The American Police State


James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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90 Responses

  1. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Nice post James. We all are truly effed on this score.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I agree with Stillwater and I did not know that about the detail about SWAT teams.

    Marijuana decriminalization will hopefully help a bit but I doubt it. This is good area for a liberal and libertarian alliance and more writers and publications are covering this beat than Balko but the efforts to reduce these incidents seem futile. I was pleased by De Blasio settling with the CP5 because that seemed to be the first time I have ever heard the government give a mea culpa to the wrongfully convicted.

    The working theory I have on the militarization is this, it seems that many Americans have one crime or another that they care very deeply about and thinks is rampant and unpunished and will become a holy avenger for said crimes. They are seemingly unable to make any concession on whatever this crime is. They will not accept lower sentencing for higher conviction, etc. As an example, I know a woman from college with an extreme passion for animals. She will get extremely righteous about any thing she perceives as mistreatment of animals including leaving them in a car with too small a window opening and think something must be done.

    If you times this by 300 million people or so, you have a good tendency towards overcriminalization. I am not sure what to do to get people to leave it alone. It is certainly a noble impulse to care about the welfare of the animals and there are certainly animals who suffer cruelly under their owners and situations that do deserve intervention. There are also crimes that are really serious like we just discussed on other threads that do get underplayed by people.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      Its not the fact that most drugs are illegal thats the problem. Its how we treat drug crimes compared to other crimes. Plenty of other countries make drugs illegal without having a militarized police. Thats because they treat drug crimes in the same way as other crimes, perpetrators get punished if convicted but they don’t go all out against drug crimes like we do. In America drugs were treated as something that must be stamped out at all costs like alcohol drinking during the late 19th and early 20th century. Like Prohibition, the War on Drugs is driven a lot by race and other sociological issues.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        This is a very salient point. Drug crimes are, thanks to federal (& some state) monetary incentives, pursued over & above most other crimes. Resources that might be better invested toward investigating assaults, thefts, and property crimes are instead directed toward drug enforcement. And when police claim that drug units are funded only by federal grants &/or the money/property seized during drug investigations, they are often obscuring the fact that drug crimes are given top priority in order to better secure that funding.

        Toss in civil asset forfeiture, and you get the extra fun effect of police waiting to bust drug dealers until after they’ve sold almost all their drugs, so they can keep the cash they find (since drugs have to be destroyed, but cash can be spent).Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Its also the fact that drug use is seen as a societal wide problem in the way that burglarly is not. Other crimes tend to get seen as unfortunate things that occassionally happen while drug use is perceived as something that shouldn’t occur in the first place.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Good post, James, but I’m not sure if your underlying facts support your conclusion. I don’t think we can say any individual SWAT officer is more or less likely to be a good or bad guy than any other LEO. I’d venture to guess most don’t even know how their agency is structured. We can probably conclude that SWAT on the whole — or at least private SWAT groups — are bad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the individual officers are bad.

    I wonder how these private groups claim jurisdiction. I see a court case brewing.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Let’s say that you have a co-worker who slaps children who manifest strong-willed behaviors… but only the children who happen to be people of color.

      Let’s say that you don’t mention this to your superiors and, when push comes to shove, you stand in solidarity with this co-worker.

      Are you one of the good guys?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        That’s fair, @jaybird . @mad-rocket-scientist ‘s comment about culture is spot in. The culture is toxic and probably corrupts even the best. But I try not to reflexively assume everyone who says, “I want to go SWAT,” is necessarily an asshole.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        But I try not to reflexively assume everyone who says, “I want to go SWAT,” is necessarily an asshole.

        I’m trying hard to think of any other reason. Drawing a blank so far.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        We need these capabilities in our police forces – not in the kind of numbers we have them, I’m sure, but we need them. And assholes deserve jobs just the same as everyone else. And it’s probably a job that can’t competently be done by someone who’s not got a large does of assholeishness.

        But in the USA specifically – where a regular cop has seen how the SWAT operate, what kind of cases they get called in on, the impact on the lives of the people SWATed rightly, wrongly, and scare-quotes “rightly”, on their families and communities? Who but an asshole would make that career move?Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        Hmm — “best of the best” sort of thing?

        I mean, the image of SWAT is kind of the special-ops version of policing. Only the best, in the most dangerous and important situations, with lives on the line.

        The reality might often be grimly different, but I can see cops looking at SWAT for the same reason soldiers might look Ranger training.

        In fact, the reality would probably make those guys even more cynical than the bullies, in the end.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        What @morat20 said. I don’t know many LEOs, but I know a lot of military guys and gals (including my wife, now separated). Many people get into such work for noble reasons only to grow quickly disillusioned. They respond to the disillusion in many ways: some run; some try to change it; some bide their time; some get swallowed up in it.

        How many of our citizens think SWAT is necessary? Are they all assholes? Or have they had the wool pulled over their eyes? None of this js an excuse, but I’m sure there are good apples in SWAT, many of whom might agree with this post. They may be a smaller proportion than the general pop for the self-selection reasons @james-hanley notes, but I don’t think they are non-existent.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        SWAT is without question a necessary element of law enforcement.

        It is not, however, a necessary element for every LE department to have it’s own team, and it is most certainly NOT necessary for normal, everyday police activities, such as warrant service, especially when other, effective, non-violent alternatives exist.

        In the original OP, the idea of a number of smaller PDs banding together to produce a SWAT team is actually a good idea, as the team can be deployed more effectively when it has a smaller area to cover, than if the only SWAT teams were with the State Police & major metro areas. But the idea that it’s a use it or lose it entity is what causes trouble, especially in areas where it won’t be used but maybe once every few years.

        The overuse of such things ties into what LWA was talking about, in that fear feeds fear. At this point, it’s a chicken & egg problem, but if normally non-fearful people see police SWAT being used with increasing regularity, then the perception is not that the community is safer, but that it is more dangerous (otherwise why is SWAT being used?). I mean, if the police need a 20 man team in battle rattle and a BearCat in order to bust a pot dealer, perhaps I do need to haul my S&W 44 Magnum with me to the corner store.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        @morat20 – I don’t agree with the “best of the best” angle, or at least I don’t think it applies as simply – policing is not military action. Those soldiers best at military tactics will be a good fit for commando units in the military.

        But policing is not war. Those officers best at policing would be a good fit, I would argue, for things like crisis negotiation, community outreach, patrolling in areas with marginalized communities, complex detective work – things that require building and maintaining rapport, nuanced understanding of the people you’re dealing with. Exactly the opposite of what SWAT is there for.

        SWAT would be a good fit for those officers who are best at military tactics, and conversely probably worst at policing, or at least what I feel policing ought to be about.

        @kazzy – I also think SWAT is a necessary component of a large city or regional police force, and I don’t (usually) think I’m an asshole. But, I think SWAT work pretty much requires its members to be assholes, while outside of SWAT work, police really shouldn’t be assholes.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I’m gonna sync with @dragonfrog here. The original purpose, and what should continue to be the first principle of police (even if it isn’t much anymore because of incentives), is that the police are the people we hire to professionally investigate & respond to crime on a full time basis.

        Ergo, the ‘Best of the Best” should be the cop whose difficult beat has the lowest instances of crime because he has worked the community together to combat it. Or the detective with a very high case closure rate. (Assuming nobody is lying or cheating, etc. to get those results).

        Being the best door kicker should rank quite a bit below that, except for the fact that we don’t actually encourage education & intelligence in police as much as we should.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Kazzy, I think self-selection is going to produce SWAT teams with a larger than normal number of violent people even compared to police forces in general.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      The ‘private’ groups aren’t private. They are sworn officers from multiple small departments that have banded together to be able to afford a SWAT team. In order to manage the resources, these officers formed a 501c(3), and are now hiding behind that status to deny FOIA requests.

      Yeah, I smell a lawsuit brewing.

      As for good vs bad, individually, any given officer is probably a decent human. There are, of course, exceptions (bullies, warrior wannabe’s, etc.) who tar the whole. The real problem is not the individual, in this case, but the legal & cultural insulation officers enjoy from responsibility & accountability. If you honestly screw up, your fellow officers, your Union, & your department will back you up & cover for you. If you recklessly or deliberately screw up, they will still cover & shield you (unless you majorly embarrass the department with a sex scandal or by airing the dirty laundry, then you are fired so fast…).

      So because the police will not willingly get rid of the bad apples, and often promote them to leadership positions, they truly do spoil the bunch.Report

  4. Avatar DavidTC says:

    For all the talk about affirmative action, poverty, etc., I think the war on drugs is the greatest civil rights issue of our era.

    I think the war on drugs actually causes a lot of the poverty we see. Locking people up when they should be starting their careers, making sure the rest of their life they end up in crappy jobs, etc.

    I swear, the War on Drugs is going to the 20th century’s version slavery. It’s really going to be the thing our descendants look back on in horror wondering how we could have been such people, how we could have allowed such a system to exist.

    SWAT tactics are disproportionately used on people of color.

    I’m sure they’re proportionately used on people of color compared to how much non-SWAT police are used on people of color.

    Oh, you mean compared to SWAT tactics used on white people. 😉 Well, yeah, of course they’re disproportionately used on people of color. The entire justice system is disproportionately used on people of color, for some completely mysterious reason. (Sunspots?)

    Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies.

    It sounds like such organizations need a good lawsuit. They’ve just cleverly argued themselves out of sovereign immunity, and logically, the state or police department wouldn’t be allowed to help defend them either. (The union shouldn’t be, either, but I suspect it will. Police unions: Actually enacting into practice every single bad thing people imagine about unions, and then a whole lot more bad things on top of that. And yet, for some reason, the right never tries to constrain them.)

    They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill.

    If the state is writing paychecks to the officers, they’re on state business, I don’t care what sort of club they belong to in their free time. If the state pays them to do police business, they’re on-duty police officers.

    If the state is writing checks to the 501(c)(3) and the 501(c)(3) is paying officers, that makes the 501(c)(3) a contractor, and I really would like to see the open bidding process that got it that job. (And, like I said, no sovereign immunity.)

    Also, I’d like to see the tax records of these 501(c)(3)s. The IRS does not take kindly to people setting up charities that are just ways to employ people.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I swear, the War on Drugs is going to the 20th century’s version slavery. It’s really going to be the thing our descendants look back on in horror wondering how we could have been such people, how we could have allowed such a system to exist.

      I don’t understand why we don’t see it that way NOW.

      I mean, we saw what happened with alcohol Prohibition, wised up, and corrected course fairly quickly; then within 40 years (living memory!) turned around and did it all over again, bigger, in a way that was harder to undo, and reached into even more areas of our society.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        When I go back to some of the speeches given in support of Prohibition of alcohol, I find myself scratching my head wondering if culture really was *THAT* different back then, if alcohol was alcoholier or something.

        Check it out:

        I go back and think about the things told me about drugs during the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s and compare to the things said about the Demon Whiskey. It’s impossible to not.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        yeah, liquor was worse back then. I blame both mysogyny and lack of video games.

        People forget that for many women, Prohibition was fighting for their children’s lives — sometimes from beatings, othertimes from malnutrition.Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        Prohibition affected wealthy white people. Marijuana and crack cocaine sentencing primarily affects middle class and lower dark skinned people. There is a difference until demographics finally wins.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @philip-h – there’s definitely a lot to this (the race and class aspects of the Drug War), but it’s not like many wealthy/high-profile and/or white people haven’t gotten nicked in high-profile drug cases too – John DeLorean, Willie Nelson (well, wealthy until the IRS nabbed him) Marion Barry (black, but successful), etc. Obviously they get caught less, and have better lawyers when they do, but still.

        It just seems that the way the Drug War was enacted and implemented (via what I see as an end-run around the Constitution), vs. Prohibition’s actual Amendments, allowed it to metastasize and fester longer.

        Which is somewhat counterintuitive, since the common refrain is that it’s much harder to change the Constitution than to legislatively enact and repeal laws.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Prohibition didn’t happen quite as fast as people think. The 18th amendment was the end result of a Temperance movement that had been around for a while, and alcohol had already been banned in quite a lot places by the time it passed.

        That said, the reason the war on drugs has lasted so long? Hippy punching.
        The reason we’re finally reconsidering it? Lack of willingness by the electorate to continue hippy punching.

        Seriously, everything in American drug policy dates back to the 1980s, which was the right’s reaction to the 1960s. The right has constantly been trying to relitigate the 1960s, to make it come out some way other than how it did. (Although, at this point, the actual issues have been forgotten and the right mostly agrees with the left on them…it’s all about perception and who the ‘winner’ was.)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Jaybrid, did you ever watch the first episode of Kevin Burn’s documentary on Prohibition. It deals with the war against alcohol from its start in the early 19th century to the implementation of Prohibition. It talks a great deal about drinking culture in 19th and early 20th century America and why Prohibition became the solution.

        There was a lot of widespread alcoholism during the 19th century since alcohol was about the cheapest and safest thing for most Americans to drink at the time. There weren’t any sodas or juices till the late 19th century and coffee and tea were more expensive. Water was usually not safe. Another issue was that the only way you could talk about certain social problems like wife beating was to blame it on alcohol.Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        The numbers of wealthy white (and Black) people busted for Marijuana and crack cocaine is so dwarfed by the number of not wealthy people of color busted that doesn’t even become statistically significant. Add in the disproportionate sentencing for crack versus powder, and you have a war that’s focused on largely inner city populations of people of color. If you ask me it’s yet another way that the conservatives in the Baby Boomer generation are trying to make the 1960’s not happen . . .Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “That said, the reason the war on drugs has lasted so long? Hippy punching.”

        “for the children”

        i don’t even think people use the term hippy anymore.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @philip-h – I suspect we agree far more than we disagree, but this bit:

        Add in the disproportionate sentencing for crack versus powder, and you have a war that’s focused on largely inner city populations of people of color

        has come up before, and people here have noted that in many cases the increased sentences were requested by the constituents/representatives of those inner cities, because they saw their communities being decimated by crack addiction.

        So though that *particular* bit of the DW wasn’t totally “boomer conservatives waging war on people of color or trying to turn back the clock”, it perversely ends up looking that way – especially when a lot of the premises the Drug War was built on to begin with were explicitly racist (“The Mexicans and the Negroes are trying to drug and seduce our white women!”).

        It’s just an unfortunate confluence, where the DW was built (largely) on racism, fed by classism, then further exacerbated by the political responses to newer, more addictive forms of the drugs (these forms in some cases arguably prompted by the DW – crack cocaine is, among other things, a way to stretch the powder further, which you’d want to do if you want to get the most bang for the buck on an artificially-scarce resource), which ends up LOOKING like more racism, which…

        Gah. Untangling one part of the DW’s ‘stupid’ from another makes me mad. Can’t we just call the whole thing off?Report

      • Avatar Philip H says:

        I’d love to call the whole thing off – but there’s no point in doing so if we don’t acknowledge what the stupid was and try to codify ways to stop it. I know you can’t legislate Smart (or smarts for that matter), but even when the harsher sentences were passed, many in those same communities protested them as being disproportionately racist in their outcomes. That means we did something on purpose that we were warned would go badly.

        Seems to be a recurring theme in American politics IMHO.Report

      • Avatar Delta Devil says:

        That’s overly simplistic. There was a lot of support for the drug war among black leaders and black people. A lot just wanted their neighborhoods back and didn’t realize that it would hurt a lot more than it helped.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @delta-devil is right. Many black folks identify as anti-drug because they’ve seen firsthand the effects. That said, being anti-drug doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-drug war as it currently exists. Most people of all stripes want hard drugs out of their communities. But they’d support most other attempts than our current drug war if given a legitimate choice. Problem is, they’re not.

        People want the dealers off the corners and the importers gone. They don’t want their fathers, sons, and brothers locked up for low level possession. They want jobs, education, community investment.Report

      • Avatar Delta Devil says:

        That’s right, Kazzy. I want to add another important point. Today it’s easy to be against drugs and against the drug war. It’s easy for people to look around and see what is so devastating and tragic about it. Before there was a drug war, though, it wasn’t obvious that this is where we would end up. There was just a big drug problem and there was a super strong desire to do something about it. Credit to the people who saw where this was all headed at the time, but a lot of people didn’t. I remember my father being one of them, and it wasn’t because he feared or hated black people.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @kazzy @delta-devil – I thought I was making roughly the same point in my admittedly-windy comment, and my original intent was to clarify that by no means *all* of the impetus to the DW was racist.

        That said, the historical record is pretty clear that the seeds (heh) of the DW, especially when it came to Anslinger and the devil weed marihuana, was heavily racist. And IMO, that makes people rightly take a jaundiced view of other things that aren’t strictly racism, but might as well be in effect.

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @glyph I didn’t read the whole thread, just DD’s comment and wanted to echo it because it’s oft-ignored.Report

      • Avatar Delta Devil says:

        Glyph, yeah. Racism fueled a lot of the war on drugs. Back then, it was a big part of the gun control movement too. Fear of black men does often drive policy. Crime policy most of all. Also, it’s often not the laws that are racist but how they are enforced. Sometimes a duck is a duck, though.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Drugs did have a devastating effect on many American communities and they still do today with crystal meth being the biggest example. Anybody with a bit of foresight should have still been able to predict that the War on Drugs would have ended up as a disaster. There were lots of good reasons to support Prohibition during the 19th and early 20th century. Alcohol was wrecking havoc in the same way that drugs were during the mid-20th century. Prohibition ended up being a complete boon dangle in the same way that the war on drugs was. People should have been able to see this.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Doesn’t @jaybird always talk about the bootleggers and the Baptists? They both wanted prohibition but for very different reasons… the bootleggers wanted to monopolize alcohol sales while the Baptists actually believed that prohibition was the morally right thing to do. It made them allies on one front but doesn’t mean they were actually on the same team.

        There would seem to be a similar relationship between those who support(ed) the WoD for racist reasons versus those who actually were trying to make a positive difference.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      And yet, for some reason, the right never tries to constrain them

      Neither does the left, but I see your point, and it’s a solid example of hypocrisy for the right.

      I remember when Scott Walker in WI went after all the government unions except for the PD & FD, and the right was still all too happy to kiss his feet.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Neither does the left

        Elected Democrats: A cowardly and superstitious lot.

        Don’t get me started on the cowardly way the Democrats behaves towards police. They got burned back in 1988, and they flinch anytime someone mentioned ‘law and order’. It’s finally changing, though. (1)

        And the way to fix the power of the police unions is not to do anything with the union…it’s to actually enact harsh laws about police mis-behavior.

        It’s good to have the union there to defend police officers, just like a public defender is good to have. The actual problem is…defend them against what? A nothing internal investigation that always lets people off?

        1) My proposed Democratic party slogan: Vote for us, we’re only wrong for 25 years instead of the 50 that the Republicans are!Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Enact harsh laws, or just seriously raise the bar for when immunity kicks in?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        I’m not entirely sure of the distinction you’re making.

        By ‘raise the bar for immunity kicking in’, you mean, ‘Put more actions outside the allowed scope of police behavior’? (And hence presumably arrest them for their behavior?)

        I’m not entirely sure. I’m not entirely certain why a lot of obvious police behaviors aren’t already treated as crimes.

        It could be the scope of allowed behaviors is too large, or it could be that the scope is the right size, but police officers collude to make sure that all mis-behavior is covered up, or it could be simply that the people in charge of investigating such behavior don’t care to actually arrest anyone.

        I am not knowledge enough to tell exactly where the process is failing, partially because the process is deliberately opaque. But it is failing, badly.

        Interesting fact that Maddow has been pointing out the last few weeks: The FBI, which is in charge of investigating their own shootings, apparently has not had an unjustified shooting in the last two decades.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        My understanding is that a lot of bad police behavior is actually very much illegal, but departments, DAs, and judges tend to decide that even if it was, it usually falls under immunity, since it was done in the course of official police business – thus they get a pass, both from criminal & civil penalties (the department may be successfully sued so the taxpayers pay an award, but it’s a rare day when an officer is).

        Likewise, police get a pass with regard to ignorance of the law, which is why a cop can bust you for videotaping his actions, even though you were perfectly within your right to do so, and while the DA will dismiss or decline to bring charges, the officer gets to seize & possibly trash your property, maybe rough you up a bit, publicly embarrass you, and make your life difficult for a minimum of 12 hours (sometimes a lot more). And for you, it’s not always enough to show that an officer should have known better, you almost have to show that an officer did know better and decided to arrest you anyway.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Ah, if what you are describing is really how that works, and just from memory it seems like you are right, than what we need to do actually is to reduce immunity some amount.

        Likewise, police get a pass with regard to ignorance of the law, which is why a cop can bust you for videotaping his actions, even though you were perfectly within your right to do so, and while the DA will dismiss or decline to bring charges, the officer gets to seize & possibly trash your property, maybe rough you up a bit, publicly embarrass you, and make your life difficult for a minimum of 12 hours (sometimes a lot more). And for you, it’s not always enough to show that an officer should have known better, you almost have to show that an officer did know better and decided to arrest you anyway.

        Yeah, this is one of the more absurd ideas. I mean, it’s one thing if you have some sort of exception to a law that the police officer doesn’t know.

        But stuff like filming police officers usually wasn’t illegal to start with. It’s the police literally making up laws because people annoy them. And now, of course, the Supreme Court has said such laws are not allowed, but the simple fact is, it rarely was against the law anyway.(1) The only places it was against the law is when the police previously tried to charge people with that imaginary crime and it actually ended up in court, and the asshat legislature decided to give the police coverage for any future civil right abuses.

        Perhaps a solution would be to have the police read themselve a caution, like the Miranda warning. ‘I understand that people have the right to film me on duty, and that the government forbids me to interfere in that. If I do attempt to interfere with filming I am operating outside the law and will not have immunity for that’.

        There should probably be a long list of these, a list explicitly forbidding the police officer from doing certain things unless he’s given some sort of waiver, and that, in itself, would probably reduce immunity. The police officer could hardly claim immunity if he was doing something the government had directly told him not to do.

        1) They’d often try to get people for ‘wiretapping’, but wiretapping has never applied to blatantly holding a camera and filming them, even in two-party consent states. That’s sheer nonsense. The only additional ‘right’ people have in a two-party consent state is to known when someone’s recording them so they can stop talking. That’s it. No one, ever, has had committed a crime by obviously filming someone *with* that person’s knowledge, even if that person doesn’t want to be filmed. (Ask any famous person about that.) And the police know this.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The most insane example from recent memory is the police in Hawaii arguing that a law forbidding them to have sex with prostitutes shouldn’t be passed, then arguing (bargaining) that oral sex should still be legal.

        This actually happened. I cannot wrap my head around this.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I cannot wrap my head around this.

        So to speak.Report

  5. Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

    If they’re private corporations, does that make them easier to sue? Surely we must defer to the noble civil servant and grant him certain immunities, but a private corporation is just another private corporation. Right?Report

  6. Avatar Mo says:

    Professional courtesy is the most rampant and disgusting example of corruption in modern America. Getting to break the law is not a perq akin to an employee discount.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Something very similar occurred during Prohibition. In an attempt to clamp down on alcohol, law enforcement expanded their tactics considerably because violation of Prohibition was widespread.Report

  8. Avatar greginak says:

    I’ve got to send some more money to the ACLU.Report

  9. Avatar Damon says:

    When you see a cop in your rear view mirror (with no lights on) and he’s following you are you happy and feeling safe or are you scared?

    If you’re scared, welcome to the realization that you live in a police state.Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      I’m mostly annoyed that I’ll have to drive the posted speed limit.

      I suspect if my skin color were a bit darker, I’d be a bit more nervous.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      When you see a cop in your rear view mirror (with no lights on) and he’s following you are you happy and feeling safe or are you scared?

      I’m scared.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Being worried about getting a speeding ticket or because i didn’t stop at a stop sign = we live in a police state…..yeah thats a good argument, not hyperbolic or out of touch with what a police state means in harshly oppressive states.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Somebody’s white.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Even if you are white, you stand a non-zero chance of the officer deciding he wants to search your car, gets a drug dog to drum up probable cause, and makes your life difficult for however long he feels like it. And if you flinch or make any sudden moves or don’t respond to orders as fast as he likes, it’s Smack!, Zap!, or Blam!

        Oh, and if you have a medical condition, like deafness, or diabetes, that may cause you to behave in some fashion the officer finds threatening… Woe be unto you.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Since we know that cops don’t kill people with impunity. That most “investigations” end up siding with the cops even when there’s video proof of actions that, were it a civilian, it be murder. When I can get pulled over for trying to avoid cops by turning around. When there’s plenty of articles written about “testilying”. When we learn of 911 calls where someone needs help only to have the cop show up and kill someone. When we see video of cops routinely kill dogs or other animals “for fear for their life” and it’s clear the animal was no threat.

        Right…. nothing to be afraid of….Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Even a routine traffic stop by a cop can involve their effort to humiliate you. The last time I was stopped by a cop (and justly so), was two blocks from my home as I headed home after working very late, and when he asked where I was headed to and from, he began arguing with me about the route I’d taken. Even after I pointed out the grocery bag on the seat beside me and noted that I’d stopped by the store he continued to act as if approaching my street from that direction rather than another had any relevance to breaking a traffic rule.

        And still my favorite interaction with LEO was the officer in San Francisco who demanded to know why I’d changed my name when I moved there. I was utterly baffled. Then he pointed out that my Indiana driver’s license had my name as James E. Hanley, while my CA license had it as James Hanley. A master of subterfuge, that’s me.

        So, yes, I get nervous when I see a police car behind me, because I know if I’m stopped the odds are I’m going to have an asshole trying to dominate me, with both him and me knowing I have no recourse to the humiliation dished out by a so-called public servant.Report

    • Avatar Van_Owen says:

      Forget driving. When you are standing somewhere, in line at Subway or whatever, and you see a cop walk into the restaurant, how does that make you feel?

      Do you smile at the badge or try not to stare at the gun?Report

  10. Avatar Glyph says:

    Can the police become a private corporation exempt from open records laws?

    Let me check with OCP’s lawyers.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Is the OCP an off shoot of the ICP? Ontological Clown Posse?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Please tell me you are being obtuse & that you have actually seen RoboCop?Report

      • Avatar Aaron david says:

        I’d buy that for a dollar!Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Obtuse Clown Posse?…. I saw robocop many years ago. I’ve heard urban legends about a reboot which is surely untrue and if it was true i wouldn’t go to see.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I’d buy that for a dollar!

        Seriously? Blatantly ripped off from C.M. Kornbluth’s The Marching Morons (though that was the 1950s, so it was a quarter.) The premise of that story (that dumb people outbreeding smart people will eventually doom humanity) has been ripped off repeatedly as well.Report

      • Avatar Aaron david says:

        @mike-schilling I have never read any Kornbluth, wherr would you start? Keeping in mind what is available.

        wjat is easy to get sReport

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Kornbluth was a brilliant short story writer and a so-so novelist. His best novels are his collaborations with Fred Pohl. The most famous one is The Space Merchants, which is a brutal satire of advertising. Gladiator-at-Law is also very good.

        He wrote a handful of amazing stories. If you can’t find His Share of Glory, which is a collection of all of them, any Best Of collection will have the good ones: The Marching Morons, The Little Black Bag, Their Share of Glory, Gomez, Two Dooms, The Silly Season, etc.Report

  11. Avatar Citizen says:

    Pain!…….Lots of pain!Report

  12. Avatar Matty says:

    I’m thinking maybe one of your constitutional amendments, something along the lines of.

    1. No person natural or corporate shall have authority to execute a warrant for arrest or the search of property, or actions providing necessary support* to the execution of such warrants unless under the control and direction of local, state or federal government.
    2. No person natural or corporate acting under the direction of local, state or federal government may be exempted from any law or regulation that applies to the directing government itself.

    *I think this needs a bit of work to cover everyone doing police work without picking up every barista who sells a cop a coffee.Report

  13. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends who are parents post Amber Alert warnings whenever they happen and any fact about how useless Amber Alerts generally are is completely ignored under the logic of “Come on, you would do the same if this was your kid….”

    I wonder if this is why Americans feel strongly about narcotic legalization as in “Come on, you wouldn’t want your kid to be seduced into becoming a heroin addict.”Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      The problem I have with Amber Alerts is that most of the time the child who is “kidnapped” is merely with his/her non-custodial parent.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        They are usually used in custody disputes gone awry where the kids are not really in danger even if they are technically being kidnapped.Report

    • Avatar Philip H says:

      rewrite that as “you don’t want your kid seduced into becoming gay.” Or “you don’t want your kid seduced into marrying a {insert non-white ethnic group here}?”

      Sound familiar?

      Ignorance of logic and fact is a proud tradition in America, where no one ever admits to needing anyone for anything . . .Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t disagree. I was merely speculating.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The general assumption with “seduced into being gay” has generally been that people can’t be seduced into being gay. That gay people are born that way.

        The benign objection to the notion of being “seduced into intermarriage” or whatnot is that there is nothing wrong with intermarriage.

        With heroin, on the other hand, we have the assumption that heroin is a choice (and therefore something people can be talked into) and that there is something wrong with it. To make the comparison work, those are the two things you would need to knock down.

        (This isn’t me voicing my support for the War on Drugs. Just me saying that whether legal or not, trying to prevent young people from doing drugs is a worthy objective. As we do with cigarettes, for example.)Report

  14. Avatar LWA says:

    The militarization of our society- not just our police- is driven, in my view, by the constant drumbeat of fear and paranoia.
    The latest round started of course at 9-11, but fear of lawlessness was a staple of the right wing, since the 60’s.

    I’m also connecting this to the economic fear and anxiety that is ginned up and fanned by parties both left right and center.

    Jill Lepore’s article in the New Yorker talks about the underlying sense of panic and uncertainty driving the herd mentality of “disruption”; William Deresiewicz writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the sense of apocalypse that underlies the national discussion about tuition costs, and higher education as a gateway to the good life.

    I see it in the sudden passionate embrace of gun nuts for open carry- I notice how the assertion that a trip to corner grocery should be done while armed with a sawed off shotgun was once the province of lunatics, but now we are being told that this is reasonable, and sensible, as if we are living in Sarajevo or Fallujah, with snipers and IEDs at every turn.

    I don’t have a silver bullet for any of this, other than to raise a counter drumbeat of pointing out that we actually live in a remarkably safe world, safer than our parents did.Report

    • Avatar James K says:


      I think you’re on to something there. Fear is the mind killer, and it can kill decency as well.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I don’t have a silver bullet

      Interesting choice of metaphor.Report

    • Avatar Philip H says:

      I think fearmongering is the number one reason our nation is in its current messes. The War on Drugs ™ was a response to rising crime caused by rising drug use in inner cities that were becoming devoid of economic and educational opportunity. Rather then address the underlying economic issues, we started rounding up young under educated black men and teaching them how to be criminals by incarcerating them. Then we privatized prisons to make quick, short term revenue for tax poor states (again because of economic shifts) – and now said prison corporations are often seen/reported to be threatening to sue their state “partners” for not sending enough people to prison to make the profit margin targets.

      Likewise, much of our foreign policy is driven by the fear that we were cowards in Vietnam, and unless and until we are “brave enough” to roundly and soundly defeat an insurgent enemy, we as a nation will remain impotent.

      Immigration policy is driven by fear that “our country” will be taken over by “others” whose skin is darker, whose first language isn’t English, and who will “take” jobs and other economic resources away from “real Americans” who are generally understood to be white (and also generally male).

      And Education “reform” is driven both by the fear of a loss of profits in certain near monopolies in the textbook and curricula industries, and the need to control the populace and prevent the vast majority from learning to think critically and independently – a set of skills League-sters possess in spades IMHO – so that these fear based policies and decisions won’t be questioned.

      Roosevelt (the later) was all too right when he said the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.Report

  15. Avatar James K says:

    Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests.

    I have to admit, I’m almost impressed by the chutzpah this requires.Report

  16. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Of course we can raise the troubling issue that many people just don’t care or like that SWAT tactics are disproportionality used against minorities.Report

    • Avatar Philip H says:

      And well we should. Our Sheriff is on the path to reelection inspite of his SWAT team’s abysmal record of dealing with people of color, including Deputies killing the two dogs of a small town mayor in our County when said SWAT team raided the house looking for a package of drugs that had been tracked as part of scam where drugs were fed-ex’ed to unsuspecting people’s house and picked up by drug couriers before the home owners got home.Report

  17. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    So you’re acknowledging that corporations have more power with less accountability than the government?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I’m not sure how you got that reading.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Corporations certainly have less accountability than government does, as do individuals. They have the Fourth Amendment protecting their privacy, and neither sunshine laws nor the FOIA apply to them. This is true, in particular, of any private security company. The only check on it is that it needs to operate legally. If SWAT teams were truly employees or contractors of a private company, this would all be a matter of settled law.

      But they’re not: they’re police officers, and they want to keep the powers and privileges of police offices, in particular qualified immunity from prosecution, while also claiming the protections afforded a private entity. Add to that the kind of weaponry SWAT team have, and what they want is to be a wholly unaccountable private army.Report