Some notes on Ferguson, Missouri

by Eric on August 14, 2014

Following the police shooting of Michael Brown, protesters have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Police deployed there wear uniforms and carry weapons that look more like the desert camouflage and armaments of US armed forces in recent Central Asian wars than like the traditional uniforms of American peace officers.

Indeed, military gear used by the US overseas has been finding its way to American streets. Police forces in the US receive surplus military gear from the Defense Department under a program whose motto is “From Warfighter to Crimefighter.”

Proper training in tactics does not always accompany the equipment, according to Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko.

Veterans on Ferguson” has become something of a social media phenomenon devoted to former soldiers’ (and other members of the armed forces) criticism of police tactics in Ferguson.

Last night, Ferguson police arrested reporters and a St. Louis alderman. Network news crews withdrew their satellite trucks, according to at least one account, on orders.

Major news outlets report the protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police.

Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has issued a statement of concern and will visit Ferguson this morning.

The governor may relieve the police of duty.

Ferguson’s police chief says “it’s a lot of outside agitators causing the violence.” He also says they police will shortly release 911 recording from the time of the Michael Brown shooting, following the release of what is supposed to be the dispatcher recordings.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Department of Justice will investigate the shooting and is to talk with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri today.

I don’t see any point in adding my comments, but you should add yours…

{ 222 comments }

1

AcademicLurker 08.14.14 at 4:26 pm

“it’s a lot of outside agitators causing the violence.”

The classics never go out of style.

2

Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 4:37 pm

The situation is complex, all real life situations are, and there is seldom any good excuse for rioting, but the root cause here seems to me to be that the police are becoming an occuping army. And I think this is not inadvertent… Polls show that the government is losing legitimacy, it has been for a long while. And without legitimacy, what have governments got except force?

So, the government is responding as you’d expect to it’s loss of legitimacy, by tooling up to control the public by force. And as other polls have shown the volunteer military would refuse to be used for this purpose, they’ve chosen to make the police into a domestic military.

You look around, NSA survailance, militarized police, we’re building a police state. Right out in the open. We’d better stop that while there’s still time.

3

Eszter Hargittai 08.14.14 at 4:49 pm

It seems based on comments on social media and commentary in the media more generally that many people are very disturbed by what is happening in Ferguson. But I have seen very little by way of what actual actions we can take to help the situation. What can we do? Brett, thoughts on how to stop this “while there’s still time”?

4

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 08.14.14 at 4:54 pm

Indeed, military gear used by the US overseas has been finding its way to American streets. Police forces in the US receive surplus military gear from the Defense Department under a program whose motto is “From Warfighter to Crimefighter.”

Why just have armed men fight overseas for corporate profits (and the plutocrats to whom same accrue), when there are plenty of opportunities here at home?
~

5

Joshua W. Burton 08.14.14 at 4:56 pm

The basic posse comitatus test is encapsulated in the phrase “Cover me!”

For police, it means “eyes on hostiles and be prepared to return fire.” For soldiers, it means “lay down covering fire, and immediately suppress any hostile in line of sight.” When police and soldiers attempt to work together in urban ops, as for example during the Rodney King riots, this is the rules-of-engagement mismatch that usually bites them. Hilarity ensues.

The “scary clothes” argument is unimpressive, by the way. I want both police and soldiers dressed to survive, in a variety of environments against a variety of evolving threats — and trained to use often similar equipment to do out their respective very dissimilar jobs. Weapons inappropriate to the rules of engagement are a problem, and this is where I would look for the nugget of a coherent argument struggling to get out of the photo-op melodrama.

6

TM 08.14.14 at 5:08 pm

“The “scary clothes” argument is unimpressive”

Remind us, what is the “scary clothes” argument and who is making it? (Is this about Halloween?)

7

Joshua W. Burton 08.14.14 at 5:14 pm

Remind us, what is the “scary clothes” argument and who is making it? (Is this about Halloween?)

“Police deployed there wear uniforms and carry weapons that look more like . . . .” — OP, para. 1.

8

christian_h 08.14.14 at 5:17 pm

“Hilarity ensues”. Yeah… funny.

9

Steve Williams 08.14.14 at 5:18 pm

The linked Atlantic article clearly states “Community policing is impossible when officers dress up as occupying soldiers”, ie. these uniforms are not suited to the necessary task. There’s nothing anywhere about them being ‘scary’.

10

Steve Williams 08.14.14 at 5:20 pm

@Joshua W. Burton

Do you disagree with the claim the OP makes? You would perhaps argue that it’s not factual?

11

Ronan(rf) 08.14.14 at 5:20 pm

I agree with Joshua, isn’t the question ‘why are specific police depts(?) so dysfunctional and/or hostile to certain black communities’, rather than ‘why are they wearing all this military gear’ ?

12

PJW 08.14.14 at 5:21 pm

The chief said something about the protesters throwing bombs, which sounded strange and implausible.

13

William Timberman 08.14.14 at 5:26 pm

Ferguson, MO Police Department Checklist

Full length polycarbonate riot shield: Check
Telescoping riot control wand (black finish, steel and titanium): Check
Black ripstop coveralls: Check
Black helmet with full face shield: Check
Black gas mask: Check
Black knee pads: Check
Black combat boots: Check
Glock 17 (black) with accessory rail and extra magazines: Check
Short-barrelled assault rifle with 30-round magazine (black), burst mode capability, and laser sighting: Check
Black officers: Say what?

Tear gas, CS, smoke and flashbang grenades with launcher: Check
Infrared capable surveillance drone: Check
Helicopter: Check (Night-vision upgrade on order)
Armored assault vehicle with water and sound cannons: Check

IDF training in crowd control: Hey, what terrorist asshole left this off the list? Relax, Sarge — Blackwater did us already two years ago when you were off at that conference in Quantico.

14

The Temporary Name 08.14.14 at 5:27 pm

The chief said something about the protesters throwing bombs, which sounded strange and implausible.

Those will be the Molotov cocktails, which count.

15

Kalkaino 08.14.14 at 5:30 pm

Paranoid much? This is kind of “scary”:

“I want both police and soldiers dressed to survive, in a variety of environments against a variety of evolving threats — and trained to use often similar equipment to do out their respective very dissimilar jobs.”

Except on TV, the “variety of evolving threats” facing the average policeman 99.9 percent of the time could easily be survived in street clothes, pajamas even. So we should weigh the quite evident tendency of police to act like soldiers (people essentially licensed to kill strangers) when dressed like soldiers, against the infinitesimal chance that they’ll actually need all this armor and armament.

And why would one want people trained on the same equipment to do “very dissimilar jobs?” In every practical situation you want the right tool for the job, and only an idiot thinks bigger (or more powerful/deadly) is always better.

When you train, equip and clothe police like an occupying army, surprise, surprise, an occupying army is what you get.

16

Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 5:42 pm

If the uniform wasn’t significant, they wouldn’t be required to wear it.

17

Dr. Hilarius 08.14.14 at 5:52 pm

There is a qualitative difference between dealing with a police officer in a standard uniform and an officer dressed for combat. It affects the citizen but more importantly, it affects the mindset of the officer. Look like an army of occupation and you act like one.

SWAT teams storm houses at night with flash bang grenades to arrest low-level offenders. I have never heard a convincing argument for these operations. They risk police being mistaken for home invaders not to mention the risk to home occupants posed by adrenalin-pumped cops using military tactics. Who do they do this? Because it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s why they joined the force. Directing traffic, settling neighbor disputes, writing reports is boring.

A couple of months ago I was in a courthouse elevator with a police officer who was in standard blues. But in addition to his Glock sidearm (and Taser and pepper spray and baton) he had three high capacity magazines clipped to his belt, summing to maybe 60 rounds. My co-counsel asked him why so much ammo. He said his experiences in Iraq trained him to have plenty on hand. This from an officer who patrols a non-violent suburban area.

A significant number of officers are also reserve military and national guard. Departments actively recruit veterans. All of this works against community policing and reinforces the existing “us against the world” attitude of many officers.

18

Joshua W. Burton 08.14.14 at 5:55 pm

IDF training in crowd control

Really, this thread too? For what it’s worth, the Mem-Tzet (Israeli MPs, the only IDF police unit) are mostly trained for their primary duty, which is of course enforcing military discipline on the IDF itself. I’ve seen orange armbands at West Bank checkpoints, but they are behind the desk or in the car, and (except in ceremonial formation) I’ve never seen them civilian-facing with more than sidearms.

If Missouri police are learning crowd control from the regular IDF, or from US Rangers or Marines for that matter, there is a serious structural problem and it’s not the equipment load-out.

19

(damnit jim I'm a) lurker 08.14.14 at 5:55 pm

“dressed to survive, in a variety of environments”

indeed! in the recently circulating photos of Ferguson, you can really see how the camo gear helps the cops blend into the landscape……whoops.

Camo gear is every bit as inappropriate as the weaponry in question. It’s less “serious”, of course, but as a metaphor pretty revealing. In an urban landscape, camo makes you stand out, right? It’s not functional, but a show of power and aggression. So, I guess if “scaring the shit out of people” is a survival tactic, then it’s well chosen!

20

Trader Joe 08.14.14 at 6:05 pm

If you’ve been following any of the coverage of events in Ferguson, the police are not only dressed in combat gear. When they are in the midst of defusing(?) gatherings and riots and where there would at least be the appearance of a reasonable chance of violence they are – quite appropriately, wearing heavy combat gear.

In other scenarios they are dressed like every cop you’ve ever seen – tan shirts and black pants.

For those who have never seen or been in Ferguson, its not a nice place. Its a low-income quasi-industrial zone near the St. Louis airport – having driven around there its the kind of place an ordinary citizen might wish they had some combat gear available.

This isn’t a defense of the way that particular department has handled its business. Their approach at best can be described as heavy handed (some would use harsher terms)- helicoptering in for a single incident doesn’t necessarily describe what its like to operate in that community on a daily basis.

21

rea 08.14.14 at 6:14 pm

“it’s a lot of outside agitators causing the violence.”

True, and most of them seem to be members of the St. Louis County Police.

22

Lyle 08.14.14 at 6:15 pm

@Dr. Hilarius wrote –

“There is a qualitative difference between dealing with a police officer in a standard uniform and an officer dressed for combat. It affects the citizen but more importantly, it affects the mindset of the officer. Look like an army of occupation and you act like one.”

Exactly. And as Greg Howard adds in his excellent article, that mindset includes a particularly common target: black men. And boys –

“If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.”

23

Lyle 08.14.14 at 6:20 pm

Oops, here’s a link to Howard’s piece:

http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/america-is-not-for-black-people-1620169913

Also have to rec this tumblr, which contains excellent netizen activism –

http://iftheygunnedmedown.tumblr.com/

24

William Timberman 08.14.14 at 6:22 pm

Joshua W. Barton @ 18

When one is responsible for satisfactory outcomes one tends to look to those with the most experience for tips on how to proceed. At various points in U.S. history, it made a certain sense–perverted, in my view — for those in our government responsible for the management of subject populations to look to the Pinkertons, or to South Africa’s BOSS, or the DDR’s Stasi for practical solutions to their difficulties. In recent times, Israeli agencies seems to have had the most to offer.

There’s ample evidence, it seems to me, that Israelis of one flavor or another have counseled the CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces in how to manage the interrogations of prisoners of Middle Eastern origin. I don’t therefore think it’s unreasonable to suppose that other kinds of advice were sought from the same sources, and incorporated where convenient into the development of our own practices. Of course, I’d always defer to your first-hand knowledge of which Israeli agencies were, or may have been, involved. We mustn’t ever let hyperbole run ahead of the truth.

25

heckblazer 08.14.14 at 6:24 pm

The police in Ferguson aren’t properly equipped for a riot. I’d contrast their equipment with what the LAPD has in this photo. There are two major differences that jump out at me. The LAPD is not carrying rifles, and instead of camo they’re wearing uniforms the same color as their normal street wear.

26

Jim DuBray 08.14.14 at 6:25 pm

It seems like something happened here which didn’t need to. But until the matter is investigated no one can fully confirm or deny. With rioting comes a new ball game. The use of molotov cocktails kinda changes the approach the police have to using tear gas. Between the rioters, the news people, Al, the President and the Police there seems to be a 3 ring circus in play. No one really wants the truth they only want their side of the story to be told and believed. If the police were wrong we will know eventually. But to condone rioting no matter what color you are is intolerable.

I remember Watts and I think the government is trying to avoid another one. But all these people showing up every night is inspiring violence and lawlessness… Every one suffers and the news media gets to televise it. How irresponsible. Jim

27

Lyle 08.14.14 at 6:46 pm

“all these people showing up every night is inspiring violence and lawlessness… Every one suffers and the news media gets to televise it. How irresponsible. Jim”

So it’s the protesters fault? Merely for showing up?

You’re right. They should stay home and just get used to their obvious status as second-class citizens in Apartheid USA.

/sarcasm

28

Lyle 08.14.14 at 6:46 pm

“all these people showing up every night is inspiring violence and lawlessness… Every one suffers and the news media gets to televise it. How irresponsible. Jim”

So it’s the protesters fault? Merely for showing up?

You’re right. They should stay home and just get used to their obvious status as second-class citizens in Apartheid USA.

/sarcasm

29

Adam Hammond 08.14.14 at 6:52 pm

As a Chicago resident, I have evolved an abiding negative impression of suburban and county police forces. I recognize that I am undoubtedly being unfair to many individual officers in using my broad brush. These fine people are tarred by the attitudes and actions of members of their forces that treat the city, and those of us in it, as though there is a war going on. They act as though they are doing us a favor by coming to our shit hole and suppressing our bad people (not that they can tell the difference), but they don’t give a damn about the place or the deeper social currents that they step on.

I have a separate list of complaints about the CPD itself (and who doesn’t?), but I wish we could keep the suburban-living Suburban-driving paramilitary forces away from my neighborhood.

30

BJN 08.14.14 at 6:57 pm

@20 “Its a low-income quasi-industrial zone near the St. Louis airport – having driven around there its the kind of place an ordinary citizen might wish they had some combat gear available.”

Sentiments like this are part of the problem. I have worked on an ambulance in PG County and the poorer parts of DC, walking through a low-income quasi-industrial zone to get from the metro to our station. The type of zone where I had to walk around discarded needles and broken glass on the side of the road because there mostly weren’t sidewalks. I picked up drunks passed out in the gutter of bad neighborhoods, and I visited friends in those same neighborhoods while out of uniform.

At no point did I ever need or want heavy combat gear, or light combat gear, or any sort of gear not required for EMS. Bad neighborhoods are not a 24/7 open street battle. I maybe got the stink eye a few times, but at no point did the residents of these mostly black neighborhoods see a white person and become overtaken with an animalistic rage and begin firing guns in every direction. I rode my bike home past an open air drug market, and as pissed off as the dealers and gang members were about gentrification pushing them out of the area, no shots were fired.

So basically, your desire for heavy combat gear says a lot more about you than it does about Ferguson. Shitty neighborhoods are shitty. They aren’t inhuman.

31

Andrew F. 08.14.14 at 7:11 pm

Here’s a photograph of protesters attempting to light a Molotov cocktail. The caption notes that the attempt was unsuccessful.

Here are two more photographs of what appear to be the same group. The first shows an individual who appears to be in the act of throwing a Molotov cocktail while standing behind two others who have their hands raised.

I don’t think the way that the police are dressed is the problem.

Dr. Hilarious @17: But in addition to his Glock sidearm (and Taser and pepper spray and baton) he had three high capacity magazines clipped to his belt, summing to maybe 60 rounds.

The US is awash with firearms which are too frequently used in criminal acts. Yet you and your co-counsel found it strange that a police officer should carry three clips of ammunition with him?

32

Trader Joe 08.14.14 at 7:17 pm

@30 BJN
Whether I feel safe in Ferguson or PG county or any other bad neighborhood is not really the point. As you say, rough neighborhoods are rough neighborhoods – just because probably nothing will happen to me doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be wary that it might.

More relevantly, however, the cops that work that beat don’t feel safe there for a variety of reasons that go well beyond the present indents, which is why they would bother to procure the gear they have. Justified or not, it seems to be pretty useful gear for the situation at hand.

P.S. Thank you for your work as an EMS people like you get far less credit than you deserve.

33

Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 7:19 pm

“What can we do? Brett, thoughts on how to stop this “while there’s still time”?”

I don’t have any prescription for running a Leviathan state without the omnipresent threat of violence, if that’s what you’re asking.

Immediately, what we need is to forcefully establish a number of things:

1. That police are always subject to recording. Indeed, they should be wired every moment they’re on the job.

2. Shut down the proliferation of SWAT.

3. Put an end to police immunity.

But I doubt any of this will happen, because I think our police are being turned into a military force deliberately. And they won’t stop being militarized until the government doesn’t think it NEEDS a domestic military. The root of the problem is that the government views the population as a hostile and occupied territory. And is acting in a way that makes this view correct.

34

mud man 08.14.14 at 7:23 pm

Pointing rifles at people you don’t intend to actually shoot isn’t just useless, it’s counterproductive provocation. A lesson, Joshua Burton, that the IDF clearly understands. There are those who will counter-provoke (who should be dealt with by what we normally consider to be “police methods”), but the defense of freedom requires a refusal to be intimidated.

Thankfully cooler heads still prevail to the extent of not actually shooting, so far. But the fingers are way too close to the triggers.

35

Dr. Hilarius 08.14.14 at 7:32 pm

Andrew F. @31: Many police officers never fire a gun, apart from range practice, in their careers. Yes, this country is awash in guns but this does not translate into police being involved in gun battles with criminals with regularity. Most shots fired involve domestic violence suspects refusing to leave a residence and surrender.

Sixty-plus rounds of ammo exceeds anything any suburban cop will ever need. It’s an indicator of a mind set, equating a low-crime beat with combat in Iraq. This officer stood out because his fellow officers don’t feel the need for so much firepower. By the way, my co-counsel’s father is a New York City police officer. She spends time shooting with police friends. Neither of us are particularly anti-police or gun phobic (I own numerous firearms) but both of us are troubled by the continuing militarization of domestic police work.

36

LWA (Liberal With Attitude) 08.14.14 at 7:34 pm

I am thinking about the “broken windows” theory and how it uses the logic that subtle cues, visual and auditory signals send potent messages about security and survival.

If graffiti and a broken window can send a signal about how the environment is lawless and chaotic, what to make of the paramilitary uniforms and equipment by the police?
Don’t they also send an identical signal, that the environment is lawless and violent confrontation is imminent?
Isn’t reasonable for citizens to feel more afraid, not less? Isn’t it reasonable to expect to be treated with violence, not protection? How should a reasonable citizen react, when faced with military forces on the street corner, point weapons at us?

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to develop a sense of loathing and dread about the police who send visual signals that they are an occupying force, not protectors of the citizenry?

Sneering at this as “scary clothes” is preposterous- the visual of those officers swarming towards that unarmed young man tell a completely correct and accurate story- that it was the police who brutalized the citizens, and provoked the riot, even setting aside the original shooting.

37

J 08.14.14 at 7:34 pm

@20
“For those who have never seen or been in Ferguson, its not a nice place. Its a low-income quasi-industrial zone near the St. Louis airport – having driven around there its the kind of place an ordinary citizen might wish they had some combat gear available.”

Actually, the quasi-industrial zone near the airport is Berkeley, MO. Ferguson is east of there and is very residential with some light commercial. Yes, Ferguson is lower income but it’s not scary to drive through.

Looks like most of the police in the photos we’ve been seeing are St. Louis County Police, not Ferguson police. Ferguson’s Police dept only has ~53 officers while St. Louis County Police have over 800 sworn officers so the police response has to be mostly non-Ferguson. I suspect the law enforcement response got out of the Ferguson Chief’s control when he called for assistance from the county police.

The multitude of municipalities and jurisdictions in the St. Louis area are no doubt confusing to the non-natives trying to report from there.

38

Jerry Vinokurov 08.14.14 at 7:53 pm

I’ve been wondering whatever happened to Andrew F., zealous defender of police violence and senseless war everywhere. I guess we just needed the proper topic to bring him back.

39

Harold 08.14.14 at 7:54 pm

Justice Dept. Official standing between thousands of demonstrators and riot police in Jackson Mississippi, June 1963, at Medgar Evers’ funeral. Note white shirts.
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/benchbar09/DOARBEST220.jpg

40

stevenjohnson 08.14.14 at 8:09 pm

The cops losing is the first step towards turning around the slaughter of unarmed black men.

Cops “losing” can be many things. The man that shot Brown hasn’t even suffered the embarrassment of being named in the media. That is the cops winning.

41

bob mcmanus 08.14.14 at 8:11 pm

These Young Men Are Heroes: Kill the Whitey in Your Head …photo of Molotov cocktail making

Thoughts, notes while reading Z Eisenstein: The “whitey in my head”, the progressive, anti-racist one, still remains American, capitalist, colonizer

What if I imagine the Ferguson scenes as happening in Cairo, Ankara, Baghdad, Bangkok, Gaza? Imagine the St Louis County Cops and their kindler gentler but still hegemonic and repressive National Guard or Federal replacements as tools of a global imperialism, a global neoliberalism, the way Turkish or Thai street demonstrators partially see the crowd controllers across from them?

There still seems to be a lot of privilege in seeing the Ferguson cops as a uniquely American problem, a moral problem of American white male supremacy safely separated from other occupying forces overseas. It is still a pretense of comfortable and comforting difference, a calculation that “we” aren’t that bad off yet.

No it doesn’t work in the details, but what would it feel like to identify, not merely sympathize, but join the Gazans and Egyptians in active and organized resistance because we too know ourselves to be occupied and bottled and want to be free heroes like the young men in the picture at the top.

Not quite “Third Worldism,” more a sense of reponsibility, that the problems of Gaza and Greece and Spain will need to find solutions on the bloody streets of America.

42

geo 08.14.14 at 8:13 pm

Brett @33: The root of the problem is that the government views the population as a hostile and occupied territory.

It’s heartening that Brett and many other libertarians recognize this. But I’m not sure they understand it. The police don’t view rich neighborhoods as hostile and occupied territory, and if they acted as though they did, they’d be out of a job or in jail very quickly. The government is not an autonomous force that seeks to aggrandize itself indiscriminately, as libertarians often suggest. On the contrary, it is exquisitely discriminating, as any acquaintance with the justice system (or pretty much any other field of large-scale social interaction) reveals. That is, it discriminates those with real social power — ultimately, control of investment, employment, production — from those without it, and controls the latter on behalf of the former. The government is the enforcement arm of a class society, as the education, mental health, advertising, news, and entertainment industries are the indoctrination arms.

Left-wing libertarians — the original kind, from Godwin to Kropotkin to Chomsky — have always understood this. Why can’t right-wing libertarians?

43

BJN 08.14.14 at 8:16 pm

@32. I don’t deny that crime happens and that being wary is certainly a better idea that being intentionally clueless. My point was that body armor would not be an intelligent part of being wary. We talk about poor areas like they are a different world where to even enter you are putting yourself at severe risk of random and senseless bodily harm. This makes anyone in those areas potentially dangerous and certainly some sort of other. That attitude is certainly on display by the police.

The actions of the Ferguson police aren’t overcautious or overzealous. They are diametrically opposed to bringing order. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/08/14/military-veterans-see-deeply-flawed-police-response-in-ferguson/ to give one veteran’s perspective.

We’ve gotta stop treating poor black neighborhoods like a world apart.

P.S.: Thanks for your kind words. I’m sure you do a great job at whatever you do as well.

44

Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 8:30 pm

But, poor black neighborhoods also have to stop ACTING like a world apart. Police shoot unarmed people all over the place, it may be more common in poor, black neighborhoods, but it happens elsewhere. The riots? They don’t happen elsewhere.

We’re bashing the local police, and from what I can see, they’ve earned it.

But rioting is basically never a rational, or even moral, response to anything. The local 7-11 didn’t shoot Michael Brown. If the community had descended upon the local police station, and burnt it to the ground, I might have thought that excessive, certainly imprudent, but it would have been at least rational. Rioting was not.

We need to reform the police, absolutely. But let’s not avert our gaze from the other side of the problem: We need to reform the community, too. If there’s something wrong with the police, there’s something just as wrong with that community. And we can’t pretend that’s not so.

The local community’s culture is as broken as the police. Maybe more so.

45

rootlesscosmo 08.14.14 at 8:31 pm

An analogy I haven’t seen drawn (possibly because it’s inexact) is that between the quasi-military police in the US and what was called the “national security doctrine” under the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay in the 70’s and 80’s. As I understood it, the doctrine proceeded from the assumption that the principal enemy of the nation was internal–trade unions, Left-wing political parties, radical students etc.–and the mission of the military was to defeat them by abolishing their civic rights and forcibly suppressing their activities. Granted all the many and profound differences, there’s (I think) one point of similarity: every time the police “overreact” (Rodney King et al.) it turns out the officers involved perceived a challenge to their authority, even if this only takes the form of attempting to flee, and their culture has taught them that tolerating any challenge to their authority puts them in mortal danger. The result is an attitude that any resistance must be answered as though it were an initiation of deadly force on the part of the resister, even if the resister is a struggling, wheezing Black street vendor in Brooklyn or an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson.

46

Layman 08.14.14 at 8:34 pm

Brett Bellmore @ 2

” but the root cause here seems to me to be that the police are becoming an occuping army. And I think this is not inadvertent…And I think this is not inadvertent… Polls show that the government is losing legitimacy, it has been for a long while. And without legitimacy, what have governments got except force?”

The word ‘government’ is doing a lot of work here. The poll you cite is one about the Federal government, not about the government of Ferguson. And what’s the connection between the Federal government’s fear of loss of legitimacy, and the antics of the police chief in Ferguson, an agent of the local government?

47

Layman 08.14.14 at 8:41 pm

“Police shoot unarmed people all over the place, it may be more common in poor, black neighborhoods, but it happens elsewhere. The riots? They don’t happen elsewhere.”

‘May be more common’? Good grief.

48

TM 08.14.14 at 8:48 pm

Btw (@5) it’s worth noting how often “scary clothes” (hoodies and the like) are cited as justification for treating young black men as suspicious.

49

geo 08.14.14 at 8:51 pm

Brett @44: I think you’re being just a bit evasive. In 33, you said:

I don’t have any prescription for running a Leviathan state without the omnipresent threat of violence, if that’s what you’re asking.

and

I think our police are being turned into a military force deliberately. And they won’t stop being militarized until the government doesn’t think it NEEDS a domestic military.

It sounds like you’re blaming government at all levels, the local police for becoming militarized and the federal government for “turning them into a military force.” And “Leviathan state” doesn’t usually refer to local government.

Do you agree that the US is a class society — those who control large concentrations of resources, and the rest of us? And do you agree that the former dictate the broad outlines of state policy and, in practice, receive privileged treatment in virtually all interactions with the state? Are you a left-wing or a right-wing libertarian?

50

Bruce Wilder 08.14.14 at 8:59 pm

Oh my god, a comment thread where Brett Bellmore is making sense! I may need medication. But, really, geo, is it necessary to quiz him on the entire catechism, to see if he’s converted?

51

Cian 08.14.14 at 9:01 pm

But rioting is basically never a rational, or even moral, response to anything. The local 7-11 didn’t shoot Michael Brown. If the community had descended upon the local police station, and burnt it to the ground, I might have thought that excessive, certainly imprudent, but it would have been at least rational. Rioting was not.

So because some hot head teenagers got over excited, the whole community is sick?

Angry crowds are not representative of how a community conducts it’s day to day life. Rethink your assumptions here.

52

Helmut Monotreme 08.14.14 at 9:17 pm

So, just how many unarmed 18 year olds have to be shot in the back by the police before it’s OK for a community demands a change? How much police harassment are black people supposed to endure before it’s OK to protest? How many dead black men are you willing to overlook in your effort to believe that nothing is fundamentally wrong with America?

53

Collin Street 08.14.14 at 9:19 pm

And “broken windows” policing also requires that the minor abuses of authority by police officers be squashed hard, too.

54

geo 08.14.14 at 9:21 pm

Perseverance, Bruce. Remember, according to Luke 15:7, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

55

William Berry 08.14.14 at 9:21 pm

@geo:

Thanks for speaking truth.

You don’t need my permission, of course, but quizz away. Brett B., stopped clock, etc.

@Trader Joe: For those who have never seen or been in Ferguson, its not a nice place. Its a low-income quasi-industrial zone near the St. Louis airport – having driven around there its the kind of place an ordinary citizen might wish they had some combat gear available.

As a former St. Louisan (still living relatively near to SL), I take strong exception to your description. Ferguson is a relatively poor neighborhood, no question. Quasi-industrial?; somewhat. But it is a mostly black working-class and lower-middle class area that is generally safer than some other areas— the north central city (where I grew up; lots of inter-racial gang violence even then), for example.

Frankly, your comment sounds racist and classist to me.

Speaking of the Ferguson police force: A white chief and mostly white officers? At least that is something that is likely to change.

56

Meredith 08.14.14 at 9:23 pm

I recommend the “Veterans on Ferguson” link (in the OP) to those here who think that the uniforms, gear, or tactics being employed in that Missouri town make any sense at all as an effective method of crowd control.

As for Ferguson, I had read that it is actually a low-crime town. Maybe that’s not accurate. But I would still note that towns can be gritty and struggling working-class and still be very decent places to live and full of very decent people, even by the most bourgeois standards. I would also note that drug dealers in Ferguson (and there must be some — this is America) are probably the least happy about all the disorder. It can’t be good for their business. In general, real criminals don’t like disorder of this kind because it interferes with their criminal enterprises.

57

William Berry 08.14.14 at 9:27 pm

My grand-daughter attended a rap concert in SL Wednesday night. Came back with a very cool-looking and tasteful “RIP Michael Brown” t-shirt. Might be available online.

58

William Berry 08.14.14 at 9:28 pm

Meredith @55:

Yes.

59

Trader Joe 08.14.14 at 9:47 pm

@54
I’m not claiming to be a tour guide for Ferguson. I’ve been there on multiple occassions to visit the nearby Boeing facility (which may not be in Ferguson proper, but is quite close) and I’ve driven through (or been driven through) nearby areas. I don’t think my characterization as a low-income quasi-industrial area is unreasonable.

I made no mention of the racial composition of the neighborhood since I didn’t think that was relevant to my description – that was your addition – so please be careful of whom you’d like to paint as racist, I sense rather more projection than could possibly have been taken from my words @20.

If you want to fit a classisst label on my remarks so be it – I think I know a nice neighborhood when I’m in one. This didn’t seem nice. In the parts I saw the buildings tended to be pretty old, not routinely in good repair and indicative of a suburb that perhaps enjoyed its hey-day sometime in the 1950s and has been largely on the decline since. Most cities the size of St. Louis have areas like this. I don’t know when the airport was added to the landscape, but I can’t imagine that helped.

I didn’t take your comments as particularly better informed nor that you had necessarily ever been there – just that you can claim St. Louis residence so have more knowledge by proximity. If the local reputation is better than I’ve described, I’m sorry for the mischaracterization, but I can’t help my opinion of the place is was honestly formed.

60

TM 08.14.14 at 9:59 pm

It’s not a “nice” neighborhood? And that explains/justifies police militarization there because – ?

61

Adam Hammond 08.14.14 at 10:23 pm

There is no equivalency here! A community and the police force for that community have importantly unequal expectations. Individual acts of stupidity DO attach to a professional force that is trained and has a firm chain of command. Apologists in this thread are suggesting that particular instances of incitement are excused in a police force if members of the community also engage in provocation. Worse is the suggestion that something is wrong with a community if members engage in bad behaviors. The police have made mistakes in Ferguson. Blame attaches to the whole group for those mistakes. The behavior of other citizens of Ferguson have included criminal acts. That is not an indictment of the whole group, or even of the people who organized lawful protests. The two “sides” in these confrontations are not equal. A statement that is true on at least three levels.

62

mud man 08.14.14 at 10:25 pm

geo @41, etc: The government is not an autonomous force that seeks to aggrandize itself indiscriminately

Sure it is. It’s just that it knows who its friends are and are not. The Federal government is a well-formed entity interested in its own interests, which are by no means identical with those of any other entity; eg, corporations are adversarial with respect to taxation and regulation. “Class” is a useful abstraction, but strictly speaking it isn’t the kind of thing that acts in a self-interested way … to speak that way is the fallacy of bad “group selection”. The militarization of local PDs is the distributed enforcement arm of the federal control function, enabled by cheap distribution of military gear by the DOD, the choice of laws to make and enforce, and so on. “Government” is bigger than the Feds surely, but whatever and wherever it’s about governing, that is control of the population. Basically, control for control’s sake. It’s been going on for so long (6ky or so) that people forget there are alternatives, but that’s just a failure of collective imagination.

63

Ronan(rf) 08.14.14 at 10:28 pm

I was under the impression(from somewhere) that the Brown killing was the first homicide in Ferguson this year ? Which would seem to contradict the idea it was a particularly dangerous area.

64

Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 10:29 pm

… And what’s the connection between the Federal government’s fear of loss of legitimacy, and the antics of the police chief in Ferguson, an agent of the local government? …

The militarization of the police.

As the Welfare-state buyoff of the poor and working class is rescinded, there will be increasing difficulty in controlling them. Hence the police will be turned into an occupying army. Only a few weeks ago, one of ‘my’ legislators sent some mail around about how the Federal government was going to be sending local police forces money and equipment. We’re supposed to like it. ‘Government’ can be a mass noun, a kind of all-permeating substance. It’s not always just frozen, sculpted violence.

65

William Berry 08.14.14 at 10:32 pm

@Trader Joe:

“Projection”

Smooth move. Racist, classist, and ass-hole to boot.

66

Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 11:02 pm

“As the Welfare-state buyoff of the poor and working class is rescinded, there will be increasing difficulty in controlling them.”

I wouldn’t press this particular line of reasoning, unless you want most people to become more, rather than less, sympathetic to the police. Most people do not need to be paid not to riot, and are not going to be favorably impressed by the suggestion that other people do so need to be paid.

67

William Berry 08.14.14 at 11:16 pm

Context for my last comment, dashed off in a coffee shop:

. . it[‘]s the kind of place an ordinary citizen might wish they had some combat gear available.

There is one possible way that this is not racist: that the writer has no knowledge whatsoever of the racial composition of the community.

What are the odds?

And yes, I am familiar with Ferguson; as I alluded to earlier, it is a better neighborhood than the one I grew up in.

68

geo 08.14.14 at 11:16 pm

mud man:
It’s just that it knows who its friends are and are not.

I’d put it a little differently: it knows who it can push around and who it can’t. Any government simply acts according to the balance of forces in the society at large. If the government of a country where control of production and employment is privately held and the owners are highly mobilized and class-conscious, while those without such control are poorly organized — in other words, in the contemporary United States — then when the interests of the two clash, it will accommodate the former. If the ownership class is sufficiently displeased — with the corporate income tax or anything else — it will abstain from investment, move production overseas, buy up media and initiate an ideological assault on government policy, and, of course, buy up the government at the next election. Non-owners, if unorganized, are not completely powerless, but they have very few comparable ways to influence government. Hence globalization, union-busting, the Great Risk Shift, unprogressive taxation, media concentration, etc. etc.

Basically, control for control’s sake.

This is about as cogent as the perennial conservative canard: people won’t cooperate; they’re selfish by nature. Arguments from human nature — in this case, an inherent drive for power (“control for control’s sake”) aren’t complete nonsense, but those who make them need to do a lot more work.

69

Layman 08.14.14 at 11:23 pm

“Most people do not need to be paid not to riot…”

This is surely wrong. Try not paying most people. Give it enough time and they’ll riot.

70

duck-billed placelot 08.14.14 at 11:24 pm

@Brett ‘Buy-off’ of reasonably livable circumstances, reasonably available jobs, reasonably affordable lives, social safety net in case of bad circumstances. We all need that kind of ‘buy-off’, because desperation will drive the civility of a person pretty damn quick. As it should – if your society is starving you, an expectation that you’ll keep quiet and polite is just another way to screw you over.

71

Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 11:31 pm

Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 11:02 pm @ 65 –
I am not trying to persuade or influence anyone, especially ‘people’, which would be a waste of time. I am trying to provoke criticism and differences of opinion which might be entertaining or enlightening.

In any case, the belief that considerable repression is on the way and that the militarization of the police (and the policification, so to speak, of the military) is going to be part of that repression, is very widespread, if still marginal. Indeed, it’s staple fare in some of the lower reaches of the Internet. So it doesn’t matter if I say it; it’s already being said. That many, many people would — will? — favor its arrival is sad, but true.

72

Jenna 08.15.14 at 12:17 am

Young men do get killed elsewhere….like my town. You know what is different about my town and why there wasn’t a riot here? My town has a very active white voting population that is accustomed to being listened to. When the cops mistook a young (white) man from our community for a homeless person without advocates and killed him, three local council members were recalled for siding too much with the police and not asking for accountability.
Historically, the community in my town is used to being listened to, and if they are not listened to, they will vote out politicians.
I doubt very much that the folks in Ferguson are accustomed to being listened to by the authorities, or having a voice through traditional legal challenges.
Do I approve of rioting and looting? No. Can I see why someone would? Not from where I am standing, in my white suburban shoes. I also see a lot of people protesting in a peaceful fashion and getting tear gassed, though. We have the right to protest peacefully. We have the right to take photographs and video of police in public.

Also, people are talking down this particular neighborhood in Ferguson as a rough place based on how it looks and who lives there. Can we actually find some real statistics and numbers instead? What are the crime numbers actually like there, without redlining the place? I saw one story that said this was the first murder this year in that town…is that correct, or not? What are the actual facts?

73

Ronan(rf) 08.15.14 at 12:30 am

“Can we actually find some real statistics and numbers instead? What are the crime numbers actually like there,”

http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Ferguson-Missouri.html

74

Cheryl Rofer 08.15.14 at 12:42 am

Tonight the police in Ferguson look like everyday beat cops, and they are mingling with the demonstrators. Heavy trucks and assault rifles are nowhere to be seen. The sun is still up, the evening isn’t over, but things are much more peaceful than they were last night.

75

Jenna 08.15.14 at 12:54 am

Thank you @Ronan(rf)

I also looked up my home town and compared the numbers. It looks really very similar, number wise, and my town also has an industrial area. I feel quite comfortable living and walking in my town, but….
I’m white in a primarily white area with white cops, and not likely to get stopped by the police based on a visual profile. In fact, as a white woman who drives a completely nondescript car, I feel pretty invisible to the police. I may not trust police the way that I was raised to, anymore, but, I don’t think that I would get shot by mistake, or on purpose, even if I DID decide to break a law and then be rude to a police person in my town.
I wish that I thought that would all be true if I were black in Ferguson.

76

LFC 08.15.14 at 1:21 am

I think it was seeing pictures of the heavy armored police trucks in the streets after the Boston Marathon bombing that brought the issue of militarization of policing to my attention. Of course, nothing else about the two situations is comparable: the Marathon bombing was a serious crime and an act of terrorism that required a serious response. I’m merely noting that some of the photos of the police and SWAT teams in the Boston streets in the days after the Marathon bombing looked something more like an army than a traditional police force to me. Thus, though I hadn’t been following the roots of the issue in the transfer of surplus mil. equipment to police, I wasn’t too surprised by the ‘militarization’ issue here.

77

floopmeister 08.15.14 at 1:54 am

Two interesting point that jump out at me:

One: even if there is a tendency for the militarisation of the police to be a corollary of the ‘poor urban area as battleground’ it’s not a logical corollary. There’s a whole literature from the field of counterinsurgency which argues that even in ‘urban battlegrounds’ the way the ‘occupying’ force acts and dresses is crucial in terms of how the urban population in question views that force – and thus how it acts towards it. Thus the British (building on their experience of Northern Ireland) see the ideal urban policing model as soldiers in berets, walking along streets, while I seem to remember there was UK military criticism of the US patrolling model on Iraq of ‘in the Humvee wearing helmet and sunglasses’.

Is this cultural?

The second is more OT: has anyone ever discussed the metaphorical connections between ‘broken windows’ policing and Keynes’ (presumably half-serious) admonition that breaking windows in a recession is good for stimulating an economy? Is it better economically (leaving out the moral dimension) for the state to focus on the policing of such presumably deprived areas (all that gear is presumably an expression of military Keynesian element of the US economy) or on the ‘fixing/rebuilding of them?

78

floopmeister 08.15.14 at 2:03 am

79

Not Otto Kerner 08.15.14 at 3:59 am

“there is seldom any good excuse for rioting, “

And yet, here we are, almost a half century later, and we are still having police riots.

80

Not Otto Kerner 08.15.14 at 4:04 am

Oops, I should be Not Dan Walker

81

ZM 08.15.14 at 4:36 am

Jenna,
“I also looked up my home town and compared the numbers. It looks really very similar, number wise, and my town also has an industrial area. I feel quite comfortable living and walking in my town, but….
I’m white in a primarily white area with white cops,”

Buzzfeed looked at the racial dimensions of policing in Ferguson :

“First, this graph shows that the population of Ferguson is about two-thirds black.
However, of the 5,384 total traffic stops the Ferguson police made last year, 4,632 involved black residents. Only 686 involved white residents.
That means blacks represent 86% of all traffic stops last year. And despite representing nearly a third of Ferguson’s population, whites only made up 12.7% of the stops performed by Ferguson police. The remaining stops involved people of other races.
The report reveals that there were 521 arrests in 2013. Of those, 483, or 92.7%, involved blacks. A mere 6.9% involved whites, according to the report.
But despite the fact that blacks are both stopped and arrested in larger numbers in Ferguson, whites are actually more likely to have contraband.
The contraband hit rate for the general population in Ferguson is 22.59%. The rate for blacks, however, is slightly lower, at 21.71%. …
But whites have a significantly higher contraband hit rate: 34.04%. That means more than one in three whites who are stopped get busted for contraband.”
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/blacks-overwhelmingly-get-stopped-by-the-police-in-ferguson

Did anyone else see the (re)tweets from Gaza giving advice to people in Ferguson on tear gas?

With regards to the militarisation of policing – I remember reading a while ago about the increasing incidence of military helicopter training in urban areas in the US – scaring residents who are often uninformed or not prepared for the sounds and sights, and intimidated by the military might displayed. I read an article recently that mentioned reform in Chicago policing (similar to the education reforms there, which were the main subject) – to liase more with residents and improve community policing. It would seem like more community based policing and better relations between police and community would potentially help prevent these sort of situations, but the article didn’t mention the results from the Chicago community policing initiative.

82

mud man 08.15.14 at 4:51 am

@ geo #68: Arguments from human nature — in this case, an inherent drive for power

You misunderstand me: it’s not about human nature, but the nature of large organizations, which are thoroughly attuned to their own preservation or they wouldn’t have survived to get large. By the time an organization is as large as the federal government, humans are just the bricks. Humanism has nothing at all to do with it. “Balance of forces”, quite right.

Ain’t politics the shits?

83

nnyhav 08.15.14 at 5:14 am

Adam Weinstein @ Gawker: “Don’t Call the Police ‘Militarized.’ The Military Is Better Than This.” (via Reuters Counterparties blog)
Corey Pein @ The Baffler: “The Guns of Ferguson: When Tyranny Really Comes into Town, the NRA Goes into Hiding”

84

Luke 08.15.14 at 5:16 am

For bob:

‘People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: “How strange! But never mind — it’s Nazism, it will pass!”And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimised it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole edifice of Western, Christian civilisation in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

Yes, it would be worthwhile to study clinically, in detail, the steps taken by Hitler and Hitlerism and to reveal to the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the twentieth century that without his being aware of it, he has Hitler inside him, that Hitler inhabits him, that Hitler is his demon, that if he rails against him, he is being innconsistent and that, at bottom, what he cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime in itself, the crime against man, it is not the humiliation of man as such, it is the crime against the white man, the humiliation of the white man, and the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the “coolies” of India, the “niggers” of Africa.’

-Aimé Césaire, ‘Discourse on Colonialism

85

James 08.15.14 at 5:46 am

It seems the riot police have been stood down:

86

Meredith 08.15.14 at 6:04 am

LFC @76: As a citizen (not just resident — I do feel I am a citizen, finally, after more than 30 years here!) of Massachusetts, who had dear friends (including my daughter’s growing-up-and-still best friend and my confirmation-daughter, pregnant then with her first child, near the finish line when the bombs went off, eager to greet her husband on his way to that line — both of them doctors, devoted every single day to helping people and saving lives); who had a son (on only on his way to becoming a doctor then) and daughter-in-law (she from Iran, and she’s no stranger to a world of bombs), who were alerted to something strange in their apartment only a few blocks from the scene — helicopters overhead, police in the streets below — out of the blue…. Indeed, there may be uses for all this massive military shit, on occasion — when it’s used properly by well-trained people. (Not sure that was always the case in Boston on that day and the days afterward, but probably was, on the whole.)

Learned recently (from two lovely young men who grew up here, not from local newspaper accounts or anything general like that) that out here in the Berkshires, there’s a county-wide SWAT team that has — what? I have no idea what it has in the way of armored vehicles and weapons at its disposal. I was informed that the SWAT members train regularly. I hope so. That’s the real key. Training. I do wish more people would pay attention to the training involved both in using this massive equipment and, on the level of command, in deciding when and how to use it. But I do wonder. Yes, we could have a school besieged or some such, but how likely? Is a SWAT team really necessary in the Berkshires? (Or, at least, one equipped with — I don’t know what they’re equipped with!)

Anyway, I’ll end by noting my son-in-law’s visceral antipathy to a news story about Tsarnaev, more specifically, about some motion his lawyer had made on his behalf — my son-in-law grew up in a Boston suburb, where his parents and siblings still live, and he just can’t help it — and my daughter’s reminder to him: hey, I’ll be defending all kinds of people, including those who have done terrible things.

Life is complicated. But that’s okay, so long as people stay alert, work hard, train, imagine. But it does require lots of attention.

87

Don N. 08.15.14 at 7:37 am

@traderjoe – you are plain wrong. If you’ve been following the Ferguson news you’d see the police using hard gear in all sorts of situations, not just crowd control. And based on personal experience Ferguson is not a place where you wish for your own gear unless you’re a nervous person with little view into the world. So, yeah, wrong all around.
Don N.

88

dbk 08.15.14 at 7:45 am

Apparently (1) the uniform worn by law enforcement/ gear-equipment deployed, and (2) their attitude towards members of the community make an enormous difference in how the latter reacts to tragedy. Since a MHP Captain who is a native of Ferguson took over directing security yesterday, tensions have defused and reconciliation between the two sides is underway.

This doesn’t lessen the personal tragedy for the young man’s family – or the families of so many other young men killed under similar circumstances – nor does it address the consequences of deploying/equipping local police departments as if they were soldiers under wartime conditions.

Perhaps the U.S. Conference of Mayors might call for a national commission to address this phenomenon – sort of like a 21st century Knapp Commission with the updated mission to investigate the militarization of local police departments across the U.S.

89

Ronan(rf) 08.15.14 at 12:07 pm

“Thoughts, notes while reading Z Eisenstein: The “whitey in my head”, the progressive, anti-racist one, still remains American, capitalist, colonizer.”

I’m not sure exactely what this means, but isn’t the problem with looking at Ferguson as something unique(or specific to this moment in time, the ‘plutocratic ascendancy’ or whatever) that it ignores the historical context and underplays racism as an organising principle in American life.
What’s the difference between Bull Connor using dogs and watercanons, or the historic overpolicing of urban ghettos (at times when the US political economy was ordered in a more egalitarian manner) with this ? Different tactics and gear but the same politics behind it.
I’m not a fan of ‘identity politics’ (whatever that really is) but ignoring the importance of racism in the US seems ..odd(though I’m not American, so am not saying that with any authority)

On Egypt, well it’s not comparable

http://www.hrw.org/node/127942

The US is not an authoritarian country.

90

LFC 08.15.14 at 12:21 pm

Meredith @84
Indeed, there may be uses for all this massive military shit, on occasion — when it’s used properly by well-trained people. (Not sure that was always the case in Boston on that day and the days afterward, but probably was, on the whole.)

That could be — I refrained from making a judgment in my comment about whether it was necessary/appropriate; I was just referring to how the pictures looked. (I can imagine how the event affected the city, and that’s one reason I didn’t want to make a judgment at a distance.)

91

Ronan(rf) 08.15.14 at 12:48 pm

” Thus the British (building on their experience of Northern Ireland) see the ideal urban policing model as soldiers in berets, walking along streets, while I seem to remember there was UK military criticism of the US patrolling model on Iraq of ‘in the Humvee wearing helmet and sunglasses’. “

Sure it’s not effective (the response in Ferguson) but I guess you have to ask how that police department measures ‘effectiveness.’ (ie is it so dysfuntional and unresponsive to the community that they don’t really care all that much about effectiveness, except when it blows up in their face, as in this case)
My impression of US counterinsurgency in Iraq (which is undoubtedly simplistic) is that they did move towards an ‘urban policing model of soldiers in berets’, but only when the overall strategy changed (when they switched from, what I guess you’d call, an expectation of rapid societal, political and economic transformation to a more nuanced concern with ‘nation building’ – or at least with improving security and governance and giving them the opportunity to get out)
So the important factor (I guess, afaict) as jenna mentions above, is the politics at work here rather the specific tactics etc used(which are also important, though more as a manifestation of the politics, if you get me)

92

Barry 08.15.14 at 1:01 pm

Joshua W. Burton 08.14.14 at 5:14 pm

Another: “Remind us, what is the “scary clothes” argument and who is making it? (Is this about Halloween?)”

Joshua W. Burton (quoting): “Police deployed there wear uniforms and carry weapons that look more like . . . .”

You are right in a teeny tiny sense; the weapons *look* like military weapons, but that is because they *are* military weapons. The police have a large number of automatic weapons, with zero justification for 99% of them.[1]

[1] A SWAT *might* need a *few* automatic weapons, but that would be one for 10, 20 or 30 officers.

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Joshua W. Burton 08.15.14 at 1:24 pm

You are right in a teeny tiny sense; the weapons *look* like military weapons, but that is because they *are* military weapons. The police have a large number of automatic weapons, with zero justification for 99% of them.

I guess you didn’t read from @7 all the way up to @5, where I explicitly made that point and called it out as the proper focus of concern. (“Weapons inappropriate to the rules of engagement are a problem, and this is where I would look for the nugget of a coherent argument struggling to get out of the photo-op melodrama.”)

I won’t be the first, but I don’t want to be the last to comment that the silence of the NRA has been instructive. Black helicopters versus black people, whaddaya gonna do? (Not really instructive, of course — the same kabuki played out in Gretna, LA during Hurricane Katrina, and of course the NRA homily that Trayvon Martin would be alive today if he’d been armed has been omitted from your programs. But still notable.)

94

LFC 08.15.14 at 1:31 pm

floopmeister @77
Thus the British (building on their experience of Northern Ireland) see the ideal urban policing model as soldiers in berets, walking along streets, while I seem to remember there was UK military criticism of the US patrolling model in Iraq of ‘in the Humvee wearing helmet and sunglasses’. Is this cultural?

As Ronan has already suggested, did the “US patrolling model” as you (floopmeister) describe it remain that way e.g. under Petraeus (who took over in Iraq in early ’07), or did he modify it somewhat? The Daily Mail article you linked has no visible date on it, so can’t tell when it was written and specifically whether it’s from pre-’07 or post-’07.

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J Thomas 08.15.14 at 1:40 pm

#91 Joshua Burton

… of course the NRA homily that Trayvon Martin would be alive today if he’d been armed has been omitted from your programs.

Did they really say that? It’s entirely a side issue from the topic, but … wow!

They figure that if both of them had guns, nobody would have gotten shot?

Or if Martin had been the survivor, he could have argued in court that he wasn’t a murderer and didn’t deserve to be executed for it….

Just wow.

96

Joshua W. Burton 08.15.14 at 1:50 pm

Did they really say that? It’s entirely a side issue from the topic, but … wow!

No, of course they didn’t say that. They would have said it, if their racism didn’t trump their enthusiasm, and reminding them of this afflicts the comfortable. (A homily omitted from the program is one that was not delivered.)

97

jake the antisoshul soshulist 08.15.14 at 1:59 pm

It is “interesting” how the mood of the community changed when the appearance of the police changed from that of an occupying army.

Sadly, we have been through this before, and apparently have forgotten the lessons we learned. There is indeed friction between residents and police in many predominately minority communities. Leaving aside the history that led to this, there is good reason for the residents of those communities to feel that the police are not there “to protect and to serve” the community, but to control the community and to protect others from them. Some of the comments here, suggest strongly that some people outside those communities endorse the second part.

98

floopmeister 08.15.14 at 2:20 pm

LFC and Ronan: I’m pretty sure that the US patrolling model in Iraq did change to be more sensitive (i.e. the UK ‘beret’ approach) but like Ronan suggested it seems to have been because the whole approach to the situation (the ‘politics’, again as Ronan suggested) changed.

It occurs to me that I needed to be clearer with my ‘is it cultural?’ question. I wasn’t specifically meaning the US vs the UK (i.e. UK good, US bad) – but instead questioning whether it’s a mindset (culture) which sees the primary concern of policing in a situation as is happening in Ferguson to be crowd control and force protection rather than broader community concerns and long-term rebuilding. In that sense it’s pretty similar to the point around ‘serve and protect’ that others have made, or Ronan’s point about timeframes – is it force and property protection (putting a lid on it all) or thinking about the longer scale ‘nation building’ aspects?

99

Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 2:24 pm

They didn’t say it, because they didn’t have any motive to pretend that Trayvon Martin wasn’t the aggressor in that situation, and properly killed in self defense. Which is something you can’t say about Michael Brown.

100

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 2:31 pm

They didn’t say it, because they didn’t have any motive to pretend that Trayvon Martin wasn’t the aggressor in that situation, and properly killed in self defense.

Interesting. Entirely apart from the question whether he was “the aggressor” (*which I think cannot be determined now though it is at least possible), if he had been armed I would estimate there would be at least a 50% chance he would have survived. Maybe more than 50%.

When other people have guns, it really makes sense to have a gun yourself. And shoot first.

101

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 2:34 pm

Which is something you can’t say about Michael Brown.

True. If Michael Brown had had a gun it would not have helped him one little tiny bit. Not the slightest. He would have wound up dead with if anything more certainty.

Don’t those guys argue that he needs to have a gun so he can overthrow the government if it turns tyrannical?

102

bob mcmanus 08.15.14 at 2:35 pm

Ronan: The US is not an authoritarian country.

97: It is “interesting” how the mood of the community changed when the appearance of the police changed from that of an occupying army.

Might I suggest that the measure of an “authoritarian country” not be the orders from the top or who/what is giving the orders or how the orders are enforced…

…but rather should be observed at the bottom as to the degree to which the populace obeys?

So that a perfectly authoritarian country would not be one with a brutal and brutalizing internal security system but a country that barely needed a police force at all, or could afford to have their police disarmed, gentled, supportive and guiding? The most authoritarian country would be the one with the least amount of crime?

103

bob mcmanus 08.15.14 at 2:55 pm

But the liberals think obedience is just fine and dandy as long as the orders come from a just and representative system blah blah.

As far as why I prefer anti-colonial or post-colonial analytic tools to feminist or anti-racist tools, it’s because there are more overt subject positions.

The anti-racist narrative just says we should replace, over here across the street from the molotov cocktails, the white male racist Republicans with “us” or people “like us,” white (or even black) female antiracist Democrats. Then we will treat those people rioting with the molotovs across the street much better and give them what they need.

Whatever. The point is we are still across the street doing a more sophisticated and efficient form of crowd control. While keeping the system and structures the same, just replacing the actors and agents and authorities.

Hell. Why can’t we just put blacks in charge of everything, black Pres, 100 black senators, 435 black congresspersons, SCOTUS, governors, mayors, everything. Do it tomorrow. I’m for it. In a heartbeat.

I guess that would be unfair and unjust, break the rules, wreck the system? We have processes and rules and laws here that we work within to create and maintain our just and fair society, and we can’t go too far too fast too recklessly because then we would…

…lose legitimacy and…authority?

104

Andrew F. 08.15.14 at 3:09 pm

Hilarious @35: Many police officers never fire a gun, apart from range practice, in their careers. Yes, this country is awash in guns but this does not translate into police being involved in gun battles with criminals with regularity. Most shots fired involve domestic violence suspects refusing to leave a residence and surrender.

Yes, yet officers might wish to be prepared for the very unlikely contingency in which they are involved in a gunfight. That is why your co-counsel’s father likely carries 2-3 magazines. That this officer carried an additional one or two doesn’t strike me as terribly significant.

Sixty-plus rounds of ammo exceeds anything any suburban cop will ever need. It’s an indicator of a mind set, equating a low-crime beat with combat in Iraq.

30-45 rounds is also probably more than any cop will ever need, but that’s not an uncommon amount. These are low-cost (they don’t weigh much) preparations for low-probability, high-impact contingencies. The mindset this falls into is that of anyone whose job involves being ready for emergencies, including those which are unlikely. He may well think that the line between the unlikely situation requiring two magazines and that requiring three or four is slim – chronologically it might be the difference between a gunfight lasting 30 seconds and lasting 50 seconds.

105

Barry 08.15.14 at 3:11 pm

Sorry, Joshua.

106

Barry 08.15.14 at 3:13 pm

BTW, the ‘stand your ground’ has been repeatedly implemented in a way which is better described as ‘stand your ground, white man’. Trayvon would be on death row if he had had a gun and defended himself.

107

jdkbrown 08.15.14 at 3:15 pm

“These are low-cost (they don’t weigh much) preparations for low-probability, high-impact contingencies.”

Such as confronting a man holding his wallet.

108

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 3:15 pm

He may well think that the line between the unlikely situation requiring two magazines and that requiring three or four is slim – chronologically it might be the difference between a gunfight lasting 30 seconds and lasting 50 seconds.

He should also carry a really good first-aid kit.

Because if he gets into a situation where he needs to re-load 3 times before he can get more ammo, he will almost certainly be a casualty.

109

Consumatopia 08.15.14 at 3:18 pm

These are low-cost (they don’t weigh much) preparations for low-probability, high-impact contingencies.

The cost of the preparations isn’t the weight, cumbersomeness, or even appearance of the magazines. The cost is what it does to your brain to be constantly mentally prepared for the very rare situation in which you need that much ammunition, and the possibility that this mental preparation makes you less prepared for other, more common situations.

110

Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 3:22 pm

“BTW, the ‘stand your ground’ has been repeatedly implemented in a way which is better described as ‘stand your ground, white man’. “

Oh, really?

111

William Berry 08.15.14 at 4:22 pm

The effing “DailyCaller”, Carlson’s slime-rag?

You had no credibility before, now you have less than none.

GTFO, already.

112

Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 4:32 pm

That’s what we call “epistemic closure”. You can’t change your mind, because you’ll only take information from people you already agree with.

The original source of the information was the Tampa Bay Times. They have a nice display of the data there.

Assuming you actually have any interest in data that might contradict your predjudices.

113

Plume 08.15.14 at 4:45 pm

Brett,

Stand your ground has repeatedly been implemented in racist fashion:

Race Matters in stand your ground verdicts

The odds that a white-on-black homicide is ruled to have been justified is more than 11 times the odds a black-on-white shooting is ruled justified,” Roman concluded. “No dataset will ever be sufficient to prove that race alone explains these disparities. But there are disparities in whether homicides are ruled to be self-defense, and race is clearly an important part of the story.”

Throw in the increase in homicides since the stand your ground laws took effect — who woulda thunk it!! — and you have a recipe for accelerated, deadly racism.

8% more homicides

114

William Berry 08.15.14 at 4:47 pm

You’re a brain-dead right-wing troll. I will no longer respond to, or even read your comments. I would recommend this as a policy to the other commenters. FOAD.

115

Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 5:06 pm

From the Florida data,

Eleven white on black Stand your ground cases. 1 convicted, 6 justified, 4 pending.

Ten black on white Stand your ground cases. 3 convicted, 4 justified, 3 pending.

But, of course, most black Stand your ground cases didn’t involve white victims.

Fourty-three black Stand your ground cases, 9 convicted, 27 justified, 7 pending.

Eighty-one white Stand your ground cases, 33 convicted, 41 justified, 7 pending.

So, blacks do successfully invoke Stand your ground.

And, of course, most Floridians are white, not black, (78% vs 17%) and the murder rate among blacks is roughly 7 times higher than among whites.

What are the logical implications of this? If blacks commit murder at a much higher rate than whites, and comprise a smaller percentage of the population, then you would logically expect a much higher percentage of black/white deadly altercations to involve a white victim and a black perpetrator, than the other way around.

Which means a fair justice system is going to result in a much higher rate of whites “standing their ground” against blacks, than blacks “standing their ground” against whites. That’s just math. Is math racist? Some people seem to think so.

The bottom line is, a lot of statistics which seem to prove that the justice system is racist, are really just proving that somebody is either innumerate, or determined to pretend that the races actually behave the same, when they’re known not to.

116

Cian 08.15.14 at 5:51 pm

#104: “The mindset this falls into is that of anyone whose job involves being ready for emergencies, including those which are unlikely.”

So how many cops carry first aid kits? Which is a far more likely emergency situation for any cop. Or are we defining emergency in a sexy macho way here, rather than helping the public with more mundane problems.

117

Cian 08.15.14 at 5:53 pm

So stand your ground makes it easier for black people to kill black people. Well so long as there’s a non-racist upside…

118

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 6:14 pm

#115

Brett your numbers do work out. But they might not mean what you think they do.

Why do blacks shoot each other so much more than they shoot whites or whites shoot whites? It might be that blacks feel the legal system will not work for them when they need to sue each other. (Or whites too, of course.) So, lacking laws, they are more likely to try to settle things by force.

And if they then face murder charges when they have an altercation and one of them gets killed, what if the courts are more likely to allow a “stand your ground” defense because they don’t mind blacks killing blacks? If a jury believes that the killer was trash and the victim was trash so just forget it, let him go kill somebody else like himself, better for society that way….

Nationwide, in 2011 blacks were more than 5 times as likely to kill other blacks as they were whites. This could be because most of their dealings were with other blacks, or because they could get away with violence against blacks but not against whites, or maybe partly because they might get framed for crimes more often.

Meanwhile whites were more than 13 times as likely to kill other whites as blacks. This could be because most of their dealings were with whites, or because they had other ways to intimidate blacks, or maybe partly because they tended not to get prosecuted for killing blacks.

Whites who kill blacks are much more likely to get a successful stand-your-ground defense than whites who kill whites, who usually do better than blacks who kill blacks, who of course do better than blacks who kill whites. One possible interpretation is that whites mostly kill blacks when they are obviously justified so of course they don’t get punished as much. Another possible interpretation is that the system is biased against blacks. I don’t see how to choose between those just from the numbers.

If blacks commit murder at a much higher rate than whites, and comprise a smaller percentage of the population, then you would logically expect a much higher percentage of black/white deadly altercations to involve a white victim and a black perpetrator, than the other way around.

That would be true if blacks killed people at random. As it is, white-victim/black-perp is not nearly as high as you would expect.

If blacks killed people at random seven times as often each than whites killed at random, and the killing was all random, and when both were armed sometimes the victim managed to win, then it would make sense that when a white killed a black it was much more likely to be self-defense than when a black killed a white.

whites murder blacks: .78*.17*x = .1326x
whites murder whites: .78*.78*x = .6084x
blacks murder blacks: .17*.17*7*x = .2023x
blacks murder whites: .17*.78*7*x = .9282x

Without knowing anything about the details we could figure it was 7 times as likely that the black was the aggressor than the white, whichever one wound up dead.

But if whites in fact kill blacks disproportionately, more than they kill other whites, then the numbers change. The published numbers go the other direction but that could be because of racism, murders of blacks that do not get counted, or are left unsolved, or that a black is convicted of.

And so when you claim that these numbers prove your assumptions, you must rely on your assumptions to interpret them in ways that support your assumptions.

119

Barry 08.15.14 at 6:16 pm

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/02/26/3332391/trayvon-martin-years/

(this discusses SYG laws around the country)

http://disinfo.com/2014/02/happens-black-man-stands-ground-florida/
“In what is quickly becoming a rallying call against the racial bias of “Stand Your Ground” laws, a young U.S. airman, Michael Giles, was sentenced to 25 years in a Florida prison after shooting a man, who happened to be attacking him, in the leg. That’s right: no death actually occurred in the incident, but Giles was sentenced to 25 years. What makes this even more disheartening is the fact that, in an unrelated case, a Missouri man only received 20 years for actually murdering a man who was only leaving a residence. – “
http://www.salon.com/2013/06/11/stand_your_ground_law_helps_white_defendants_a_lot_more_than_black_ones/
“The Tampa Bay Times found that defendants claiming “stand your ground” are more successful if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty. Only 59 percent of those who killed a white person got off. The Urban Institute determined that in “stand your ground” states, when white shooters kill black victims, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable. When black shooters kill white victims only 3 percent of the deaths are ruled justifiable.”

120

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 6:18 pm

You’re a brain-dead right-wing troll. I will no longer respond to, or even read your comments. I would recommend this as a policy to the other commenters. FOAD.

The brain-dead right-wing troll shot! He scored! The brain-dead right-wing troll has won another round!

Why did you choose to give him the satisfaction?

121

Bruce Wilder 08.15.14 at 6:19 pm

Brett Bellmore: you would logically expect a much higher percentage of black/white deadly altercations to involve a white victim and a black perpetrator, than the other way around.

I think your math is faulty, here. A smaller proportion of whites might be murderously aggressive, but there are a lot more whites, so the numbers of the murderously aggressive by race are closer to even. Beyond that, in any given encounter, it is not predetermined whether the aggressor is going to become shooter or victim. To get a higher percentage of white victims and black shooters than the reverse, you’d have to assume that whites are lousy shots.

In any case, as you report, in this data at least, among white / black encounters, the numbers of white shooters and black shooters is roughly even.

122

ckc (not kc) 08.15.14 at 6:40 pm

…from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/the-nine-commandments-of-policing-and-how-ferguson-police-forgot-them/article20076106/

Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognize 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.

5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

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.

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

8. To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the state, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

123

Billikin 08.15.14 at 7:02 pm

“Most people do not need to be paid not to riot”

Paying people not to riot — now there’s a concept. Well, why not? It worked in Iraq, right?

124

Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 7:08 pm

J, I don’t think my numbers prove anything, particularly, beyond that, if you want to demonstrate injustice, you need to look at particulars, not aggregate numbers.

The disparity in Stand your ground numbers could demonstrate injustice, or not, depending on the underlying facts. You have to make assumptions beyond the numbers to conclude that they prove injustice, OR justice. Justice is in the details, not the numbers, you can’t see it from orbit.

I’ve simply demonstrated that the numbers are, in fact, facially consistent with Stand your ground not operating in a racist manner. Contrary to Barry’s assertion.

I’m quite content with a lot of blacks getting off on Stand your ground basis. The murder rate among blacks is extraordinarilly high, which means that a lot of blacks are ending up in circumstances where self defense is perfectly justified. And self defense is a human right, blacks have as much right to it as anyone.

125

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 9:23 pm

The disparity in Stand your ground numbers could demonstrate injustice, or not, depending on the underlying facts. You have to make assumptions beyond the numbers to conclude that they prove injustice, OR justice. Justice is in the details, not the numbers, you can’t see it from orbit.

Agreed.

I’ve simply demonstrated that the numbers are, in fact, facially consistent with Stand your ground not operating in a racist manner. Contrary to Barry’s assertion.

Stand your ground succeeds best when it’s a white person killing a black person.

It succeeds worst by far when it’s a black killing a white.

You have argued assumptions which would make that reasonable. If blacks are simply more murderous, then when they murder whites the details of the court cases would usually be against them so they would usually lose. But when whites kill them in self-defense, the details of the court cases would usually support the whites so they would usually win.

You can argue from the numbers that the courts aren’t racist, but you have to base the argument
on racist assumptions,

126

Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 10:15 pm

No, I have to base the argument on crime statistics. Perhaps you will assert that the crime statistics are a result of racist enforcement and racist witnesses, that it’s racism all the way down to the surveillance cameras, but I say, if that’s your argument, racism isn’t a conclusion on your part, it’s a premise.

Blacks, on average, are a lot more likely to commit murder than whites, on average. This tells you precisely nothing about any particular black or white you meet, but if you’re arguing statistics, you have to work with the statistics, and that’s what they say.

127

Jenna 08.15.14 at 10:29 pm

Stand your ground laws are most effective at letting someone go free when their opponent is dead, and not merely injured or frightened off. Having only one (living) narrative makes things so much simpler.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some police shootings are like that, too. If the person is dead, they can’t dispute your version of events, can they?
Also, there’s a reason that the police often try to confiscate cameras and video, even when the courts have said that taking pictures of or filming police in public is legal.

128

Layman 08.15.14 at 10:30 pm

Brett Bellmore @ 115

It’s hard to see why you draw the conclusions you do about race & stand your ground, given this data.

“Eleven white on black Stand your ground cases. 1 convicted, 6 justified, 4 pending.
Ten black on white Stand your ground cases. 3 convicted, 4 justified, 3 pending.”

In other words, in cases of whites shooting blacks, whites are acquitted by SYG 87% of the time; while in cases of blacks shooting whites, blacks are acquitted by SYG just 57% of the time. Put another way, whites are 3 times more likely to win when they’ve shot blacks as are blacks when they’ve shot whites. Hardly color blind, is it?

129

J Thomas 08.15.14 at 10:59 pm

In other words, in cases of whites shooting blacks, whites are acquitted by SYG 87% of the time; while in cases of blacks shooting whites, blacks are acquitted by SYG just 57% of the time. Put another way, whites are 3 times more likely to win when they’ve shot blacks as are blacks when they’ve shot whites. Hardly color blind, is it?

But he has an explanation for that.

Blacks are far more likely to be arrested for murder. If that is because blacks attack and kill far more than their share of people, then it would make sense that usually when a black person kills a white person, it’s usually because he was attacking and killing him. But when a white person kills a black, it’s usually because the black person was attacking him and the white person killed him in self defense.

If it’s true that black people attack and kill a lot more, then we would get this result if the courts were fair. And the police say it’s true. Maybe.

But there are a lot of other ways the statistics could really go.

For example, Brett says that Florida is 78% white and 17% black, and bases his statistics on that.

But if Florida has 61% whites who for one reason or another never kill anybody and don’t get killed, and 17% white who kill people just as often as the 17% blacks do, then the disparity in results would likely be racism.

There are lots of ways it could go. But one of the ways is like Brett says. If blacks are a whole lot more likely to attack whites than whites are to attack blacks, then we could get the results that look racist from the courts being fair.

130

Layman 08.16.14 at 12:01 am

“But he has an explanation for that.”

An explanation which is irrelevant to the data subset he highlighted. Once whites shoot blacks, they’re 3 times as likely to benefit from SYG as are blacks who shoot whites. No matter how more or less likely one group is to shoot anyone.

131

Brett Bellmore 08.16.14 at 12:07 am

Like I said, innumerate. Well, not everybody is a math geek.

The point is, you don’t know whether the statistics represent justice or injustice, racism or impartiality, unless you undertake a detailed examination of individual cases. You have to make some seriously contested assumptions in order to decide that the crude statistics represent injustice and racism. Assumptions that amount to smuggling the conclusion into your premises.

But, what’s new about that? The drive to equate disparate impact with proof of racism is just exactly that sort of assumption driven conclusion.

132

Layman 08.16.14 at 12:12 am

“The point is, you don’t know whether the statistics represent justice or injustice, racism or impartiality, unless you undertake a detailed examination of individual cases.”

Why offer the data, if you think it’s meaningless?

133

Meredith 08.16.14 at 12:31 am

134

Consumatopia 08.16.14 at 12:31 am

You have to make some seriously contested assumptions in order to decide that the crude statistics represent injustice and racism.

It depends on the statistic we’re talking about Take the divergence between black and white income and wealth. There are two possible explanations for this: either blacks are poorer because of past and/or present racism or blacks are lazier people. So the statistics force you to either admit that racism is real, or to be a racist yourself. (The “contested assumptions” in this case would be that racist beliefs are false.)

The statistics on justifiable homicides aren’t quite that simple. I think, nationally, while the vast majority of homicides are intra-racial, there are about twice as many black-on-white as white-on-black homicides. So it’s not crazy to think that a higher proportion of white-on-black homicides will end up being legitimately justifiable than black-on-white.

However, I don’t see anything that could explain the scale of the discrepancy Plume linked to @113. Eleven to one?

135

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 12:35 am

Why offer the data, if you think it’s meaningless?

Somebody else had already said that stand your ground had been repeatedly implemented in a racist way.

Brett Bellmore then brought out his argument that it wasn’t the courts that were racist, it was the facts that were racist.

When challenged, he then readily agreed that the statistics are compatible with his conclusion but do not determine it, that they don’t decide it one way or another. So the statistics don’t prove that the law is enforced in a racist way.

If his racist claim is correct — that it’s mostly blacks attacking whites and whites defending themselves against blacks — then most whites killing blacks should get off for self-defense and most blacks attacking whites should not. But in that case around half of the black-on-black murders should get off, if we assume that the original attacker wins about half the time. (But if the original attacker wins about half the time, isn’t it better not to attack?)

It is a racist claim but to tell whether it’s true we would need to find out how often the courts reach the correct conclusion.

136

Layman 08.16.14 at 12:45 am

Thanks, J Thomas, but I am not asking you this question.

137

temp 08.16.14 at 1:03 am

In other words, in cases of whites shooting blacks, whites are acquitted by SYG 87% of the time; while in cases of blacks shooting whites, blacks are acquitted by SYG just 57% of the time. Put another way, whites are 3 times more likely to win when they’ve shot blacks as are blacks when they’ve shot whites. Hardly color blind, is it?

The sample is too small to infer this.

138

temp 08.16.14 at 1:12 am

However, I don’t see anything that could explain the scale of the discrepancy Plume linked to @113. Eleven to one?

The cases in which blacks kill whites may be very different from the cases in which whites kill blacks. Roman doesn’t seem to have even looked at how frequently a claim of self-defense was made in each of these situations.

139

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 1:23 am

There is only one case where a white man killed a black man and was convicted.

His SYG claim may have been undermined by the fact that the man he shot was his stepfather, and he killed his own mother in the same incident.

The facts in this case do not exactly overthrow my expectations of racial disparity.

140

temp 08.16.14 at 1:43 am

Right. The evidence Brett presented isn’t strong enough to justify much of a change in belief, so you should believe more or less whatever you believed before.

141

Consumatopia 08.16.14 at 2:05 am

“Roman doesn’t seem to have even looked at how frequently a claim of self-defense was made in each of these situations.”

That’s true, but even if turns out that it’s exactly proportional, that just pushes the question back–why are whites making not just more self-defense claims but so many times more self-defense claims than blacks?

I’m not saying this proves racism, but for those insisting that the system isn’t racist, there’s still an explanatory gap here.

142

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 2:23 am

I think, nationally, while the vast majority of homicides are intra-racial, there are about twice as many black-on-white as white-on-black homicides. So it’s not crazy to think that a higher proportion of white-on-black homicides will end up being legitimately justifiable than black-on-white.

However, I don’t see anything that could explain the scale of the discrepancy Plume linked to @113. Eleven to one?

It takes a racist argument, but I’ll sketch out how one could go.

Imagine that you are carrying a gun because you believe it will help you protect yourself. A couple of big black guys threaten you for some unknown reason. Your wallet, maybe? I dunno why they threaten you, let’s leave that part out. They threaten you and you quick, like you were trained, pull your gun out of your concealed holster and try to defend yourself. If you kill at least one of them, it’s a white on black murder trial assuming it goes to court. If they kill you, it’s a black on white murder trial. Ahead of time you thought your gun would protect you. But what are the real odds? They didn’t threaten you expecting to get killed, they probably knew what they were doing and were ready to stop you quick if you acted up. So is your chance really better than, say, one in three?

So if it’s 2 black-on-white killings for every white-on-black killing, that’s compatible with it being *all* blacks attacking whites and *no* whites attacking blacks. If whites in truth never attack blacks, then wouldn’t an 11:1 ratio make sense? If every single white-on-black killing is really self-defense, is it so unreasonable that 22% of them would be ruled self-defense by the courts?

Try it a different way. What result would we get if we assumed that the court rulings were correct?

For both black-on-black killings and white-on-white, the courts rule about 4% of them justified. If the courts are right, that implies that if you set out to kill somebody, it’s 24 times as likely that you will kill them than that they will kill you. (But there’s a chance they will get away without killing you, possibly leaving you with an attempted murder charge.)

We assume the courts are correct that 22% of whites who killed blacks were self-defense. Then 78% of whites who killed blacks were murderers. And nearly 9% of the time that blacks tried to kill whites, the whites killed the blacks instead. Maybe the courts are more than twice as likely to call the whites justified because of racism? Or possibly whites are just better at self-defense?

Assuming 4% or 9% of blacks attacked by whites killed the whites in self-defense, we get an insignificant fraction of blacks accused of murder getting it ruled justified. It all fits together except the 8+% of white-on-black self-defense.

However, if 10% of the black-on-black murders were really white-on-black murders where a black man was arrested instead, then none of this fits together after all. Or if there were 250 white-on-black murders a year nationwide that did not get reported to the people who compiled the statistics.

Like the Martin/Zimmerman thing. If Zimmerman had not been arrested, would it have counted as murder? Justifiable homicide? Would it have been counted at all?

143

Meredith 08.16.14 at 4:54 am

At last, Ta-Nehesi Coates is back from his vacances (taken before the French themselves all leave — well played). This as commentary on where the comment here have gone(?):

“The politics of respectability are, at their root, the politics of changing the subject–the last resort for those who can not bear the agony of looking their country in the eye. The policy of America has been, for most of its history, white supremacy. The high rates of violence in black neighborhoods do not exist outside of these facts–they evidence them.”

144

Meredith 08.16.14 at 5:26 am

Let me add this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/15/world/europe/amsterdam-black-pete-zwarte-piet-verdict.html?_r=0

I mean, really. I am one of those (many! what — some 40% of the “white” US population?) WASP’s whose ancestors (as known and imagined as such — let’s not get into the fact that most US black people share my 1630’s, 1700’s biological ancestry, in one way or another) came in the 1630’s (sometimes after some time in Amsterdam) — along with a few stragglers, who came in the early 1700’s (those mostly my southern side(s)). (I’ve only recently been learning about them all from way back when — I am so WASP that no one in my family ever thought it a big deal that, yeah, everyone came from “way back” and didn’t worry about details. Now I am learning — really interesting! Who knew, for instance, that some 1690’s Charlestown rigger helped lead to me?) Even so (as I try to imagine their worlds, feel for their challenges), even I get this — it ain’t the same for whites and blacks. A little American history is in order. And colonial(ist) history. It’s really not rocket science. People can absorb this history, critically and thoughtfully. Read. Listen. Learn.

Ta-Nehisi provides some excellent bibliography in recent posts. Or try, say, Jill Lepore. (Start with The Name of War. As Coates himself is happily open to considering, the Indians have as strong a claim, at least, as African Americans.)

145

Brett Bellmore 08.16.14 at 10:47 am

“Thanks, J Thomas, but I am not asking you this question.”

To make it official, then, “What he said.” J has a fair grasp of my argument.

To be clear, I’m making a general argument here, that “disparate impact” can not be considered proof of racism. You actually need to look at the individual cases, the details.

It may be that if you look at the details, you will find racism. Or maybe you won’t. But there’s no substitute for actually looking at the details. You can’t just assume that the numbers would come out the way you like if there wasn’t racism.

“It is a racist claim but to tell whether it’s true we would need to find out how often the courts reach the correct conclusion.”

Really, J, I’d like to know your definition of “racist”. Isn’t there an unavoidable component of irrationality in “racism”, which precludes true beliefs rationally applied being “racist”?

Oh, and, “But in that case around half of the black-on-black murders should get off, if we assume that the original attacker wins about half the time.”

To be clear, the SYG statistics are for people who make a legal SYG claim. A lot more whites do this than blacks.

Perhaps this is because blacks assume that SYG is administered in a racist way, and don’t bother to mount a SYG defense? While whites do not assume that the system is rigged against them, and so go ahead and use it.

You can really hurt yourself by assuming up front that you haven’t got a chance. Perhaps blacks are suffering from self-fulfilling assumptions of racism.

Anyway, back to main topic: I assume we can all agree that the federal program shipping surplus military arms to police should be ended? I like the proposal that the police be limited to only those arms civilians are permitted to own.

Because the police ARE “civilians”, at least in theory. They’re just paid to do what everybody has a legal right to do. Yes, you actually do have a legal right to arrest people. The difference is, if you make a mistake, you’re screwed, if the cop makes a mistake, he has immunity.

Maybe we should take that immunity away…

146

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 12:19 pm

“It is a racist claim but to tell whether it’s true we would need to find out how often the courts reach the correct conclusion.”

Really, J, I’d like to know your definition of “racist”. Isn’t there an unavoidable component of irrationality in “racism”, which precludes true beliefs rationally applied being “racist”?

My definition of racist talk, is talk that says one race is better than another in any way that people care about. If we say that blacks in the USA kill more than whites in the USA do, that’s racist. But if the statistics are correct, it’s a racist true fact.

Also blacks in the USA get killed a lot more. The statistics say they kill each other a lot more, and if the statistics are wrong — for example if police kill well over a thousand blacks a year and blame it on other blacks — that would be really hardcore racism. I’m not at all ready to claim that happens, and also while my instinct is to disbelieve it, I’m not going to rule it out at this point.

Oh, and, “But in that case around half of the black-on-black murders should get off, if we assume that the original attacker wins about half the time.”

To be clear, the SYG statistics are for people who make a legal SYG claim. A lot more whites do this than blacks.

I didn’t notice that statistic! A lot more whites than blacks try to claim SYG? That would make a difference.

Perhaps this is because blacks assume that SYG is administered in a racist way, and don’t bother to mount a SYG defense? While whites do not assume that the system is rigged against them, and so go ahead and use it.

Maybe more blacks have trouble getting a fancy lawyer.

You can really hurt yourself by assuming up front that you haven’t got a chance. Perhaps blacks are suffering from self-fulfilling assumptions of racism.

Somehow it’s easier for poor people to think they haven’t got a chance than rich people. Funny how that goes….

In general, it seems like poor people are far more likely to lose murder trials than rich people. Even rich black people. But then, they are also far more likely to be arrested for murder than rich people. Come to think of it, isn’t it reasonable that rich people would commit fewer murders? When you have money you can pay people to kill for you, and not get caught murdering people with your own hands even if the killer is caught.

Maybe poor blacks are suffering from self-fulfilling assumptions of poverty. If they just *believed* they weren’t poor….

Because the police ARE “civilians”, at least in theory. They’re just paid to do what everybody has a legal right to do. Yes, you actually do have a legal right to arrest people. The difference is, if you make a mistake, you’re screwed, if the cop makes a mistake, he has immunity.

Maybe we should take that immunity away…

There’s something to that. I can imagine problems.

A black policeman once explained to me that when you join the police you lose the right to go to prison. Regular people can commit crimes and go to prison and after it’s over they pick up their lives again. But if a policeman goes to prison he can’t expect to get out of it alive at all. The other inmates are likely to kill him before the first month is up.

If policemen were likely to go to prison for their mistakes, how many people would be willing to do that job?

147

Layman 08.16.14 at 1:25 pm

“The sample is too small to infer this.”

Of course it is, which is why I ask why Brett Bellmore offered it in the first place.

148

Barry 08.16.14 at 1:33 pm

BTW, one way of getting a raw estimate is to see who gets away with what. As pointed out by many, the Bundys wpuld have been put in jail long before their forurth losse in court, for non-payment of rent. And the police would have responded with true military levels of force, if people had gathered in armed defense (or rather, offense) of a black family facing arrest.

Brett: “Because the police ARE “civilians”, at least in theory. They’re just paid to do what everybody has a legal right to do. Yes, you actually do have a legal right to arrest people. The difference is, if you make a mistake, you’re screwed, if the cop makes a mistake, he has immunity.”

One out of 100 times, he says something good.

149

Layman 08.16.14 at 1:36 pm

@ Brett Bellmore

“To be clear, I’m making a general argument here, that “disparate impact” can not be considered proof of racism.”

No, what you’re doing is shifting your ground constantly as your footing is being undermined. In response to a claim that SYG is being implemented to racist effect, you offered this data. When challenged about what the data shows, you say the data isn’t dispositive, that one must look at the facts in every case. So I ask, why offer the data, triumphantly, in the first place?

As to this latest claim, I’d say as a general rule that systems do what they’re designed to do. If you want to know the intent behind a system, look at what it does. Ask Occam if you can borrow his razor.

150

Collin Street 08.16.14 at 1:49 pm

When challenged about what the data shows, you say the data isn’t dispositive, that one must look at the facts in every case.

Note that it’s very hard to come to any conclusion about systemic effects if you’re compelled to look at each case in isolation. Some might find even making this sort of request evidence of bad faith.

151

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 2:30 pm

#149 Layman

I’d say as a general rule that systems do what they’re designed to do. If you want to know the intent behind a system, look at what it does. Ask Occam if you can borrow his razor.

Well, no. Systems get designed and implemented, and then they go their own way. They evolve, they grow, they encroach. Systems don’t do what they were designed to or what the people in them say they do. People in systems don’t do what they say they do.

People sometimes use the word “hypocrisy” but we might do better to have a word to describe the rare cases where “hypocrisy” doesn’t apply.

152

Layman 08.16.14 at 2:50 pm

@ J Thomas

Less is more.

153

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 3:35 pm

I would be cautious about making the system itself an actor in a explanation — don’t know if there’s a clever term for such caution — but yes social systems that emerge from strategic behavior will have manifest and latent functions — functions that the participants recognize and articulate and also functions that are not articulated, but can be observed. Like any machine, a system will have a limited degree of efficiency. It may also be observably dysfunctional in some ways.

The system, created by collective intentions expressed in conflicting strategies, will change under strategic pressure. Articulating a latent function — making it manifest can be a strategic move.

People who play with razors are likely to cut themselves.

154

Anarcissie 08.16.14 at 4:36 pm

Social systems are organisms as well as mechanisms. They grow, move, metabolize, evolve. At times they may even exhibit a kind of low intelligence.

155

William Berry 08.16.14 at 4:37 pm

Layman @149 is definittive.

J. Thomas: you’re a nice fella and all, I am sure, but you do tend to go on a bit.

156

James Wimberley 08.16.14 at 4:56 pm

Murder is not an observational category. The SYG trials come at the end of a criminal justice process involving a lot of discretion first by police and second by prosecutors. In many cases, the SYG defence is surely mounted successfully in the police station, and there’s no prosecution. In others, the cops don’t buy the SYG story and send the case on to the prosecutors. US criminal justice would collapse without extensive plea bargaining, which is unlikely to be colour-blind. (Assume a non-racist but 100% careerist prosecutor considering a plea bargain with two perps, in similar circumstances apart from race. She may think the black perp is more likely to be convicted at trial, so offers a worse bargain than to the white perp, so the black is more likely to go to trial). A proper analysis would start with non-domestic gunshot homicides and then look at the chances of standing trial, the frequency of SYG defences within the trial, and only finally the success of the defence.

157

Andrew F. 08.16.14 at 6:48 pm

Brett, it’s worth noting that police officers generally have qualified immunity, not absolute immunity. As to limiting officers to firearms that can be privately purchased, why is this a good idea?

As to the “militarization of police” argument generally… for the most part it relies on gross oversimplifications and exaggerations. The media coverage has been of the sort I usually associate with reporting of shark attacks. It has been sensationalist and unbalanced to the point of disgrace. For example, The Financial Times, usually somewhat reasonable, published a panicked editorial this weekend which claims “[t]he scenes in Ferguson look as though they might have taken place in Fallujah at the height of the US invasion of Iraq.” Right, except for the fact that despite riots, officers injured by hurled bricks, verified Molotov cocktails, and reported gunshots at police, the “militarized police” unit endlessly pictured hasn’t killed anyone. The only instance of lethal force used by the police occurred when, reportedly, a man pointed a handgun at police.

Police officers (most of them) don’t usually patrol in armored vehicles wearing kevlar helmets and toting M4s. The Saint Louis County SWAT team, tightly focused photographs of which have been published everywhere, deployed after a night of rioting which included shots fired at police officers, Molotov cocktails, and, one can guess, large numbers of threats of violence, some of which may have been considered credible. It does not strain the imagination to understand why the police might wish to deploy such a unit, if only as a signal to those who may be thinking about returning to try their luck with better weapons and more carefully constructed bombs.

The equipment which has become the focus of so much hyperventilation is deployed, for the most part, in unusual circumstances and by specialized units. Most (but not all) incidents of police brutality or excessive force of which I’m aware don’t involve such equipment or such units. They involve the types of encounters that stretch back long before anyone could accuse local police forces of being anywhere close to “militarized” and they involve ordinary equipment: fists, sticks, sidearms.

158

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 7:12 pm

J. Thomas: you’re a nice fella and all, I am sure, but you do tend to go on a bit.

Ah! That’s probably what Layman’s #152 was about. It came right after my #151 which was short, and I wondered what he meant.

Thank you.

Statistical arguments are just sound bites unless you pin down what the numbers are actually connected to, and the background assumptions you make about them. Often that can’t be done in a few words. Sometimes it can be done but it’s a whole lot of work.

James Wimberley’s #156 is very good! He points out that sometimes the police do not pass information along to the DA, and then the statistics are not compiled. And sometimes the DA chooses not to prosecute, and also then the statistics are not compiled. Etc. There is room for racism in those steps, and also it gives us an explanation why the self-defense argument usually fails — if the DA thought it would succeed he probably wouldn’t take the case to trial.

So my idea that we can use the published statistics to estimate the frequency of actual successful self-defense falls apart.

159

Anarcissie 08.16.14 at 7:24 pm

Andrew F. 08.16.14 at 6:48 pm @ 157 — The problem is one of appearances. In the past, scenes of violent repression could not be recorded, or if they were, their distribution could be suppressed. The police did order the boss media off the scene, and arrest reporters, but modern technology in the form of smartphones, digital cameras, and the Internet subverted their efforts and the images flew all over the country and the world. As the US ruling class does not want a Chechnya or a Kosovo on its home turf while it is so busy abroad, and as the current appearances have been much too exciting, the appearances must be changed. The work is already in progress. By mischance I tuned into an NPR station last night and Responsible Persons were babbling almost hysterically about the appearances, thus informing their most faithful servitors that Something Must Be Done. The underproles must be quiesced in a more subtle manner. There is too much hope in a Molotov cocktail. Payoffs, buyoffs, guilt, programs are called for. And it will be so.

160

guthrie 08.16.14 at 8:28 pm

Andre F – and the evidence for shots fired at police and all the other nastiness being? At the moment it looks exactly like you are taking the police authorities word for the situation, as well as believing, against the testimony from people who have trained in riot control, that turning out tooled up to take on Saddam Hussein is a good and sensible riot response.

161

Brett Bellmore 08.16.14 at 9:11 pm

“Note that it’s very hard to come to any conclusion about systemic effects if you’re compelled to look at each case in isolation. Some might find even making this sort of request evidence of bad faith.”

Note, however, that if you don’t look at the cases in detail, but only gross statistics, you render yourself vulnerable to spurious correlations. You ignore variables, you end up assigning whatever explanatory power they might have to the variables you don’t ignore, perhaps wrongly.

If you want to reach a conclusion about systematic effects, you have to look at enough cases “in isolation” to know that you’re not ignoring something important when you lump them together.

Or to put it more bluntly, if all you look at are race and conviction rates, you are pretty much forced to conclude that race explains conviction rates. If you look at whether the people actually did what they were convicted of, you might conclude that conviction rates are driven by guilt. Or might not, if race is the real explanation.

If you don’t look at whether they were really guilty, how can you conclude they weren’t properly convicted?

“As to limiting officers to firearms that can be privately purchased, why is this a good idea?”

Why is it a good idea to limit the firearms that can be privately purchased? If you can answer this question, you can answer your own. You need to explain why the rationale for limiting private purchase of firearms doesn’t apply to cops, why the utility of the arms you want the cops to have doesn’t imply utility to non-cops.

Are cops supposed to indiscriminately spray from the hip?

162

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 9:35 pm

“Note that it’s very hard to come to any conclusion about systemic effects if you’re compelled to look at each case in isolation. Some might find even making this sort of request evidence of bad faith.”

Or to put it more bluntly, if all you look at are race and conviction rates, you are pretty much forced to conclude that race explains conviction rates.

Well, no. If you find a strong correlation then it shows that there is something that connects them, but it doesn’t show what that is.

If you look at whether the people actually did what they were convicted of, you might conclude that conviction rates are driven by guilt. Or might not, if race is the real explanation.

So maybe blacks get convicted more because they do more crimes. Or maybe they get convicted more because racists convict them more.

Or if poor people do more crimes, and more blacks are poor, that would explain it. There are lots of possible explanations.

If you don’t look at whether they were really guilty, how can you conclude they weren’t properly convicted?

How do you decide whether they were really guilty? You can look at all the evidence the court looked at, assuming it’s all available. And look at all the comparable evidence in cases against whites where the whites got let off. Fifty of each, randomly chosen ought to be enough.

Also you should look at a sampling of people who pled guilty of lesser crimes that might have been plea bargains, and look at all the evidence to guess whether they were really plea bargains and check whether more whites got plea-bargained to lesser sentences. Fifty each of those might be enough too, randomly chosen. Also look at the numbers to decide whether they’re comparable.

Then you should look at a sampling of the people who were accused of murders etc who didn’t go to trial at all. Like Zimmerman almost didn’t. Look at all the evidence the police had on them, and decide whether the police did the right thing not taking it further. Fifty whites and fifty blacks, and again check whether the numbers of each make sense.

After you do that, then come back here and report your results. It could be like:

“I have looked at a lot of cases and I have determined by the evidence and my own cogitation that the courts were influenced by a significant amount of racism.”

Or “I have looked at a lot of cases and I have determined by the evidence and my own cogitation that the courts mostly got the right results.”

See how impressed we are by that.

163

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 9:46 pm

Andrew F verified Molotov cocktails

Ah, “verified”! That’s kind of telling. Apparently, the police and right-wing press lied in at least some of their allegations about Molotov cocktails. But, now they are alleging “verified” Molotov cocktails, so we can believe their self-serving b.s.

164

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 9:57 pm

On the whole, I think I am with Brett Bellmore on the epistemology. J Thomas’s points just reinforce my sense that one would have to immerse one’s self in the cases, to deal with the complexity fairly and objectively. One might summarize that research with statistics, but without doing the detailed investigation, there simply is not enough information in the statistics alone to reliably discover any information worth discovering. To use the statistical approach because one did not want to get bogged down by details is not a valid excuse.

165

Layman 08.16.14 at 9:58 pm

“But, now they are alleging “verified” Molotov cocktails, so we can believe their self-serving b.s.”

Also, too, ‘reported gunshots’ strikes me funny. Gunshot sounds are called ‘reports’, thus there are apparently reports of reports. Did reporters report reports? Are the reports unconfirmed, or is it just the reports of reports which are in doubt?

166

Andrew F. 08.16.14 at 10:09 pm

Brett: Why is it a good idea to limit the firearms that can be privately purchased? If you can answer this question, you can answer your own. You need to explain why the rationale for limiting private purchase of firearms doesn’t apply to cops, why the utility of the arms you want the cops to have doesn’t imply utility to non-cops.

Brett, you made a particular and positive claim. You asserted that it is best if police officers have access only to whatever set of weapons can be purchased for private use. What is your reasoning for that conclusion, or were you merely posing it as a policy possibility, without endorsement?

167

J Thomas 08.16.14 at 10:14 pm

“As to limiting officers to firearms that can be privately purchased, why is this a good idea?”

Why is it a good idea to limit the firearms that can be privately purchased?

I say it’s OK for people to buy any weapons they want, provided they can prove they will never ever use the more socially-destructive ones.

I see no need for private individuals to use hand grenades, flamethrowers, or any sort of artillery in the USA.

There is no excuse for private citizens using such weapons against each other. And so long as we have a government that is responsive to voters, we should control the government that way and not by attacking it with military-type stuff. If the time comes that we need hand grenades and heavy artillery to attack our government, we can probably get those weapons from the armories, handed out by sympathetic soldiers who are themselves ready to attack the government.

If you can answer this question, you can answer your own. You need to explain why the rationale for limiting private purchase of firearms doesn’t apply to cops, why the utility of the arms you want the cops to have doesn’t imply utility to non-cops.

I don’t see any real use for the police to have hand grenades, flamethrowers, or artillery either.

But things like automatic weapons — if we can truly enforce a ban on automatic weapons for civilians, then I’m fine with keeping them from the police too. But if civilians can get them illegally, then the police need some way to handle that. I’m not clear what the best way is.

Imagine you’re a crazy person with a .50 caliber machine gun and several hundred thousand rounds of ammo. The police are supposed to arrest you, preferably without injuring you. They can’t just leave you there — your gunfire endangers the neighbors.

It’s possible that their best approach is to start shooting several automatic weapons at the pillbox you have built on your property; if they can lay down enough suppressive fire then they can approach your position and arrest you. Then throwing a grenade into the pillbox and fragging you is tempting but probably not a good idea. But police fire might threaten the neighbors too. Similarly, a flamethrower might accidentally start a serious fire, and zeroing in with a mortar is right out.

They can put in lots of smoke so you can’t see where to shoot, but that makes it harder for them to see you to arrest you.

In theory they can have a bunch of people make a commotion in front of you to distract you, and send in a small team to take you by surprise from the rear. But what if there’s two of you? (Cue the old joke about the Confederate sniper.)

Maybe if they’ve got really great body armor they can just walk in and handcuff you regardless. Or maybe not.

I’m not clear what weapons the police should have, but they should have whatever it takes to capture, say, a team of three combatants who have a moderate amount of money to arm themselves illegally. No matter what weapons the police have, at some point they may find themselves facing a private army that’s too much for them and they need to ask for the National Guard or something. But they should be able to handle the small stuff.

So if we can get gun control on the weapons that are too destructive and make it work, then the police don’t need a whole lot. But if we can’t, then they need defenses against whatever you have, and they need offensive weapons that won’t be too bad on your neighbors and your neighbors’ property.

168

Andrew F. 08.16.14 at 10:18 pm

Bruce, yes, verified. As in photographs of persons attempting to light them and in the act of throwing them.

I noted the gunshots at police as simply “reported” because that’s all I’ve seen: reports. I have not read an article in which the journalist claimed to have witnessed someone shooting at police, nor have I read an article in which the journalist stated what the evidence might be for concluding that someone was shooting at police. So for me, at least, these remain unconfirmed reports.

169

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 10:46 pm

I have seen abc news and Fox present photos and video as showing Molotov cocktails being lit and thrown, which photos and video do not actually show that.

The now iconic photo by Robert Cohen of a protestor throwing back what appears to be teargas or smoke bomb was presented on abc under headline claims about Molotov cocktails, just to give an example.

Here is a link to video on arc news. It was the top result for search on the terms, Ferguson Molotov.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/tear-gas-molotov-cocktails-ferguson-protests-24974553

170

Layman 08.16.14 at 10:52 pm

“I noted the gunshots at police as simply “reported” because that’s all I’ve seen: reports.”

I’ve seen no reports of gunshots fired at police. I know one local journalist claimed on twitter that he heard gunshots fired, but later admitted they might have been fireworks as reported by lots of other tweets. And gunshots are largely things you hear, not things you see, so I don’t know how to account for claims that one heard gunshots fired *at* anything. If one hears bangs (reports) in a crowd, or in a riot if you prefer, how can one know specifically it is gunshots (not something else) fired at police (not by police)? By the sound?

171

Bruce Wilder 08.16.14 at 10:55 pm

Also the police are firing guns loaded with “rubber bullets” or wooden pellets and that presumably makes noise like a gunshot, because it is a gun shot.

172

Andrew F. 08.17.14 at 12:10 am

Bruce, see my post @31 for links to photographs. They are unmistakeable.

As to Fox News, I have no idea what they’re showing, as I don’t find them worth the time.

173

Layman 08.17.14 at 12:25 am

Andrew F, your first link goes to nowhere (try it), while your second one goes to a picture of someone preparing to throw something (a bottle?) which doesn’t seem to be on fire…

174

Andrew F. 08.17.14 at 12:40 am

175

Andrew F. 08.17.14 at 12:44 am

Also Layman, there are two pictures in the second link @31. One displays a group clearly trying to light one, while the other displays an individual then in the act of throwing it.

I don’t really understand the purpose of disputing these.

176

Layman 08.17.14 at 1:04 am

“I don’t really understand the purpose of disputing these.”

‘Disputing’ is not the right word. I’ve simply not yet seen a single photo which shows either an ignited Molotov cocktail being thrown, or the resulting burst of flame resulting from the impact of one. The one photo rebroadcast everywhere turned out to be of a protestor throwing back a police munition, likely a smoke or tear gas grenade. The photos you’re offering now may be an attempt to light a molotov, but if so it’s the worst molotov ever constructed.

177

JPL 08.17.14 at 6:27 am

I mentioned this great song by Peter Tosh on one of Belle’s posts, but it seems like now would be a good time to listen to it again, and maybe blast it on some loudspeakers.

178

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 12:31 pm

To be fair, the events would probably have been better documented if the police hadn’t been attacking reporters. Which IS pretty well documented. But this is life, not, a movie, there aren’t cameras at every angle, and retakes if you miss filming something.

The police need to be equipped with cameras and microphones recording everything around them while on duty, with averse legal presumptions if they ‘malfunction’.

179

guthrie 08.17.14 at 12:46 pm

I agree, those photos do look rather like a molotov cocktail is being made. That’s a really good argument for giving the police decent fireproof suits. Not a good argument for giving them enough guns and ammunition to kill everyone on the street. Sure, maybe they could just snipe all the cocktail carriers before they even threw one, although by the 15th death maybe Americans might get a little worried about going too far. But that would also be contrary to actual real workable crowd control solutions.

180

Layman 08.17.14 at 2:49 pm

“But this is life, not, a movie, there aren’t cameras at every angle, and retakes if you miss filming something.”

I just find it odd that there are many photos, even videos of police using munitions – tear gass, smoke bombs, etc – yet there are apparently no photos of protestors with ignited molotovs, no photos of ignited molotovs in flight or bursting, no reports of any burn injuries to police officers, or damage to vehicles, caused by molotovs.

181

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 3:28 pm

I don’t find it terribly odd. While the police did try to stop themselves from being filmed, (Despite a huge preponderance of legal precedent that they’re not allowed to do that.) it’s probably still safer to film the police, than to film somebody breaking into a 7-11 or throwing a Molotov cocktail. The police know they have immunity, the firebomber knows he doesn’t.

Anyway, at least now we know the reason for some of the shortage of evidence: The DOJ was pressuring the Ferguson police not to release what they had. Perhaps now that the local police have decided to violate the DOJ’s embargo, we’ll learn more of what was actually going on.

182

Layman 08.17.14 at 3:36 pm

“Perhaps now that the local police have decided to violate the DOJ’s embargo, we’ll learn more of what was actually going on.”

Do you think the DOJ is preventing the local police from releasing any information about the actual shooting, or do you think the decision to release information which tars the shooting victim while withholding information about the shooter was entirely a local one…?

183

Brett Bellmore 08.17.14 at 7:11 pm

I think the decision to embargo information, exculpatory or damning, is virtually always a bad one. It leads to people forming opinions based on ignorance, which they often cling to even after a fuller version of the truth comes out.

184

Andrew F. 08.17.14 at 8:04 pm

Fireproof suits as the remedy, eh guthrie? Not bad – that one actually made me laugh.

Layman, so if I understand you correctly, if elements in the crowd only create and hurl poorly constructed Molotov cocktails, then the police officers confronting them need not be concerned about more effectively constructed Molotov cocktails or other attempts to maim and kill police officers? That’s so absurd that I’m sure I’m misreading you.

Let’s say instead that you wish to be prepared for, and perhaps deter, any such individuals, who have already displayed a willingness to create and launch firebombs against police officers from the middle of a crowd of protesters, from making additional attempts or from returning with rifles (something not difficult to acquire in Missouri). Deploying a SWAT team, and prominently displaying a sniper (and there’s little doubt that “display” was part of why he was positioned in so exposed a manner), may or may not be your choice, but it’s well within the bounds of reason.

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guthrie 08.17.14 at 8:07 pm

Andrew F – indeed, they exist, police forces have them in other countries. Funny how your response is always to shoot someone dead first and ask questions later. ANd your ‘reason’ is outwith the bounds of actual known riot control methods used in other countries.

186

guthrie 08.17.14 at 8:09 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-23344883

“When the instruction comes through, officers first put on a layer of flame-retardant cotton clothing from neck to feet, then blue overalls and then heavy duty plastic padding, covering every exposed area, and then military-style boots.”

187

Layman 08.17.14 at 8:31 pm

Andrew F, I think you’ll find that in the events in Ferguson, the use of militarized police forces, in the form of SWAT teams, armored vehicles, tear gas, smoke grenades, rubber bullets and baton rounds, predates any claim, corroborated or not, of the use by rioters of Molotov cocktails. Thus the latter, true or not, is not the cause of the former.

I’m willing to believe some rioters have tried to make and use Molotov cocktails, but I’ve seen no evidence that such efforts have had any effect at all, and you’ve certainly not provided anything to back up your claim that they are the cause of the police response we’ve seen. To say nothing of your claim about gunshots fired ‘at police’.

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Abbe Faria 08.17.14 at 8:34 pm

I get that if someone is preparing to throw a bomb, shooting them dead is perfectly reasonable and legal from a self defense perspective. But for riot control tactics, it might be best in the long run not to inflame the crowd.

That said, to be fair Ferguson PD did actually follow the PSNI method of rubber bullets, rather that live fire, in response to molotovs but people are complaining about that.

189

Anarcissie 08.17.14 at 11:58 pm

I don’t know why people are so on about Molotov cocktails. Shooting Michael Brown, riding around in military uniforms with automatic weapons threatening people, beating up and arresting reporters, and lying, are acts of war, and war can be expected in response.

190

J Thomas 08.18.14 at 2:10 am

#189

I don’t know why people are so on about Molotov cocktails. Shooting Michael Brown, riding around in military uniforms with automatic weapons threatening people, beating up and arresting reporters, and lying, are acts of war, and war can be expected in response.

Isn’t this a traditional tactic?

You kill some people, the survivors protest so you kill some of them, they protest some more so you announce that they have started attacking you so you have to kill them in self-defense.

Cf Gaza.

191

Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 10:06 am

“Layman, so if I understand you correctly, if elements in the crowd only create and hurl poorly constructed Molotov cocktails, then the police officers confronting them need not be concerned about more effectively constructed Molotov cocktails or other attempts to maim and kill police officers? That’s so absurd that I’m sure I’m misreading you.”

Apparently it’s not always regarded as absurd, it appears to be a widely used form of argument when discussing the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians.

Well, now we have autopsy results, six shots, all hitting the front of his body. Seems a trifle excessive to me, but at least it does confirm witness reports that he was shot while charging the police. He certainly wasn’t shot while running away from them.

Again, we really need to require police to wear cameras. It seems to work very well in the communities that have tried it.

Who knows, might work for politicians, too…

192

J Thomas 08.18.14 at 11:42 am

Again, we really need to require police to wear cameras. It seems to work very well in the communities that have tried it.

Who knows, might work for politicians, too…

Why stop at police and politicians? Why not all government employees?

And also all government contractors.

Anyone else? Oh! Lobbyists.

And set the cameras to turn on after hours whenever two politicians or a politician and a lobbyist etc are in the same room. Otherwise they’ll do almost all of their business after hours and it interferes with their sleep.

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Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 11:54 am

The difficulty for the government employees, is that there are so many of them they rationally conclude that they don’t need to follow the law, because there aren’t enough enforcement resources to compel them to. Like the IRS violating federal data retention laws as a matter of policy, or the EPA heads using private email for government business. Who has gone to jail over that, rather than getting all expense paid vacations and early retirement?

Going after the politicians, though, has the advantage of a smaller number of enforcement targets.

Plus, perhaps the video could be used as proof in court to get the judiciary to admit that quorum requirements are being violated. That would be fun, the government tries to enforce a law, and you show in court that there were only five people in the chamber when it “passed” on a unanimous voice vote.

All in all, I think it’s a great idea. But we can start with the police.

194

Anarcissie 08.18.14 at 12:00 pm

Not that it matters, but being shot in front corresponds with the account of a witness who said that Michael Brown was shot after stopping, turning around, and raising his hands.

195

Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 1:21 pm

Perhaps, but it does nicely rule out the claim he was shot while running away. The possibilities are narrowing as evidence accumulates.

A good autopsy should be able to determine the relative position of his arms when shot, and determine if it was consistent with them being raised.

Video would be better, though, and there’s no good reason for the resistance to implementing dash and helmet cams for cops, any more than there is for the fact that almost all interrogations are not recorded.

196

Collin Street 08.18.14 at 1:45 pm

> there’s no good reason for the resistance

Well, no. So they must be doing it for bad reasons, yes?

Which means… how should you trust their claims, given that they’ve refused the measures that would let these claims be validated?

197

Layman 08.18.14 at 1:47 pm

“but at least it does confirm witness reports that he was shot while charging the police. “

Where are those witness reports?

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Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 1:55 pm

I only trust their claims insofar as they provide evidence consistent with them. While police resistance to video clearly indicates they have something to hide, this doesn’t imply that they have something to hide in every single individual case. It’s quite consistent with most police interactions being legitimate.

“Where are those witness reports?”

For what it’s worth, here.

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Layman 08.18.14 at 2:03 pm

That one is ‘reports’?

200

Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 2:21 pm

“And when the shooting stopped, Johnson and his legal team have told investigators, the police officer who pulled the trigger did nothing to save the man he’d just shot. “The officer doesn’t attempt to resuscitate,” Johnson’s attorney, former St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., said in an interview Saturday. “He does not call for medical help. The officer didn’t call it in that someone had been shot.””

It is a bit unclear to me why you’d bother trying to resuscitate somebody who was that shot up. Aren’t you at some point permitted to notice the person is dead?

““The officer chases Big Mike. He fires a shot and hits Big Mike in the back. “

And the autopsy shows he was not hit in the back. So much for that witness’ testimony.

I want a system in place where we don’t NEED testimony. I want cameras. Sometimes they’ll show things the police would rather weren’t seen. (Though evidence is, with cameras rolling, the police are better behaved.) Sometimes they’re going to show that the police are in the right.

But either way, they’ll show what happened. Not what interested parties what people to THINK happened.

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Earwig 08.18.14 at 2:24 pm

Cameras. “But either way, they’ll show what happened. Not what interested parties what [want, probably?] people to THINK happened.”

Rodney King says that’s easy to believe.

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Anarcissie 08.18.14 at 2:30 pm

I don’t think delicate questions about the position of Mr. Brown’s arms are going to make much difference to anyone. The police story (hulking Black criminal assaults innocent police who are just doing their job) was constructed and works for White racists; they will continue to believe it no matter what further evidence is presented, because it accords with their view of the world. The Black objects of their fear and dislike, having long experience in such matters, will not believe anything the authorities say, especially that an unarmed Black teenager was charging a police officer who had started shooting at him. The higher authorities will huff and puff, but their beliefs prevent them from doing anything. There is more to worry about here than fixing the evidence.

203

Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 4:19 pm

Oh, I agree that the facts won’t make much difference. Maintaining bad race relations in this country is politically useful for the Democratic party. Facts aren’t allowed to get in the way of keeping things at a low simmer.

204

Anarcissie 08.18.14 at 4:27 pm

The Democratic Party shot Mr. Brown?

205

J Thomas 08.18.14 at 4:29 pm

Since it is a zero-sum game and anything that helps Democrats hurts Republicans, maybe now the GOP will work to improve race relations and not let the Democrats keep this advantage.

You think maybe?

206

Plume 08.18.14 at 4:47 pm

I don’t think either party proactively seeks bad race relations. But both will exploit them to their own advantage. That said, it is the Republicans who need this more than the Dems. The Republicans are truly demographically challenged, and have become almost exclusively white, and white in the “get off my lawn” form. If GOP leadership can not pump up its base with the idea that it is threatened by the Other, then it really has no chance. Hate radio plays that persecution/unifying tune 24/7, from Limbaugh to Coulter, etc. etc. It’s really all they have now.

The real winners in this are plutocrats and oligarchs, the folks pulling the strings for both parties. They benefit from class warfare between the lower and middle classes, as well as racial enmity. It keeps people distracted from the real threat: them. Plutocrats and oligarchs.

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Layman 08.18.14 at 5:11 pm

“Oh, I agree that the facts won’t make much difference. “

They certainly don’t matter to you. Earlier you mentioned “witness accounts” (plural) that Brown “was shot while charging the police”. When I asked you, you provided one account, which does not claim Brown was charging the police. Are there more ‘witness accounts’, or just this one; and where do you get ‘charging’ from?

208

Abbe Faria 08.18.14 at 7:07 pm

Layman. I gotta say I get the sense you’re being a bit of ass and just denying stuff to be difficult, rather than doing 5 secs googling and admitting the obvious. Are you on board with the gunshots and molotovs, yet? The witness accounts are below:

http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2014/08/15/exceptional-catch-the-jj-witness-video-eye-witness-audio-of-mike-brown-shooting-sharing-brown-doubled-back-toward-police/

“Not that it matters, but being shot in front corresponds with the account of a witness who said that Michael Brown was shot after stopping, turning around, and raising his hands.”

Eyewitnesses get stuff wrong, because they’re stressed, have a limited viewpoint, and reconstruct their memories. So I don’t approve of the gloating. But he wasn’t shot in the back. The first four shots were to his arm, and he wasn’t shot with his arm raised.

209

Layman 08.18.14 at 7:35 pm

“Layman. I gotta say I get the sense you’re being a bit of ass and just denying stuff to be difficult, rather than doing 5 secs googling and admitting the obvious.”

That’s your prerogative. One account is not ‘accounts’. The account in question doesn’t say Brown charged at Wilson, or even that he ‘doubled back’ at Wilson. Saying ‘accounts’ when there’s only one, and using language like ‘charging’ or ‘doubling back’ are attempts to bend the narrative to a particular result, i.e. that shooting Brown six times was justified.

As for the Molotovs and gunshots, the police use of tear gas, smoke bombs, rubber bullets and baton rounds all seem to predate any credible claim of either one, which means they can’t be the cause of the police actions. If you think otherwise, produce the evidence.

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Andrew F. 08.18.14 at 7:36 pm

Abbe: I get that if someone is preparing to throw a bomb, shooting them dead is perfectly reasonable and legal from a self defense perspective. But for riot control tactics, it might be best in the long run not to inflame the crowd.

That’s a perfectly fair point, but it’s incredibly difficult to make that kind of judgment from afar. It’s also the case that having at least one overwatch team, with lethal capabilities, is probably standard operating procedure for any crowd control force faced with the real possibility of a violent riot or mob.

Difficult to judge from afar unless, of course, you’re being quoted in a Washington Post article. Then it’s perfectly okay to make similar judgments on the basis of a few photographs. I thought that The Washington Post article I have in mind, headlined as showing what veterans think about Ferguson, and instead featuring a few quotes from a couple of Iraq vets who looked at a few photographs, was as absurd as it was typical of the horrendously poor media coverage of Ferguson.

@guthrie: reading through the entire article, I’d note that it specifically quotes law enforcement officials from other nations, such as the Netherlands, who said that they would respond to “petrol bombs” with lethal force. I’d also note that non-lethal rounds, depending on their type, can be fatal if aimed effectively to that purpose. So I wouldn’t necessarily draw the conclusion that the police force you’re describing wouldn’t use lethal force against someone hurling bombs at them.

@Layman: I think you’ll find that in the events in Ferguson, the use of militarized police forces…predates any claim…of the use by rioters of Molotov cocktails. Thus the latter, true or not, is not the cause of the former.

Could be. The particular photographs I saw were of a deployment following, but sure, they may have been deployed before. And one of the reasons would be a concern that certain elements may show up and use the protest as an occasion for lethal violence. Which is precisely what they did.

As to your inference of cause – that seeing a SWAT team deployed causes someone to construct a bomb in an attempt to burn to death, or severely wound, police officers – let’s just say that I’m impressed with the audacity of your reasoning. The equipment of the officers no more caused Molotov cocktails to thrown than they caused looting of liquor stores.

To say nothing of your claim about gunshots fired ‘at police’.

I wrote “reported gunshots at police” and noted explicitly that I described them as reported because I did not read any articles describing the evidence for them.

@Anarcissie: I don’t know why people are so on about Molotov cocktails. Shooting Michael Brown, riding around in military uniforms with automatic weapons threatening people, beating up and arresting reporters, and lying, are acts of war, and war can be expected in response.

“military uniforms” – police wore uniforms clearly identifying them as police.

“automatic weapons” – doubtful

“threatening people” – “Disperse or you will be arrested.” Yeah, definitely an act of war. Go grab your bow and arrows, Rambo.

“shooting Michael Brown” – we have no idea whether it was a justified or unjustified shooting.

“war” – not war, just thuggish acts hijacking what could have been a peaceful protest, which acts involving aggravated assault, attempted murder of law enforcement officers, maybe (this could be a stretch) acts of terrorism, rioting, looting, vandalism, burglary, etc.

If it turns out that the officer who shot Brown committed an unmitigated act of murder, then I’d be in favor of the death penalty. But the hand-wringing over police showing up to face a crowd they clearly judged to contain violent elements geared up for that possibility is just silly.

211

Layman 08.18.14 at 7:43 pm

“As to your inference of cause – that seeing a SWAT team deployed causes someone to construct a bomb in an attempt to burn to death, or severely wound, police officers – let’s just say that I’m impressed with the audacity of your reasoning. “

You should give up inferring until you get better at it. The evidence shows the police fired on the demonstrators using tear gas, smoke grenades, rubber bullets, and baton rounds before there was any credible evidence, or even a claim, of molotovs or gunshots. The very first claim of molotovs was in fact a photo of a rioter throwing a police munition back at the police. I don’t condone violent acts by the protestors, but it’s perfectly obvious they’ve been provoked by the actions (and the history) of the Ferguson PD.

212

Abbe Faria 08.18.14 at 8:43 pm

“The evidence shows the police fired on the demonstrators using tear gas, smoke grenades, rubber bullets, and baton rounds before there was any credible evidence, or even a claim, of molotovs or gunshots.”

The below link evidences gunshots TWO HOURS after the initial shooting.

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/08/09/police-shooting-ferguson/13832083/

213

Layman 08.18.14 at 9:25 pm

“The below link evidences gunshots TWO HOURS after the initial shooting.”

So it does, thanks. I read it, but didn’t see that the police responded to those reported gunshots by donning riot gear at the crime scene. And, frankly, it’s a pretty vague report.

I’m sure shots have been fired, but I don’t see any evidence that the military response resulted from those shots. The police went into combat mode following acts of vandalism and looting which occurred on the night of the 10th. The issue, ISTM, is that combat response became their default reaction to all acts of protest from that point on.

214

Ogden Wernstrom 08.18.14 at 9:48 pm

Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 10:06 am:

Well, now we have autopsy results, six shots, all hitting the front of his body. Seems a trifle excessive to me, but at least it does confirm witness reports that he was shot while charging the police. He certainly wasn’t shot while running away from them.

A witness report[s?] available on an epistemic-closure-oriented website. I recall the early news reports saying that Brown had his hands up and he was backing away from police. Now, the epistemic-closure Reactionary Right has turned this into a claim that he was running away when shot? Is that what they’re attempting to refute?

The comments at that linked article are enlightening, entertaining and horrifying. (We learn that Brown was a thug, a punk, a hoodlum, blacks are the ones who are racist – and abuse their voting rights, that our President and Attorney General belong in prison. That was from one comment which had 2,936 likes when I looked.)

The video appears to have spread to other sites, as evidenced by the link from Abbe Faria 08.18.14 at 7:07 pm. But Abbe, after charging Layman with being an ass, doubles back and points out that eyewitnesses get stuff wrong.

The police probably want to interview that person who is alleged to be overheard on that video. It would improve their political position greatly.

215

Andrew F. 08.18.14 at 11:21 pm

Layman @211: The evidence shows the police fired on the demonstrators using tear gas, smoke grenades, rubber bullets, and baton rounds before there was any credible evidence, or even a claim, of molotovs or gunshots.

Here’s a report from a local station on the first night of rioting:

Police officers from every jurisdiction in the St. Louis area were called into Ferguson Sunday evening. The strong police presence became necessary after violence and looting were reported in the area. Witnesses say tensions began rising at the intersection of West Florissant and Ferguson around 8:30 p.m. In response Ferguson police called in an extra 60 officers as well as officers from all surrounding jurisdictions.

Officer Brian Schellman with the St. Louis County Police Department says 200 officers were called to the area from at least two dozen departments, but approximately 300 total officers were in the area. Many officers who were not called in responded anyway.

Two police officers were injured Sunday night during the unrest. One of those officers was hit by a brick, the other suffered a knee injury. They are both expected to be okay. One St. Louis County police officer was shot at, but was not injured.

Police say 32 arrests were made during the chaos. At least 12 businesses were looted. At least one shot was fired at a police helicopter. Rocks, bricks, and bottles were thrown at police officers throughout the night. There’s no word on how many patrol cars were damaged.

A focal point of the violent actions by some was the Quiktrip store in the 9400 block of West Florissant. Video obtained by NewsChannel 5 showed the store being actively looted and later, someone set the store on fire.

KDSK

I count two reports of shots fired at police in that article. One officer injured by a thrown brick. A report that rocks, bottles, and other objects were hurled at the police throughout the night. I believe the total number of patrol cars put out of service is 12. At least 12 businesses looted, and some burned.

What is being described in that article is a violent riot. Riot control agents like tear gas, and non lethal rounds, are designed for events such as that.

But sure, this was all clearly provoked by what the officers were wearing.

Here’s Layman again: The very first claim of molotovs was in fact a photo of a rioter throwing a police munition back at the police.

No, it wasn’t. You’re mistaking confused claims by commenters with the claims by the photographers and journalists who saw them.

I don’t condone violent acts by the protestors, but it’s perfectly obvious they’ve been provoked by the actions (and the history) of the Ferguson PD.

This is an extraordinarily simplistic, though a common narrative.

In this narrative we make the crowd, and the community of Ferguson, into one entity.

We ignore that the crowd itself is actually composed of different groups, some of which are violent and opportunistic for reasons that have little to do with any sense of injustice.

We ignore that it is these groups who are behaving in a problematic manner – not some monolithic “crowd” and not some monolithic “community.”

We ignore that Ferguson is not some isolated town, but seamlessly connected to other urban to suburban areas around St Louis, and, I’d note, seamlessly connected to high-crime areas.

In doing so all this we find it easy to frame all events within a simplified, heavily moralized narrative of white cops vs. black community. But reality is more complicated, and only someone genuinely ignorant of that reality could claim that “we know” that “Ferguson PD provoked” the numerous criminal actions documented and photographed by journalists.

216

Abbe Faria 08.18.14 at 11:28 pm

“The police went into combat mode following acts of vandalism and looting which occurred on the night of the 10th. The issue, ISTM, is that combat response became their default reaction to all acts of protest from that point on.”

The best timeline’s here: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/11/5988925/mike-brown-killing-shooting-case-ferguson-police-riots-st-louis

The combat response was not the default reaction from the 10th. The 12th for instance was notably peaceful, except for a shooting in response to a gang armed with shotguns and pistols. It’s on the 13th that there’s the full on military response and the militarisation pictures hit the media.

The police (and I’m defending policy, not condoning specific acts of abuse) gradually escalated. Uniformed officers policed peaceful protest at police hq on the 9th. SWAT used teargas in response to looting, rioting and arson on the 10th (with 20 police cars damaged). Riot gear and rubber bullets were broken out when further looting happened on the 11th. On the 12th armored vehicles were used. The full on militarisation on the 13th only occured after confrontation with an armed gang the previous night.

217

Layman 08.19.14 at 2:07 pm

Ogden Wernstrom @ 214

Also, it turns out the autopsy doesn’t demonstrate that all shots were fired while Brown was facing Wilson. It’s inconclusive, and at least two wounds could have been inflicted by shots fired at Brown’s back; which is if course consistent with other witness accounts.

Also, too, it turns out that early police statements that Wilson fired only ‘a couple’ of shots were false, either because Wilson lied to the police, or because the police lied to the public.

218

Layman 08.19.14 at 2:14 pm

Abbé Faria @ 216

It is a good timeline, and it corroborates my point. Here’s their recap of the events of the 11th, when police first denied the right to peaceably assemble, met protestors tricked out in riot gear, and began using tear gas:

“Continued protests — and police dispersals — on Monday, August 11

— After Sunday night’s unrest, a protest and rally scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday morning was canceled, and the mayor of Ferguson said that anyone who attempted to show up to the rally would be arrested.

— Regardless, people still turned up at police headquarters to protest. Police officers were there with riot gear.

— After about two hours, the police succeeded in getting the crowd to disperse and started making arrests.

— On Monday night, protests continued. Groups gathered in the street, raising their hands in surrender and chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” It’s become the unofficial motto of the Ferguson protests.

— Police also attempted to disperse these protests, moving down W. Florissant, the main street in the neighborhood. This time, they used tear gas and explosives to clear crowds and fired rubber bullets. One report indicates that police cocked their rifles at protesters. Police told protesters to “go home,” but several residents protested that they were trapped in cul-de-sacs while the main road was closed off. Police also threatened press with arrest if they didn’t leave the scene.

— One family was standing in their backyard, which borders W. Florissant, while holding their hands up in protest. Police fired a tear gas canister at them, into the backyard:”

219

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 2:17 pm

“A witness report[s?] available on an epistemic-closure-oriented website. “

Wow, accomplishing epistemic closure by dismissing any site that disagrees with you as an “epistemic-closure oriented website”. That’s so self-referential that it ought to warp space and time.

220

Ogden Wernstrom 08.19.14 at 4:30 pm

Not “…any site that disagrees with [me]”. IJReview and TheConservativeTreeHouse don’t bother to hide their rightward slant.

But I am reminded of a scene from South Park, in which the Turd Sandwich calls the Giant Douche at turd sandwich.

I guess that makes me the Giant Douche in this scenario.

221

Brett Bellmore 08.19.14 at 4:41 pm

“Not “…any site that disagrees with [me]“. IJReview and TheConservativeTreeHouse don’t bother to hide their rightward slant.”

You expect to get information that disagrees with your world-view, from people who agree with you? Disagreeing with you isn’t epistemic closure. Refusing to listen to people who disagree with you is.

222

Ogden Wernstrom 08.19.14 at 5:32 pm

Again, I do not call just any site that disagrees with me an epistemic-closure site. I don’t know who you are referring to as the people who agree with me, or why you direct this conversation in their direction and away from…oh, I think I get it.

Refusing to listen to people who disagree with you is [epistemic closure].

I use the term “epistemic closure” in its recent political sense – which I understand to be about listening to those who confirm one’s bias, and interpreting information through a filter of confirmation bias – so I can see how refusing-to-listen could be equivalent.

If I refuse to listen to people who disagree with me, does that make you disappear as far as I’m concerned?

Enough about you.

My skepticism is about a story that appears primarily (only?) on Reactionary-Right-Wing-Framing sources, and contains more analysis than information, and is based on the words an unidentified person overheard in a recording by an unidentified person, which conversation identifies actors with pronouns that could be easily swapped. Reading a few comments by people who appear to frequent those sites lets me know that they frequent those sites to hear what they want to hear – see the comment I noted above – and those sites appear to deliver, in spades.

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