Category Archives: Comment of the Day

Comment of the Day on “Comment of the Day on ‘The Perils Of Over-Regulating The Police: A Case Study'”

Robocop

Stephen Mark Pilling contributes the second consecutive Comment of the Day providing perspective on the issue of police militarization, in response to the first. Here is his Comment of the Day to the post (by dragin_dragon, which you should read first if you haven’t yet), Comment of the Day on “The Perils Of Over-Regulating The Police: A Case Study”

When critics speak of the “militarization” of the police, not all are looking at it from the same viewpoint. Some are, of course, sociopathic or are conspiracy theorists. Some have swallowed the loudly flaunted concept that policemen are evil racists, corrupt ward healers in uniform or just about anything heinous, as they represent law as an absolute, not a relative.

There is a rational based distrust, however. Many of us grew up in a time where the police still walked a beat or patrolled his neighborhood in a squad car, armed with nothing more than a revolver. We’re also the product of an old tradition of law enforcement that stems from the British mold. Unlike the continental European system of paramilitary gendarmes, we adapted a system of localized lawmen, run by an elected county sheriff. The metropolitan police department is still a relatively new phenomenon, started in late 19th Century London.

To many citizens, police who are unaccountable to a directly elected chief and who sport automatic weapons strike a sour note. But recently, people have been seeing them acquiring armored vehicles, military assault training and a tendency to wearing black uniforms. They’ve also noted an increased likelihood of these tactics and weapons being utilized and the increased incidence of “no knock entries”. Likewise, citizens have been imaging police making arrogant idiots out of themselves and caused other cops to become ever more touchy about cell phones, whether they’re right or wrong.

These and other factors have been serving to create a gap between the citizens and the police. That’s never a good thing, of course, because that trust is vital in a free society. Citizen distrust only deepens when they perceive policemen in whom this sense of civil mastery is full blown. As a former military cop, as a private citizen and as a friend or relative of a lot of civilian cops, I’ve seen all this from different angles. I’ve also seen the divide deepen in recent days.

One small note. The funding of police units on all levels directly from federal sources coincides with the worry by many that state and local police units may be more or less within the pocket of federal departments. The actual militarization of once innocuous federal police units and the memory of Obama’s projected National Civilian Defense Force has resulted in fear that this is an intentional part of a program to create an instrument of oppression. For myself, I highly doubt that any street cops would lend themselves to some “martial law” based takeover of the homeland of America. What I’m not sure of, though, is how many in higher authority have not conceived of the notion and would execute it if they could.

Again; it’s vital that the bonds of trust be strengthened between the police departments and those law abiding citizens whom they “serve and protect”. They must never- ever- be heard to make disparaging remarks about “civilians”, as that only deepens the gulf. In the Army Military Police Corps, the official motto is “Of the troops and for the troops”. It’s a good motto. It should also carry over to every local police or sheriff’s department in America. “Of the citizens and for the citizens”. Policemen who embrace that attitude will seldom go wrong. Both they and the communities they serve will benefit.

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Comment of the Day on “The Perils Of Over-Regulating The Police: A Case Study”

militarization

ABC News Political Analyst and former Bush advisor Matthew Dowd said on ABC’s This Week  that the recent cases of police violence involving unarmed African Americans were as much due to the militarization of police forces as race.

“We basically dress up officers as if they’re machines,” Dowd said. “And then we expect them to act like human beings. So what happens is, they confuse power with force. Most of the officers in this country do a great job. But when we militarize our police force and dress them up like machines, they act like machines.”

Technically, he was right: there is no evidence that those tragedies were caused by race or militarization. He had exactly no evidence or documentation that the “militarization of police” caused these deaths, or that alleged militarization has caused any deaths. This appears to be emerging conventional wisdom, just one of those things someone says and everyone nods in agreement with no real thought. Why is the so-called “militarization” of police forces such a threat or cause to distrust police? If police are not trustworthy, that’s a reason not to give them fire-power, but having more fire-power doesn’t make them less trustworthy. It simply makes it more important than ever that police be well trained and responsible.

I was preparing a post about this emerging theme as an example of bias, in this case, pre-existing anti-police bias, being translated into false and discourse-warping assumptions by activists and the police when stalwart commenter dragin_dragon delivered this, the Comment of the Day, on the post The Perils of Over-Regulating the Police: A Case Study:

Police departments have been quasi-military for many years, and it has not seemed to hurt their ability to enforce the law. As early as 1974, Austin, Texas P.D. referred to it’s officers on patrol as “the troops”. S.W.A.T. units have traditionally used what they thought of as “Military” weapons, tactics and mode of dress; never mind that a properly trained infantry squad could and would wipe them out in minutes. Note, also, that most states and/or cities ban the mounting of weapons on the surplus (obsolete) armored and tracked vehicles or helicopters. They do NOT ban a man carrying a weapon being mounted on those vehicles. I also point out that many police officers are ex-military so are bringing to the job an environment with which they are already familiar. Rank structures are similar, and the police in the United States, at least, carry weapons, perhaps as a holdover from the Old West, perhaps not.

Given the rise in crime rates (see Chicago, Detroit), many of these escalations of Police equipment and training are needed. This became evident a number of years ago when a Los Angeles bank robbery went south and the robbers began shooting at the converging police with automatic (not the semi-automatic versions described as automatic, but rock-and-roll full automatic) assault weapons. The out-gunned police (9 MM pistols and shotguns) did the best they could and, like Israel, vowed “Never again”. Strangely enough, many in the National Media agreed, at the time. So, what we are referring to as the “Militarization” of the Police is being undertaken for 2 reasons: 1) to provide a higher likelihood that the officers will get to, at the end of the day, go home to family, and 2) so that the public, which they are sworn to protect and defend, will also, at the end of the day, get to go home and family.

Does this increase the likelihood that a perpetrator may not make it to trial? Quite likely. Do I care? Not so much. As I am sure will be pointed out repeatedly, death tends to be relatively final, with no appeal. And, after all, the most dangerous criminal has the right to due process. Unfortunately, crime, violent crime, is not something one does accidentally. It requires a conscious decision, often along with a misplaced almost arrogant sense of invincibility. Getting shot, and probably killed is the most natural consequence in the world of that attitude. Ask Michael Brown. Like it or not he jeopardized the well-being of an armed police officer, apparently arrogantly disregarding the consequences of his behavior and, quite probably putting the officer’s life at risk. I am assuming that Wilson, like many police officers these days, was wearing a very militaristic bullet-proof vest under his shirt, but, since Ferguson is a fairly poor community (and rapidly becoming poorer) possibly not, so he might have been better off if Brown had shot him, first. At least he would still have a job.

All this is by way of saying that militarization of departments is not necessarily a bad thing. The use to which the training and equipment is put may be a bad thing, but I have not seen, in any report, any attempt to oppress or exert Nazi-like control over the citizenry. So, am I in favor of the “Militarization”? You bet. I am in favor of anything that makes it more likely that they will be able to survive the work day. And make no mistake, that is always a question for a police officer, just like it is for the combat soldier. Am I also in favor of more and better training? Also, you bet. Need I repeat? And the management, or “command” element of the police need to be taught How and When to use the equipment and training.

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Comment of the Day: Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?

unicorn

Traversing such seemingly unrelated topics as aphrodisiacs, “Mr. Ed,” post-war culture, literacy, and the evolution of childhood,  Penn’s Comment of the Day is one of my all-time favorites. Here it is, a response to the post, “Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?” I have a lot of reactions, but here are three:

  • If kids really don’t read the funny papers any more, what good are they? Who does read them? The Washington Post and other papers used to take “Doonesbury” out of the section and place it in the main body of the paper on the theory that it’s humor was “adult.” (Of course, “Doonesbury’s” humor has also been non-existent since around 1978—but I’ve never seen an erection joke there, either.)
  • Just because little kids are familiar with the term “horny” doesn’t mean they have any idea of what it refers to.
  • I like the “Mr. Ed” song!

In reply to your rhetorical (and tertiary) query, Jack, you missed (that small part of the) evolution just as we all did and do, because it was an evolution, a slow-moving American tsunami of post-war change beginning in the late 40s.

As a child, I recall controversy, strictly among adults, over things that wouldn’t be even thought of today such as the idea of having a girl (Lois Lane?) take up a weapon against a villain instead of waiting, albeit bravely, for Superman, to come rescue her. It was argued to be unladylike – and therefore, unsuitable for children’s comics — for females to fight for themselves if there was a man around, even as the WACS, nurses and ambulance drivers returned home, joining widowed moms & rosie-riveters in job-hunts. Or unless it was Wonder Woman. And oh the struggles to allow Wonder Woman — she of the skin-molding, crotch-height tights and the noticeable chest bumps, however well armored — into the son’s bedroom. Or the daughter’s wardrobe (next, she’ll want a bra!) Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “The Ferguson Riots: Of Course.”

I know this is a departure: this is my own comment. After I posted it in a fevered state, I decided that it warranted wider exposure.

It comes in response to a jaw-dropping post by one of the most articulate and analytical regulars on Ethics Alarms, who wrote in response to the original essay, this, beginning with a quote from it:

“the activists don’t care, literally don’t care, about [what really happened and why] For them, the issue is simple. A white cop in a racist police department shot an unarmed black teen to death, and that means that there will be riots if he’s not indicted.”

“As there should be.

The moral is – if you don’t want riots, regardless of whether the shooting was justified (if I were on the Grand Jury, then on the scraps of evidence I’ve seen, I’d indict to let it go to trial – just as if I were on the jury of the trial, I’d acquit barring more evidence) – anyway, the moral is – don’t run a racist police department.

Such civil disturbance is the natural countermeasure to tyranny.

I consider such civil disturbance to be a really, really, REALLY bad thing. I think anyone rational does. That means we have a responsibility to make sure that Law Enforcement is not so manifestly, systemically unjust that regardless of the facts in an individual case, riots are inevitable.

What should be is that there’s a justice system that, even though imperfect, is not so horrible that rational people become irrational and desperate. While there will always be some who are “professional rioters”, without a groundswell of popular sentiment behind them, they’re a small bunch of crims easily dealt with.”

After I carefully picked my jaw off the floor, I wrote this, the Comment of the Day, in response… Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: On Cosby, Clinton, And An Ethics Dunce Convention In Melbourne, Florida

Why can't a serial rapist be funny and cute?

Why can’t a serial rapist be funny and cute?

Frequent commenter aaronpaschal weighed in with this rich post on the Bill Cosby matter. I will hold my response to the end, because there is much to consider here, and much I disagree with. However, aaron has articulated well the thoughts many are having about the Cos, and I am grateful for the exposition. Here is his Comment of the Day regarding the post, On Cosby, Clinton, And An Ethics Dunce Convention In Melbourne, Florida.

I don’t know if I fully believe the allegations. I don’t know if the girls and women involved should bear some responsibility for choosing to become impaired. I don’t know if Cosby’s career will long survive this uproar – Netflix is dropping all of Cosby’s works in response, and that’ll cost someone a pretty penny.

But I do know that I don’t feel completely at ease with the notion that he faces ruin. That there is no evidence, no words, nothing he could present in his own defense. No courtroom, no trial, no lawyers. That the man who allegedly committed these acts did so a lifetime ago. I’ll admit that the women who have come out don’t have much tangibly to gain – but I also know all too well that revenge, hatred, defending existent lies, even merely time in the spotlight can be powerful motivators for some people (bearing in mind that pursuing justice, speaking the truth, and protecting the innocent are well – it could be any of them, all of them, or more.) There must, however, be SOME motive somewhere, or they would not be stepping forward – if there was truly nothing to gain.

But I do know that his works have always made me laugh, and I will appreciate them for years to come. I know I’ve heard wisdom from him, and these crimes don’t change the wisdom, either. I might not choose to leave my daughter alone with him. And I know that the court of public opinion makes very few wise choices, it is a terrible thing to be tried by it, guilty or innocent, and true justice is rarely found there.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Comment of the Day, Gender and Sex, History, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again”

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better...

Maybe Ruth Marcus would like this system better…

Theories of democracy and political science, Robert Heinlein, minimizing bias from self-interest, scientist suspicion, GIANT BUGS…okay, it doesn’t quite get to the bugs. But what’s not to like about texagg 04’s reflections and exposition sparked by the post on Ruth Marcus’s plug for compulsory voting? Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Make Voting Compulsory, Because We Can’t Let THAT Happen Again: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Literature, Popular Culture, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Comment of the Day on… Oh, Never Mind, It Had Nothing To Do With The Original Post Anyway

Make Believe sign

This mind-blowing comment by the one-hit wonder “bubbabru” struck me as uniquely appropriate as we head into next week’s elections. I apparently set him off by my response to a commenter expressing wonderment at the defenses being offered by supporters of an animal abusing and crooked veterinarian. She wrote, ” I can’t even figure out the kind of mindset that requires pooh-poohing such overwhelming evidence of someone who is, at the very least, a depraved and wicked person.” I responded,

“Why do people still claim Michael Jackson was pure as the driven snow? Why do people still say Nixon was hounded from office, or that Clinton was a victim? Why does anyone say that JFK was a great man? Why is anyone fooled by Hillary? Why do people still insist that Obama is a brilliant, honest, skilled leader? Why do people still think the Rosenbergs were innocent? It’s self-delusion, because people fight to hold on to their illusions, and resent those who try to point out the horrible truth, especially when it makes them feel like dupes.

This relatively bi-partisan list of delusions unwittingly triggered the vomiting up of the Angry Left talking points, lies and mythology that follow. Is this what the “base” of a major party is like? (I assume that there is a polar version, equally unhinged, fact-resistant and hateful,  for Republicans.) If so, one can only diagnose being part of a base as akin to being a member of a cult. For any responsible politician to intentionally nurture and try to profit from this kind of disability is not only antidemocratic, it approaches evil. How many American are mired in the hyper-partisan hate fantasies illustrated by this Comment of the Day? Can they be saved?

I worry about the answers to those questions, and a third: how can we stop this crippling contagion from spreading? Here is the Comment of the Day. Res ipsa loquitur: Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Government & Politics