Police Abuse

An (Alas) Modest Proposal for Rethinking Typical Police Practice When it Comes to Killing Suspects on the Street

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Inspired by recent stories blogged here at Reason from Bakersfield, Florida, New York, and Irvine Fullerton, California, (and those are just the four at the top of my mind) in which police attempts to apprehend people apparently guilty of only very minor crimes that don't involve any known harm to person or property wind up with the suspect's death.

Police downtown
Photo credit: Toban B. / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Perhaps police should consider that if a suspect's only reasonable suspected crime is something very minor, not involving harm to people or property (until compounded by their behaving in a manner police don't like to see when approached or apprehended by police), as long as that behavior serves indicates no reasonable suspicion of intent or ability to harm in a serious fashion police or citizens (as long as the police are no longer actively engaging the citizen), then if the choice comes between standing down or imposing an instant death sentence, standing down might be the regrettable but in this instant least-bad option.

Most likely, the reason why the suspect is (fecklessly) resisting what you, the officers, are doing to him is not because he's guilty of mass murder or terror or a string of bank robberies for which they can't risk being apprehended.

Most likely, they are acting out of fear, panic, pride, and the innate human will to self-defense. That is, all the same motives that are leading you to beat them to death or hit them with a deadly weapon, that is, your car.

The modest suggestion is that perhaps letting a possible drunk or homeless nuisance or traffic scofflaw escape instant ticketing/arrest via standing back from them and seeing how they react for a moment is a, perhaps regrettable, better outcome than the death of a human being.

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  1. good luck with the union on that.

    1. ooohhh first… TAKE THAT!!!

      1. And without links to the Daily Mail.

  2. The modest suggestion is that perhaps letting a possible drunk or homeless nuisance or traffic scofflaw escape instant ticketing/arrest via standing back from them and seeing how they react for a moment is a, perhaps regrettable, better outcome than the death of a human being.

    Human being? That was a criminal, not a human being.

    1. Been reading sloopy’s links to Police One again, eh?

  3. That’s, er, quite a first sentence/paragraph.

    1. Clearly a parody. Allow a miscreant to escape justice? Preposterous.

    2. I think you’re supposed to read the first sentagraph as proceeding seamlessly from the title. The second sentagraph, otoh, is a Joycean descent into free-associative madness.

    3. The second one is nearly as incomprehensible. I think I got the gist of it, but it has a Fog Scale Level: 44.72. I don’t think I’ve been alive long enough to have sufficient formal education to fully understand that paragraph on one reading.

    4. I think it got edited out of coherence.

      1. It’s not that incomprehensible if you replace “serves” with a more appropriate verb like “indicates.” I mean it’s still too long and unnecessarily complex, but it is pretty “right” with that amendment.

        I assumed rather than imitating Joyce it was supposed to recall the similarly long and unnecessarily complex sentences of 18th century English prose.

          1. It seemed too obvious to say.

            1. I think you’re way overestimating your audience.

              Also you’ll notice that Sullum took your suggestion in spite of the fact that you failed to acknowledge my awesome portmanteau.

              1. Well, I was also assuming that you were like 90% of my audience. You can be sure I will be stealing sentagraph in many of my future endeavors, if that helps.

  4. The punishment is for trying to escape. You can commit any crime in the world and if you are compliant when the police arrest you they won’t beat you etc. – but try to run, disobey, or otherwise not cooperate and you’ve committed a much more grievous crime in their eyes, one for which the only punishment is death if the noncompliance continues.

    1. Not in New Orleans. I got the end of a night stick to the solar plexus for saying “Sure, why not?” when I handed him my license. I was walking, BTW, he siad he wanted to see my ID, and never would tell me why.

      I went down to the precinct after that to talk to them about what happened and was told by two younger patrolmen that I didn’t want to do that. The looks on their faces told the story: They were trying to look out for me.

  5. I am a rather ordinary guy. A couple of different years and a couple of different places, I had authorization to slay mine enemies, the second I had positive ID of them/an aggressive act.
    How is it I managed not to level any villages, make any pyramids of human skulls, beat anyone to death, shoot at anyone not actively trying to kill me and mine? Brian (“if the choice comes between standing down or imposing an instant death sentence”)already has the winning formula – take a moment.

    That’s it. Just a moment.

    If I killed someone for a “furtive movement” or a “suspicious gesture” – I would have/could have/should have been subject to court-martial. I also could not have lived with myself.

    How can the police in these stories live with themselves? Sociopathy? Drink and try to forget?

    1. Sociopathy.

    2. They don’t merely enforce the law. They are the law. The police are the lone bulwark against chaos, bedlam, slavery, and cannibalism. Anything and everything they do is justified by the worst of possible alternatives.

      1. They don’t merely enforce the law. They are the law. The police are the lone bulwark against enforcers of chaos, bedlam, slavery, and cannibalism. Anything and everything they do is justified by the worst of possible alternatives naked force.

        FIFY.

    3. You passed up the chance to make a pyramid of skulls??? Fuck, man. I used to think you were cool.

      1. But that is so passe in the Middle East – I mean, all I would be doing is imitating Tamerlane from centuries earlier. You don’t realize how fashionable killing has to be over there!

    4. Live with themselves? It’s why they got the job in the first place. Seriously. Get a bunch of cops together and add some alcohol. Before you know it one will be bragging about killing people or one will be complaining about never having the opportunity. It’s why they seek out the job.

      1. sarcasmic is correct. Just let some cops get relaxed, let their guard down, and they’ll go into cop mode. That’s when the bragging about beating the shit out of some guy who resisted comes out. Even seemingly nice cops will go into this mode, and that look comes over their face, and then it’s time to leave because it’s creepy and disgusting as fuck.

        1. When I dropped off the stepkid yesterday his dad was outside talking to his girlfriend and he had that look. Kid has to walk around on eggshells sometimes because his dad will do pro-wrestling moves on his eleven year old ass if he steps out of line. Who’s he going to call, the cops?

        2. “Anyone who runs, is a criminal. Anyone who stands still, is a well-disciplined criminal! You guys oughta do a story about me sometime!”

      2. How can there be so many like that?

        I had every reason (drink!) to employ deadly force on the JAM, HiG and IRGs that were doing there best to blow me up, and I still damn near cry whenever I hear the pastor read something about loving your enemies.

        I fear eventual, inevitable judgment – I guess none of these folks do.

        1. I fear eventual, inevitable judgment – I guess none of these folks do.

          An invincible union, and gold plated bullet proof pension….these fuckers are sure there won’t be an afterlife as they will live forefuckingever.

        2. I fear eventual, inevitable judgment – I guess none of these folks do

          Some don’t, and some glory in it. I don’t know if you have, but I did meet some war criminals in the USA. Two I know of. They executed some captured IRGs with the exhaust from a coil of M1s during GV v. 1. (Obviously more than two actually involved.) I never got all the details, but with one of the guys it wasn’t a shock, but with the other you never would have guessed that he could be sitting in a bar laughing about how they roasted those poor bastards. Power corrupting, and all that.

          1. I know one guy who would have, if he could have – fortunately we all kept an eye on him, and nothing happened.

            Maybe because I was National Guard, none of us was in it to KILL, KILL, KILL! In AF, we just helped farmers, fixed stuff, built stuff – tried not to get blowed up real good and went home. In Iraq, I was in a much more straight military situation (advising an Iraqi unit)… I do know what you mean about power corrupting – but the seed already has to be there to bloom into its poisonous fruit.

            1. You mentioned JAM…where were you over there, if you don’t mind me asking? Spent the surge in Rusafa, the buffer betwixt Sadr City and Baghdad.

              1. Ugh – Rusafa sucked, sorry to hear that.

                I was there for the last half of the surge. I started down south – near Basrah with a handful of Brits (Scots Borderers, then the Scots Dragoon Guards) and the IA 14th DIV. Spent the last few months in Baghdad, but it was much quieter then.

                1. If you happen to see this again…

                  We were in the Mada’in Qada first (Narwhan, Al Ja’ara, Salman Pak etc. etc.), and got moved to Rusafa when the surge started.

                  And yeah, it sucked. I’m not sure what the “nice” part of Iraqis, though.

        3. Some say power corrupts. I believe that the corrupt are attracted to power.

          1. Chicken, meet Egg. Egg, Chicken. I think you two will get along.

          2. This is the more correct assumption/position.

    5. It’s the Warrior Cop mentality at work. Their targets are “civilians.” They live every day in the midst of an insurgency they can never stop and it fucks some of them up beyond salvage. I’m sure the Gestapo had plenty of “fine, upstanding gentlemen” in it’s ranks. It’s the ethos that makes all the difference.

    6. I think you may be on to something with the whole court martial thing. As much as I hate the idea of militarizing the po-po, having some sort of solid justice system like they do in the military would be better than what we have now (cursory “investigation” by the cops’ own colleagues and protection at all costs buy the union).

      1. Nahh…you would just ruin the military.

        The only difference between cops and criminals is the costume.

        1. Don’t integrate the military with the police, just model a potential police justice system on the military justice system. As it stands, there is zero consequence for most police misconduct, because of the massive conflicts of interest with internal affairs and the unions.

          1. It is the unions and the contracts – no other group has a contractual out from criminal liability, as far as I can tell off the top of my head.

    7. Sociopathy, low IQ, and a peer culture that tells them that their own safety is more important than that of the people they’re sworn to protect.

      -jcr

  6. I dunno, seems awfully wordy and complex for a problem that isn’t exactly intractable.

    Is the suspect armed?

    No.

    Then don’t kill him.

    1. Where’s the fun in that, Paul? Do you think they took this job to show restraint?

      1. Anyway, he was “armed” by his lack of respect.

        1. Weaponized Contempt for Authority

    2. How do you know if he’s armed? The police just want to go home after their daily tours of duty. They have to assume the worst, for their own safety.

      1. NEM I’m going to assume that if an individual being beaten in the head with nightsticks possessed a weapon he would produce it. Also, soldiers do tours of duty, cops work shifts. Assuming the worst is a great way to help it happen.

        1. Anyone want to chip in for a new sarcamometer here?

      2. NEM I’m going to assume that if an individual being beaten in the head with nightsticks possessed a weapon he would produce it. Also, soldiers do tours of duty, cops work shifts. Assuming the worst is a great way to help it happen.

        1. Pssst, Naz…. he is being sarcastic.

          1. Damn, sarcasm, how does it work again? 🙂

            1. It only gets harder to tell because cops push the boundary for bullshit rationalizations so far. Those are more or less quotes from cops at Police One.

              1. Including the “tour of duty” bit.

                1. SRSLY? Fuck those thugs.

                2. Including the “tour of duty” bit.

                  OMFG is that offensive as hell.

                  1. That is the mindset when you think you are “at war”. Disturbing as hell.

      3. No, they don’t. Their jobs just aren’t that dangerous. Furthermore, a lot of the danger could be eliminated if society would stop chasing will-o-wisps like “the War On Drugs”.

        Now, they DO assume the worst, and that is a real problem. But they don’t have to, and shouldn’t.

  7. As far as rants go, this post is a tamer one than the subject deserves.

    1. That, to me, makes it all the more effective.

      I can put myself in the spot where “just wait a moment” can mean nobody dies. It isn’t a terrible onerous task – could even be understood by a whole room full of cops at their in-service or daily roll – “unless someone is armed and actually attacking/threatening – wait a moment, OK?”

  8. the innate human will to self-defense.

    No shit. Old and feeble as I have become, there is about a one in ten million shot I could consciously prevent myself from at least attempting to deflect somebody who made a grab for me, no matter what uniform he wears.

  9. “It’s not about the law. Nobody gives a shit about that. This job is about making people to do as they are told. Making them obey.”

    /Cop friend of mine some years back ( no longer a friend )

  10. OT: Drunk man charges elephant. Elephant runs away.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..-park.html

    1. He should try that with a hippo.

  11. This- proportional response- is what is so goddammed infuriating about the murder (which is how I will refer to it, to my dying day) of David Turner. That entire interaction should have lasted ten fucking seconds, max.

    “Did you buy beer for those guys?”

    “Nope.”

    “Okay. On your way, then.”

    Instead, it turned into a baboon dominance ritual, and when he finally got fed up with the pair of preening thugs and tried to leave, it all turned to shit. Because those pigs couldn’t abide the thought of him being the one to decide when it was over.

  12. BTW, it’s Asshole Cop Week here in DC! Hooray for violent drunks on a power trip!

    1. Take pictures. I want to know how fat the fattest one you see is.

      1. I’ll see if I encounter any of ’em. My work neighborhood is the most boring in all of DC (and that’s saying something), so i don’t expect any more cops than usual (which is none – the only DC cops I have ever seen here are the ones escorting VIPs). I may see some in Old Town Alexandria, though.

      2. Taking pictures of the cops when they’re drunk and fat is illegal.

        1. Good point. Better wear a helmet, Kristen. Some of those fat retard cops are surprisingly strong.

          1. Everyone knows that the real reason you don’t fight a retard is because they have retard strength.

            1. “Hi. This is Wilford Brimley. Welcome to Retardation: A Celebration. Now, hopefully with this book, I’m gonna dispel a few myths, a few rumors. First off, the retarded don’t rule the night. They don’t rule it. Nobody does. And they don’t run in packs. And while they may not be as strong as apes, don’t lock eyes with ’em, don’t do it. Puts ’em on edge. They might go into berzerker mode; come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming ‘No, no, no’ and all they hear is ‘Who wants cake?’ Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.”

  13. It’s not about public safety, it’s about “OBEY, INSECT!” Realizing this, any suggestion of standing down is a non-starter.

  14. Reminds me of when I was listening to Neal Boortz a while back, and he talked of meeting the king of Norway. Well, he meets him, and then walks away. A moment later an official comes to him and tells him that a conversation with the king only ends when the king dismisses him. So he went back to the king, apologized, and chatted for a while before being dismissed.

    Anyway, cops are kings of their own little fiefdoms, and don’t you dare end a conversation with one without being dismissed because, unlike the king of Norway, they’ll beat you to a bloody pulp at the slightest failure to show respect.

    1. The patrolling guy on his beat is the one true dictatorship in America. No one, but no one tells us how to waste time on our shift.

    2. “Fuck off, majesty!”

  15. Sort of OT: Mrs. Mad Scientist rented End Of Watch last night because she has a crush on Jake Gyllenhaal. I watched it with her and spent the entire movie trying to figure out who the good guys were. I suspect it may have been the cops, even though they are shown conducting searches without warrants, trespassing, physically assaulting suspects, regularly breaking traffic laws, and generally behaving like pricks. I can’t decide if this was a “Ra! Ra! Cops are great!” movie or a cynical “even the good guys suck” movie.

    1. Pretty sure it’s the unfortunate “Ra! Ra! Cops are great!” People like to see cops beating the shit out of and violating the civil rights of “bad guys”. That’s the extremely depressing truth.

      1. Yep. Laws that prevent the police from catching the “bad guys” are in fact protecting the criminals. Criminals aren’t human beings. They don’t have rights. Why should they be protected? Why must the cop need a warrant if he knows the guy is guilty? Why can’t a cop beat the shit out of someone who deserves it? I mean, once the criminal lawyers up, he might get away with it. Better that he get some punishment. And traffic laws? Cops have had training. Have you had training?
        .
        .

        There’s a whole lot of slurping going on. That’s why those shows make so much money.

    2. My daughters like to watch Bones. By the end of every episode, I’m hoping Booth gets hit by a taxi, and he’s clearly the “good” guy.

      1. I think Booth is typically a pretty model cop – at least it’s not like all the Law and Order acronym soup shows where half of it is self-congratulatory glee on the part of cops who have figured clever (or brutal) ways around the 4th amendment :p

    3. Yah, it is getting hard to tell. For me, two of the things that made me more suspicious of cops were “Law & Order” and “Cops.” I’m pretty sure my outlook was not the desired outcome of either show.

  16. “The modest suggestion is that perhaps letting a possible drunk or homeless nuisance or traffic scofflaw escape instant ticketing/arrest via standing back from them and seeing how they react for a moment is a, perhaps regrettable, better outcome than the death of a human being.”

    Unless, of course, they look like they’re Muslim. After all, it’s only a modest proposal…

    1. Lot of Muslim traffic scoflaws or homeless nuisances getting killed by cops lately? Most of the victims we see on these pages seem to get the extra hassle not for any religious reason…

  17. The modest suggestion is that perhaps letting a possible drunk or homeless nuisance or traffic scofflaw escape instant ticketing/arrest via standing back from them and seeing how they react for a moment is a, perhaps regrettable, better outcome than the death of a human being.

    Doherty, I don’t think you know how the “Modest Proposal” game works. You couch a deranged proposal in very reasonable terms with complete seriousness then sit back and wait for the English to nod and agree because, you know, Irish babies are delicious with lemon pepper.

    Besides, you can’t deny our brave public heroes the opportunity to bully vagrants and drivers at every opportunity. It might hurt their self-esteem and make them not want to work anymore.

  18. Hey all I can say is that there is some hope. Not all cops are like this.

    Had a run in with one a few weeks ago that is exactly the way things should work.

    My wife had some errands to run in the afternoon while I was at work so she took the 4 year old with her and left the older 3 (ages 10, 10, and 13) home doing chores. As I am driving home I turn onto our street and a cruiser turns in behind me, I then park in front of the house and he kind of parks weirdly across the street from me. We both get out and he asks me if I live there. To which I respond yes. He asks me a couple of questions about anything being wrong and I tell him, not that I know of but I’m just getting home. Turns out that somehow someone accidentally hit the emergency call button on my Sons Cell Phone, Cop asks to talk to the kids who are all confused because none of them admits to having touched the phone but are obviously otherwise ok. Cop says thanks for the cooperation and leaves.

    I of course was shitting myself that he was going to make a stink about leaving kids that young home alone but no, he was perfectly reasonable to deal with.

    It probably helps that I was in a rather affluent white vacation town and not someplace that sees actual crimes beyond the occasional drunk and disorderly.

    1. He appeared reasonable because you cooperated. Had you shown even the slightest disrespect, things would have gone down very differently.

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