Mimesis Law
10 July 2020

Post Debate Discussion: Police, #BLM, and Militarization

July 19, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Yesterday, two of my colleagues at Fault Lines, Noel Erinjeri and Chris Seaton, debated the issue of the murder of police officers by blacks in response to repeated killings of black men by police without any repercussion to the officers. Scott Greenfield weighed in at Simple Justice. Both Noel and Chris were correct in what they were saying, but they don’t address the real issue in the matter. Radley Balko has already identified that issue in part, and others have brought in the remaining components of the discussion.

It’s simple, really. It is militarization of the police coupled with a lack of accountability for their actions. It is the result of a prohibition effort against drugs, which has failed in the same complete manner that the prohibition effort against alcohol failed from 1920 to 1933.[1] This prohibition of drugs was called a “War on Drugs” by politicians, people who did not understand either the dynamics of a war, or the dynamics of prohibition. These same politicians were not going to listen to those who gave them advice on the matter either.

Balko has pointed out that the imagery and mind-set of officers is important in how police deal with the public.[2] The focus of police should be on being guardians of the public’s safety, not warriors in a war against our citizens over drugs. The problem is that the police have become themselves addicted to enforcing drug-laws, and as Georgetown law professor Randy E. Barnett points out:

 

Their denials notwithstanding, both kinds of [drug-law] addicts are detectable by their adamant resistance to rational persuasion. While they eagerly await and devour any new evidence of the destructiveness of drug use, they are almost completely uninterested in any practical or theoretical knowledge of the ill effects of illegalizing such conduct.[3]

This attitude is shown by the police response to the murders of officers by lone, delusional blacks, who have the perception that the police are waging a war against them. I understand the police anger and their response, but it is counterproductive. The better reaction is not to become more militarized, but to follow the course that Dallas Police Chief David Brown has followed, to continue the course of reforming the policing field.

You can see the difference in the response in the two communities of Dallas and Baton Rouge. In Dallas, where Brown committed to protecting the rights of people to protest, there has been no escalation. The officers there accompanied protesters in their normal uniforms. In Baton Rouge, protesters were confronted by police in riot gear, and arrested for “blocking” a street that had been barricaded off by police specifically for the protest.

You see, this isn’t going to be just a civil war between blacks and police, it’s going to expand. Gavin Long, the murderer of the Baton Rouge officers, was not only a #BLM activist, he was a “sovereign citizen.”[4] He hasn’t been the only anti-government activist to kill police officers.

In 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller murdered two Las Vegas police officers who were eating lunch. The Millers had ties to white supremacists and sovereign citizen movements, and to the Bundy ranch standoff. Before that, you had Jerry Kane, Jr. and his son, Joseph Kane, who murdered two West Memphis police officers in 2010. You have not only the minority community that is outraged, you have sovereign citizens, you have people like the Bundy’s, the various militias, anarchists, and others, all of whom would be crazy enough to jump on the bandwagon.

The problem is that the anti-police response is growing all over—recent events include:

  • A police car was set on fire in Florida, with a #BLM note nearby.
  • Deputies were refused service at a Taco Bell in Alabama.
  • A police officer was ambushed by an Asian male in Georgia.
  • A police officer was wounded in Wisconsin.

It’s a response to a perception that police are not being held accountable. Leon Wolf, the conservative managing editor of RedState, notes that since 2000, NYPD has shot and killed 180 people, but only three have been indicted and only one convicted. He correctly notes that:

[P]eople’s willingness to act rationally and within the confines of the law and the political system is generally speaking directly proportional to their belief that the law and political system will ever punish wrongdoing. And right now, that belief is largely broken, especially in many minority communities.

From the left, the view is the same, with an Atlantic article by Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates pointing out that until police, as well as the rest of society, are reformed, violence is going to be inevitable. He’s absolutely correct, as is Wolf. Vox has a list of 9 things that everyone should know about police shootings and brutality that are essential reading for anyone weighing in on this issue; our police are much more deadly than in other nations, there are racial problems in the use of force, there’s no good data on officer-involved shootings, the First Rule of Policing, the lack of prosecution, that police deaths are way down, and the militarization of the police by the federal government.

You have to change the system, and the people running the system don’t want it to be changed. Their response to violence against the police is to arm up, to prepare for war. That’s a self-filling prophecy, and is the approach taken by Louisiana in their hate-crime legislation (and apparently, now by Texas also).

Or you can take action to reduce the problem. Hold officers responsible. Conduct real investigations, by outside agencies. Prosecute wrongdoers. Be a lot more transparent. That’s not going to help in cases like Rice, Brown, or Sterling, where the police were justified, but it will help immensely to prosecute officers for deaths like Garner, Crawford, or Jones.

[1] Alcohol was prohibited from January 16, 1920, under the Eighteenth Amendment, until December 15, 1933, with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment.

[2] I can’t really do better than his comments in section 3 of the linked article.

[3] Randy E. Barnett, The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition, 2009 Utah L. Rev. 11, 12 (internal citation omitted).

[4] Long claimed to be a citizen of Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah, a bunch of loons who believe that they are not subject to the laws of the United States.

28 Comments on this post.

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  • rob
    19 July 2016 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Your notion that the killing of Rice was ‘justified’ is crazy. You have made your case that the shooter did not commit a crime (I think that’s crazy too, but that’s a different debate), but justified?

    The kid is just playing in a park, a cop car comes screaming up, skids to a halt, and an officer jumps out guns blazing. How is that ‘justified’? People are supposed to accept that this is the sort of thing that might happen?

    • Greg Prickett
      19 July 2016 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Rob, I know that this is an unpopular view, but legally, the shooting of Rice was justified (which is what my earlier article was about). A reasonable officer would have believed that Rice was drawing a real gun. If you want to blame someone, blame the senior officer who drove right up to Rice and put the rookie in a position two-four feet away from Rice.

      You should also remember that Rice didn’t look 12 years old, he looked 18-20 years old because of his size, that the toy gun looks exactly like a real gun from the grip side, and that at that distance, you don’t have time to thoroughly exam the object to determine if it is a toy or not.

      Finally, apparently my position on this wasn’t exactly crazy. It was the same position taken by the outside experts and the grand jury.

      • rob
        19 July 2016 at 11:13 am - Reply

        You are missing the point. Whether it was the shooter’s fault, the driver’s fault, the dispatcher’s fault or whoever doesn’t matter to that kid just playing in a park. It was the fault of the Cleveland PD.

        You are asking people to accept as justified a situation where the police might coming screaming up out of nowhere, shouting, waving guns around, and giving you just seconds to figure out what you are supposed to do before they start shooting.

        At some point reasonable people are going to stop giving cops the benefit of the doubt, assume they are in danger for their lives, and start shooting first.

        • Greg Prickett
          19 July 2016 at 11:42 am - Reply

          “You are asking people to accept as justified a situation where the police might coming screaming up out of nowhere, shouting, waving guns around, and giving you just seconds to figure out what you are supposed to do before they start shooting.”

          Nice, except that’s not what happened.

          I focus on facts and the law. I do not pay attention to the emotional narrative of those who want to crucify someone because they don’t like what happened. That’s what you are doing here. But if you want to blame someone, blame the dispatcher who did not inform the officers that the 5’7, 190 person in the park was not a young adult, but was possibly a kid playing, as the caller mentioned. Blame Garnback for driving right up to Rice and putting Loehmann within feet of Rice. Don’t blame the officer who thought that a man was pulling a gun on him. Do you really believe that Loehmann should wait to get shot or not before he reacts?

          That’s unreasonable.

          • rob
            19 July 2016 at 11:49 am -

            That’s exactly what happened. Have you not seen the video? A kid is playing the park, a cop car comes screaming up out of nowhere, skids to a halt, cops jump out and start shooting within seconds.

            I mean, you can make stuff up if you want but that’s pretty well established as precisely how it went down. Would you like a link to the video?

          • Greg Prickett
            19 July 2016 at 11:59 am -

            I’ve seen the video, numerous times.

            Look, I’m sorry that the facts on the video don’t fit your narrative. I get that you don’t like what happened. Neither do I. Neither, I’m sure, did Crawford or Sims when they evaluated the evidence and made their reports back to the DA. Neither, I’m sure, did the Grand Jury that no billed Loehmann, based on the evidence.

            Loehmann did not face criminal charges because the shooting was justifiable legally.

            You can spin it however you want, but those are the facts, and that is what the law is based on. It’s not based on emotional reactions to tragic situations, and you don’t get to hang someone because you don’t like the outcome.

        • jdgalt
          19 July 2016 at 2:41 pm - Reply

          I agree with Rob 100%.

          Granted that the crime statistics are true, and many of BLM’s “martyrs” asked for what they got — there are also huge, real problems of both overcriminalization (which can only be addressed by legislatures or courts) and unnecessary use of force, from Tasing to SWAT raids for trivial reasons (which can only be addressed by stripping police of their legal immunity, so their communities can hold them accountable).

          The present system is completely unwilling to address those two problems, and so long as it stays that way, John Locke’s conditions for the right of revolution have been met. This has been true for decades now. Dismissing violence against police as un-called-for (without first giving victims a better means to hold them accountable that actually works!) only makes you part of the problem.

          Even prosecuting bad cops isn’t good enough when, as in the Freddie Gray cases, the prosecutors are free to deliberately lose. The victim (or his family) must be given the right to prosecute his own case. And all officials need to be stripped of all immunity, so that civilized limits on their behavior toward the public trump all other considerations. Those who “can’t work” as police officers under those conditions should resign and take honorable jobs.

          I also suggest that all police be made to report to neighborhood “town meetings”, which would be given the authority to suspend or fire them.

          • Greg Prickett
            19 July 2016 at 3:10 pm -

            I sincerely doubt the prosecutors in Baltimore are trying to deliberately lose, especially in light of the lawsuit for malicious prosecution against the DA by the officers, and the DA is likely going to face a disciplinary hearing on the prosecution.

      • Leonard
        28 July 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

        It was a position that was taken by pro-police experts hired by the DA. The jury and the evidence was manipulated to present a case that Tamir, a child playing in the park, was a dangerous threat when no such threat existed. The recent article in GQ about this case clearly illustrated who the DA was working for, and it wasn’t Tamir.

        Tamir was murdered and there is nothing that any lawyer or LE can say to justify it. I don’t expect COPS to wait around to get shot. I do expect COPS to engage suspects in a safe and tactical way. Those keystone COPS did everything wrong. They failed to establish a safe perimeter, failed to evaluated the surrounding and failed to determine if a threat existed. Those failures were criminally negligent resulting in the death of a child.

        It’s just that simple and the officer that fired the weapon should be in jail right now.

  • Peter Orlowicz
    19 July 2016 at 9:53 am - Reply

    At the risk of nitpicking the trees and ignoring the forest, is it really fair to list “anti-police responses” and equate refusal of service at a fast food joint with violent episodes? Putting those items together tends to link them with a moral equivalency that I don’t think is justified.

    (Maybe it’s different in Texas, but most of the cops I worked with in Illinois were perpetually suspicious that their food was being spit on or tampered with anyway, and would often send civilian staff [i.e., dispatchers, i.e., me] to pick up food on midnights to avoid being seen in uniform by the counter staff. Why then would you insist on being served in a place that evidently didn’t want you, except as an exercise of authority?)

    • Greg Prickett
      19 July 2016 at 10:49 am - Reply

      The police make a big deal out of it. There were actually several other incidents, a Whataburger in Texas, an Arby’s in Florida, etc. When it happens, the police and the local police union loudly scream about it.

      And if I were still on the street today, I wouldn’t eat at one of those places, exactly for the reasons you stated.

      • Peter Orlowicz
        19 July 2016 at 11:12 am - Reply

        Of course, local police unions also denounce basic accountability stuff like releasing dash cam video to the public as “irresponsible” and fight in court to prevent the release of officer complaint files to the public under FOIA. I don’t accept their assertions that those activities are “anti-police” either. 🙂

  • Brad
    19 July 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Compliment and criticism:

    1. Compliment: thank you for using “ambush” correctly — that is rare when it comes to attacks on police officers.

    2. Criticism: Stephen Paul Beck told them he “wanted the police to shoot him as he wanted to die,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release. The GBI said Beck told them he suffers from depression and does not hate police. So, it is questionable to use this shooting as an example of being “anti-police.”

    • Greg Prickett
      19 July 2016 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      If Beck was an attempted suicide by cop, then you are correct, it is not appropriate to lump it in with the violence against officers. I based it’s inclusion on a bunch of comments on PoliceOne, where they were absolutely sure that they are under attack and that Beck was part of a pattern. Of course, they are trending to the paranoid side right now…

      My understanding of ambushes was driven by a bunch of drills in dealing with ambushes when I was a young paratrooper. The key thing I got out of it was that an ambush was supposed to be a surprise on the ambushee(s), and it wasn’t a good idea, survival-wise, to be in the kill-zone.

      • Brad
        21 July 2016 at 4:56 pm - Reply

        No, not every surprise attack is an “ambush.” For example, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was a surprise attack, but it was not an ambush. The PULSE Nightclub shooting was a surprise attack, but it was not an ambush. However, Beck’s attack does sound like an actual ambush.

        • Greg Prickett
          21 July 2016 at 6:42 pm - Reply

          I didn’t say every surprise attack was an ambush. You may want to re-read what I said.

          You’re correct that not every surprise attack is an ambush, but every ambush is a surprise attack. It’s a subset of the larger group.

  • Eva
    19 July 2016 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    I agree completely.

    This devolution of reacting by beefing up militarily our law enforcement in certain areas may have such an negative reaction that possibly some may carry a belief tthat “Black Lives Matter” is the culprit to creating dissention & potential violence. This organization itself merely voices concerns of the black community and itself does not condone violence.

    If there is an effort to shut out their voices through this platform “Black Lives Matter” I fear that eventually a radicalized movement could take its place looking for avenues that they “perceive” are justified because the more conventional ones have been closed to them.

  • Cornflake S. Pecially
    19 July 2016 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Prosecute wrongdoers?

    Now how the heck is any prosecutor, let alone an “independent” one suspose to do that without a change in the law/s as written, interpreted, and enforced?

    I know you know that nothing accompanies a rack of ribs like perfectly sautéed carrots finished with a tarragon reduction but who the fuck are you kidding?

    Cops like carrots even less than admiting that eliminating risk from policing is directly proportional to the use of excessive force as preached and practiced today.

    Talk is cheap. Expect more C-4 and the brave men and women in uniform to deliver it via drones and more “let God sort’um out” tactical drift after the mandatory refresher courses on the inherent danger of crossfire and how to avoid it.

    I think it’s a coin flip as to how far out of control the current boiling cauldron of shit is going to get but rest assured nobody is pretending they can’t smell it anymore.

    Blunt force through the rule of law on the sausage factory floor or ever escalating tension in the streets and all the uncertainty, resources, and force necessary to keep the lid on that.

    Either way the stink is here to stay until the nation either outgrows its raggedy old wardrobe or everyone puts on their Sunday best and interjects a little more humility and empatht into their daiy lives.

  • Random Wine Geek
    20 July 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    To pick a small nit, it is Randy E. Barnett, not Barrett.

    • shg
      20 July 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

      White people’s names all sound alike. Fixed, thanks.

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  • bacchys
    21 July 2016 at 2:08 am - Reply

    Echoing the other commentor, the shooting of Rice wasn’t justified. Perhaps in some narrow, squinty way of looking at it that’s geared toward justifying it, it is, but looking at the totality of the circumstances the officers chose a course of action intent on shooting what they thought was a 20 year old man with a gun. The officer who pulled the trigger had made that decision before his door was even open.

    It’s not just a perception that the police aren’t being held accountable. They generally aren’t unless there’s irrefutable and unrebuttable evidence that’s already entered the public sphere. Chicago’s experience of stifling the video of the shooting death of LaQuan MacDonald demonstrates that. Other cities have had their own issues with the police hiding evidence from the public. It’s amazing how quickly a body-cam or dash cam video can be released, however, when it supports the police narrative.

    • Greg Prickett
      21 July 2016 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Sorry, but the shooting of Rice was absolutely justifiable from a legal standpoint. It’s not even close.

      • Leonard
        28 July 2016 at 12:52 pm - Reply

        Sorry…you are wrong.

        • Greg Prickett
          28 July 2016 at 12:58 pm - Reply

          OK.

          How did that play out in the trial?

          What? There was no trial? Because the officers were no billed by the grand jury? As in, they found that the shooting was justifiable?

          Try again when you have actual facts instead of just opinion.

          • Leonard
            28 July 2016 at 6:01 pm -

            My precious posting explains it all. The key point that you neglected to mention was that the DA, rather than acting as a advocate for the victim, acted as a personal defense attorney for the officers during the Grand Jury process. The officers weren’t indicted because of the facts, but rather the manipulating of the facts to paint Tamir as a deadly threat.

          • Greg Prickett
            28 July 2016 at 8:16 pm -

            No, your previous post merely showed that you were wrong.

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