Police Abuse

A Christian Libertarian Take on the McKinney Swimming Pool Outrage

"The cop with the girl under his knees does not see her as himself, which she is."

|

YouTube

Joel J. Miller is a writer and editor for Thomas Nelson, the Christian publisher (he's also written for Reason; see his archive here). He maintains a lively blog that applies libertarian and religious concepts to contemporary politics, culture, and events in a way that is always thoughtful and provocative (even or especially when I don't agree). Here he is, writing about the Great McKinney, Texas Pool Party Freak Out in characteristically sharp terms:

The nature of policing should be obvious from the name. The police are the polis. They are the people. But since the 1970s, larger political agendas have driven a wedge between the police and the people. The cop with the girl under his knees does not see her as himself, which she is. Absurd as it sounds—and frightening as it looks—she is a foe….

If we follow the example of the prophets, we know justice matters to God a great deal. "[W]hat does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" asks Micah.

It shouldn't have to be said, but throwing a nonviolent person to the ground and restraining her with your knees is fundamentally unjust. It's an excessive, dehumanizing response. Drawing a gun on kids at a pool party is likewise an overblown reaction that doesn't match the supposed threat. An appeal to deadly force is always a last resort.

Someone got too close to the officer? Maybe. But he bears responsibility for provoking the situation to begin with. Some have said that the teens were getting out of hand, disturbing neighbors and even damaging property. Again, maybe. But the entire situation was mishandled from the moment the police responded to the call. Belligerence, intimidation, aggression, overkill. This is not the approach of a police force that sees citizens as itself.

Miller recommends former Reason staffer Radley Balko's book Rise of the Warrior Cop as the go-to source on police militarization, which it surely is. And he recommends his own Bad Trip, his 2004 critique of the drug war from a Christian and conservative position (read Reason's interview with him here). Reason TV interviewed Miller in 2010 to talk about his book The Revolutionary Paul Revere. Take a look or listen here.

1968 campaign button

In his piece on McKinney, Miller notes 

Richard Nixon found, as many politicians have since learned, that public fear about crime creates electoral opportunity. His administration led a massive realignment and ramp-up of federal police efforts, mostly centered on his newly declared war on drugs. Over the years those changes in mindset, training, and equipping have trickled down to some of the nation's smallest police departments.

Read Miller's full piece here.

With that in mind, I present one of Richard Nixon's highly effective ads from the 1968 campaign. It's called "Crime" and, like others in the same slate of commercials, influenced the ways in which movies and TV shows represented contemporary America. You can see any number of cop shows and movies-to-come growing from the seeds of this sort of ad, which looks back to Chris Marker's La Jetee (1962) and forward to Dirty Harry, Death Wish, and even The Parallax View.

Among the folks responsible for the spots was Roger Ailes, who would go on to make Fox News into the cable juggernaut it is. Go to The Living Room Candidate, a compendium of presidential TV ads, for the full run of commercials (warning: you will miss hours of work if you do). 

NEXT: Andrea Castillo on Bitcoin's Long-Term Viability

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If we all lived in imitation of Christ, society would break down.

    1. I’m certainly a little more hesitant to cast stones this morning.

      1. sinned a lot last night, huh?

    2. “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”

      1. Commie!

      2. and don’t forget to tithe.

    3. First off, there were would be change laying all over the place.

      1. well, and fish everywhere!

    4. In my opinion society is currently rather unpleasant, Fist.

      I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t welcome any change, my friend.

      1. I never said I wouldn’t welcome it.

    5. is that because we would all go around pretending to exist?

  2. Nick, is Scooby Doo your editor? I think you mean “full run of commercials” not “rull run of commercials”.

    RUH RO!

    1. Rixed!

  3. Absurd as it sounds?and frightening as it looks?she is a foe….

    Everyone is a foe. Everyone is a threat. Everyone must obey. Or die.

  4. He maintains a lively blog that applies libertarian and religious concepts to contemporary politics…

    Am I missing the link to said blog? I can’t find it in this post.

    1. Nick wants you to do your own work.

      1. But I’m such a nice guy (and I fear the wood chipper if you take that the wrong way) that I’ll put it up.

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joeljmiller/

          1. “unwarranted aggression”

            Nice.

            1. Well, they should have gone to a judge to issue a warrant for that aggression.

      2. Nick is not an enabler….

        1. he’s been called not a lot of things… but …

      3. So he only helps those who help themselves?

  5. I’ve talked to a couple of police officers about this video. They are uniformly of the opinion that he was a buffoon. They all were laughing at him – particularly the dive-roll. One guy said “I don’t know what he was doing – it looked like he was playing freeze tag, or maybe duck, duck goose.”

    When I posited the serious question – what do you do if the commander on the scene has clearly lost his mind and is running around like a crazy person? – they said there was no specific training about dealing with a coworker who had lost control. They talked about common sense ways of dealing with him to calm him down and divert him, but there was no training for that.

    It seems to be a pretty big oversight. These are people who are going to lose their temper on a fairly regular basis as a group. Remember, they don’t just deal with normal suburban teens in bikinis. They’ll also get assaulted by drunken husbands in domestic disputes, etc. Yet they should hold themselves to a professional level of conduct and not kick the crap out of him.

    I’d say they need a protocol for “Joe just got head butted in the face by this drunk asshole – lets pull him out of the scene for a few minutes”. As long as our procedures and training don’t acknowledge that we are dealing with average guys who are subject to normal human emotions, we aren’t going to move the needle. The same way sending a bunch of guys with flash-bangs and rifles through a window will eventually get someone shot.

    1. Yes, if your partner can use deadly force- perhaps training on what to do if your partner has a breakdown of sanity would be wise.

    2. what do you do if the commander on the scene has clearly lost his mind and is running around like a crazy person?

      Use it as an opportunity to maim and murder innocent people. The worst that may happen is a long paid vacation followed by a trial with a not guilty verdict.

      1. The logical thing to do would be what the iron men did to Theon when he gave his rousing speech.

        http://youtu.be/7AylmQpEcAs

  6. Nixon’s the one:

    “Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue…that we couldn’t resist it.” – John Ehrlichman, White House counsel to President Nixon on the rationale of the War on Drugs.

  7. I maintain that there is no more succinct and complete statement of libertarianism than, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

    If everyone willingly lived by that principle, we’d have instant Libertopia world wide.

    Certainly, I believe we can trace the origin of whatever cultural importance we place on the individual to Christianity generally and Protestantism specifically. The idea that almighty God sacrificed himself for each of and every one of us individually underscores the importance of every individual. If sarcasmic is so important that Jesus sacrificed himself to save him, then by what right can the government mistreat sarcasmic?

    If God says sarcasmic’s will is precious, then who is Barack Obama to disagree?

    Jesus’ admonishment of government authority as a means to achieve good should also be noted. When we read Jesus use the word “kingdom”, we should think [government]. “The [government] of God is within you” is a rejection of government authority as a means to accomplish God’s will. A just society, rather, comes from individuals choosing to treat each other justly.

    No doubt, the Christian brand has been used to undermine libertarian principles, but in order for “Christians” to do so, they have to ignore and violate the fundamental precepts of Christianity.

    1. Oh God, why me?

    2. I’d be taxed to pay for universal healthcare, and have others taxed for the same.

      1. Logical fallacy. But if you’re saying you would take from others, and they could take from you, then it fits the framework.

        Do unto others as you would have them do unto you = If P, then Q
        “I’d be taxed to pay for universal healthcare” is not something you’re doing, therefore it is not P. Not P = Not Q does not logically flow from the first statement.

        hth

        1. Tony feels that fallacies are compelling arguments.

          1. Would Tony have the government thrown him in prison because of his political opinions?

            If not, then he shouldn’t support the government throwing people in prison because they don’t want to pay for Tony’s universal healthcare plan.

            Tony is completely missing the distinction between moral and legal responsibility.

            Even if we should all pay for each other’s healthcare, using the government to force everyone to do so is a bridge too far. The legitimate purpose of government is to protect our right to make choices for ourselves–not to force us to do things against our will.

            The kingdom government of God is within you, Tony. The government shouldn’t stop you from spending your money on other people’s healthcare if that’s what you want do. Lots of people do that! There are hospitals run by all sorts of charities devoted to doing that, and they’ll be happy to accept your donation.

            It may be your moral obligation to support them, but that doesn’t mean it’s moral to use the government to force other people to do likewise.

            1. I’ve always believed similarly. And the arguments by statists that taxes for things like healthcare and welfare are “Christian” miss the point. If someone is compelled to do “good” things, they are not being “good,” just as someone who commits a crime or performs an otherwise “bad” act is treated with leniency when forced into it. Good and bad require choice and deliberate action. (And that’s not even addressing the arguments that the government is an inefficient means of distribution of such services or that my taxes go to other things that I find morally reprehensible.)

              No one is stopping Tony from donating to charities, but he needs the government to compel him to do it nonetheless and believes all other people are like him.

              1. Yeah, in Tony’s world, this is unpossible:

                http://tinyurl.com/no29d9e

                I also wonder how much money would be put to work, and how much more effectively, to solve social problems if so many people didn’t think that solving those problems was the government’s job.

                Also, a lot of problems in this world stem from the fact that there are a lot of people out there who feel like nobody cares about them. And no amount of money is going to fix that.

          2. “Tony feels that fallacies are compelling arguments”…

            And that’s on his Good Days…

    3. I maintain that there is no more succinct and complete statement of libertarianism than, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

      I understand why you’d say this in the context of this particular article, but…

      I personally maintain that there is no more succinct and complete statement of libertarianism than, “Do NOT unto others as you would NOT have them do unto you”.

      Specifically to avoid this kind of crap:

      I’d be taxed to pay for universal healthcare, and have others taxed for the same.

      1. Tony doesn’t want the government to throw him in prison because he disagrees with how they spend his money either.

        If he had any enthusiasm at all for treating other people the way he wants to be treated, he wouldn’t support using the coercive power of government against other people for such things either.

        He would do unto others as he would have others do unto him.

        If you know Tony at all, you’d know that his main problem is moral–and it’s precisely the golden rule that he’s missing in his programming.

        Tony doesn’t care about fairness, and it impacts his logic. Until he gets some kind of empathic understanding of reciprocity, he’s basically an empty shell of a human being. Serial killers start out as children killing dogs and cats because they can’t empathize. Most of the rest of us have some instinctive inkling that we wouldn’t want to be treated that way. Some people without empathy learn to mimic empathic behavior to get along socially, but make no mistake…

        Tony would march us all up against the wall if he could, and I don’t think any of us would ever do that to him–on principle. We’d treat him the way we’d want to be treated–’cause that’s what libertarianism is all about.

    4. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

      And when they don’t?
      Can I then kick the shit out of them?

  8. I must say, for once, the [A POLITICAL BROADCAST] trigger warning was actually rather comforting. No civilians got shot to death (right then anyway), nobody got compared to Adam Lanza… if I were alive then, I might miss the 60s.

  9. Some have said that the teens were getting out of hand, disturbing neighbors and even damaging property. Again, maybe. But the entire situation was mishandled from the moment the police responded to the call. Belligerence, intimidation, aggression, overkill.

    Bullshit concern trolling. Apparently private property rights don’t matter here as long as we can get our reflexive cop-hate boner on.

    1. Red, although we have witness testimony of trespass, property damage, assault, et cetera, we do not have video evidence. What we have in the case of police aggressiveness and weapon brandishing is both witness testimony and video evidence.

      In short, I don’t need to agree with the author’s emphasis (“Again, maybe”) to agree with his overall point in this regard.

      1. So witness testimony doesn’t mean shit now because someone didn’t bother filming it?

        Note that MINORITY members of this neighborhood are actually coming out on the cop’s side and telling the media that the party-goers not only trespassed, but harassed the people at the pool to the point that the cops had to be called. It’s amazing how myopic the people on this board in general and the Reason writers specifically have been, because hell, why bother actually examining the entire situation from start to finish when there’s a narrative to push? That’s just lazy.

        1. Dude… private property rights are important, but you missed this part of the article:
          But the entire situation was mishandled from the moment the police responded to the call. Belligerence, intimidation, aggression, overkill. (emphasis added)

          The cops were called, but escalated the situation when it could have been handled far more professionally AND less dangerously.

          1. The cops were called, but escalated the situation when it could have been handled far more professionally AND less dangerously.

            Considering the cop holstered his weapon as soon as the two kids coming up on him backed away, it seems the only thing that would have satisfied the author is if the cop let them put their hands on him.

            Again, the article is just concern-trolling in an attempt to shoehorn what actually happened into a meta-narrative about police brutality. Idiots like Tony think it’s all racial, even though minority residents are coming out on the cop’s side because they were being harassed by these asshole teenagers, too. Both perspectives are just looking for confirmation bias because they’re too lazy to actually consider the entire situation. “If it doesn’t fit my preconceptions, why should I bother acknowledging it?”

            1. “Considering the cop holstered his weapon as soon as the two kids coming up on him backed away, it seems the only thing that would have satisfied the author is if the cop let them put their hands on him.”

              Wait, you seriously think pulling a firearm was the right response in that situation? Jesus Christ, I hope you never get a badge.

              1. Way to miss the larger point, but I guess that was your intent.

                I guess as long as we get to bitch about cops, that’s more important than the rights of the neighborhood’s residents to live in quiet, safe neighborhoods, eh?

                1. You’re accusing me of missing the point? It seems the entire point of this article went flying over your head.

                  1. The entire point of the article is fucking stupid, because the author takes a deliberately obtuse position to harden his own confirmation bias, rather than evaluate the situation based on the facts of the whole incident.

                    I realize for a lot of people here it’s HURR COPS EVIL HERPITY DOO, but perhaps it might not hurt to take into account that they wouldn’t have even been called out of these shithead kids(black and white) respected private property and weren’t socially maladjusted to begin with.

                    But I guess THAT point’s going to go flying over your head too. Because hey, that’s just “safe neighborhood privilege”, right?

                    1. You’re wasting your breath, Red.
                      You were right in your first post – an excuse to get their “reflexive cop-hate boner on”.
                      They just know what happened during the entire incident, because they saw about 30 seconds of selective video.
                      I’ll tell you, from experience, coming onto a scene, like this, as the one(s) expected to deal with the type of rowdy behavior the residents want stopped, there is no perfect way to handle it.
                      20/20 hindsight and armchair quarterbacking are the norm when it comes to evaluating how a cop makes split-second decisions and, of course, he is supposed to be some kind of robot, without any emotions, despite the adrenaline rushing through his veins.
                      Every time I see these REASON threads I wish some of these cop-hating “libertarians” could be magically transported into the situation the cop found himself in because, until you’ve done it, you CANNOT, understand what it is like.

              2. Wait, you seriously think pulling a firearm was the right response in that situation?

                If a mob of people invades my private property, I certainly think I have a right to out a gun and tell them to get off my property; whether that is prudent is another question. And, by extension, if I ask a police officer to come to my aid, I certainly think he has the same rights as I in my defense.

                The right response for the police officer, however, would have been to say “fuck this, I don’t want to deal with this shit”, quit, and get a job in which he doesn’t have to deal with crazy people like this.

        2. “So witness testimony doesn’t mean $%$! now because someone didn’t bother filming it?”

          This is not what I meant, and I thought I was clearer than I must have been.

          I was attempting to address your point (“Apparently private property rights don’t matter here….”)

          If you reread my response to this point – while temporarily assuming that I am discussing the events in good faith – I think you will see what I meant.

        3. Note that MINORITY members of this neighborhood are actually coming out on the cop’s side

          I’m a bit puzzled by this statement. Is the fact that these folks are minorities somehow make their statements more valuable? And if we wish to emphasize race so much, what about the WHITE witnesses (namely the kid who filmed) who are condemning the police? Let me guess, that doesn’t count.

          Defense of property rights and common sense policing need not be mutually exclusive. Telling a person to leave an area then taking them into custody because they wouldn’t sit on the ground makes little sense. Ask yourself why only one cop was placed on administrative leave.

          1. Is the fact that these folks are minorities somehow make their statements more valuable?

            Well, yes, in the sense that progressives and politicians are trying to portray this as racially motivated police violence. In fact, in many cases, it’s police intervening to protect minority victims from minority perpetrators.

      2. What we don’t have…..is a complete, comprehensive video of the event from the very beginning to the very end.
        It may exist, it just has to be compiled from all of the various cell-phones/etc. that were at the scene.
        So, what we are doing now is condemning the cops because all we’ve seen is a continuous loop of them beating the crap out of Rodney King.

    2. I wonder, has private property rights fetishism always pretty much meant “keep the niggers out of the pool”? That’s acid he’s pouring.

      1. Considering that 30% of the community there is black and Hispanic, you can shove that right up your ass, Tony. I guess their private property rights, safety, or general right to not be harassed don’t matter either, right?

      2. I’d add that maybe you should ask people in Baltimore who are now getting their homes robbed what happens when a society doesn’t respect property rights. That’s one of the features of stable civilizations, and proglydytes would do well to remember it.

      3. Wow, you sure you’re not really a typically racist lib? Just sayin, you really sound like one.

    1. They are pretty good. But they are Prohibitionists. And Statists.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.