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Police

2012 July 25
by Ian Welsh

Some scattered thoughts on cops, particularly cops in the US.

Police exist primarily to protect property arrangements.  The war on drugs has paramilitarized police, with a heavy emphasis on overwhelming force.  While police have always considered themselves above the common herd, and have always looked after themselves first and civilians second, it’s very clear that police today are much worse in this regard than they were 10 years ago, and 10 years before that, and 10 years before that.  Police are well aware that they have near full immunity: they can beat people, kill people, plant evidence on people and they will, in most cases, get away with it.  Even if caught on tape, the worst punishment is likely to be paid suspension.

Security forces who are expected to be brutal, as the US’s police are (and much of the rest of the West) can be staffed by two basic personality types: ideologues or thugs.  Ideologues, as with the KGB in the USSR, have the advantage of being believers.  They also have the disadvantage of being believers.  They generally don’t get off on violence and cruelty, though they do it when necessary.

Thugs, on the other hand, want a license to allow them to be brutal and cruel.  They like power and they like to be able to tell other people what to do, to force them to obey and even to grovel.  The jokes about the crime of “disrespect of cop” aren’t jokes, it is very close to the most dangerous thing you can do around a cop, as any refusal to obey an order can be cause for a beating and a free-standing resisting arrest warrant (something which used to be impossible, but is now common.)

The problem with thugs is that they really aren’t that discriminate.  They like hurting people and forcing people to grovel and under the right circumstances they’d be just as happy to do it to their lords and masters as to dirty hippies.  From the point of view of a real reformer, security forces, whether police or otherwise, are a huge problem.  They’re trained in violence, they like it and they want to keep doing it.  If you fire them or lay them off in large numbers, they will turn their skill in violence against you.  Mind, they are actually lousy at fighting anyone who can fight back, paramilitarized police are generally no threat to the real military, but they are excellent at terrorizing civilians.

One of the most notable things, to me, about the police, is that as they have become more and more “militarized” they have become more and more ineffective.  It now takes 10 car loads to quell disturbances that 30 years ago a single car could have handled.  I was recently treated to the spectacle of less than 50 Occupy Toronto protestors marching, surrounded on all three sides by police, a squad of horse-cops following and a bunch of paddy wagons in addition.  Dealing with any sort of real crowds always involves bussing in cops from hundreds of miles around, and their reactions in crisis are slow, confused and yes, brutal.

The police have also been corrupted, especially in the US, by seizure laws in general and the war on drugs in particular.  The ability to seize cash and property without proving and underlying crime has turned the police into a crime syndicate themselves.  I have friends who won’t travel through entire US states because police systematically target out-of-state travelers in order to seize their money and property.

All of this is before we get to the problem of prison guards.  Violent, brutal and numerous, they are politically powerful, their industry is the mainstay of entire towns, and they can’t be laid off in large numbers for the same reason you can’t get rid of police who are thugs, because they are trained in violence and cruelty and it can be reasonably expected that jobless ex-prison guards in large numbers will engage in violence.

This problem is an ancient one: teach men to be violent, and to enjoy cruelty, give them license and you become as much their prisoner as their master.  For now the police are willing to do their master’s bidding, and brutalize the citizenry, because they enjoy it and see citizens as lesser forms of life, who need to be taught their power.  But they are a danger to everyone, their masters and anyone who would fix society alike, for there is no road to fixing many nations which does not include de-militarizing the police.  And that removal of their power and license to abuse is something they are unlikely to tolerate.

44 Responses
  1. frijoles jr permalink
    July 25, 2012

    Wasn’t it ever thus?

    I recall reading that medieval English shire-reeves (sherriffs) were, on the whole notoriously brutal and corrupt.

    That which has been is what will be,
    That which is done is what will be done,
    And there is nothing new under the sun.

    (Ecclesiates 1:9)

  2. StewartM permalink
    July 25, 2012

    For now the police are willing to do their master’s bidding, and brutalize the citizenry, because they enjoy it and see citizens as lesser forms of life, who need to be taught their power.

    I think much of this description also applies to the US’s volunteer military. In an online discussion, two military “conservatives” took offense at the notion that I and other civilians, acting through our elected representatives, where their *boss*. The civilian population being the ultimate boss of the armed forces in a nominal republic? Perish the very idea!

    And they also took offense at my failing to prostrate myself to them in appreciation of them “protecting me” in our military adventures overseas. I just noted that the US never had any problem with the Islamic world, there was no epic neo-con “clash of civilizations”, not until, of course, we started to meddle in their business for corporate oil plus started to write Israel blank checks for whatever atrocities it wanted to commit.

    -StewartM

  3. malcontent permalink
    July 25, 2012

    The fact that police unions are perhaps the last effective unions left in the USA may have just been explained. Perhaps when the police unions become disenfranchised, we may see political unrest of the intensity necessary to infringe the real power of our newly minted oligarchy.

  4. July 25, 2012

    Very powerful piece — is there any way to turn this around now, or are we stuck with these thugs forever?

  5. July 25, 2012

    malcontent:
    Don’t forget the MLBPA. And that is due to Marvin Miller, of course. It will be interesting to see what happens with the NHL now that they hired Donald Fehr. NHL owners must be hating themselves right about now.

  6. July 25, 2012

    Ian:
    Did you write this with what’s happening in Anaheim, CA, on your mind?

  7. malcontent permalink
    July 25, 2012

    Phil:

    I agree that MLBPA is also effective, as is SAG. Their demographics are obviously in a different straosphere however. The members are not currently looking at looted pension funds from recent Wall Street shenanigans.

    The squeeze is underway but the frontal assault has yet to be seen.

  8. gloomanddoom permalink
    July 25, 2012

    The funny thing is that a lot of conservatives hate police unions, but a lot of “liberals” will still defend police unions because they fetishize all unions instead of picking and choosing the good ones. The country is completely fucked anyways, so it doesn’t really matter.

  9. Oaktown Girl permalink
    July 25, 2012

    I think the biggest impediment to out-0f-0control police power is how the White majority perceive the police. White peoples’ experience with the police in this country has always been vasty different from that of People of Color, especially Black people. There’s always been a hero worship of sorts about the police among most White people, and it’s only gotten worse post-Sept. 11th.

    Police worship is now a near universally unbridaled fethishization, and anyone in the mainstream media who even thinks about questioning police tactics has to make a long preamble about how wonderful most police personnel are, and how brave they are to put their lives on the line for us everyday, and how damn grateful we ought to be for that.

    The police may be part of the 99%, but they damn sure aren’t on “our side”. They’ve got a living wage (unlike most of us), good benefits, (again, unlike most of us), and weilding power gets their rocks off. Doesn’t matter that they’re being the Enforcers as we careen into a dystopia. Life is good for them right now, so they don’t give a fuck.

  10. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 25, 2012

    The Anaheim mess spurred me to write it, but it’s a conversation I’ve been having with a friend for some time. The question of what to do with security forces if you restructure is an old and problematic one.

    “ever been thus”, yes, to a large extent, but the degree does matter, and it seems much worse now than in many time in the past. I think this is due to the way the policy have been paramilitarized, something which should never be allowed.

  11. SPS permalink
    July 25, 2012

    Security forces who are expected to be brutal, as the US’s police are (and much of the rest of the West)

    As with drug policy, I think TF’s “hidden fist” has something to do with the consistency there.

    A decade ago trends were pretty solidly in the other direction in most of the West.

  12. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 25, 2012

    The SWATization, and paramilitarization long precedes 2000 or so. But it is true that standard procedure for handling protests was less brutal. OTOH, what many people forget is that “free speech zones” started under Clinton.

  13. StewartM permalink
    July 25, 2012

    Oaktown Girl:

    Police worship is now a near universally unbridaled fethishization, and anyone in the mainstream media who even thinks about questioning police tactics has to make a long preamble about how wonderful most police personnel are, and how brave they are to put their lives on the line for us everyday, and how damn grateful we ought to be for that.

    Again, same with the military. It shows how long the US has lapsed, that now the “left” waxes eloquent in praise of the same authority figures that the left of the 1960s questioned and challenged: the military, the police, and educational figures (teachers). It shows you how ‘bourgeois’ and limited and rightwing our discourse has become.

    Just in my own life, this is incredible. I look back at the 1970s Overton Window and what it is now and on almost every topic, with few exceptions (maybe gay rights, but gay rights issues have become terribly ‘bourgeois’ as well) it seems like we’re talking about different countries. In some ways we probably are.

    -StewartM

  14. groo permalink
    July 25, 2012

    know this quiz?

    ‘cop or soldier?’

    http://www.theagitator.com/2012/01/16/take-the-quiz/

    I was just a bit above chance-level.

  15. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 25, 2012

    Better than chance, but not a ton. A lot I got wrong I said to myself “that better be a soldier.” It wasn’t.

  16. Oaktown Girl permalink
    July 26, 2012

    StewartM: You got that right about the military! The only reason I didn’t mention it directly is because — a) Don’t get me started, and b) I try to keep my comments from being too, too long.
    But yes, totally agree.

  17. July 26, 2012

    I am actually quite happy about the events of the past two nights in Anaheim, since it shows that people in this nation are still capable of expressing outrage. If police can gun down unarmed citizens with impunity they will keep right on gunning down unarmed citizens. OWS was a joke; a collection of effetes who didn’t even know what the hell point they were trying to make. This is people who are pissed off and not going to take it any more. When some overweight jackass sits sits on his motorcycle and “commands” them to disperse, they let him know the the people of a free nation can not be “commanded.” They let that fat-assed, jackbooted thug know precisely what he could do with his “commands.” Good for them.

  18. dugs permalink
    July 26, 2012

    The principal change that I see from the old days, is that back in the 60s the cop/protestor divide was partly a class issue and partly a political one. Now it’s purely military. It simplifies things enormously for police, no longer bound by silly concerns over peoples’ “legitimate” right to “protest”–we’re all al-Qaeda to the cops now. And one of their tools (in addition to wanton, unpredictable, unprovoked physical violence) is overwhelming force, even to contain a ragtag baker’s dozen of protestors. (I witnessed this firsthand during OWS, where a splinter group headed uptown one evening only to be met by three police choppers circling overhead, a platoon of scooter cops, a platoon of foot patrolmen, and dozens of white-shirts, all except the white-shirts kitted out like Darth Vader.) I particularly appreciated the courage of OWS at that moment, throwing themselves in front of a phalanx like that–and felt fear for what’s left of our democracy at the same time (fear being no doubt one of the reactions the massive numbers of police are meant to provoke).

    It’s all so wrong, and all so stupid. The NYC police did themselves lots of good, in a PR sense, during and just after 9/11. Ray Kelly seems bent on using that leverage to rub out citizen civil rights entirely.

  19. groo permalink
    July 26, 2012

    this takes a lot of courage, folks.

    One thing which probably is not covered in the US:
    The sentences against demonstrators against G-8 in Genua 2001.
    Ten people have beeen sentenced to a total of 100 years. (between 6 and 15 years in five cases, the rest with some caveat.)

    The sentence is based on a fascist law -codex Rossi- Mussolinis minister of ‘justice’.
    This goes as low-level to something like ‘moral support’, which is the infamous ‘sympathizer’.

    Now DESPITE the court could clarify, that Molotow-cocktails have been planted by the polices and which also staged an attack with knives.
    The sentences against the police were mild. No jail in any case!
    Gianni De Gennaro, the police chief then in Genua, was sentenced free of any guilt, and is now secretary of state for the secret service of Italy.

    Carabiniere Mario Placanica was found not guilty of murdering Carlo Giuliani , because he acted in self-defence. Other cases could not be persecuted because of statutory limitation.

    My translations from a German article. Here:
    http://jungle-world.com/artikel/2012/29/45895.html

    Now this is interesting because Putin just walks on a similar path, by imposing such draconian financial punishments on demonstrators, that they are basically ruined for the rest of their life.
    With some mild opposition from the West.
    But there are similar tendencies in Germany: Demonstrators have to pay a hefty sum.

    I don’t know exactly how the US currently handles this, but the method seems clear: The state/police/jurisdiction operates just below the threshold of public uproar.
    If the means prove effective, and the public is not alerted, keep them.

    All in the name of ‘democracy’, the best of the bad options, as the saying goes.

    This tells a lot.
    Fascism is not presented on a silver platter, but by stealth methods, to keep the public unaware, until it is too late.

    It is difficult -at least for me- NOT to recognize that as a conspiracy from the top.

  20. Poet permalink
    July 26, 2012

    As one who has witnessed this transition over many years, I can attest that all of these points and comments are valid. I’d like to add this bit of philosophy.

    As awareness increases those that would dominate and control must become ever more suppressive to maintain the position of control. Police have been members of communities that have become so estranged from one another both by size and complexity. The induced FEAR by many forces includes them as well. Maintaining their economic advantage puts them squarely (in fear) on the side of societies oppressors. Anyone that threatens this supremacy becomes the enemy which feeds all the fears which continue to separate us. Divide and Conquer maintains the presumed control inducing further powerlessness in the divided community. This raping, pillaging, predatory capitalist, elite, oligarchic, plutocratic system which must maintain such controls or become unable to enforce it’s collective will. The almost complete brainwashing of the masses has enabled this FEAR based and highly armed (WMD’s) to become so strong that disabling it is NOW a monumentally difficult if not close to impossible task. What I say here is widely known.

    Anyone that supports this becomes both the victims and the enablers. We are in essence complicit in our own domination by participating. The more these monopolize, the more choices we lose for alternatives. Persuading and reaching more of our masses is the only action which can lead to our own mass movement gaining strength to paradigm shift. And it is being systematically and enforced from the created conditions of “Austerity” so prophetically framed by Naomi Klein’s brilliant book from 2007, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”.

    What we severely lack is ethical folks who can both lead and will not compromise with this system. We also lack the UNITY of Purpose which Occupy showed so well. WE DO HOLD powerful Truths which is what the masters FEAR the most. This fact is what frightens the elites so much, but with proper “leadership” with collective guidance, WE CAN Affect our outcome. In this, We MUST Believe in order to create our collective visions. Gandhi said: “If I (We) have the belief that I (We) can do it, I (We) shall surely acquire the capacity to do it.” Thanks for considering my contribution here. Peace

  21. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 26, 2012

    The strategy of overwhelming response is making the police weak and is an exploitable error any time someone wants to take advantage of it.

  22. groo permalink
    July 26, 2012

    Poet,

    competely agree.
    Just wanted to add some bits of detail how this in actuality works out.

    I try to be as long as possible on the ‘legal’ side, i.e. battle the ‘system’ on its own grounds,which is the -ahem- law.
    But the ‘law’ increasingly looses ground, and is perverted.
    Eg: what does ‘free speech’ mean nowadays?
    To be watched by systems, who categorize ‘us’ as terrorists or whatever until the end of times, just because we dissect it down to its rotten core?

  23. July 26, 2012

    The strategy of overwhelming response is making the police weak and is an exploitable error any time someone wants to take advantage of it.

    This is an absolute fact which our protesters and dissidents seem only vaguely aware of.

    Given how weaponized and militarized our domestic security forces are, it seems counterintuitive that their strategy of overwhelming force against popular dissent is a sign of just how weak these forces have become and how ultimately frightened they are of the People.

    But it’s true.

    As for their willingness to go after their lords and masters, I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s a deep-rooted symbiosis among the parasitical classes. They may clash momentarily when they are both trying to exploit the same resource (as it were), but in the end, our rulers and their police forces are on the same side, and it isn’t the People’s side.

    At least they made it crystal clear in Anaheim that the official answer to protests over shooting of unarmed civilians is to shoot more.

    Good to know.

  24. amspirnational permalink
    July 26, 2012

    http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=1904

    Petras on the expanded subject.

  25. Morocco Bama permalink
    July 26, 2012

    Remember, in Germany, many of the Gestapo were the police in the Wiemar Republic prior to the rise of the Nazis. Then they were the Gestapo….and get this, after the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII, they became the police again. That says it all.

  26. Poet permalink
    July 26, 2012

    groo:

    Thanks for reading. Yes, the entire system is perverted and changed to meet any action/reaction we have. Witness, the attacks on freedom of assembly, speech. Ian is correct above comment that they are being shown to be weak. Now when everyone comes to agree with us, we can send them all packing to get their minds right. P :o )

  27. July 27, 2012

    amspirnational,

    Re Petras, good summary. Some of us have been saying this stuff till we’re blue in the face. But people don’t care. And the more “educated” they are, the more clueless they are.

    They don’t see the links between the rise of the police state and the other social justice and economic issues of the day. They refuse to even countenance the term “police state.”

    I’ve tried to have these discussions with my circle of hyper-educated friends. They don’t get it. They don’t even see the historical parallels. “Don’t listen to me,” I say, “just look at history. The repression leading up to WWI, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the Red Scare. These aren’t the fevered musings of a dystopian imagination. This is historical fact.”

    The answer I get: “That won’t happen again. I trust the process.”

    The process??!

  28. July 27, 2012

    Great column – this is a point I’ve been trying to make for years.

    We’ve made a terrible mistake in creating this massive prison-industrial complex over the last 30 years. Here’s the problem: What’s going to happen in the case of Soviet-style economic collapse? (or Argentina, Pacific Asia, etc.)

    We’ve now created an enormous class of hardened prisoners and prison guards. Did you know most states have a 1 to 2 ratio of guards to prisoners? What’s going to happen when, inevitably, the govt. undergoes bankruptcy or massive down-sizing?

    These violent men are going to be released into the general population. They will keep doing what they’ve been taught, extorting money out of the rest of us. Look at the Soviet Union – most KGB agents and govt. thugs went directly into the mafia, extorting many businesses right out of existence.

  29. David Kowalski permalink
    July 27, 2012

    Unfortunately, the answer in the past to control an out of control military or police has been simply to replace the police or military with an entirely different, more controlled unit.

    The Russian military when Peter the Great was a boy were the streltzi who made their living from what they could loot and who were a bigger threat to the state than any foreign enemy. Peter literally created his own much smaller personal military and booted the streltzi out.

    Hitler replaced the out of control brown shirts with the SS. Maybe good for Hitler but the SS was not so good for lots of others.

    The more that soldiers and police view themselves as other or above, the more likely that a dictatorship or elite rule has control. Once Rome went to the highest bidder for the Praetorian Guard (69 A.D. IIRC) it was only a matter of time. Once the Empire hired foreign tribes in an intact structure as its armies rather than citizens it also was over. The foederati conquered Rome repeatedly and ultimately ended the western empire.

    The white people, at least in my own suburb, are not such big fans of the police. Repeated efforts to build them a new headquarters have failed at the polls. We already have two to three times as many police as neighboring towns and the ones we have can’t seem to stop simple things like burglaries or more complex things like noisy teenage parties. The average local cop in NJ made $90,000 plus generous benefits in a low danger situation. In fact, the worse the locale, the lower the pay. Meanwhile, the Governor blusters continually against the teachers who may be more educated and doing a better job but who are paid slightly less.

  30. Ian Welsh permalink*
    July 27, 2012

    Yes David. This is what I’ve been telling some of my friends in Greece, in particular.

  31. groo permalink
    July 27, 2012

    Lisa Simeone,

    friends not ‘getting’ it is one of the most frustrating experiences one can have.
    I cancelled the friendship with one of my oldest friends, because he claimed his ‘right’ being a hedonist.
    Friendship vs principles, You cannot communicate.
    Now this special friend did me a lot of good over the years, and being connected is always advantageous.
    To make decisions in such circumstances is existential.

    You weigh a relationship with its common beliefs against your own convictions,
    Being a lonely person is something to bear, and You eventually end up in the mental asylum, because you do not fit the common sense.

    I interpreted the movie ‘Blow Up’ as a youth exactly like that, but none of may schoolboy-friends understood then.
    It is about common belief and final surrender. You play the game. Or not.

    So here we are: Who imposes what belief onto whom? On what grounds?

  32. groo permalink
    July 27, 2012

    this is very cryptic, I confess.

    Maybe, hopefully, someone understands.

    Have no idea.
    But it is consistent in MY logic.

    G.

  33. Morocco Bama permalink
    July 28, 2012

    They let that fat-assed, jackbooted thug know precisely what he could do with his “commands.” Good for them.

    Is this a principle by which you live by, or do you only cheer-lead it when it relates to parties and/or people you don’t find favorable? If a former DoD is not a “fat-assed, jackbooted thug” who issues “commands”, then nothing is, and yet you support that elsewhere. Nice contradiction.

  34. beowulf permalink
    July 29, 2012

    Ever notice how rarely (as in never) the show COPS broadcasts police brutality? No doubt a lot of footage ends up on the cutting room floor but the bigger reason is that people act differently when they know they’re being filmed. You can see from police overreaction to witnesses taping them how big a deal it is.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-aclu-nj-record-police-app-20120706,0,7160578.story

    You want to see cops on their best behavior? Pass laws requiring them to wear lipstick cams to record every encounter they have with the public.

  35. July 30, 2012

    Not sure about that, @beowulf – I can envision a slow creep towards a “new normal” of brutality that is accepted with a shrug by the populace. Shows like that already are a stadium of humiliation for suspects, and it would certainly serve the police-state well to have people become even more shy about negative encounters with their “peace” officers.

    There are already a legion of patriotic defenders of excessive force, only they don’t consider it excessive. After all, the perps must “deserve it.”

  36. August 2, 2012

    I can envision a slow creep towards a “new normal” of brutality that is accepted with a shrug by the populace. Shows like that already are a stadium of humiliation for suspects, and it would certainly serve the police-state well to have people become even more shy about negative encounters with their “peace” officers.

    There are already a legion of patriotic defenders of excessive force, only they don’t consider it excessive. After all, the perps must “deserve it.”

    Seconding Petro’s comment. We are being conditioned to accept ever more-invasive procedures, ever more-brutal practices. The once unthinkable is now accepted as normal. This is how people commit unspeakable acts against each other, and how others look on and approve. This is how a police state is born.

  37. August 2, 2012

    Apropos of this discussion, this is actually an old story, about the man walking with his daughter and being harassed by a cop, but Ken at Popehat just learned about it and did a new post on it. Read it if you don’t already know the story:

    “Be Thankful and Fearful and Know Your Place, Citizen”

    http://www.popehat.com/2012/08/01/be-thankful-and-fearful-and-know-your-place-citizen/

  38. Bill H permalink
    August 2, 2012

    Morocco Bama, what or who is a “former DoD” and where did I “support him giving orders elsewhere?” Not saying it isn’t possible, but I just don’t know what you’re talking about.

  39. Peter permalink
    August 6, 2012

    Ian:

    Your effort to place this issue inside a classical leftist paradigm (“Police exist primarily to protect property arrangements.”), has led you to ignore some very modern technological and legal developments that have contributed to the “para-militarization”. Tasers, pepper spray, riot gear, etc. were all originally touted as safe and humane alternatives to old-fashioned, trigger-happy, fist-based police brutality and individual initiative, which we came to associate with racism and thuggery. We collectively decided we wanted our police to be bloodless hyper-trained machines whose use of force would be governed by top-down, legally-sanctioned procedures and regulations rather than visceral on-the-ground subjectivity, and that is what we got. The community-based cop on the street has been replaced by the Marine Corps in part because we so distrusted him we severely limited his individual discretion to use force and made him terrified of the consequences of using it ( Do you know how much time a modern cop spends on self-justifying paperwork?). Plus cellphones and YouTube have put the police under constant public surveillance and allow us to second guess their every move. beowolf thinks that is a positive development that will protect citizens, but he doesn’t seem to consider how naive it is to believe the police won’t use the exact same technology to track and entrap us.

    Welcome to the world of computers, a billion cameras and instant communications. I appreciate you simply don’t like cops, but you do seem to allow they are a necessary evil. The next time you are faced with a line of anonymous robot-like cops dressed like space aliens and wielding tasers or sonic zap-guns or whatever, you may want add Steve Jobs and the ACLU to your list of culprits to blame.

  40. August 6, 2012

    @Peter’s Righty-Right Stew:

    - Equal parts strawmen and red-herrings.
    - A healthy dollop of Alex Jones’ Kool-Aid ™
    - Conservative sprinkling of Right-eous cop-worship

    Simmer ingredients, frequently stirring up doubt – serve with apple pie.

    Voila! Taste the fear and savor the liberal menace.

    This is how liberal hatred of your friendly cop-on-the-beat has militarized the police.

    The hippie-punching is just elaborate theatre to distract us from the real truth. No, wait… those storm-troopers are angry that we forced them to get all para-military. Otherwise they’d be with us. Or something.

  41. soullite permalink
    August 6, 2012

    Yes. How dare we not let the cops beat people!

    Some people are just fucking retarded.

  42. David Kowalski permalink
    August 6, 2012

    Two “threats” to police dominance are the anti-tax movement and the local nature of police.

    Police and prisons are obscenely expensive and not so productive uses of money. The most conservative groups live in low tax states and localities. Police and prisons are mainly, in fact almost entirely, funded by local and state governments. Mississippi or Montana don’t have many cops because, unlike the military, they rather than California, Maryland, New Jersey or Connecticut, pick up the bill.

    Specifically, Mitt Romney allegedly told supporters he would repeal the deductibility of federal and state taxes on federal returns (unlike those foreign taxes). This would be clearly unconstitutional under a normal court since it violated the traditional interpretation of McCulloch vs. Maryland (1819, IIRC). States can’t tax the federal government and for nearly 200 years the Feds couldn’t tax the states or locals either. No problem with the current Supreme Court. McCulloch would be interpreted literally as only limiting states.

    This would raise the costs of police in the more liberal areas where support is weaker. Somebody has to pay to keep 2 million people in prison/jail and hire the police and jailers and their infrastructure, SWAT teams, etc.

    And, the people that are paying for the service would see higher net costs. Maybe the folks in the pricey suburbs of CT would continue but would, say, working class towns? Not so likely. It is instructive that when NJ state government cut taxes on millionaires and simultaneously reduced state aid to municipalities that Newark cut back its police force.

    Of course, the rationale for supporting bloated military spending is also weak but in this case Senators and House members from low tax states can adopt the budgets and pass it on to the “suckers” while cutting money for infrastructure, flood control, etc.

  43. Ian Welsh permalink*
    August 6, 2012

    Peter,

    I’ve written on the surveillance state elsewhere, and probably on the problems with removing individual discretion. That cops are primarily concerned with enforcing property rights (and class distinctions) is, I think, pretty damn close to inarguable. We didn’t spend a billion bucks on the G20 in Toronto because cops are about protecting ordinary people first.

    My maternal grandfather was a cop, actually. What I dislike isn’t cops as a class, it is cops who abuse their power. Since that is currently the default in many places, it may appear I hate the first when I actually hate the second. If police want to act like they serve the public, then we can talk.

    How many cops we need is another question, and the answer, I’ll submit, is “very few unless we insist on criminalizing victimless crimes and insist on a high inequality society”.

    David: agreed on taxation. One of the few good things to come out of the ongoing depression is the slashing of police budgets. Of course the slashing of prison budgets has led to horrific consequences for inmates, but nonetheless less money to prisons is a good thing. However in the meantime it is going to lead to more efforts to make prisoners work in horrible conditions, and I predict it will lead to a lot of making relatives pay for good treatment of their loved ones who are locked up.

  44. Phoenician in a time of Romans permalink
    August 12, 2012

    The strategy of overwhelming response is making the police weak and is an exploitable error any time someone wants to take advantage of it.

    It would seem tailor-made for a “flash-mob” style of protest. Where the police ARE, there are only citizens going about their lawful business. Where the police AREN’T, there’s a mob in balaclavas smashing windows – for about two minutes.

    Which would underscore how actually powerless the elite are against the masses.

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