Book Review: Rise of the Warrior Cop

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47 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Good stuff, in general i agree. One disagreement would really be off topic, but i’ve never actually met any liberal who believed gov was always benign and good. I don’t expect to ever meet someone who believes that either. Liberals have often been quite critical of the police. That was one issue R’s hammered D’s on in the 70’s with great effect. Many of the D’s most critical of the cops lost elections and if they were eventually replaced by D’s it was D’s who were friendlier to the cops. I very much the incessant whines of D’s being soft on crime in the 70’s and 80’s when i was growing up. In fact that still comes up today. I was reading something yesterday where someone insisted how easy we are on criminals since max security prisons are really just a joke and we should really look at how they do things in the middle east.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    The Democratic Party went along with the militarization of the police because of simple politics. There aren’t enough people really invested in civil rights to form a significant politican constiuentcy. The war against drugs was popular and I’m guessing is still pretty popular for the most part. Even in African-American communities, wear the drug war is most heavily felt, there was a lot of support behind it at first because it was seen as a way to cure many of the problems that were in the community.

    If the Democratic Party opposed the Drug War and the militarization of the police than the GOP would have went hog-wild and go even further with their depiction of the Democratic Party as a hippie, soft on crime party. Democratic politicians would have been more decimated in elections after Nixon. The militarization of the police would have been greater.Report

  3. NewDealer says:

    Isn’t there an old joke about how in certain neighborhoods you either become a cop or a criminal?

    As a liberal who believes in a strong welfare state (close to European levels), the one thing that gives me pause is the NSA/TSA/Militarized Police stuff. There is also the nasty civil forefiture laws. The New Yorker covered those this week including attempts

    Can you have a government that provides a strong welfare state but is also hampered from having warrior cops? Europe seems to be able to have a strong welfare state without having warrior cops. This might not be completely true. My one experience with tear gas was on New Year’s Eve in Paris. I’ve seen European cops carry around semi-automatic rifles more often than American cops.

    I think there are elements of the American psyche that have punitive streaks for a variety of reasons. Have there been studies on the approval numbers for warrior cop tactics? I imagine most people on the League are not in favor of Warrior Cop tactics but I have no sense about whether we are a minority or not on this issue. As greg noted above, many liberal-Democratic types got hammered hard on the “soft on crime” issues and it took until Clinton or later for this to be reversed. Many Democratic politicians probably still live in a bit of fear of the soft on crime attack line ala Willie Horton.

    There is also a tension in liberalism between compassion for the criminal defendant and compassion for the victim of crime. Liberals often try to walk the tight-rope between each and making sure that victims of crimes are treated and healed for their psychological and physical injuries while also making sure that criminal defendants get a fair trial and chance at rehabilitation.

    The idea of “victimless” crimes is another tricky issue. There was an argument I got in here with a libertarian-conservative minded suburbanite who was arguing that the suburbs were safer and filled with less crime than cities. He refused to include prostitution and drug use in his views because he considered them victimless crimes. I found this kind of argumentation to be convenient to say the least and showing of a bit of fear of the other that comes with city diversity.Report

    • greginak in reply to NewDealer says:

      It is unfortunate that advocates of victims and advocates of decent treatment/justice for defendants sometimes find themselves at odds. Unless people are focused on vengeance and retribution they really should be compatible views.

      I think the argument that many libertarians would make that if you have a government that can make a strong social safety net will ALSO then have strong police state is false and poor logic. For one, as you mention, that doesn’t happen in many places so it clearly doesn’t have to be that way. But they are separate ideas, one doesn’t imply there will be the other. We have a militarized police, far more than other countries yet we have less of a social safety net. That seems more indicative of americans being more puritanical and punishment oriented then anything else. So having a stronger safety net doesn’t seem likely to lead to more military type cops.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:

        “We have a militarized police, far more than other countries yet we have less of a social safety net. That seems more indicative of americans being more puritanical and punishment oriented then anything else. So having a stronger safety net doesn’t seem likely to lead to more military type cops.”

        Which leads to my other question on the Ordinary Times crew. Are we just in the minority on this issue? Do many Americans like the militarized police? Is this a lack of sympathy because we see the raids and civil forfeiture often targeting minorities and the poor?

        I think people are pushing back but it could be a selection bias on the part of my company and blogs I read.

        And I can have a fair bit of sympathy for the police trying to do their jobs. I’m not much of a clubber. The last (and one of the few times I went) was in 2011 and there happened to be not one but two unrelated homicides that occurred that night. The police kept everyone in the club for a while to try and determine what happened. They did not use any force or threats. In fact they tried to keep the party going for a while so everyone remained calm. But you had a lot of very young (and I am guessing pretty wealthy) kids who were hurling abuse at the cops and talking about “their rights” and suing. At one point the kids tried creating a critical mass to push their way out.

        I was rather sympathetic to the cops that night. I thought they were being professional and trying to do their jobs and investigate.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        I tend to think people don’t know much about civil forfeiture laws which most people would , if they knew, be appalled by. My guess is many people like a strongly militarized police force even though that isn’t really popular in this community.

        FWIW, i was just reading some police reports about a client of mine who repeatedly threatened some cops with a gun after threatening her husband. The cops handled it well. They gave her some time to cool off since there was no present danger. They came back later and spent a lot of time talking her out of the house. They could have gone in all Rambo and killed her, but they didn’t. They deescalated the situation and avoided any violence.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to greginak says:


        As the police use SWAT teams for more & more benign things, like low risk warrant service, or nowadays, to make a political point (using a SWAT team to raid a marijuana dispensary that is fully in compliance with state law, or having SWAT teams go along with regulatory inspectors during a spot check of compliance is political), more & more people in the middle class are beginning to take notice.

        It’s unfortunate that the problem is hardly noticed until the white folks in suburbia start feeling the impact directly.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to greginak says:


        Balko covers that kind of policing, where officers are taught de-escalation & community policing where the police become active within the community & know who are the leaders in a community. But he also notes a lot more departments teach more to the line that officers are to do whatever they need to do to go home safe that night.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:


        The New Yorker article on Civil Forfeiture was very revealing. Most of it focused on Texas and other areas I don’t see myself living in but there were also stories from Detroit and Philadelphia that made me very ragey.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to NewDealer says:

      The warning implied in the phrase “The government that can grant you everything is the one that can take everything” is about more than just a strong welfare state must have a strong police state. It’s more along the lines that a strong welfare state has all it needs to become a strong police state with little effort (ergo it’s an admonishment that a strong welfare state must be vigilant against the strong police state).

      Case in point, the book talks about housing assistance & how people on housing assistance would be summarily ejected from the program for even the most tenuous connection to drugs, and how being on the program would in many ways make it even easier for the police & other authorities to raid your home.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Again this seems uniquely American. Does Balko do any comparison to Europe or Canada? Is it equally true there?Report

      • greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I know the phrase and there is a nugget of truth to it. But it is a simplistic generality. It is an easy quip to throw out mostly. There are all sorts of ways to set up a government. Increasing one thing does not imply that other thing will happen. There are a million options and possibilities.

        The harshness of many policies towards people in public housing is akin to the puritanism of how we treat people who need some help. It is easy for some pols to bash poor people or use anecdata to smear them or even more plainly just scream about people on welfare eating t-bones and driving cadilacs. Lots of that comes from R’s looking for ways to bash D’s. Until we get to a libertarian night watchmen state ( ie never) we will always have to watch out for overreaching gov/police state. That is just democracy.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Make it more specific: “The government that can grant you equality is the one that can take equality.” So when the Roberts Court finishes its destruction of the VRA, I guess stop-and-frisk will go away.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I grant how the above is true is really relevant to anything. You can have a police state that provides little to no welfare to the population, numerous examples of that, and you can have a welfare state without having a police state, say Denmark or Sweden. Simply because the welfare state creates the potential for a police state does not mean that the welfare state is a bad idea.

        The United States welfare state barely exists compared to European models but we managed to build up a police state based on the drug war and other things. If the population elects politicians that want a militarized police force than we are going to get one regardless of any welfare benefits.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        He mentions Canada & Mexico a few times, but just in passing, nothing that digs too hard into either culture.Report

  4. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    The thing that really strikes me about the book isn’t the raids themselves, it is the callous disregard the police & politicians show for the other humans in the mix, the innocent victims & bystanders who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Even when I was in the Navy, we knew we may have to fight, & kill, but most of us understood that the other poor bastard in the other ship, or on the beach we were assaulting was probably just like us, a guy doing a job. He wasn’t necessarily evil, or cruel, just a guy who had his orders to halt our movement or assault. He was still human. Remembering that in general, your enemy was also a decent human was how we held onto our own humanity.

    These police, they surrender that humanity, they act as if anyone who falls under their sights is no longer worthy of the respect of a fellow person.

    And when they screw it up, they have the colossal gall to act not only as if they didn’t make a mistake, but that the victims should be grateful that they were only terrorized, & not shot to death.Report

  5. Chris says:

    I enjoyed this. Thanks. I may have to check out the book.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    She enters the room, in a full tactical load-out, and the 8-year old girl jumps in front of her younger brother to protect him and demands of the officer, “What are you going to do to us?!”. She realizes that to that child, she is not the good guy. Her and her fellow officers have just succeeded in terrorizing two innocent children, for nothing.

    You read something like that and you have a similar moment of clarity.

    The hero in that paragraph is the little girl.Report

  7. Michael Drew says:

    Wtfish, ANOTHER Wisconsin native/resident? I didn’t know that. Probably my bad.


    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Yep! I was born a FIB, but raised in the Sheboygan-Fond du Lac-West Bend triangle. Moved out the the Seattle area after college (Boeing was nice enough to pay to move me).

      Still, Cheeseheads!Report

  8. morat20 says:

    Offhand, I don’t think “liberals” have trusted the police — or entire areas of government– since, um, ever in some senses.

    I mean, wandering back to Vietnam the hippies weren’t exactly pro-military, and liberals in general have been complaining about cops, prosecutors, and such since…well, forever.

    Liberals in general are pro-government in the view that they think government can help in some sense — social security, environmental regulations, food safety, Medicare, whatnot — basically “government as collective action”.

    But government as purveyors of force against the individual? Good lord no. Liberals have been, traditionally, the distrustful ones! Conservatives, by and large, have been more supportive and unquestioning (at least in my experience) about police and military, generally as an outgrowth of zero-tolerance and law-and-order policies. (I suppose death penalty support could be seen as a proxy for this, if a crude one. Liberals often oppose it entirely on the grounds of potential innocence — the notion the government is wrong — whereas conservatives generally downplay that in favor of how it deters other criminals).

    I suspect liberal support drops off as the target becomes increasingly powerless — by and large, liberals expect, say, Exxon or Goldman Sachs to be able to fight the government (in court) on a fairly equal footing, but do not expect Joe Schmoe snapping a cop’s photo in public to have that sort of resource.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to morat20 says:

      I should note that my liberalism in my youth was very idealistic. As for supporting the police state, that is on the Democrats, not necessarily liberals.

      The book explains how a lot of the drug war was predicated on the desire to marginalize hippies (hippies = drugs – demonize drugs & the hippies are tainted by association).

      Seriously, what Nixon did makes me ill.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        “Seriously, what Nixon did makes me ill.”

        As it should for any decent human beings. The man had two decent political actions in his entire political career.

        1. During his Vice Presidency, he correctly called the very watered down 1957 Civil Rights Act, a “vote against the right to vote”

        2. He appointed Harry Blackmun to the Supreme Court. Justice Blackmun being one of the most fundamentally decent people ever to serve on the bench.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        the man was a scamp and a scoundrel, but he was smart as a tack, and never did anything that wasn’t good for himself. Call him wise in the large things, for he was, and he found his own self interest aligned quite well with America’s

        The last liberal in office? Founded the EPA.
        At least went to talk with China, and started something major there.Report

      • morat20 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        That’s on everyone, really. It’s only been in the last few years that the worm has started to turn.

        The post 9-11 hysteria didn’t help, and it was most definitely stoked for political gain.Report

      • Notme in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Hippies do equal drugs and drugs do destroy society especially in poor areas. I hardly see the problem with cracking down on them.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I think by “drugs” you meant “alcohol”Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        What Patrick said. I mean, what kind of drugs are we talking about? Meth ain’t PCP ain’t pot. My brother, as straight an arrow as you’ll ever meet–doesn’t smoke, drink or do any drugs except caffeine (and only in pop–he won’t even drink coffee), spent 15 years working in Yellowstone, where every summer a couple thousand college age folks come to work and live in dorms with minimal supervision. Prior to going there, he assumed alcohol was OK because it was legal, and pot was bad because it was illegal. Long before he’d left he’d come to prefer the potheads to the drinkers. All the fights, rapes, car accidents, vandalism and lateness/absenteeism were highly correlated with alcohol, and not with pot.

        Heh, one of the great mantras of the temperance movement was that drinking destroys society (and families). They had a pretty good argument!Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Kim, the reason why Nixon had a liberal domestic policy because he was dealing with a Democratically-controlled Congress. They basically reached an agreement that held to Watergate. Nixon would govern as Congress would like on domestic issues and Congress would let Nixon do as he please on foreign and military issues. It wasn’t because he was a liberal at heart. Nixon did veto an act that would have created universal access to pre-school because the Evangelicals didn’t like it, it was one of the first times they successfully flexed their muscles in the GOP. He also gave us HMOs rather than universal healthcare.Report

      • Notme in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        J@m3z Aitch:

        It sounds like your brother learned a good lesson that legality doesn’t mean ok or harmless. I’m talking about hard drugs crack, heroin, meth, etc.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Heh, one of the great mantras of the temperance movement was that drinking destroys society (and families). They had a pretty good argument!

        And it’s exacerbated by poverty. Discretionary income spent on booze is much less pernicious than booze replacing necessities. In other words, it was an even stronger argument in 1910 than it is now.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        By a goodly margin, alcohol still does more damage than those drugs you’re talking about, I believe.Report

      • That’s because alcohol drinkers wield more privilege than drug users.

        (I’m just making stuff up.)Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        It’s because there’s lots more alcoholics than meth addicts, and for no other reasons. Per-person, meth is far more harmful.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I grew up around hippies, pot heads the whole lot of them. As a general rule they wouldn’t touch meth/crack/cocaine.

        Every once in a great while, the pizza had some extra mushrooms.

        The thing is, the drug warriors Nixon let loose, and subsequent administrations fostered – they all lied, excessively, about the harmful effects of pot. One even went so far as to start a PR campaign saying that one of the symptoms of pot usage was not believing that pot was harmful.

        More & more the worm turns & people are realizing that the demon drug that started it all isn’t really so bad.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        That Gupta piece is nice. Wish he’d gotten it right the first time but it still takes a big man to admit that he was wrong.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to morat20 says:

      I was under the impression that the hippies weren’t exactly pro-liberals either. Maybe I’m just going by Phil Ochs though.

  9. greginak says:

    On topic from America’s Finest News Source. As usual its funny, cruel and not without a grain of truth.,33427/Report