Saturday, June 6, 2015

Reining In The Cops

I've said much of this before, but enough folk have asked me for details that I thought I'd best fill them in.

Okay, problem: thuggish cops killing unarmed civilians.  A lot of Black civil rights groups have tried to make this a racism issue, claiming for justification the fact that a lot of police victims are Black, but what they're not saying is that more than half of police victims are anything but Black.  Thuggish cops have happily assaulted and killed poor Whites, Asians, Indians, and everything else.  (If you want to see a real-life horror movie, Google the name "Kelly Thomas", and go to the video on YouTube -- but be warned: when the beating starts, turn your volume down;  the screams get very loud.)  What all the victims have in common, besides being unarmed, is that they're poor -- therefore unlikely to afford clever lawyers or political leverage.  Cops seem to have a keen nose for class.

They also seem to be covertly training and practicing for class warfare.  This seems to have been encouraged by whoever in the federal government started the practice of giving county and municipal police departments surplus military gear, up to and including small tanks and artillery.  This makes sense, seeing how much political as well as economic power the corporate aristocracy have collected over the past few decades.  It's clear that the famed One Percent intend to rule the world just as much as the Jihadists do.  It would be nice if those two would make war directly on each other, leaving the rest of us out of it, but looks very unlikely in the immediate future.

So, to quote Tolstoy, what is to be done?

Obviously we have got to stop, and reverse, the militarization of the civil police forces -- which will include reining in the cops' thuggish tendencies.  I have some suggestions, all of which will take concerted action -- petitions, and other pressures on the local and federal governments -- to pull off.

1)  Get the exact facts and figures from the army, find out exactly where those surplus military toys went, take them back from the police departments and send them to the nearest National Guard armories, where they belong.  Mollify the police by assuring them that if they ever really need those tanks and helicopters and artillery, the National Guard will be happy to supply -- and operate -- them.  The only real military gear that civil police need on a daily basis is--

2) --state-of-the-art military-grade body armor.  Dress all the beat-cops in armor whenever they go out on patrol, and assure them that this grade of armor will turn any bullets that civilians are known to have.  This will handily cancel out the standard police excuse of "I'm In Fear For My Life", which will make a difference in court.

3)  Yes, body-cameras, with audio pickup.  Make every on-duty cop wear one, from check in to quitting.  Make certain that these are transmitting cameras, which send to one or more archival locations separate from the police stations, where all the recordings shall be automatically time-stamped, safety-copied, and stored.  Likewise, make certain that the cameras cannot be turned off, censored, or blocked by the wearer.
Make certain that the cameras include batteries with sufficient charge to last 12 hours at a stretch and sufficient power to transmit through concrete and steel buildings.  Also make sure that the people staffing the receiving/recording stations are kept unknown to the cops.

4)  Take away the cops' firearms, and give them stun-guns instead.  Leave the firearms locked up at the police station-houses, not to be taken out except when an emergency requiring the SWAT team is called in.
There already are, on the civilian market, stun-guns which can fire two shots before being reloaded, and a little incentive would encourage their producers to come up with stun-guns that carry more shots than that.  Of course the cops could still carry their clubs, hand-stunners, and tear-gas spray bottles on patrol, so they could still kill unarmed civilians if they worked at it -- the one-eyed cop who helped kill Kelly Thomas bragged of how he beat the boy's face in with the butt of his stun-gun -- but they would seriously have to work at it, and of course the body-cams would pick up all of it.

5)  Send trained dogs out with ever police car.  This way, if a suspect tried to run, the cops could merely sic the dogs on him to bring him down and hold him still.  Of course, this would require that somebody other than the cops themselves would train the dogs, so as to prevent teaching any secret signals for "kill the perp", "bark even if you don't smell drugs", or "don't bark even if you do smell drugs".  It might be a good idea to put small body-cams on the dogs, too.

Implementing these changes would make a real difference in police behavior, and save quite a few lives.

Naturally, the police would be highly resistant to any such reforms (except maybe the improved body-armor), but that can be put to good use, too.  Get the media seriously involved in the argument, and tell them to do thorough research on just how dangerous a cop's job really is.  This would lead to revealing the Department of Labor's and FBI's statistics, which show that there are easily a dozen civilian jobs that are more likely to kill or permanently injure their workers than being a cop.  These include: fireman, commercial pilot, logger, garbage collector, high-wire lineman, high-iron construction worker, farmer, miner, heavy-equipment repairman, sandhog, chemical-plant worker, and -- if you please -- professional football player.

If the police resist the reforms to the point of going on strike, that could be useful too.  A really intelligent (and freedom-minded) mayor or even governor could use the opportunity to summon the Militia to "deal with the emergency".  Surprise: every state still has laws on the books establishing and defining state militias.  Among other things, said mayor or governor could suspend or even rescind the local gun-control laws, instead command all remotely-able-bodied citizens to go purchase firearms and citizens'-band radios, if they don't have them already, take formal training in the defensive use thereof, practice regularly (drilling on the village green, anyone?), and go patrol and defend their neighborhoods themselves (with or without body-cams, or dogs).

I can tell you from experience exactly what would happen;  rates of crime -- especially violent crime -- would take a nosedive.  People would become very polite in public.  Winos and junkies would quickly get off the streets (and alleys), and find ways to indulge their habits quietly, in private.  As soon as these facts became public knowledge, the police would end their strike and come back to work very quickly -- if only because some of them would guess that it was only a matter of time before the citizens realized that they didn't really need police, and the jobs began to evaporate.

But the situation is unlikely to get that far.  We can, and should, start promoting these reforms right now.  They'll make a hell of a difference.

--Leslie <;)))><         



Ori Pomerantz said...

Hope you don't mind, but I called the cops on you. OK, one cop. He's a good guy, and the discussion between the two of you would be very instructive, IMAO.

Ori Pomerantz said...

He didn't want to identify by name, but here is his response:

1) "state of the art military grade body armor". I've got a set. Two actually. One issued from my reserve unit, one private purchased to throw on from the trunk of my patrol car in the event of an active shooter or similar. Such armor protects from a front or rear chest shot very well, and everything else not so much. No training I have ever done with it has recommended "accept the shot you can see coming and trust your armor" as a course of action in response to a threat. Even if it did, the armor does nothing if the round goes head, neck, armpit, or pelvic/femoral. Even if it did for all of those, legal "grievous bodily harm" fear would stretch to shooting to prevent a bullet wound to an unarmored extremity.
1a) Military grade (or at least military-style, with lighter than ESAPI plate) armor would likely save my lower back by allowing me to hang gear off MOLLE. However, such armor is generally the first thing to come to mind when people complain about "militarized police". If possible given the constraints of materials science (let alone budgets) your armor would have to resemble Stormtrooper kit out of Star Wars. That makes a Marine in Afghanistan look as approachable as Andy Griffith by comparison.
2) If you could design your cameras, you could make billions in the phone industry, since you appear to be talking about wifi level bandwidth, reliable, no matter where I find myself on duty. I'm not even rural.
3) Tasers are great. They aren't stun guns and they certainly aren't a substitute for a pistol. Coming from someone who has used one on an armed subject I could have shot legally, it's tough to see how they could realistically develop into a substitute for a pistol.
4) Have you ever even owned a dog? dogs and handlers MUST train together to be effective. For that matter, under MP use of force guidelines using an off-leash dog to make an arrest is the same level as using a pistol to stop a fleeing suspect. Our dogs weren't trained to kill, but it was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of letting one loose on a runner.

5) Your militia would make violent crime take a nosedive by actually using the level of violence, oppression and excessive force that you accuse the cops of using (my example from 3 would have been shot dead by a private citizen at least 3 times in 5).

Leslie Fish said...

Bravo! Some *reasonable* objections! Okay, 1) Are either of those armor suits made by Dragon Skin? There are some new designs of body-armor that are better than what the army has already bought and paid for. (Whatthehell, I've seen articulated-plate laminated Lexan-and-titanium *full*-body armor made and sold by amateur smiths at the SCA!) This is a technical problem with a technical fix, where the only(!) real obstacle is money and politics. Looking like Robocop or Starship Troopers could actually be an advantage in a lot of situations. Even the dumbest of macho punks would hesitate to tackle anyone who looked like that.

2) Likewise, technical problem: technical fix. Yes, there are cell-phone companies working on this already -- especially now that they can foresee a huge market in the law-enforcement biz. Since most of the police forces involved in the recent deadly bullying cases were most definitely urban, the range wouldn't have to be tremendous.

3) Again, TP:TF. The two-shot stun-gun didn't exist just three years ago, and now it's for sale fairly cheap on the civilian market. I've seen a brand of stun-gun that could fire its bolt across the width of a city street, which is the maximum distance of the average urban gunfight. Also, Britain's cops have prided themselves on not carrying firearms for over a century, and have managed well enough. The stun-gun might not replace the firearm completely, but it can replace guns for most urban confrontations. For those cases where it isn't enough, summon the SWAT team.

4) Certainly the dog and handler must train together, but the trainer who's in charge of both of them has got to be out from under any pressure by the cops s/he's training. S/he's also got to be quite vigilant to prevent the teaching of secret signals. (My husband trained dogs for a time, and had a lot to say about over-the-border drug smuggling and collusion.) Regardless of what MP guidelines may say, any civilian police-review board would consider a dog less lethal than a firearm at stopping a fleeing suspect, especially if the dog were trained specifically to bring down a runner without going for the throat. In any case, the point of setting a dog after a runner would be to slow the fleeing suspect down long enough for the cop to catch up -- which shouldn't take that long, even in armor.

5) There's one huge legal difference between militia and police; militia are *civilians*, and therefore have exactly the same legal standing as their suspects. A militia patroller would not have the same automatic leeway in a confrontation that a cop would have, and would have to justify his/her actions as any other civilian would. A clear knowledge of that fact would oblige the militiamen to be at least somewhat circumspect. Sometime study the history of a Los Angeles militia called the Guardian Angels -- who carried no weapons at all.

In any case, it's unlikely to reach that point. About the time that the city govt. was holding training classes for the militia, the on-strike police would start negotiating.

And meanwhile the British police would be snickering.


Ori Pomerantz said...

The cop's response:

British police would never do my job. If I read your social network correctly we are in agreement on the issue of armed law-abiding citizens. Removal of firearms from non government hands is a pre-req for taking the guns from police, and I'm almost certain my British counterparts would agree on that.

We're in agreement that Mobile Infantry style armor would be intimidating. For a patrolman this is not a good thing. In my current uniform my attitude and demeanor can adjust from sympathetic to friendly to "HOLY SHIT, that guy is loud and sounds angry, best do what he says if I don't want to get shot!" in a matter of seconds. It's a tool like any other. Lock me in a ballistic suit and sympathetic/officer friendly demeanor goes away as a tool. On a related note, give me full coverage armor and even if you take all my lethals, it would still be easy to inflict a lethal wound using the armor itself, said delivery generally looking more defensible than your typical shooting anyhow ("I was attempting to detain when he was resisting. In the course of overcoming that resistance his head contacted my armor with significant force, resulting in major cranial trauma...")

Urban work includes concrete buildings. Large ones. When I did work a rural area, I was never completely beyond radio range. I know when I enter certain buildings where I work now that I will be out of comms until I exit.

The two-shot ECD (stun-guns are those contact required "cattle prod" type electric weapons, and they don't work nearly so well) involves two separate firing mechanisms. Like a double barreled shotgun. When you have to add a new "barrel" for each successive shot, you're dealing with a defined upper limit to how many shots you have on deck. *for me* at the applicable distances, two shots is generally going to be enough for two bad guys. This ties into something later on, but most cops aren't me. Too be blunt, most local law enforcement agencies don't pay enough to afford people like me. It takes a 200 (/250) to pass my department pistol qual. I've never been below 245. An ECD is going to need quite a bit more than two shots before it holds "enough" for a typical cop to handle common scenarios.

When I set a dog on someone, if they get caught, they're almost certain to need a hospital trip for stitches at the least. "Do they need treatment from the hospital" is the legal rule of thumb for simple assault v. "High and aggravated nature". When someone is fleeing, per the guidelines at the day job (city) and the weekend job (MP) it's almost a binary answer. "Are you chasing them for murder, agg assault, rape, armed robbery?" If yes, guns, dogs and hard vehicle pursuit are in play. If you're chasing them for any lesser crime than those, you make the tackle yourself or they get away.

Ori Pomerantz said...

Cop's refutation, part 2:

First, a militia member performing LE duties in the absence of sworn LE service in the jurisdiction would have at the minimum a credible claim to all the case law protecting cops, if it got that far. Second, I'm going from the experience of people seeing me handle suspects, and often outright telling me that "they would have kicked the shit out of him for running his mouth like that" "why not just beat his ass, it's not like the court will give him enough jail time to matter" etc.

Cops can be as detached as we are for such sentiments because it's a job. If the neighborhood nuisance is back to the same stupid tricks next week I'll arrest him then too. A neighborhood militiaman is going to care more about a lasting solution to the problem. Severe violence (or the credible threat of it) is often going to appear as a viable option especially the first time the militia runs into the "you look familiar, didn't I arrest you for something very similar to what you're accused of here last month?" issue.

And on a final note, about using a dog to delay while chasing in armor.

1) the dog delays by knocking down and chewing. There is accompanying blood, screaming, and severe injury during this process, that gets worse the longer it takes.

2) I can run in full combat armor. It feels like a dead sprint and it moves me somewhere between a jog and a moderate run. Physically, I am still at the standard of a Marine officer in a "from the front" combat leadership billet. Most cops are not particularly close to this standard, and you would likely have to pay cops like military officers (better than twice what I get at the day job) in order to fill the roster with people who can move even kind of as well as you expect them to move in armor.

Ori Pomerantz said...

This bit is from me.

The problem with stun guns, tasers, tranquilizer darts, etc. is that they need to be finely tuned to incapacitate without killing. Too little, and nothing happens. Too much, and the person who got them is dead. This is the reason when you have to be anesthetized for an operation there needs to be a specially trained doctor just to keep you unconscious but alive. And that is when they can know your body weight, inject precise amounts, etc.

I am pretty sure that any amount that would be sufficient to incapacitate Marvin Muscle-man, the 250 lb. gorilla, would kill Renee Robber, the 100 lb. harmless looking woman with a handgun and a lot of pent up anger about the banking industry. And this is before factoring in the effects of various drugs that one or the other may be taking.

OTOH, I think transmitting body cams are a lot more doable than my cop friend does. The reason is you don't need to transmit the entire video feed. All you need to do is transmit a checksum for every n seconds and store the actual video data in the camera until it can be transmitted or uploaded over a wire. If the data from the camera does not result in the correct checksums, then it has been tampered with. If it does, then it hasn't been.

With cryptographic checksums (a.k.a. hash functions), it is extremely difficult to create a second data stream that would have the same result as the real video.

Ori Pomerantz said...

The cop (sorry he can't post here, but he doesn't want some of what he wrote associated with him personally on a public forum), corrected me. Tasers are "one size fits all", and the biggest risk is smacking your head on the pavement. Still, they're not perfect. Cops typically use tasers when they have backup with a handgun should the taser not do the job, IIRC.

Leslie Fish said...

Fascinating, to quote a certain Vulcan. Okay, about the technical problems: with a little encouragement to the industry developers, the camera can be both transmitting and recording as you outlined. Likewise, tasers/ECDs can be improved for accuracy and multi-shot capacity (for that matter, the cop could always carry two of them. Remember the famous portrait of Blackbeard, with his whole bandolier stuffed with loaded and primed flintlocks!)

On the question of looking intimidating or not: why not expand the old good-cop-bad-cop (we used to call it "Sweet and Sour Pork") routine? Cops usually patrol in teams of two; why not make it teams of three: Officer Friendly in the light armor and tasers, Robocop in the full-body MI armor with everything else (including the shotgun in the trunk), and Hooch the Hound who can run down a fleeing suspect and hold/chomp until the other two cops get there. Officer Friendly in the light armor can get there before Robocop, which should keep the chomping to a minimum. Of course discretion has to be applied; a minor shoplifter who outruns the taser-bolts can safely be allowed to run off (you've got his portrait on camera, anyway), while the serious offender gets to race with Hooch and risk chomping.

Another point to remember is that a very large number of civilians keep dogs for security purposes (in my neighborhood it's Chihuahuas for burglar alarms, Pit-Bulls or bigger for active defense), and would be understanding about a perp hospitalized with bitten calves and arms. Also, if your standard Hooch is any large breed of dog which *isn't commonly perceived* as "dangerous" (Pit-Bull, Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd), the jury is more likely to be sympathetic. A Mastiff, an unclipped Great Dane, Greyhound, Chow-Chow, Collie, even an Old English Sheepdog, can make a very efficient perp-hunter without setting off knee-jerk reactions. (And, hey, why not put a camera on the dog, too?)


Leslie Fish said...


As for Robocop's armor itself being likely to cause harm, well, if you're using the Two and a Half Cops system, by the time the perp gets around to wrestling with Robocop, he's almost certainly done enough to look bad on camera. Getting bopped with part of the armor is generally less lethal than being shot, anyway.

Okay, now about training cops who are capable of using the Robocop armor: there's much use for continuous on-the-job training. My pal Mary has been a Post Office mechanic for twenty years and more, but every couple of years she gets sent to a training center in Oklahoma for training updates. There's no reason the police couldn't use the same system. Start off your rookie as Officer Friendly and work him up, year by year, until he can do the Robocop job. Anybody who's not physically up to that job can get promoted sideways to something less demanding.

Anyway, concerning Militia: as with anything, training is the key. Even a short, but intense, course can accomplish a lot. When I got my CCW permit here in Arizona, it took a weekend -- only four hours of which involved target-shooting at the range and cleaning our weapons afterward. All the rest of it was legalities and scenarios: when it's proper to shoot, when it isn't, when it's wise, etc. That was better than seven years ago, and I remember it clearly. Likewise, an intense weekend, followed by regular practice -- Sunday Drilling on the Village Green -- should be adequate training for serious Militia members, especially if you hammer heavily on When It's Legal to Shoot.

Actually, the Militiamen have the advantage of knowing the areas they patrol, and the people therein, *very* well -- because they live there. They'd know at a glance who's the harmless braggart, who's the serious bully, who belongs in the neighborhood and who's a stranger, who's the nosy old lady that's a very observant witness, and so on. There wouldn't be the problem police often have getting information out of the neighbors, because they would *be* the neighbors.

Come to think of it, even without the police going on strike, the neighborhood Militia would be a handy thing to have -- kind of like the police/civilian version of the National Guard. Weekend Warriors can by useful.

--Leslie <;)))><