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  • Abuses of Power by Police

    Posted by Jonathan on July 14th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Commenting on this outrageous story, about which Glenn Reynolds
    and Brendan Loy make the obvious (and correct) points about the need for more accountability, Rand Simberg says:

    Should ignorance of the law be an excuse for this man? Call me crazy, but it seems to me that those enforcing the law should be much more responsible for knowing it than those who are being oppressed by ignorance of it.

    I would add another question along these lines. Why is it acceptable not only that ordinary citizens (particularly members of racial and ethnic minorities) must behave with extreme discretion, and often show humiliating deference, to avoid being abused or arrested when dealing with police, but also that a significant fraction of police are power-abusing bullies with hair-trigger tempers? Call me crazy, but it seems to me that those enforcing the law should be selected for thick skin and the ability to defuse adversarial situations rather than make them worse. Many police behave decently and even admirably, but there are also so many who are hot-headed jerks that it’s obvious that the police culture has systematic management problems.

    UPDATE (July 16): Brendan Loy posts an update to his original post.

     

    35 Responses to “Abuses of Power by Police”

    1. Don Says:

      “Call me crazy, but it seems to me that those enforcing the law should be selected for thick skin and the ability to defuse adversarial situations rather than make them worse.”

      OK, you’re crazy, particularly when you and the rest of us as taxpayers also bemoan and curse the coin due the government who has to pay for these people. We want to get government on the cheap. So we get cheap. Surprised at the results?

      If you check the payouts with perks and benefits and BONUSES that the kids in military service are getting today, it’s hardly a surprise that they’re getting good men and women.

      On a similar vein, we have our congresscritters running a multi-trillion dollar economy, multi-billion dollar international security system, multi-million dollar programs that make the whole system viable and we pay relative peanuts. Then we heap tons of scorn upon their performance and make mockery of their ethics. I’m sure in that bushel of earmarks we could come up with paying them a million a year, along with SCOTUS and President and Vice. If you’re a free market thinker, that would imply you’d attract a better strata of people for the job. What a concept.

      We’re still paying for our skinflint ways today. When women’s lib hit, a large pool of competent and able females left the public education environment. It would take a decade and a half before anyone noticed that the critical mass of the best had vanished and that real pay had to be readdressed. However, by that time, union power obstructed deals to get the pay raises along with a purge of the ineffective and indifferent, so we ended up subsidizing the failure instead of instituting change.

      So, I take it the police jurisdiction is just swimming in means of government and has no problem attracting, training, and retaining the best. Otherwise, yes, you’re crazy.

    2. Ginny Says:

      Don,
      Are you arguing that someone making minimum wage should be expected to steal from the till and a CEO making millions is unlikely to be susceptible to greed? The teacher’s colleges were already dumbing down teaching degrees in the early sixties – some of this is chicken and egg. And then we can discuss the difference between the quality of teaching in private high schools where the wages are famously low versus those in, say, Washington, D.C. where the cost per student is very high. Your comment seems to me to insult not just policemen but human nature and the society which constrains it. While all of us are likely to desire higher wages, few of us make moral decisions chiefly in terms of money. Choosing to “bully” is inappropriate. When I was growing up, our local representative stayed at the Y when the unicameral was in session; he was budget chair (or whatever that post was called) and he was famous for his honesty. He did accept sacrifices that most of us might not be willing to make, but then, he was viewed with a respect that most of us could envy.

    3. Kelly Says:

      As the saying goes, the reason it’s called copping an attitude is that only cops get to have one.

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      I read a study years ago that purported to show that the majority of abuses by cops where caused by those who scored in the bottom (IIRC) 10% of testing/academy or who were marginal police auxiliaries. The authority granted police attracts unhealthy power craving personalities and the police have to struggle constantly to weed those people out.

      Another problem, arises from police training which teaches offices to assume an attitude of dominance in all situations. They invade peoples personal space ever so slightly. They adopt a wide frontal stance. They interrupt people as they speak. Although useful for controlling volatile situations, such habitual dominance creates a dangerous ingrained attitude in even the best police officers. (This is by the way, the reason that long time beat cops cannot be used for undercover work. Their body language screams cop to experienced criminals.)

      The ultimate problem, however, is that the police are a civil service and have all the problems associated that type of employment. It is difficult to fire them.

    5. Veteran Says:

      The problem isn’t the brass (who are so isolated that they neither see, hear, nor speak the truth) but the “good cops” who look the other way and let the few jerks create the truly disgusting reputation that cops are getting.

      The blue wall of silence causes the rest of us to justifiably view ALL the cops as thugs (or willing accomplices of thugs) because … they are.

    6. TRO Says:

      Damn cops should just be perfect, because Lord knows everyone else is.

    7. celebrim Says:

      “As the saying goes, the reason it’s called copping an attitude is that only cops get to have one.”

      Indeed.

      I’m not entirely sure which way the cultural polution goes, but the average police officer develops an attitude, swagger, and body language that are found most often in one other class of people – criminals. They move around with that conscious attempt to intimidate and to provoke a responce that I recall from my days in a street gang. The feeling that you are being direspected and should angrily and preemptively act to prevent that disrespect becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

      Nobody likes being bullied. Nobody likes being pushed around.

      I’ve seen some good cops in my days. And I’ve seen some cops who went around deliberately provoking confrontations and then calling it law enforcement when they under a cloak of legal immunity escalated conflicts into fights with behavior, that in anyone else would get you locked up for assault. At that point, the cop has become just another street gang defending thier territory, like the ‘Bronzes’ of ‘Mad Max’. It creates a situation where the only time you see cops is when its too late for them to help you, or they are the problem. I just don’t see the badge as authorization to act like a thug, and alot of police apparantly do.

      How often have you felt served or protected? How often have you felt scared? How often do you feel like they are on your side?

    8. Fidel, MD Says:

      Damn cops should just be perfect, because Lord knows everyone else is.

      OK, lets let ordinary people have guns and the power to deny anyone’s freedom on any half-assed trumped up charge (as the so-called officer in this case did)…then we’ll all be on an equal playing field.

      Or better yet, lets make certain that morons like this cop are prevented from becoming cops in the first place! Or make certain that at the first instance of trouble in their career, they’re removed from the ability to damage anyone.

      Finally, lets make certain that INDIVIDUAL police are PERSONALLY liable (along with their supervisors, including the chief executive of their political unit) for their behavior. When a rogue cop kidnaps someone under color of authority, steals their property under color of authority, etc. looses the title to their trailer and pickup truck, and the chief of the department and mayor do too, there will be a damned site fewer stupid, venal, corrupt ‘law enforcement officers’ the law-abiding have to deal with.

    9. Dexter Westbrook Says:

      “Many police behave decently and even admirably, but there are also so many who are hot-headed jerks that it’s obvious that the police culture has systematic management problems.”

      Where is your evidence of this? A single incident in Tennessee? I’m sure you could come up with a few more, but really, there are tens of thousands of police officers in this country.

      “Many bloggers behave decently and even admirably, but there are also so many who are hot-headed jerks that it’s obvious that the blogger culture has significant logic and anger management problems”

    10. gs Says:

      The Gallup poll indicates that the police are a respected institution.

      I doubt that the public currently perceives a problem with police behavior, and I’m not sure how to alert them constructively. The old joke (a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged and a libertarian is a conservative who’s been arrested) is in disuse. IMO that’s mostly a good thing for the time being, but I’m concerned about the future.

    11. Ron Says:

      While I understand that the unfortunate victim was probably not in the best frame of mind at the time, I think he could have easily put the photo beyond the reach of the policeman. With an iPhone, it’s about a five second operation to email a photo. Once done, there would have been no practical way for the policeman to have the photo erased. Something to keep in mind.

    12. Ten Says:

      Not sure what turnip truck you fell off, commenter Don, but throwing heaps of cash at collectivism is a guaranteed recipe for failure. Please don’t make me list all the myriad ways central power fails.

      Want a law-abiding populace? Then continue to self-arm the individual, much as this country is finally doing today. The thin blue line is just that, and the notion of a collectivist force of lethal power being the only thing protecting us from evil is utterly misled.

    13. SenatorMark4 Says:

      One of my platforms is that there should be cam badges for all. It is important that we change our perspective and realize that we, the people, can monitor our surroundings as we see fit. Knowing what the police, health inspectors, or other government employees are doing has always been the problem of free people. We can, and must, start watching government. We don’t need to become a country like the UK where there is a camera for every 14 people and they tax us to run and monitor it. We can. We will.

    14. Steve Plunk Says:

      I’ve got to agree with Shannon Love. Police training today teaches officers to control any situation, even a simple disagreement with a harmless citizen, through verbal and physical intimidation. This often escalates into a irreversible cascade resulting in either violence or arrest.

      Even when dealing top brass you will find they intimidate and have little respect for citizens. It’s the way they are trained and hard to change. Even retired officers retain this mentality. I once photographed a photo/radar van illegally parked and the retired officer commanded me to stop taking pictures and threatened me with arrest. His name calling further called into question his respect for citizens and their rights.

      Police are not perfect but police training can make them more perfect rather than worse. They show no presumption of innocence or respect for those they supposedly serve.

    15. Ten Says:

      To add to my comment, commenter Don also exemplifies a deeper problem with broken systems (which “law and order” clearly is). In outlining all the superficial reasons the system presumably failed, he cannot see that monopolistic systems simply fail. They fail because at some point in time, and at some very real level, they stop serving your interests and start serving theirs.

      It is the very nature of collectivizing, nationalizing, and centralizing anything. Power seeks to support itself foremost. Power corrupts.

      Don misses that point entirely, and contents himself bemoaning the reasons, say, government school suffers the exit of talent caused by a simple adjustment in the private sector — of human behavior outside the government’s sphere. To which I ask, so?

      Nor do government police and probably a dozen other government-reliant, -centric, or -serving entities do what they’re “supposed” to do. Such is inevitable. So Don is wrong: The reason those inherently irresponsible concentrations of power fail is simply because they exist. Such is the nature of things at least one order deeper than Don can allow himself to go.

    16. Jonathan Says:

      Dexter Westbrook wrote:
      “Many police behave decently and even admirably, but there are also so many who are hot-headed jerks that it’s obvious that the police culture has systematic management problems.”

      Where is your evidence of this? A single incident in Tennessee? I’m sure you could come up with a few more, but really, there are tens of thousands of police officers in this country.

      The evidence comes from my own experience, as well as from anecdotes I’ve heard from friends and acquaintances and from media reports over the years.

    17. Dexter Westbrook Says:

      Well, that settles it.

      What a joke.

    18. Vince Says:

      After my own experience with the Po-lice , I have a hard time having any respect for them.

    19. Vince Says:

      And our politicians keep making more and more thing a crime.

      I’m getting fed up wiht the government of this country.

    20. gerald berke Says:

      We select select young, large, strong males for police, and they are trained and rewarded for aggressive and rude behavior. It’s not a question of pay (which is good, along with benefits)… Removed from society, with guns, cars, weapons, they regularly break the law and treat citizens rudely.
      It’s a male society, and introducing women into the police force goes a long way to socializing it. Hiring mature people on second careers into the force would greatly improve the attitude of the police. They rely far too much on force.

    21. Steve Skubinna Says:

      Dexter, have you heard of New Orleans? It’s a city in Louisiana. Oddly, it has a police force, which when not abandoning their posts or looting after Katrina, were busy roughing up citizens and confiscating their property, incidentally leaving them defenseless against the criminals they neglected to control. Then maybe you could google “Atlanta PD” and “no knock warrant.” Check them out, and then let us know about the majority of good cops. On the other hand, don’t bother, because we’re not really concerned here with the ones that don’t abuse their authority.

    22. Don Says:

      So let me summarize your responses, with similar tilt and respect. There is no correlation between good pay and resourced training with having good cops and that police are just jerks because they exercise power. Simplified? Works both way.

      One. I didn’t say the actions were justified, I just responded that you get what you pay for. Two, apparently, the market system doesn’t work in your views.

      If you notice, the troops in a high combat zone, get training, and retraining, and refamiliarization. They also get serious down time and extensive screening for PTSD. I would like to be see posted a link that shows similar care, retraining on a regular basis [as opposed to once every 5 or 10 years and more than an hour in a classroom] and maintenance for the broad population of police. Particularly in jurisdictions which are not swimming in funding.

      Meanwhile, I’ll tune into to COPS and watch the a*holes they have to deal with on a regular basis, day in and day out, year in and year out. Yes, come down hard on the bastard cop, but come down hard too on the civilians who are equally bastard, instead of a warning and community service.

      My training in dealing with cops came from my father who told me that we have given the officers the power of life and death. You can right, dead right. So, do what the man says and deal with the issue afterwards.

    23. Kirk Parker Says:

      Hey, Don: actually, our politicans don’t in fact run our trillion-dollar economy. For an example of the kind of economy you get when the politicians do run everything, see the former Soviet Union (you’ll find it in a history book somewhere.)

    24. Ten Says:

      I see Don is capable of revising his terms. It’ll be interesting when he gets to the part where Jefferson wrote that expensive force works better than cheap force. You know, by way of free markets and the wisdom of meekly going downtown and “dealing with the issue afterwards”. Or was that Adams?

      As they said in the Sixties, better Red than dead.

      Rather, as my friend said recently when confronted by half a squad of armed, uniformed gung-ho’s on his own front porch demanding he prove he lived there, you’re damn right I value my liberty more than my safety.

      The point, Don, is that a good briefing in rights and civility — and the important personal liability of violating them — would go a long way. PTSD retraining is a factor in warfare. Protecting, serving, common sense, and a presumption of innocence are in civilian life. I trust you comprehend the difference.

    25. Mars vs Hollywood Says:

      I’m a cop. I’ll pause for a moment while some of you snarl with rage. :)

      Here’s my take after reading the affidavit, the backup officers’ statements, and the relevant TN statute for Unlawful Photographing (Code 39-13-605, which can be found here): Mr. Conover is an asshole, and Deputy McCloud was utterly wrong to arrest him, particularly on that charge. Even the most generous reading of the law doesn’t support Deputy McCloud’s actions – it simply doesn’t apply in that situation.

      The reason I say Conover is an asshole is not because he argued with the officer or refused his demands to delete the picture, but because of his actions before and during taking the picture. When I am on a traffic stop, a passing vehicle slowing down as it passes me, then turning around, coming back, and STOPPING IN THE LANE OF TRAFFIC near me is going to set off warning bells. I was once the first backup officer on scene when another cop, who was driving a little old lady to the hospital, had his back window shot out by someone in a passing car. I think about that a lot on the highway.

      Point is, such a car becomes the immediate focus of my attention and stops me watching the people in the car I already have stopped, which is not a good thing. If you accept the officer’s story about seeing (or just thinking they saw) the “red light” just amps up that split-second oh-shit factor. Having that all turn out to be just some dipstick yelling “Smile! I’m taking your picture!” at you – I can see why McCloud got annoyed. I would have been annoyed too. It astonishes and grates on me how many people will walk up on me when I’m in the middle of a traffic stop, blithely stroll into the danger area behind the suspect vehicle and demand to know how to get to such-and-such street. Dude, I’m BUSY.

      But no amount of annoyance at some thoughtless nitwit justifies subjecting him to arrest for something (actually several somethings) that he didn’t do. Deputy McCloud should face disciplinary action and retraining at the LEAST. I suspect he may be soon reminded that he serves at the pleasure of the Sheriff, and that the Sheriff serves at the pleasure of the voters.

      The evidence comes from my own experience, as well as from anecdotes I’ve heard from friends and acquaintances and from media reports over the years.

      So you’ve got anecdotes about asshole cops? Not to be dismissive, but ask any cop if he has anecdotes about asshole citizens. I promise you his list will be longer than yours. What larger truth does that prove? Nothing.

    26. SF Alpha Geek Says:

      Mars vs. Hollywood strikes me as one of the “good cops” who’s no doubt moderate and respectful in his dealings with the public – and he also illustrates the problem that many of us have with the police as an institution:

      Mr. Conover was being “an asshole” because he was observing the police carry out their function? Maybe it was distracting, maybe annoying to the officer, maybe it even increased the officer perception of danger, but the idea that a citizen becomes an asshole for keeping an eye on the police doing their job is pretty astounding. The police officer works for Mr. Conover, not the other way around.

      I’m sympathetic to the argument that the officer felt an increased sense of danger and distraction because of Mr. Conover’s actions – and after it was all over, if the officer had calmly and respectfully explained that to Mr. Conover before wishing him a good day, I don’t think that anyone would have a problem with it – but he didn’t. He flat out abused his authority because a citizen – one of his bosses – did something he didn’t like. I’m sorry, but you know the job is dangerous when you sign up for it – if you can’t deal with that, and deal with citizens who do something stupid from time to time increasing that danger – then you should get into another line of work, not arrest people who annoy you because they don’t understand the situation. As someone pointed out recently, rights take some policy options off the table – Mr. Conover has a right to observe and photograph a public servant in the performance of his duty, whether or not it increases that servant’s discomfort for any reason.

      The thing that I find most galling is the statement Mars vs Hollywood makes dealing with cops interactions with citizens vs. citizen interactions with cops:

      So you’ve got anecdotes about asshole cops? Not to be dismissive, but ask any cop if he has anecdotes about asshole citizens. I promise you his list will be longer than yours. What larger truth does that prove? Nothing.

      To which I say, so what. Asshole citizens come with the job. There’s never an excuse to be an asshole cop. You’re a servant. Let’s try it this way:

      So you’ve got anecdotes about asshole butlers? Ask any butler if he has anecdotes about asshole employers.

      See? The two situations aren’t comparable. Employers can be, even though they shouldn’t be, assholes to their servants – if the servant doesn’t like it, he’s free to get another job. Butlers don’t get to be assholes to their employers – and cops shouldn’t be able to get away with it either.

      We’d all be a lot happier with the police if they would just keep a few simple rules in mind:

      The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

      The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

      Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

      The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

      Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

      Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

      Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

      Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

      The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

    27. Jonathan Says:

      Mars Vs Hollywood,

      Thanks for sharing.

      I acknowledge that there are many asshole citizens who make trouble for cops, and that the guy in the photo case may indeed be such an asshole. However, dealing with assholes is part of the job for people who choose to be cops. Ordinary citizens who deal with police and other public officials often have no say in the matter and should not be expected to put up with mistreatment (not that you say they should; I am merely pointing out that police and non-police are not in parallel situations). I think the fact that police in some jurisdictions have better reputations for treating citizens well than do police in other jurisdictions suggests strongly that there is room for improvement in the management of many police forces.

    28. Don Says:

      “Hey, Don: actually, our politicans don’t in fact run our trillion-dollar economy”

      Then if they’re not running it, they can’t screw it up either can they. If their actions do directly or indirectly screw up that same economy, then they do have a say in the running of the economy as is commiserate with that level.

      “..the wisdom of meekly going downtown and “dealing with the issue afterwards””.

      Two alpha males going head to head in confrontation with one armed with deadly force doesn’t usually end pretty for one party. There’s a lot venting going on here that is posing and not practical. Sure, follow the expressed attitudes, get in the cop’s face, declare your territory, double dog dare him. I’m sure he’s had a good day anyway. Let us know how it felt afterwards.

      “PTSD retraining is a factor in warfare.”

      Hey Ten, go enlighten yourself –

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-traumatic_stress_disorder

      It’s just not war anymore.

      “As they said in the Sixties, better Red than dead.”

      When some real rectal orifices did their dirty at Abu Ghrab, the Left used it to broad brush smear everyone honorable member of the military. Here a cop screws up and we have no problem doing the same to everyone also doing the same public function. See, you don’t have to be of any particular political persuasion to play that game.

    29. Mars vs Hollywood Says:

      SF Alpha,

      We are essentially in agreement on this case, but I want to make clear that this:

      Mr. Conover was being “an asshole” because he was observing the police carry out their function? Maybe it was distracting, maybe annoying to the officer, maybe it even increased the officer perception of danger, but the idea that a citizen becomes an asshole for keeping an eye on the police doing their job is pretty astounding.

      is pretty precisely NOT the point I was trying to make.

      My assessment of Mr. Conover’s asshole quotient is NOT based on the fact that he was “keeping an eye on the police doing their job.” It’s based on the ACTIONS that he took in facilitating that observation. If he and his family had been standing on the sidewalk near the officers, just watching or obviously taking pictures, it wouldn’t be the same. The area I work is high in tourist traffic, so I experience that sort of thing fairly regularly. It IS distracting, in the sense that someone standing over your shoulder while you try to work is distracting, and also because if the stop should suddenly break bad, they’re potentially in harm’s way. But at the same time, it’s hard to fault people for doing it. But add a slow-moving car making erratic manuevers in traffic, which are focused on the officer’s stop, and it changes the perception of things.

      My point is not that Dep. McCloud’s actions were justified, but that I can understand why he felt the way (I suspect) he did. When civilians look at police/citizen interactions gone bad, they imagine themselves in the place of the civilians; when cops do it, we imagine ourselves in the place of the cops. This is a problem, both ways – but it is human nature.

      I want to address some other points too, but I actually have to go to work. God willing and I don’t get shot by a lasergun or something, I shall return. :)

    30. Mars vs Hollywood Says:

      I’m back. I wanted to address this specifically:

      To which I say, so what. Asshole citizens come with the job. There’s never an excuse to be an asshole cop. You’re a servant. Let’s try it this way:

      So you’ve got anecdotes about asshole butlers? Ask any butler if he has anecdotes about asshole employers.

      I don’t think your analogy quite fits, since the boss/servant relationship between a Jeeves and Wooster is more concrete and straightforward than that between

      Anyway, I think you misunderstand. The message of what I wrote is not, “Citizens can be jerks and so therefore I can treat them any way I like.” It was more narrowly directed than that. I meet people all the time who relate some negative experience that they had, or something that happened to a friend of a friend, or something they saw on TV or read on the Reason web site, and use it as a basis to declare that cops generally suck, and propound all sorts of odd theories about how cops think and why we do what we do. You can find a raft of such people in the comments section here. It was to them I was speaking.

      Hence, my remark: if a few anecdotes is enough for some people to justify holding cops in contempt generally, then shouldn’t, by their own logic, the reverse also be true? Don’t my anecdotes of jerkweed citizens then justify some sort of contempt on my part? Especially since I have more of them? If not, why not?

      To illustrate, take this comment from the Reason piece, from commenter “J sub D”:

      I can honestly say that I’ve been treated with disrespect by cops far more times that I’ve treated one with disrespect. An honest estimate is

      Cops being an asshole to J sub D – 8
      J sub D being an asshole to cops – 0

      It’s good that Conover is evening up the score.

      Eight? Seriously? That’s all he’s got? Lightweight. I get eight asshole encounters in a week, easily. On second shift during alcohol-themed holidays, I can get that many in a single night.

      The bigger message I was trying to get across is contained in the end of what I wrote: “What larger truth does that prove? Nothing.” Meaning, no, my anecdotes don’t entitle me to hate sweeping groups of people, and neither do theirs. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

      As far as “dealing with assholes is part of the job”: well, realistically, yes, it certainly is. But that doesn’t mean it should have to be, any more than being shot on a traffic stop has to be. That doesn’t make it right. And it damn sure doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

    31. Mars vs Hollywood Says:

      Darn it. That unfinished sentence after the pull quote should read, “I don’t think your analogy quite fits, since the boss/servant relationship between a Jeeves and Wooster is more concrete and straightforward than that between John Public and Officer Mars.”

      Hey, I’m tired. I’ve been dealing with assholes all night. :)

    32. SF Alpha Geek Says:

      Mars vs. Hollywood,

      I wasn’t suggesting that you meant that it was OK to treat citizens badly because they treated police badly. My point is that the relationship is not reciprocal, and that because the relationship is not reciprocal, police should be held to a much, much higher standard of behavior.

      If a citizen is an asshole to a cop, he annoys the cop. If a cop is an asshole to a citizen, he pretty much automatically violates the social compact: as long as I’m not doing anything illegal, I can pretty much do what I want to do without an agent of the government interfering with me. Whether its minor, like a deputy interfering with a citizen’s right to take pictures, or horrific, like a police sniper shooting and killing an innocent woman holding her nursing baby in her arms, when the police screw up, they screw up with the whole authority of the government behind them, and they usually, in large ways or small, screw a citizen.

      The theme running through these comments, and which I endorse, is that a) many police have forgotten that they are accountable to the public; b) for those police who have, there is inadequate accountability and a disturbing lack of consequences for their actions.

    33. Mars vs Hollywood Says:

      Is anyone reading this thread besides you and me, Alpha? :)

      We seem to be talking past each other on a lot of stuff we fundamentally agree about, but still, a rejoinder:

      If a citizen is an asshole to a cop, he annoys the cop. If a cop is an asshole to a citizen, he pretty much automatically violates the social compact

      I think I take your point, but you seem to be presenting an apples-and-oranges comparison, the citizen’s annoying rudeness vs. the cop’s brutal clampdown. In reality, cops’ negative interactions with citizens run the gamut from simple rudeness (which form the basis of the majority of civilian complaints, by the way) all the way to false arrests and unreasonable shootings.

      Similarly, citizens’ negative interactions also range from rudeness all the way through assault (over 50,000 officers were victims of line-of-duty assault in 2006) to murder, which go WAY beyond “annoying the cop”. To say nothing of the citizen’s version of the trumped-up arrest, the bogus Internal Affairs complaint (ask me how I know). I would argue that these violate the social compact as well.

      I’m NOT arguing against your belief that cops should be held to a higher standard. I’m okay with that, provided that it is tempered with an acknowledgment that we are human beings, trying to do a difficult job in good faith. Don’t think that’s too much to ask.

      My theme here is that a) cops have perspectives on things that citizens often don’t understand or think about, but it wouldn’t hurt if they did; b) reflexive, unthinking hostility to law enforcement should not be elevated to a civic virtue.

    34. Shannon Says:

      I feel your pain. I was recently arrested after taking a photograph of a Louisiana Sheriff’s Deputy’s car, (in Acension Parish) – arrested for resisting an officer. It was later explained that I had interfered with an investigation (from the road) and that they were short deputies (yet they sent two deputies and a Lt. to arrest me). One gentlemen called the Sheriff and ask about the case and the Sheriff told him that it was a “MOCK” car being driven by a uniformed officer, then days later he told another individual that they were just waiting on the plates to come in from the state. I called the DMV and ask if that car required a plate and after being put on hold for 16 mins and 22 seconds, told me I would have to contact my local sheriff. How’s that for Louisiana politics. Later I called the Department of Public works and was told, that car absolutely needed a plate. Within days, I photographed the same car, parked backwards in an ATM drive thru, with proper plates. Then days later, I photographed 3 brand new parish cars ALL WITH TEMPORARY TAGS. Imagine that.

      I have to fight the criminal charges next month, then intend on moving onto Federal court; enough is enough

    35. Shannon Love Says:

      That last Shannon isn’t me by the way.