Two Videos, Two Cities, Two Attitudes

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

I give you two police department recruiting videos. The first is from Decatur, Georgia. The second is from Newport Beach, California. These are the videos each respective department has chosen to represent what being a cop is all about. They’re the videos each department feels will appeal to candidates with the characteristics and traits that make for a good police officer.

Let’s assume two generic towns that are otherwise mostly similar. One town takes a Newport Beach approach to policing. The other takes a Decatur approach. In which town would you rather live?



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117 Responses to “Two Videos, Two Cities, Two Attitudes”

  1. #1 |  Christopher Swing | 

    Newport Beach: where your Call of Duty Live Action Roleplaying dreams come true.

    Tired of sitting on your mom’s couch capping pretend bad guys and screaming a stream of obscenities while you do so? How about getting off that couch and coming to work for us?

  2. #2 |  Josh | 

    That Newport Beach video is flat-out terrifying. I never even want to visit Newport Beach after watching it, not that I did anyway.

  3. #3 |  Lorenzo | 

    The Newport Beach video is like the intro to one of those 70s cop shows — One Adam 12, Starsky and Hutch, et al. Or else that one Beastie Boys video.

  4. #4 |  rmv | 

    Talking, politely with citizens or chokeholding subdued, faceless criminals while telling them to stop resisting? Plus, pulling guns and unleashing dogs on people.

    Newport Beach, by a mile.

  5. #5 |  jeff | 

    Am I the only one who guess wrong about which video would be the militarized one and which one would be the touchy-feely one?

    Decatur, I apologize. And I used to live just outside Decatur.

  6. #6 |  Chris Mallory | 

    One thing I noticed was the officer in Decatur using the word “citizen”. I would bet any amount of money that if the Newport video had mentioned the taxpayers it would have used the word “civilian”.

  7. #7 |  Vertov | 

    #3 has it best – Newport Beach (which is not 20 minutes from where I’m typing!) has an 80s TV cop show introduction for a recruitment video.

    Decatur’s video does a far better job creating a sense of civic responsibility.

  8. #8 |  Sideshow Bill | 

    Decatur is full of hippies, and great beer bars. But that’s why I loved it.

  9. #9 |  Other Sean | 

    I knew it! The South is just a backwater fouled by racism and redneck brutality. Liberal, progressive California – now that’s the place to be.

  10. #10 |  Radical Edward | 

    I find it interesting that at 1:04, despite what the officer says, the subject is not resisting. Is that actually part of their training – to shout “Stop resisting” even if the subject isn’t resisting? If so, it’s nothing but a blatant CYA move to allow them to justify using as much force as they want.

    I’m curious who the rates of police misconduct (excessive force, etc.) compare between the two towns. Judging from the videos, I would not be surprised if Newport Beach has a much higher rate of complaints, lawsuits, and so forth. Perhaps if I get some time, I’ll sift through Cato’s reports and do a comparison (

  11. #11 |  Edward | 

    Newport Beach: Let me make something plain. I don’t like you sucking around, bothering our citizens. I don’t like your jerk-off name, your jerk-off face, your jerk-off behavior, and I don’t like you, jerk-off. Stay out of Newport Beach, deadbeat! Keep your ugly, goldbrickin’ a** out of my beach community.

  12. #12 |  Leo | 

    Come on, Other Sean. Newport Beach is like one of the most Republican places in CA. (Not that the rest of CA lacks racism or rednecks.)

  13. #13 |  Radical Edward | 

    The NPMRP doesn’t show much for either town. Over the past two years, it has one report for Decatur, GA and two for Newport Beach, CA. Hardly enough data to draw any meaningful conclusions.

  14. #14 |  Z | 

    #5 no, you’re not the only one.

    #10, stop resisting.

    #11, I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.

  15. #15 |  Steve | 

    The related videos for that Newport Beach one included this other Californian gem:

  16. #16 |  SJE | 

    Irrespective of whether the cops actually BEHAVE differently, if I was to bring an excessive force complaint I’d rather bring it in Newport Beach. Ask the Californian jury whether they think the cops in Georgia are racist and over-reacting. You know what they will think. Then shown them both videos, and go on to explain how Newport is “out of the mainstream” and fosters a culture of violence and impunity.

  17. #17 |  Curt | 

    #10… +1

    Seriously, they don’t even make a pretense about it. Saying “stop resisting” is as deeply ingrained as recognizing “furtive gestures”.

  18. #18 |  Patrick | 

    Well, the NBPD is all-white, all-male, judging from the video…

  19. #19 |  Jim Wetzel | 

    #11: Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women!

  20. #20 |  Maria | 

    @5 Not at all. I’ve lived in Atlanta and I thought the Decatur one would be the gung ho, every encounter with a fellow citizen deserves a drawn gun and screams approach. Come to think of it. I’m not sure WHY I thought that.

  21. #21 |  Kevin | 

    #1 | Christopher Swing

    They actually seem to have more weapons than the characters in Call of Duty… which is set years in the future during WWIII.

  22. #22 |  matt | 

    Wow, I lived in Decatur for 6 years before moving 3 miles into the city of Atlanta (you know the issues here if you follow the Agitator). Gotta say, although I personally had no bad experiences with the DPD, I sort of figure their PR stuff is just a whitewash to placate the masses, given all the other stuff done by PD and Sheriff Depts in Dekalb County, GA.

    Once, I called in a “mower found” report (aka potentially stolen lawn mower appeared in my back yard, didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want the owner to blame me). The officer actually started the mower, spent 10 minutes “testing” it by mowing my lawn, then left with it in his trunk. Did it make it to lost and found or to his house? Either way it was surreal.

    And yeah, Stop Resisting is copspeak for “brace for impact”.

  23. #23 |  (B)oscoH, Yogurt Eater | 

    On behalf of people who live in the OC who still have half a brain, I apologize to America. This is the same adrenaline junkie crap that gave us Kelly Thomas a year ago this evening. So sorry.

  24. #24 |  freedomfan | 

    I agree about the particularly annoying point in the NBPD video, where the cop is yelling “Stop resisting!” to someone else who he has in a headlock. That part of the clip is too short to tell one way or the other whether the guy in the headlock is actually resisting or not. It is certainly not clear that there is any resistance, which to me is the interesting point. Apparently, the people editing together the video didn’t think it was worth making it clear that a violent take-down and shouting “Stop resisting!” was actually necessary, even though there’s no reason to believe it was. Well, there might be a “reason” if one favors the circular argument that, if the police do it, then it must be necessary. It’s scary enough to know that mentality exists among so many LEOs, but it’s even scarier that they don’t even think to hide it in an advertisement that they know will be seen by non-LEOs.

    And, also very disturbing is that that sort of violent headlock may just be the conclusion of many in the long string violent maneuvers depicted, which the ad producers thought would be appealing to the sort of people they are trying to recruit. The whole NBPD recruitment commercial comes across as, “Tired of having to repress your violent impulses? Join the Newport Beach Police and cut loose! Excellent compensation and a non-stop life of pulling guns, chasing people, and beating them up. Stop letting people call you psycho when they should be calling you Sir!

    Seriously, the whole recruiting ad would be far more valuable used as a ‘honeypot’: Any applicant who says he wants to join because he likes what he saw in the ad should be sent home and his name added to a list of people who can never work in law enforcement.

  25. #25 |  (B)oscoH, Yogurt Eater | 

    Headlock clip looked like training. Seriously, how many “citizens” would know to tap out?

    Radley, get back to your book. This was a gratuitous punch in the nuts.

  26. #26 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Orange County is a terrible, terrible place. I lived on either side of Orange County, and both of those parts of CA were okay (not as cool as Bay Area, but only Portland, OR is THAT kewl). But, getting back to Orange County, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk.

    It is also a very unsafe place to be on the roads.

  27. #27 |  Sid | 

    Yeah, that’s City of Decatur alright. City of Decatur is Liberal Mayberry. What all y’all are thinking about is Dekalb County. THAT’S kicking doors down and shooting minorities in the back and claiming they’re “resisting arrest.”

  28. #28 |  TGGP | 

    Speaking of terrible police officers, I’m surprised I hadn’t seen this linked via the Agitator yet:

  29. #29 |  Ben | 

    I’ve lived in Decatur most of my life. Never had any problems with the cops. I don’t remember ever even hearing of any problems, which is absolutely amazing considering Decatur borders Atlanta and is the seat of that cesspool of corruption Dekalb county.

  30. #30 |  DPirate | 

    Ahhhh, so that’s why people get beat up! They’re supposed to tap-out!

  31. #31 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Orange County is a terrible, terrible place.”

    Please elaborate. Some people like my sister can’t function
    outside OC and others find it a living hell. I’d be interested to
    know why some people can’t stand it…the right-wing white
    Xenophobic element?

  32. #32 |  Phelps | 

    #10, I thought the same thing. Hard evidence that they really are trained to yell “stop resisting!” while they torture someone.

  33. #33 |  Radley Balko | 

    Radley, get back to your book. This was a gratuitous punch in the nuts.

    Hate to break it to you, but the book is basically 400 or so pages of repetitive nut punches.

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ll see if the publisher will package the book with a free protective cup.

  34. #34 |  kp | 

    Coming soon to the NBPD: A bunch of knuckle heads.

    Coming 6 months later: a shitload of police brutality lawsuits.

  35. #35 |  Dante | 

    The “stop resisting” bit could be useful in showing a jury that the police are trained to say that despite the lack of any resistance. It sure looked that way.

  36. #36 |  Sailor | 

    Is Decatur better at policing than Newport? I doubt it but would be interested in any data.

  37. #37 |  (B)oscoH, Yogurt Eater | 

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ll see if the publisher will package the book with a free protective cup.

    Who needs that? I bet ten of us could rig the Amazon “purchasers bought this with” suggestions.

  38. #38 |  Andrew | 

    2 points:
    One, this comparison was a very effective way to drive home the overlooked but significantly troubling creep of heavy-handed and misguided law enforcment. Bravo.

    Now slightly off topic — the Decatur PD video clearly reflects the type of policing that citizens deserve. And I have no reason to criticize the Decatur PD. Based on just these 2 clips, I’m at least confident that there’s a much higher quality leadership and altruisticly civic-minded type running Decatur’s PD. But with nothing more than recruiting propaganda with which to base an opinion, I am still cynical enough to believe that a PD which happens to employ a non-mouthbreathing public relations staff can trample my liberties with the best of ’em. It’s easy to praise them for these recruiting efforts, but these are not merits on which law enforcement must be judged.

    But the comparison can serve as a useful jumping-off point for another related topic: the problem arising from blind trust placed in an LEO’s word…or at least indifference to LEO misconconduct. Many of us know — and many more should be made more aware of this issue — that some of the most deviant criminal elements in any country also wear a badge.

    [Shameless disclaimer: ]Good policemen are truly society’s benefit. Corrupt ones deserve and strict prosecution and childish name calling.

  39. #39 |  Rob | 

    The title of the Newport Beach video gave it away.

  40. #40 |  Stephen | 

    “free protective cup.”

    I like it! Maybe at least for cover art?

    OT – Cop who can’t be fired.

  41. #41 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    What do the crime statistics say?

  42. #42 |  Remo | 

    You folks have never worked a day on the streets. You can spend 9.5 hours of the day yukking it Mayberry-style with the locals and then have to engage in the exact activity from the Newport video.
    Believe what you want to believe – perception is reality for most folks.

    The folks who actually pin on a badge and wear a gun for a living know the truth.

  43. #43 |  C.E. | 

    And, which town allows unrestricted commenting on their video, and which one only allows comments that it approves?

  44. #44 |  C.E. | 

    Oops, my bad. The Decatur video was posted by the public relations firm that produced the video, not by the town or the police department.

  45. #45 |  r.l.s.3 | 

    My 11-year old daughter said, right off the bat, with no prompting of any kind: “I’d rather have the softies”

  46. #46 |  Other Sean | 


    How would you baseline the crime statistics, if you had them? What would they tell you? If Decatur turns out to have 2.5 arsons per 100,000, while Newport Beach has 3.1 arsons per 100,000, what would that prove?

    And most importantly, why do we need the crime statistics to know that being arrested in Decatur seems a lot less risky than asking directions from a cop in Newport Beach?

  47. #47 |  freedomfan | 

    Other Sean,

    And most importantly, why do we need the crime statistics to know that being arrested in Decatur seems a lot less risky than asking directions from a cop in Newport Beach?

    That’s pretty much my impression. I don’t want to visit – much less live in – a town which recruits its police from the pool of people who hope the job is like what’s shown in that video. In all seriousness, I live in further north in California and usually make a yearly trip down south to take in some AVP volleyball tournaments in some of the beachfront towns near LA. My little group spends the weekend down there, taking in the sights at the other beach towns when there looks to be a lull in the action. We’ve never made it as far as for one of our jaunts, but I can honestly say that that video makes me want to cross it off the list. It’s no different than deciding not to visit some crime-ridden area because you know the local gangs are too dangerous to make it a fun outing.

  48. #48 |  Other Sean | 

    And who knows: In real life, the Newport Beach police may run that pumped up advertisement to disguise the fact that they’re actually a bunch of nice guys, while Decatur may be playing friendly on TV to create cover for some viciously dirty cops.

    Lest we forget Alex White, whose sad story of police exploitation was told here just last week, came from Decatur.

    Of course, the point of comparing those two videos was not to ask whether the police department behind them actually lived up to the values expressed. It was to show the incredible contrast between two ideologies of policing.

    A teaser, perhaps, for one of the framing devices in Balko’s book?

  49. #49 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Some anecdotal observations:

    First, as a former San Diego police applicant, I’m struck by how similar the Decatur video is in tone and content to SDPD recruiting materials I’ve seen and how much worse the Newport Beach video is. This suggests that CA POST is either asleep at the switch or hamstrung in its efforts to enforce meaningful recruiting standards statewide.

    One problem that occurs to me is that, as far as I know, no POST or equivalent state agency in the US has the authority to take action against official communications by police agencies on the basis of qualitative judgments that they’re inimical to the rule of law. Police agencies seem to have a lot more latitude to censor and retaliate against individual officers expressing private opinions than POST agencies have to control the tone and content of what police departments express in their official communications. This is backwards.

    Second, one thing that I find particularly odious about the Newport Beach video is that the city of Newport Beach is located in the midst of a large workforce of ocean lifeguards. I have a good friend who is a Huntington Beach lifeguard (HB is the next city north along the coast), and I’ve met several of her friends. A number of these individuals seem like they’d make great cops, and none of them strikes me as manifestly unfit. At least three of them are CrossFit members, CrossFit being a reasonable equivalent to the strenuousness of police academy PT regimens. More generally, the skills and attitude needed to be an effective ocean lifeguard seem particularly useful for police officers.

    Law enforcement agencies in Orange County’s coast cities would do well to actively solicit sworn applications from their municipal lifeguard pools. Based on the video, I’m guessing that the Newport Beach PD isn’t doing this because the brass figure that lifeguards have too much empathy for the job. They probably don’t want to hire bleeding hearts who stay in shape in order to save others. You wouldn’t want to take that “serve and protect” thing too literally, now.

    After watching that video, I’d be happy to see the Newport Beach Police Department either placed under a consent decree or dissolved by POST or judicial order. Agencies that ignore excellent applicant pools right in their backyards and instead appeal to first-person shooter video game junkies, unhinged, brain-scrambled veterans (think: Jon Burge), and Dirty Harry wannabes don’t deserve to exist.

  50. #50 |  Andrew Roth | 

    I should probably clarify my last statement about externally supervising or dissolving the Newport Beach Police Department. I made that statement on the unstated assumption that the tone of the video substantially affects the quality of the applicant pool and consequently results in the hiring of officers who are unfit for duty. Based on a combination of my personal experience, my reading about various agencies, and gut feeling, I believe that that is the case. E.g., when the SDPD puts forth recruiters such as Bob Kanaskie as its public face, I’m pretty sure that it attracts a better applicant pool than the Newport Beach PD attracts with its urban combat porn. If the applicant pool is shit, it’s impossible to assemble a good police force.

  51. #51 |  Other Sean | 


    POST commissions are usually captured by a cabal that includes: the state police force or highway patrol, the largest three or four metro departments in the state, the state chief’s association, and any training center directors who happen to be independent of the above.

    Even if they had the tools to deal with intangibles like the sheer creepiness of that Newport Beach video, they wouldn’t have the desire.

    Their mission is simple: limit the number of entrants into the police job market to prevent any downward pressure on salaries, and reduce liability to individual agencies by creating an appearance of uniform standards and best practices.

    Don’t expect much from them beyond that.

  52. #52 |  smitty | 

    Well, gee, what a contrast…

    The Decatur PD video actually had me nearly tearing up for what could be; a return to peace officers rather than law enforcement Gestapo. Police officers we could actually respect and be cool with their arrival on the scene.

    Award them an Andy Taylor Award (Andy Griffith. RIP).

    As for Newport Beach, good God! What a disgrace! They appear to be trying to one-up the old East German Stasi.

    Barney Fife’s on steroids Demerits to them. Dial 911 in Newport Beach at your peril…

  53. #53 |  STFU Donnie | 

    #11 you human Paraquat.(tm)

  54. #54 |  smitty | 

    [#32 | Radley Balko | July 5th, 2012 at 10:19 pm
    Radley, get back to your book. This was a gratuitous punch in the nuts.

    Hate to break it to you, but the book is basically 400 or so pages of repetitive nut punches.]

    Was wondering what the subject matter of the book would be, now I just know I can hardly wait for its availability.

    As a side note, I am about over my disappointment that Radley never responded to my emails.

    See my last attempt below:

    Hi Radley,

    I have no intent to be a pest, but having not seen any response to my two prior emails (sent to I try once more with your Huffington Post address.

    All I ask is consideration of an inmate request (see pertinent part of prior email below, in [brackets]) for help in shining some light on his case regarding corrupt criminal justice adjudication in the Philadelphia area. I have no way-beside a letter-to-the-editor sort of effort-to bring his case to light. Obviously-with me in Ohio and him in Philadelphia-such won’t amount to much. He has offered to send a copy of his case file. I know from extensive reading of your blog that you appear to appreciate “tips” from your readers…that is way I contacted you.

    I just want to be sure of whether or not you would have interest in his case before I reply to the inmate, which I want to do soon, as he has been waiting about a month.

    If you are interested in more details I’m at your service: I can forward the inmate’s letter so that you can directly contact him, or I can ask him to send his materials to a snail-mail address that you provide…it’s totally your call.

    If you have no interest just say so and I shall not bother you further regarding this matter.

    And, keep up your valuable work. Justice, or more accurately, the ongoing shredding of it by the very government entrusted to provide it, cannot be overstated as to importance.

    Without accountable justice…we have…little or nothing…


    [I recently received a letter from a prisoner with an interesting story. He claims to have been physically assaulted but he rather than his assailant was indicted, convicted and imprisoned. He says his assailant turned out to be related to the assistant district attorney that prosecuted him…

    He claims his evidence exhibits “disappeared” and that the attorney he retained was threatened.

    This inmate is requesting that I assist him by bringing his case to the attention of the media. Since I have no serious access to the news media, I thought of you, that you might have interest in looking into this matter. If so, I can also send a copy of his correspondence.]


    So, having never heard from Mr. Balko I have had to respond to this inmate that I had no luck in assisting him.

    I would appreciate any reader suggestions as to how some media attention might be directed to this inmates case…

    Much thanks in advance.

  55. #55 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Please elaborate. Some people like my sister can’t function
    outside OC and others find it a living hell. I’d be interested to
    know why some people can’t stand it…the right-wing white
    Xenophobic element?

    The roads and the architecture mostly. I mean, they have the white Republican element in San Diego and San Bernardino County (where I have lived at various times), and those places are just fine. Maybe the difference in OC is that the white Republicans have money, and that seems to bring heightened hypocisy and the money to impose their bad taste on my eyes nd ears and ratiocinative faculties. It is like Citizens Unites for the private sector.

    The beaches are prefab and yucky, no personality. The Mexican parts are interesting, but mostly just to get away from the oppressive traffic for a few mins. It is not like there is anything to do there, but look at sad Mexicans and keep driving.

    I was tempted to write, a-la Gertrude Stein, that “there is no there there,” mostly because I used to never want to get out of the car until I get to Encinatas or LA or Chino, but really there is a there, there. There is a beating heart of Orange County, offensive and despair-inducing though it may be, and it is this:

  56. #56 |  Onlooker | 

    Some very good comments here that echo my thoughts. The Newport beach video was downright chilling. They’re looking for a bunch of hyped up adrenaline junkies who are just itching for a fight, not level headed citizens who want to serve and protect. Nauseating.

  57. #57 |  Rob R. | 

    How come the only black guy in the Newport video was being bitten by the dog?

  58. #58 |  nigmalg | 

    That’s one hell of a contrast.

  59. #59 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @42 – Exactly per your post @44, looking at a PR exercise is largely pointless. Looking at the real goings-on, now…

  60. #60 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Well no, Newport Beach P.D., I am not qualified to join your militaristic, adrenaline junkie, macho department. What a terrible recruitment video. It’s like an especially bad episode of COPS with shitty techno music. Decatur P.D.’s video presents a better, community-oriented vision of policing, but it is probably just touchy feely P.R.

    To be fair, I think there are a few departments left, often around college towns, that are fairly community-oriented and less likely than other agencies to engage in corruption or brutality. These communities actually care about what their P.D.’s are doing and apply significant pressure when officers engage in misconduct. But due to the influence of the federal apparatus, which promotes the monstrosity that is the drug war among other terrible practices, most police departments are remarkably similar these days. This is in spite of the famously fragmented nature of law enforcement in the U.S..

    Even the best departments and best officers are required to engage in conduct that would be illegal in a freer society. It is this sad revelation that led me to reject a law enforcement career. My evolving anarchist convictions also had something to do with that, of course.

  61. #61 |  Mattocracy | 

    The police department in Decatur is a reasonable force and I think that has a lot to do with the fat that the city is the counter culture center of Georgia. It’s like dixie’s answer to San Fran. And much like it’s west coast equiv, it has the highest taxes in the state of Georgia. Not to poo poo all over everything, but seriously, they are crazy ass high.

  62. #62 |  Other Sean | 


    I’d like to write a one-hour television drama based on you, called “The Reluctant Anarchist Policeman”

    Tag line: “It’s the policing that’s the reluctant part, not the anarchism. In case you were wondering, punk.”

    Anyway, the whole plot of the show would be that you go from case to case trying to find a law you’re actually willing to enforce. People would tune in each week to see if, just this once, you were finally going to take your handcuffs out of the case. But you never would.

    What do you think? I should warn you that I’m not a position to pay very much for the rights to your story.

  63. #63 |  Patrick from Popehat | 


    You actually paid for a email address?

    Those things cost forty dollars!

  64. #64 |  TxCwbyTrue | 

    #39 Remo “The folks who actually pin on a badge and wear a gun for a living know the truth.”

    I’ve worked the streets. I was an MP in the Army, then on a CIVILIAN Police Dept. We MP’s were less militarized than the civilians. I spent a long time doing it.

    I got out because the blue line covers way too much for for bad leos. I got fed up of feeding that “justified” and “within policy” crap to all my friends who asked about those violent leos on the force. Cowboys are the good guys.

    Your name, Remo as in Remo Williams, also says a lot about your attitude towards your job. Remo is a vigilante, not a leo. Intersting mindset.

  65. #65 |  Cornellian | 

    I wonder if the Newport Beach video is wish fulfillment. Newport Beach is such a quiet, affluent community, I can’t imagine the cops have much serious crime to worry about so the video is a sort of cry of boredom.

  66. #66 |  KristenS | 

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ll see if the publisher will package the book with a free protective cup.

    I dunno, according to some of the letters Dan Savage prints, some dudes love getting kicked in the balls.

  67. #67 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #58 Other Sean:
    Lol! Sounds like fun and I wouldn’t charge much. I’m an advocate of voluntary socialism, after all. And no, I do not reside in an autonomous anarcho-syndicalist commune. Speaking of that, I think the show could be kind of a Monty Python-esque comedy, but you can stick with drama if you wish.

  68. #68 |  perlhaqr | 

    Ooooh! I want to live in the place with the Police “Stop Resisting! Department!

    No wait. I want the other one. At least in theory. The video looks good, but I don’t know how it translates on the ground. Of course, your point about the type of people that will be attracted to each video stands.

    I kinda laughed though, at that part. In Krav class we train to stick thumbs and fingers in the eyes of people trying to choke us out like that.

  69. #69 |  Voting with Your Feet (Police Edition) | Libertarios of America | 

    […] great find from Radley Balko: two very different police recruitment […]

  70. #70 |  decaturite16 | 

    I live in Decatur — have for years and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in metro Atlanta. It’s a town full of authors and academics (including, we’re proud to say, the poet laureate of the United States). But also a sizable population of folks who don’t have such advantages. It would be very easy for local politics to devolve into class warfare — as they have in some other areas that, like Decatur, saw significant gentrification during the real estate boom years. But despite occasional tensions, they haven’t. A community police force that treats everyone with respect is a big part of the reason. Sure, the video is fluffy — there is some crime, and I’ve been a victim of it. But what the officers in it say reflects the core values of the city. Besides, we pay way too much in property taxes to settle for being policed by jackbooted mouth-breathers.

  71. #71 |  B | 

    If I ever had to live in metro Atlanta again, it would be in Decatur or nothing. It is a lovely island of sanity in a sea of hellishly overgrown suburbs, overbearing fundy Christians, brazen criminals, incompetent and/or corrupt local government, and out-of-control police.

    (Well, the eastern part of Atlanta that abuts Decatur is pretty nice, too, though you still have to deal with APD and the City of Atlanta.)

  72. #72 |  John David Galt | 

    Remo: People are basically the same everywhere. If you go out looking for a fight, you’ll find one. We don’t need thugs wearing our police uniforms, thanks just the same.

  73. #73 |  Aaron | 

    I can affirm that the NBPD enjoys policing the same way that their videos suggest. Earlier this year I was roughed up, arrested, and charged with resisting arrest after getting pulled over for the horrendous crime of having an old registration sticker on my car (my car is properly registered by the way). A few weeks ago the charges were dismissed after the DA finally took the time to watch the video.

    Long story for those interested:

    I’m driving home from work. I’m a 23 year old 160 lb. accountant for a big company with a corporate environment. As tough as I like to fancy myself, I am not exactly what one would consider an imposing force. I am driving down Coast Highway well under the speed limit, and I have not made a lane change for miles. The cop flashes his lights at me. I am in the far left lane (3 lanes). I use my blinker and merge over two lanes to the right. It is dark outside, and the shoulder is a bike lane that sees a lot of use. I take the first exit off of Coast Highway, about 1/2 mile from where he first flashed me, and pull over. He blinds all my mirrors with his movable lights, and then starts screaming, “Let me see your hands!” I show him my hands. He shows up combatively demanding to know why I did not pull over when he first flashed me. I told him politely that I did not want to stop in the busy bike lane at night. He told me I was wrong. I told him I disagreed. He then repeated the question, and I gave the same answer. He then asked for my license and registration. I asked him what he was pulling me over for. He said he would tell me after. I think of that as an unlawful search and seizure, so I ask him again what he is pulling me over for. He finally lets me know it is because my tags are expired. I give him my license. My registration is behind my bench seat in my mini pickup, which I would need to get out of the car to retrieve. Like a broken record he again asks me why I did not pull over, and I state my previous reasons. He then asks me where I am coming from (I am dressed business casual), to which I reply “South”. He then asks me where south. To which I tell him it is none of his business. He then asks where I am going to which I reply “North”. Where North? Also none of his business. He then asks me how much I have had to drink. I do not drink. I was driving straight and steady. And the question was obviously a BS question. I asks why is he even asking that on a registration violation. He loudly proclaims that he can smell the alcohol reaking off my breath and out of my vehicle. I had not eaten in hours or drunk anything other than water in hours, I do not wear cologne, and my tiny little truck is as neutral smelling as possible. It is a loaded question. I tell him that I am not drunk, and that I do not need to answer any of his other questions. I am obviously not playing along with him or kissing his butt the way he likes it, but I am using a very calm and polite demeanor as I refuse to answer his questions. He demands me out of the car, while again yelling, “Hands where I can see them!” He easily has 60 pounds on me, and nothing about my person or actions is threatening. While we have been talking for about 5 minutes; a helicopter, K-9 unit, and about 5 more patrol cars all show up. Mind you, I have never been in any trouble of any sort. I exit my car with my hands out in front of me with my palms facing the officer. I have my wallet in one hand and my keys in the other. The officer tells me to lean against my car and put my hands behind my back. I ask, “What for? For having an old sticker on my car?” He grabs me by my right bicep. I immediately turn around to give him my back. He then lets go of my arm and tries to do a rear naked choke on me, while slamming me into my car. When I hit my car, I drop my keys and wallet into the bed of my truck. Four other officers then swarm in and grab my arms while he is still trying to choke me. I have kept my arms limp the entire time, but they are all screaming stop resisting at me. My hands were in a cuffable position within one second of them all swarming me, but instead they decide to keep on screaming at me while choking me, tweaking my wrists, and doing a bicep slicer on my right arm. I tell them that they know I am not resisting, and they know they are hurting me, so just cuff me already. They finally cuff me, and set me down on the curb. He asks me where my registration is, and I tell him it is in my truck, but he does not have my permission to go in there. He tears through all my stuff, while I tell him to get out of my car and write me a ticket for not having registration and let me go. He comes back looks at me and asks me why my sweater is wet, did I spill booze all over myself. I tell him that it is wet outside, my truck is wet, and a bunch of tools slammed into the back of my truck for fun. He tells me I am being arrested for resisting arrest and takes me to jail until papa bear came and bailed me out.
    The police report states that I was grabbing toward my waistband with my right hand. And when he grabbed me, I tried to flex up and turn into him in an aggressive manner with a bunch of inconsistincies about how he was able to get to my back, and that it took the rest of the officers to subdue me. I could not have been reaching for anything with my right hand because I had a wallet in it the entire time, and it was up about chest level, which can be seen in the video.
    In the video I am out of my car for about 3 seconds before he attacks me.
    The case was dismissed about 2 weeks ago, and I plan on filing a complaint with the police department sometime soon. If anyone has any advice on the best way of going about this, please let me know.
    The cop’s name is Officer Parker and he is a dick.

    Thanks Radley for taking time to post these videos, it made my day.

  74. #74 |  Charlie Potts | 

    Newport Beach is very wealthy and as far as I know, has little crime. From wikipedia: ” more than a quarter of households have an income greater than $200,000, and the median value for homes is approximately $1 million.”

    I think the Newport Beach PD wishes there was more crime.

  75. #75 |  LTMG | 

    Bold idea that will never happen. Pay police officers who choose to not carry a firearm or Taser more than those who do. In general, behavior follows rewards. Why can this work? In several countries where I have lived the outstanding majority of police officers do not carry firearms – UK, Ireland, Malaysia, China.

    The usual police motto of *To protect and to serve* is turning into *To oppress and to intimidate*.

  76. #76 |  Anonymous | 

    As someone that deals with Decatur police on a regular basis, I’m confused as to these other “I’m from Decatur” comments as they do not reflect the reality I live. Maybe Decatur police are still concentrating on minorities (that could explain the different perception). There is no police department in the metro Atlanta area (including the areas outside of the perimeter) that gets what I’d consider a positive review. I guess it’s possible previous commenters are grading on a curve because, when comparing Decatur cops to DeKalb cops, Decatur cops do seem OK.

    In other words, if the Decatur PD is considered one of the good ones then even the “good ones” should be abolished.

  77. #77 |  Skippy | 

    “In which town would you rather live?” Good question, but maybe more important is “What kind of police officer is each video going to attract?”

  78. #78 |  Sheep Dog | 

    I live in Decatur and have previously seen the Decatur recruiting video and think it represents the police department here pretty accurately. We are a small city, just over 4 square miles with a residential population of about 20,000, and I recognized some of the officers in the video because you see them around town. I think there are maybe 45 or so officers. I was curious to know how we compared to Newport Beach in size, population, crime/clearance rates, type of community and such.

    The Newport Beach video made me think the community must be some type of war zone but based on the Newport Beach website, that does not seem to be the case at all. Newport Beach is 26 square miles, with a residential population of over 85,000 “but during the summer months, the population grows to more than 100,000 with 20,000 to 100,000 tourists daily”. Decatur borders Southeast Atlanta and unincorporated Dekalb County and is the county seat housing Dekalb government offices, the courthouse, probation and parole offices, three public transit stations, etc. Newport Beach appears to be a coastal town made up of villages, islands and harbors located South of Los Angeles County and North of San Diego County. Both departments have community programs, stuff for kids and volunteer programs but Newport Beach is referred to as a “resort destination” on the homepage for their police department (referencing the 4th of July holiday). That video does NOT make me think of a “resort destination”.

    Here are the links for the 2011 and 2010 Decatur Police Annual Reports which I found online. The reports show the crime rates and also the clearance rates and they also show data on things like citizen complaints and use of force.

    Here are the links for the 2011 and 2010 crime rates I found on the Newport Beach site.

    More crime overall because of population but what both cities have in common are pretty low violent crime rates. Newport Beach’s last homicide was in 2007. Decatur has had five homicides between 2007-2012, while their parent county, Dekalb, had 16 homicides in 2011 and 20 so far in 2012. I could not find clearance rates for Newport Beach online but if you look at just violent crime clearance rates in 2010 (2011 is not completed on the FBI site yet), Decatur cleared about 68% while the national rate of clearance is about 47%.

    I could not find anything online about citizen complaints and use of force statistics for Newport Beach. When I Googled “Newport News Police Department citizen complaints” I received several hits about citizens complaining about homeless people and animal control issues. On a more interesting note, when I Googled “Newport Beach Police Department citizen complaint procedures”, the first article that popped up was one published in the LA Times in 1986 that opened with “A 700-page management audit of the Newport Beach Police Department released Wednesday generally gave the agency high marks but found that the department’s aggressive policing should be re-examined in light of excessive lawsuits and complaints.” The article also contains the following quote from the audit report, “To the extent that excessive force allegations are resulting from unnecessarily aggressive policing, aggressiveness should be reduced,” and “The continuous complaints and claims of excessive force are–whether unfounded or not–contributing to an undesirable image for the department.”

    Here is the link to that article. It is old but an interesting read especially when you think about the “image” portayed in the current recruitment video 26 years later.

    When I Googled “Newport Beach Police Department use of force”, the first hit led me back to the recruitment video and there were also links to articles about lawsuits in the 80’s and more links to the recruiting information.

    i Googled the same phrases for Decatur Police Department and got instructions on how to file a citizen complaint in Decatur, IL and the annual reviews mentioned above from Decatur, GA.

    Bottom line, you are going to get what you attract. As a community, would you rather have officers who can easily blend in with the community they serve and be approachable, social and professional but who can turn on a dime and take it up a notch when it is truly necessary…OR…Would you rather have officers who “ride on ready” in a more aggressive manner than what the day to day calls for and who have a hard time taking it down a notch because that is the culture they were recruited and trained into.

    That video does not represent Newport Beach in a positive light. It does not invoke images of serving a coastal, village, resort type community.

  79. #79 |  freedomfan | 

    Charlie Potts:

    I think the Newport Beach PD wishes there was more crime.

    Sounds about right. And, judging by Aaron’s comment, NBPD is addressing that problem by committing more crimes themselves.

  80. #80 |  JWH | 

    If I’m not mistaken, the Decatur video features at least one female police officer — an investigator, in fact. In the Newport Beach police video, I saw a lot of white guys yelling, a lot of firearms, a pissed-off police dog … and women (voice only) manning the dispatch radio.

    I’m not necessarily making an affirmative-action argument here. It’s just something I noticed.

  81. #81 |  Burgers Allday | 

    That video does not represent Newport Beach in a positive light. It does not invoke images of serving a coastal, village, resort type community.

    Look, ppl in Orange County generally believe in a certain form of apartheid.

    more specifically, they want the relatively rich to be separated from the relatively poor. as libertarians, I think we are supposed to believe that they have a right to establish this form of apartheid so long as it is enforced by the private sector and not the government.

    a police force like this will always come part and parcel with apartheid. it will come part and parcel with the one-dollar-one-vote worldview of Citizens United, of the koch-octopus and (truth be told) of the mainstream of this blog’s commentariat.

    on the other hand, the commies in Decatur have a nice police force.

    this story should be more about self-reflection than self-congratulation. and, yes, i mean you, too, mr. balko.

  82. #82 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @74 – Impractical when the majority of criminals have guns.

    It’s quite different from the UK where serious criminal organizations might have a few tucked away for a rainy day, and a few idiots wave them around and get caught.

  83. #83 |  What’s the difference between a cop and a peace officer serving public? « David McElroy | 

    […] of thinking this week about what Griffith’s portrayal of a small-town sheriff represented, Radley Balko posted an article comparing recruiting efforts by two very different police departments. I’m going to post the […]

  84. #84 |  Other Sean | 


    You may be able to answer this question, where I cannot: if the IRA was able to get guns into British territory for so long, why not British gangsters and street criminals as well? What stopped them that didn’t stop the Provos?

  85. #85 |  Dirt_Sailor | 

    @82: A complicit neighboring government makes a pretty big difference.

  86. #86 |  LTMG | 

    @80 Leon

    Please cite the source for your assertion that “…the majority of criminals have guns.”

    BTW, Radley Balko has recently reported on this site that in the US assaults on law enforcement officers is at an all time low.

    Finally, in my comment I made it clear that police officers could chose to do their work unarmed and gain a financial incentive for doing so. For example, if I was a Department of Agriculture officer leading the beagle looking for fruit in the carry on luggage of debarking international passengers at the airport, I might well choose the incentive. On the other hand, if I was a police officer working in patrol or drug enforcement in Detroit, a place I used to live, I would carry at least two firearms.

  87. #87 |  Brad Warbiany | 

    #77: Your characterization of Newport Beach is spot on. It’s an affluent, safe, beach town. Given the high number of tourists, I’d say it’s probably above average for petty theft and property crime, and probably the extent of “violent” crime is an altercation at a bar, as it attracts a bit of an upscale “Jersey Shore” mentality on summer weekends.

    But absolutely nothing I’ve ever seen in NB suggests they need this kind of a police force.

  88. #88 |  Brian | 

    #48 | Other Sean—-“And who knows: In real life, the Newport Beach police may run that pumped up advertisement to disguise the fact that they’re actually a bunch of nice guys, while Decatur may be playing friendly on TV to create cover for some viciously dirty cops.”

    I live in Costa Mesa which is right next door to NB and we go to NB all the time since the beaches are cleaner than those of our other next door neighbor Huntington Beach and we rent a slip in the harbor. I can assure you the NBPD are every bit the asshats and strong arm militaristic imbeciles the video depicts them as. Which is unfortunate because its a lovely place and quite affluent.

  89. #89 |  Brian | 

    @55 Burgers Allday—

    It says quite a bit about who you are that you choose Chino as better than all of Orange County. I grew up in Chino, my parents and siblings still live there. The most memorable thing about Chino (excluding my high school years) is that it is home to a men’s prison, a women’s prison, a youth “camp” (ie youth prison), and a psychiatric ward. The police are the typical steroid addled, control freak, power junkies you’d find most places. However, the residential areas do have a quaint feel, just as my neighborhood in Costa Mesa (which is in OC) has. I’m guessing your biggest problem with OC is that it is largely Republican. And some of its cities are quite wealthy.

  90. #90 |  Brian | 

    #79 | Burgers Allday | July 6th, 2012 at 8:48 pm–
    “Look, ppl in Orange County generally believe in a certain form of apartheid.”

    You really are a blithering idiot. I can now reasonably conclude your distaste for Orange County is that some rich people live there and you aren’t one of them.

  91. #91 |  Greg | 

    I’m a new Yorker living in Decatur. It’s great. 15 minutes to downtown Atlanta. Incredibly walkable and nice people.

  92. #92 |  police militarization as a logical outcome of legal positivism? « leaves in the forest | 

    […] a friend of mine posted a link to an entry on The Agitator, the website of Radley Balko, a senior writer for the Huffington Post, comparing two police […]

  93. #93 |  Omri | 

    “Radley, get back to your book. This was a gratuitous punch in the nuts.

    Hate to break it to you, but the book is basically 400 or so pages of repetitive nut punches.

    Ask your publisher to put a big logo saying STOP RESISTING on the cover.
    The way the Hitchiker’s Guide has DON”T PANIC.

  94. #94 |  CyniCAl | 

    omfg, Newport Beach is like the safest city in the world with the highest per capita income. There’s not one person here who wouldn’t pass up the chance to live in Newport if they could afford it.

    The video may be reprehensible, but there’s like one murder if that per year in Newport. This is as silly as it gets.

    But as always, fuck the police …. everywhere and everywhen.

  95. #95 |  CyniCAl |

    Orange County cities among the top-100 most ethnically-diverse cities in America:

    Cerritos, California (21.4%, pop. 51,488)
    Garden Grove, California (32.5%, pop. 165,196)
    Westminster, California (36.2%, pop. 88,207)
    Buena Park, California (38.2%, pop. 78,282)
    Tustin, California (44.8%, pop. 67,504) My city of residence
    Anaheim, California (46.8%, pop. 328,014)
    Fullerton, California (48.7%, pop. 126,003)

    Number of California cities among the top-10 most ethnically diverse in America: 7 out of 10

    Number of California cities among the top-100 most ethnically diverse in America: 53 out of 100

    Quite apartheid … not.

  96. #96 |  Former OC | 

    Those are all the inland cities — the crappy parts of OC that nobody ever wants you to think of. With the exception of Huntington Beach, aka the “poor” beach city, the rest of the beach cities (which includes NB) are Whitey-McWhitersons.

  97. #97 |  Burgers Allday | 

    OC resident: You really are a blithering idiot. I can now reasonably conclude your distaste for Orange County is that some rich people live there and you aren’t one of them.

    There, Yizmo Gizmo. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about upthd. Now this kind of attitude would be easier to take if Orange County wasn’t a gigantic traffic filled eyesore. But, you couple this kind of OC tude with OC’s experiential aspects and yuk.

  98. #98 |  Silver | 

    @95 It’s pretty neat you cherry picked diverse North Orange County cities to make your point there. And when I say neat, I mean incredibly disingenuous.

    Care to do the same for Villa Park or maybe even Newport Beach?

  99. #99 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @86 – So you’re claiming that far less American criminals have guns than the general population? It’s up to 51% generally…

  100. #100 |  Dinsdale Pirhanna | 

    I have lived in Newport Beach. It is a very wealthy beachside community with no gangs (or poor people). There is virtually no crime there (unless you count the white collar crime committed by the wealthy who live there). The police there are well known to be overbearing and treat the smallest violations like violent felonies. Since there is no real crime, they normally hang around the beach and harass young people who come to the beach to have fun. Because the residents are almost exclusively wealthy and white, any black or hispanic visitors are considered suspicious and treated as probable criminals. Not surprisingly the NB police have a history of brutality and racism.

  101. #101 |  Rebecca | 

    From someone who lives near Newport Beach (I work in Irvine), it is not that dangerous. I’m not sure why they decided they should go with the violent, loud, action-packed approach. Crime wise, it’s pretty boring.

    #97, no, it isn’t that diverse, either.

  102. #102 |  Choochoo | 

    I have grown up and lived in the City of Decatur my entire life. We have an amazing law enforcement establishment. People who say “F*** the police” are the biggest hypocrits. Just wait until YOU call the police. I can tell you now, if you got to know the City of Decatur PD you would never say “F*** the police again” you would have an entirely different view of the PD:)

  103. #103 |  Patrick from Popehat | 


    Last June my neighbor’s house was broken into. Fortunately she had an alarm system and the police showed up before anything was taken. But I made a point of going into the yard and confronting the officers who were running around (on my property) to ask what they were doing. I did it because I was concerned they’d wander further onto my property and encounter my dogs.

    I was glad the police showed up promptly. I was worried about my dogs. Does that make me a hypocrite?

  104. #104 |  Rufus | 

    I lived in Newport beach in 2009 and now live in Decatur.
    Newport beach is a very weird place. It is an affluent town but does have an underbelly of very aggressive young men. Guys into MMA, steroids, x games motocross fast and furious types, etc. if you go to a bar at night youll notice it always seems very tense, like there is going to be a big brawl between some monster truck guys and the skate punks, or whatever.
    Decatur on the other hand is one of the most mellow places I’ve ever been. These videos present the vibe of both places pretty accurately, IMO.

  105. #105 |  Moriarty | 

    More grist for the legal mill. These sorts of things have a way of finding their way into the courtroom in civil trials where “a culture embracing the use of excessive force and police brutality” is alleged.

    A-Team style recruitment ads can go a long way toward influencing a jury on culpability and the size of an award.

  106. #106 |  IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States | 

    Liberal, progressive California – now that’s the place to be… beaten by cops.

    Somehow the last three words got left off. Gald I could help…


  107. #107 |  me | 

    Just for comparison: recruiting video of the Munich police (quicktime)

    The slogan at the beginning reads “Everything but ordinary”
    The slogan at the end reads “Everybody needs us, we need you!”

  108. #108 |  craig | 

    Not even a little credit….

  109. #109 |  Burgers Allday |

  110. #110 |  GFGirl | 

    Having lived in BOTH places, I can say hands down that Decatur is the far better place in terms of community policing. Note the use of the term “community” which seems not to exist in NB. Decatur = sleepy, FRIENDLY South. NB = Weird SoCal 80s vibe.

  111. #111 |  Bob | 

    Cops are trained to yell “stop resisting” any time they tackle someone no matter if they are not resisting so they can charge resisting arrest. Police police almost everywhere.

    “To Protect and Serve” my ass.

  112. #112 |  Newport Beach, Calif., Police Recruiting Video Goes Overboard - ABC News | 

    […] on YouTube for about four years, but didn’t garner much attention until it was posted on The Agitator in early July. The post shows two separate police departments taking two very different approaches […]

  113. #113 |  Hopkins | 

    While i felt it best to remain apart from the subject of this discussion, I felt it necessary to inquire as to where Sheepdog has obtained his/her crime statistics related to DeKalb County.
    As a former Dekalb Homicide Detective, I can assure you that the numbers posted (16 and 20 respectively for the years 2011 and 2012) are highly erroneous. In fact although I left in 2008, I cannot recall a year since 2006 that there were less than 100 homicides in the unincorporated portion of Dekalb County. And while the City of Decatur is a tranquil oasis amid a sea of chaos as it is the county seat of Dekalb, it is most assuredly surrounded by some sketchy areas.
    Additionally as a Los Angeles County native, I would have to agree with Rufus’ assessment of Newport Beach. As such I never ever felt comfortable going there nor most of orange County. Seems to be just angry, rich, white Republicans whom I can’t seem to understand what they are so angry about. Unless it’s having too much money. Being the type of area that it is and based on the demographic, I doubt that Newport is a crime hotspot as the video would lead you to believe.
    Are there cops overly aggressive? It wouldn’t surprise me as it would be consistent with the mentality of that type of community. As a person of color I wouldn’t want to put that theory to the test. Thus I will continue to remain wary of 0range County and Newport Beach.

  114. #114 |  Newport Beach Police Recruitment Video Hilariously Portrays The Beachside City As The Wild West « Go to News! | 

    […] no-nonsense “Are You Qualified?” video went viral after it was posted on The Agitator alongside its video opposite: a police recruitment video from the Decatur Police Department in […]

  115. #115 |  Casual Films UK Blog | Bicycles vs. Guns | 

    […] and has since won a whole bunch of awards. However, after reading a post on Radley Balko’s blog, The Agitator, we looked back on our TVP video in a slightly different […]

  116. #116 |  Anonymous | 

    I’m familiar with both areas as a resident. Both police videos are accurate for each of the portrayed areas.

    In reference to someone’s post about taxes in Georgia, based on my experience, they rarely peak over $10,000 and average $4,000 to $6,000 in City of Atlanta; unlike, Newport Beach which averages $15,000 and up to $27,000. (similar to New Jersey property taxes just outside of Manhattan in beautiful South Orange and quaint Maplewood NJ)

    After living in Newport Beach, I was more than happy to return to the east coast mindset.

  117. #117 |  Rick Horowitz | 

    The video from Newport Beach clearly demonstrates why I, a practicing criminal defense lawyer in California, believe we are living in a post-constitutional world, as I recently wrote on my blog.

    Law enforcement here doesn’t seem to even have a modicum of concern for the law. That video could as easily have been an advertisement for a Hollywood action-blow-things-up-and-kill-bad-guys movie, or a videogame, as an ad for NBPD.