Tags: police

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Taking A Slogan to 11; or Enter the Strawman

One of the many irritations of Arguments on the Internet is the tendency to take a slogan to 11, then argue that. (More formally, a strawman argument.) Two examples.

In Atlanta recently, the police intervened and stopped a carjacking. The victim was an Atlanta councilman who had voted to "defund the police." The argument was that the councilman was a hypocrite. Here's the thing - people voting to "defund the police" aren't actually for abolishing police. They're for taking some of the money we give to police and using it in other programs to reduce crime. (Like, getting homeless people off of the street or treating drug addicts.)

The other example is the current argument over whether the COVID-19 virus came from a Chinese lab. First, saying it came from a lab does not mean it was man-made. It could have been a natural virus being studied in a lab. Second, there is simply no evidence that the virus escaped from a lab. Now, "no evidence" does NOT mean "it didn't happen." It just means, "no evidence that it did." Looking for evidence is reasonable - jumping to the conclusion that "China did it!" is not.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/756732.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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As anybody who is not living under a rock knows, there have been protests, sometimes violent, in Kenosha Wisconsin over yet another highly-questionable police shooting. (Generally speaking, shooting somebody in the back is only legal if they are running around actively killing people in front of you.) These protests turned lethal a couple of days ago. Thoughts:

1) If you ignore non-violent protests, you'll eventually get violent ones. In other words, if you don't like professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, you'd better like riots.

2) Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager who killed two people in Kenosha, is not a part of BLM. He's 17, which makes it illegal for him to carry or transport the weapon he used (both in Illinois, Wisconsin and Federally). He's from Illinois, and has no ties to Kenosha, and as a civilian he was violating curfew. In short, he's the very model of an outside agitator.

3) Regardless of the details of what happened that night in Kenosha, it's hard to argue this is anything other than murder. If you travel somewhere specifically to break the law, whatever happens thereafter is on you.

4) On a political note, I remain baffled by Trump's claim that he's the "LAW and ORDER" President who can fix this. It seems to me part of his long-running tendency to act like a spectator instead of The Guy In Charge. Less campaign rallies, more fixing please. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/743149.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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Blue Flu and Warrior Cops

Blue Flu

Reportedly in Atlanta, local police officers called in sick or otherwise decided not to work in protest to the arrest of an officer for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. The cute name for this activity is "blue flu." A commentator, Beau of the Fifth Column, made a short video which captured my thoughts on the matter with great clarity. To recap:

1) Blue flu is intended to cause pain in the community. The chaos and fear of no cops is supposed to cause the community to run to the cops with open arms and say "protect us."
2) These kind of actions make it clear that the officers aren't interested in serving the public; rather in protecting themselves. True public servants would show up anyway.
3) Generally, blue flu doesn't create chaos and crime. Reported crime either stays the same or goes down.
4) Blue flu typically proves that the US is over-policed and we could be as safe as we are now with fewer and/or less active cops. "As safe as we are now" may not be "as safe as we want to be" but that's a different argument.

Warrior Cops

There is also a phenomenon of "warrior cops." This is a term of art for various training programs which purport to teach police how to survive and win in the event they get in a fight with a violent offender. I am of two minds on these programs.

On the one hand, the history of police work in the US is full of cases where police officers get badly beaten by violent offenders. These events usually end in officer fatalities. There are a lot of tactical lessons to be taken from those sad events.

On the other hand, many of these programs train their graduates to walk around "with a plan to kill everyone they meet." This is not a good outcome, especially since statistically, 95% of cops will never be in a genuine life-or-death fight. Creating this "us vs. them" mentality leads to overreactions and fewer crimes solved, as the "thems" find themselves wanting nothing to do with the cops.

I've heard that the training classes offered by Massad Ayoob square that circle. I'm not sure if he succeeds in that effort or how, but making the attempt is an important thing to try. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/740262.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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On Police Reform

As we argue about the murder of George Floyd, I’ve heard calls for police reform, ranging from retraining to abolishing the police. (I’m definitely not in favor of the later.) I think most people can agree that our police on whole are too militarized. It would be helpful to understand why, and to understand that one needs to go back to 1876. This will be a long read – please refresh your beverages now.

In 1876, the former Confederates were in the process of retaking the South in the form of the insurgency called “Reconstruction.” Three states sent two sets of Electoral votes to Congress – a set for each of the Republican and Democratic candidates. To avoid the election going to Congress, a deal was struck – the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, got to be President, and the South got the Federal government, in the form of the US Army, to stop enforcing laws in the South.

The actual law that prevented the US military from enforcing laws in the South was called the Posse Comitatus Act, and it meant that the US military could not enforce civilian laws except under certain limited circumstances. This law is unique to the US and was not designed by the Founding Fathers. In fact, George Washington used the Army to enforce tax law during his term in office.

Fast forward to the 1960s. Various events, including the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting, where a man barricaded himself in a tower and killed 14 with a sniper rifle, convinced local law enforcement that they were in need of more firepower. Since, unlike anywhere else in the world, they couldn’t just call the Army in, the US solution was SWAT.

“SWAT” is “Special Weapons and Tactics” and it’s a militarized unit in the police. Originally, SWAT was just supposed to respond to the types of problems faced in the Texas tower shooting. The problem is several-fold.
  1. SWAT units are expensive, even part-time units. They need special training and special gear. There is a lot of pressure on police chiefs to “get our money out of SWAT” by sending them to do things that are at best SWAT-adjacent. That means you see SWAT rolling out to do drug raids and other stuff that you really don’t need SWAT to do.
  2. SWAT units are seen as the elite group in the police. Ambitious officers want to be on SWAT, and so they try to be like SWAT.
  3. SWAT units are elite, and one of the things you do with elite units is you have them train less-elite units. So SWAT training percolates down into the regular force. Since SWAT is designed to deal with desperate characters who are willing to shoot it out with the cops, this training tends to be focused on how to aggressively deal with threats as opposed to de-escalate.

There’s a related problem, which is that because the US military is not involved in local law enforcement, as a practical matter should some kind of terrorist attack actually materialize in the US, the Army would take days to respond. It’s common to make fun of the Podunk Iowa PD having an ex-Army armored vehicle, but there are no US Army units in Iowa who could provide armor in the event it was needed.

The solution, or at least a solution, is two-fold, and not cheap.
  1. Get rid of most if not all local SWAT units. (Maybe Chicago or New York actually needs a local SWAT. Podunk Iowa? Not so much.)
  2. Create, staff, train, and deploy full-time military units that are available on request to local PD for when they actually need SWAT. (Hostage situations, active shooters, etc.) Given our love of federalism, these units would probably be full-time National Guard units. But they would need to be full-time and distributed such that if the Podunk Iowa PD gets in a bind, a unit could be there before next Tuesday.

Given the current political climate, I expect this idea has less-than-zero chance of happening. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/739376.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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There is no "but"

I watched about 10 minutes of a video by Candace Owens, Pundit At Large. (Google it if you want to.) Owens made two entirely wrong-headed points in her video.

1) Nobody is claiming George Floyd is a hero.
2) There is no "but."

Point 2 requires a bit of elaboration. Owens said repeatedly "Floyd didn't deserve to die but he was a criminal, etc." *There is no "but."*

George Floyd did not deserve to die. He was illegally killed by somebody who was supposed to uphold the law while others who were supposed to uphold the law did nothing. That's it. That's all there is. Until we as a nation make an effort to do better, we will continue to have problems. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/739144.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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Murder on Mars!

No, I'm not obsessed with Mars. I can stop thinking about the Red Planet any time I want to. (Clears throat.) Since that day hasn't come yet, I'd like to talk about this article How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?

I found a lot of the article spot-on, but there was a big red (orange?) flag for me. The author said that Martian police won't have guns because the risk of shooting holes in their station is too high. Er, not really.

First, there are such things as frangible bullets. These are projectiles made from compressed copper powder. When they strike something harder then them (like metal) they break into tiny pieces. They are still lethal, just not as likely to penetrate.

Second, let's think about a bullet hole. A big bullet hole from a large-caliber handgun is less than half-an-inch in diameter. Even for a small pressure vessel, it's going to take a while for enough air to leak out to cause a problem. Also, pressure vessels, especially those on the ground where weight isn't as big of an issue, can be (and probably would be) made self-sealable. After all, it would really suck if an errant screwdriver could depressurize your hab.

Finally, let's think about what you need for your hypothetical Mars habitat. Mars has much higher levels of surface radiation and very extreme temperatures. As it happens, the best way to protect yourself from both is with dirt. Basically, pile some dirt on top of the hab and it will insulate you from both radiation and temperature. Said dirt will also absorb bullets and minimize if not stop leakage.

Now, to be fair, your typical hab will probably have a lot of stuff in it that doesn't react well to bullets. But depressurization is probably low on the list of problems with going all O.K. Corral on Mars.

This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/710884.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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On Statues of Confederate Generals and Fetishism of the Military

For the first time in months, I'm having a slow day at work. This is mostly because I'm either waiting for people to get back to me or waiting until Saturday to make some network changes. Since I have a bit of time, and I can't see that I talked about this, two deep thoughts.

Statues of Confederate Generals

The South is littered with statues of Confederate generals, politicians, and "Soldiers of the Lost Cause." These statues were built, as Virginian and US General George Thomas said, "as a species of political cant" to cover the crime of treason with a "counterfeit varnish of patriotism." They were also erected in the period 1880 to 1920, when the Southern whites had regained political control in the South and instituted Jim Crow. They were specifically intended to remind the blacks who was back in charge.

This is why there are no statues of Confederate General James Longstreet, Lee's long-time #2. After the war, Longstreet became a Republican and worked to help freed blacks. In fact, Longstreet became the Benedict Arnold of the Lost Cause movement. This movement attempted to paint the Confederacy as noble, and ended up accusing Longstreet of throwing the battle of Gettysburg. In short, the statues are no more "historic" than those of Lenin and Stalin which used to line the streets of communist countries.

Fetishism of the Military

Here I steal a bit from Josh Marshall, who notes that many of the people opposed to the take a knee protests are insulting the troops. One of the reasons the Founding Fathers were against a large standing military (such as we have now) is that they could be used to suppress democracy.

Now, the American Revolution was a case where the British standing army was used forcefully against democracy, but we're seeing how it can be used in an indirect way. Protests that take place as public events where the flag is displayed are deliberately misinterpreted as against the flag and therefore against anybody who fought for it. The symbol becomes more important than the reality of a constitutional right. It's no accident that a lot of military veterans are speaking out in favor of the protests. We value the real, not the symbolic.

What ties the statues and kneeling together is the attempt to paper over reality. The statues paper over the reality that the Civil War was fought so that rich people could keep their slaves, and the kneeling controversy attempts to paper over perceived police injustices.

This entry was originally posted at http://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/682796.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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burglary myths

In my inbox, presented without comment:

Have you ever been duped by a burglary myth? There are plenty out there, and it could happen to anyone. But to truly outsmart burglars, you have to arm yourself with the facts. Read on to find out the truth behind 4 of the most common burglary myths.

MYTH: Most burglaries occur at night

The majority of burglaries take place between 10AM and 3PM, while you’re at work

MYTH: Most burglars pick locks or use high-tech equipment to get in

According to the DOJ, burglars most frequently enter through an open or unlocked door or window

MYTH: Most burglars have little to no experience breaking into homes

According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 82% of burglars are repeat offenders

MYTH: Burglars don’t target gated or restricted-access communities

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, homes in gated and restricted communities have nearly the same burglary rates as homes with direct outside access

Take care,

SimpliSafe Home Security

This entry was originally posted at http://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/678517.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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Like They Said

I tried to watch Trump's acceptance speech last night. I got maybe five minutes in, to the point where he would wave his magic wand on Inauguration Day and Make It All Better, when, in the interests of not damaging my TV screen, I shut off the device. Herewith, I'll point you at a pair of articles and just say "like they said."

Like they said - Jim Hines on the latest stupid police shooting. At some point (well in the past) one has to stop calling these random accidents and consider them a pattern.

Also like they said - the real costs of the practice of the investigatory vehicle stop, the vehicular equivalent of the stop-and-frisk. This is where a cop pulls you over for little or no reason and engages in a fishing expedition to see if they can charge you with something. It's a modestly kinder version of the Gestapo "papers please" drill.