Book Review: Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces

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I finally finished reading Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. RF did a brief preview of the book last year when it came out, but never got around to a full-blown treatment. I figured that since I was also reading it, I might as well step in and get it done. This is one of the more enlightening books that I’ve read in the last year or so, a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how we went from this . . .

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To this:

militarized-police

Balko begins by posing the question, “Are cops constitutional?” He acknowledges that the question may seem a little nutty, but that exact question was asked by legal scholar and civil liberties activist, Roger Roots in a 2001 Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal article. He suggests that in colonial days, much of responsibility for policing rested with private citizens rather than appointed officials and that the model for policing we have today would have been seen as constitutionally invalid by the Founders.

Law enforcement in the 18th century was more of a private matter and infractions were generally punished by the community. Public shaming and social stigma usually took care of most issues and the most incorrigible were either expelled from the community or executed. The concept of long-term incarceration was relatively unknown at the time.

Things of course had to change as the makeup of the new world changed. Villages grew into towns and then cities. As once homogenous collections of fellow citizens who were mostly alike became diverse melting pots, the traditional means of keeping people in line lost its power. Balko suggests that the Founders would probably have viewed even the nineteenth century police forces as a standing army and would have been absolutely terrified to witness a typical no-knock SWAT raid.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which had its early roots in English common law and what would later become known as the castle coctrine placed a person’s home in high regard. “A man’s home is his castle,” the saying goes and the intent is that a person should feel safe and secure in their own home.

Even during Colonial times, the odious Writ of Assistance that allowed English customs officials to enter a private residence for the purpose of searching for contraband were not as extreme as what we have today. A holder of a Writ of Assistance could not enter the home at night and was required to knock and announce and allow sufficient time for a citizen to answer before they could break down a door. The last forty years of laws and judicial review have gone a long way to undermining this feeling of sanctuary.

By the time politicians and courts were done, police could break down practically anyone’s door with impunity and escape responsibility so long as they could show that they tried their best to do things correctly. I don’t know about you, but I think that giving people an “A” for effort ends around the third or fourth grade. When you’re talking about people who kick in doors and wave lethal weapons around, you either get it right or you should get your ass handed to you. Mistakes simply cannot be tolerated.

In the early portion of the book, Balko traces the history of formal police forces going back as far as the Praetorian Guard of the Roman Empire. He paints an interesting picture, showing how things broke down back then when many of the same incentives used today were introduced to the mix. Policing as a concept took a hiatus after the fall of Rome, the notable exception being the cities in Italy that became hubs for trade.

By the middle ages, various concepts had grown up on the continent of Europe as well as in Great Britain. England gave the world the first modern police force in 1829 when Sir Robert Peel successfully convinced Parliament to create one. Peel had been advocating a force for more than a decade, but Parliament, concerned with civil rights, had resisted. It finally gave in only after ensuring that the police would be locally controlled and focused exclusively on fighting crime and protecting individual rights. They did not want the force to be an army enforcing the will of a centralized power (how things have changed in the Land of Hope and Glory).

Peel selected blue for his police uniforms so as to contrast with the red worn by the army. He also created a hierarchy based upon military ranks. His police force would become the model here in the U.S.

The book rapidly moves through the intervening decades, leading up to the 1960’s – the turning point in the drive towards Police militarization. One prominent stop was the 1930’s when General MacArthur was ordered to disperse the World War I veterans who had set up camp in Washington D.C. to protest the government’s refusal to honor its pre-war commitment and pay all veterans a war bonus.

MacArthur had no problem rolling tanks and running the vets off at the point of a bayonet. Later that year, MacArthur’s protege, George Patton would pen “Federal Troops in Domestic Disturbances” which was full of contempt for citizens and free expression.  Patton recommended shooting captured rioters in the street, establishing a line and killing anyone who dared cross it.  He also believed that a few dead are martyrs, while a lot of dead are an object lesson. From his perspective, if the military becomes involved, civilians should be treated like enemy combatants without the rights provided by the Geneva Convention.

Think about that perspective for a minute and don’t doubt that there are currently people in the military who hold similar views. If soldiers could be used to drive veterans out of Washington in the 1930’s, have no doubt that soldiers, ordered to put down insurrection today would likely respond similarly. But, back to the the 1960’s. It all began with a young cop named Daryl Gates.

Most people already know that the SWAT concept was born in Los Angeles in the 1960’s. It was the brainchild of Gates, who would ultimately go on to become the Chief of Police in Los Angeles. Gates didn’t start out as a gung-ho door kicker. Rather, his view was shaped by events of the turbulent 1960’s. The Watts riots, the University of Texas tower shootings, and several other events demonstrated to Gates that the police lacked the tools necessary to deal with emergent threats.

There was nothing wrong with Barney Fife patrolling the street and getting to know the neighbors, but in his view, you also needed a squad ready to deal with things when they got really unpleasant. If the SWAT concept had stopped there, things would have been fine. Gates was absolutely right — there are times when a highly trained and well-equipped force is needed to deal with seriously bad situations. The problem, however, was that SWAT grew to become so much more. Beginning with Nixon, drugs became Public Enemy Number One and Gates had just handed Nixon a perfect means to enforce his will.

In order to demonstrate his “get tough on crime” policy, Nixon began to sow fear. He got white America to fear the “black criminals amongst us.”  The 1960’s was a volatile time in the civil rights struggle and middle class America wanted its government to do something. Barack Obama is often accused of using class warfare to accomplish his aims. Pit black Americans against white Americans (i.e., the Martin-Zimmerman affair), pit the “middle class” (whatever the hell that is exactly) against Wall Street, etc. But Obama is merely the most current in a long line of such opportunists. As Balko shows, class warfare has been a favorite tool of politicians dating back at least to Nixon, if not before. Nixon and later Reagan were adept at using the politics of fear to expand the police state.

Today, both of the major political parties in this country are largely pro-police militarization, but it wasn’t always that way.  Republicans were more likely to approve the jackboots early on, but Democrats would eventually catch up. Nixon got the ball rolling with his war on drugs. Under his administration, the no-knock raid was authorized for police in the District of Columbia as well as for Federal Law enforcement officers nationwide. In 1974, no-knock opponents in Congress reacted to a string of botched raids and repealed the authorization. President Ford signed the bill into law in 1975. President Carter also took a much less contentious approach to aggressive enforcement, but Reagan picked up the baton and ran with it in ways Nixon could never have dreamed of.

The election of Bill Clinton in 1992 raised hopes that things would change on the drug war front with an admitted pot smoker (though not an inhaler) in the White House. But they didn’t, in fact things only got worse. Clinton put a Democratic stamp of approval on high profile militarized police tactics in a way no one had managed to do before. Emboldened, the BATF continued it’s pattern of abuse, following up on 1992’s Ruby Ridge fiasco (a Bush era event) with the sanctioned murders in Waco. While these actions were bad enough, the Clinton era would put a shocking face on the development of police militarization:

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About the only positive thing you can say here is that the soldier cop wasn’t dressed in typical SWAT black. Good thing the Gonzalez family had no dogs.

George W. Bush condemned the raid on the Gonzales family, won the election, then moved onto a determined campaign to suppress states’ rights. Specifically, the passage of Medical Marijuana laws in California, which the Federal Government ignored in favor of the federal prohibitions which were still in place. Heavily armed SWAT teams would raid the homes of cancer and AIDS patients because these people, who had very little left to look forward to in life, were trying to alleviate their suffering but were violating high and mighty federal laws to do so.

One positive thing that Bush would later do would be to reduce the funding available for programs like the Byrne grants which provided federal dollars to local police in the hopes of reducing the influence the federal government had on local law enforcement.  Clinton had held  Byrne grant awards fairly steady at $500 million annually but Bush cut them to $170 million.  Those cutbacks ended with the election of Obama.  Joe Biden was a big proponent of the Byrne Grant program so the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained $2 billion for the Byrne Grant program – four times what Clinton had offered and by far the largest budget in the program’s history.

One of the potent ironies here is that the system has been deliberately designed to reward the wrong behavior.  The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which first appeared in the 1988 crime bill provides Federal dollars to local police departments based upon their needs.  Unfortunately, need is determined by crime rates, so if a community is successful in lowering crime, it will lose grant money in favor of cities with higher crime rates that presumably need the money more. Under this incentive, cities are rewarded for increasing arrests. As a bonus, if the arrest involves narcotics, then the police department can receive additional funding under the asset forfeiture laws which reward participating police departments with a share of take.  This money is used to purchase more toys, which are then used to make it “safer” for officers to conduct even more drug raids and continue the circle.

The justification for up militarizing police (body armor, full auto weapons, .50 machine guns, armored personnel carriers) has always been that things are getting dangerous out there and we need to protect our officers as they do their jobs.  The unspoken question in all of this is whether the lack of this heavy equipment might actually encourage police to choose alternative means for getting the job done.  No one will argue that body armor and/or an armored personnel carrier with a battering ram is a nice thing to have for you are dealing with a hostage rescue situation or a barricaded sniper.  However, given the fact that for many SWAT teams, especially in smaller communities these sorts of issues will simply never come up, does East Nowhere, KS really need all this stuff?  Is it possible that because we have provided police with the hammers, they are going to go out looking for nails?

Toys are one thing though.  Training and the right SWAT personnel are something else.  Balko brings us a very important point concerning the makeup and design of the SWAT team concept.  SWAT teams are equipped with powerful weapons and more often than not find themselves in situations that require fast and accurate decision making in order to minimize casualties and collateral damage.  For this reason, SWAT doesn’t need “cowboys”; they need highly trained and highly disciplined officers who have the experience to read a situation and to react appropriately.  To achieve this level of professionalism, two things are required; a deep pool from which to select candidates and extensive ongoing training.  When Daryl Gates formed the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, he had over nine thousand officers from which to pick and the team was designed to be full time, meaning that SWAT officers were on SWAT, period.

Most smaller jurisdictions feature part time SWAT teams that are composed of volunteers from the regular police force.  These men and women spend most of the time in their cruisers, walking the beat, or pushing paperwork until the Bat-Phone goes off and they head to the Bat Cave station to form up for their next mission.  The simple fact is that while they may receive specialized training for SWAT, it is not a full time job for them, so they are not going to be as effective as a full time SWAT unit would be.  Furthermore, since they need to come pack to the station, get into their gear, and then head out as a unit, response time will be worse than if they were ready to deploy the minute the call came in.  Balko also emphasizes the point that officer mentality is critical when selecting the team.  The officers who most want to be on the SWAT team are usually the officers who should be excluded from membership.  This is a huge issue for small police forces that decide they need a SWAT team.  The total pool of candidates is not very deep, so the likelihood of getting someone on the team who poses a grave risk to the safety of the public is high.  One of the sources cited in Balko’s book was at the time preparing to testify in a lawsuit against the SWAT team of a 28 person Police Department.

I’ve taken some classes up at the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire, where some of its instructors are members of local SWAT teams.  Out of curiosity, I took a look at what the SWAT team of the largest city in the area, Manchester, had to say about itself.  From the web site:

“Every position assigned to the SWAT Unit is a collateral duty assignment and there are no full time SWAT positions….Tactical activations for the SWAT Team are primarily for high-risk warrant service operations. Most of the warrant service requests come from the Special Investigations Unit. Requests for high-risk warrant service have also been received from the FBI, DEA and ATF.”

Yep. Pretty much validates every one of Balko’s contentions; part time membership in the SWAT team composed of full-time patrol officers that is primarily used for high risk warrant service requests from the Special Investigations Unit (Narcotics) as well as the FBI, DEA, and ATF. (also mostly Narcotics and Guns).

The growth of SWAT teams has been truly staggering.  By 2005, 80% of towns and cities with 25,000 to 50,000 residents had their own SWAT team, many of them made up of part timers.  SWAT deployments in the early 1980s numbered about 3,000 annually nationwide.  By 1995, that number had grown to just under 30,000 – a 937% rise.  By 2005, 50,000-60,000 per year.  Some teams were conducting as many as 700 raids a year – nearly two a day.  Oddly, I don’t remember an increase in the type of crimes that SWAT was originally conceived of to fight.  There was certainly no significant rise in hostage situations, barricaded suspects, or snipers.  No, nearly all of the increase could be chalked up to drug enforcement.  Unfortunately, since this is most of the work performed by SWAT these days, many of those officers are poorly trained or equipped for any other sort of situation.

One clear example was last year’s Boston Marathon Bombing and ensuing manhunt, which turned into a Tommy Tactical convention attended by every SWAT unit that could get their MRAP to make the trip.  As if the mix of dozens of tactical teams was not confusing enough, many officers “self deployed” meaning that they suited up and went to help without any inter agency coordination.  This impacted the command structure and led to cowboys with guns looking for someone to shoot.  (Hmmm, now that I think about it, that’s how anti-gunners describe gun owners.  How ironic.)  Anyway, this massive SWAT deployment led to the sort of circle jerk that was the shootout with the brothers in the car that would end up with multiple officers being hit by other officers with at least one serious injury resulting and thousands of police rounds sprayed into residential neighborhoods.  Here’s a little tip that some of the part-time SWAT boys should consider – if you make a circle around the suspect and everyone fires at him, those bullets are not going to stop just because they reach the center of the circle.

So, who watches the watchers?  Well, proponents of the SWAT concept have always maintained that the court system serves as the gatekeepers.  While that is nice in theory, in practice, it simply does not happen.  Numerous SCOTUS decisions over the years have worn away at the protections of the Fourth Amendment.  In 1995’s Wilson v. Arkansas, the court ruled that the Castle Doctrine was indeed incorporated into the Fourth Amendment, so no-knock raids were to be somewhat restricted yet declared that certain unspecified “exigent circumstances” could exist which would allow police on the scene to upgrade from “knock and announce” to “no knock” on their own authority.  1997’s Richards v. Wisconsin specifically waived the knock and announce requirement for any raid involving narcotics on the theory that the easy disposal of narcotics was an exigent circumstance.  In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that 15-20 seconds was enough of a wait time at the door before police could kick it down in United States v. Banks.  2006’s Hudson v. Michigan decided that the exclusionary rule for evidence did not apply even if the no-knock raid was illegal.  So, if the cops illegally kick your door in but then find some evidence of a crime, you’re going to be someone’s bitch cellmate.  (For those unsure, the exclusionary rule states that evidence gathered during an illegal search is not admissible).

In Hudson, Justice Scalia specifically stated that the Exclusionary Rule is not needed because there are other methods of holding police accountable.  He cited police holding their own accountable, citizens filing formal protests, and citizen review boards.  Obviously Justice Scalia lives in a different reality than the rest of us.  As for the court system itself reviewing and questioning warrants before issuing them, that does not appear to be happening either.  In 1999, the Denver Post conducted a review of warrants issued in the Denver area.  They found that over a 12 month period, 97% of requested no knock warrants (158 out of 163) were issued and the Defense Attorneys they spoke with were surprised that the number was not even higher.  Their thoughts were that the police must have really screwed things up on the five rejected warrants for them not to go through.  Even more disturbing, in about 10% of the cases, a no-knock warrant was approved by the judge or magistrate even though Police had only requested a knock and announce warrant.  When pressed on this point, Robert Patterson, Presiding Judge over Denver’s Criminal court system said that it was not the job of the judge to gather facts before approving the warrant.  It was a formulaic process that all of the judges and magistrates followed.  Furthermore, in response to the accidental no-knock approvals, he chalked it up to the fact that judges have hundreds of things to sign every day and occasionally the judge will look away for a minute  and put their signature in the wrong space.

Methinks that if armed police kicked his door in one night, he might feel a bit differently about reading things before signing them.  His callous disregard for the rights of the citizens he is supposed to serve is both telling and chilling.

In the end, this book carried some hard lessons for me.  Politically, I’ve always leaned to the right.  I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever voted for a Democrat.  I may have cast votes for a Libertarian when the Republican candidate was too odious to support, but never a Democrat.  From the tone of many of the commenters here, it’s safe to say that the prevailing viewpoint is that Democrats (Liberals) are Statists bent on taking away our rights while Republicans (Conservatives) are more likely to stand against them.  While there is some truth to this belief, (exhibited most recently last year during the Gun Control debates in the Senate, which were only narrowly defeated by a coalition of Republican Senators acting against the Democrat majority), the fact is that both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for getting us to where we are now.

As of 2014, we have a standing army in our midst.  One that is not afraid to use whatever tactics it thinks are necessary and has economic incentives to keep citizenry terrorized.  We truly have something that would horrify the Founders.  Furthermore, those Constitutional aspects of the Government, which we rely upon to serve as checks – The Tenth Amendment, the Separation of Powers between Executive, Legislation, and Judicial, the Bill of Rights in General – do not appear to be working either.  Much of the problem we have has been formulated, funded, and foisted off on the states by a Federal Government that has overstepped it power, assisted by a Judiciary of supposedly Constitutional Scholars who have decided to re-write the Constitution from the bench.

What we have now with respect to Militarized Police does far more harm to our country than the “drug problem” it was created to help.  Clearly a situation where the cure is worse than the disease.  All is not lost however.  If enough citizens become aware of the danger in their midst and start to hold local officials accountable, we can change things.  Sure, you might not be able to directly influence what happens in Washington, but you can have some influence with what goes on in your town.

At the close of his book, Balko offers a number of suggestions that could start to reverse the erosion of the Fourth Amendment and move us back in the direction the Founders envisioned.

  1. End the Drug War.  He does not suggest full legalization, but he does propose an end to the the heavy handed enforcement procedures and possibly decriminalize some drug offenses
  2. End Mission Creep.  Regulatory agencies such as the Department of Education & the FDA do not need their own SWAT teams
  3. Increase Transparency.  Encourage citizens to record police activities.  Record all no-knock raids in a tamper-proof format that is subject to review by any interested citizen.
  4. Embrace true Community Policing
  5. Change Police Culture from an “us versus them” mentality back to a “serve and protect” one.
  6. Accountability: Make Police officers fully subject to the same laws the citizens are and hold them criminally liable when they commit egregious errors.

His most important suggestion is that more and more people need to start caring about these issues.  Pick up a copy of this book.  Read it.  Share it with friends and family.  This book was deeply disturbing to me (and I am a fairly cynical person to begin with).  It’s time to get disturbed.  Then its time to get involved.

comments

  1. avatar g says:

    Great review, and another book to add to the summer reading list.

    Of particular note, this:

    “The officers who most want to be on the SWAT team are usually the officers who should be excluded from membership. This is a huge issue for small police forces that decide they need a SWAT team. The total pool of candidates is not very deep, so the likelihood of getting someone on the team who poses a grave risk to the safety of the public is high.”

    Growing up, a family friend from the neighborhood who was a patrol officer became full-time SWAT team member. When my mother asked him why he was on SWAT, he replied that he initially didn’t want to join the team until he was convinced by a fellow officer to join. After joining, he said he thought the job was actually safer than being a patrol officer because of all the training they did, and the protective gear / weapons they used – not to mention that when you KNOW you’re going into a dangerous situation, your mind is better prepared for it versus being a patrol officer, you never know what can happen. Plus, he got to spend more time with his family as a SWAT guy than when he was in patrol.

    Super friendly, laid-back guy… if only there were more cops like him. He retired over a decade ago.

  2. avatar Dave in SoCal says:

    I read the book last year as well. Very eye opening.

    #6 above (accountability) is the the key. Take away immunity from SWAT “operators”, make them criminally and financially responsible for their actions (like private citizens) and watch their behavior change overnight. Even with a no knock raid at 2am, knowing that if they screwup they may pay the price, I think many of those gung Ho types may be just a bit more cautious.

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      Seasoned, pragmatic types, yes; gung-ho types, unlikely due to some mental disconnect between thought and action.

    2. avatar Mark says:

      I have been advocating the personal responsibility/liability on the part of police for some time. To be indemnified by your agency/government is an open license to hunt civilians.
      If the police departments will not change we at the street level need to hold them personally responsible. These people live in the community. They are easy to find and remedy.

      1. avatar Cameron says:

        Am I reading it right Mark? By remedy you mean we should grab our torches and pitch forks and head over to the cop’s house and “take care of him”, so to speak? What percentage of the community should be involved to make it a legimate “remedy”? Just the ones who agree that the cop is wrong or those who agree that the “victim’s” story is the only correct telling of the facts. Kinda a people’s tribunal composed of only those with the appropriate mindset.

        As far as the indeminity/immunity thing, I think I know where your going. If we can take away those protections we can then do firvoulous lawsuits on a daily basis. Really harrass the people we don’t like into leaving us alone. Some cops will quit, no one will want the job, and some will just stop doing anything. Win/win for us! I can go about my life totally unemcumbered by the rules of the community. Raise 24 pigs in my .10 acre yard, no problem. Neighbor complains to me about the smell, shove a gun in his face and tell him “Don’t tread on me!” Guy speeds down my street, hits and kills someone in my family? Track him down, I have the money and resources, then bring on the “remedy”! I think that is the best idea I have heard. Will solve all our problems and make America back into the way it was.

        If it doesn’t come across in the above, I think your comment Mark is the height of stupidity. I blame the right wing tinfoil hat crowd that espouse this idiotic philosophy, you need to stop drinking the Alex Jones brand Koolaid.

        1. avatar Greg says:

          I think you hit on the head. It was the Alex Jones tin foil types that walked in and killed two police officers and a ccw holder in Las Vegas. They to preach the same craziness. The only difference they acted on it. They only thing you can do with a rabid dog is put it down.

  3. avatar michael nieto says:

    I have no problem with government agents having military gear………… As long as I can have said gear too; that is the problem. militarized police are also a massive waste of taxpayer money 99% of time a swat team is used select fire rifles wont help them any more than a shotgun or handgun.

  4. avatar ThomasR says:

    Back in my youth; the heavily armed black ski masked person was considered a terrorist doing bad things out side of the law.

    I don’t see that that has changed; today; it is just done under the color of law. The USSC also at one time said that owning people as slaves was perfectly legal. They get it wrong all the time.

    History will look back at this time of “legal” no knock warrants and see it almost at the same level of violation of human rights as it was to own people as slaves.

    1. avatar Redleg says:

      “…I have been criticized by referring to our federal masked men as “ninja” … Let us reflect upon the fact that a man who covers his face shows reason to be ashamed of what he is doing. A man who takes it upon himself to shed blood while concealing his identity is a revolting perversion of the warrior ethic. It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target…” – Col. Jeff Cooper

      1. avatar Nicks87 says:

        Great quote, I used to think Cooper was kind of a douche but the older I get the more I find myself agreeing with him.

      2. avatar Jay Williams says:

        Ya gotta love the Colonel.

      3. avatar EagleScout87 says:

        The only place I’ll disagree with Cooper here is with the mexican autodefensas. Otherwise spot on.

  5. avatar Larry says:

    Those two pictures at the top of this the swat heavy mob and the town cop at the lunch counter by Rockwell sum up the whole problem and why people today no longer trust the police or see the policeman as a friend…..

    Sad very sad and I do not expect to to get back to the old way in my lifetime.

    1. avatar SGC says:

      Depends on where you live. In Smallville, Kansas…you can see that lunch counter cop any day. Downtown Detroit…not so much.

      Same as the kid sitting beside him: You can see that kid in smallville any day…in the urban inner city that kid is busting slack down to his knees shirtless with a blood or crip bandana around his noggin.

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    As someone who actually lived during the periods that Balko addresses — as opposed to Dear Radley, who probably learned his history from watching a DVD — I have to call bullsh1t on a lot of what he says. For example, this nonsense:

    “‘Nixon began to sow fear. He got white America to fear the “black criminals amongst us.’”

    That’s the dumbest thing I ever read. America was afraid of black criminals because they were criminals, and dangerous. Almost 3000 murders in one year in NYC alone will make you scared, and I guarantee you that not many New Yorkers listened to anything Dick Nixon had to say about anything.

    And America wasn’t all that thrilled with white criminals either. I suppose that white America would have been afraid of Asian criminals too, but there weren’t many.

    Which in no way invalidates Balko’s conclusions. Especially the last six points, which are true, correct and obvious. Which is why they will never be implemented.

    So Balko as a writer — pretty good. As a social scientist — very good. As a historian — dumb as a box of hammers.

    1. avatar Ray says:

      I’m curious where you got the “Almost 3000 murders in one year in NYC alone”.
      It seems to be exaggeration or inflammatory rounding up which statistically can be called lying particularly if this refers to the rate during the Nixon era.
      The statistics can be found here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_New_York_City_events,_crimes_and_disasters#Murders_by_year

      Hammer away.

      1. avatar Greg says:

        Now you have done it. Do not confuse him with the true facts. Now it will become a conspiracy.

  7. avatar Mike in RH Georgia says:

    Great review and great points! Will definitely add this to my reading list.

  8. avatar Sam Spade says:

    There are things you can blame on Nixon, but not the ’60s. He wasn’t president until ’69. All the 60’s violence can be laid right at the feet of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      How can that be? When Johnson ran against Goldwater, the nut from Arizona was clearly the man who was going to get us into a long and deadly Asian land war, while the wise Texan was going to save America. And it worked out just that way, didn’t it?

      Maybe not. Lyndon Johnson killed more Americans than cholesterol.

  9. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

    SWAT teams get used just enough that local departments say “see, we need one” made up of largely occasional-training volunteers, when in actuality the “missions” that the “operators” are doing are tasks that would be served much more effectively, and safely, by patrol officers if we didn’t think that the answer to everyone with a dime bag was a no-knock at 4am.

    If you actually only sent SWAT to SWAT-worthy tasks, you wouldn’t need near the number of them. You could have regional teams, well trained, equipped, and funded, that actually knew what the hell they were doing. Helicopter them in if you have to. They can be on scene, with better skills, than the locally-assembled part-time team that takes up to an hour to assemble. It’s like emergency medicine. Not every town in America needs or can support a trauma center. You helicopter a patient to one if you need to. The trauma center has equipment, knowledge, skills, expertise for only the sickest/most injured patients. Kinda like what SWAT was originally designed to do in the law enforcement world.

  10. avatar Vitor says:

    It is the old saying that those who doesnt learn from history are destined to repeat the same mistakes. The absurdo failure that was the alcohol prohibition should be more than enough to show how stupid it is to regulate what one does to his/her down body. But politicians love to put new shiny covers in bad ideas.

  11. avatar Excedrine says:

    I should add this to my reading list…

  12. avatar former water walker says:

    +1 Ralph. Do I see a decided left tilt here? Both sides are at fault. The so-called war on drugs is a sick joke. I don’t trust either party. But I will NEVER vote for a democrat.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      You are 4-for-4, fww. And that’s pretty damn good shooting.

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        Thanks I guess. I also actually lived in the 60s & 70’s. There were nearly 1000 murders per year in Chicago in the early 70s. We also had race riots at my Jr. High & High school 1969-1972. And YET everyone seemed much safer. Go figure.

  13. avatar seans says:

    The militarization of swat teams would not be so bad if they would use the right military tactics. Instead of using big army’s kick the door down and run around screaming tactic, they could model themselves off what the pros do. Hey you want the guy captured alive? Either surround the building and do a call out and make him come to you, or just wait to he goes to work. But it takes more work than just driving straight to a guy’s door and screaming “suprise cockfag”. The only reason to be making dynamic entries is for Hostage Rescues. Cag is probably the best at Dynamic Clearance and they still took insane casualties from doing it. Swat teams could have plenty of uses with all the gear and training they have, if they just drop the whole direct action idea.

    1. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

      “Si vis pacem, para bellum”
      “Molon Labe”
      I’ve heard these before.

      I must have missed the “Surprise cockfag” chapter someplace….

      Or is that a dynamic entry tactic? When your 7 member department has an armored car from a DHS grant, 56 ARs from milsurp, but can’t afford any flash bangs?

      In that case, screaming “surprise cockfag” while flashing your 6-D flashlight might accomplish…something, I’m sure.

      1. avatar seans says:

        So guessing you haven’t seen Team America.

        1. avatar TheOtherDavid says:

          Ahhhh, but having looked that reference up, I’m adding it to my “watch” list since I was a big “Thunderbirds” fan when I was little

  14. avatar Dallassoxfan says:

    Also add “The Locust Effect” to your list to see what happens in this world when there are laws but no enforcement.

  15. avatar WI Patriot says:

    If you want to be a “warrior”, join the military, otherwise leave the “militarization” to the military…as our illustrious leader has said on more than one occasion, “Weapon of war have no place on our streets”…

    1. avatar Greg says:

      WI Patriot
      So should you give up your weapons of war, because all firearms, sword, and the like are weapons of war. Quote Barry is not my first choice!!!!

      I have no problem with LE carrying the same firearms that every American citizen can own, do you? After all does the 2nd not apply to all!

      1. avatar WI Patriot says:

        ??? What…???

        1. avatar Greg says:

          I was pretty clear!!!

          You quoted your hero did you not:

          “Weapon of war have no place on our streets”…

          I was making sure you understand all weapons are products of or used at one time another in war. So what is you point?

        2. avatar Greg says:

          Need to correct some typos:

          I was pretty clear!!!

          You quoted your hero did you not:

          “Weapon of war have no place on our streets”…

          I was making sure you understood all weapons are products of or have been used in war at one time another. So what is your point again?

        3. avatar WI Patriot says:

          Greg, you’re dumber than a bag of rocks…my statement was said with a sarcastic twinge…as you can plainly see, nobody else responded in a negative manner…get a life troll…

        4. avatar Greg says:

          Only idiot here are those who follow your dysfunctional thought process. You are no more a Patriot than BHO.

  16. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    Here’s a fundamental part of the problem: Austin’s requirements for becoming a police officer. Note that possession of “high school transcripts” is a separate, but equally qualifying, criteria for getting hired as an Austin cop. Just having transcripts that show you attended a little high school is apparently enough to get you hired as an Austin cop. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this looks like a sure fire way of insuring that the Austin cop shop has a substantially higher percentage of poorly educated, intellectually challenged people serving as police officers. Sure I know all the arguments about education-not- being-everything-there-are-plenty-of-otherwise-smart-people. But you know something? That’s all so much twaddle. Better educated cops make better cops. Austin has clearly decided to move in the exact opposite direction.

    Eligibility Requirements

    Must be a current U.S. citizen per TCOLE rules and requirements.
    In order to apply you must have all of the following:
    Age must fall between 20.5 and not yet 45 years of age. Applicants cannot turn 46 before the start of the academy.
    High School Diploma, High School Transcripts, or G.E.D. Certificate
    Valid and current driver’s license

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Well, it IS Austin, you know. That City Government (from what I gather) will include “Possessing a pulse” in the requirements so as not to offend dead applicants.

  17. avatar NJ2AZ says:

    just placed my order. look forward to reading.

  18. avatar Joe R. says:

    Let’s not forget too, that some of the impetus in the militarization of police is just plain old financial. Take N.Y. (5 boroughs) after Sept. 11. They essentially turned all of their personnel into potential Special Responders to both absorb (and justify further) federal Homeland Security funding (not that it would have stopped the September 11 attacks). Now any NY cops have to follow the newly established training activities and career pipelines if they wish to advance, and the city has to keep pushing for hosting the court trials of the Gitmo detainees in order to justify and garner the funds to continue the vicious cycle.

    How about the couch-potato-fication of the TSA? – please somebody hire someone that looks like they could beat me in a foot-race to the terminal gate. jeeesh.

  19. avatar rlc2 says:

    I agree with a couple of posters above-

    1. Accountability- from which, the second becomes obvious, for the benefit of citizens, cops, and the taxpayer who ultimately pays for managements mistakes:
    2. Training. Training is perishable, and trying to be all things wont work, if the highest risk job is not properly trained and practiced. This naturally leads to;
    3. Specialized and if need be, regionalized 100% SWAT operators, as a joint effort, local and federal, to make up enough numbers in an area.This should be a prestige position with high standards for emotional, physical, and operational standards.
    4. Stop subsidizing equipment and material from fed gov, except for training. MRAPS, drug war seized equipment become an expense in themselves, for upkeep and extra training, as expensive toys that detract from day to day training and 95% of the time operational readiness. If the need is truly there, then the local citizens should pay for it, not the feds, and all taxpayers. The stimulus money that went to teachers for make work jobs and to cops toys like MRAPs etc, was a huge waste of money, for union votes, that distorted normal decision-making.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      #3 opens the door to a Federal Police Force. That is unacceptable. Do YOU want DHS “Operators” kicking YOUR door in at 3 am?

      DHS is, you recall, the Federal Enforcement Organization (note the conspicuous absence of “Law”) that is, as we have seen through several Congressional requests for information and hearings, accountable to… ????

  20. avatar rlc2 says:

    PS: good review Jim. Appreciate it, and will probably buy the book as a result.

    One minor quibble, and I know its all in the name of humor, and some pointed fun at the expense of the one or two bad apples and random dog shooters in every barrel,

    but I’d guess we’d get more viewers over time, including knowledgeable and open minded LEOs who have a lot to share, with a little bit less snark, and personal characterizations questioning the integrity of a large group, and that could include those military who also protect and serve.

    And we arent quite there, but from time to time, at least in articles- if the tone avoids the typical wild-eyed Alex Jones comments about conspiracies and the like, it avoids the natural human being tendency to group TTAG into that perception of belonging to the average sketchy innertubz website that focuses on chemtrails, the NWO, and secret underground camps run by FEMA and the Greys.

    Personally, while I dont discount the ability of a couple of nitwits to run a bad op, like F&F, with the help of a couple more deranged pols, and cabinet level liars to cover it up, those “regimes” dont last long, at least not more than two terms,
    and
    more on the practical side, I sincerely doubt ANY large FedGov entity, much less the DHS has the management skills to run a convenience store,
    so the idea that they are in charge of a national conspiracy to turn all local LEOs into a standing army of Swatties, is over the top.

    Just look at how Hickenlooper is getting his A$$ handed to him by local Sheriffs in CO. The stoopid is strong in places like NY, but for every David Dinkens, you get a Guiliani, in response- and I suspect another term of progtard or two, and the pendulum will swing soon enough, even in the center of the elite coastal universe when Joe Sixpack has had enough of crime and squalor.

    The reason I mention it, is not because the average low info voter is coming here for gun info- no, of course not- thats what MTV and CNN are for-

    But the average independent voter is hip to where the propaganda and derp is strong, and looks around elsewhere, and being new to TTAG they might mistake this for Alex Jones Jr, if we dont keep the tin-foil-hat wearing comments to a lower roar, or we end up just looking like the right wing version of Democrat Underground and Salon and Mother Jones, fer chrissakes.

    Never get a second chance to make a first impression, if you know what I mean.

    Especially since TTAG has so much to offer, and is proving it, in punching above its weight on exposing anti-gunner hypocrises, and providing consistently high level factual responses to national delusions, both here in articles original and linked, the studies in the Facts tab, and the smart commentary by experienced responsible gun owners- and occasional snark and smartA$$ery is more personal, and understood as such, rather than an “official” story. Just my two cents- YMMV.

    “Clean, well lit room…”, and all that.

  21. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    Geez, is this a review of the book, or the entire book itself? Way too long on telling the story as a whole, rather than assessing how well the book treats the subject. Throw in some errors (Clinton was first elected in 1992, not 1996, and Ruby Ridge was on H.W. Bush’s watch, not Clinton’s), and I’m really not seeing much actual review here. It’s an extended summary of the book, which is not quite the same thing as a true review.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Sometimes a sound bite will not do the job.

    2. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      Fixed the errors. Thanks.

    3. avatar Jay Williams says:

      is this a review of the book, or the entire book itself

      As I was reading it, I began thinking the same thing. Still enjoyed it.

  22. avatar Burnout says:

    I can’t be bothered to read all that stuff. All I can say is Isolated Incident.

  23. avatar Gregory says:

    Wow, being a LEO, I did not realize what a piece of crap I was. I and every other cop in the US should resign and let everyone taker of themselves. I am so sure that will work out real well!

    1. avatar WI Patriot says:

      At least you admit you’re a piece of crap…

      1. avatar Greg says:

        Gregory no worries. Those two fine upstanding POSs in Nevada were Patriots also. There are some people who just have the tin foil on a little to tight!!!!

      2. avatar Gregory says:

        Yes WI Patriot, I am that piece of 100% USDA CRAP that gets up 5:00 AM, putting on a uniform and 26 pounds of duty gear. I go to service calls where the complaint is a neighbor looked at me wrong or a dog pissed on my mailbox post or someone stole something from my garage because I left the door open all day or someone threatened me because I flipped him off and on and on. Yes I am a real piece of crap because I field these complaints and more, always treating the complainants with respect. I leave my daughter and wife each day without their knowing if I will ever be seen alive again because of some wonderful law abiding citizen that would rather kill me than go to jail. Yes, I am a piece of crap for having rendered aid to five children that drowned at the average age of 1 1/2. God, what a piece of crap I am.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          If you don’t like your job and are afraid for your life, quit and become a bus driver.

        2. avatar Garrison Hall says:

          Noblesse oblige and all that, Gregory. The problem Balko highlights is that police departments nationwide are becoming increasingly dysfunctional due to increased militarization. The fallout from this is very destructive. Militarization is causing the police to become ever more alienated from the public. What we now have is an alienated, hostile, police and an increasingly armed and aroused general public. This is not good.

        3. avatar Robert says:

          I’ll be the first to say, you probably have a net positive benefit on society, so you can hardly be a POS just for being a cop…. since you benefit society.

          With that being said “I leave my daughter and wife each day without their knowing if I will ever be seen alive again” Aren’t you overstating your risk a little bit, or more than likely a whole damn lot?
          I’m not trying to downplay your positive influence on society at all friend….. Just calm down with your “could die any day” comments.

          Just to throw this out there, for going on 30 years now I’ve done a job where I’d love to only have to carry 26 pounds of gear. Where people are hurt daily, crippled weekly, and killed monthly.

          In one year alone, the mines in my county alone saw more deaths than the combined police forces of the entire state have for my entire lifetime.

          Again, thanks for all the good you do. Seriously.
          But many jobs are an order of several magnitudes more dangerous than yours will ever be (yours is getting safer every day as crime rates drop).

        4. avatar Redleg says:

          Great comment Robert. I happen to have a more negative view of the subject though.

          I’ve battled the police unions and their sycophants where I live for years every time they turn up in force writing to the local rag singing their songs of woe to garner support for newest proposed tax increase to cover their COLA increases, pay increases, additional benefits, etc. When everyone was getting laid off and taking 10% to 25% pay cuts in my area due to the bad economy, the local PD was asked to contribute an additional 5% to their retirement accounts…you’d think the sky was falling based on all of the letters to the editor about how the local cops would quit, how tough their jobs were, etc. and that it was unfair to ask them to pay more into their retirement accounts. They countered with “they deserved more money, not less because the job was so tough.” When they didn’t get their way and were forced to contribute the extra 5%, they filed a union grievance and ended up getting paid to put on and take off (“to don and doff”) their uniforms and gear every day so they basically nullified the additional 5% contribution they were required to make.

          I get tired of continuously hearing how tough things are for cops and how demanding and stressful their jobs are. Most cops won’t ever hear a shot fired in anger or have to return said fire in their 20 years on duty. I bet most won’t even have to clear leather due to imminent threat. I’m glad for that because I don’t want our country to be a war zone but contrast that with a day in the life of a soldier. They are frequently away from home for a year at a time and not able to go home to momma every night. They don’t have the ability to check out at the end of shift, they are on duty 24/7/365. They frequently work 20 hours a day when in the field. They have to contend with snipers, ambushes, IED’s, and incoming mortar and rocket fire while wearing 50 or more pounds of gear in 120 degree weather in extremely unhospitable terrain on a daily basis…all the while getting paid the merest fraction of what current police get paid. During my two decades of service I saw many a soldier and even low ranking NCOs who qualified for food stamps. Then to add injury to insult, after 20 years of service, service which frequently leaves a soldier disabled in some form ranging from hearing loss and lower back injury like myself, to lost limbs or worse, soldiers only get a 50% retirement (based solely on their base salary, all other career compensation like jump pay is excluded) compared to the cop’s 75% or more which is based on a much more substantial base salary. Tell me again how tough your job is?

          When was the last time you heard a soldier complain openly on blogs or in the paper about their lot in life? They don’t, at least all those that I’ve served with don’t. They volunteered for the duty and they don’t whine about it, they just man up and handle business. They do it for love of country and comrade. Those that do 20 consider it an honor to serve. It is a badge of honor to know that we did something that the majority of people could not and that too is its own reward. If cops can’t do the same and they find the job too tough or that it doesn’t pay enough then find other work but please close the mangina already and stop the constant sniveling about how tough and scary things are as a cop because it’s getting REALLY old!

        5. avatar Jay Williams says:

          You sound like one of the good ones. Kudos. Don’t take personally an attack on the bad ones and on some bad practices.

    2. avatar Kevin B says:

      Balko is pretty careful to state that he’s not anti-cop. He thinks most are pretty good. He’s critical of a system that allows (and encourages) this kind of behavior with no checks and balances or accountability.

      1. avatar Greg says:

        Kevin,

        There are checks and balances at a local level of law enforcement. If you have a bad Sheriff you vote him or her out of office. Local police departments you go to the city or town council. I have see small departments completely disbanded because of problems. Now at the Federal level I would tend to agree with the lack of checks and balances or accountability. So his statement in not a correct and accurate statement in itself.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          There are checks and balances at a local level of law enforcement.

          Not in a large city like New York, Boston, Chicago, or LA. Or a not-so-large city in a single party state, like Baltimore or Hartford. Remember what happened to the “Operators” when the Mayor of Clinton, MD, was SWATted by the PGCPD one fine afternoon, his wife terrorized, and his dogs shot? Neither do I. Not everywhere is Mayberry.

        2. avatar Greg says:

          Are you talking about the mayor who received the package of narcotics?

      2. avatar James says:

        It is amazing how people use the code word “Mayberry” to show disrespect towards someone in law enforcement. I guess it is kind of like “Patriot” now has become the code word for “Rightwing nut job”.

    3. avatar ThomasR says:

      Oh now Gregory; Not all cops are bad; but the ones that are kind of stand out. The cops out here in NM have been cool with me OC’ing. But; I haven’t had to actually defend against a Swat team accidentally kicking my door down in the middle of the night because the house numbering system out here can be pretty confusing.

      It is the clear violation of violently kicking an innocent persons door down in the middle of the night that I object to. I say innocent because the reason they have picked a house to violently attack in the middle of the night is that they suspect, but don’t have proof, that the person is a criminal doing criminal deeds. So they are on a fishing expedition looking for incriminating evidence.

      I thought the whole basis of our “justice” system is that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty. So why would anyone think it is justified to violate a persons castle on a simple suspicion?

      Sorry Gregory; but if you support the war on our civil rights that is a ” no knock warrant”: you are ultimately an enemy of the constitution and of the people.

    4. avatar DJ says:

      I know a lot of LEOs are decent guys doing a difficult job. I’ll ask a few simple questions:

      1) How many civilian deaths are acceptable as a result of dynamic entries into the wrong residence?
      2) How many children requiring psychological care because of the impact of overly aggressive police tactics are acceptable?
      3) Does wearing a uniform entitle officers to immunity for actions that would be criminal if committed by a private citizen in the same circumstances?

      Those questions all have simple answers. Zero, Zero, and No.

      There are better and safer ways to bring criminals to justice. The fact that departments are financially incentivized to go full retard every time they think someone might have broken a drug law so they can seize property is a problem.

      The tactics used by police are alienating the public, because they aren’t acceptable. And you can’t do a damn thing about it, even if you want to Gregory, because it’s a cultural issue in most police forces and even if you think it’s wrong you’re likely to be in the minority.

      Until the public starts holding the police accountable, I really don’t see anything changing.

  24. avatar CCDWGuy says:

    Read the post and bought the Kindle version.

  25. avatar Greg says:

    Part of the problem is everyone think that they have the correct interpretation of the constitution. The left thinks they have it right, and the right think they have it right. The founders struggled with the same issues of opposing views as it related to the interpretation of the constitution as we do today. We can all have our opinions but at the end of the day the SCOUS has the final say per the constitution on the interpretation. Like it or not my interpretation of the constitution does not have the effect of law. So the next time you think you have the correct interpretation of the constitution look to your left and than to your right and those people standing there will make sure and correct you with their own interpretation!!! My 2cents

  26. avatar P.M.Lawrence says:

    “England gave the world the first modern police force in 1898 when Sir Robert Peel successfully convinced Parliament to create one” is wrong. He actually did that in England in 1829, but that wasn’t even the first modern police force, that was the Royal Irish Constabulary that Sir Robert Peel had created even earlier, between 1814 and (more fully) 1822.

    1. avatar Jim Barrett says:

      Fixed the date. I, still however stand by my assertion that it was Brittan’s Metropolitan Police Force that was used as the model around the world. There were plenty of police forces throughout history, of which the Royal Ulster Constabulary was one, but it was not the model on which future police agencies would be based. the Metropolitan Police Force was more organized and incorporated the military hierarchy that would come to be the standard world-wide

  27. avatar Accur81 says:

    There are times I wish that I didn’t agree with the commentors here, but the rise of the warrior cop mentality is greatly disturbing. If my door gets kicked in at 3 am, and someone shoots my dogs, they will receive return fire. Given the increase in SWAT raids, that scenario is becoming more likely for all of us. Sad.

    1. avatar Jim barrett says:

      I sure hope you won’t really return fire if you are a SWAT raid victim. Once the boys in black kick down your door, your best course of action is to meekly comply and then go after them later with your attorney.. In a SWAT raid, you are going to have multiple amped up guys looking for something to shoot. Give them a reason and you’ll be dead. While it’s fun to dream about kicking ass and taking names, the way to stop this trend is to fight it through the system. Shooting cops won’t solve anything and you’ll lose any public sympathy you might otherwise garner.

      Now, if the bad guys start to capitalize on this trend and it becomes more common to see home invasions follow a similar script, then you might have some justification, but at present, you’ll only be viewed as a perp with a gun who needs to be taken out for the safety of the officers.

  28. avatar S_J says:

    I’m pretty sure black citizens, especially during the ’50s in the Jim Crow South, would’ve viewed that Rockwell painting as seven shades of bullshit. Course with the War on Drugs that perception has only gotten worse, as it should.

    “We’re in a war. People who blast some pot on a casual basis are guilty of treason.” -Daryl Gates

  29. avatar Glenn says:

    Some forty years ago a B52 pilot complained to me about employment opportunities at commercial civilian airlines after discharge, saying pilots who flew B52s were not preferred hires because they were not sufficiently risk adverse.

    There is a difference between a soldier and a policeman. The habits of breaking into civilian dwellings as a soldier does not, or should not, easily translate into police work.

  30. avatar Jim barrett says:

    If I gave anyone the impression that I’m against police in general, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I would not want to live in a world without cops where I would always need to sleep with one eye open for bad guys. Police serve a vital function in the community and I’m glad to have them.

    My issue is with a system that encourages police to pursue certain objectives that are contrary to the principles of a truly free society. I’ve met a lot of cops in my travels and with few exceptions, they are dedicated public servants who do a tough job.

    Ultimately, this is Balko’s point as well. We need to change the system and help our police forces revert to the ideals that originally conceived them. We also need to realize that as in any profession, there are gong to be bad apples that need to be weeded out.

    Police should be incented to deal with the truly dangeous individuals in our society, not to terrorize innocents and those who are guilty of nothing more than concentual crimes. Nor should we allow our local police to be used as pawns to further the agendas of politicians who seek control above all things.

  31. avatar rlc2 says:

    Slightly OT but worth mentioning, in case TTAG doesn’t do a story on it:
    h/t Herschel Smith-

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2014/06/18/police-officer-mistakenly-fires-rifle-in-court/

    For the LEO pro’s here – any idea just what kind of “scenario demo”,
    judge or no judge, courthouse or no, would NOT involve a weapon check –
    chamber clear, mag released?

    that didnt include clearing the chamber and detaching mag first. What a dip$hit.

  32. avatar Gregory says:

    Jus Bill, one word here, sarcasm! I am trying to make a point here and I have no idea how my comments reflect a liking of my job. I state the facts as they are, there are no shades of gray here. Police officers do the things no one else wants to, is qualified to (criminal background) or has the ability to do. We are expected to be above it all and be able to solve all problems without making an error. We make a life and death decision in less time than you have to sneeze. At times we have no warning before making the decision to use deadly force, it can be a case of the time is her and now to do something to live. As for SWAT, I am not in that unit and have never been. I work road patrol and will continue to do so.

    1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

      “Police officers do the things no one else wants to, is qualified to (criminal background) or has the ability to do.”

      And the city of Austin is perfectly content with hiring someone “with a high school transcript” (i.e., attended but didn’t graduate)—someone who maybe quit school in the 11th grade and would have trouble landing a job as a building custodian at a public school—to be a police officer? Obviously Austin’s judgment about what it takes to be a cop is a bit different than the “highly trained professionals facing death on a constant basis” trope that chiefs, union spin doctors, and sundry apologists constantly promote. Austin thinks that a 20.5 year old, high school drop-out who reads on a 7th grade level and skips the big words is a good choice for making those life-or-death decisions that nobody else wants to make? I happen to have some experience with drop-outs and GED’s. While there are some exceptions, I certainly wouldn’t trust most of these folks to understand the difference between someone being drunk or being in a diabetic coma. And I sure as hell don’t what them kicking in my door at 3am because they didn’t check that they were on the right street. Balko’s right. There’s something bad wrong with America’s police. However, finding working police officers who are willing to acknowledge this is a very rare thing.

      1. avatar SGC says:

        May be hard to find four year college graduates in Austin, TX who are willing to put up with the bullshit necessary to be a cop for 25-30K a year…?

        1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

          From the Austin Police Department site:

          “Cadet Starting Salary: $3,334.00 monthly salary for 8 months as a cadet. A cadet with full GI Bill benefits could earn up to an extra $1564 monthly during the academy. GI Bill benefits would also continue for an additional 3 to 4 months of Field Officer Training after graduation. Health, dental and retirement benefits start the first day of the academy for the employee. Spouse, family and dependents are also covered under the employee benefits starting the first day of the academy.

          Probationary Officer Salary: $56,397, an officer assigned to a shift starting after 2pm, is a Bi-Lingual interpreter and has a Bachelors Degree would earn $64,737 per year ($3,600 per year for shift differential, $2,100 for Bi-Lingual Interpreter and $2,640 for a Bachelors Degree). Amounts could vary for type of degree earned if any.”

        2. avatar SGC says:

          Well hell…may be hard to find four year college graduates in Austin, TX who are willing to put up with the bullshit necessary to be a cop for $50-60,000 a year…lol

  33. avatar John Frazer says:

    From the tone of many of the commenters here, it’s safe to say that the prevailing viewpoint is that Democrats (Liberals) are Statists bent on taking away our rights while Republicans (Conservatives) are more likely to stand against them. While there is some truth to this belief, (exhibited most recently last year during the Gun Control debates in the Senate, which were only narrowly defeated by a coalition of Republican Senators acting against the Democrat majority), the fact is that both Republicans and Democrats share the blame for getting us to where we are now.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    That’s a new way to describe what happened with Manchin/Toomey.
    It had fairly broad bi-partisan support (some repubs going along for the votes) until the hard-line citizen disarmament types at the last minute inserted all sorts of their usual wish list items. Feel-good nonsense knee-jerk things that everyone knows mean nothing but which are incremental restrictons and the hysteia of the moment would allow them to slip through.
    This caused support to be pulled (using the crossing repubs, caught napping) largely by action of the Gun Owners of America (not the evil NRA).

  34. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Balko’s list of suggestions to improve the situation show that he has not yet accepted the full depth of public employee incompetence.

    Here’s my list of requirements to improve the situation:

    1. All LEO applicants have to undergo strict screening to prevent the bad apples from getting in.

    Psychopaths, sadists, “little man syndrome” twerps, steroid users, past drug abusers (including drunks), wife beaters, people with records of mistreatment of animals, etc need not apply. Women who are known to be pot-throwers and drama queens also need not apply.

    2. All LEO applicants must meet minimum qualifications to apply:

    – Prove that they can read, write, speak and understand the English language. They must prove that they can read a warrant. When the warrant says “Apartment 78A,” they must prove to the satisfaction of the examiner that they don’t enter or bother the occupants of apartments 78B, 78C, 78D. Any indication of illiteracy is an immediate disqualification.

    – Prove that they can do mathematics to a high school level.

    – Prove that they know which end of a gun the bullet comes out of. Never mind the claims of training will take care of that. It is now obvious to all casual observers that the majority of cops are utterly incompetent with weapons. Negligent discharges are rampant. Matter of fact, let’s just make marksmanship a requirement of application: If an applicant cannot score 85% on a pistol bullseye target at 50 feet (slow, timed or rapid fire, their choice), they have to go learn how to shoot a handgun until they can. Rifle marksmanship will also be required, being able to put 5 shots into a NRA 100 yard highpower target black with iron sights.

    2. Put into statute law a strict liability provision for LEO’s who enter a dwelling without a warrant. If a cop kicks down the door of Apt. 78B and the warrant read 78A, guess what? He didn’t have a warrant.

    The result should be immediate dismissal and he’s on his own in civil court for damages. The taxpayers should not pay the legal costs to defend incompetence, period. There needs to be a financial incentive for cops to learn to read the paperwork and have the paperwork in order.

    3. Strict liability for every round sent downrange. If cops decide to light up a vehicle and they send rounds hither and yon (as seems their habit these days), and one of those rounds strikes a person who isn’t even remotely involved in the situation, I want to see the cop who fired the errant round charged. If a person was hit with a stray bullet, that’s assault with a deadly weapon. If a person dies from an errant round, then the cop(s) who fired the rounds should be charged with Murder, 2nd degree.

    4. Any abuse of authority is grounds for immediate dismissal. Any case of fabrication of evidence, any lie told to cover up abuse or malfeasance, any doctored report, any omission of evidence, all are grounds for immediate dismissal without appeal.

    What Balko still misses is that we taxpayers are paying for this crap. We’re paying through the nose for this crap. LEO pay and comp packages (especially defined benefit pensions) are crippling many cities’ budgets and are huge budgetary issues in states like California. If we taxpayers are paying this much for “professionals,” then it is time we demand professional performance and accountability.

    1. avatar SGC says:

      I agree in principal to everything you’ve said above.

      I would like to point out that these “high paying” police jobs you’re talking about are few and far between. Starting pay for a cop in my area is around 24-26k a year…how are you going to find anyone in their right minds to do this kind of job for that kind of pay with those kind of expectations? Nobody is perfect, bad shit is going to happen in the real world. The only thing you can do is mitigate the chances of that bad shit happening by selection process, training, and true “community policing”…where the community is actively involved in the law enforcement process…not just complaining about it.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Two of the issues with “getting involved” in the law enforcement process:

        1. Unions.
        2. The attitude by far too many cops that “we’re professionals, you’re not.” I’ve seen this handed out to even elected leaders of a community by the police force.

        The first issue in accountability is to get cops to realize that they’re on a leash, and that the taxpayers/voters are holding the other end. That point seems to not quite be getting through in a lot of instances.

        1. avatar SGC says:

          Unions are few and far between down here where I live, that’s a northern thing. For better or worse…

          Someone either elects (Sheriff) or appoints (Police) the person who runs a law enforcement agency. That elected/appointed person then appoints people under them to run the agency. THEY set the tone and culture for how an agency runs…despite any flaws in the hiring/selection/training process. They do need to be held accountable.

          If you want something to change, you have to get involved. Complaining rarely ever works alone…

  35. avatar Jay Williams says:

    Seems like a good writer should be able to come up with a description better than “circle jerk” to describe whatever it is he’s trying to describe, or that the editors at TTAG should be able to edit it out with a suitable replacement. Not as high a standard as maybe we should have. Just my 2¢.

    1. avatar S_J says:

      Never use a $5 word when a 50-cent one is clear and precise.

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