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The Ferguson Question

(Note to visitors: I am not American and this is not an American blog. Please check your cultural assumptions!)

I’m on a work/vacation road trip, but I’ve been unable to avoid the bad news coming out of Ferguson. And thinking about the wider societal questions that it raises.

How many of these fundamental principles of policing (emphases mine) are the police in Ferguson still following, either in practice or even just to the extent of paying lip service?

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that 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. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them*.

It seems to me that if they’re not committed to the Peelian principles, then they’re not a police force: they’re something else. And the mind-set of a gendarme is not the mind-set of a police officer; it’s the mind-set of a soldier at war.

(Footnote: Yes, I am aware of the role of racism in determining the unadmitted objectives of American policing, and I believe I know what current events in Ferguson are really about (warning: dark humor alert). But what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and even if you’re not a member of one of the cultures on the receiving end of the jackboot today, the fact that the jackboot exists means that it may be used against you in future. Beware of complacency and apathy; even if you think you are protected by privilege, nobody is immune. See also Martin Niemoller.)

234 Comments

1:

A friend of mine just put together a 24 hour fundraiser to get himself to Ferguson to do in-depth reporting. He's Joshua Ellis; Pulitzer-nominee for breaking the story of the Las Vegas sewer tunnel homeless, and the man who coined the term 'grim meathook future'. I am sure his reporting will be of interest.

Find him at http://zenarchery.com/ and @jzellis on Twitter.

2:

The militarization of police forces, started with Bush The Elder, enhanced by Clinton, and really ramped up post 9/11, is bearing a bitter fruit.

As you say, Charlie, those who think its only directed toward those without privilege today are kidding themselves that it will never come to their door.

3:

I don't think the US ever signed up to Peelian principles. They're very much part of British policing culture, and other countries find them quite strange -- when you tell people that the British police usually say "we'd rather not" when populist politicians offer them guns, they find it hard to believe...

PS typo? "peelian principles"?

4:

I'm not sure the US model of policing ever really followed the ideals of Peel (I'm not sure about UK either, but that's a different argument). The hyper individualistic culture meant that the ideas of 'society' and collective action are much weaker there. The idea of 'policing by consent' becomes warped into the hired gun of an (individualistic) sheriff, and then perverted into a tool of authoritarian control - sold to the highest bidder.

You need a real concept of 'we the people' that focuses on society and joint action to have a real police force, and no matter what they claim, that's always been lacking where "I" trumps "US".

5:

The Ferguson police are committed to the principles of Jim Crow. They're merely the enforcement branch of a minority government.

6:

PS typo? "peelian principles"?

'peelian', adjectival form of 'Peel', for Sir Robert Peel who is referred to in the 'fundamental principles' link that Charlie gave.

That these principles emerged in Britain half a century after the US went its own way is probably part of the reason the US doesn't fully share them.

7:

I was wondering the same as many, if the US signed up (in any sense) to the Peelian principles. The best I could find was a link of the FBI's webpage, where the final paragraph notes "Today, police departments, both in the United States and abroad, still champion the same tenets that originated with Peel.". However, to me that reads as a UK writer - I remain unconvinced.

8:

On the point of language, is the adjective form "Peelian" or "Peelesque"? I understood what Charlie was saying, but the form will bother me at least slightly.

9:

Ok, I don't agree per se with the methods etc being used in Ferguson, but I do also wonder whether part of the perceived need for military force in law enforcement there is due to the real prospect of meting citizenry who are themselves armed with military grade weapons.

10:

From my outside and filtered through the media perspective you'd have to say that they police in Ferguson are currently getting 0/9. But as other people have commented, even in the good times, how high a score would they get, and are they the principles to which the US police (and lets include DHS and FBI in here at least) aim to adhere?

I think it's rare to see them laid out like that for discussion (despite the Wikipedia link) about whether the police in the UK successfully live up to them.

I would suggest that it might vary force by force. Again judging by the media reports, it seems pretty clear that the Met is doing a less good job than some other forces. After the reports about Northumberland officers reclassifying reported rapes today, there are some bad officers there - which doesn't mean the whole force is doing a bad job.

Overall, I'd say UK police forces at the top level seem make their decisions based on those principles. Lower down, unit commanders and officers at the sharp end may or may not in the heat of the moment, or even on a colder level. But even when the police are between the ANL and the BNP or similar, or between between away fans and jubilant home fans at football matches, it's pretty low key, pretty low numbers, certainly seems based on the ideals of cooperation, minimal physical force and consent.

Even at the height of the riots a few summers ago, with much larger riots and wider spread property damage and the like, and clearer cases of lawbreaking on a wider scale, the police across the UK did not respond with anything like the attitude we're seeing in Ferguson. We can (and doubtless will) debate whether they were sticking to Peel's principles but they were a damn sight closer than they are in Ferguson.

11:
It seems to me that if they’re not committed to the Peelian principals, then they’re not a police force: they’re something else.

The actual Gendarmarie Nationale would be appalled by the actions of the Ferguson PD, which are not at all in keeping with policing best practices regardless of it your cops are organized on military or civilian lines.

I don't think it is quite fair to say that a gendarmarie isn't a police force. If the entire purpose of your organization is to preform police duties, it is a police force. Being organized under military discipline doesn't make them not cops. In fact, I've slowly been coming to the conclusion that American police forces could benefit from actual militarization, where they are subject to incredibly stringent discipline, procedure, and rules of engagement, rather than the bullshit weekend warrior "militarization" they have going on now, where guys strap on jungle camo in an urban environment and tool around with inappropriate weapons they got from Uncle Sugar.

And the mind-set of a gendarme is not the mind-set of a police officer; it’s the mind-set of a soldier at war.

I think this is wrong; it would vary by country, of course, but I'm pretty sure most gendarmes are not in fact trained and encouraged to always behave if they are constantly at war.

Although it is of course absolutely true that most American police departments see themselves as soldiers or soldier-equivalents. Question for the rest of the english-speaking world: do your cops routinely refer to all non-cops as "civilians" and hold themselves as a separate class of people from said "civilians"?

Because that's de rigeur here in the states. I've met people who didn't know that cops were civilians. I've met cops who were affronted when I told them bluntly "you are a civilian," like I'd reminded them of some unpleasant family scandal.

12:

Not to burst your bubble, but I've seen and heard members of all emergency services, not just the police, refer to anyone not a member of the "armed forces" or the emergency services as "a civilian".

13:

The militarization of police forces, started with Bush The Elder, enhanced by Clinton, and really ramped up post 9/11, is bearing a bitter fruit.

Goddamn it, I am sick of this anachronistic meme. The current militarization of the police forces in the US started in the late 1960s. Garry Wills had a book out in 1968 which detailed the whole damn process, The Second Civil War: Arming for Armageddon. It lists the all the steps, which were new at the time: the technical innovations, the trade shows, the military connections, the white paramilitary groups whose membership just happens to overlap with the police forces, et cetera.

And it explains exactly why: racial paranoia. White flight policemen versus black citizens. The jackasses of Ferguson can't claim it's the ghetto, since Ferguson is a bland suburb: so they have to claim the problem is renters. OH DEAR GOD THEY HAVE A RENTAL CONTRACT INSTEAD OF A MORTGAGE WHAT ANIMALS.

14:

I agree with the general consensus in this thread, that the Peelian principles don't exactly apply. The fact that they're still applied today is part of what makes the UK charmingly different. I repeat: It is a probably a model worthy of emulation, but by no means a universal standard definition of what the people regard as a police force.

That is not to say the Ferguson police aren't supposed to be bound by some sort of moral guidelines, but they may be largely different from the Pp, and may even be as short and snappy as "to serve and protect".

15:

Ferguson is something of a special case, which I think gets lost in the reporting and controversy around it -- you can't really use it as emblematic of the country as a whole.

First, it is a relatively small suburb of a larger city -- only about 20,000 people live there. The police lack a certain degree of professionalism and are not really specially trained to deal with high crime.

It's also a town that is going through massive demographic and economic transformation. In 2000 the town was about 50/50 split between white and black and mostly middle class and working class with only about 12% of the population below the poverty line. However, over the past decade or so whites have left the town and poor blacks have moved in to replace them -- the town is now less than 30% white and the poverty level is over 25% of the population.

Due to the way that incumbent politics and civil service unions work the government and police of the town are still mainly white and are part of the population that is fleeing. So they tend to view the new residents as outsiders who are ruining their town. So they do view themselves as an occupying force to a degree, trying to stop the spread of blight and crime.

Though going forward things are pretty much out of their hands. State police and national guard are now in control under the orders of the governor. And on the flip side, I think the black residents of the town are now pushed aside as well -- the protest is being driven by outside activists, while the looters/rioters are likely coming in from St. Louis as opportunists and troublemakers.

16:

That's the justification used -- mainly that street gangs and drug dealers are going to be well armed so the cops need to be as well. Except they never seem to actually use those military weapons against well armed street gangs and drug dealers....

Plus there's the vague "terrorism" threat to use as a justification for everything.

I also wonder how much effect returning combat veterans entering the police forces have on things. I can't find hard statistics but there are numerous articles about the transition from military to policing and other security services. Most police departments, private security, and government agencies give preference to veterans.

We've had 10 years of low-level warfare as an occupying force in other countries, and those soldiers may be taking that mindset with them to law enforcement. One where it is better to shoot someone that risk that he might have a bomb or a gun, and where heaving vehicles and weapons are the norm.

17:

The actual form is "Peelian", belonging to Peel. "Peelesque" would be "resembling Peel" to me, which really isn't the intent. And I've been hammering folks with the Peelian Principles for a good long while.

Trivia point; I grew up in Peel Region, and neither I nor local historians yet can tell whether or not the region was named after Sir Robert.

Trivia point 2; It's because of Sir Robert that London police are called "Bobbies". (Or, less well-known and arguably less favourably, "Peelers".)

-- Steve

18:

Whatever happened to "To Protect and Serve"?

Here's some thoughts I typed up a few days ago with no place to post them:

It's a positive feedback loop.
Police expect all young male members of GroupX to be violent/argumentative, and treat all such members as if they are being disobedient to their authority.

Police beat/shoot/kill said member, claiming they had no choice.

Members of GroupX then protest peacefully and are met with Police in Riot Gear. A small, young male subset of GroupX become violent; throwing objects at Police, meeting expectations of the Police who then overreact and attempt to punish all of GroupX present.

Result: Reinforced expectations and assumptions of both groups.

Last week I heard an interview on NPR with the former police chief of New Orleans (I think, I wasn't able to find it). One of the things he talked about was how he had learned that sending in cops in full riot gear was a bad idea when there was no situation calling for it. He had sent kitted-up officers into situations with large crowds (like after sporting events and such, IIRC), and they were met with predictable resistance. After this happening too often he did some research and decided to try a technique he had read about.
The next time there was a similar situation he sent in regular uniformed officers to mingle with the crowd. Disorderly people were arrested without incident, and there was no rioting. A couple years later a new mayor was elected, and the next time there was a large crowd the mayor demanded that officers be sent in with riot gear with predictable results. One lesson being that people will react differently when you can see a persons face.


Add in a Police force that doesn't actually live in the area they police--so have no connection to the people who live there, and outsiders coming in to cause trouble (reports of "white anarchists" coming in from across the country) ...What do think is going to happen?

19:

I would be happy if cops stuck with the Robocop principles*:

1) Serve the public trust
2) Protect the innocent
3) Uphold the law

That they can't surmount that low bar is a damning indictment of policing in St. Louis.

-- Steve

* Minus, of course, the 4th hidden principle... which does seem to be the only one in the series that the Ferguson "Police" Department seem to obey.

20:

Thanks; as I said, it would bother me.

21:

Er, I said "citizenry": That term is not normally regarded as a synonym of "gangbangers" but rather as the entire body politic except for members of the armed forces.

22:

Most law-abiding citizens don't own military weapons unless they were grandfathered in decades ago.

23:

"Ferguson is something of a special case, which I think gets lost in the reporting and controversy around it -- you can't really use it as emblematic of the country as a whole."

No, unarmed black men gunned down under dubious circumstances, and the police acting like it's no big deal, are common. As for demographic shifts in towns and countries, those are actually widespread and normal.

I live near Detroit, and am aware that the police department there was composed of and run by whites (many from out of town) for decades after the formal governmental white power structure was allegedly dismantled.

24:

"...the protest is being driven by outside activists..."

The proper terms are 'Northern Liberals', 'Abolitionists', 'Communist Infiltrators'.


25:

In the U.S., it's not uncommon for members of many professions to refer to outsiders as "civilians". I've even heard the term used by standup comics (offstage) to refer to non-comics. It draws a line between those who understand their shared hassles and those who don't.

26:

Police abuse of power is certain a concern right now, and not just because they shoot unarmed minorities. Look at their various no-knock raids, shooting people's dogs just because, arbitrary illegal bans on photography, etc.

I think that ending the "War on Drugs" would go a long way toward reigning in the police abuses. Though given that the NYPD choked a man to death for selling loose cigarettes, maybe not.

But disturbing as it is, being shot by police is not a major cause of death for black men. The leading causes of death are homicide, accidents, and suicide for black men aged 15-34. "Legal intervention" -- i.e., killed by law enforcement -- is #8, 9, and 15 until they hit 30 at which point it isn't in the top 15 causes of death. To put that in a bit more perspective heart disease is a bigger killed of young black men than police.

27:

Oh well that's OK then.

28:
Though given that the NYPD choked a man to death for selling loose cigarettes, maybe not.

I've seen video of this, after hearing about it from a friend. I think that's a wild misrepresentation of the incident, although it's true of the start and end. Police tried to arrest a man for selling loose cigarettes - whether you agree with the law or not, it is against the law, so that's OK. He relatively peacefully tried to resist arrest (he walked away) and they tried reasonably gently to arrest him. He shook them off. It escalated. It escalated beyond the guidelines for restraint methods and yes, he died. The officers responsible have been quite rightly suspended pending investigation. At least the one who put the choke hold on the guy should be suitably disciplined.

It seems a million miles away from the initial spark in Ferguson. It would be lovely if the police never f***ed up. But they do. But NYPD seem to be acting in a way that says "These guys done wrong and we're not hiding from it." In Ferguson there's a fair amount of doubt that Michael Douglas did anything wrong except be black and not jump to obey a racist cop and get shot for that crime. When the people rose up to peacefully protest against this, the police seemed determined to provoke a riot, à la #18, and got one. Because heaven forbid they admit they might have done something wrong.

Although I do agree that ending the war on drugs might make a difference. Even cops seems to agree it's an excuse for racism. Although it's not as new as the 60's in that case, the clampdown on evil weed was a good excuse for racism against the Chinese in the 90's. That's the 1890's of course! (Although I'm playing fast and loose with history a bit possibly, I've seen people suggest it was more like the 1910's.)

29:

Not really. Charlie has discussed this in the past. There's been a re-urbanization movement lately. White people have been moving back into the cities and pushing minorities out (due to rising prices, since wealthy white people drive up rent and property value as they come in). Oakland, CA has lost 40% of its black population in the last 20 years. Ferguson is just at the other end of that process.

30:

This is a really unfortunate framing, because nobody who isn't an army has military grade weapons.

Small arms aren't the substance of an army. An army has crew-served weapons, artillery (everything from grenade launchers up to bombardment rocket brigades), armour, unit articulation, structure so there's reinforcements and objectives and internal cohesion around the objectives, and, to borrow Slactivist's charming phrase, a thousand different kinds of laser-guided death.

If a criminal group has that you're in a full-blown civil war (and probably losing it; there are Chinese examples from a few centuries back...).

The problem is that the police are attempting to enforce unjust ends by unjust means; the thing that doesn't get talked about nearly enough with the Peelian principles is that there needs to be a general agreement that the laws are just. (One can note that even the authoritarian side doesn't try to argue that the laws are just in Missouri.)

31:

Worth noting that in the last year UK police were involved in three shooting incidents, and that they've not killed anyone in over two years.
On the other hand, when they do. Of course, that's part of the point, one guy gets shot and there's riots over half the country.

32:

Except St. Louis proper is also losing population, particularly the white population. They've lost 30,000 people in the last decade. The population now is almost half what it was in 1970. So it isn't a case of gentrification or whites moving back to the city and displacing blacks like we have in some other cities.

33:

Normal things are never news. "Man bites dog" is news, "dog bites man" is not. If Ferguson was normal, we would never have heard of it.

An almost all-white police force in a majority-black municipality is not normal in America today.

Ferguson is an extreme case of a wider problem, though. Police forces that are hostile to the community produce vicious cycles in more ways than one.

If people are unable or unwilling to rely on law and judicial process, you get an environment of honor and revenge instead, in which you can't let anyone disrespect you....

34:

My current understanding of American Individualism is a bit darker. I feel any more that its current, aggressive form cropped up in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Essentially, the hypothesis is that the Great Society Reforms of the 1930s were popular at the time, and for quite a while afterwards. Until the courts started cracking down on racist corruption and insisted that welfare and social security has to be given to all Americans, equally. Which meant no more blocking black people from getting benefits. At which point, the idea of American Individualism was cranked up to be a primary trait, and used by politicians as the underpinnings of the platform to dismantle the Great Society.

They didn't create this idea from nothing, but I believe the importance of individualism as an American trait was much lower historically. (It's hard to tell; I only date to the early 1980s, so I only get to see the end state.) It is most popular with the politicians who are most dedicated to (implicitly) preserving white privilege.

(FWIW: I'm rich, white and live on the West Coast.)

35:

Facts:-
1) There are some operational Browning 0.5" HMGs in civilian hands in the USA. Crew served weapon.
2) Some of said 50 cals in a Maxson turret - mobile anti-softskin weapon.
3) A few civilians actually posess operational mortars.
4) "Military grade weapons" in this context normally includes pretty much anything capable of full auto fire.

You were saying?

36:

Charlie,
Would something like Ferguson happen in the Merchant Princes: The Next Generation? I have a hard time imagining that the full blown police state of that time line would even let information about the riots out.

Or would they do something else?

37:

@matt.giglia

I do not think the police could "benefit from militarization". Considering that it would be modeled on the US military, an organization known for chopping off fingers of Afghans as trophies or raping 12 yr olds, murdering their families, and then burning the bodies...

Well, considering all that and more, I'd prefer that they just remain thugs that beat us for no reason and send us to prison on trumped up charges.

38:

Some general questions comparing U.S. vs. U.K. police forces ...

How much of this is attributable to Sheriffs (heads of police forces) being elected in the U.S., rather than being appointed/promoted?

Is there any minimum training requirement for police forces - state-wide or nation-wide? Is there a police 'profession' code of standards?

What about the admission requirements for police force? This is a quote ... "The ruling made public in September of the same year, with the ruling judge Peter C. Dorsey of the United States District Court in New Haven confirming that it was in fact the case that the plaintiff, Robert Jordan, 48, who has a bachelor’s degree in literature, was denied an opportunity to even interview for a job with the New London Police Department, solely because of his high test scores." Here's a link to the decision - which basically says, the municipality can reject too-smart candidates because they don't fit the accepted profile for a cop: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT, Robert Jordan, Plaintiff-Appellant, -v- City of New London and Keith Harrigan, Defendants-Appellees. No. 99-9188 2000 U.S. App. Lexis 22195 (Unpublished)August 23, 2000, Decided

http://www.aele.org/apa/jordan-newlondon.html

How strong is the police union, politically and by charter? (What type of action would a police union take to protect one of its own?)

39:

First of all, they came to take the gypsies
and I was happy because they pilfered.
Then they came to take the Jews and I said nothing,
because they were unpleasant to me.
Then they came to take homosexuals,
and I was relieved, because they were annoying me.
Then they came to take the Communists,
and I said nothing because I was not a Communist.
One day they came to take me,
and there was nobody left to protest.

Bertold Brecht, inspired by Emil Gustav Friedrich Martin Niemöller

40:

Since this is an SFF community, we really do have to throw in the availability of guns as part of the problem.

I'm one of those people, incidentally, who think that the current insanity with the NRA et al. isn't just because Americans have become gun nuts, but because a bunch of gun manufacturers would have gone out of business unless they'd been able to find a profitable new market, that market being assault weapons. The reason for the gun manufacturers' alarm was, ironically, the quality of their older merchandise. I've shot a Garand from the 1920s that was perfectly accurate, as was a 1950s shotgun. Basic guns last a long time, and it's bad news for gun manufacturers when everyone has all the guns they want or need for hunting and home defense. If you follow Joe Biden's sensible advice to get a shotgun to protect your home, that shotgun will be functional for at least two generations. I wonder how long modern assault rifles will last, before some fiddly plastic parts break. Planned obsolescencein rifles, anybody?

So, possibly with US government collusion, we have the gun industry turning assault rifles into consumer items. These help the balance of trade, keep the technology in the US for when the military needs it, and so forth and so on. All good, capitalist stuff. But as with all good capitalist stuff, it has unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, this business tactic floods the world with cheap weapons. This happened in Honduras Central America (which is why the US has a huge refugee problem from people fleeing the violence), it's happened in the Middle East, it's happened in much of the US, and it's happened especially with law enforcement, who now have a huge amount of firepower on all levels, from stun grenades up to MRAPs, and insufficient training on how to use the damned things.

I happen to agree that, if civilian police are going to use military weapons, they should be under the same discipline and training as military police. But what I see in Ferguson is yet another replay of Gibson's "The Street finds its own uses for things." It's not the militarization of the police, it's the paramilitarization of the police, which is a lot scarier. However, I would say that this is due as much (or more) to the ready availability of the weapons, rather than to an ideological shift in the US. One could satirize it as CASE NIGHTMARE GUN, if one wanted.

I'd also agree with the others upthread who pointed out that the US has never particularly subscribed to the Peelian principles. That's too bad IMHO, but the Peelian Principles never been implemented in the US for much the same reason that the British Raj doesn't seem to have subscribed to Peelian principles either. There's just a bit too much of the Manifest Destiny, and the Old South, and the posse in US enforcement for them to subscribe to something as restrained as what Peel proposed. We never seem to get the idea of soft power, sad to say.

41:

"My current understanding of American Individualism is a bit darker. I feel any more that its current, aggressive form cropped up in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Essentially, the hypothesis is that the Great Society Reforms of the 1930s were popular at the time, and for quite a while afterwards. Until the courts started cracking down on racist corruption and insisted that welfare and social security has to be given to all Americans, equally. Which meant no more blocking black people from getting benefits. At which point, the idea of American Individualism was cranked up to be a primary trait, and used by politicians as the underpinnings of the platform to dismantle the Great Society."


I second this, and note that most of these programs are highly popular even among white right-wing Americans, so long as *they themselves* benefit[1].
It's when 'Them' (if you know what I mean) are perceived as getting the money that the Tea Party types complain.


[1] Social Security and Medicare are highly popular programs in the US, across political lines. The elites don't like them, and constantly propagandize against them. But even in 2005, Bush's proposal to 'privatize' Social Security died a quick, bipartisan death in the cradle.

42:

"Charlie,
Would something like Ferguson happen in the Merchant Princes: The Next Generation? I have a hard time imagining that the full blown police state of that time line would even let information about the riots out.

Or would they do something else?"

I would assume that the alernate USA of that timeline would be a brutal and savage police state. We saw what 9/11 did; invaders from an alternate universe nuking DC would have made it literally thousands of times worse.

BTW, Charlie, something I've wondered about - the nuclear bombardment of that other timeline was well into the zone of a major Nuclear Winter. This would have had the effects of killing the overwhelming majority of the world's population within a year, and likely a majority of the remnant in a couple of years.

This would have left that timeline, ah - 'unoccupied' for exploitation. Was that Cheney's intent?

43:

There are some guys in Alaska with towed artillery, too, and Mythbusters can certainly obtain the use of gatling-style weapons in rifle calibres. The odds of such ownership not being rare, or of anyone who owns any of these things not being white, not being known to police, and indeed not being integrated pretty well into the existing power structure, appear very low.

Are you really saying police in the US have a legitimate general fear of being shot up with crew-served machine guns or mortars? Of facing groups with actual military or para-military organization and armament? As distinct from the police claim this towards other policy ends?

44:

" The reason for the gun manufacturers' alarm was, ironically, the quality of their older merchandise."

I had a late (18)90's Argentine cavalry carbine (Mauser); it was made specially for them, and took a special cartridge. When I went to sell it, a guy showed me in gun magazines that they went for $50. The hundred thousand or so of those were still pretty much in circulation, working just fine.

Modern firearms last a very long time, and by 'modern' I mean 20th century (with some real cheapos, of course).

45:

When I very occasionally leaf through gun magazines, the level of 'you've got buy this RIGHT NOW OR DIE!' is incredibly strong.

46:

I will agree that the US police never "signed up for" the peelian principles, but that doesn't mean the question of whether they should reasonably be called a police force by someone living in Britain isn't reasonable.

For that matter, even not living in Britain it often seems as if they should be called a "military occupation force" than a police force. If not worse.

Actually, I lived in Japan towards the end of the US occupation, and the US military in Japan at that time used less force than has become common for the US police to use. I can't speak for the period before 1957, because I didn't see it. And I'm not sure how much force was used by the Japanese government police, as I never learned to speak or read Japanese. That I never saw anything doesn't really mean anything, but my parents weren't afraid to allow me to wander all over the country (within a day's walk) with no supervision. I never felt threatened, or that anyone felt malice towards me.

I'm less comfortable around US police, and feel that they DO act in ways that inspire malice towards them, and those deemed similar to them, and those they are deemed to support. (And that they are either ignorant of the peelian principles, or that they intentionally act against them.)

OTOH, given the atrocious laws that have been being passed, I don't think actual enforcement would be a very good idea, either. Often I think the best thing to do would be to repeal all laws passed and court decisions made in the last century, or century and a half and work our way forwards again, this time trying to avoid such atrocities as deeming corporations to be people. (Unfortunately, there have been a few worthy laws and decisions made in that period, but there have been so many bad ones that the entire focus and structure of the laws have been warped, possibly beyond salvage.)

47:

A quote from a veteran police officer on militarization and Ferguson, via the Daily Dish, which might provide some insight:

"For the record, I’m a supervisor with a medium-sized police department in Midwest who has also worked in a small town. I’ve been a patrol officer, a detective, and now a supervisor. At heart, I’m an old fashioned beat cop who enjoys walking down a main street and talking to people. I’ve never served in my department’s tactical team, nor am I a veteran.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in my career so far. One of the biggest is the nature of the threat that we face on the street. When I was in the police academy, we prepared for criminals who had cheap handguns and little training. The types of weapons that we face have changed dramatically; the police have simply evolved to meet those threats. I’ll give you a couple of examples:

During the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, bank robbers armed with illegally modified fully automatic weapons exchanged more than 2,000 rounds with responding LAPD officers. The robbers, who wore ballistic vests, were killed after a 44-minute exchange of gunfire. Seventeen LAPD officers and seven civilians were injured in the battle. The after-action review led to changes in the weapons carried by LAPD officers as well as departments around the country. The agencies moved away from shotguns in squad cars and toward military-style assault rifles that could penetrate body armor. Those rifles aren’t cheap – they often cost more than $2,500 each, plus $500 to $1,000 for the equipment to keep them secured inside of the squad car. If I were the head of a cash-strapped police department, I know I would love to get those weapons from a program that transitions D.O.D equipment to local law enforcement.

The second incident that changed law enforcement profoundly was the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Previously, law enforcement dealt with situations like this by sealing off the area and waiting for special tactical teams to arrive. At Columbine, law enforcement realized that it’s not enough to simply lock down the area; rather it’s necessary to go in, find the killer or killers, and neutralize them before they kill any more. Since 1999, I and countless other police officers have undergone days and days of training in “active shooter response.” I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the training involved would seem quite militaristic to the public. The skills and tactics we use are very different from what I learned in the academy, and along with that, we have specialized tools. For example, there is an M-4 assault rifle in each of my agencies’ squad cars.

I get that this is militaristic. Going through a school or mall looking for a shooter utilizes tactics any soldier would recognize from operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. We use them and the equipment because it works. The problem that we face in our field is that these tactics often creep into all aspects of our work. The more you become comfortable with the new reality, the more you need to recognize that it’s a reality you only rarely face.

This leads me to my biggest point regarding the Ferguson police department: We need to stop looking at the officers and start looking at the leaders. Everyone above sergeant has set the tone in this organization. They have done the hiring, and they were leading the efforts to deal with the protesters. There may very well be rogue officers causing issues, and if so, it should likely be no shock to the administration. Problem persons in law enforcement agencies fester for years because it can be challenging to fire an officer, especially if he or she is a military veteran. The one constant in every agency that I’ve been a part of is that the chief of police down to the lieutenants set the tone and direction of the department. The sergeants get the message out to the patrol officers and enforce the message. We haven’t heard the police chief of Ferguson say his officers are out of control – because they are doing what he wants them to do."

48:

The typo is "principals" instead of "principles"; it appears twice.

Though, since you mention it, I'm American and have never heard of Peel or seen this list of principles. That probably says something.

Granted, I'm not in law enforcement, and maybe they cover this stuff in training -- but if Ferguson (or, say, my native Maricopa County) is any indication, I kind of doubt it.

49:

Granted I don't live in America. But I moved to Liverpool just after the Toxteth riots and walked through Toxteth daily for about 4 years. I then moved to a bit of Liverpool that was considered rougher. I don't think you can really say I've lived solely in the safe, leafy suburbs although you might say so now (although I technically live in a deprived area according to some indices).

I have never fired a gun in my life. I have held a disassembled shotgun. I have held an air pistol. I *have* fired both a long bow and a cross bow. The only knives I've owned have been craft knives and kitchen knives. I have sparred and trained with spears, swords and various other weapons in a martial arts context (I studied taijiquan and bagaxian and know people that studied jutsu so I've handled some of their weapons and studied some of their forms too, a bit).

Of course we don't have gun magazines like that in the UK, although I'm sure we could buy them. But I bet they're just lying. OTOH, I suspect a large part of their sales come from "I need something to protect me" so it's probably pretty good advertising copy.

50:

> it’s the mind-set of a soldier at war.

Yep, and if you say anything about it, you're automatically sorted into the same group as people who think George Bush was a Soviet mole; people the Republicans think of as "far right", and who'd quote Ayn Rand if they could read.

Many PDs and their apologists actively assert they're at war. There's always a war on something; drugs, kiddie porn, parking violations, crime in general. Unfortunately many of the police seem to view anyone without a badge as "the enemy" and treat them accordingly.

Add to that, there aren't just "police" any more but practically every part of the various city, county, state, and Federal governments has its own police force and SWAT team now. The Department of Education has done "hostile entry" with armor and machine guns, kicking doors out of walls to inform people they're delinquent on student loans. Many small towns now have ex-military machine guns and armored vehicles. In my town, even building inspectors are now "Law Enforcement Officers", a group now so huge that actual policemen are probably a single-digit percentage.

51:

You seem to be confusing the New Deal anti-depression reforms (dating from about 1933) and the Great Society reforms (starting about 1964). There's a significant fraction of the American population, especially in the South (e.g. Missouri, home of Fergusson) that has always regarded the Great Society as a satanic, communist, (post 9-11) muslim, unamerican, unconstitutional giveaway to black people. As I hope I've conveyed, the exact complaint is usually not terribly coherent, but is nonetheless heartfelt.

52:

> It's not the militarization of the police, it's
> the paramilitarization of the police, which is > a lot scarier.

Now look up "fusion centers" and see why so many Americans get their full paranoid freak on.

"Yes, we'll form organizations to handle police intelligence, and also task them with anti-terrorist functions and political work, and fund them heavily, but since they're non-governmental organizations they don't exist in anyone's org chart and are exempt from any governmental oversight. But they'll feed intel back to the police, FBI, and NSA to make arrests on. What could possibly go wrong?"

53:

> North Hollywood shootout

That wasn't an arms problem, it was a training problem. Police training in California drilled officers in shooting to "center of mass," held to be somewhere around the sternum. And for the most part, the officers involved did exactly that.

The idea of training is to do the right thing under stress without having to think about it. They did exactly that for nearly two thousand rounds. Unfortunately the people who devised their training program didn't consider body armor, and didn't consider that while under stress, their training might inhibit officers from doing something as simple as shooting an armed opponent somewhere else than the chest.

More powerful rifles and more magazine capacity wouldn't have changed things one bit, but the shootout was used as a justification for buying shiny new toys, just like the Miami FBI shootout. I don't know how or if California PDs dealt with the training issue, but the FBI's training was rebuilt from scratch, though that wasn't particularly newsworthy compared to the "buy new toys" part.

54:

Rebuild training from the ground up rather than spend more money on shiny new guns. How un-American!

55:

I would assume that the alernate USA of that timeline would be a brutal and savage police state. We saw what 9/11 did; invaders from an alternate universe nuking DC would have made it literally thousands of times worse.

You're not totally wrong but you're not totally right, either.

(I'm not going to say more on the subject except to note that the trilogy I just handed in is essentially about police states and their failure modes, and the reaction of the ~USA timeline to its White House being nuked is indeed part of the study.)

56:

This police officer you're referencing appears to be speaking from ignorance of probability. Events like Columbine and the North Hollywood shootout are rare. With America's large population increase over the last half-century or so, they have become more common in absolute terms, but they are still (media coverage to the contrary) very low-probability events. Basing police training around such happenings is like requiring casual drivers to wear 5-point harnesses, crash helmets, and body armor. It's stupid, and has a great many negative consequences.

57:

While the peelian prinicples seem sound, I think the most basic thing that makes a police a police is that it's (in theory) about crime and lawbreakers: Someone breaks a law, we find him and drag him to a court so some attornys and a judge can haggle out a sentence. Noone breaks the law, we eat donuts.
The military mindset is: we find an enemy and fight him/her.
Now things like specific anti-terrorism laws or the war on drugs have the function to shift the police into a more military-like MO. I think the weaponization is only part of the problem, or maybe a sympton.

On the other hand, even the best police in the best of times (in a capitalist society) is there to uphold the law. This can mean guarding an empty house against squatting, while there's homelessness. Because in this society the purpose of a house is not to house someone, but to earn someone money. We could go on with other neccessities and niceties of modern living. Bottomline: In the best of times, that we are not living in right now, there's potential for conflict the cops and the rest.

58:

I'm a resident of SW Pennsylvania (PA), so a different State from the events going on, but this will provide some context. I volunteer with Emergency Medical Services, so I interact with a variety of police forces. Take with a grain of salt.

> Is there any minimum training requirement for police forces >- state-wide or nation-wide? Is there a police 'profession' > code of standards?

In Pennsylvania, where I live, the basic police training course is about 6 months long, full-time. I assume that individual municipalities can add additional requirements as well. In poorer areas, municipal police make as little as minimum wage. In general, police tend to be working their way towards a big-city job because they pay better.

> How much of this is attributable to Sheriffs (heads of police
> forces) being elected in the U.S., rather than being
> appointed/promoted?

It depends upon the area. Not all heads of police forces are elected, and not all elected heads of police forces have a lot of power. For example, in Fergusson, it looks like the head of the police department is not elected.

Some are clearly problematic, such as the infamousJoe Arpaio of Arizona.

I would argue that the requirement that judges and District Attorneys being elected has a greater impact on the system than anything else.

> What about the admission requirements for police force?

In PA, a high school diploma, plus passing a 6-month police training course. Towns with a greater number of applicants may require associates' or bachelors' degrees.

There are a few other items to consider:

Based on news reports, some of the related suburbs have as much as 50% of their budgets coming from traffic citations. This doesn't help foster good relations between the people and the police. Likewise, the police are one of the top line-items for costs for a municipality. The result is one in which the police have to ticket constantly in order to keep their own jobs. The number of people in Ferguson below the poverty line has roughly doubled in the last 20 years, going from ~15% to ~30% of the population. This hurts the budget. There's also a statistical correlation between poverty and criminality.

The US model of civil and individual rights has largely been established through legislation and case law involving individual people and small groups. Thus, standing on a milk crate in front of the police station and saying not-nice things about the police is nearly inviolable. This gets to be a problem when you have a mob brewing because until somebody actually commits a crime, it is very difficult to get people to disburse. Individually, every person has a right to be there, even though not-nice things are brewing.

The 14th Amendment has made it very difficult for police officers (and the government in general) to exercise any discretion. The result is that the law has to have codified one-size-fits-all rules with general uniform application or else it will be sued and likely lose. Ironically, one of the key Constitutional elements put in place to end slavery in the US has led to a much greater distrust in the same institutions required to rebuild African-American communities, because it is impossible to codify all aspects of human interaction ahead of time.

Small-town police departments usually don't have the people or training budget to prepare for anything complicated. The common large training events are based around active-shooter situations (eg. Columbine), or mass-casualty incidents like a bridge collapse. Managing traffic for a parade or sporting event are likely to be the largest event commonly addressed. These incidents are tricky because the sites seem to fluctuate between legal protest with jaywalking being the biggest concern, to having rocks thrown or guns fired and back again, without much of a way to tell who's who.

My biggest concern is the issue of "officer safety". This is the them-against-us mentality which emphasizes that the officer goes home safely at the end of the night rather than that the best job be done.

59:

Can I suggest you're confusing two slightly different things here? Peel's principles aren't denying that a police officer's duty is apply the law - in fact it's explicitly stated in #1, 2, 5 and 6 and since the other 5 talk about the interaction between the police and the public in executing the function of the police it's strongly implicit in them too. (Remember the emphases are Charlie's in light of discussing Ferguson.)

Peel says that if you have a duty to, to use your example, keep homeless people from squatting in an empty house because the law says you should (no moral judgement about whether that's right or wrong) should be with the minimum force necessary, ideally none, only with public consent or your tactics and the like.

Although in the US the police might get away with it, and in the UK our winters don't generally get that bad, I rather think if the police guarded an empty building and the homeless people died of exposure they'd get crucified in the court of public opinion. And I rather bet they'd let them in before it got to that. Maybe not your bobby on the beat but someone not too far up the food chain would say it's better to let them and keep them alive and clean up afterwards. Applying the law doesn't include randomly letting people freeze to death when you can prevent, there's laws against that too after all.

60:

This doesn't really apply to Fergusson, but in the southwest U.S. and north Mexico the drug cartels are essentially proto-states. In Mexico, they run their own border controls (to stop rival cartel members) and their own special forces (originally Mexican special forces, then they went to work for the cartels, then they took over the cartels). They even have their own musical traditions: narcocorrido is sort of a cross between mariachi, polka, and gangsta rap, and has at least two distinct sub-styles.

It would probably be best to weaken the cartels by legalizing at least some drugs, but this isn't the sort of problem that community-based policing can solve.

If you ever find yourself in Mexico, avoid long east-west trips by car. You probably wouldn't be mistaken for an enemy cartel member, but you never know, and it's not like they have an appeals process.

61:

Sorry about that Charlie. I didn't know I cut too close to the plot.

62:

Going back to the original point: I was a nationalist teenager in Belfast in the 1970s who was arrested, beaten, perjured against and wrongfully convicted as a result of perjury by a UK police force whose cultural biases and fear of the "other" allowed it to break the law with a clear conscience - so Peelian principles my backside. A police force will behave in accordance with its institutional mindset and this will be dictated largely by peer pressure and the net effect of individual cultural prejudices. That is as true for Liverpool as it is for Los Angeles.
This is not to say I buy in to the notion that this young man was some sort of noble victim. Based on what I have seen in recently released CCTV footage, he was a thug and parasite on his own community, and the notion that justice is served by arresting and charging the police officer is as ludicrous as suggesting that justice was served by his death. The incident should be investigated and if it is established that the law was broken then and only then should criminal proceedings be initiated. People should be reminded that it is perfectly possible that a poorly trained and ineptly managed Feguson police force could be mishandling public control even where there is a justification for the shooting incident.
Based on my own experiences I am very clear that power corrupts but let's have some intellectual rigour.

63:

"In Pennsylvania, where I live, the basic police training course is about 6 months long, full-time. I assume that individual municipalities can add additional requirements as well. In poorer areas, municipal police make as little as minimum wage. In general, police tend to be working their way towards a big-city job because they pay better."

Note that in most of the USA, having the minimum requirements to join the local PD would put you hundreds or thousands (seriously) of places down the list. PD's *can* generally be very, very picky.

"The US model of civil and individual rights has largely been established through legislation and case law involving individual people and small groups. Thus, standing on a milk crate in front of the police station and saying not-nice things about the police is nearly inviolable. This gets to be a problem when you have a mob brewing because until somebody actually commits a crime, it is very difficult to get people to disburse. Individually, every person has a right to be there, even though not-nice things are brewing."

Not true, from my knowledge.

"The 14th Amendment has made it very difficult for police officers (and the government in general) to exercise any discretion."

Absolutely, 100% false. The 14th Amendment *can* make it *difficult* for police forces to be - well, racist.

"The result is that the law has to have codified one-size-fits-all rules with general uniform application or else it will be sued and likely lose."

Again, absolutely false. To sue, one must have a lawyer, and evidence, and t be able to deal with massive retaliation from the police and the local prosecutor.

However, this is one of the more subtle attacks on the 14th Amendment which I've ever heard.

As an example chosen totally at random, in an ordinary US town of Ferguson, MO (heard of it?), a man was savagely beaten, and charged with destruction of property (contamination of uniforms with blood). He did sue; the police denied on the stand that they signed the complaints which they signed. In the US this is called 'perjury', and is a felony. His case was thrown out of federal court on the grounds that a savage beating, fraudulent charges and proven perjury were not a significant enough matter (he's appealing).

"Ironically, one of the key Constitutional elements put in place to end slavery in the US has led to a much greater distrust in the same institutions required to rebuild African-American communities, because it is impossible to codify all aspects of human interaction ahead of time."

Um, wrong, in several different ways.

"Managing traffic for a parade or sporting event are likely to be the largest event commonly addressed. These incidents are tricky because the sites seem to fluctuate between legal protest with jaywalking being the biggest concern, to having rocks thrown or guns fired and back again, without much of a way to tell who's who."

You must have different parades and sporting events wherever you live than I do, that's for sure.

64:

Peelian principles my backside.

Well yeah, that was the RUC for you. And I find it noteworthy that that particular police force doesn't exist any more -- largely because its cultural prejudices placed it beyond hope of institutional reform.

I don't think any British police force actually manages to cleave to these principles fully. But the role of the principles -- if only as a lodestar -- is important.

65:

I would like to gently remind people of two things:

1. Long comments get held for moderation. So there is a benefit to keeping your thoughts short, and not quoting large portions of someone else.

2. I, personally, would prefer that commenters avoid coming to conclusions about either of the principals involved. There's not enough information, and it's not what Charlie asked about, so calling someone a "thug" or a "murderer" is not helpful. There are plenty of discussions all over the world about the character of any individuals involved. (I exclude politicians -- and spokespeople -- from this plea. Mostly because their actions and statements are well in the public light.)

66:
How much of this is attributable to Sheriffs (heads of police forces) being elected in the U.S., rather than being appointed/promoted?

It can be a factor, viz. sheriff Joe Arpaio, but sheriffs are county level and department heads at other jurisdictional levels are typically appointed. An incorporated city will generally have its own police department that serves as the primary criminal law enforcement agency.

In the case of Ferguson, the original shooting was by an officer of the Ferguson city police department. The initial militarized response to protests was by the St Louis county sheriff department, brought in because Ferguson was undermanned. After they screwed that up the governor ordered the Missouri State Highway Patrol to take over. The St. Louis County sheriff is the only one of those department heads to be elected.

Is there any minimum training requirement for police forces - state-wide or nation-wide? Is there a police 'profession' code of standards?

There generally are state-wide standards. In Missouri they're set by the Department of Public Safety's Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Program.

What about the admission requirements for police force?

At minimum you need a high school diploma, some physical fitness, and sufficient scores on a screening test. How stringent the standards are varies by department. A rural sheriff likely won't be as strict as NYPD. Premier federal agencies like FBI will require a college degree and several years of experience; Agent Scully having a medical degree was perfectly plausible. In my experience not hiring someone because they're too smart is unusual and something only a podunk department would do.

How strong is the police union, politically and by charter? (What type of action would a police union take to protect one of its own?)

There is no single police union in the United States, and I don't know anything about the situation in Missouri. Commonly the union/protective league/fraternal order will negotiate contracts, provide legal representation to a member in trouble, and lobby on issues of interest to members. Police typically have a lot of respect so their endorsement of a political candidate can be very important. It's generally illegal for emergency workers to go on strike, and in many states its illegal for any public worker to strike.

67:

A key point to note is that at least in the UK the justification for policing -- and other uniformed services -- is public safety. The police are supposed to protect the public and enforce the law; if enforcing the law rigorously puts lives at risk then some discretion is mandated -- for example, some forces' patrol cars avoid giving chase to joyriders on stolen motorbikes because of the risk of a fatal accident (high) if the early-teens who are mostly responsible come off. (Instead they try and track the bike to a destination and grab the rider once they dismount. Less effective, but also less hazardous.)

A second point is that the police have some discretion in enforcement: on minor offenses they can decide not to proceed with a prosecution (or even an arrest), but may issue an official warning or caution that illegal behaviour was noticed that could lead to prosecution, and the individual concerned will not be prosecuted on this occasion as long as they agree that they did it and agree not to do it again.

Finally, a third and subtle point is that law enforcement is only as good as the laws that are on the books to be enforced. If lawmakers decree that wearing yellow shirts on a Thursday is a serious criminal offense then the police may be required to enforce the law but the public at large will think the law is idiotic and by extension the police are tyrannical idiots if they enforce it rigorously. This brings the police themselves into disrepute at an institutional level -- and we're back to principle 3.

In other words, to have policing by consent you have to have sane and proportionate laws that are not seen as oppressive or arbitrary, some flexibility in enforcement (at least at the lower end of the scale), and a degree of humanity -- a willingness to put the goal of protecting the public ahead of enforcing the law when the two goals come into conflict.

Which leads in turn to the reason why "zero tolerance" policing is potentially devastatingly harmful if it's applied inappropriately, and why giving police arrest quotas or ticketing targets is also bad for everyone.

68:

Beat me to it. Thanks, Barry.

In general, the idea that different people get treated differently is considered one of the traits of an empire, not a nation-state. In theory, nation-state is considered to be a single people (the nation) inside a bounded territory (the state). Empires are states consisting of multiple peoples, some (or most) of whom are subjugated by the dominant nation.

One of the eternal tensions in the US is whether we're a nation or an empire. Ideally and ideologically, we're a nation, "One people, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" as the first (and best, IMHO) version of the Pledge of Allegiance has it. In practice, we're an empire, in that we've got a number of Indian Nations within our boundaries (on the Res, as they say) who do not get equal treatment. They even have a place in the 14th Amendment (that little part about "Indians not taxed."). Similarly, the US has big problems with equal treatment of women, Blacks, and Hispanics as well. That contradiction between ideology and practice has existed longer than the US has, and it's playing out in Ferguson right now, which is why so many people are so angry.

Going back to Garrett Kajmowicz's original comment, it's interesting to see a public servant espousing an essentially imperialist line, that the 14th Amendment is a hindrance to the "discretion" of discriminating against people seen as subordinate to the dominant people (in the US, white males).

As Barry noted, this is BS, and it's perfectly possible to have public safety officers who treat everyone equally. I'd just finish by saying that, if you believe the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, and don't treat it as an empty ritual, then you're pledging allegiance to one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The kind of discretion that allows discrimination has no ideological place in such a nation.

69:

You're being a bit nasty about a dead person, and basically appear to have swallowed the fox media version of events and the cover up afterwards, hook line and sinker. Suffice to say that the store owner didn't report the incident to the police; there was no relationship between an actual robbery that took place and the youth who was shot, although they claim that now as an excuse for the stop in the first place, although that wasn't the first story.
Of course it would be nice if there were a proper investigation into it, but there is a tragically long history of police shootings of innocent or not-dangerous people in the USA, frequently of black youths. Driving whilst black is a recognised danger and so on.

Or to summarise, I find your labelling without any facts to hand distasteful, especially given your own experience with the arm of the law.

70:

Some of the following may have already been said. Also, I apologize for the length.

Seitling is correct about the origins of the whole militarization thing. He’s also right about Peelian principles mostly being the foundational philosophy of American policing.

Anton-p-nym is also correct about most American police forces not even being able to adhere to his three principles.

Aggray correctly says that most citizens do not own military weapons. Unfortunately, that number is decreasing as a consequence of the mostly insane gun lobby and the ridiculously paranoid right here in the Good Ol’ US of A.

Murican-Jeff: a correction, the Great Society was the 60’s, the 30’s were the New Deal. But, the excessive individualism we see today is a consequence of desegregation and rightist libertarianism, both of which start with the Civil Rights movement of the early 60’s.

Earl.david is correct about the movement away from neighborhood cops. Some cities like my own Portland (OR) are trying to remedy this with what they call “community policing”. Of course, one major issue today with US police forces is that most of their members live in the suburbs or exurbs of the city which they are policing. Thus, they have no strictly personal contact with urban dwellers. He’s also correct about leadership. My own business and military experience has taught me that most people follow the temperament and attitudes of their leaders/managers.

Overall, the most important element that sets US policing apart from the rest of the world is race. For 300 years unwilling immigrants to the “New World” were from a specific ethnic group that was enslaved by white America. Even when the legal justification for slavery was removed, this ethnic group was, if not legally at least “virtually”, enslaved for another century. This allowed many generations of Euro-Americans to believe they were fundamentally superior to this ethnic group. This feeling was very important to those in the lower socio-economic segments because it allowed them to believe that even though they were being exploited by the upper classes, they were still better and better off than African-Americans (a term which I hate but is useful here). James Baldwin had it right when he said,

“There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.”

One needs to keep in mind that almost all the police in the US were and are from the lower socio-economic classes and, they are mostly white. Large urban police forces in the US do have far more ethnically diverse forces. Outside of those areas the police forces are generally white.

Finally, the world outside the US and many in the US, don’t realize that Missouri, outside of St. Louis is a southern state. Even though it was never a part of the old Confederacy, its attitudes and social mores are those of the Old South.

Most Americans have never come to terms with their racism or, more importantly, its consequences. Oh, and for the record, I’m a 70 year old white guy from a pretty privileged background.

I could go on about militarization but, it’s best I stop here.

71:

Individually, every person has a right to be there, even though not-nice things are brewing.

Not true, from my knowledge.

The first amendment guarantees, in principle at least, the right of peaceable assembly. So in addition to their individual rights to stand on public property, they also have the collective right to assemble peacefully (you can't assemble by yourself). Also guaranteed: the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

72:

It's worth remembering that a lot of the jargon is different between the UK and any part of the USA.

But...

Generally, the British Police Officers who carry guns are specialists. Very roughly, they're the equivalent of a US SWAT Team, and the percentage has been shrinking, and the training standard rising, for a long time. In 1980, when things got really bad, the SAS went in, and the Operation Nimrod team were specialists within the SAS. The Metropolitan Police have improved since then. Recently, armed officers have been carrying out ordinary police duties while actually carrying guns, rather than keeping them in secure storage in their car. This is controversial.

Terms such as "arrest" have differing meanings. What matters is that if anyone gets shot, there is an investigation, and the officers involved are interviewed under caution. This is a bit like the American Miranda Warning, and it's a formal process. If somebody has died, there will be a hearing by a Coroner's Court, with witnesses under oath, and a Jury. In the past, this had a stronger resemblance to an American Grand Jury. (It's a bit different in Scotland, the history is different.)

It's not unusual for the officers who fired the shots to be un-named for a while. You can argue that they are over-protected, but there's caution about naming people too soon in the British system. "A man is helping Police with their enquiries," is really the sort of thing the press are told. But there are strict rules on how long that man can be held before he is charged, and the name gets on public record.

A big factor in this is how likely it is for the accused to run away. Again, details differ, but a Police Officer isn't likely to be quickly charged and then remanded in custody before he can scarper.

[Note: "scarper" is sometimes claimed to be Cockney rhyming slang, from "Scapa Flow" for "go", but it's more likely from the Italian "scappare" since it pre-dates the use of Scapa Flow as a Naval anchorage.]

On the current timing, it's not that strange not to hear that the responsible officer has been formally charged. But the way that things are happening in Ferguson are looking a bit rum. And, while some of the structures are similar, some have changed a lot on Britain. It's not just the Peelian Principles of Policing.

We used to have independent City-level Police Forces, but they were never as small as the Ferguson PD. Those small forces have gone. We still have Sheriffs, but they're a post of ceremony, rather than legal officers. There is a Crown Prosecution Service. For everything. The local power structures that still might nudge the Police and magistrates courts, they are not involved with a killing.

There are all sorts of differences, and I don't think anyone, on either side of the Atlantic, entirely trusts the politicians.

And we may be a monarchy, but I'd vote for Brenda.

73:

One of the mistakes that I think a lot of people are making here in the US is to look at this as if it were a static situation. Over the period from 1970 to 2010, the city of St. Louis lost 57% of its population; over the same period, the inner-ring suburb of Ferguson lost 27%; and St. Louis County, of which Ferguson is a part, basically stayed even. Over the same period, US population increased 52%.

This dynamic situation is disastrously bad. If you have stayed put there, you have watched the whole local economy slowly wither. Not just a zero-sum game, as the economists are fond of saying, but worse than a zero-sum game. My impression is that the UK has had localized economic implosions in the past. I'd be interested in hearing how the relationship between young males and the authorities in those areas played out.

74:

Another thing to remember, for non-Yanks, is that murder is a state level offense in the U.S. No interstate borders were crossed and none of Congress's powers are involved, so the investigation and punishment (if any) of these officers is a state matter. If the ongoing breach of the peace is deemed to rise to the level of an insurrection, that becomes a federal matter subject to the constitutional authority of Congress (which I think has since been delegated to the President, though I'm not sure of the terms).

75:

That's not exactly true, as civil rights are a federal issue, no state border crossing required.

It's confusing for Yanks and non-Yanks.

eta Also, insurrection is always up to the President to handle, as that is an executive, not legislative, issue. Congress can impeach federal officials, it can hold hearings, and it can hold people in contempt of Congress.

76:

The fundamental issue is lack of appropriate, timely and effective access to judicial system.

Aggrieved parties simply cannot get satisfaction to resolve disputes.

Instead policing administers an 'interpreted' version of justice. The interpretation is mostly expediency.

When lack of resolution manifests itself, policing is bound to further aggravate unresolved disputes.

Meanwhile the 'real' judicial system is for all intents and purposes not practically available to assist with original dispute, and if they are it is to deal with secondary policing interactions.

'Justice' needs to come down to 'street level', be much more accessible and practically useful.

77:

The UK armed forces are citizens, with the exception of the Ghurkas who are citizens of Nepal. I think the US armed forces are a citizen army, as well. Nicolo had a few pointed remarks on the subject of armies who were not citizens.

78:

Article I, section 8 of the US constitution gives congress the power "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." Once called up, they are under the command of the president (Article 2, Section 2).

Apparently I've been living in the South so long (3 years) that I'd forgotten all about the Civil Rights Act.

It's true that the federal government could arrest the Ferguson cops on charges of violation of civil rights, a federal crime. The political implications, especially for a black president, are ... daunting. It would really feed into the Obama-is-a-fascist-tyrant-coming-for-your-guns storyline on Fox News, and a jury probably wouldn't convict anyway, since there seems to be reasonable doubt about what happened.

79:

"Aggray correctly says that most citizens do not own military weapons. Unfortunately, that number is decreasing as a consequence of the mostly insane gun lobby and the ridiculously paranoid right here in the Good Ol’ US of A."

If we are defining "military weapons" as "crew-served and/or fully-automatic weapons", then this is not true. An example: an automatic (burst- or full-auto-firing) rifle is a Class III weapon regulated by BATFE. It is not legal (and hasn't been since registration was closed in 1986) for newly-manufactured ones to be sold or transferred to, manufactured or imported by, or otherwise put in the hands of non-law enforcement, non-military people who aren't federally-regulated firearms dealers. Key parts (e.g. lower receivers, sears) are regulated as Class III weapons in their own right and may not be used to make new Class III weapons except by a licensed manufacturer making them for LE/military customers. Transfers require prior approval (can take up to a year if there are no issues) by ATF including a background check and signoff by local law enforcement, and the recipient must pay a tax and keep the resulting paperwork available along with the weapon for inspection upon request.

The net effect is the supply of truly military weapons legally available to civilians is small and monotonically decreasing, and the ones in the pool (including those key parts) are quite expensive and potentially rather aggravating to buy and keep.

80:

Whatever happened to "To Protect and Serve"?

While I don't know much about the US police, I know that there are a lot of different police organizations there.
I don't know your reasoning for that quote, but I thought for a long time that it was somehow the motto of "The US Police". However, I did find out some time ago that the motto of the Los Angeles Police Department is "To Protect and To Serve" (Source: Wikipedia has their logo...). The LAPD is often used in fiction and at least here in Europe it's easy to think it's somehow for the whole police force.

The police organizations in the US is a mess in my view, but I come from a small country with its very different problems. I agree with Charlie that the police should not be a military organization, although there are a lot of examples of such state violence organizations in Europe, too.

My main source of information on this has been the roleplaying supplement GURPS Cops, which is of course already outdated.

81:

Charlies is absolutely right that power structures designed to keep down blacks can be easily repurposed; white guys in California got lynched after all. By the same token though, lynching primarily targeted black men, and without minding that racial dynamic you'd be hard-pressed to figure out why a federal anti-lynching law was vociferously blocked for decades.

The thing about the "unadmitted objectives of American policing" is that they're four centuries old. White people have been afraid of the slave uprising that will come and kill them in their beds pretty much since we first brought slaves over from Africa in 1619. That the jackboot has come to attention right now is do to a combination of it being especially garish and that it's stomping on the toes of national reporters.


Otherwise, as carloshasanax mentions above versions of this crap has been happening to blacks since before any of us here were born. Philadelphia once actually dropped a bomb on black militant group, setting a fire that burned down a city block. SWAT teams were formed first formed in LA in response to the Watts riots. I can remember the LAPD back in the Gates era using their own tank to smash open crack houses for the TV cameras, and these days no-knock raids are in endemic use against drug suspects. The "War on Drugs" itself was largely premised on the supposed threat of "super-predators", and you can guess the imagined skin tone they had. That 40% of US prisoners, and hence 10% of the world's, are black Americans really gives the game away I think.

82:

Well, we have nothing to be proud of:
John Shorthouse, James Brady, David Ewin, James Ashley, Michael Fitzgerald, Harry Stanley, Azelle Rodney, Charles de Menezes, Anthony Grainger + James Kelley – died in custody ...
And, of course, Stephen Waldorf & Cherry Groce – who survived, just, & Blair Peach, who was bludgeoned to death…

83:

Correct - and see my horrible list @ #82, above.

WOT "Peelian principles" then?
One does wonder

84:

Gentlemen, what makes a military weapon is the user. You're over-focused on what ordinary soldiers currently use.

This is a military weapon. It's a bolt-action rifle. It has a ten-round magazine. I don't know how well he's hitting the target, but the British soldiers of a century ago trained to shoot that fast, and hit. The conscripts of the two world wars didn't shoot that fast, but their training was the same.

There are a lot of video clips of people shooting Lee-Enfields. Most of them don't do it properly. This guy has the right technique.

The Ferguson angle on this is that they are all white male gun nuts.

Even the US Army has learned better than that.

Military weapons! Tell that to Jack Churchill!

85:

Yes, well, religion (ugh) & WOT "Peelian principles" like I just said - I hate to say it, but consider yourself lucky - you could have ended up like Blair Peach euw

86:

I'm not sure without looking them all up how far back you're going but to at least the 1980's that I can spot.

I really wouldn't presume to judge whether Peelian principles were upheld in each of the cases you've mentioned without a lot of reading. But I'm pretty sure every UK police force has firearms officers. They have obviously decided that there are times when the use of firearms is the best option.

You've read enough of what I write here to know I'm pretty fundamentally opposed to violence. I find I'm pretty calm at the prospect of the police shooting someone with a gun who is threatening to shoot them, or people in a shopping centre, or run into a tube station with a backpack full of Sarin or similar. All of those are rare (although the Sarin happened in Tokyo of course) in the UK. Although there's a bit of a dispute about it, the fact it's close enough that they're quibbling says something: the officer that shot Michael Douglas shot more rounds in that incident than all of the armed police in the UK did 'in action' last year.

Citing a list of the tragic accidents doesn't mean that the police, in general, don't attempt to live up to the highest of standards. It means they make mistakes. And when they're armed with guns and they make mistakes, it gets people dead real fast.

Although it's impossible to really do the comparison ask yourself if we didn't live in a country where the police strove to use those principles just how many names you'd have on that list over the same period of time.

We shouldn't be proud that the police make mistakes, nor that they kill people, even people that you can argue deserve it. The police should learn from each and every one of those mistakes and visibly attempt to improve.

At the same time, however hard they try to improve, it's a human system, it will never be perfect. Unless we change human nature to the point that we don't have criminals that act in ways that make armed police a necessary part of the response (and even then, as in NY with the choking the guy to death there will probably be deaths unless we go full Stepford Wives, or in this case Stepford Husbands probably). We should never just shrug and say tough but at some point we should accept it was a tragic accident and try to forgive those involved. The best systems won't prevent accidents.

87:

I do appreciate that the police here put a different emphasis on public safety to the police in the US, or at least seem to.

I appreciate upholding public safety isn't quite the same thing but it always strikes me as ironic given how many US police departments proudly declare that they're there "to protect and serve."

88:

I think you underestimate how different things are in Scotland. Alas, all the Scottish police forces were merged into one metastatic monster, Police Scotland, a couple of years ago -- with bad results. The senior posts in PS went to the most senior officers from the constituent forces, and as the biggest force in Scotland had previously been Strathclyde, i.e. Glasgow, PS is now dominated by west coast Presbyterian puritan types with a tendency to go zero tolerance at the drop of a hat. This is not working well in Edinburgh, not to mention elsewhere.

And in the Highlands they seem to have decided that the answer to the problem of it taking too long to get specialist firearms backup in event of a spree killer (as happened in the lake district a few years ago) is to arm all the officers with handguns. This is not going to end well, because the British style of policing involves a lot of face-to-face encounters, and if you have a gun and someone with bad intent gets within three metres of you you are faced with the choice of using it or losing it.

(Final nit: in Scotland, a Sheriff is not a ceremonial office or a police officer: they're a particular grade of judge who sits on cases which would be heard in magistrate courts in England.)

89:

The UK has a safety net: about 50% of municipal funding comes from central government, so even if a city suffers an economic implosion, this doesn't totally nuke its ability to fund infrastructure and keep basic services running (the way it did in Detroit, for example). This means that the incentive for the successful to flee is much less, so rather than a total collapse what you tend to see is a protracted recession/depression followed by (eventual) regeneration and recovery.

The USA simply can't do this: central government isn't strongly integrated with local government.

90:

Not quite.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9577167/One-in-ten-members-of-Armed-Forces-was-born-abroad.html

This 2012 Telegraph article says:
" Troops born overseas now account for a record 12 per cent of the total 101,290 strength, new figures show.

Recruits from some African nations could form battalions all by themselves.

However there are fears that the increasing reliance on foreign-born soldiers, as Britons become harder to retain, could leave the Forces vulnerable if their home countries try to stop them serving in contentious wars such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

The former head of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, said: “It would be in my mind a nonsense not to have some sort of ceiling.

“One has got to come to a judgment as to what is appropriate, what is right, what the British Army can properly absorb without losing its own British identity and ethos.”
...
Figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests show that there are now are 8,505 soldiers from 38 different overseas nations in the Army. This is more than three times the 2,659 recorded a decade ago and just 601 in 1995. "

91:

An M-16 or AR-15 (the civilian semi-automatic version) is a 300-metre battle rifle, meant to engage targets over a long distance and firing a round designed to penetrate bodies, walls, windows etc. quite well. Carrying one in an urban situation is a military function not a policing one.

British firearms police carry the H&K MP5 carbine as a shoulder weapon, usually configured for single-shot semi-auto operation (the H&K has a box-of-Legos option for trigger groups all the way up to full rock-and-roll). IIRC they use Plus-P 9mm ammo which has a good knock-down potential but doesn't overpenetrate and certainly doesn't have the same effective range as 5.56mm used in the M-16/AR-15.

The H&K is still a Scary Black Weapon, a tool of psychological dominance when pointed at someone to get their attention. It handles better in crowded situations and has less bad outcomes associated with its short-range design -- see for example the use of battle rifles in the Kent State incident in the 1970s where people were hit by National Guard 30-calibre gunfire over distances of hundreds of metres.

92:
I’ve seen a lot of changes in my career so far. One of the biggest is the nature of the threat that we face on the street.

Interestingly if you look at the statistics for police deaths over the last 20 odd years there is no overall upward trend.

There's probably some interesting regional variations buried in the national data — but by just eyeballing the graph it doesn't looks like an american police officer today is significantly more or less likely to die in the line of duty than 20 years ago.

93:

I'm assuming your facts about the UK police weapon and its configuration are right. I could look up the details but I frankly wouldn't really understand the impact without more research than I'm willing to undertake for a blog comment.

But a weapon that grabs and focusses the attention is fine. A gun that handles well in crowded situations - I assume by that you mean "isn't likely to get knocked around, hurt people indiscriminately as a club, not go off accidentally" sounds good. And a weapon that will knock someone down, not kill the next two people and not kill someone 200m beyond the intended target if you miss sounds excellent.

In fact you could argue that's Peelian principles in action even at the most extreme end. If we've got to shoot someone, how can we make sure we don't hurt the members of the public we're not meant to be shooting? It still won't prevent tragic accidents of course, but it ought to help minimise them.

94:

Also, interestingly, while there are pretty reliable statistics on the number of american police officers killed on duty, we don't have reliable numbers on the number of people those police officers kill.

95:

There has always been a tension in the UK between the two modes of operation of the police - to enforce the law and keep the peace. In the past, keeping the peace took precedence over enforcing the law, unless the law being broken was very serious and likely to lead to serious casualties.
However, even here we see a creeping militarization, although since criminals are generally not armed (and certainly not with military hardware) it is a slow process compared with the USA.
BTW, congrats on the Hugo.

96:

The UK experienced a series of police firearms incidents back in the 1970s and 80s which indicated the existing ad-hoc choice of weapons by various constabularies, inadequate training in the main and poor tac-op processes was not, ummm, optimal shall we say. The Met in London thought things through and came out with a much better integrated structure based around the H&K MP5 as the main serious-incident weapon with sniper support from Accuracy International rifles for longer range interdiction in, for example, hostage situations. The other forces followed suit quite quickly once they saw the benefits, including the ability for trained officers to move more easily between forces for personal reasons or when seeking promotion.

British police forces carry out quite a lot of cutting-edge R&D, in fact. Google "Battenburg markings" some time.

97:

#43, and to some extent at least #56 (and various others)

I wasn't trying to say "An M-60A1 Patton in every garage, several Browning 50cals on every gunrack" but just to demonstrate that some military grade weapons are genuinely and legitimately owned in civilian hands. Beyond that, the point is not "what is the actual risk of a police officer meeting one of these weapons?" but "what is his perception of the risk of meeting someone with a Skorpion or an Uzi during an apparently routine traffic stop?" I'm happy to agree that the actual risk there is lower than the perceived risk, but the perceived risk is going to drive his actions.

98:

I think Charlie may already have covered this but the "Royal 'Ulster' Constabulary" was not a body that most of the rest of great Britain would recognse as a "normal police force".

99:

http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2012-preliminary-statistics-for-law-enforcement-officers-killed-in-the-line-of-duty

"According to preliminary statistics released today by the FBI, 47 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2012. The total number of officers killed is 25 fewer than the 72 officers who died in 2011.
...
Offenders used firearms in 43 of the 47 felonious deaths."

100:

I haven't read the whole thread yet so my apologies if this is a repeat, busy day. But:-
- I live in Oakland, CA which is one of the more violent cities in the US
- Homicides in the city run somewhere around 130 in a city of 400,000. This is more violent than Haiti.
- In 2009 a single person shot and killed 4 police officers in a 24 hour period after a routine traffic stop. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_shootings_of_Oakland_police_officers

In other words, you might be a little cautious if you were a police officer in Oakland.

I also would make the following points

- At this point we don't know the whole truth about the incident.
- Other incidents suggest that the story we are getting is likely to be highly biased, for example, early reports concerning the Trayvon Martin case and the incident as described in court are certainly different.

I am by no means a whole hearted supporter of the equipment and tactics of the police but I don't feel, particularly after the Trayvon Martin case, like jumping on the "evil empire" bandwagon quite yet. Of course, there are plenty of examples of the "evil empire" at work, Blair Peach comes to mind.

Also worth mentioning, the person who killed the police officers was shot in turn by the police. There was a protest march at the action of the police.

Clearly certain US police forces need to establish a better working relationship with those they police. Becoming a paramilitary force is probably not the way to go about it.

101:

Besides the obvious racist element here, there is also the issue that we have so many armed citizens. Cops get more scared when they expect an armed populace.

Our paramilitary trend is largely driven by the arms industry, wanting to sell more to the military, leaving extra arms which get passed down to cops to form SWAT teams, changing the mentality of the police.

102:

"Citing a list of the tragic accidents doesn't mean that the police, in general, don't attempt to live up to the highest of standards. It means they make mistakes. And when they're armed with guns and they make mistakes, it gets people dead real fast."

Starting with the last first, a very large problem is that when they make mistakes, they tend to cover them up and protect themselves. Anybody with any knowledge of the real world knows the effect that this will have on the future likelihood of making 'mistakes'.

Second, many police forces do not. Any police force which protects and covers for criminals in their midst is both not trying to live up to high standards, but is quite deliberately letting the bottom of the barrel drag the rest on down.

103:

"And the mind-set of a gendarme is not the mind-set of a police officer; it’s the mind-set of a soldier at war."

My Granddad was a British soldier in Ireland during the Troubles. Like the Great War, he didn't talk about it — but when he got dementia his mind travelled back and we could piece together some of what he suffered from the one-sided conversations.

In Ireland on patrol one day, they were fired at and their sergeant was hit. They couldn't fire back because the shots came from a crowd. Military discipline isn't always a bad thing.

104:

BTW, here's some background on the Ferguson PD.

Note that the prosecutors and judges were accomplices.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/15/the-day-ferguson-cops-were-caught-in-a-bloody-lie.html

105:

Whatever happened to "To Protect and Serve"?
.....
I don't know your reasoning for that quote, but I thought for a long time that it was somehow the motto of "The US Police"

It may not be quite that common a motto, but it is used by other police forces around the country*. Even if the LAPD are the only ones who use it officially, it is so well known (through movies and TV shows, I suppose) as to be associated with US police forces. That you've heard of it (in Finland? I'm guessing) kind of proves that point.


*Well, I think it is. I'm pretty sure that the local police cars, here in Colorado Springs, used to have it on their sides. Currently they have "Supporting our Community as our Family".

106:

My father has a collection of Lee-Enfields; a half dozen, including a .22 training model. They have quite a kick. Admittedly, I was fairly young (9 or 10) the few times he took me and my brother to the firing range, I mostly fired the .22, but fired the .303 and his muzzle loaders a few times.
Yes, you can call him a "white, male gun-nut". Personally I can't stand them.
Sorry for going off topic, but it's not a pleasant one.

107:

I'm pretty aware of the tendency of groups to cover up and protect their own. And although in this thread I'm well aware I'm coming over as an apologist for the British police, I'm not and I'm pretty sure that the security services have a dossier on me to prove it. It's probably tagged as 'mostly harmless' as I was never into direct action and the like.

As I've commented above, I lived in Liverpool. I was living there for Hillsborough and although I wasn't related to or really close to any of the 96 that died I used to walk by one of them most days and I knew another in a brother-of-a-friend who I'd met-down-the-pub-a-couple-of-times way. Finding the extent of the police cover up of their apparent incompetence over the last year, particularly the 25th year of their deaths with the swirl of remembrance tributes on the TV and so was a real gut punch.

I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

I passionately believe the police must try and improve every time they fuck up. Enquiries, inquests and all. Policing of football matches (I believe, I don't go to football matches) after Hillsborough, has improved - despite the cover up. The Met, and policing in general in the UK is better after the death of Stephen Lawrence and their terrible investigation. No one would pretend its perfect but I don't think even their most outspoken critic would deny it has improved - even while saying it has a long way to go.

I accept, not really begrudgingly, that human nature tends to protect members of 'our gang' against 'them.' That gets in the way of full and frank enquiries, the best possibly improvements. It means that the police will have criminals that they're protecting within their ranks. And all the rest of it. Unless we get android police with incorruptible code, (ED-209 anyone?) we're not going to get a perfect system.

108:

I have to disagree with the idea that cops get scared when they deal with an armed populance.

In California, at least, the cops who deal with the most routinely, heavily armed populance are the game wardens. Since they deal primarily with hunters, poachers, and illegal marijuana growers, almost everyone they deal with is expected to be heavily armed. In fact, in California, the other cops often let the wardens take the lead in mixed-crime cases, simply because they have the experience that most other cops lack.

Now, how do wardens deal with the weapons issue? By talking. A lot. They carry heavy weapons, and they do tend to cuff suspects at the drop of a hat until they've determined that they're not armed and about to kill the wardens (and once it's safe, the cuffs come off, and the wardens talk about what they're doing and why they're doing it the entire time). They spend a lot of time talking with everyone, and that's one reason why they don't get shot as often as one might expect, given the situations they're in.

The key lesson here is one that others have pointed out: training and experience overcomes fear. Paradoxically, it's not the presence of weapons, it's the rare threat of weapons that makes cops paranoid. Most US cops never shoot a gun on their beats, even if they have an AR-15 in the cruiser. If you put them in a riot control situation, give them a bunch of vaguely familiar weapons and armor, and set them to work at night where everyone's angry at them, what do you think will happen?

This is what the "militarization of the police" crowd is angry about. Military police, among others, are specifically trained to deal with crowd control, because that's been one of their key roles for years, especially in Iraq. They've got the training and experience to deal with it, something that few beat cops have. What we're seeing in Ferguson is a force with the tools but not the training that goes with them, and a critical part of the training is how to use the tools to effectively control the crowd and calm the situation, which is what the Ferguson cops are failing to do.

Another key lesson is that the Ferguson chief of police failed the basic warden's strategy: he didn't start talking with the community immediately. Cops' most important tools are their brains and their mouths, and those certainly have been used to very poor effect in Ferguson.

109:

Centralisation of Police in Scotland
Well, yes ... all part of nice Mr Salmond's puritan nanny-state, of course.
[ /snark ]

Also, Frank Herbert: Police observe that criminals prosper. It takes a pretty dull policeman to miss the fact that a position of "Authority" is the most prosperous criminal position available

110:

"What we're seeing in Ferguson is a force with the tools but not the training that goes with them, and a critical part of the training is how to use the tools to effectively control the crowd and calm the situation, which is what the Ferguson cops are failing to do."

When you see what they've done before, it's just as likely that they were deliberately doing what they did. The failure to accomplish what they wanted was an accident, but they didn't behave as they did from lack of training, but because that is who they are.

111:

You've got some important points, but while SWAT was reasonable when it was a "flying squad" that was called in to deal with special situations, as a general approach it causes the public to distrust the police. And it also inevitably leads to a large number of cases where there is an extreme response to a situation that calls for "minimal force".

That said, you are also right that the tone of the department is set by those at the top. But the way the tone is implemented is also important. A police force with a militarized SWAT team for special situations is almost OK. (The only reason for the "almost" is that when a tool exists, one looks for a place to use it.) When that's the way the average officer reacts you have less a police force than a military occupation force. This doesn't need to mean vile oppression, but it can easily develop that way. And it does mean that the average citizen stops trusting the police. Which was the core idea of the peelian principles.

112:

The US military has non-citizen soldiers. My niece, for example, became a naturalized American during her second enlistment in the US Army.

It's not like the old French Foreign Legion; naturalization isn't part of the deal. Some complete their enlistment and stay on as "Permanent Residents" or go back home.

113:

"To Protect and To Serve" was prominently written just below the windows of the patrol car doors of a police TV show called "Adam-12", which was very popular about 40 years ago.

The motto was visible probably once every couple of minutes in every episode.

114:

> This is a military weapon.

Yep. The Soviets found that out when they sent troops armed with fancy new 5.45x39 AK-74s against antique SMLEs in Afghanistan. The "obsolete" .303s picked off Soviet soldiers from beyond the range of their AKs. The Soviets had to scramble longer-range small arms out to the field... which turned out to be Mosin bolt actions, the Russian equivalent of the SMLE.

Just because a weapon is old, doesn't mean it's not effective, from SMLEs to Brown Besses to trebuchets to some grumpy individual hitting you in the head with a rock.

115:

> he didn't start talking with the community
> immediately.

"Community" assumes a group of people living near each other, who more or less know each other, identify with the local area, and share social or cultural norms.

Americans, particularly young Americans, tend to move often, and where they sleep has little to do with their social group. A complaint going back to the 1950s is, "people don't know their neighbors any more." Well, duh. With a phone a car, or other transit, you don't *have* to socialize with the people near where you might have a flat or a room... "community" doesn't mean much in America, other than one of the near-meaningless catch-words or phrases like "family values" or "freedom."

The closest I've seen to the kind of community they're talking about are gated communities and condominium apartments, where the owners form legally-recognized co-ops to gate off roads, lock doors, and create their own little enclaves. And even then, most of them don't associate with each other all that much.

116:

Apologies again for going off-topic, and potentially inappropriately, but the name of the town made an old joke come to mind. Here it is with some embroidery:

Two old Jews are sitting on a park bench discussing old times and how they came to America.
One turns to the other and asks, "So, what kind of name is Shane Ferguson for a Jew?"
"Well, I'll tell you," the other says. "When I came over it was a shlep. I had to walk across country to get to a ship. Then the crossing seemed to take forever--it was no pleasure cruise, believe you me. Finally, I made it to Ellis Island where they poked and prodded me and put me into a line with a bunch of other people, each one being ask questions. When it was my turn the man asked me my name. I thought for a moment and looked at him and said 'Shoyn fargesn'*. He said 'Okay, Shane Ferguson,' wrote it down and stamped my papers. And that's who I've been ever since."

*Yiddish for (I've) already forgotten.

117:

" Also, Frank Herbert: Police observe that criminals prosper. It takes a pretty dull policeman to miss the fact that a position of "Authority" is the most prosperous criminal position available "

Hum, well, yes, but not just in today’s news event horizon. And so, just so as to remind we Citizens of the U.K. who are even now horrified by the evident racist based corruption in the police forces of the U.S. of A - where apparently a local police force that polices a population that is racially Black can be overwhelmingly manned by white officers who are plainly both terrified by their Black fellow citizens and also armed to the teeth with lethal force - that it wasn’t so very long ago that the London Met Police force of an International CITY that practically warps space about it in terms of the varied nature of its citizenship, was obliged to confess to " Intuitional Racism " and ... oh wot the hell just look up City of London policing of same and, then consider that, London’s population of just one foreign nationality - our enemies of the Napoleonic Wars - The French, ".. More French people live in London than in Bordeaux, Nantes or Strasbourg and some now regard it as France's sixth biggest city in terms of population. What is attracting a new generation of young French professionals to the city?"

As has been mentioned in the thread the French/ other continental police/judicial system are rather different to our own dear system. And that just a few miles across the ' English ' channel.

Step off the ferry or the train and Behold the Cops are routinely carrying side arms of the Lethal Kind...likewise the cops of the adjoining nations. It’s a funny old world.

Here in the U.K. police staffing levels have been reduced - not necessarily a totally bad thing if that means that the Quality of the remaining cops is improved by use of implementation of new methods and technology. BUT, as has been mentioned above there is growing tendency for our police forces firearms experts to be deployed for perfectly ordinary, low threat, duties because no non armed cops...In say the highlands of Scotland - are available. And so on and so forth. Of course same armed Bobbies can’t put their pistols in a lock box in the area car before they deal with low level law breaking for the law breakers may, just may be carrying Uzi sub machine guns. Well you never know do you?


Not that the evil doer without policy or driving licence or road fund...and so on and so forth ..Doesn’t demand police attention, but ARMED POLICE attention?

A cynical person might think that we are being accustomed to the sight of U.K. police officers routinely carrying lethal side arms. This will have nothing at all to do with the recent veiled threats that, if the follow up to armed police incidents that have employed lethal force is too stringent, then armed police may well turn in their authority to carry guns and revert to ' normal' policing. This could represent a considerable problem in such terrorist targets as London or elsewhere in the U.K. where major cities might host targets that are desirable to Terrorists.

So, why not try out armed cops in ' our systems tell us you don’t have insurance for your motor vehicle ' type situations? If the members of the public squeal then we can always back off for a while and concentrate on spreading the use of Tasers from area car officers to 'community support ' officers.

The thing is that we do have a dire history of terrorist threats over here in the U.K.and so we have become gradually bit by bit more used to seeing cops bearing guns even in situations that don’t demand the carrying of lethal force. And tasers? A couple of days ago I saw a couple of ordinary police officers in Morrison’s Supermarket and they were armed with tasers in addition to their standard body armour and extendable batons and so forth. I'm old enough to remember when our police officers carried truncheons hidden in a pocket inside their uniform and had to really justify having to draw that weapon from its pocket.

Once Upon a Time even the IRA failed to dent the police reluctance to carry firearms on mainland Britain. Even the tendency of US of American nut cultists of the Irish Émigré kind to support IRA terrorists didn’t have very much impact on British mainstream police attitudes to the deployment of lethal force on a routine basis. Then we had 9/11 and all hell broke loose and the US of Americas political class and military establishment appeared to go mad.

As for the events at Ferguson?


I am utterly ill equipped to comment on the current situation in the US of A save to say that many of the citizens of the US of A - perhaps even the majority - do appear to have an almost religious belief in the efficacy of Deadly Force in any given situation and this to the extent that ..I mean does this following look to be even faintly reasonable? ...

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/apr/29/armed-to-the-milk-teeth-america-gun-toting-kids

118:

As your other commentarians have pointed out, the US never actively subscribed to the Peelian principals of policing. The first official police force in the US was formed in Boston in the 1830s. We were about a century behind Great Britain (or rather London) in the development of police organizations. At the time that Boston (and then New York City) formed their first police departments, the Industrial Revolution was starting to kick in and distort the economy and the social landscape of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States. Likewise we were experiencing a rise in immigration bringing "undesirable elements" to our sacred shores. The objective of policing in the US was unabashedly focused on maintaining social control -- pure and simple. The enfranchised class was worried about the rise of "dangerous classes." Public drunkenness, hooliganism, prostitution, homelessness, and political protests (worker "riots"), were all considered to be products of a morally inferior "intemperate" underclass. Municipal police forces were there to keep these types in line (and as a source of extra funding). Unsurprisingly, not much has changed 180 years.

119:

Here's a thing you have to remember about American policing

The police have no legal duty to protect you. Quite the opposite in fact. Public duty doctrine - the idea that government owes duties to the public at large - has been interpreted by the US legal system as only applying to people of a protected class per the 14th amendment. They owe you no duties as a individual citizen, and they cannot be compelled up enforce the law on your behalf if they decline to do so. They also cannot be held accountable if their choice to refuse protection by law or enforcement of law results in harm to you.

The specific court cases are

Warren v District of Columbia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia - " The Court adopted the trial court's determination that no special relationship existed between the police and appellants, and therefore no specific legal duty existed between the police and the appellants."

DeShaney v Winnebago County - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeShaney_v._Winnebago_County - "The court opinion, by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, held that the due process clause protects against state action only, and as it was Randy DeShaney who abused Joshua, a state actor (the Winnebago County Department of Social Services) was not responsible."

Castle Rock v Gonzales - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Rock_v._Gonzales - "The Court's majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia held that enforcement of the restraining order was not mandatory under Colorado law; were a mandate for enforcement to exist, it would not create an individual right to enforcement that could be considered a protected entitlement under the precedent of Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth; and even if there were a protected individual entitlement to enforcement of a restraining order, such entitlement would have no monetary value and hence would not count as property for the Due Process Clause."

So in cases of rape, beating to the point of brain damage, and murder, the police don't have to lift a finger if they so choose, and you can't do anything about it.

And this sets aside the issues of race of "for profit" actions in the American justice system.

120:

Strangely the French Gendarmerie often seem to follow most of the Peelian principles rather better than the French Police.


(In some places, like Corsica, this is rather less the case - it's funny to see that the Gendarmerie barracks is almost always at the entrance to Corsican villages rather than in the centre).

121:

"de mortui nihil nisi bonum" eh?
If someone steals something and then physically intimidates the owner then that is thuggish behaviour, period. My judgement on it stands alone and does not connect to any subsequent incident. While it is possible that this footage was "taken out of context" it is hard to see what context could possibly excuse this behaviour.

123:

Now onto a bit of a tangent ...

Just how much damage does crappy policing (like killing an unarmed teenager) do to the local economy? I don't know that stats, but I would guess based on general media coverage that weather (i,e., tornado, hurricane, flooding) does a lot more physical visible damage to a city, but violence it seems can kill a city more effectively and for longer by causing more of its population to move/resettle elsewhere.

Given the stereotype of Americans being primarily motivated by money, this would be a good argument for improving one's police force.

124:

Up through August 8, 2014 crappy policing had no real negative effect on Ferguson's economy, and crappy policing was long endemic. The worst non-fatal incident I've heard of was one where police arrested the wrong man, beat him, and then charged him with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms. Miscarrying justice

125:

Good, someone else noticed that Ferguson case ... #123
However ...
Has anyone seen the YouTube journalists' shots, taken inside a diner/restaurant, where the (pink) journo gets arrested - because he was sitting at a table, with pad etc in front of him & thus failed to leave the diner within 45 seconds ( or some equally ridiculous time-span).
I mean, he got arrested for sitting at a table, writing!
Days something about the incredible stupidity & total lack of real training of the cops.
Ours are marginally better than that, usually ....

126:

There's a scale factor comes into this. I can remember when there were police forces in the UK which were quite small, places such as the Country Boroughs. Around here, Grimsby had a population of about 90,000 and it's own Police force. In the late 1960s it was decided that Grimsby was rather too small, and both Police and local government were amalgamated into the Country of Humberside.

Ferguson MO has a population of 21,000.

The Fire services have been standardised in Britain since WW2. Even when they were small and local, they had the same training, the some hose connectors. and collaborative planning for large-scale incidents. If there was a fire at the Killingholme oil refineries, there would have been a ripple of redeployment acrsss the whole country, so that the Grimsby crews would be at the refinery, and there would be cover for other incidents in Grimsby.

The history makes a difference. Grimsby was bombed in two World Wars.

Ferguson is tiny. You wonder how it can sustain a Police and Fire department on that population. And then you see how so many things can be done by other, larger, forces with overlapping jurisdiction. There are the State Police. There is the FBI. Ferguson is within St Louis Country, which has over half a million people and it's own police, but it chooses to provide it's own police department.

It starts to look bewildering.

Charlie and others have pointed out the problems which are coming from the recent creation of a single Police Service in Scotland. You probably can go too far the other way without noticing, but here in Britain 150,000 people seem to be enough for a local administration, and they only provide a share of the territory covered by a Police or Fire Service.

Ferguson seems too small to be even a one-horse town. They're lucky to have their own leg to stand on.

127:

Note on Para 2 of this.

Arnold is referring to the "Metropolitan Police [Force|Service]" which is responsible for policing "Greater London", not the "City of London Police" which is a separate force responsible purely for policing the financial district known as the "City of London" or the "Square Mile" (because most of the institutions are in the same small area).

So if you're websearching the term needs to be "Metropolitan Police".

128:

While I agree broadly with what you're saying, with a British perspective, I think you're forgetting two things.

Most Americans, even their so-called left-wing, are rather to the right in our terms and fundamentally distrust central government.

I don't know for sure about the reorganisation of Grimsby et al into Humberside but such things here are met with a level of grumbling, political handwaving that it's all gerrymandering (the last set of boundary reforms were thrown out for just that because the Tories didn't do something the Lib Dems wanted IIRC) but that's tempered by an acceptance that the last set (or at least the set before that) seemed to have worked out mostly ok and although it's a change it does kind of make sense.

In the US I don't think it would be met with armed revolt but there's local, regional, state and federal authorities to get involved and it seems like at each stage they don't actually like each other. That's not just from TV and film, that's from chatting to friends as well.

The other thing is that, although it probably doesn't apply to Ferguson, which I've seen described as a suburb of St. Louis, (they're 12 miles apart, so it's not a UK definition of suburb really) there's lots of places in the US which are a long way from anywhere else. If you imagine a town of 21,000 in the middle of Dartmoor you would say it should have a police station and a fire station. (Jeremy Hunt would have nightmares about it but that's a different story.) They might be administered from elsewhere (the police certainly would be in the UK) elsewhere but there would probably be enough crime and enough fires you'd have a permanent deployment up there however you worked it. (Side note, estimating from the population and makeup of where I live, we'd have a police force of ~24 for a town of 21,000, not 53 like Ferguson. Although we do have some benefits of scale of course, my local constabulary serves more like 1.2 million.)

But I suspect it's a matter of civic pride to have a police department. I don't know at what combination of size and separation it becomes a necessity but just as our history plays in to our emergency services - fire brigades have standard equipment and cross training for major emergencies so they can cover for each other and the like - even though it's wildly out of date that "cowboy spirit" and frontier town mentality is probably important for the American police department. If you're big enough to call yourself a town, you have a sherif, or a police chief and so on and enforce the law yourself. You don't rely on the federal government or whoever it is to do it for you. (Memories of not really watching old B&W western movies prompt me to say US Marshals but I have no idea if that's actually right.)

129:

Actually I don't have a problem speaking ill of the dead; a well known anti-science climate change denialist died earlier this year in Scotland and I have no problem pointing out that he was an idiot in many ways. In this case however your rhetoric seems on the nasty side, the key difference between the cases of the dead people is that I had many personal interactions with the denialist and can provide much evidence of his stupid behaviour. You are writing off this person you've never met in the broadest possible terms ("parasite on his community"? Have you tried asking the Mail for a job?) on the basis of a small segment of video. It seems rather over the top to me and ignores several other points, such as if he really was a parasite on his community with a long rap sheet, you'd think the police would have released it by now as part of their damage limitation exercise. If all someone has to do to be called a thug and a parasie on the community by yourself is misbehave in a shop once in a way which doesnt' even get the police called then most of the population probably fall under the label too.
Rhetoric - it matters.

130:

> estimating from the population and makeup of
> where I live, we'd have a police force of ~24
> for a town of 21,000, not 53 like Ferguson.

My town is about 30,000, with 15 police officers. About as many firemen.

The reason for so many different types of police in the USA has to do with the political structure. The USA is union of legally-independent states, in principle similar to the European Union. Each of the 50 member states authorizes, funds, and operates its police as they see fit. Below state level you have counties/parishes/hundreds with their own governmental structures, by tradition or state constitution, most have some variant of the ancient English "shire reeve", whose authority comes from the local electorate. Their primary purpose is to collect taxes, their secondary purpose is as police.

Down at the town level, the local electorate might establish their own police force. How they're regulated varies widely across the various states. Below that are various forms of constabulary, generally operating in "unincorporated areas", which are places pretent they're cities but aren't, for tax purposes.

But wait! There's more! In the last few decades, "police" are probably a single-digit percentage of Federally-recognized "Law Enforcement Officers", all of which has "police" powers, but work for bureaucratic organizations, like city animal control departments, state wildlife control, Federal immigration officials, etc., whose legal standing is, in my opinion, dubious. Then there's the Fed itself, which has allocated itself police powers in general, as well as seconding them to almost every bureaucratic sub-entity. And then there are the various Indian tribal police, who technically have no authority of their own, except when it's convenient, when they're assumed to be under the umbrella of the FBI. Oh, and each branch of the military has its own police, as does the Department of defense.

All of these groups are authorized by, report to, and are paid by different organizations. We do have an "American Police Department" - that's the FBI, which not only claims authority over all US territory, but worldwide, to the consternation of places in South America and Africa that were operating under the impression they were recognized, independent nations. But the FBI has to compete with an array of other Federal police, ranging from the Secret Service to the National Park Police. Every group its own little bureaucratic fiefdom.

Getting confused yet? The situation for courts is similar.

131:

I am new, but wanted to give another issue that could be adding to the anger...No judgements here. Times are tough w/ absentee fathers. Even worse, a 6 yr. Absentee Congress. Thank goodness the NSA cares enough to complete & store digital lifebooks for each of us, even if they happen to not actively monitor/listen/read ALL my communications

They sound like a pretty solid parent that doesn't make it to every game but does pays someone else to record it, then makes copies on various media (always in triplicate), ships the compilations to 5 secure physical locations like safety deposit boxes inside nuclear silos. We love freedom soo much that we flawlessly collect, document, chronicle, sort, & store it. All of it. Even the junk email. That's right, even spam gets equal protection under the law". Spam is surreptitiously stored secured & reviewed. How we treat the worst of us defines our humanity as a nation so spam gets us 1 point. But, eww, our private for profit prison models based on Capitalism befuddles some countries who imprison fewer numbers, ok, actually every country. Plus, we are so open & hopeful for our own reality tv show that en masse WE pay the government to watch US.

Take heart though, we can always communicate anonymously Yes, such a thing exists in both thoughts & dreams. HA ! All your fancy adaptive algorithms are rendered as useless as privacy & free speech. So, this just in, we were fooled & are fools still today because we took our eyes off the prize, & forfeited our crown jewel...

The terrorists won. They beat us straight up witb a band of misfits. Without demanding or even suggesting it, they made us betray THE most fundamental bedrock of our nation's greatness & appeal. Abdication of sacred 1st amendment protections of speech, due to fear or put another way, due to terrorist tactics.. was & is not our finest years now. I thought it was also a resolute policy to never negotiate w/ terrorists. It is ok to pee your pants, then lower them, lie down on our stomachs, totally give up & capitulate core components of our collective identity. But we will never negotiate.

Futile Attempt to Post Freely & be protected by anonymity. I will say it is a pleasant fiction & fond but fading memory.

dictated but not read
cc: NSA

132:

Thanks for that. I sort of knew some of it.

In the UK we basically have regional police (they're organised in most places at the county level although there are some historical quirks there and some more modern ones like Police Scotland). There is one notable exception, all of the railways are policed by the British Transport Police. The various military branches have their own military police.

I'm sure there's rivalry between the forces, and the rivalry I "know" of in the US is what I see on TV and in films but it seems our forces cooperate much better than yours. Far from perfectly but generally much better. For example, Cliff Richard's house in Berkshire was recently raided as part of an investigation for historical child abuse by South Yorkshire police. There's several (about 8 I think) counties between them but no problem. If you commit a crime in York (where I live) and flee into Leeds (by train to bring the BTP into it) which is in a different policing area (N. Yorks to W. Yorks) they'd all cooperate to arrest you, hand you back and so on and if a cop from N. Yorkshire police jumped onto the train chasing me, she could still arrest me (at least I think she could, the arrest powers aren't limited to the geography, they're about upholding the Queen's peace more I think, their normal duties are directed through their geographical distribution).

We do have things like immigration officers. I'd have to look in to it but my understanding is they don't have arrest powers, at least within the UK proper. They have to take the police along. At the airport or sea port it's a different matter - but they're peculiar interstitial places.

Our court system is very different. Although we have courts in most towns, and different types of court (basically one to deal with trivial cases, one with more minor crimes and one with major crimes) plus the police can do things like issue cautions and so on, they're all part of the rather ominously titled Ministry of Justice. Obviously in the highest court, where you get a jury trial, you will get a different jury between towns, and you will get different officials (but you could get the same judge unless you go quite some distance, judges have complicated 'circuits' that date back to medieval times) but they're all trained to the same standard, work for the same people and supposedly deliver the same quality of work. If I were tried in York or Leeds after my hypothetical crime the system would be the same, and the variations in the quality would be due to human variation.

133:

"I mean, he got arrested for sitting at a table, writing!
Days something about the incredible stupidity & total lack of real training of the cops."


It's not bad training, and it's not stupidity. It's quite deliberate and illegal crap done by a bandit police force.

134:

"Ferguson seems too small to be even a one-horse town. They're lucky to have their own leg to stand on."

If you read up on the government of Ferguson, you'll see that it's basically funded by police fines. And in the USA, these fines skyrocket - a fine for an offence, 'court costs' (set at the discretion of the court), paying for (private) probation and drug testing (where they call you in with 24-48hrs notice, and tell you to bring money), and so on.

This government, and a lot of local governments, are better thought of as legalized bandit gangs.

135:

If you imagine a town of 21,000 in the middle of Dartmoor you would say it should have a police station and a fire station

If you'll take a town on the edge of Dartmoor but where the emergency services cover most of the moor as well...

Tavistock has a population of around 30,000 in the town itself (~12K) and surrounding area (map on that page) with a Police Station and Fire Station. Poking around it looks like there's a Sergeant and 5 Constables for that area, plus a similar number of PCSOs. They are part of Devon and Cornwall Police, headquartered in Exeter. An Inspector covers that region plus the Okehampton region to the north.

The Fire Station in the town has 20 Retained (paid volunteers, duty crew now paged for emergencies. I miss the old siren) firemen and I think two appliances, with single appliance stations in three of the larger villages/smaller towns around. In this case they are part of Devon and Somerset Fire Service.

There's also a small hospital but Casualty is now handled in Plymouth and the Ambulance Service is now based there as well, though I think vehicles are often posted around the area to meet expected response times.

136:

Ferguson is a town of 21,000 on the northwest side of the St. Louis metropolitan area (pop. 2.8 million or so). It was probably a distinct city when it was founded in 1894, but it has since been pretty well swallowed up by St. Louis. It's not in any meaningful sense a "one-horse town". It's an urban neighborhood that has its own police and fire departments for historical reasons.

137:

Yup, I chose the middle of Dartmoor in my example deliberately. It's far enough away from most places that you wouldn't imagine not having emergency services there.

They could be organised as you've pointed out for Tavistock (they probably would be actually) but although if Ferguson was in the UK it would probably be policed as part of the big city its next to (you could argue it might be on the other side of a county boundary and be policed from somewhere further away but it wouldn't actually be policed independently) the mentality is much more that of somewhere in the middle of nowhere and it needs its own emergency services.

138:

Side observation: As a hazardous waste/environmental engineer based in the Midwest my remediation jobs take me from the Alleghenies to the Ozarks (through the arc of Greater Appalachia) – for some reason toxic sites are never found in posh urban areas. My current job takes me to south central Tennessee. Back in the hills and hollows of Appalachia the only radio stations my car radio can usually get are right wing talk/hate stations (like SuperTalk 99.7 in Nashville) and local religious broadcasts.

I’ve noticed a major change recently. These stations still attack/hate/loath Obama but they have now also turned on the rich, bankers and Wall Street. For example, a recent push by the Obama administration for expanded work visas resulted in angry blasts against greedy CEOs and Wall Street “gangsters” who want to take good paying American jobs and give them to foreigners. Combine this with the news reports of near civil war between the Tea Party and Chamber of Commerce Republicans and I believe that you are seeing the emergence of a true right-wing populist movement in the United States. This is something new in American politics.

BTW, Most of the people I work with are locals who are appalled at the militarization of the police – and also brag that they have better firepower than even heavily equipped cops. And I believe them.

139:

well, yes and no. The "talking to the community" tactic works even when there's not an interconnected community of people.

I went to Berkeley awhile ago, just after the Berkeley Campus cops learned the hard way that violently suppressing protests spurs riots. Fortunately, they were in a liberal institution at the time (Berkeley has since gotten a lot more conservative), so they had strong pressure to do things differently. They got really good at finding the leaders of protests and sitting down and talking with them about where the protest was to be staged, what its goals were, and what the legal boundaries were. For years after that, there were a lot of protests, but very little violence.

Now, had the Fergusion PD wanted to do that (and I get that they may not want to for reasons of bias), they could have, very simply, asked an outside institution (state or federal) to investigate the shooting, suspended the shooter while the investigation was occurring, supported the right of people to protest, and worked with the protest leaders and business owners to protect local businesses from looting. That way, if things did get out of hand and some "troublemakers" did want to start looting the stores, they'd have community support to crack down on the troublemakers. They' also have leaders inside the protests trying to keep things calm or risk losing their own credibility.

That's the point of talking with the community.

Notice that the political loyalty of the cops don't particularly matter here, as this tactic works whether you're liberal or conservative. This is purely about keeping the law. The devious part of this is that it's a great way to disempower protestors. The authorities give people a safe place to protest, everyone makes a lot of noise, and then they go home, energy expended without impact.

It is, however, hard for authorities to do if they think that they have a right to, shall we say, use their discretion to treat different people differently. The deep irony is that the jackboot treatment empowers the protests, as we've seen. I don't think the Ferguson PD understands this very well, and it will ultimately be to their deteriment, I suspect.

140:

"I’ve noticed a major change recently. These stations still attack/hate/loath Obama but they have now also turned on the rich, bankers and Wall Street. For example, a recent push by the Obama administration for expanded work visas resulted in angry blasts against greedy CEOs and Wall Street “gangsters” who want to take good paying American jobs and give them to foreigners. Combine this with the news reports of near civil war between the Tea Party and Chamber of Commerce Republicans and I believe that you are seeing the emergence of a true right-wing populist movement in the United States. This is something new in American politics."

That's actually a huge change in the US. Even after the Financial Crash, the elites did a pretty good job of controlling the public debate. And for those who don't live in the USA, many, if not most 'local' stations are actually run by nationwide corporations.

141:

The Tea Party fills what had been an empty niche in the American poitical matrix:

Culture
More Control Less Control
Economics
Less Regulated Republican Libertarian
More Regulated Tea Party Democrat

142:

Lets try that again:

............................Culture
............................More Control....Less Control
Economics
Less Regulated....Republican......Libertarian
More Regulated...Tea Party.........Democrat

143:

There was a referendum around 1970 asking if Tavistock wanted to become part of Plymouth which would have led to a similar situation if it hadn't failed. Plymouth had no room to expand and the surrounding local authorities didn't want to become dormitory towns which seems to be the analogous situation with St Louis and Ferguson.

144:

heckblazer #81 wins the thresd. The hidden agenda of American law enforcement is the suppression of the black population, and its threat models are Toussaint L'Ouverture and Nat Turner.

145:

And if you want to extend the under-class, just arrest people (for say, doing stuff that the Supreme Court says they have a right to do, like video police).

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140819/11390628257/fbis-criminal-database-is-filling-up-with-non-criminals-no-one-law-enforcement-seems-to-care.shtml

Over the past 20 years, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. As a result, the FBI currently has 77.7 million individuals on file in its master criminal database—or nearly one out of every three American adults.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 new names are added each day.

This master database is accessed by thousands of employers running pre-hire background checks, as well as by banks and landlords.

146:

What I'm trying to get at is that the police department should be given objectives based on socio-economic indicators such as: x% major/violent crime rate = (translates into) y% loss of house values. Okay - I realize that this could in fact mean driving crime out of the city, literally in some cases, but it might be worth considering. Maybe you could even come up with a bonus scheme for civic employees, including the police force, EMS, fire, etc. tied in with housing price appreciation, kids accepted into tertiary education, etc.

Also - get the financial institutions to take a hit by having them apportion some of the mortgage interest earned into community development/safety. This isn't completely weird really; consider it a different type of rebate or loyalty program.

No ideas on how to get rid of guns ... Although the technology probably already exists where the moment a gun/taser is unclipped/unholstered, a miniature recording device on the officer's uniform/cap (capturing audio and video) starts recording. And to ensure no tampering, this device would also immediately ping a central location that is inaccessible to the local constabulary. This way every encounter is recorded and the evidence is near tamper-proof. And, a summary report of all encounters could be reviewed for "training", etc.

147:

Not "just" the under-class.
EVERYBODY.
If, in the USSA something like 33%-&-rising of the populace are on the "criminal" database - how long before over 50% is?
You are heading for the situation in the SovUnion ( or the DDR ) where everyone is guilty so that it only remains for the authorities to decide what to charge & then arrest & jail someone whom they don't like - because they are already criminals.
Same is ahppening here - IIRC something like 20%+ of the UK's population ( & rising) is on our equivalent database ....

148:

There is one notable exception, all of the railways are policed by the British Transport Police.

Minor nit: you missed the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (who, as the name suggests, don't protect nuclear weapons -- just reactors, reprocessing plants, and the national plutonium stockpile). They are armed as heavily as you might expect -- all officers carry guns, specialists carry G36 automatic rifles -- because, although much of their interaction with the public involves dealing with peaceful protests, their core mission is to protect actual high-value targets from terrorists (and by "high value targets" we are not talking about hick towns in the mid-west, and by "terrorists" we are not talking about unarmed demonstrators).

As far as I know the CNC have never shot or killed anyone in the course of the force's operations.

149:

Policing here in the US is all about protecting property -- especially slaves for without the slave states and their need to suppress slave rebellions we might not have the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms. After the "Civil" War and the Emancipation Proclamation ostensibly freed the slaves, the former slave owners could hire convict labor for almost no cost and the southern states always managed to have plenty of black convicts to hire out -- a practice which continued until early in the 20th century.

It's also about protecting railroads and mines; railroads hired their own thugs and the use of Pinkertons in the Pennsylvania mining region is the stuff of legends. Private police forces played a significant role in suppressing mine workers' rights. And since so many of the mine workers were recent immigrants from places like Slovakia and Poland, mine workers all too often ended living in company towns and spending their wages at company stores.

In our Wild West the "lawmen" were often gunslingers and the townspeople feared the law as much as they feared the Clantons and Daltons. With that heritage, the notion of Peel's 9 principles is given lip service now and then but the people -- especially those with black and brown skins -- learn to fear the police.

150:

> If, in the USSA something like 33%-&-rising of
> the populace are on the "criminal" database -
> how long before over 50% is?

Not just criminal lists, but the TSA's secret "no-fly" list, and the even less accessible "terrorist watch list."

There have been several iterations of the terrorist watch list going back to the early 1970s. In the mid-1980s various states merged their local lists into the main Federal list, which was managed by the FBI. That's when I found out that I was on it.

Arkansas, not having much in the way of of terrorists, was apparently looking a bit lame, so the State Police puffed the list up by adding entire groups of people they had other lists of. Mine was on the "registered owner of a legal machine gun" list. Despite Federal registration and FBI background check, fingerprinting, verified clean police record, filling out all the paperwork and paying the fees, plus complying with the little-known state registration procedure as well, I was obviously a threat to civil order, despite the fact that many police officers could not meet the requirements. But, hey, once you have a list, it's good for anything.

I still get junk mail for previous users of a post office box I rented in 1979...

There are some quite appalling stories of people who had been arrested and jailed for months at a time due to police database errors. But once the cuffs go on, nothing you say or do can affect your progress through the system, which moves at its own stately pace.

151:

The MoD Police force deals with military nuclear security as well as general policing of defence establishments, offices etc. The Civil Nuclear Constabulary handles non-military nuclear policing.

152:

"(...) I don't think the Ferguson PD understands this very well(...)"
What %age of PDs do? Is a proxy for "do not understand" the purchase of military kit?

"protect and serve" should mean something. Otherwise it is just a meaningless sticker on the side of a prowl car (or tank).

153:

There are some quite appalling stories of people who had been arrested and jailed for months at a time due to police database errors. But once the cuffs go on, nothing you say or do can affect your progress through the system, which moves at its own stately pace.

All admin systems produce cock-ups, of course.
But, this seems to be a genuine difference.
Here, when that happens (always excepting the Stephen Waldorf case - see *note*) the Plod are usually only too ready to let someone go, or, if even if it has progressed to arrest-&-retain-in-jail the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) still try to let them out, asap
, drop chatges & announce that there was an "administrative error".
If only on the grounds that the repayment(s) for wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisionment (etc...) are much lower, & let's get it over with as quickly & quietly as possible.
You appear to be claiming that this avemue of "escape" for the authorities does not exist in the USA, or isn't used?

*note* There, Plod had shot the wrong person, & although he survived, as with J C de Menezes, they serially lied about what had happened & tried, repeatedly, to claim that he was "guilty really" & also changed their lies to suit that day's public evidence.

154:

" *note* There, Plod had shot the wrong person, & although he survived, as with J C de Menezes, they serially lied about what had happened & tried, repeatedly, to claim that he was "guilty really" & also changed their lies to suit that day's public evidence."

.." serially lied " ? Oh come now...wot a thing to say!

Did police officers get together after the event and share their 'contemporaneous ' notes of just what happened?

Oh, well maybe they might have, but, born in mind that after an event as traumatic as this memory can be very... plastic? This even of trained police officers?

The whole event was a complete and utter shambolic mess and this after other such shambolic messes as the Brighton bombing...all who are interested in this should just put ' Brighton Bombing 'in a search engine.

I have personal reasons for regretting that I wasn’t paranoid enough in summer 1984.

But, in the aftermath of the J C de Menezes shooting ?..

I am VERY strongly in favour of the promotion of female officers to the High Exalted Ranks of the Panjandrums of Power in the Met and elsewhere in the U.Ks police forces - police in the U.K. only really began to take Domestic Violence seriously until after female cops began to be promoted to the upper ranks of British Police and such crimes ceased to be labelled and dismissed as being merely "Domestics " and hardly worthy of a Real Coppers attention - but, bloody hell! ..” Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, QPM (born 1960) is a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police in London. The most senior female police officer in Britain, [1] she served as acting deputy commissioner in the interim between Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin's retirement and his permanent successor, Craig Mackey, taking office at the end of January 2012.

Before 2005, Dick attracted little media attention, but became well known as having been the officer in command of the operation which led to the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. In June 2009, she was promoted to the rank of assistant commissioner, the first woman to hold this rank substantively. She holds the Queen's Police Medal for distinguished service.[2] " ...


" In September 2006, the Metropolitan Police Authority announced her promotion to the rank of deputy assistant commissioner, specialist operations. On 30 June 2009 the Metropolitan Police Authority further announced her promotion to assistant commissioner, in charge of the Specialist Crime Directorate.[7] According to a BBC radio documentary, she is a supporter of the charity, Common Purpose UK, having attended a course in 1995/96 while serving in Thames Valley Police[8][9]

In July 2011, Dick was appointed assistant commissioner, specialist operations following the resignation of John Yates, who stepped down in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.[10]

Dick was appointed acting deputy commissioner, and held the post between the retirement of Tim Godwin and the commencement of the new deputy commissioner Craig Mackey's term at the beginning of 2012. She held the rank until 23 January 2012.[11]

In February 2013, she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[12]
References "


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cressida_Dick

Even now the the history of the Ferguson Event is being edited into somthing more acceptable to the varieous polities that form the US of A in the aftermath of the event.

I came upon this in todays news of the event in the U.K. s rather Left Wing press ..


"
GoFundMe defends Darren Wilson fundraising page despite racist postings

• $225,000 raised on crowdfunding site for Ferguson officer who killed Michael Brown
• Website has removed racist statements posted by donors "


" Janai Nelson, the associate director-counsel of the NAACP legal defence and educational fund, said on Friday that people were directing money to one side of “an extraordinarily racially charged incident” despite not having information to prove that Wilson acted appropriately.

“We don’t know enough, and don’t have have enough facts from the case, for such a public outcry in support of the officer,” Nelson told the Guardian.

Organisers said that Shield Of Hope was “the official non-profit organisation accepting donations for Officer Wilson at this time”. The new crowdfunding page had raised more than $15,000 within a few hours on Friday."

http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2014/aug/20/ferguson-protests-continue-after-second-police-shooting-live-updates

155:

Arnold
Did police officers get together after the event and share their 'contemporaneous ' notes of just what happened?

Well, that's exactly what happened after the Hillsborough disiater, AIUI.

From dim recollection, in the case of Waldorf, he was certainly smeared as an "associate of criminals" & strong hints were dropped that he was engaged in dubious (unspecified) activities.
As we all remember (I hope) where J C de M was concerned... let's see:
He jumped the station barriers (he didn't - he put a ticket in)
He was ....
Oh bugger it, try this

156:

As mentioned, Ferguson isn't really a town with 21,000 people - the area of St.Louis defined as Ferguson has 21,000 in it.

This is a worthwhile distinction - if you drove through Ferguson it'd just be part of a large urban landscape.

Most places in the US that are actual towns that size (not part of some larger continuous urban area) will have a volunteer fire service (most EMT services will also be volunteer) a small police force of their own, and State police stationed, probably, nearishly.

The town nearest to me that size is also the county seat, so the Sheriff's department is there, so that town has Sheriff's deputies, a handful of police employed by the town, and a State Police barracks.

The 'town' nearest to me has 200 people, and does in fact have one (in my opinion, entirely unnecessary) police officer.

We probably do have more police for smaller populations because we're quite large and not very densely populated.

If I were to call the police, it would be handled by the State Police, and they are, unless I'm lucky enough to have one in the area, at least a half an hour out.

If we had less police, it'd be an even longer response time.

157:

In the US, the police, the prosecutors, the courts, and the prison systems are all pretty much independent of each other as far as funding and accountability. You'd generally be arrested by the police or some sort of "law enforcement officer", at which point you're turned over to a lower court for hearing, or to a prosecutor's office for charges. Then you'd be released, or passed on to the jail system (temporary detention) or you get to learn about the incestuous niceties of bail bonding, which is very nearly a criminal enterprise itself. Then you'll eventually go to the next higher court, formally charged, and back to jail if not released. Eventually your Constitutonally-guaranteed right to a speedy trial nets you a day in court, often within as little as three or four years of the time you're charged. Then, if found guilty, you're handed over to the prison system ("corrections" as opposed to "detention") for punishment. And the prison might not even be part of the legal system; privately owned and operated prisons are one of the largest growth industries in the USA.

There's a lot of room for stuff to fall in the cracks... when you hear Americans complaining about the police or courts, remember they're putting up with something more appropriate to a banana republic than a civilized nation.

158:

TRX @ 129:

Then there's the Fed itself, which has allocated itself police powers in general, as well as seconding them to almost every bureaucratic sub-entity
.

I assume you mean the federal government and not the Federal Reserve, although the latter does have its own police force. Congress and the Supreme Court also have their own police, so every branch of government is in on the act. For added craziness the major railroads have their own police, and by own police I mean Union Pacific has employees that carry badges and arrest people.

And then there are the various Indian tribal police, who technically have no authority of their own, except when it's convenient, when they're assumed to be under the umbrella of the FBI

They're real police, they just run into an added bunch of jurisdictional issues thanks to the reservation system.

We do have an "American Police Department" - that's the FBI, which not only claims authority over all US territory, but worldwide, to the consternation of places in South America and Africa that were operating under the impression they were recognized, independent nations.

I would note that FBI is not a national police force in that they're almost exclusively an investigatory agency. Since they don't do patrols and other everyday police drudge work, there's a tendency to give agencies their own forces to do that boring stuff. And if you think it's weird that FBI has international operations I can't wait to see your reaction to NYPD running intelligence operations in eleven foreign capitals :).


Alan Bostick @ 144:

heckblazer #81 wins the thresd. The hidden agenda of American law enforcement is the suppression of the black population, and its threat models are Toussaint L'Ouverture and Nat Turner.

Thanks, I guess. I'd add that this fear is also a big driver behind the surge in guns purchased for self-defense (as opposed to hunting, which once was the main reason for gun ownership) that started sometime around when the Black Panthers started carrying in public. I suspect that fear is also a major reason why America has a gun culture in the first place and why it meets its apex in the South. If a state is going to require every able-bodied white man to join the slave patrols, widespread gun ownership is an obvious necessity, and once the fear of blacks is planted keeping those guns is mighty attractive.

Antonia T Tiger @ 125:

Ferguson is tiny. You wonder how it can sustain a Police and Fire department on that population. And then you see how so many things can be done by other, larger, forces with overlapping jurisdiction.

Some smaller American cities contract the work out to another agency. West Hollywood, California (pop. 34,781) hires the Los Angeles County Sheriff to patrol its streets. They literally just slap a West Hollywood logo on the sheriff patrol cars. BTW, Los Angeles County has over 80 different cities squeezed together cheek-to-jowl. Famous LA locales like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Compton are actually separate cities with their own police forces (I just double-checked and Compton abolished their force and now also contract with the LA Sheriff).
Metropolitan LA isn't alone here, and one common reason for this phenomenon is that areas will incorporate so they won't be absorbed into a city already full of icky black people. "White flight" to the suburbs was often encouraged by real estate developers as a way to make a buck; a few months ago Ta-Nehisi Coates had an excellent article in The Atlantic on this and how it served to squeeze money from blacks.

There are also communities in the US that are so far out in the boondocks that they effectively have no police. This in particular is a problem in Alaska.

decicco.barry @ 134:

If you read up on the government of Ferguson, you'll see that it's basically funded by police fines.

Since that means you don't have to raise taxes on white people its a policy win! Plus once you have them in prison you can once again coerce labor out of blacks, as was discovered shortly after slavery was supposedly abolished.

159:

My bad, didn't know about them. Thanks.

160:


I *have* fired both a long bow and a cross bow.

No, you haven't. Nobody ever has. They aren't firearms.

I'm sorry if that appears pedantic, but this is actually one of those technicalities that can really matter, if the right circumstances come up.

161:

Funnily enough, that same problem came up here in Australia when Ned Kelly fronted up in his home made armour - but the troopers caught on, and started shooting at his legs until he went down.

162:

The principle behind not arming British police with firearms isn't a civil liberty one to do with making them less dangerous to those they encounter, in its origins it's a constitutional issue so that there isn't an armed force that can be used in a coup - the whole "standing army" thing. That's no quibble; back in the 1950s the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in just that way, after the deliberately disarmed military forces moving through Baghdad to demonstrate their readiness against Israel simply equipped themselves from the police stations (they pointed out to the police that Iraqi prestige would be undercut by the spectacle of Iraqi soldiers not being trusted with weapons).

163:

And don't forget the point Joe Orton made in Loot: you don't need a warrant if you're from the water board.

164:

We know that a lot of this equipment is ex-military. However, according to http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/militarized-night-ferguson

" In many instances, the receipt of these military-grade weapons is contingent on their use within a calendar year."

Is this a contributing factor to the problem?

165:

It's not just Iraq. Almost every dictator from Caesar to Putin got their start either in their country's military or in the internal security services. Pulling a coup is only possible if you control enough force to intimidate anyone who objects.

166:

Here is a news story about the court fine situation in Ferguson. The author calles it a Debtors Prison. Here is anothor news story from Fox news of all places.

@157. Thanks, I was going to post that link as well. It is sobering how so much of the Racial tension is/was engineered.

Also, I will have to find a reference, but I remember one of the tropes of the pro-gun lobby is that the American police had no responsability for protecting civilians, they are there to enforce the laws. (ie everyone needs a gun to protect themselves because the police will not do it, ie policing is not Peelian in the US). I will look for a postable reference that is not too wingnut.

167:

OK, I found a wikipedia article on this: The police did not owe a specific duty to provide police services and another one Justices Rule Police Do Not Have a Constitutional Duty to Protect Someone from the NYTimes this time. A google search on this topic will expose the wingnuttery very quickly.

btw, the article that I commented on in 157s post was the very last one.

168:

I've seen mentions of that legal situation back in the mid-Seventies, and I am not sure that any police force, anywhere in the world, guarantees protection. Very vague memory suggests the case I saw mention of was a bit more than a not-in-time incident.

So, yeah, the gun-freaks use it to push the idea that you should have a gun. I remember the response-time argument being used by a fire-extinguisher company as a sales argument.

I had training to use a fire extinguisher. The instructor was a little surprised that I wasn't intimidated by the fire, but it was only a tiny fire.

169:

It's worth remembering that Ireland had *two* police forces representing different models of policing, although Robert Peel invented both of them.

The Royal Irish Constabulary:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Irish_Constabulary

The Dublin Met Police:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_Metropolitan_Police

option 1 was more paramilitary, more centralised, more rural, and more armed, option 2 was more civic, more local, more urban, and not routinely armed.

However, it's a big simplification to see one as "imperial stormtroopers" and one as "good guys"; both were really influential on policing in Britain and the Commonwealth and a lot of people cross-posted. Compare the Wikipedia pieces on the Mounties and the Victoria (Australia) Police, both forces organised on the RIC model. One is, ah, better remembered than the other.

Also, Italy has carabinieri, and France and Austria, gendarmes, and Spain has guardia civil - the idea of a difference between a rural/border police model and an urban police model is obviously much more widespread.

The RUC was created out of the RIC, but on the other hand, independent Ireland chose to disband the Dublin Met and integrate it into a distinctly RIC-ish national police force...although one that usually presents itself unarmed.

170:

I have been a Met critic for years, but Ferguson is pretty close to being a pre-Met local watch committee and you see the failure modes.

171:

I just realized that if you're discussing the militarization of police in America it's worth pointing out that using the military to enforce laws is illegal here. This is due to the Posse Comitatus Act, the current version of which is in 18 U.S. Code § 1385:

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Of course that's a ultimately a result of, you guessed it, white supremacy. The Act was passed as part of the Compromise of 1877 that put Rutherford B. Hayes in office. Basically a group Southern Democrats agreed to support Hayes in exchange for withdrawing Federal troops from the occupied South. This is what really let Jim Crow start in earnest, since those troops were the only thing protecting the rights of blacks.


172:

Former D.C. police reporter Fred Reed posted his thoughts on Ferguson. They're worth a read. Short version: it isn't easy being a ghetto cop.

http://www.fredoneverything.net/CopNotes.shtml

n.b. I don't agree with a lot of things Fred rights. That said, I think he captures the basic realities of being a patrol cop: You are out among the people. They aren't happy to see you. You will disproportionately interact with the bottom 5% of humanity, and most people you meet are having the worst day of their whole year.

173:

correction: I don't agree with a lot of things Fred writes. I really should use preview more.

174:

The sort of oddness of thinking of right wingers can be seen on comments threads about Ferguson - one article which was about the hiring of ex-special forces protection officers by some media folk had comments from people who thought that the locals in Ferguson should somehow have gotten rid of rioting and looting incomers by themselves. So they expected locals to threaten violence to strangers in the hope of making them go away, rather than escalating the violence? That's an alien mindset to me and perhaps many others on this thread. It also assumes a unity of community action which most people are probably unfamiliar with these days, especially in the sort of more atomised societies which we have nowadays. How many of your local inhabitants can you identify and how good are you at threatening people?

175:

> Almost every dictator from Caesar to Putin got
> their start either in their country's military or
> in the internal security services.

Notable exceptions:

Lenin: columnist, newspaper editor
Stalin: columnist, newspaper editor
Mussolini: newspaper owner and editor
Hitler: columnist, newspaper owner

The link between politics, war, and printing goes all the way back to Johannes Gutenberg. Cheap pampheteering was a key factor in what eventually became the Protestant Reformation, which led to some fairly serious wars just by itself.

176:

They are also making the assumption that any rioters and looters are not locals. Blaming protests on "outside agitators" has a nasty racial history in America.


Also, in regards to the mentions above on the Tea Party turning on Wall Street, I would make a few comments. First, the issue where they've had the most traction has been immigration, and I'd say that it's no coincidence that an issue with a big xenophobia component is the one where they break. Second, railing against Wall Street and wealthy elites does not equal a demand for more regulation. It can easily lead to demands for repeal of regulation on the grounds that that's how the bankers rig the game, which can in turn lead to wackiness like calls for the destruction of the Federal Reserve. Since the finance industry is concentrated in urban Democratic strongholds in the Northeast there is almost certainly an assumption that the enemy here is really a bunch of evil liberals. Third, this sort of right-populism has always been lurking around, and as far as I'm concerned the Tea Party is nothing more than the modern version of the John Birch Society (the Koch brothers' father was a founding member of the JBS...).


I'd also note that the American Religious Right grew out of efforts to preserve segregated schooling. For that matter, the largest Protestant denomination in America is the Southern Baptist Convention, which itself was founded because of a dispute over slavery (SBC was for it).

177:

Those two stories you likned to are truly scary.
I'm assuming that this insanity is deliberate, rather than a screw-up, or collection of screw-ups?
If so, the question then arises, similar to the opposition to a proper "single-payer" health care system.
Why (oh why oh why?) do the people of the USA hate their fellow-citizens so much?
How on earth does the country hold together if they deliberately treat each other like this?

It's also obvious that, apart from exceptions such as the two reporters you linked to, that most of them don't, can't or won't "see" it, at all ... it's invisible to them.
Again, why & how?

178:

Why (oh why oh why?) do the people of the USA hate their fellow-citizens so much?

One word: racism. Of a kind qualitatively alien to your (British) experience.

Yes, there are ethnic minorities in the UK. But they came here because they wanted to be here. Yes, there is racism here in the UK; much of it directed by previous immigrant groups ("white British" just means people of indistinct skin hue whose roots go back more than 3 generations) at newcomers[*]. But it's not the same kind of racism as US anti-black racism.

The African-American population in the USA are not there because their ancestors wanted to emigrate to the US; quite the opposite. Around 90% of the slaves died in transport or shortly after arrival and the survivors and their descendants were treated in a manner alien to our recent experience without reference to Nazi labour camps. The slaveowners, in turn, were terrified of slave rebellions -- with Haiti recently in memory, and Spartacus in legend, it was a real fear.

Then the Slaveowner's Treasonous Rebellion happened, and was inadequately concluded.

Upshot: a large chunk of the US population were descended from people who really didn't want to be there, and another large chunk were terrified of being murdered by them. These aspects of life became folk memories and tribal identities on both sides, over the decades and now centuries. The Southern reconstruction was structured almost entirely to keep down the black population, giving rise to what is effectively a police state segregated by caste in the South, where caste is determined by skin color (and, to a lesser extent, by wealth -- if you're black and rich you can to some extent buy partial immunity, although the most effective way to do so is to move to somewhere where only rich folks live).

The thing is, we don't have that variety or level of racism in the UK. And a lot of US domestic politics that Does Not Make Sense To Outsiders suddenly makes complete sense if you frame it in terms of "members of group [X] hate and fear group [Y] and don't want the government to do anything for group [Y] that might enable them to prosper, or even to survive" -- but know that publicly admitting to their Y-hatred in public is unspeakable and anathematizable.


[*] I'm going to leave aside the issue of racism by radicalized muslim youth directed at the surrounding culture aside, as a special case largely inculcated by Saudi-funded Salafi madrassas.

179:

They appear to be unaware that the community was defending local businesses against looting. What happened? Well, the cops declared a curfew making it illegal for defenders to be on the street, for one...

180:

A cynic would ask how large a force the Marines were at the point that law passed.

181:

Er, no. Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler were all in various security services and used their positions to get started. Stalin was a double agent in Czarist pay, Mussolini worked for French intelligence, and Hitler worked for German Army intelligence infiltrating a minor party. It's entirely possible that Lenin was similar, since he certainly was helped by German Army intelligence with that famous sealed train.

182:

"The Tea Party fills what had been an empty niche in the American poitical matrix:

Culture
More Control Less Control
Economics
Less Regulated Republican Libertarian
More Regulated Tea Party Democrat"

No. The Tea Party is and was a wing of the Republican Party, consisting of people who had no problem with the Bush/Cheney reign. They became 'shocked! shocked!' at government abuses precisely when the GOP had lost the Presidency, House and Senate. And in red states, where the Tea Party is strong, governmental corruption, crony capitalism and government brutality flourish.

183:

Here's something to remember.

The movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is set in the period immediately after the Battle of the Little Big Horn in June 1876.

The Posse Comitatus act came into force in June 1878, and concerns the use of Federal military to enforce state law. The National Guard are a state military, and the US Coastgard has an explicit law enforcement role.

While the Indian Wars continued through raids and almost petty banditry until 1924, the Great Sioux War of 1876 was the end of the major fighting in the North. The timing does make me wonder if the new law would have been offered if the Indians has not been so heavily defeated.

This all implies that the "Jim Crow" years depended on deliberate breaches of state law. since without the laws, the Federal military would have been irrelevant.

184:

It's a bit more subtle than that...

MoD Police aren't quite "policing the armed forces" (that's the Military Police, in its various branches); and when there's a need for civil police, for a civil offence, it's the local constabulary that turn up.

They also don't do all of the guarding of military bases - that mostly used to be done by the soldiers on camp, but finally the UK got rid of the mentality of "soldiers' time is already paid for, use them" to replace it with "soldiers' time is precious, and missing training because you were up all night before is inefficient". The Military Guard Service was formed, in order to provide a cheaper way of providing an armed guard at military bases; those are the armed soldiers that OGH will see briefly when driving past the front of Redford, Dreghorn, or Glencorse Barracks.

The MoD Police have taken on one extra responsibility - analogous to the CNC providing armed protection to nuclear installations, when the threat level went up they took on the guarding of critical national infrastructure, i.e. the ones that might make a very large non-nuclear bang.

Unlike the US, there aren't really areas within the UK that lie absolutely outside the local constabulary's jurisdiction (this is a frequent trope in US drama - see "The Presidio", NCIS, et al). If based in the UK, a soldier is brought in front of a court martial for military offences, not civil ones - the civil courts have primacy. This is a gross oversimplification, but the UK Court Martial is effectively an internal disciplinary procedure.

There's also a certain degree of flexibility - after a taxi driver went on a spree in Cumbria a couple of years ago, there was only a slight mention of Sellafield CNC assistance to the local force during the incident. I suspect that they assisted as much and as fast as they could.

185:

"Yes, there are ethnic minorities in the UK. But they came here because they wanted to be here. Yes, there is racism here in the UK; much of it directed by previous immigrant groups ("white British" just means people of indistinct skin hue whose roots go back more than 3 generations) at newcomers[*]. But it's not the same kind of racism as US anti-black racism."

I'd phrase it also as these people came in a lot well after WWII, when it was harder to establish the savage, bone-deep racism that the US had a century before the American Revolution. Also that England has a long history of vsavagery towards 'non-whites'[1], but that for centuries this was done 'overseas', or at least far from England itself. The savaging of the Highlands, for example, was over well before getting from London to there was a one-day trip.

The Southern US was used to this being done very, very intimately, with a high proportion of the population being slaves. If you want to be disgusted, google 'lynching postcards'. You'll find pictures from the 20th century, with tortured corpses hanging from trees, with the men, women and children posing around - at a time when one couldn't snap a covert photo, so the people were quite deliberately being photographed.

186:

"This all implies that the "Jim Crow" years depended on deliberate breaches of state law. since without the laws, the Federal military would have been irrelevant."

In the sense that deliberate insurrection, murder and terrorism were essential to establish the state governments which enacted Jim Crow, yes.

187:

Those what has have gotten very proficient at misrepresenting their interests as the interests of the 99%. Back in the day, slave-holding whites were maybe 10% of white southerners but they had no trouble recruiting those who had no dog in the fight. Even having grown up in Missouri, I can't say I really understand racism as it's practiced here, perhaps they need someone to look down on? All the people I've met seem to fall into what I think of as normal variations, whatever variety of Human they are.

188:

One word: racism. Of a kind qualitatively alien to your (British) experience.

That's a big part of it. The rest is fatigue. To white Americans, talk about racism tends to go in the same mental folder as global warming, peak oil, our own mortality, and the mideast. It's the "Yes, we know, but what can we do?" folder.

189:

* FWIW, there are basically two kinds of mistakes that police can make. They can be overzealous, or they can be indifferent. In general, American police tend strongly towards the former. Excessive force is defended by law enforcement senior brass, while cowardice will get you fired as a cop. In many Third World and developing countries, the problem is that police fail to intervene to stop private violence (which is a big problem in the U.S. among prison guards).

* Insufficient control of overzealousness in Ferguson is also a symptom of a deeper political problem. While it is widely known that 50 of 53 officers in Ferguson are white, it is not widely known that the Mayor and two-thirds of the city council in this 70% black city are white. Some of this is probably a function of age distribution (a larger proportion of the black population is too young to vote), some of this is probably due to felon disqualification from voting, some of this is probably due to bureaucratic barriers in the voting system, and some of this is probably due to residential instability of blacks relative to whites that makes it more burdensome to have a valid voter registration among black residents. There is also probably a thin black middle class from which candidates for municipal office are drawn - so that few black residents are running for office in the first place due to lack of awareness of filing deadlines, etc. which partisan political machines do not address because local elections are almost surely non-partisan in Ferguson.

* Peelian principles also come across as a long term strategy that may not work in a system that is wildly out of equilibrium. I've know of small towns in Colorado to call on massive reinforcements from state police when, for example, a large motorcycle gang that does not acknowledge the authority of local police rides into town for a while. These principles seem to offer little guidance for how to rapidly get things on track when it all falls apart.

190:

Charles Stross opined:

The UK has a safety net: about 50% of municipal funding comes from central government, so even if a city suffers an economic implosion, this doesn't totally nuke its ability to fund infrastructure and keep basic services running (the way it did in Detroit, for example). (..) The USA simply can't do this: central government isn't strongly integrated with local government.

With respect, this simply was not true until very recently. And it is not in principle true today. Up until the Reagan Devolution, revenue sharing insured that cities and local communities throughout the U.S. had exactly the kind of safety net for essential services Charlie discusses. The decision to destroy that safety net was deliberate and made with malice aforethought by the Reagan thugs -- part of their general attack on the U.S. middle class and underclass.

It would be very easy to reinstate revenue sharing. America's out-of-touch elite simply don't want to do it.

As someone who was born in and currently lives in America, I can testify to the radical changes in this country over the last 40 years. Phony excuses like the 1997 North Hollywood shoot-out or the absurd claims that grenade-launching automatic rifles and SWAT tanks with 50 caliber guns are not "military weapons" (because allegedly "it's the mindset of the user that determines military weapons, not the weapons") can't pass the straight-face test.

The blunt truth remains that the United Snakes of Amnesia suffered a soft coup on 9/11. America's security/mlitary/police forces found a convenient excuse to take over the government. America now languishes under effective (albeit undeclared) martial law -- as the empty streets and curfew in Boston after the Boston marathon bombing show. Civilians now go about their business at the pleasure of the military/police/security forces...and at the slightest whim, those forces set up a lockdown in which civilians are effectively treated like people in an occupied country under military rule.

After 9/11, America's military/security/police found themselves in a terrible dilemma: the disappearances of the Soviet Union together with the drastic drop in crime over the past 20 years threatened their funding levels. Fortunately, 9/11 provided an excuse to ramp that funding back up again.

To tweak the old maxim, the War on Terror is the continuation of the Cold War (along with its attendant funding levels) by other means.

The U.S. budget is now controlled not by congress, but by sparring colonels in the Pentagon's E-Ring who joust amongst themselves to determine funding levels for procurement, and only those crumbs of funding that remain can be dispensed for civilian programs like Headstart, infrastructure repair, etc.

America has in my lifetime become a violent dead-ender culture, drunk with hate, besotted with sadism. Strictly speaking, America today is not a nation: rather, it is a rabies infection in the global body politic. The obsession with torture, genocide, and repression of its citizenry are merely the most prominent symptoms of a society-wide collapse.

191:

Charlie's pretty much nailed it, which means he has my full permission to write about alternate history Americas :).
I do think the UK may have a bit of a parallel. What I've read about the Troubles in Northern Ireland reminds me quite a bit of the American South, with the Loyalist groups in particular reminding me of the KKK. It's not at all a perfect fit of course, but it might help people get their minds around things.
As for American racism, most people now don't even admit it to themselves. It most commonly takes the form of undue skepticism towards blacks - “Those good ol' white boys are just having some fun. I dunno about those black guys doing the exact same thing though – I'm going to keep my eyes on them.”

I'd also note that under Jim Crow prosperity really only granted qualified immunity in the North, in the South it made you a target for being “uppity”. E.g. Tulsa, Oklahoma had a prosperous black community once known as The Black Wall Street until it was destroyed in the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. It was never rebuilt.

Anonemouse @ 178:
That's actually the current text as of the 1994 revisions. Here's the original version if you're curious. And I did have that thought about the Marines...

decicco.barry @ 180:
They don't fear and loathe all government, only government they can't dominate. This is easiest at the local level. The federal government is harder though, so support for it is inconsistent. Historically the Old South was all for federal supremacy when it came to stuff like enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law in free states, but lose one presidential election and they suddenly found the central government unbearably tyrannical and seceded. I think G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday gets at it:

You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.

@183:
What's really creepy about lynching postcards is how normal the crowds look while milling around a murdered body.

Tim H. @ 185:
The Confederacy also forced them to fight via conscription, and instituted a draft over a year before the Union did. Though there still were plenty of volunteers that had internalized the Mudsill Theory. Feeling superior to blacks sadly still appears to be a very important thing to some Americans.

Aowilleke @ 187:
Another factor causing white domination of Ferguson is low voter turn-out among the young the poor and the black. Turnout is close to parity with older whites in presidential elections, but in off years it drops precipitously. It's even worse if an election is held in a month other than November, the month federal general elections are held. Ferguson's municipal elections are held in April in non-presidential years, which makes it very, very hard to get black candidates elected even when circumstances would seem to favor mobilization.

192:

After 9/11, America's military/security/police found themselves in a terrible dilemma: the disappearances of the Soviet Union together with the drastic drop in crime over the past 20 years threatened their funding levels. Fortunately, 9/11 provided an excuse to ramp that funding back up again.
But that did NOT happen here, not even after 7th July 2005 .... Yes, we have very strict anti-terror laws, but their general application, on a whim, to the main population simply hasn't happened.
There was a set of very ham-handed attempts to try to make "photography" suspicious, but that has collapsed under a weight of ridicule.
So, why/how the difference?
How come a nation & people supposedly devoted to "Liberty" have gone under so quietly?

And if you are correct & a society-wide collapse is in progress, then complete failure is not far down the rod - how ill this happen?
[ If you are correct, I might guess a Rethuglican "victory" in the next POTUS election, by rigging the voting & voter eligibilities? ]

193:

...and European "fire extinguishers" are only designed to be used on tiny fires. They typically contain about 10lb of extinguishant (water, foam or powder types for things like cooker or waste bin fires) or 4lb of high pressure CO2 (use on electrical fires like, say, a computer system box).

Incidentally Antonia, my experience is that it's difficult for trainers to get people, particularly women, to attack even those practice fires in sufficient quantities to tick the box.

194:

Really? Italian and Jewish immigration happened to a large extent in the 19th centrury, at least in West Central Scotland.
You're probably correct if you confine your thinking to the West Indies "Windrush" and waves of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistanii immigration (I'm going to include Idi Amin's expulsion of ethnic members of those last 3 groups from Uganda here although they were refugees rather than voluntary immigrants).

195:

Those are small ones. The ones in workplaces are often around twice the size. I recall bigger ones, but perhaps the modern trend is for a couple of smaller ones, meaning they both have to have failed before that "Oh shit!" moment.

I can believe it about the fear factor. I suspect that it's a bit more than just experience, I may be a bit of a freak on some things. But they stopped farmers burning off straw and stubble a long time ago, though working in acres changes perceptions.

196:

I've just finished re-reading Watts' Rifter trilogy and it got me thinking about drug use by the Police in Ferguson. How do they cope with PTSD? Presumably there's a protocol for rehabilitating Police officers who end up killing somebody in the line of duty. And given this is the USA, I'm assuming there's a mandatory visit to a Psych and some prescription drugs. So do they get Anti-Remorse "Absolu-x (tm)" that provides a completely guilt free future? Or just some Prozac?

Then there's the problem of Pre-Traumatic Stress management. Arguably, caffeine, sugar and carbs are a drug in their own right, but do they also get dosed up on Modafinil, pain killers and pseudo-ephedrine? So is there a real life equivalent to Watts' Guilt-Trip, that compels the Police to use max force for the greater good? It's generally thought that even professional soldiers are notorious for failing to fire or deliberately missing unless extremely scared of losing their own lives. You would expect this to be even more true of Police but it's almost as though the opposite is true. Is this difference purely sociological or is there a chemical factor?

The US armed forces have (allegedly) been experimenting with mood-altering and performance enhancing drugs for front line military personnel. I wonder if this gets trickled down to the local Police forces along with the IED-hardened vehicles and assault weapons.

197:

My mistake; after going and reading the nearest water extinguisher (no foam or powder on site; suffice to say I know they're the same physical size) it's marked as containing 9l of extinguishant (2 Imperial gallons or 20lb if you're USian). The CO2 ones are marked as containing 2kg though.

198:

I offer the following advice about fighting a fire with a CO2 extinguisher in an enclosed space, such as a riser cupboard, a server room or even a data centre: don't. The likelihood of dying is intolerably high.

The black band you identify them by is fitting, but they should add a white skull and crossbones. Well okay... in Australia it's a black band, apparently in the UK it's a black panel. And in the USA you get a blue circle to identify it as class C (which is class E in Aus and the UK) but nothing about the contents.

I've always questioned the rationale about using CO2 rather than dry powder. While I get the bit about not damaging electrical equipment, surely equipment that *has been on fire* is already damaged and ought to be written off. Anyway, you do not want to stand in a cramped server room where there has already been a fire depleting the O2, and start displacing what's left. (Of course, with a proper data centre you just evacuate and use the suppression system, but anyhoo).

199:

If not in an enclosed space, though, CO2 is my preferred weapon ...
They do "bark" though - like paws, I have seen women drop thewm in fright, as soon as they pulled the trigger! [ And this on an open-pan trial oil fire, in the middle of a concrete apron ..]
I've actually had to use one on two occasions IIRC & they did the necessary job very nicely.
Powder is very effective, but incredibly messy.
Foam is good.
It's very much a matter of "horses for courses", isn't it?

200:

There's the WWI story about how a German patrol stumbled across a bunch of ANZACs/Brits/Canadians (depending on the nationality of the teller) with LE's and thought they were facing a machine gun.

201:

Oh I can't disagree. Haven't used one in anger, but done the training and they are very satisfying in a way that powder isn't.

202:

According to wikipedia on the Battle of Mons:-


So heavy was the British rifle fire throughout the battle that some Germans thought they were facing batteries of machine-guns.

203:

"...so that few black residents are running for office in the first place due to lack of awareness of filing deadlines, etc. which partisan political machines do not address because local elections are almost surely non-partisan in Ferguson."

Given the power structure and known abuses in this town, it's likely that a black citizen running for office takes a serious risk of being thrown in prison.

204:

"Civilians now go about their business at the pleasure of the military/police/security forces...and at the slightest whim, those forces set up a lockdown in which civilians are effectively treated like people in an occupied country under military rule."

The airspace over Ferguson was closed by the FAA. There is not reason for doing this other than to make it harder for journalists to see what was going on.

205:

"How come a nation & people supposedly devoted to "Liberty" have gone under so quietly?"

You are mistaking the self-image of (white) Americans for the reality :)

206:

Component of PC most likely to catch fire first - PSU.
Component of PC most likely to be wanted to be recovered - HDD.

I don't see a disconnect with using a "clean" extinguisher there, particularly in an office about 80m^3 volumne (say 800ft^3 for the USians).

207:

I think you missed out a x3.2 in there, it's about 2,900ft^3. x10 is good for sqm to sq. ft.

208:

Fire extinguishers work by three different routes: a) separating combustible and oxidant (air normally) materials; b) reducing the temperature below ignition point and c) chemically interfering with the oxidation process.

Water works mostly on b), with a side dish of a) when water vapor displaces air. Foam and CO2 work both on a) and b). Powder works on a) and c). CFC gas works on all three.

In an enclosed space powder fire extinguishers are only a little less liable to suffocate you as CO2 or CFC, with the added complication that a low exposure to CO2 won't affect you much while inhaled fire extinguisher powder while sit in your lungs and maybe send you to hospital for treatment.

209:

It's off-topic, but I have to say that I thought that this tweet from the British Embassy commemorating the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House was hilarious and that the people who objected to it are humourless jerks.

210:

Also OT: what did you think of the Scottish Independence debate last night? It was a brief squib in the news here (Ontario, Canada), but it is no doubt a big deal there.

211:

the basic realities of being a patrol cop: You are out among the people. They aren't happy to see you. You will disproportionately interact with the bottom 5% of humanity, and most people you meet are having the worst day of their whole year.

My brother in law recently retired from being a cop in a small town in Oregon. Isolated town in the desert.

His comment is he is just tired of hearing everyone's problems. Especially those who seem to create their own problems. Over 90% of his word involved what he called "frequent flyers".

212:

In view of the long amity between our nations, not to mention the Special Relationship... would you mind doing it again?

Nobody seems to be taking my proposal to resume above-ground nuclear testing in the District of Columbia seriously...

213:

Referring to much of the discussions about centralized forces in the UK vs. decentralized police and other forces in the US.

I grew up in the "mid-west". Far western KY. Outside of a town of 32,000 or so. To get to a bigger town was a 4 1/2 drive of 60MPH in any direction. This was in the 60s. When interstate highways finally came that time was reduced to 3 1/2 hours. With only 2 or 3 towns within that range of equal size. Those bigger towns were St. Louis, Memphis, and Louisville.

My point is that it's hard to have any kind of centralized force that makes sense when it's a 30 minutes drive to your county seat of 5,000 to 10,000 people.

And while I don't know the details about Ferguson but there are many places in the US which were remote small towns when they were incorporated but are now part of a larger metropolitan area. Inertia tends to keep the local government agencies going as independent operators. The example of LA county is a trend, not a rule. And I doubt Beverly Hill will EVERY outsource any of their services.

For an interesting view of the US vs. the UK take a map of the later and slide it around over a map of the US.

214:

@201

"Given the power structure and known abuses in this town, it's likely that a black citizen running for office takes a serious risk of being thrown in prison."

Ferguson is bad, but is highly unlikely to be that bad (and indeed, there is one black citizen on the city council). In Mississippi maybe, but not in greater Saint Louis.

215:

In rUk it was all over our morning and lunchtime news. I contrived to miss the evening news but caught the headlines at 5 and the new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza had pushed it off top spot.

It's partly big news because we're not really used to televised political debates like this. We had three (two?) before the last general election. Then these two. So there's quite a lot of interest in how effective they are as well as the nitty-gritty.

I wouldn't presume to speak for the Scots on this list, but it's really the first time the principles in the debate have had a big platform to which the rest of us have been invited to listen without much effort. It was on BBC2 here, so you could just change to a fairly major channel and watch it rather than seeking out information actively and without it being filtered through a commentator or an interviewer or whatever.

I don't know, if I lived in Scotland and if I were one of the undecided, if it would have changed my mind or not. I don't feel it presented new ideas, new things to me, just strung them together more neatly, and although I do follow news and current affairs reasonably closely, not being enfranchised in this vote it's not something to which I pay particularly close attention.

It *will* be fascinating next week to see if the apparent feeling that Salmond won the debate (which I would agree with and snap polls after the event put at about 78%) translates to an upswing in the support for a 'yes' vote. The very small sample sizes that they've had as their vox pops on current affairs programmes seem to be tending that way if they've moved. But after the last debate, although the figures were closer, the poll at the end called it for Darling and the 'no' campaign (something like 55% though, not 78%) and the voting intention figures basically stayed static.

If there is a clear movement after this one, I think we'll see leaders' debates in some form before the next general election. The last i heard, our glorious leader isn't keen so they probably won't be going ahead. Which you'd have to say is pretty daft, he's a much better media figure than Milliband, he ought to wipe the floor with him.

216:

I'd rather not have a resumption of nuclear testing over DC as it would lead to my own death and the deaths of hundreds of thousands (and mostly black) people.

217:

In Mississippi maybe, but not in greater Saint Louis.

People not from the South (US) or even some that do tend to focus on the black/white issues as if it's still 1876.

While not the deep south we here in Raleigh certainly have our issues with race relations.

But then again we did have a black sheriff for 24 years. Current county population is somewhat north of 900,000.

And the politicians I know around here did feel his biggest issue was that he began to act like it was his office by "divine right". Power corrupts no mater what the skin color.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Baker_%28defensive_lineman%29

218:

A connection in the UK between fire extinguishers and the police state.
Around the turn of the century I was on a fire officer training course at Leeds University.
Part of the course was a practical session outside using the different types of extinguisers on a fire in an oli drum.
There was police helicopter visible high overhead. Half way through the session a policewoman arrived on a horse to find out what was happening.
Also I have a relative who is an engineer in a water company. He was doing a prliminaty survey for some project high in the Pennines in the 1980s. When he got out of this car and started using a spade to invetigate the soil a helicopter landed next to him and he was asked what he was doing.
This was the security services guarding a pipeline from IRA sabotage.
Surveillance is more comprehensive than you think.

219:

I'd agree, but then my SoH is so far off the wall that it's approaching the wall from the other side!

221:

I looked at the reports, and the place's web site, and 30-acres for a range where they use .50 BMG just seems insane.

It leaves me thinking that the people who set up and run the place are not entirely rational.

222:

" It leaves me thinking that the people who set up and run the place are not entirely rational."


I doubt whether the Gun Fundementalists of the US of A would hold to that view, but here is a news report from persons from outside of the US of A. It's a news report from what is popularly supposed here in the U.K. to be a rather Right Wing - but pop with Upper Middle Class British Readers - paper The Torygraph - I may have miss- spelled that...

" ... Kaylin was very excited when she unwrapped her fourth birthday present: a ·44 Magnum rifle. “You can go hunting with Daddy now,” her father said. This was one of the tales from Kids and Guns (Channel 4) that had more to do with paternal ambition than with the fascination of children in America for firearms.

Kaylin’s father had been a US soldier and lost both legs and one arm. We saw him on a wheelchair with caterpillar tracks, accompanying his daughter in the woods. But his ambition for her to shoot a boar was frustrated by her first attempt to fire the rifle, which kicked back and sent her into a flood of tears at the noise and the blow to her chin. "

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11003654/Kids-and-Guns-Channel-4-review-a-freak-show.html


Now, I've just had a stray - and doubtless ever so British Middle Class - thought? How many of these kids at the Home on The Range type fireing ranges are very small persons of Colour and how many are whiteish shade of pale kids who are being taught to be Really, REALLY, afraid of Persons of the Black and Hispanic kind?

Here in the U.K. private ownership, and Kids training in firearms, was severly restricted after ..well feed into Google for " The Dunblane school massacre " ..

' On the morning of Wednesday 13 March, 1996, a gunman armed with four legally-held guns: two semi-automatic pistols and two Smith and Wesson revolvers, with 743 rounds of ammunition, entered a primary school in Dunblane, a small close-knit Scottish town. He proceeded into the gymnasium, where he committed Britain's worst modern gun-related massacre. It was reported at the time that the gunman had intended to arrive at Dunblane Primary School during assembly. However, this plan was thwarted when he was held up in traffic on the icy roads. ' and also for


" A man shoots 14 people dead in the Berkshire town of Hungerford. ... Ryan's victims included his mother. Hungerford rocked by gunman massacre ..."


http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/19/newsid_2534000/2534669.stm

We have had shooting spree events in the U.K. since then but those two events did have a huge inpact on fire arms ownersip in the U.K.

Note that " The Dunblane school massacre " took place in Scotland but had its impact in Law across the entire U.K.

223:

For ease of research, for anyone who might be interested, here is a a post Hungerford /Dunblane spree killing that caught the U.K. medias attention for days ..note the kind of weaponry that was available to a fairly determined nutter in the U.K. ..


" Moat, who had recently been released from Durham Prison, shot the three with a sawn-off shotgun, two days after his release. After six days on the run, Moat was recognised by police and contained in the open, leading to a standoff. After nearly six hours of negotiation, Moat shot himself in the early hours of the following morning, and was later pronounced dead at Newcastle General Hospital. The operation took place across the entire Northumbria Police area, which covers both the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear and the county of Northumberland."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Northumbria_Police_manhunt

Yes, we do have gang related 'drive by ' and similar type events that involve self loading pistols and semi autmatic weapons but they are quite incredibly rare in the U.K.... outside of Irish Terorism events that is.

Oh, and lest anyone think that I'm playing it down for the benefit of our Colonial Kinfolk in the US of A ? I was once shot in a drive by shooting outside of a pub and not very far away from where I live.


224:

I dunno Charlie,

Perhaps introducing a differentiation between 'gendarmerie' and 'police' muddies the water a little, especially as these terms vary in meaning from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Nation states don't decide suddenly one day that we'll police in this style or that style, these things emerge from a stew of different historical and cultural factors.

I do however, think that nations get police forces that reflect their culture. As such Peel's principles actually reflect an inherently British sensibility, but even without them being articulated you'd still see the same sort of policing style in England. I also think that if you tried to graft these onto the police of another culture, like the US, you'd fail.

Neither, I'd suggest, is the attitude of gendarmes one of being a soldier at war, it's more along the lines of "we're here to keep order, not to fetch your damn cat out of a tree" and if you doubt this try asking a gendarme for directions in Paris. That's a long, long way from the thinking that you're at war with the civil population.

The Ferguson police are not a military gendarmerie, despite all their pretensions. They're run by city hall not the central government, they do the local policing, they're not selected along military lines, nor trained to perform military roles like say the Carabinieri.

So I disagree with your thesis. Trigger happy, racist and unrepresentative swill they may well be, but those guys in Ferguson are still police. That they don't stack up against Peelian principles reflects the difference in national cultures rather than a difference in role or nomenclature.

225:

BTW, a black man was shot dead in a Wal-Mart recently, for holding a pellet gun (a toy), and 'for holding a pellet gun' was what happened. Somebody called the police, they came and shot him.

Now, you might think that this was just overreaction by the police, except for the fact that the 'open carry crowd' has been holding events in various stores (Wal Mart, Target, etc.). No white person was shot in those situations.

227:

Dare I stir the pot by mentioning another town entirely, where racism may have played a part in revolting crimes?
"Rotherham".
Um

228:

http://gawker.com/what-ive-learned-from-two-years-collecting-data-on-poli-1625472836

Eugh.

Please read this one.
The flip side of all that state data-collection.
What "they" don't want people to find out.

229:

Stir away, although it could be a distraction.

I've read the report on Rotherham, and it's grim stuff.

One bit of context: pimping in the UK seems to have a long association with the different "criminal outsider" groups, which is not quite the same as immigrants.

One thing I remember is that South Yorkshire Police were the subject of a program in the Troubleshooter TV series, and Sir John Harvey Jones identified a problem with the paperwork load and the flow of information. Back in the early Nineties his "why aren't you using computers" question seemed more useful than it might now.

It looks as though bad information flow was a part of the problem. Some of the reports from Ferguson suggest the same. But I am not sure how much of that is caused by corruption, and how much is just something that made it more likely. Some of the amounts of money talked about for Rotherham make bribes sound very possible, and once you have a pool of bribed Police Officers (or others) is any change in procedures going to hit obstacles?

In the UK we do now seem to have official admission of such things as "institutional racism". Rotherham looks to be as much as example of institutional sexism.

In the end, I can't believe it's just one place and just one Police force. And that's the scary part.

Ferguson and Rotherham have hit the headlines. Look more closely at the stories, and they don't look all that exceptional. The same things happen in other places.

230:

S Lawrence' murder:
The local plod had been bought by the local gangsters (some/most of the plod were racists as well ...)
Rotherham
It looks as though local plod have also been completely bought by the local rapist & expolitative gangs.
Lots of calls for councillors / crime commisioners etc to resign.
Do we get calls for the cleansing of S Yorkshire plod?
No.
I wonder why that might be?

231:

Greg: common factor is that it's not just the headline-making instances.

I'm thinking I should shut up for a while. We don't get the raving nut-jobs here, but I think we should give Charlie a chance to say yea or nay on the topics, particularly Rotherham.

I've maybe already said too much in a reply to you in another thread. I don't want the topic to spread any more.

232:

Please drop the Rotherham topic for now.

1. I have con crud and am too ill to blog effectively or moderate a civil discussion.

2. Never mind third-rail topics, Rotherham strays close to third, fourth, and fifth electrified rails: institutional police corruption, sexism, racism (the term "political correctness" is being bandied around as a dog whistle here) ... it's messy.

3. It's part of a much bigger picture -- the exploitation and sexual abuse of young women -- that's emerging society-wide. And I'm more interested in the big picture than this one particular sad and disgusting local scandal.

233:

Charlie & Antonia
Agree with both of you.
It's disgusting & as Charlie says it appears (now) to be much more widespread than "we" previously thought.
One last on this, then I'll drop it.
Charlie's point #3
I think it isn't "just" the exploitation and sexual abuse of young women that is now emerging shows, perhaps a picture of complete corruption in & throughout our societies.
The institutional police corruption is a symptom, not a cause.

Yuk.

Scary stuff.

234:

Message received.

I agree strongly with your point 3.

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