The Drug War and Modern Policing

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

By Sean Dunagan, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

The war on drugs has claimed innumerable victims.  The tens of thousands killed in Mexico, the half a million incarcerated here for nonviolent drug offenses, the taxpayers who have funded it all to the tune of a trillion dollars.  But one of the greatest victims of the drug war is law enforcement itself.

I don’t mean the bloated bureaucracy of DEA or the robber barons of the prison-industrial complex.  I mean the foundations of civilian law enforcement.

The profound and deleterious effects of drug prohibition on civilian policing are evident in a number of ways.  Not long ago– in most of our lifetimes, even– police officers wore blue or white dress shirts, black slacks, and a tie to work.  Today, they most closely resemble soldiers.  This is not a change in fashion, but in mission.  SWAT teams, once found only in large cities and deployed only in extraordinary circumstances, are now active in 90 percent of municipalities with populations greater than 50,000.  The number of paramilitary raids by police in this country has grown from a few thousand in the 1980s to more than 50,000 last year.  The average cop on the street has gone from carrying a .38 revolver, to a 9mm, to a .40 caliber with laser sights (and, often, magazines that would be illegal for an average citizen to even own).

This change in tools and tactics is a direct consequence of a policy that makes criminals out of the roughly 23 million Americans who use drugs.  As Radley put it, “Dress cops up as soldiers, give them military equipment, train them in military tactics, tell them they’re fighting a ‘war,’ and the consequences are predictable.”  Indeed, they are.

One of the consequences has been erosion in public confidence in law enforcement.  Rolling tanks through cities and raiding family homes in the middle of the night didn’t win many hearts and minds in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and it’s been equally unsuccessful here.  This is particularly true in the black community, where one in 15 children have a parent in jail.

A visible manifestation of this distrust is the “no snitching” movement, which even the Partnership for a Drug Free America acknowledges to be rooted in the drug war:

The no-snitching campaign is partly a response to the proliferation of informers, which in turn is a result of the war on drugs. Police routinely turn minor drug offenders into informers to try to catch bigger dealers: about one in three drug prosecutions involves the use of informants, who typically get reduced sentences in exchange for their cooperation. “If a dealer needs to make a deal, he’ll tell on his mother,” said Pittsburgh Police Department Commander Maurita Bryan. “It may not be right, but it’s all we have.”

The impact on the ability of law enforcement to do its job is clear.  In 1965, police solved 91 percent of murders.  Even in the late 1960s, after the Miranda decision and amid significant social turmoil, the clearance rate remained above 85 percent.  It has fallen steadily since the launch of the drug war, and now stands below 65 percent.

The effects of the drug war have also made the job of policing more dangerous.  In the 1960s, an average of 155 officers died in the line of duty each year.  In the ten years following the 1973 launch of the drug war, that average jumped to 221—a 43 percent increase.  Of course, correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it’s worth noting that the same dynamic occurred during alcohol prohibition.  In the 13 years preceding Prohibition, the average was 117 law enforcement deaths a year; during Prohibition, it more than doubled to 240.  Following repeal, it fell again to 148.

The modern theory of policing in a free society traces its history to Robert Peel, the former British Home Secretary and Prime Minister who established London’s Metropolitan Police Force in 1829.  His guiding vision for the department was codified in what became known as the 9 “Peelian Principles” of policing (though it’s not clear whether he personally compiled the list).  They are worth posting in their entirety:

1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

5. Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to the public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

Law enforcement is a demanding and often thankless career.  Every day, officers perform selfless acts of bravery and heroism that save lives and bring comfort to victims.  Certainly, there are still law enforcement officers who execute their duties in conformity with Peel’s principles.  My father, a retired police chief, was one.  Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s leadership and membership are full of them.  But as our civilian police agencies grow increasingly militarized, their numbers are thinning.

The drug war has, indeed, claimed innumerable victims.  We should all be fearful that Robert Peel’s vision will be among them.

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56 Responses to “The Drug War and Modern Policing”

  1. #1 |  Santiago | 

    I’m from the south. Cops were corrupt power mad assholes even before the drug war.

  2. #2 |  Whim | 

    As the police departments militantly unionized, their leadership opined that the #1 priority of their membership was to “go home alive at the end of the workday”.

    To accomplish that priority, that means police officers who were historically paid to take some risks as part of their job and as a consequence were afforded considerable public favor, decided to transfer ALL of the risk of any police encounter onto the public.

    Meaning, the police would rather beat, pepper-spray, taze, maim or kill an innocent person than accept any risk of harm to themselves.

    There are still many in the public that do not understand that the foregoing paradigm shift in policing has occured, and still imbue the police with a version of undeserved hero-worship.

  3. #3 |  James Fox | 

    I read a report written by the PEW Foundation on the legalization of all drugs. As we know the pew foundation is basically a conservative think tank. They were in favor of the legalization of all drugs and they cited reports and studies that indicated that drug use would decline with legalization. The monies from the legal sale of now illegal drugs could and would be most wisely used to treat drug users with a major excess of monies for other programs. Anyone with half a brain knows we cannot compete with the cartels, and the only way to break them up is with legalization of all drugs. Therefore the ability to sell for less and the black market mentality drops off if you can purchase what you want at a greatly reduced cost why would you pay more and not really know what you are actually receiving.

  4. #4 |  KristenS | 

    @ #1 Whim I was watching an old episode of Cops the other night (non-Olympic viewing is slim pickins these days) and before I switched the channel in disgust, I listened to the officer say his #1 goal every day was to go home safe. He was clear and unequivocal. He didn’t see his #1 priority as being a professional and protecting his community. Nope. Get home safe. That was it. I hate to think what he did each day to accomplish that goal.

  5. #5 |  Dreadpirate | 

    @whim: I agree in most part with what you say; I am not certain that there is a clear connection of Unionization (which I oppose) to the “go home alive” mantra. I think rather the connection is to to drug war itself and the increased violence directed towards an unpopular police effort. “officer survival” as a program of instruction coincides with the drug war–it, too began in the late ’70s.

    I would also suggest that you were more likely to beat straight up “beaten” by law enforcement in the 60s vs today. The increased violence of police-public encounters is more likely related to the drug war itself and the violent fighting of it, than to officers who are avoiding risk more today. IMHO

  6. #6 |  Mrs. C | 

    #’s 1 and 2…Go to the Head of the Class…because you are both right.

  7. #7 |  EJB | 

    They merely changed the implied object of “To Protect and Serve” from the public to themselves. Another important development is that policing went through a very dramatic shift towards ‘non-lethal’ force, but did not change their training in many significant ways. Lethal force has a significant amount of regulation and training to back it up, but non-lethal force is much more subject to officer discretion, especially with respect to the ends that force is used (the means are generally regulated and trained for, but poorly). So, notwithstanding that a citizen is providing no reasonable evidence of threat to the officer or others (or in some states, property), a taser can be used to compel compliance with verbal directives. Often, silence in response to a verbal directive can be construed as defiance justifying non-lethal force. Yet, that non-lethal force can still be vastly inappropriate and disproportionate to the policing goals.

    The drug war just has to end so we can bring reason back into law enforcement and criminal law/public policy.

  8. #8 |  Miroker | 

    I would take exception to the statement “Certainly, there are still law enforcement officers who execute their duties in conformity with Peel’s principles.” There is no way that is true, otherwise we would have less police misconduct by officers actually doing what they are paid for and arresting other officers for the law and regulation breaking that happen in the police world every day.

    I for one dread any encounter with law enforcement due to the fact that I have a heart condition and you never know when an officer is going to pull out the taser or worse.

  9. #9 |  StrangeOne | 

    I remember the day I first heard of and read the Peelian Principles. I was already a regular agitator reader at the time. So naturally it made me terribly sad. In the context of modern policing they sound almost naive.

    Especially the part about “…police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen…”

  10. #10 |  Jim | 

    Domestic law enforcement. Cops are civilians too.

  11. #11 |  marie | 

    As the police departments militantly unionized, their leadership opined that the #1 priority of their membership was to “go home alive at the end of the workday”.

    Yes. When ICE agents raided our house, they were wearing Kevlar. We were not. They had their loaded weapons out. We did not. They were protected. We were not.

    And this was for a non-violent crime at a home where none of the residents have ANY criminal history, let alone any violent criminal history.

    This must stop.

    When we told the attorney and the multiple counselors about the search, we heard some version of this more than once: “If you were married to a cop, wouldn’t you want to be sure he comes home safely at night?”

  12. #12 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “If a dealer needs to make a deal, he’ll tell on his mother,” said Pittsburgh Police Department Commander Maurita Bryan. “It may not be right, but it’s all we have.”

    There you have it. This is the process of rationalization that cops learn to use to supress guilt. Put Commander Bryan’s cop out (pardon the pun) in the same class as “There is no alternative” (Thatcher) and “This is the end of history” (Fukyama). There are ALWAYS alternatives. This is not “all we have.”

    If the police refused, enmasse, to perpetuate the drug war, it would end. They and their departments could take initial steps towards this goal by eliminating “consent searches,” refusing to use SWAT when a credible threat of violence doesn’t exist and looking the other way if someone has small amounts of an illicit substance on their person. But instead, cops just take the “we don’t have any choice” road, like Commander Bryan. Why? Because the drug war is just to profitable for the police.

    Peelian principles sound good in theory, but they are and always were a pleasant sounding mission statement that conceals an uncomfortable truth. When London’s Bobbies went into service in 1829, their unstated mission was to control the “dangerous classes” that had been brought into cities like London to fill the factories during the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Many such “peasants” had been kicked out of more rural communities during the enclosure movement and forced to go work for the new captains of industry, rather than for themselves and their families. Not everyone played along, of course, so in stepped the bobbies.

    Perhaps George Orwell had this aspect of hisory in mind when he referred to the policeman as “the natural enemy of the working class.”

  13. #13 |  BamBam | 

    One of the consequences has been erosion in public confidence in law enforcement. Rolling tanks through cities and raiding family homes in the middle of the night didn’t win many hearts and minds in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and it’s been equally unsuccessful here.

    This is an accurate statement only if the goal of The State is to protect citizens. The data should lead one to believe quite the opposite — the biggest criminal of all, .gov, is there to punish you for existing when it suits The State’s purpose, which is simply acting upon its sociopath tendencies.

    The Drug War is a raging success. The tactics you mention are part of that success, and are actions to condition people to further oppression which are likely to be embraced and encouraged by the idiot masses.

  14. #14 |  Dante | 

    “This change in tools and tactics is a direct consequence of a policy that makes criminals out of the roughly 23 million Americans who use drugs.”

    It’s worse than that. Today, the police operate under the assumption that there are only two kinds of people in the entire world:

    1. Fellow police officers
    2. Dangerous, violent criminals

    We The People have become “the enemy”. Anyone who is not a police officer gets treated like dirt, and the police have near-perfect immunity from prosecution when they mess up. Just like any police state.

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

  15. #15 |  The Damage to Modern Policing by Our War on Drugs - GadflyRadio | 

    […] barons of the prison-industrial complex. I mean the foundations of civilian law enforcement. (click here to read more) Share this:FacebookReddit Filed Under: Budget and Finance, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Waste, […]

  16. #16 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    We The People have become “the enemy”.

    That’s why it’s so important to get them on tape.
    Ever seen how a cop’s demeanor changes in a heartbeat when
    he least expects it, he’s elected, he’s a star today…he’s on Candid Caaaa–mera.
    http://www.pixiq.com/article/california-cop-goes-from-bad-cop-to-good-cop

  17. #17 |  liberranter | 

    Every day, officers perform selfless acts of bravery and heroism that save lives and bring comfort to victims.

    Okay, maybe, on any given day, ONE lone cop, among the tens of thousands of armed predators in his/her profession across the nation, MIGHT perform such an act. If he/she does, however, it is purely coincidental and unintended, certainly NOT in fulfillment of his/her primary duties (these being to collect revenue for and enforce the positivist fiats of the State – preferably at the point of a gun or taser). After all, cops are NOT legally required to render ANY protective services whatsoever to citizens.

    Very simply, the statement quoted above, if intended to serve as a description of the average cop’s actual daily accomplishments, is pure, fantasy-driven bullshit.

  18. #18 |  liberranter | 

    @#11: Since there’s nothing that Porky Pig hates more than being exposed for the thug that he is and being held accountable for his actions, his demeanor usually becomes much more violent once he finds out that he’s “on Candid Camera.” Just Google “police brutality” and you’ll come up with 8.1 million hits. Add “YouTube” to the search and at least 100 hits come which link to videos of Porky and his pals exercising their inner demons on some hapless citizen. Even with all this rampant evidence too obvious even for the most dim-witted of the sheeple to ignore, Porky still gets away with murder – literally.

  19. #19 |  DaveMan50 | 

    Back when they started the war on drug people they found out fast that they could not get enough people to pass the tests. So every once in a wile they reduced the intelligence requirements, then the psychological test scores, then lift the max weight limit. That is why we have psychotic GOD complexes and trigger happy cops.

  20. #20 |  frijoles jr | 

    Once again, a very well written piece by Sean, packed with indisputable nuggets of truth, but with a blind spot that smugglers could drive a convoy through. The ideals encapsulated in Peel’s principles are admirable, but as Helmut pointed out, above, they weren’t even practiced in Peel’s day.

    One of the fundamental principles of risk management is that abuse is the product of opportunity and weak controls, individual ethics not withstanding. Qualified immunity and professional courtesy can not do otherwise than create an environment of reduced accountability for law enforcement. Abuse of authority is the natural, and inevitable result.

    I have no doubt that Sean’s father was a decent person and I’m even glad that LEAP exists, because advocacy by ex-cops is better than it’s absence, but to claim that, prior to retirement, they executed their duties in conformity with Peel’s principles strains credulity and smacks of self-justification.

    It’s thankless because you didn’t earn any gratitude.

  21. #21 |  SP | 

    One thing that everybody needs to get through their heads is that the police are not heroes. They are public employees who have willingly applied for, tested for, and accepted a job enforcing the laws of the jurisdiction in which they are employed. Nothing more, nothing less. All this BS after 9/11 has more than run its course. Being a cop is not even among the top five most dangerous jobs in America.

    1. Commercial Fisherman Fatality rate per 100,000: 116
    2. Logger Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 92
    3. Airplane Pilot Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 71
    4. Farmer & Rancher Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 41
    5. Mining Machine Operator Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 39
    6. Roofer Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 32
    7. Garbage Man Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 30
    8. Truck Driver Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 22
    9. Industrial Machine Repairman Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 20
    10. Policeman Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 18

    I get tired of hearing how dangerous that police jobs are all the time as some justification for the big paychecks, outrageous benefits, and early retirements they receive from the taxpayer. Historically, the majority of police deaths are the result of automobile accidents. Usually, the officer has driven beyond his abilities and ends up killing himself along with a few civilians…but no fault is ever found with the officer’s driving. Imagine that?

    They have a tough job. We all have tough jobs. Lucky for them that they feed at the public trough and are in a union that negotiates with people who have no personal interest in protecting the public pocketbook. If public agencies had to live within budgets, it would be an entirely different ballgame.

    Bottom line, they are not heroes – just exceptionally well compensated public employees who, for the most part, could give a rip about you or me. They are good at taking reports and drawing chalk outlines and that is about the extent of it.

  22. #22 |  Other Sean | 

    Sean,

    Allow me to apologize for my fellow readers, some of whom remain below what you might call the “public choice horizon” of libertarian thought. They lack the capacity to understand how incentives and bureaucratic structures in modern law enforcement work to make even good people produce bad outcomes (a very odd deficiency, since they’ve probably all seen “The Wire”, and a good third of the posts on this blog attempt to explain that very concept).

    Instead of dealing with the tragic complexities of drug war politics, they prefer to moralize and psychologize their way through simple narratives. To them, all cops are “pigs”, “welfare queens”, “armed predators”, who put themselves in the service of a self-conscious conspiracy to suppress blacks, poor people, and now it seems, factory workers in the vicinity of London, 1829. They think every roll call begins with a briefing by either an enrobed Klansman or a top-hatted member of the 1%, and every shift ends with a dead puppy and an outpouring of maniacal, movie villain laughter.

    Your existence is inconvenient and confusing to them, so you can expect to read of lot of comments that amount to “LEAP is great and all, and I totally support your work, but…um, present company excepted, I’m going to keep on talking about cops in a way that makes a seven year old boy’s understanding of Imperial Storm Troopers seem nuanced and deep.”

  23. #23 |  theCL Report: Disinformation | 

    […] The Drug War and Modern Policing […]

  24. #24 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Other Sean: “Instead of dealing with the tragic complexities of drug war politics, they prefer to moralize and psychologize their way through simple narratives. To them, all cops are “pigs”, “welfare queens”, “armed predators”, who put themselves in the service of a self-conscious conspiracy to suppress blacks, poor people, and now it seems, factory workers in the vicinity of London, 1829. They think every roll call begins with a briefing by either an enrobed Klansman or a top-hatted member of the 1%, and every shift ends with a dead puppy and an outpouring of maniacal, movie villain laughter.”

    I appreciate the fact that you want Sean to feel comfortable, and I am glad he is here to share his insights. But really, Other Sean, you just went crazy with straw man arguments in your post. You and I have had some good conversations on here of late, so I am disappointed in your post.

    For your information, my father was a police officer like Sean’s. I attended many roll calls (You are correct; no Klansmen but plenty of dick jokes) and went on many ride-a longs with my father and with other officers during internships. That’s right, Other Sean, I was a criminal justice major. In fact, until this year I was still looking into a few opportunities in the law enforcement field. I know a hell of a lot about policing, because it has been one of my major areas of study–in and out of the classroom–for the better part of ten years. And I certainly know how “incentives and bureaucratic structures” effect police departments.

    I finally came to the conclusion that policing as we know it is not sustainable and has always been fundamentally flawed. And not merely because of bad incentives and organizational issues. If you re-read my post, I think you will find that it was pretty nuanced and not focused on name-calling. Indeed, I did not call anyone “pig” or “welfare queen.” I understand perfectly well that there are legitimate security issues in our communities that need to be dealt with, and I think that law enforcement would be more effective if they were not involved with vice enforcement and other distractions. I even gave examples of some ways that police could begin to disassociate themselves from the shadier aspects of drug war policing, if they really wanted to. Obsessions with job security and extreme paranoia about officer safety make it very unlikely that police will take the actions I would advocate.

    And it seems you took exception to my point about the bobbies being used to keep the working class in line. I will make the assumption that you have some understanding of the enclosure movement and its effect on the “commoners” (although many libertarians don’t seem to understand it or think it was a great idea). Poor people were forced off of the land they farmed in common for years and pushed into the factories to work for a wage. If that didn’t go well, they wound up in the streets. Crime increased, as it always does in epicenters of poverty (trust me, I’ve seen the crime maps in my city). And the government decided it needed an organized, non-military, department to deal with the fall out. I don’t think my interpretation is all that controversial. I mean, would you also deny that police in the southern U.S. were influenced by their past role as slave patrols?

    In addressing this issue, I am not at all saying–as you infer–that officers engage in a “self-conscious conspiracy” to go after the poor. Indeed, most cops I know would consider themselves working class and have little regard for the rich. That is certainly the way my dad thinks. But police generally do have a bias for middle class, relatively conservative, values. And that is one reason why policies like drug prohibition persist. Because no respectable person in THEIR neighborhood is a drug user or dealer (they think). And vice crime is so out in the open in the ghetto, so the poor are low hanging fruit for police officers that are obsessed with numbers and in need of overtime pay (how’s that for a discussion of perverse incentives).

    I’ll leave it their for now Other Sean. I’ll check back to see if you want to discuss this further. Next time cool it on the straw man approach, ok. On a busy blog like The Agitator, you never know for sure who you are talking to and what kind of background they have.

  25. #25 |  Gordon | 

    A major part of the problem lies in the very terminology we’ve allowed the police to use, and have even adopted ourselves.

    “Law Enforcement”

    Not “Peace Officers”, anymore. No, now their primary mission, their very *identity* lies in enFORCING the laws upon the people, rather than keeping the peace and protecting the people.

    If we lose the battle of core ideas, all the rest is just gum-flapping.

    Also, yes, the militarization is a big problem. I submit, however, that the wide-scale adoption of gang-banger mentality among police is the far more dangerous problem. It is that mentality which drives the immediate over-the-top violent response to virtually any situation that even looks like “dissing” them. They will gladly and vigorously beat a helpless, handcuffed man to death if that’s what it takes to maintain “respect”.

    Imperium delende est!

  26. #26 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @1 – How dare the scum talk to each other!

  27. #27 |  Other Sean | 

    Helmut,

    There’s a difference between a strawman argument and a caricature. There’s also a difference between a strawman and a composite. It’s true that no one person ever says all that in a single outburst, but the fact remains: I could’ve gone a lot further than I did, and still backed up every word with a site search, probably offending a third of the regular commenters here in the process.

    Look…in this struggle, we are hundred-year underdogs. That means that if we do everything right, our grandchildren may live to see the end of the drug war. We ourselves will never see it. Indeed, given the tendency of government programs to grow worse right up to the moment when they fail completely, we shall probably witness a whole catalog of fresh atrocities before it comes our time to get a hip replacement and then beg for Percocet from a grudging and terrified doctor.

    So what should we be doing in the meantime?

    I’m not sure, but this little game where we compete with each other to see who can be most creative in denouncing cops as dickless, control freak, fascistic, racist, stooges of the ruling class – it’s not accurate, it’s not interesting, and it doesn’t help. It makes us look like unserious, petulant children to any neutral party who might chance to wander into the discussion

    Your decision not to enter the profession, that means something. That’s a real act of protest, and I respect it. What Radley Balko does has a proven record of changing minds and even of rescuing individual victims from the jaws of the machine. “The Wire” reached millions. LEAP provides an indispensable source of credibility to the average, middle American fence-sitter whose support is crucial to any successful campaign for reform.

    But you tell me, H…what does our stable of internet tough guys contribute with all their venting? Who have they saved? What ideas have they brought forward? Whose minds have they changed? What result have they produced, beyond a temporary boost in their own self-satisfaction, and a permanent dumbing down of the conversation?

  28. #28 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I would love to see some legislator (preferably one with a sense of humor) introduce legislation stating that to enjoy immunity of any kind a government functionary must display some degree of minimal competence. Like getting the freaking address on a warrant right; kick down the wrong door, and you open yourself to one hell of a lawsuit. I don’t think it would pass, but in the hands of the right person it could generate one hell of a lot of bad publicity for the “nothing to see here. Move along.” crowd.

  29. #29 |  James | 

    The “bad apples” give the other 5% a bad reputation.

    The last cop I met who was worth the powder to blow him to hell was in the late 70s – I haven’t met a cop since that hasn’t acted like he was God.

    Frak ‘em all.

  30. #30 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Off-topic:http://edinburgheye.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/and-to-think-we-worried-that-the-olympics-would-create-a-police-state/

  31. #31 |  Heartless Libertarian | 

    Sean (author Sean)-

    Just an FYI – your sentence “often, magazines that would be illegal for an average citizen to even own,” is factually inaccurate unless you live in a gun rights infringing jurisdiction such as NY, CA, MA, MD, etc.

    In free(er) states, 30 round rifle magazines for AR and AK rifles can freely by purchased for as little as $6 for military surplus, or $12 for new ones. Pistol magazines of 15-17 rounds, while more expensive, can be purchased just as freely.

    Even during the Clinton AWB of 1994-2004, sale and possession of magazines larger than 10 rounds manufactured before the law went into effect were not restricted, at least by federal law. The only restriction was on the sale of newly manufactured magazines.

  32. #32 |  frankania | 

    In my youth (30 years old), I was walking down a New Orleans street, when I heard 2 cops yelling “stop, raise your hands!”
    A young black man was running towards me with the cops behind him. I could have easily grabbed him, but decided not to because I immediately thought, “oh well, he was probably smoking a joint or something”
    So you see, if we didn’t have PROHIBITION, a running fugitive would certainly be a BAD GUY, and the public would likely HELP the police.

  33. #33 |  Dante | 

    Other Sean:

    First off: Love the proper spelling of your name. I see a lot of “Shawn” or “Shon” where I live. So tip of the cap to your parents.

    When a vast majority of rational, educated, law-abiding, tax-paying, church-going, flag-waving citizens, like me, feels that the police have become nothing more than a criminal gang with excellent health care, there is something terribly wrong with the police. And not the other way around.

    All of your (well written and thoughtful) pleadings notwithstanding, the police of today are vastly more bad than good. The only thing preventing change for the better is obviously educated and intelligent folks like yourself saying “calm down, it’s not that bad, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater, let’s not get crazy here”, etc. The unwashed masses will eat that up, because such an intelligent guy couldn’t be wrong. Right?

    I too had family in the criminal justice system while I was growing up. I too was allowed to hang around with off-duty police when they let their guards down and showed their true nature. I too share Helmut’s low opinion of the police, and I feel the best way to change them is exposure.

    If that means ranting like a crazy toothless homeless guy living under a bridge…. so be it. Just because I’m that guy doesn’t change the truth on the ground – today’s police are depraved, perverted, power-tripping criminals, with a very few exceptions.

    Respect.

  34. #34 |  dave smith | 

    On every level, our government is out of control. Whether it is the militarization of police, regulatory tyranny, or a government which imposes water restrictions not following the restrictions themselves.

    To everyone with any bureaucratic authority, the rest of us are surfs.

  35. #35 |  Lawman_45 | 

    The “no snitching” movement began with the POLICE and they practice it every day. All police officers know who their lawbreaking, sociopathetic, often psychotic co-workers are. All police officers know they have a duty to report to management. None do. If a report is made, senior cops just start the cover-up. They are ALL accompliaces in the perp’s crime.

    THE BLUE LINE OF SILENCE BEGINS THE FIRST DAY “ON THE JOB” AND NEVER CEASES. And they punish those who speak out just like the gang of thugs that they are. No wonder the POLICE hate audio and videotape so much.

  36. #36 |  Bergman | 

    The traditional American view of police officers is that of Heroes, the Good Guys. The Lone Ranger being typical. Was this ever really true? Probably not, but that was the widely held view.

    The average man on the street, seeing a police officer in need of assistance, would jump in without hesitation, risking his own life as needed to save that Good Guy from the Bad Guys. Many cops lived to go home to their families because of that sort of citizen action.

    But police have spent the last few decades gradually trading in their white hats for black body armor. Yes, having armor that will save you from 99 out of 100 bullets that come your way, or even 999 out of 1000 is a great thing. But what have they given up to get that?

    Nowadays, quite a few citizens, seeing a police officer in need of assistance, will shrug and go on their way. Let the gang-bangers sort out their own differences, it’s none of the citizen’s business. There’s even a sizable chance, if the citizen does intervene to help the cop, they wind up brutalized or killed, because the cop is conditioned to view all citizens as at least potential enemies, so when one runs into the fight, he’s just another enemy.

    We’re not yet at a point where the majority of the people see police as the Bad Guys. But given current trends, it’s not impossible, and the loss of respect for police seems to be accelerating. When police in a gunfight with members of a drug cartel reach a point where the police are seen as the greater of the two evils, we can expect to see citizens jumping in to save the Good Guys…by killing the cops.

    Police are radically outnumbered by the general public and always have been. Body armor that will save your life from 999 out of 1000 incoming bullets is great…until you consider that if current attitudes continue on their current path, the day when 1000 people, each with 10-20 round magazines will be shooting at every cop is not far off.

  37. #37 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #20 Other Sean:
    Thanks for your reply and I appreciate your kind words. My decision not to enter policing was indeed an act of protest and one that made sense morally, but not financially. Sometimes you have to heed Nancy Reagan’s advice and “just say no” ; ). My analysis: I didn’t betray policing, policing betrayed me.

    I have criticized the game you reference in your post many times since I first checked out The Agitator about four years ago. I have also taken my share of shit over the years for denouncing the name-calling and stereotyping on this blog. I still don’t think its very “libertarian” to treat the police as a monolithic blob. But, some people come here to vent. That is the way many blogs are, for better or for worse (mostly for worse). Indeed that is why I only frequent a few blogs. The Agitator is better than the vast majority.

    You are correct; the “internet tough guy” approach doesn’t solve jack shit. While I will continue to visit The Agitator for the investigative reporting, my presence in the comment area–on any blog I check out– will likely drop off soon for many of the reasons you have discussed. All this shit does is raise blood pressures and dash hopes for a better future. That should not be the point of activism and protest.

    But let’s ignore the tough guys for a moment. What I intended to do in my post is offer an institutional analysis of policing. I maintain that the institution of policing is deeply flawed, though many of the individual actors may come to the field for the right reasons. I certainly had good intentions. It is my fear that the institution will force most of these individuals to conform or it will destroy them. This was a major reason I did not enter the field. Aside from my moral qualms I just felt that I would burn out or be forced out within a few years.

    The failures of policing also point to the dark side of liberalism. Liberalism got us past monarchy, feudalism and the dominance of the church. It proved to be more stable than fascism and state socialism. But, in my opinion, liberalism is not sufficient. To paraphrase Rosseau, when people and communities are told to depend on representatives, policemen and bosses, they lose a substantial amount of their freedom. That is why I believe that another revolution (As bloodless as possible, I hope) is in order. Liberalism has always feared the rabble (look at the writings of James Madison and other classical liberals) and this is one reason why organized police forces were developed. I think we can do better.

  38. #38 |  Personanongrata | 

    “If a dealer needs to make a deal, he’ll tell on his mother,” said Pittsburgh Police Department Commander Maurita Bryan. “It may not be right, but it’s all we have.”

    Wrong!

    Snitches are not all we have.

    If Pittsburg Police Department Commander Maurita Bryan would take a moment from her busy schedule of worshipping at the altar of authority she may come to the conclusion that the “police” can just say no.

    No to allowing political expediences to run roughshod over the very constitutional protections Pittsburg Police Department Commander Maurita Bryan (etal) swore an oath to uphold.

  39. #39 |  Personanongrata | 

    #34 | dave smith | August 9th, 2012 at 11:16 am
    To everyone with any bureaucratic authority, the rest of us are surfs.

    The only way you can become a serf is if you allow the petty-tyrants to treat you as such.

    Demand to be treated as a human-being.

    The government can only govern with the consent of the governed.

    Revoke your consent and demand accountability.

  40. #40 |  StrangeOne | 

    @ Personanongrata

    That’s a well meaning sentiment. But I haven’t consented to most federal policies for the entirety of my adult life. Funny enough they never stopped to ask me for it while they were out arresting people and terrorizing the world.

    You can make all the demands you want, and get laughed at for your troubles by the authorities and the authoritarians. If getting human rights mealy required you to demand them, then the world would be a paradise.

  41. #41 |  Other Sean | 

    Dante,

    If you read me carefully (and perhaps check out my comment history), you should see that I am definitely not making any argument about the proportion of good and bad apples in the police barrel. I, too, feel a mighty urge to vomit whenever someone starts talking about the “X% who do their jobs with honor every single day…”

    In fact, I don’t believe in the concept of good and bad apples at all. They exist, of course, but only at the margins and never in sufficient numbers to define the performance of any system.

    What I believe in are the kind of apples that respond to incentives. They are the ones who, making up the vast majority of EVERY group at ANY given moment, determine how that group will behave. Which is to say, they don’t determine a damn thing, because the incentives are doing that for them.

    (If we agree on nothing else, let’s agree the apple metaphor is now officially cached.)

    On an individual level, it is often true that bad things happen because of bad people. But when bad things happen en masse, when they happen repeatedly and systematically, it becomes both lazy and dim to attribute those things to the mere existence of bad people.

    By definition, anything that happens a scale equal to the drug war must be the work of ordinary people, carried on with the active consent of tens of millions. The enterprise is simply too big to be staffed entirely by monsters or sadists, or supported entirely by fools.

    But don’t you see: what I’m saying is worse, more harsh, and more radical than what you have said. I’m accusing the normal, the decent, and the upstanding citizens of this country of being criminal accomplices to a criminally stupid system. And I’m accusing the police of being what they are: average, ordinary servants in the banality of evil, who lack the initiative for self-determination that is the common feature of both heroes and villains.

    You’re letting everyone else off the hook, by insisting that the harm of the drug war is only the work of a narrow band of depraved, power-crazed, perverts.

  42. #42 |  Personanongrata | 

    #40 | StrangeOne | August 9th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
    That’s a well meaning sentiment. But I haven’t consented to most federal policies for the entirety of my adult life. Funny enough they never stopped to ask me for it while they were out arresting people and terrorizing the world.

    You can make all the demands you want, and get laughed at for your troubles by the authorities and the authoritarians. If getting human rights mealy required you to demand them, then the world would be a paradise.

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” ~ Frederick Douglass

  43. #43 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @28 – So you want to establish “minimum” success rate. Let’s see, how do we say measure a prosecutor’s success rate? Oh, right. This can NEVER backfire!

    @33 – Ah yes, when far right fanatics, and gun nuts like you feel something, you ALWAYS invoke “everyone is like me” as a defense. When you act extremely hostile to the police and it backfires, you’ll then blame anything and everything else.

    They’re, again, not your friends and never have been, but fanaticism is never helpful.

    @37 – So “only” 25 million or so dead then? (What a major breakdown in the US food transport system would cause, fairly quickly, and primarily centered among the poor who can’t save up food of course).

    That you blame “liberalism” as a simplistic answer, when you overlook your moralist preaching and unwillingness to embrace any solution which is short of a revolution, using stereotyping…

    HOW DARE people do their job helping other people, in your world.

  44. #44 |  supercat | 

    #28 | C. S. P. Schofield | “I would love to see some legislator (preferably one with a sense of humor) introduce legislation stating that to enjoy immunity of any kind a government functionary must display some degree of minimal competence.”

    Better yet, codify in legislation what should already be obvious: illegitimate actions by can by definition form no part of a person’s legitimate duties. While agents might legitimately be given immunity from liability for actions done in performance of their legitimate duties, or even for accidental actions which, if done deliberately, would be illegitimate, agents cannot legitimately be given any sort of immunity for deliberate illegitimate actions.

    If an officer is given a warrant for 742 Evergreen Terrace and proceeds to raid 744 Evergreen Terrace, the officer should be recognized as a robber, with neither criminal nor civil immunity for his actions. If the cop is given a warrant which should have been for 7442 Evergreen Terrace, but it in fact said 742 Evergreen Terrace, then the cop who conducts a raid on 742 Evergreen Terrace might be protected from liability, but the cop who mistyped the warrant should not be.

    There is no reason why every cop involved with a raid should not be required to either inspect the warrant to ensure that the address being raided is, in fact, the one printed thereon, or be held civilly and criminally liable, jointly and severally, for any and all consequences that result from failure to do so.

  45. #45 |  supercat | 

    #41 | Other Sean | //What I believe in are the kind of apples that respond to incentives. //

    DING DING DING DING DING! WE HAVE A WINNER!

    I believe that one can predict the types of people one will find in an organization much better by examining the types of incentives the people will face, than by examining the people themselves. If the incentives will by their nature drive out good people and draw in bad people, the organization is virtually guaranteed to rot unless those incentives change, even if it is at present staffed by the best people imaginable.

    The reason one needs to get upset when cops are allowed to skate in “isolated instances” is not because such instances necessarily happen frequently, but rather because whether or not such instances happen often enough to be a “real problem” today, the fact that cops are routinely allowed to skate will virtually guarantee that those “isolated instances” will increase in frequency to the point that they become a problem.

  46. #46 |  GreginOz | 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

    Ahahahahahahahahaha aaaaah.

  47. #47 |  Other Sean | 

    GreginOz,

    You managed to invoke Godwin’s Law in perhaps the one comment thread on the entire internet where it does not apply.

  48. #48 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Leon,

    I am talking more about evolution than revolution. I am talking about people learning to do more for themselves and their neighbors. I am talking about people learning to manage their own workplaces. Gradually, Leon. Not overnight. Please calm down and stop throwing around scary phrases like “25 million dead.” You infer that my ideas would lead to genocide but you don’t even understand what I am talking about.

    When one discusses anything outside the boring Republican/Democrat or Labour/Tory talking points you get scared, don’t you. Why? You told me once that you were a mutualist. I gave you the benefit of the doubt that day, but now I’m calling bullshit. You are too attached to statism for anything like that. And that’s fine. Be what you want to be, but don’t ever accuse me of advocating genocidal policies again, asshole.

    Maybe none of this will help. You portray yourself as a contrarian that is out to keep radicals in check. But when you continually post incendiary nonsense and make personal attacks it makes me wonder if you are really just a contemptible little troll.

  49. #49 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @48 – You talk as if the reality isn’t that your Stateist, Corporatist Capitalists have not systematically been pushing wages out in favor of capital since the 1970’s.

    You refuse to acknowledge any possible consequences, of course, in your drive to murder many of the poor. To throw people back onto charities and being the “right” sort of people for support.

    Scared? Once more, you’re being a good little totalitarian and telling me what I think. Can’t allow free thought! Of course you sterotype me as Contrary To Doctrine. You view pointing out the consequences of what you call for as trolling, and it just points out how strongly you reject cause and effect.

  50. #50 |  Tax me | 

    the 1947 Marijuana tax act included in Section 8B the right of all sworn law officers to grow, manufacture, and sell pot. But instead of that action we now see corruption which is needed to supply the cash to cops through other means. If the cops who are armed, wear body armor, have back ups, were just allowed to sell and buy weed and then they profited upfront instead of through arrests, we would see a difference.

  51. #51 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Leon,
    My “drive to murder many of the poor.” Was that supposed to be serious? Take your Pfizer candy and calm down for fuck’s sake.

    I am a libertarian socialist, you hysterical twit. I do not support corporatism. I do not support capitalism and I would like to see wage labor replaced with cooperative ventures and self-employment. That is what I THINK and I couldn’t care less what you think because you are indeed a troll.

    You don’t come here to discuss the content on the blog. You come here to start never-ending arguments and to try to piss people off. Because you like it, don’t you. Chaos for the sake of chaos. You get off on that because you are a frustrated little person that feels that no one appreciates your brilliance. If you think the commenters on this blog are so terrible, why are you constantly posting? Because you fucking love to be a distraction.
    And I bet you would never talk this kind of vile shit if we were talking face to face. Your kind are cowards unless they have anonymity.

    There Leon, that’s all you get from me. I will not address you on this blog again because I will not feed an obvious troll. So go bother someone else. Better yet, get a life and do something more productive with your time. Good day sir.

  52. #52 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @50 – “Shut up, shut up, you’re overwrought”. Typical totalitaranism. Heck, good Stalinism.

    So sorry I talk about the consequences which your fanaticism would have, in practice. I’m not interested in what you call yourself, but what you call FOR.

    When I use 10% of your literally murderous hyperbole, YOU get upset. You start talking about how YOUR sexual gratification depends on suppressing others, since of course in reality your instant, social darwinist, mental analysis is pseudo-scientific bullshit.

  53. #53 |  Mike Parent | 

    Legalization with Regulation would decriminalize 40 -50 million Americans, most whose only “Crime” is using a substance safer than the one the govt allows. The marijuana segment of the Drug Wars budget and resources is appx. 50%. Why is so much money and effort used in targeting something safer than what they currently allow? All their fear mongering about drugs is propagandized, to the extreme. Legalize and regulate marijuana as we do alcohol, the model is in place.

  54. #54 |  KPRyan | 

    I especially like # 7:
    “7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

    And it brings to mind a sicko program I watched recently on ‘Current TV’ (supposedly a ‘populist/liberal’ channel). The program follows Miami Dade SWAT cops on their rounds as they invade and destroy dwellings.

    Anyway, there’s a newly minted SWAT officer who had been with the SWAT program for a few months. One night after a raid he, rather than going out for dinner/drinks with his unit, told them ‘No thanks’ and instead spent the evening with a girlfriend (I think it was).

    So the following day the newbie gets to work and as soon as the other SWATers show up, they give him grief for daring to spend time apart from the group. They make it clear to him that he will not make it as a SWATer unless he fixes his errant behaviour. He apologizes and promises it won’t happen again.

    Cops today are entirely seperate from the communites they ‘serve’. They intentionally segregate themselves. Groupthink at its finest.

  55. #55 |  Keghead | 

    To reinforce comment #2 from Whim, take a look at this article. NYPD shot a knife wielding man who was smoking pot 12 times to kill him. They didn’t taze him. They didn’t fire a warning shot. And they didn’t even go for a non-fatal shot. They did attempt pepper spray. They shot him 12 times in a crowded street. They then confiscated the camera phones of bystanders. In rationalizing their behavior, their police commissioners exact words were, “Under the circumstances, what the officers did was appropriate to the situation. They want to go home at night as well.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/darrius-kennedy-shooting-nypd-defends-killing-man-knife-times-square_n_1772144.html?utm_hp_ref=new-york

    http://reason.com/blog/2012/08/13/video-the-drug-war-and-policing-in-21st?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews

  56. #56 |  The Drug War and Modern Policing « Remnants of Liberty | 

    […] The Drug War and Modern Policing […]

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