation does. As tactics like stop and frisk and broken window policing do. As decades of continually reinforced ill-will and mistrust do.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Pretty much my thought as well.

        Overweening power on the part of government leads to abuses, but Bull Connor didn’t need an MRAP to enforce racism.

        What we have here is a large segment of society that wants to inflict injustice on another part- and they will use government power such as police brutality) when it is handy, or they will use free association (such as boycotts and denial of service) when it isn’t.
        They will use religion if they can, or enlightenment, or market forces, or whatever socio-political tool they can get their hands on.

        So changing the economic structure can’t alter the basic dynamics.

        Racism- the viewing of others as lacking in humanity, is the problem.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • LWA,

        Racism- the viewing of others as lacking in humanity, is the problem.

        I don’t think that’s right bro. This isn’t about racism *alone*, it’s about racism coupled with cops. You know, those guys sworn to serve and protect and all that f***cking bull***t? Well, maybe it’s not bullshit afterall, if they actually think they’re serving and protecting something distinct from the law worth … you know …. serving and protecting. Racism runs deep, no doubt. Not only first order reasons (skin color) but for second order reasons as well: some people like to see other’s suffer quite a lot in order to justify their own privileged place and take advantage of general ill will. We live in a society comprised of emotional idiots. So it seems to me, anyway.

        So I don’t think racism is the only problem Chris is addressing in his comment. It’s that a limitless power (wielded by less than society’s most intelligent!!) coupled with internal but also externally accepted racism leads to a bunch of bad outcomes. All the things Chris outlined in his post.

        Atleast, that’s my view on it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • It’s that a limitless power (wielded by less than society’s most intelligent!!) coupled with internal but also externally accepted racism leads to a bunch of bad outcomes.

        Coupled with those of us who are not affected basically not caring.

        I wrote a long comment about living in a poor and working class, minority-majority neighborhood, and what I saw the police do on a daily basis, but I deleted it because I got too pissed off. And part of what pisses me off is that I sat and watched it for 12 years and said and did nothing. It’s my fault that it continues. It’s our fault that it continues. The people who are affected are the most powerless, least enfranchised (give a man felony, and you don’t have to worry about him voting to make things better for himself and his neighborhood!) people in our communities. Those of us who, if we all spoke up, could do something about it, never do.

        I’d like to believe that the attention Ferguson is getting, the nationwide protests today (I attended the one here in Austin), the fact that 3 unarmed black man in the span of a week were killed by the police, the fact that police reacted in Ferguson like any protest directed at them was a declaration of war, will cause us all, myself included, to finally speak up, and to continue to speak up until we get change, but I’ve been around too long to believe that.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I was going to voice agreement with most of that comment if I’m think of the right one but I had the laptop with the broken keyboard & when I got home I was reading through the thread again and was motivated to write up my thoughts in my own words.

        So, yeah. Same page.

          Quote  Link

        Report