Question of the Day: Does America Have Too Many [Armed] Police?

LA SWAT team chases Dorner in the snow

Last Thursday at 2:30am, someone triggered my house alarm. Given the tactical challenges involved, I decided to let the police respond. After five minutes, I switched off the alarm. I waited, armed, sleeping schnauzer at my feet, for the police. Fifteen minutes later, a Deputy arrived. She did a solo 360 perimeter check with her Maglite and called it good. As did I. The response time didn’t bother me. It would be nice if it was faster, but taxes, staffing levels and whatnot. More to the point, there’s a downside to hiring more cops. Remember the Dorner fiasco . . .

The study’s authors also found that too many officers raced to the scene when authorities had Dorner holed up in a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, creating a dangerous situation and making narrow mountain roads nearly impassable for the SWAT teams in charge.

“Witnesses said hundreds of law enforcement officers responded to the scene, some from over 100 miles away. Valuable time was wasted managing the vast number of ill-prepared police officers who left the much warmer coastal and inland climates of Southern California for the extreme cold of a mountain ski resort at 7,000-foot altitude,” the authors said. “As one chief of police would later declare, ‘I had no business going up there.'”

A turf war between police in Irvine and Riverside County sheriff’s officials over who would do forensics analysis on Dorner’s abandoned and burnt-out truck also delayed the investigation into the killings of Dorner’s first two victims, a retired LAPD captain’s daughter and her fiance.

A rare bit of truth from officer.com. Don’t get me wrong. Police are a critical part of our defense against criminal predation. If the miscreants who attempted to jimmy my door had hung around, I would have been deeply grateful for the arrival of an armed Deputy and her backup (as needed). Besides, someone’s got to clean up the mess, if you know what I mean.

But the point remains: police militarization isn’t just a matter of militarized tactics. It’s also a matter of too many police officers – local, state and federal. Period. Incidents like the Dorner debacle and the Boston Marathon martial law meltdown show us that more can be less when it comes to policing.

How many LEOs are we talking about, anyway? justice.uaa.alaska.edu reports that “1.1 million persons are employed on a full-time basis by state and local law enforcement in this country in 2008. Of that number, about 765,000 were sworn personnel—which is defined as those with general arrest powers.” On the federal level, I couldn’t find raw numbers, but I did find this at discoverpolicing.org

There are 65 federal agencies and 27 offices of inspector general that employ full time personnel authorized to make arrests and carry firearms. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004 the largest employers of Federal officers were U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Prisons, the FBI, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, each with over 10,000 officers. Federal officers’ duties include police response and patrol, criminal investigation and enforcement, inspections, security and protection, court operations, and corrections.

Too much? Or do I have this wrong? Are U.S. police forces understaffed and under-appreciated?

comments

  1. And, if memory serves, there was a post here showing how many armed private security guards there are in the USA, that’s a whole lot of armed “professionals.”

    1. avatar Gene says:

      I think the anti’s response to that would be, “They’re only ‘professionals’ when they’re on the clock.”

    2. avatar Adam says:

      You may find this article of interest (re. armed private security):

      http://www.securitymanagement.com/article/security-industry-shooting-dark-lessons-florida-007606?page=0%2C0

      Up here, there have been some major issues with tactical teams:

      http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/w5-use-of-force-by-rcmp-emergency-response-teams-in-northern-b-c-questioned-1.1751687

      And a not at all funny ad, making light of tactical response ‘mistake’ calls:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WJpnUl-pUk

      Police should heed the rules of Robert Peel, including:

      4. “To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.”

      and:

      6. “To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”

    3. avatar michael n mcdaniel sr says:

      however: the information I received from the internet, library, local leos and other sources as of mid-2012, no gov’t agency except for the irs can field (or call on) any more than 2000 to 2500 agents any given day. all the rest of the numbers cited in most reports are management and administrative personnel. since the irs is truly an illegal organization to begin with and answers to no-one, it can field up to 25,000 agents at last report. it is and always has been illegal to tax income from wages and salaries. but the gov’t can tax about everything else, up to and including the very clothes on your back, the food you eat, the water you drink, and the very air you breathe.

  2. avatar Guy says:

    It’s not about the guns, it’s about how people choose to use them, remember?
    It wouldn’t be a problem if they all carried rocket launchers if they knew how to use them with discretion and restraint.

    1. avatar pyratemime says:

      This comment reminded me of a situation I dealt with while deployed to Iraq. I was the procurements officer for the police and at one point we were issuing each of the three major police bodies in Iraq under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGLs) and RPGs because they were honest-to-Allah outgunned by the insurgents and criminals they were dealing with. Shortly after I got there we had to recollect all issued UBGLs and RPGs because they were being used in drive-bys on competing police agency checkpoints, stations, and Iraqi Army facilities. We never did account for them all though…

      If there is a tie in to the US situation it would be this, we have seen that if you give the weapons and equipment to the LEAs and LEOs they will find a way to use them. The article itself refers to a turf war between competing SoCal LEAs. Granted that was more a war of words and possible symbolic phallic waving but should it come to more than that I would prefer they not have area of effect munitions.

      1. avatar Rob Aught says:

        Although I left my law enforcement career early on, I can attest that in my brief two years there and even during my internship there was always plenty of dick-waving (sometimes literal!) between local, county, state, and fed agencies.

        There was always a “me and mine” mentality and no thought that they each shared a common mission and objective.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          I have never seen such issues. I suspect it is regional… then again where I live it’s not NYC or DC where there are a hundred alphabet agencies cruising around with one block jurisdictions.

        2. avatar michael n mcdaniel sr says:

          I have seen it firsthand in search and rescue missions I was on in northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska. it finally got bad enough that my colonel told the leos he was in charge or our s&r squads were going with the equipment and trucks; even though we were the ones invited to help look for the plane, boat, train, etc., survivors, lost hikers, bikers, etc.

      2. avatar Guy says:

        Thanks for your service.

        My point is that we don’t need to be using the same arguments as the antis- we need to rise above.
        They say disarmament is the only way to keep people safe, and that guns somehow magically incite evil behavior in people. Now we’re saying the same thing, directed at police?

        The goal should be changing what behavior is acceptable, and how severe the consequences are for misbehaving. If cops or others are willing to hurt people because there’s no consequence, that’s what needs to be fixed. They’ll use whatever they have at their disposal, whether it’s M4s or batons.

    2. avatar Stuki says:

      It is a problem if I am the one picking up the tab for all of them. Just like in any other area, the number of officers are also subject to the law of diminishing returns. Going from zero police, to 100, given much more bang for the buck than going from 1,000,000 to 1,000,100. The first 100 will probably do all the genuinely important stuff people look to police for, while the millionth ones will instead run around trying to justify their existence and paycheck by harassing people for doing 10 over on a wide open, empty 6 lane freeway.

      Back in the civilized era, there were a Sheriff and a few professional deputies; while the rest of the posse was sworn in on a case by case basis; from amongst regular civilians. Much, much less room for both overpaying for what you don’t need; and ending up with out of control officers and agencies. It does presuppose a certain minimum competence on behalf of the citizenry, which may make it incompatible with progressivism, but that’s honestly more of a feature than a bug.

  3. avatar Rob Aught says:

    It is frightening to see how often SWAT teams are called. Even worse, how many agencies and police departments have their own SWAT teams. The police and their apologists justify it as “You never know” but there is something to be said for risk assessment.

    Except that these same agencies seem quick to dispatch their SWAT teams in the hope of justifying their existence. I remember a time when SWAT teams didn’t always roll up on every possibly violent incident. You might have a couple of officers and if they were actually worried that shooting might start up one of them might have a pump gun.

    Now you can actually expect the SWAT team to turn up if they believe shouting is going to turn to violence. I WISH I was kidding!

    In the 90’s they were teaching police theory as “Citizens in uniform”. No joke, my degree is in Criminal Justice. No idea where that concept went!

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      Something about a toolchest full of hammers and seeing nails everywhere comes to mind…

    2. avatar Roscoe says:

      In the Dorner situation it was clearly a case of grabbing for the brass ring and overreaction on the part of often far-flung stationed officers, but hardly an uncommon response by LEOs. It was basically an 1199 response on steroids. Forget the logistics and communications complications, balls to the wall.

      As to ‘How many cops should there be’? There is no hard and fast answer as that depends on the nature of the jurisdiction, politics, community mores, etc.

      Some times less is more, sometimes more is less.

      What is fairly clear is that the militarization of police is not necessarily “to protect and serve” and often creates further discord between police and the population; and there are way too many alphabet federal law enforcement agencies that overlap jurisdiction and like to play SWAT.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Fire Dept call that mindset “freelancing” or “selfdispatch”. Foolish at best but more likely plain stupid. Everyone has seen the newscast where appears every cop within 50mi is on hand (as if handing out free jelly donuts).

        So if all the cops are over there, then the thugs are OK to transgress over here in the “unprotected” area? (This assumes the police are security guards for your stuff/person and not just the cleanup crew.)

  4. avatar Pashtun6 says:

    I think LEOs should be armed, however I wouldn’t be against a reduction in the number of police, specifically at the state level. At the federal level we could see some down sizing but I can’t see any politicians going for it.

    During the pursuit of Dorner I believe so many police were responding just because they wanted blood, which if your not wearing your tin foil hat this morning, you’d believe that Dorner did in fact die in those mountains.

  5. avatar JasonM says:

    The deputy who shows up as “backup” (great term!) when your alarm goes off is a peace officer. The guy in the balaclava (why are they hiding their faces, isn’t that the mark of a criminal?) and military vehicle is an enforcement officer.

    There is a big difference.

    1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

      “enforcement officer.” Works for good parallel construction. But I’d shorten that to just “enforcer.”

      Regarding the original question: Yes, though I’d just say too many police period.

      1) Get rid of the alphabet soup enforcement agencies except for the FBI and US Marshals.

      2) Get rid of all enforcement wings of the other agencies (e.g., armed cops in the Department of Education; WTF?). Let them turn over their evidence to the FBI if they suspect criminal activity.

      3) Make it so no Federal agency can make an arrest without the approval of the county Sheriff where the suspect resides. If the Sheriff refuses or there is good reason be believe the Sheriff is dirty, have Feds appeal to state officials (perhaps the State AG office). Just some thoughts.

      1. avatar Bpjester says:

        Yeah. So who would replace the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard?

        1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

          Good points. I’d add border patrol. I though coast guard was military?

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        Ah, yes, the Sheriff as the ‘ultimate law enforcement authority’ line… constructed by racists who wanted to keep the feds from investigating the murder of civil rights leaders in their county and perpetuated by people who apparently haven’t seen a bad sheriff and what what authority like that can do in bad hands.

        1. avatar Old Ben turning in grave says:

          Wasn’t aware of that aspect of the history of the sheriffs in the USA, but the idea is older than the United States. The county sheriff remains the only elected LEO, and they are generally tied into the communities they serve.

          Regardless, a sheriff selectively enforcing laws based on race would fall under the “dirty” category, which would then require appeal to state officials. Nobody is above the law (or, at least nobody should be above the law).

  6. avatar LongBeach says:

    I don’t have a problem with an officer having a pistol, shotgun and/or rifle. As emergency responders I think it would be foolish to limit their effectiveness. Example: school shootings. I want the first officer on scene flying in there with an AR as fast as possible to stop the threat, not standing around with a GLOCK waiting for the tac team. (What I really want is armed teachers/staff, but that’s another discussion)
    As far as armed cops go, it only seems to be a problem when they’re in large groups for a warrant/dog hunt. Then, the rah-rah attitude and sympathetic gunfire becomes a real problem.

    1. avatar Todd S says:

      I participated in armed response training at the school where I am a teacher. At least here, YMMV, they do not wait for backup. They go in as soon as they get here. I was the shooter in one scenario and I can still remember what the 3 simunitions felt like when they hit me. The two in the vest, no problem. The one in the arm… ow.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Take Sandy Hook. Take FedEx. We saw the pictures. And the perps were dead before the first cop arrived. Yes, yes, YES! There are way far too many cops in general, and 10X the swat teams that are a SAFE number, building to the point they can overpower the law abiding citizens.

  7. avatar Shire-man says:

    I think it’s more of an attitude problem. There’s a rinky dink town over a bit from me that had the entire police force rush to a guy who shoplifted a six pack not long ago.

    The cops held up traffic, swarmed the parking lot and store.

    Too many of them all have that want to be involved attitude and nothing to do with it. As the profile of the incident rises they want to be involved even more. Can’t miss an opportunity to get on the news or a book deal or just to collect a cool story to tell so got to wake up from my nap and race 100 miles to be where the action is.

    There’s a great video of the Jose Guerena raid where they kick in guns blazing. One cop at the back of the stack couldnt get a good shot so he was seen jumping up and down blind firing his handgun over the heads of his buddies.

    I feel this footage wonderfully illustrates my point.

    1. avatar Fed Up says:

      I remember that guy from the Guerena murder scene. That fact that everybody, including that idiot blindly firing random ‘me, too’ shots was found to be ‘according to training’ is one of the main reasons why I want to fire all 850,000 cops in this country and start over from scratch.

  8. avatar Col. Angus says:

    It isn’t just the number of armed police that’s the problem. For all I know, we may have exactly the correct number. The bigger problem is the huge (and growing) number of armed government agents of all types. And while this is mostly concentrated in the FedGov, we all know that every two-bit tin-horned municipality is going to start wondering why every code enforcement officer, welfare counselor and drivers license clerk isn’t gunned up as well…..(but God forbid a teacher should carry, of course).

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      Teachers usually *are* government employees of some city or school district. It shouldn’t be such a difficult step to enable willing, competent, trained teachers to occupy a dual role as educator and low key protective officer within the school setting with of course a pay enhancement to recognize the added responsibility, time and qualifications needed to fulfill such a role. THAT would be logical and useful, unless you’re a hoplophobe or anti-gun feel good extremist out to disarm the law abiding world.

      Fewer known, helpless educational shooting galleries for the first wacco that needs to satisfy dreams of martyrdom or whatever ails them.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      You have it exactly right. We have do many police agencies from the Feds on down to the local level. When I was a kid you had the local force in incorporated towns and cities. The County Sheriff ran the jail and patrolled in unincorporated areas and the State Police to handle the main highways, which is why it is still called the Highway Patrol in many states.

      The Feds have always had multiple agencies but their jurisdictions have been very specific. The US Marshals enforced court orders, transferred prisoners and acted as chief law enforcement officials in US territories. Treasury agents to collect tariff on imports and taxes on alcohol and tobacco also date from the 19th Century. We had no federal LEOs with general law enforcement responsiblies in the states until the creation of the FBI. I don’t know when the Border Patrol was established but prior to WWII the Army was responsible for border security. None of these missions and function overlapped. I think we need to go back to one general Federal Law Enforcement organization (US Marshal Service), Treasury agents and since the military is not going to do border security a federal police agency to protect the borders.

  9. avatar Another Robert says:

    To answer the question: Yes. Or, to put it another way, Hell, yes! It might be different if those massive numbers meant the police, etc could actually protect people from criminals in any but the most macro-societal sense. But as it is, even with all those numbers, the police are still an essentially after-the-fact proposition as regards street-level criminal activity. And USDA meat inspectors and EPA busybodies don’t need their own SWAT teams.

  10. avatar Mark N. says:

    Some departments are understaffed–Detroit and Camden come to mind–and others are overstaffed–such as the ATF.

    One thing I’ve noticed of late is that LEOs from a bunch of different agencies will join in a no-knock raid, without any rational basis for them being there. Kind of like “rent-a-gang” hoe invasions. And you end up with 15 unorganized guys all trying to push through the same door at the same time, with disastrous results all too often. If these same officers had spent some time actually investigating, most of these SWATS would be totally unnecessary.

    1. avatar JR says:

      The task force mentality has taken over law enforcement.

      While it might be useful for some things to provide cross jurisdiction support, it is another of those things that became buzzword and shortly thereafter….abused.

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      If you handed Detroit the money, they would be overstaffed in a week.

  11. avatar Jim R says:

    The problem is a multi-faceted one. Just saying “too many cops” is a gross oversimplification and doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s not even necessarily accurate.

    First, you have the problem that many officers–maybe not all, but many–operate as if they’re above the law. This is probably the biggest issue with American law enforcement.

    Second, the sheer number of laws on the books. It’s been said the average American commits 3 felonies per day. With everyone a potential criminal, the police only need to catch you.

    These first two problems have led to the third problem–the over-militarization of law enforcement. A town of 15,000 people does not need a SWAT team.

    Fix those three problems and there could be a cop on every street corner and nobody would care.

  12. avatar stateisevil says:

    The police are our standing army.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    Are U.S. police forces understaffed and under-appreciated? No, but they are over-armored, overpaid and over-coddled, the poor dears.

    Why pay a SWAT team thousands of dollars to break into the wrong house when a burglar will do it for free, and I can shoot the burglar?

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      “Why pay a SWAT team thousands of dollars to break into the wrong house when a burglar will do it for free, and I can shoot the burglar?”

      Just don’t be mistaken, you might not live to regret it, and if you do survive, you might wish you didn’t.

      And keep a stuffed rendition of a dog nearby.

  14. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Yes.

  15. avatar Delbert Grady says:

    All thru the “worst economy since the great Depression” cop shops in even rural areas were getting brand new shiney Chargers and Tahoes, ditching 4 yo guns for entire new armories and different cal. ammo, getting “free” MRAPS and other tanks from Uncle Fud, demanding new computer equipment, license plate scanners and radios, adding officers and expanding patrols.

    So much for “tightening belts.” The only thing tightening is the noose.

  16. avatar KCK says:

    It that photo a update of the Keystone cops?

  17. avatar Lord Wulfgen says:

    We definitely have too many Federal officers. The growth of DHS is out of control. I saw exactly what they were doing when they branched out from “terrorist watch” to catching kiddie-porn types. They set a precedent that few would challenge. Who is going to come to the defense of those? Next they branched out to gang enforcement, after the precedent had been set, and they will continue to expand until they are a full on interior ministry. I was under the impression that we already had the FBI for that. I strongly believe DHS, ATF, DEA, and the Secret Service should be dismantled and rolled into the FBI.

    Personally, I have never had a problem with a local cop in my life. Not even when I was arrested when I was 14 (in a very silly situation that was a huge misunderstanding) and being placed in handcuffs. A little not-being-a-dick will go a long way sometimes, and I have always been treated with the respect I gave. I think some people fail to remember that cops are human, just like the rest of us, and there will be assholes, just like the rest of us. The problem is that the assholes garner all the attention and headlines, while a good cop goes mostly unnoticed and under-appreciated, except by those he comes into personal contact with. A cop doing his job well, treating people with respect, and being an all around nice guy does not make breaking news stories. They do, however, exist; I know lots of ’em.

    That being said, there are definitely some departments that are out of control, and need some serious attention (I’m looking at you LAPD and NYPD).

    Now, who wants to start a betting pool on how many times I get called a bootlicker for this post?

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      cops are human, just like the rest of us, and there will be assholes, just like the rest of us

      Except their assh0les are armed to the teeth, drive around in MRAPs and BombCats and have full immunity.

      1. avatar Lord Wulfgen says:

        You are absolutely right, and that is what I meant when I said that there are definitely departments that are out of control, though I suppose I didn’t express that strongly enough. SWAT and armored vehicles are way overused, and those need to be curtailed. I have not yet lived in a city where that is a problem, although I know the problem exists in many places. I do believe that police departments should be restricted to the same armaments that the general citizenry is allowed.

  18. avatar SouthernPatriot says:

    I don’t know that we have too many cops. However, we have too many militarized law enforcement.

    The real point is: We have too few armed citizens.

  19. avatar Noishkel says:

    Well it’s really not the hardware, it’s the policies. Specifically on the federal level. Area’s Arms: charged with illegal plastic. Raided. Gibson Guitars: charged with ‘illegal wood’. Raided. Amish farm’s in Texas: charged with ILLEGAL MILK. RAIDED. All three of these cases are generally paperwork violations. Things that do NOT call for full military hardware and tactics.

    1. avatar JR says:

      “All three of these cases are generally paperwork violations. “

      I like to call those “Crimes against Bureaucracy.”

  20. avatar Dean says:

    Not sure about the number but I know they are underpaid.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Not when you factor in:

      Department-provided vehicle that you keep 24×7 with gas and insurance also provided FOC;
      Paid helath and life insurance for life;
      Discounts and freebies at a variety of establishments.

      Depending on where you are, the transportation savings alone could a double-digit percentage of your paycheck.

  21. I don’t have a problem with well armed police forces. I have a problem with that same police force not allowing me to arm myself accordingly.

  22. avatar Shakey says:

    I know that I am going to get flamed for this, but…

    Does anyone else see the irony in a guy who almost-but-not-quite supports _other people_ breaking the law in CT* and is sort-of behind some _other guys_ mounting armed resistance against the government in NV**, but when faced with a possible intruder at home, decides to let the cops investigate? Due to the “tactical challenges involved” of course.

    * http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2014/03/robert-farago/connecticut-will-spiral-control/
    ** http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2014/04/robert-farago/bundy-ranch-showdown-shape-things-come/

    1. avatar Delbert Grady says:

      You beat me to pointing that out. We expect our fearless leader to rappel outside with his Slidefire equipped FN AR and dispense some 5.56 cal justice. Not hide behind the dog and wait for OfficerESSE Sheila with a Maglite to clear the area of bad guys.

      What a let down. All my heroes are dead. And I thought this was the first generation to fight.

      1. avatar Full Cleveland says:

        When the schnauzer sleeps all is well.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      No. Next tr0ll question.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Shakey,

      I do not see any irony. In the simplest of terms, Mr. Farago and people of like mind oppose the use of government force to enforce arbitrary laws and regulations. Mr. Farago and people of like mind do not oppose the use of government force to secure our inalienable rights.

      In Connecticut police are enforcing an arbitrary law that criminalizes plastic contraptions with springs (ammunition magazines) if the owner failed to register it with the state. In Nevada the Bureau of Land Management suspended the First Amendment in a giant region of public land. The first action is a result of legislative fiat. The second action is a result of bureaucratic fiat. Both actions violate our inalienable rights.

      In Mr. Farago’s case criminals trespassed onto Mr. Farago’s property and were attempting to break into his home with unknown intentions that could have ranged from theft to rape to murder. Mr. Farago was not calling on police to enforce legislative or bureaucratic fiat. Rather Mr. Farago was calling on police to assist him in securing his inalienable rights — the proper role of police.

      I hope that clears things up for you.

      1. avatar Shakey says:

        Uncommon,

        Thank you for a thoughtful response to my earlier provocative post. I appreciate it. You are entirely correct in the way that people could see a difference between the three situations. The ironical part, to me, is the editorial tone. Some could interpret the tone of the earlier posts as “you should grab your guns and defend your rights from the state” while the tone of the current post is “I’m going rely on the state to protect my rights.” Do as I say, not as I do. Irony.

        This post shows a reasonable response to a situation. The earlier posts are, IMO, pretty darn inflammatory and some could read them as being within spitting distance of the line between speech that is protected by the 1A and speech that is not. I would like to see more posts like this one and less posts like the others.

        Thanks again for responding.

  23. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I believe there are WAY too many federal “agents”. (What the Hell does the word “agent” really mean, anyway?)

    The number of state police and county Sheriff deputies seems roughly right in my region of the country. I would like to see a reduction of city police in many areas.

    Most of the federal three-letter agencies have to be dissolved and only one or two should be armed. The only federal agency with a Constitutional mandate is the U.S. Secret Service … and even then their only Constitutional activities are involved with counterfeiting. Anything else (such as protection details for politicians) is extra-legal.

  24. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    I figure the country would do just fine with about a quarter of the police we have now. First, you could eliminate 3/4 of the federal agencies and no one would miss them or their SWAT teams. Second, give up on the ‘war on drugs’, we lost. Admit it and move on with your lives. The SWAT teams are more pernicious than the drugs ever were. Third, there’s way too much traffic enforcement. We need cops to direct traffic when there’s an accident and maybe keep an eye on school zones, but if they weren’t so busy setting up speed traps they might actually have time to investigate into who’s been stealing car stereos. And if you eliminate six or seven hundred thousand cops the ones who are left won’t be so bored that they are itching to bust some doors down or crack some skulls.

    Then take a hundred thousand of the most qualified cops who are laid off and stick them in the border patrol.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      We can’t fire all those cops unless Walmart is hiring.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        You’re forgetting that with an extra 100,000 border patrol agents there will be a severe shortage of landscapers and roofers. Now that’s a funny thought, cops sweating their asses off on a roof!

  25. avatar MiniMe says:

    “Does America Have Too Many Ubber-militarized/Armed-with-tacticool-toys-up-the-ying-yang Police?”

    Yes.

    Next question.

  26. avatar bontai Joe says:

    One fo the good things Mayor Gulianni of NYC did during his tenure, was combine the transit police, the housing police and the regular police into one department. That eliminated a lot of the juridiction squabbles and pissing contests in the city. But he ended up with a force of some 50,000 if I remember correctly? Any department that size, is going to have some corruption, some incompetance, and some officers that are just flat out not suited for the job. I have seen the local municipalities in my neck of the woods combine small police forces into “regional” departments. The original thinking was instead of 6 chiefs, 6 assistant chiefs, 6 secretaries, 6 dispatchers, that one administrative unit could control 6 areas, and reduce costs. The actuality is that the administraftive dept got bigger because of the “additional responcibilities and increased investigative work” and officers on patrol also increased in number, with additional cars. trucks, SUVs needed for the urban and rural areas covered. I have no idea as to weaponry changes. So for a blanket statement nationally, do we have too many police? I don’t know. In my humble opinion, we couldn’t have too many sherriff Andy Taylors, but 2 Barney Fifes would be 2 too many.

  27. avatar Maineuh says:

    I’m kind of surprised by the ambivalence here. Maybe local police forces have grown too fat? Maybe police overstep their boundaries now and then? It seems like the past year has been one horrifying tale of cop abuse after another. No knock raids, dogs blasted, innocent people harassed, bullied or shot and nobody brought to justice. Armored vehicles in the suburbs, armies rolling down Main Street to confiscate a few ounces of weed, cops shooting at pizza guys, tackling old ladies, treating everybody like a terrorist. The ‘few bad apples’ line has worn thin in my view. I was nodding with agreement before I even got through Robert’s headline.

  28. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I see a serious potential problem with too many and too disconnected government “agents”: legitimate trust and recognition.

    Suppose the Drug Enforcement Agency believes that someone is a criminal and agents knock on their door to arrest him/her. Now consider this scenario from the suspect’s perspective. Two strangers dressed in suits knock on the door. They are driving a non-descript (probably rental) vehicle. They flash a piece of metal (badge), a piece of plastic (I.D.), and a piece of paper (warrant for arrest). And voila … the suspect is supposed to trust that these two guys are really employees of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and go quietly with them in handcuffs? I don’t think so. Anyone can easily create, purchase, or steal a shiny metal badge. Anyone can easily create, purchase, or steal a fake plastic I.D. And anyone can easily create a phony warrant with phony letterhead and print it on a color laserjet printer. Making the imposters’ task even easier is the fact that the suspect probably has no idea what real badges, I.D.s, and arrest warrants from the Drug Enforcement Agency look like.

    It would be much more difficult for imposters to kidnap a suspect if the imposters had to somehow replicate (or steal) three or four Sheriff patrol vehicles and Sheriff Deputy uniforms, badges, and I.D.s. And since the Sheriff is local, a suspect would also have a much greater chance of actually being able to discern authentic from fake items since he/she is likely familiar with their local Sheriff. Of course this would not help with a phony warrant.

    And what if local deputies encounter two “agents”? How are local deputies supposed to know if those two “agents” are real or imposters? Again, badges and I.D. are easy to create, buy, and/or steal.

    Thus my answer is to discontinue pretty much all non-local law enforcers.

  29. avatar kyle says:

    Tactical Challenges??? Its called grab your gun and light maybe put on clothes and go investigate. What is Tactically challenging about securing your own home? Imagine what could have happened to you or your kids/dogs/stuff in 5 minutes.

    1. avatar Lord Wulfgen says:

      So he should leave his daughter alone, go outside his locked home, and confront an unknown number of potential hostiles who may or may not be armed? All while in the dark and in a sleepy state.

      Yes, I would call those tactical challenges, Mr. Tactical Operator.

      1. avatar Kyle says:

        Did you even bother to read my comment?

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          Why would he?

        2. avatar Kyle says:

          I fail to see how securing your kids/wife and then checking to see if you door has been kicked in/etc presents any major tactical challenges.

          At no point did I say lets leave the kids/wife unprotected and go outside with a shotgun and try and hunt them down.

          I don’t know about your specifics, but good luck getting the police out there on an automated burglar alarm call in less than 15-20 minutes unless somebody actually calls 911 to report it, even then it is iffy at best. Burglar Alarms are very low priority calls for any major department unless there is some sort of human confirmation.

          I don’t know about you but I would not want to be sitting around waiting 15-20 minutes just to see if somebody is in my house robbing me or worse setting up an ambush.

      2. avatar Sheepdog6 says:

        Listen up. Kyle here operates in a totally operational way that you can’t even operationally fathom. In fact, he operates so operationally hard that he operates with a capital “O”. He Operates. A couple more Magpul classes and he might even be able to Operate in all caps. He could be an OPERATOR.

        1. avatar Kyle says:

          Explain how checking your own house when the police are not going to do jack shit is in any way operator? I’m not an operator by any stretch of the imagination, but luckily I have the luxury of being able to shoot first ask questions later in my own home. You must be pretty drunk to think it takes an “Operator” to clear your own damn house. What takes operator skill exactly? Most criminals are fairly docile with a shotgun pointed at their head.

  30. avatar Mk10108 says:

    In order to justify any police departments existence, it must create revenue or seize property for auction. A justice dept friend relayed he hopes the drug war never ends, because every dollar spent on enforcement, it makes three. And therein lies the reason law enforcement is getting bigger by the day. Overwhelming force to capture drug peddlers. Citizens are seeing this mentality expand into other agencies creating small unit reaction forces for every three letter government crew to screw citizens. Using paid informants, who make stuff up (justifying their payments) for agencies to secure warrants. We never saw anything like this from the 70-80 or early nighties.

  31. avatar Accur81 says:

    We have too many police – especial at the federal level. I can say that as a police officer. Although there are definitely times where we are under-staffed. I’d say more but I’ve got work to do.

  32. avatar Great Scot says:

    The police are overstaffed, yes. Are there too many armed police? Yes and no. The police should have sidearms, and access to long guns in the squad cars. Departments should have some SWAT, but they are the only cops that should have military-style armaments.

  33. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    1. When you want something done correctly, you need to do it yourself. It’s as simple as that. Waiting for the 5-0 to respond is just giving an intruder more time to do… whatever he’s going to do.

    Further, if all you’re going to do is sit around and wait, what is the point of owning a gun and doing all this training again? You might as well be writing for Vogue or The New Republic. From what you state was your reaction, I now seriously question whether you’re just yanking everyone’s chain here.

    2. Your dog sounds (to me) useless. To me, a properly chosen dog is more useful than any alarm system – a proper dog is an alarm system and first response all in the same package. Dogs under 100lbs and 26″ at the shoulder need not apply for the job in this household.

    Years ago, some radio talk show hosts in the San Francisco area (at KGO) took a ride-around with some convicted thieves and scoped out various houses.

    What was the #1 thing that concerned thieves? Owner with a gun? Nope. That was #2. #1 concern was a dog that barked. #1+ concern was a Big Dog that barked and then started to deal with the intruder. Why were dogs a bigger concern than an armed homeowner? Both ex-cons said “Dogs don’t worry about what the DA or cops will say…” Dogs deal with the issue without any of the concerns of a human – like “will blood wash out of my nice berber carpet?”

    3. There are far too many cops in the US. Put aside all the civil libertarian issues that have been brought up on TTAG on the subject. Just look at the books of many of the larger states and their unfunded pension issues.

    Detroit and Illinois provide some of the best examples. In Detroit, if they honor the retired cops’ pensions, they will have to lay off current members of the police force. If they pay the current cops the current salary/benefit packages, they will have to cut the pensions of the retired cops.

    Detroit is just the first domino in the chain of fiscal imprudence to come fully into the light of day in bankruptcy court. They won’t be the last.

    The current level of absurd police over-staffing (there’s no need for all these LEO’s in a country where crime rates are falling – and have been falling for a generation) in the US cannot persist, based purely upon a sound and sustainable financial analysis of the situation. This would be true if all the members of police forces had IQ’s at least 2SD’s above average, were polite, professional and crack shots.

    But when we come back to reality, and add in the IQ deficits, the attitude issues and the malevolent malfeasance of LEO’s with mind-boggling levels of weaponry… well, it’s long past time for the taxpayers to clean house.

    1. avatar Kyle says:

      Bingo

  34. avatar Andy says:

    Right now there is a situation in Jackson , Ms. Where an off duty deputy , that was a part time referee at a basketball game , killed a coach due to the coach debuting a call by the said referee , the coach got up into the referee’s face , and then the referee body slammed the coach onto the floor in the process causing the coach to suffer a head injury that killed him , the referee/deputy has been arrested , placed on unpaid leave from the SO . Don’t know which way this will go but with the growing abuse by law enforcement virtually going unchecked or passed by as policy , he probably will get off . I am not just “stirring the pot ” I used to be a deputy myself , and a lot of the persons in law enforcement now should not be there , to much unrestrained violence , and not taking responsibility for misuse of power , plus political appointees trying to save their own job by saying things like this are within policy guidelines , and the fact of the matter is that most police chiefs are appointed by mayors who are elected officials who don’t want to look soft on crime , so a lot of the cases of police abuses are just said to be under Investagation , until folks forget about them then the cases get pushed out of the way . Then you have the militarization of police , actually done by the federal government , by giving equipment and training that borders on military training . I am not saying that most cops are bad but there are a lot that just don’t have the right mindset or attitude to be in the job . Be prepared and ready . Keep your powder dry .

    1. avatar DJ says:

      Sovereign immunity doesn’t protect him off duty. I’m thinking he’s going to jail.

  35. avatar Sc says:

    I live in a fairly affluent town of about 10,000 in a very affluent county right outside NYC. Granted we do have a bad side of the tracks that is very poor and is mostly migrant workers, bu I live several miles from there.
    I moved here when I got married about 5 years ago, and moved into my wife’s house where she had already been living for 5 years.
    It was a beautiful summer day about 6 months after we got hitched when I cut out of work a little early to enjoy the sun and spend some time with my new bride. When I pulled up to my house my heart stopped. There were six police cars jammed in my driveway and parked on my neighbor’s lawn. There were also about a dozen cops milling about. Some in fill operator gear. Some in regular uniform. I think they were a mix of county and local town cops.
    Some background on my wife and I, we work in different but related fields. not law enforcement, but suffice it to say we are both often working against very bad people that have shown that they are very wiling to resort to violence and have in the past. My wife carries all the time, while I carry when I am allowed. I usually am working in NYC so my NYS permit is worthless, and I’m defenseless more often than not.
    Suffice it to say, when I came upon this scene in my yard, I thought the worst. Either my wife was dead or she had to make someone else dead to protect herself. While I’m not religious I thank every god that might exist that neither was the case.
    My wife never had a landline phone before I moved in. She relied on her cell, and it worked fine. I needed landline for work, so I had one put in. The number I was assigned was apparently a cell number before it was given to me, and it was the cell number of some lowlife that apparently assaulted his wife and was getting slapped with a temporary order of protection. So the police looked up whatever phone number they could find on this guy and then looked up the address associated with that number. Apparently skipping over any other verification apart from that. This gentleman also had a name that was stereotypical Hispanic, while my name and my wife’s name are not even remotely close to Hispanic.
    We have a fenced in yard and sometimes let our dog out for short periods of time unsupervised. She’s what some would see as fighting breed,but has an impeccable temperament. She came close to being another canine casualty. Again, thank every god that might exist, that my wife happened to be outside. She deals with the police all the time so she remained calm. When she told them she had never heard of the name they were looking for, they tried to strong arm her into letting them search the house. She did not let that happen. When I pulled up they wanted to see my ID, etc. I was dressed in a suit, lugging several briefcases of files and as far as you can get in ethnicity from being Hispanic.
    So my take on the topic is that yes there are too many. Since crime has been falling, when there is the possibility of excitement, as many of them as possible come along for the ride. However they don’t effectively use the resources they have. If 12 guys were at my house one of them could have double checked whether or not the offender still actually had the phone number assigned to him. I mean seriously. Some actual investigative work would have been nice. They just plugged the number in anywho and jotted down the address. Mind you, I figured all of this out after they left. They told us that they had confirmed information that tied the individual to our address. It took me about 15 minutes lexis nexis to piece together the actual story. i plugged in the guys name and low and behold, his noted as disconnected cell phone number was my now six month old landline number. It had been disconnected from him 18 months earlier.

  36. avatar Col. Angus says:

    Well, based on the number of LEOs I just saw standing around, smoking, grab-assing, talking on their mobiles, chatting up the civilians and generally being an impediment at a minor traffic accident, I’d say yeah, we have WAY too many cops, armed or otherwise.

    1. avatar Publius says:

      I passed eight cruisers sitting alongside the highway issuing speeding tickets on the way to work today – this is in a 15 mile stretch. Too many cops, period.

    2. avatar Joseph says:

      With the exception of our chief the officers in my town are good guys. Our chief has been assaulted off-duty by numerous… shall we say… “aggrieved husbands.” That’s beside the point though, as decent as the other 2/3rds of our local PD is they still come off as clowns sometimes, mostly because on a daily basis there’s little to nothing for them to do other than roll around town being bored.

      For instance the other day I was on a cigarette break when one of them… we’ll call him “Chevy” who my boss and I eat lunch with several times a week pulled over a guy on a wheelchair; sirens, bullhorn, the full Monty. Then he just kind of said “screw it” and let the guy go, pulled out and directed traffic for a minute to help the guy cross the street before wandering over and having a cigarette with me.

      I like Chevy, he’s the exception to the rule because even when he acts like an ass he usually corrects it and spends a few minutes making up for it and building up goodwill with the community at large. Most LEO’s however just get bored and act like an ass, which pisses off the people they’re supposed to be serving and protecting causing the LEO in question to behave in a more aggressively annoying manner and so on and so forth creating a vicious cycle of irritation and mistrust.

      Nothing against cops, I wish them the best, hope that they’re safe in their day to day activities etc but any “bored cop” is another cop too many.

  37. avatar DJ says:

    In order to deploy SWAT the PD should have to demonstrate proof that the situation they are responding to has a high probability of requiring lethal force to resolve. If there isn’t a significant chance you are going to have to shoot someone, you don’t need a tactical team to do it.

  38. avatar Publius says:

    America has too many police, period. Now, you can’t just do a set “Cut x% from every department”, but any officers who spend 75% or more of their time writing traffic tickets or citations for other non-criminal offenses need to go. They aren’t preventing crime, they aren’t catching bad guys – they are merely sucking up tax-payers money to harass people who haven’t committed a crime. Also, in order to justify a SWAT team, a city must show a given level of crime per 100,000 people and that they have had multiple hostage situations in the past (since that’s the entire point of a SWAT team). That would eliminate most of the SWAT teams who go full retard because they sit around with nothing to do 99.9% of the year. Cops who are catching murderers, rapists, and thieves can stay. Pretty much everyone else can go find a new job and start being a productive member of society instead of draining the wallets of taxpayers.

    1. avatar Grumpy in Kali says:

      Guess a “routine” traffic stop for a moving violation never yielded an arrest or anything…

  39. avatar SpecialK says:

    This is an economic problem: law enforcement is insulated from market forces by bureaucrats and politicians who choose the number of LEOs, their armament, allocation to various precincts, etc. based on political considerations rather than purely matching supply to demand. The average politician perceives that too many LEOs are better than too few, as a 30-minute response time in a critical situation can get bad PR and lose a mayor an election, whereas too many cops sitting around eating doughnuts and absorbing tax dollars isn’t likely to get a lot of attention. This is why there tends to be an oversupply of LEOs, especially in urban environments. The problem comes in when there are too many LEOs, and, more specifically, too many LEO leaders looking to justify their existence, leading to superfluous SWAT units, MRAPs, etc. We would be better if the government did not have a near-monopoly on deterring and punishing aggression. We need a libertarian revolution. I am the son of a LEO and have a great deal of admiration for most cops, for what it is worth.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      You’re exactly correct, and there is a branch of economics that has arisen to describe this situation.

      Look into “public choice theory,” developed in the UK by James Buchanan in the late 60’s and 70’s. It was the branch of thought that propelled Maggie Thatcher into office when the public sector had choked the UK’s growth down to nothing by the early 70’s.

      Here is a quote that, for me, gets to the nut of the problem:

      “It is the behaviour of public sector bureaucrats which is at the heart of public choice theory. While they are supposed to work in the public interest, putting into practice the policies of government as efficiently and effectively as possible, public choice theorists see bureaucrats as self- interested utility-maximizers, motivated by such factors as: ‘salary, prerequisites of the office, public reputation, power, patronage…and the ease of managing the bureau.’ ” (from Niskanen, W.A. Bureaucracy: Servant or Master?)

      1. avatar SpecialK says:

        You are spot on. Classic agency problem. I am also an adjunct econ prof in my spare time. Check out REMM theory if you get a chance, there is a great paper available at http://str403.mbatrack.rochester.edu/Jensen_and_Meckling___The_Nature_of_Man__01/Nature%20of%20Man.pdf , I use it in all of my into to econ courses.

  40. avatar jamesii says:

    I have no problem with RF’s decision. In the event that criminals make the “say goodbye to your family a**hole” mistake of breaking into our home we would be barricaded in a room, armed and calling 911. As long as they avoid the room we are in they can take what they want. Except for the human population including the dog there is nothing in our home worth dying for. There is also nothing in our house worth killing for except the human population including the dog.

  41. avatar Richard says:

    My very affluent NJ town has 45 officers for 21,000 people. Probably way too many officers but they are professional, courteous and good people.

  42. avatar H.R. says:

    I guess the answer would depend on your idea of how many police is “enough.”

    You’d also have to divide the total number by three shifts – not everyone is working at once.

    Personally, I’m more worried about the police attitude than I am about how many there are. They do have a stressful job, but they also need to remember what their job is… And what it isn’t. I think most do, but here are some who allow themselves to feel superior. Not cool.

  43. avatar Hannibal says:

    It’s not too many or too few on a national basis… it’s too many in some areas and not enough in others. That’s where you get the problems.

  44. avatar Cuteandfuzzybunnies says:

    Ok I think we need to think about getting rid of the police all together. Why not eliminate armed police agencies completely and contract out to private law enforcement. This may sound crazy but it actually has worked in the past and would work
    Much better now. The only reason we don’t have more private police forces is that they are illegal in most places. Local and state governments like to have a monopoly. But anyplace they have been tried they have worked well.

  45. avatar kevin says:

    “””The police and their apologists justify it as “You never know” but there is something to be said for risk assessment. “””””

    The antis say the same thing about non-LEOs, wondering why they carry guns at all, after all, I think it would be fair to say that the average LEO has a better chance of being attacked by an armed assailant that the average non-LEO.

    one thing you guys never point out, is that vast majority of unjustified shootings/beatings/corruption happen in liberal crap-holes like LA/Detroit/chicogo/NY, most of the people there are crap because the citys are crap and filled with libs, why would you expect the cops there to be any better than the citizens, they are all part of the same system.

    according to your stats 1.1 million cops, yet the vast majority of them don’t shoot dogs and kids or oppress people.

    militarization of the police is a myth. I had an AR and body armor before I ever became a cop, are you telling me I shouldn’t get to use that stuff on patrol now because im a LEO? youtube and arfcom are rife with vids and pics showing gear queers and their thousands of dollars worth of tac-crap, but the police should have it?

    the very few agencies that utilize armored vehicles and drones are filed with men and women hand picked by chiefs who were hand picked and appointed by corrupt lib politicians, from lib cities. the authoritarianism trickles down.

    If you think the cops now are militarized you should look up some pics of the cops during the prohibition era. armored vehicles and machine guns all around, no one complained about that. there is no gear a police agency can acquire that a non LEO cant, it just costs them less.

    1. avatar Publius says:

      “militarization of the police is a myth. I had an AR and body armor before I ever became a cop, are you telling me I shouldn’t get to use that stuff on patrol now because im a LEO? youtube and arfcom are rife with vids and pics showing gear queers and their thousands of dollars worth of tac-crap, but the police should have it?”

      No, you shouldn’t. Why? Because the police are not held accountable for their actions. If Joe Six-pack misuses his AR-15, he’ll be punished – severely. If a cop misuses his AR-15, the worst that will happen is he’ll get an unpaid vacation for a week or two until the news finds another story to focus on. The police have shown time after time that they cannot be trusted with power or weapons.

      “If you think the cops now are militarized you should look up some pics of the cops during the prohibition era. armored vehicles and machine guns all around, no one complained about that.”

      Except back then the police weren’t frequently using that equipment against average Americans. Sure, they used the hell out of it against the gangs – but people who weren’t involved in making or smuggling illegal alcohol had nothing to worry about. That’s not the case today, where ordinary decent Americans have SWAT teams smashing down their doors and shooting up their homes without justification. You cannot tell me that all of the “accidents” are truly accidental…they happen far too frequently for that and none of the officers are ever punished. The constant “wrong address” SWAT attacks are about intimidating Americans and trying to use fear to inspire submission to the police.

      “there is no gear a police agency can acquire that a non LEO cant, it just costs them less.”

      Really? Please show me where I can get a brand new M4 or M16. How about a MRAP or APC? What about grenades or a grenade launcher (firing actual grenades – not flares)?

  46. avatar Paco says:

    With all the new laws created, nearly everyone breaks at least 1 law daily, so no, we don’t have anywhere enough police.

  47. avatar Magicmanmb says:

    Majority of local departments in the U.S. have less than 20 total officers. That includes chiefs & supervisors who shuffle paperwork. I know of several departments locally that have 2/3 part time officers per 500. Work with one volunteer basis doing paperwork to keep a road cop out. For the money in non-union areas & 45 minutes for back-up be happy you have any coverage.

  48. avatar Joseph says:

    While I personally believe there to be far too many armed LEO’s in this country this article was obtuse, poorly written and failed to present a clear topic.

    The article itself seems adequately researched but overall the confusing segue from an irrelevant anecdote into supporting data for an insufficiently clear thesis right up through the body and conclusion which vacillates between a persuasive and inquisitive tone just doesn’t live up to the expectations I have formed for content on this site.

    I’m very nearly inclined to believe that RF is trolling here.

  49. avatar Mark Griffin says:

    I support the security system in U.S because we forget something that is important for our “LIFE”. Lack of private security profestionals results this type of armed police profestionals. Thank U.

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