« Your 2015 Spoilers Open Thread | Main | What's the difference between Fox News and the Republican base? »

January 03, 2015

Comments

I think you're missing one aspect of why police encounters with murderers are considered heroic: they're going out looking for dangerous people so that the rest of us don't have to. I don't think that's enough to justify the attitude that the police deserve gratitude without oversight, but it does make a big difference in how they're perceived.

On the other hand, look at the stats on the percentage of police who will never, in their entire career, have occasion to fire their weapon (outside the firing range). For New York City, it's above 90%.

Some policemen do go looking for people who might be dangerous. But the vast majority? No.

I very much doubt that public/media/political attitudes are based on detailed statistical analysis.

Still good to have, so thanks for the hard work!

Reading this, just reading through it, makes it clear why the police feel embattled and disrespected.

Because, they are. A whole post on how you don't appreciate or respect them. Yes, they expect respect and obedience because they are policeman. I believe we promise them that when we ask them to protect us. If they abuse it we take away the badge, this doesn't change the promise we made to the rest of the cops.

All cops, like all soldiers, are available to go into harms way. That they don't usually have to fire their weapon is a huge credit to them, not proof that their job isn't dangerous.

Marty:

Yes, they expect respect and obedience because they are policeman. I believe we promise them that when we ask them to protect us.

No, we don't. When officers are sworn in, they typically take an oath to serve and protect. They are not promised my respect, your respect, or anybody's respect.

This is a job they apply for, train for, and are paid for. This isn't us 'asking' for protection. This is us, as a society, recognizing that we need people to ensure law and order and police officers volunteering for, and being compensated for, the responsibility.

That responsibility, to protect and serve, applied to Rice, Garner, Gurley, and a host of others who are now dead.

In the words of 24-year police veteran Neill Franklin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/how-to-roll-back-police-militarization_n_3749272.html ):

Neill Franklin is a former narcotics cop in Maryland, who also oversaw training at the state's police academies in the early 2000s. “I think there are two critical components to policing that cops today have forgotten," he says. "Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on others’ rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect. But I don’t know how you get police officers today to value those principles again. The ‘us and everybody else’ sentiment is strong today. It’s very, very difficult to change a culture.”

Second:

A whole post on how you don't appreciate or respect them.

I don't think that's really a fair description of the Doctor's post. It's certainly not praise, but this was hardly an 'anti-police' post. Just factually critical of one aspect of the narrative, that being a police officer is typically considered more dangerous than other occupations.

"If they abuse it we take away the badge"

If only.

Genuine respect can only be earned.

What authoritarians demand is not respect: it's deference.

Reading this, just reading through it, makes it clear why the police feel embattled and disrespected.

it's pretty awesome to see people who refused to even consider that blacks might feel embattled and disrespected suddenly overflowing with compassion for authority.

While being murdered on the job is one way to measure the danger of a job, also to be considered is injury and illness rates. It appears LEO's deserve some sympathy but not as much as health care workers.

Yes, they expect respect and obedience because they are policeman.

Standard conservative response when labor rights and the dignity of work are discussed under just about any other circumstance: "Are they forbidden to seek employment elsewhere?"

jeff:

I don't trust occupational injury rates, because I think it depends too much on whether workers feel they *can* report them. The reported injury rates for construction workers are suspiciously low.

I'm not sure these numbers tell the whole story.

To a larger degree than those in deadlier jobs, police face dangerous situations over which they have some control. If they handle those situations well then the death rate goes down.

In other words, the death rate is not a measure only of dangerous situations faced, but also of how well they are dealt with. In many of the other jobs death is a result of a random occurrence, an accident, an equipment failure, picking up th ewrong stranger, and so on. The death rate there does measure risk. It seems plausible to me that this is not so much the case in police work.

All cops, like all soldiers, are available to go into harms way. That they don't usually have to fire their weapon is a huge credit to them, not proof that their job isn't dangerous.

And many of them, like many Soldiers, can take the job knowing that they'll never seriously be at risk of doing so, and will be generously compensated whether they do or don't, and by default receive myopic unearned respect from society at large (again, The Atlantic has some things worth reading on the military's version of that dynamic this month). And as pointed out in the Neil Franklin quote thompson posted, if their reaction if and when they do find themselves going into harm's way is to seek minimize their own risk by increasing the risk to civilians/suspects/non-combatants around them, then their engaging in a potentially dangerous job ceases to be a good reason to respect their choice to take and keep that particular job.

Respect is not unquestioning deference, unconditional obedience, and an unwillingness to objectively consider someone's acts and words. Well, not unless you're an authoritarian, and even then that's only respect when it's going from a lower tier of the hierarchy to a higher one.

Civilians control the police, and have not just a right but a responsibility to hold them accountable for their actions. The willingness to sign up for a potentially dangerous job absolutely cannot be a carte blanche, but if law enforcement react to all but the most egregious misconduct by their peers by closing ranks and applying wildly differing standards of investigation and probable cause than a civilian - particularly a poor civilian - would face in roughly parallel circumstances, it's very hard to believe that they (and their supporters) don't believe that it is.

I'm disinclined to buy into Broken Windows theories of social order, Marty, but American police aren't, so it's hard not to take that into consideration when looking at their conduct. And from that perspective, all I hear you saying is that it's our duty as citizens to ignore all the windows broken around police precincts, and the general disinterest of their occupants in doing more than occasionally tacking plastic over them...

Because, they are. A whole post on how you don't appreciate or respect them. Yes, they expect respect and obedience because they are policeman. I believe we promise them that when we ask them to protect us. If they abuse it we take away the badge, this doesn't change the promise we made to the rest of the cops.

Obedience ?
Really ?

Authoritah !

I'm not sure these numbers tell the whole story.

To a larger degree than those in deadlier jobs, police face dangerous situations over which they have some control. If they handle those situations well then the death rate goes down.

I'd actually wanted to bring up this point myself.

It is true, and an obfuscating objection that can be raised, that policing might be more dangerous if police were exercising less liberal EOF/ROE procedures. A counter to that counter, though, would be considering resultant civilian deaths alongside police deaths. And that pretty much puts us right back where we started, because if we have reason to believe that police are not objectively examining police-caused deaths, we'll be hard-pressed to get meaningful numbers on how many deaths (uniformed and otherwise) caused by policing. That makes me reluctant to strongly consider this objection. Particular police policies and regulations (and more or less faithful adherence thereto) could result in more or less occupational hazard for LEOs, and in that respect I'd say it's more comparable to a lot of other dangerous professions than you're allowing, as many "accidental" deaths have proximate cause in negligence on the part of employer or employee... but most of the other professions are less likely to have so clear a relation between increased risk to workers and increased risk to third parties.

So while I think this is a good point to raise and keep in mind, I don't think it's ultimately a mitigating one.

*...might be more/less dangerous if police were exercising more/less liberal...

I suspect everyone here pulls over when a cop turns on his lights. or stops if a policeman tells them to. obedience is pretty much a given.

Wow. Sometimes it's not even worth posting. What NV said was even-handed and dead on. Both posts.

Marty, I'm sure everybody here does. On the other hand, has anybody here been in the position of, for example, the Mayor of New York? Of having to sit a child down and explain to him that he will have to be extra careful in dealing with the police, because he will have a significantly larger than average chance of being treated with hostility, regardless of what he has done or not done.

Sure, we all have, and expect to have, congenial interactions with the police. But then, we are generally the sort of upper middle class folks that only have hostile interactions with the police if we are engaged in a protest march or something. Not really a random sample of the population.

obedience is pretty much a given.

One could cite many social interactions that require "obedience" on the part of one or more of the parties. What is not acceptable is for the person expecting said obedience to be judge, jury, and executioner when the anticipated obedience is not forthcoming.

"I suspect everyone here pulls over when a cop turns on his lights. or stops if a policeman tells them to. obedience is pretty much a given."

Well, given the alternatives (high-speed chase, then on foot - if I was a conservative or libertarian I might shout over my shoulder as I ran that the cops should have their pensions and benes cut or eliminated, just to make the night even more fun -- maybe shots fired, back up cops showing up for a pile on, the cuffing, knees jammed up against the back of the front seat of the police vehicle, at least the night in jail, if not the hospital, court appearances, convictions, fines and court costs, attorney fees, perhaps sentencing to jail and surely probation -- more fees -- etc), there might be more than obedience at work here.... say, heart-stopping fear.

I suspect Brett would put up his hands and give in despite the big bunch of nothing rhetoric about opposing government at every turn.

What if the cops are stopping you to make you pay the tax hit because you didn't sign up for Obamacare?

But yeah, I'm obedient.

I'd be obedient if I was pulled over by cops on the outskirts of Moscow in Putin's Russia too.

Could the conservatives here and elsewhere get together for a chin wag and come to some sort of agreement among themselves on whether we are to be obedient to government force or whether we should oppose government force in all its guises.

Make up YOUR f&cking minds and THEN, maybe, I'll humor you as the lot of you lecture us about the need for law and order, the rule of law, whether there are too many laws, obedience to those laws, and opposing government at every turn.

Do these two cops deserve equal respect and obedience?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zdLctr7Bo8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh8ttUKS9WQ

(though I understand the stress of being a cop on a dark night among an armed citizenry)

if they abuse it we take away the badge...

To describe that as wishful thinking would be generous.
You don't even have an independent complaints commission.

Try googling "police complaints procedure USA" - all the links are from the UK ...

Frank Serpico disrespected the New York City Police.

Got shot in the face because of it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Serpico

To a larger degree than those in deadlier jobs, police face dangerous situations over which they have some control. If they handle those situations well then the death rate goes down.

This is a very astute point. To make it more concrete, consider high speed chases. Police departments have a policy choice to make: they can encourage officers to conduct high speed chases or they can discourage them. High speed chases are extremely dangerous not only to criminals but to the police themselves and to bystanders. Since most high speed chases involve trivial violations (i.e., traffic violations), there's no problem with just sending police to the offender's residence and arresting them there. In many cases, the decision to conduct a high speed chase is entirely irrational: police choose to do that because it is fun and exciting, despite being dangerous for them.

Try googling "police complaints procedure USA" - all the links are from the UK ...

Nigel, that is not the case for me. It seems likely that Google is localizing its search results to where it knows you are...something Google is known to do.

Turb:

In many cases, the decision to conduct a high speed chase is entirely irrational: police choose to do that because it is fun and exciting, despite being dangerous for them.

Bold mine. Do you have a citation for that? Because that strikes me as speculative at best.

"It seems likely that Google is localizing its search results to where it knows you are...something Google is known to do."

So, that's why Google keeps giving me information on and images of Pluto...

High horse-powered automobiles decked out with sirens and lights, like firearms, are fun and exciting in the hands of the inadequately trained and the ethically challenged.

Cops are human too, or are they claiming an exemption there?

Making a run for it triggers the predator reflex.

Oh, come on Count, play fair:

"High horse-powered automobiles decked out with sirens and lights, like firearms, are fun and exciting in the hands of basically anyone doing the driving"

"...firearms, are fun and exciting in the hands of basically anyone doing the driving."

So we're advocating using firearms as golf clubs now? Might work with a rifle, but I have my doubts about handguns.

I've often thought, while golfing, that it would be fun and borderline ethical to have a friend bivouac himself in a blind in the woods next to the fairway and sharp shoot my errant drives out of the sky and then claim a mulligan with an innocent face, blaming it on the NRA.

Guns and golf.

Like drinking and boating -- made for each other.

There are clay shooting courses laid out and scored like golf courses. Including golf carts with gun racks and paths for same.

That's just sick enough to sound fun.

I wonder if it's not respect that police officers want but undying appreciation, and that since it's hard to force folk to be appreciative, they demand respect - or deference that is close enough.

It is, I'm sure, a tremendously stressful job. It seems to me that almost any interaction an officer has as part of his/her official duties is with humanity not at their best (unless it's with a co-worker), even when you're being called for help. Moreover, it's likely the bad interactions that are most memorable. And you're probably worried that any particular interaction may go from bad to worse.

This is exacerbated by your training that emphasizes the danger of the job and that the danger comes from those you are sworn to protect and serve. The training comes with plenty of examples of seemingly safe or innocuous situations that escalated into deadly violence for the police officer involved so you are always on the lookout for that. And if you've served long enough, you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, that has been killed or seriously wounded in the line of duty.

In addition, I have to imagine that officers are routinely lied to ("I wasn't speeding!") and for those in high crime areas especially, have lies routinely told about them (accusations of excessive force in particular), or worse. So much so that you come to expect that nothing you're told can be taken at face value, even when you're dealing with someone whose called you for help.

Obviously this will all vary from officer to officer, precinct to precinct, and force to force. But, it seems to me, that after a number of years of this, an "us versus them" tribal mentality would easily develop and, unchecked, you might see the attitude in HSH's quote in the post.

So, what to do?

For some reason this reminds me of a quote from Full Metal Jacket, a Marine talking about the South Vietnamese, "We're supposed to be helping them and they shit all over us every chance they get."

And the solution with South VietNam was tojust leave. Which, happily, anyone who is a policeman can do. And without having to depart on a helicopter under fire.

Seriously, if someone feels that way, why not change jobs? Or at least shift to a police force in a place where the stress is lower. Unless, I suppose, you get addicted to the adrenaline rush of having a stressful job....

It pays well? And good pension benefits? Switching costs? Don't want to abandon their buddies?

I'm sure there must be some kind of survey/study of why officers voluntarily leave the force before retirement.

Anyway, my 10:16 is speculation of why things could reach a point of "Any support for protesters or investigations into potentially wrongful police conduct was taken not just as an attack on police in general...but as an approval of the recent murders of the two NYPD officers."

I hope that person is a super-small subset of officers. There's probably a fair bit of "we've only been doing what you've told/asked us to do and now you're telling us that what we've been doing is wrong/immoral/illegal!!!" feeling going on among the police, I would say. Not unlike some folk in the CIA when it comes to torture, I imagine.

Of course, switching jobs has costs regardless of what the job is. Yet thousands of people do so every day. (Voluntarily. Even when the economy is rotten.)

I'm not sure how much most people think about the pension implications of doing so. I speak from experience, having once changed jobs about 3 months short of the date it turned out I would have been fully vested in their retirement program.

Although I suppose the mindset of those who take civil service jobs may differ from those in the private sector. Or maybe it is a difference between those in union vs non-union jobs. Bet we could have an interesting discussion on that!

I realize that is off at a tangent from the point you were making, Ugh. But it still mystifies me.

My impression from the very few police officers I know is that qualifying for retirement is a big deal and a huge reason to stay on the force.

Here is the DC MPD salary and benefits page. Pension is 80% of average pay after 25 years of service.

Also, 13 days vacation + 11 paid holidays + 13 days sick leave - from the day you start!

I've always felt that there was an interesting vibe to police and fire department employment models, in that it seems very much based on a military model.

The big difference between the two seems to be that police have a lot of desk work potential/opportunities when they pass their peak, while firemen don't really have that big an infrastructure to be 'promoted' to, and the peak physical condition required for a firemanI think this is why strong differences about hiring, firing and quotas and such tend to find expression in these sorts of unions. I think it gives the impression that people in these jobs are especially racist/mysogynist, but I think that it is population pressure that exacerbates these things and makes them really evident and a lot, if not most, people would end up reacting in a similar way.

American policing would benefit from adopting Peelian principles.

Specifically,

"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."

gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police...

But that is really only going to work in a state without an armed populace.
Sir Robert never had to tangle with the 2nd Amendment.

The problem isn't the police. The problem is the American carceral state. The problem is the legacy of snake oil salesmen (and women) telling a generation of Americans (and others) they could have government without paying for it. The problem is racism.

Individual police officers get tasked with "broken windows" policing, whether it works or not; individual officers do not get a choice about the dependence of governments on fines and forfeitures to pay for the things politicans have told the citizens they don't have to pay for. And when Americans discover that all the promises of free government were worth as much as the riches promised in an email from Nigeria, and that in reality the burden falls on those burdened with a history of racism, the police don't like getting blamed.

Whatever the rhetoric of the New York police unions, however boorishly they act at funerals, their overall actions make much more sense than their talk. Their behaviour says, in effect, that if the citizenry doesn't like the intensive order-maintenance policing called for by the "broken windows" theory, let's roll it back. If citizens don't like the style of policing government dependence on fines and forfeitures, calls for, fine, the police will stop collecting. Then all citizens, and that includes the police, will see what happens. What happens next, and the debate about whether or not the public accepts that outcome, will determine the future of criminal justice policy in the United States. And in such messy and unruly ways a democracy drags itself forward.

Nigel -- Peel was dealing with an armed populace -- England was pretty violent at the beginning of his career, and he himself was stalked by an assassin (who killed a colleague). Peelism was a beginning of making society less violent, not a payoff.

if i'm understanding him correctly, i'm basically on the same page as John Spragge.

as a society, we decide to to some seriously FUBAR stuff. cops are the point of contact between the stuff we decide to do, and the folks we decide to do it to.

some of them seem to enjoy being in that role, many do not. in either case, the cops are the heavies.

it's not surprising that there are toxic aspects to police culture.

i completely agree that the actions of the NYPD toward Di Blasio are basically a juvenile snit. I completely agree that the militarization of police is out of hand. I completely agree that cops kill too many people, and especially too many people with dark skin.

I disagree that all of that is a result of some weird dysfunction that is unique to cops.

Police culture exists in the context of the broader American culture. If we want to know why the relationship of cops to the public is so fraught, we need to look at what's going on in the culture at large.

I guess the other thing that strikes me as odd is the whole "we ask them to protect us" thing.

Don't we have some responsibility to protect ourselves? Why are we making cops do all of that dirty work?

More to the point, or maybe to look at it a different way, don't we have a responsibility to conduct our lives, and organize our society, in such a way that extraordinary levels of protecting aren't needed?

Who are we "protecting ourselves" from? Some band of alien marauders? Or are we just protecting ourselves, from ourselves?

If that's so, doesn't that seem messed up?

If cops have tanks, and are conducting no-knock searches and arrests in a manner that resembles a military assault, why is that? What exactly is going on in our society that allows that to even remotely make sense?

russell, in that second paragraph is sounded like you were going to go all NRA, 2nd Amendment forever, on us. Which would have been a serious shock to all of our systems.

Clew, I'm not for a moment wishing to critique Peelian principles. Indeed if I at one time identified as a conservative, it was thanks to the example of leaders like Peel who were characteristically willing to adopt liberal principles they had previously opposed.
I think it might be useful to consider them in full to get some idea of just how far US society is distanced fro their putative adoption:

To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil 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.
To recognise 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.
To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
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.
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.
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.
To recognise 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.
To recognise 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.

As has been noted, this topic is a fraught one, and it often is in a place where, if you point out something on one side of the equation, you are automatically assumed to be ignoring everything on the other side. But following up on russell's observation that it is not a 'police' problem, but a problem with society, I'd just observe that the US, as a society, has not really figured out how to 'accept' that someone or some group has authority. The fact that the post leads with Cartman, whose whole raison d'etre is to show how ridiculous it is to accept anyone's authority suggests that there is a lacuna here. Earlier, we had the doctor call a requirement 'fascism', which really suggests that there is not a lot he is going to accept in terms of challenging _his_ authority.

Even if you think South Park is a bit of an unfair example, it seems that virtually the whole of televised culture involves people flipping off authority. I'm trying hard to think of a show that says 'gee, accepting that someone has authority over you is necessary and correct'. Of course, it may be a bit like Iain Banks observation that he doesn't think that the future is going to be as violent and messy as he writes, but if you write about something, writing about a dystopia is what you do, but my impression is that the whole idea of following authority in any way, shape or form is pretty out of date.

LJ, I would say that we are looking at (pardon the expression) two American societies**. If one lives in suburbia most places, the police come rather close to the Peelian principles that Nigel listed. And the public mostly sees the police as a good and necessary part of the social order. The War on Drugs has seriously damaged that mutual appreciation, but it still survives for the most part. People obey the laws without even thinking about it. And the police mostly ignore the minor drug violations and minor traffic violations which constitute the vast majority of the legal issues there.

On the other hand, if one lives in an urban setting, the public mostly sees the police as a foreign and occupying force. And the police take the position that the public is basically a threat, to the public order in general and to them personally in particular. Since the War on Drugs is most vigorously enforced in the cities, that just makes the situation worse -- but it would be bad even without it. The very poor end up violating a lot of laws from necessity, and the rich end up violation a lot of (white collar) laws from a sense of entitlement. And the police are in a constant struggle to keep a lid on.

The mass media, not too surprisingly, reflect the urban experience. That, after all, is where shows are made; and where the writers, producers, etcl mostly live. Which is why you see what you do on TV: lots of violence against the police (and the rest of the public), and the police responding by playing fast and loose with the law in order to keep even a partial lid on the situation.

** The rural experience is mostly of no interaction with the police. (And only a tiny fraction of the population lives in a rural setting any more anyway. So it doesn't really play into the situation.) Which is, perhaps, why those who live there tend to a relatively libertarian view of the subject: the police are generally not really necessary in the first place. And besides, when they do show up, it is more likely than not to be about the War on Drugs . . . since there really isn't anything else for them to do.

the danger comes from those you are sworn to protect and serve

Well, yes. The danger comes, I would guess, mainly from those who are not also police, which is the those-you-protect-and-serve chunk of humanity.

This situation creates an we/they duality where we must be obeyed and must never be questioned, while they must be assumed to be dangerous until properly undanger-fied.

The whole bit about no-knock raids, etc stems I believe from the War on Drugs and the resulting potential for glamourous arrests, convictions and (last but not least) confiscation of property.

My guess is that consciously or unconsciously, all of American law enforcement has horsed its rules of engagement around to maximize its potential for multiple varieties of profit from drug arrests.

Just a guess, though.

and now we've apparently reached the point where any NYPD cop shootings are breaking news that everyone needs to know about.

yay

And the police mostly ignore the minor drug violations and minor traffic violations which constitute the vast majority of the legal issues there.

I'd say it's the opposite, at least where I live. In the burbs, the cops have fewer major crimes to take up their time, so are more likely to go after people who don't come to complete stops or have a broken tail light (or to bother with computerized searches for expired registrations by scanning license plates on cars observably being driven in total compliance with the law). And if they find any amount of drugs, you're busted.

In the city, if you don't cause an accident, short of being wildly reckless, driving is more a matter of doing what works. No harm, no foul - bigger fish to fry. Smaller amounts of not-so-dangerous drugs will simply be taken, with the former possessor given a "Now get the f*ck out of here and don't let me catch your dumb a$$ again" sort of warning.

Again, at least where I live.

HSH, isn't the way you are describing the city the complete opposite of the "Broken Windows" approach? At least as I have understood it.

I would also note that, at least in the suburb where I live, the situation I describe is the way things actually are. We have a couple of major streets where there are radar-based signs to show drivers how fast they are going. Judging from the signs, even after slowing down when they see them, drivers are still routinely at least 5 mph over the speed limit. But I can't ever recall seeing the police pull someone over in that situation; they just sail on by at the same speed everybody else is going.

What we do see, when there actually is some small problem, is at least half of the 7 or so police cars in town (population ~45,000) showing up to the scene. Just because there is nothing else happening. Police boredom -- not an issue we see much on TV.

HSH, isn't the way you are describing the city the complete opposite of the "Broken Windows" approach? At least as I have understood it.

I think it's a matter of what's considered "minor" being relative to the range of crimes the police regularly deal with.

Where there is almost no major crime, almost nothing is minor. When cops in the city go after minor offenders, they are minor relative to the many major offenders.

Cops in the city may have, in the last few decades and in certain cities (or even neighborhoods within them), taken an approach of going after minor offenses more aggressively, but they are going lower on a much broader continuum of crime. And they also have different things to go after that simply don't exist or are much rarer in the suburbs, like fare evasion on public transit or parking violations.

As certain city neighborhoods go, where the bad blood between residents and police is concentrated, you may have a point with minor drug offenses being pursued aggressively and not based on some other (real) offense, but overall I'd say suburban cops have near-zero-tolerance for drug possession.

I'd also say most of the people who live in those same neighborhoods don't have the luxury of driving, making traffic violations moot.

Traffic enforcement is actually kind of parallel to drug enforcement: it's a profit center, as well as being (to a lesser extent) a source of horn-tooting statistics.

I was once pulled over, on my way home from work at a power plant on a 2nd shift, for failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign at a desolate intersection after midnight during the work week. Not a car to be seen in any direction.

There was a cop sitting in his car behind a large bush for no other reason than to wait for someone not to come to an absolute, complete and total stop at this lonely intersection so that he could issue a revenue-generating ticket for his municipality.

The only people at all likely to come through this intersection were those who worked at the power plant, which was a huge source of tax revenue for this same municipality. This place would likely not have had its own police force, but for the power plant. Yet that wasn't enough. They had to bleed the individual employees of the plant for even more money.

I'm trying hard to think of a show that says 'gee, accepting that someone has authority over you is necessary and correct'.

How about Blue Bloods? Yes, the police make mistakes, but at the top is the wise and decent Tom Selleck, who will ensure that justice is eventually meted out to both the deserving and undeserving. Well-written and acted show on behalf of a conservative (small "c") civic order, which (it posits) needs to be reinforced rather than undermined.

I don't always agree, but I don't have a problem with watching it, any more than I did with The Shield, which takes the opposite perspective most of the time. (I don't watch Brooklyn Nine Nine, but only because I don't find it funny; back in the day I watched Barney Miller, which had a similar premise, but WAS funny.) They are fictions - myths, if you will - and are no more to be taken seriously than King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (on behalf of constituted authority) or Robin Hood (mostly against it). Enjoy if you like; avoid if you don't.

The Wire, of course, is in a class of its own in terms of quality and verismo. I suspect it to be truer than any of the above . . . but of course I don't really know.

most cop and military shows are always based on respect for authority. and i suspect part of the reason writers like them is because the chain of command thing is perfect for generating lots of conflict: boss makes a dumb decision and the subordinates have to grit their teeth and implement it.

that's pretty much the core of the police side of The Wire: McNulty spends half his time trying to convince his bosses to not screw up the case, and he doesn't always win. but he always (nearly) does what they tell him to do. the gang side's approach to authority is simpler: obey or we'll shoot you.

Omar, on the other hand, is free from all authority and acts as he wishes. he's the show's id.

"....but my impression is that the whole idea of following authority in any way, shape or form is pretty out of date. "

This sentence, including its context above, is what most of the people I hang out with consider the beginning and end of the issue. The "idea" that one accepts authority, parental, teachers, police, or society in general, is indeed out of fashion. The core of the contract that we have made with each other is crumbling. One side gets less respectful, the other gets beat up because they cant maintain order, they arm themselves and hire reinforcements, the respect is diminished more, rinse and repeat.

The beginning of that cycle is the quote, not the result. Ask pretty much anyone whose success depends on respect for authority and they will concur.

The beginning of that cycle is the quote, not the result

I like this, from the Peel quotes:

To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil 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.

To note that respect for authority has declined (to the degree that it has), and then to conclude that the decline of respect is the root of the problem, seems overly simplistic to me.

Respect is not, and ought not be, automatic.

I'm not picking on cops when I say that, because IMO they are sort of stuck in the middle of lots of other issues.

But to the degree that cops are not trusted or respected, I would say that that is a function of a larger problem in how people see themselves, individually and as groups, in relation to the society and culture they are obliged to live in, and under.

And, many of the perceptions that people have that cause them to be distrustful of the broader society, and in particular of those in authority, have merit.

It's not all in their imaginations.

russell, in that second paragraph is sounded like you were going to go all NRA, 2nd Amendment forever, on us.

No, I'm just saying that we create problems and then expect cops (or whoever) to deal with them for us.

Well, yes, and thus it ever has been, time immemorial, world without end. Respect for authority has always been diminishing when you ask the waning generation to appraise the waxing one. Yes, the waning generation may claim that in their day respect was growing, and before their time it was worse, but their parents would have made the same lament. Nothing new here.

(@Marty's 2:00)

It is one of the true marvels of humankind that respect for authority has been dropping, and society in general going to the dogs, for over 2 thousand years . . . that we have documented laments about. And in pretty much every society for which there are written records.

And yet, we have somehow survived.

Respect is not, and ought not be, automatic.

...

But to the degree that cops are not trusted or respected, I would say that that is a function of a larger problem in how people see themselves, individually and as groups, in relation to the society and culture they are obliged to live in, and under.

It's worth reminding ourselves that police officers aren't decanted in test tubes. If society is growing less respectful, that means police officers are growing less respectful. I'm biting my tongue to hold in exasperated, dull anecdotes about how this dynamic plays out in the Army between privates and the sergeants promoted from their ranks to lead them. Or the lieutenants promoted from society at large, although that's more complicated because of all the class issues tied into it.

The "idea" that one accepts authority, parental, teachers, police, or society in general, is indeed out of fashion.

this sounds like a "kids these days" rant.

when was the golden age of authority-respecting in the US ?

was it in the 1860s when half the country told the federal government to go fnck itself? was it in the 1770s when the people told the King of England to go fnck himself?

were the Keystone Kops shorts of the 1910s about showing respect for police?

was it when workers banded together in order to tell employers that they weren't going to be treated like livestock?

how about the 1960s, when millions of people told society and the government and the police that its racist laws and norms were BS?

1979 when "Another Brick in the Wall" (hey teachers, leave them kids alone) reached #1 ?

1986, when Reagan said "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"?

in 2010 when Republicans rebranded themselves using the name of a group of political rebels from the 1770s?

authority is always under question in the US. always has been. and some might call that a plus, not a problem.

cleek, don't you understand? Questioning Authority is bad, evil, nasty, horrible, must be stopped when political opponents do it.

When WE do it, it's a creative wonderful part of the nation's cultural destiny.

For all values of US/THEM.

russell:

I'm just saying that we create problems and then expect cops (or whoever) to deal with them for us.

Probably not where you were going, but I thought of this:

http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2015/01/the-problem-with-petty-pedantic-penny-ante-policing.html

When the law routinely penalizes ordinary folks for doing things that ordinary folks in the community do, or hammers people with large fines for understandable day-to-day screwups, legal punishment stops looking like a consequence of doing bad things to others, and the law stops looking like an expression of our collective sense of how we ought to treat one another. Instead, it starts to look like a form of taxation, or a negative lottery, in the sense that the "lawbreaker" is one who just happened to have the bad luck to be in front of an official when acting like a normal person, and now has to pay the price.

In terms of 'acting like a normal person' think walking on the street, breaking up a fight, a child playing with a toy, dropping a dog off at the shelter, holding an toy gun at a place that sells toy guns, etc...and the negative lottery is pretty steep indeed.

But even just the routine fines and license suspensions that fall disproportionately on the poor.

Slarti:

y guess is that consciously or unconsciously, all of American law enforcement has horsed its rules of engagement around to maximize its potential for multiple varieties of profit from drug arrests.

Not just profit, but risk mitigation. Drug gangs and dealers are often armed, sometimes heavily. The war on drugs has funded a violent black market. If you need a SWAT team to perform the very occasional no knock raid on a big stash house where you KNOW there are several armed individuals...its on hand when you think there is a guy, who might have drugs, who might have a weapon. And if you end up finding not the person, the drugs, or guns but instead flashbanging a baby...well, better safe than sorry (http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/us/georgia-toddler-stun-grenade-no-indictment/ ).

When you have a hammer, every problem is a nail.

The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.

written in 1907 by a Cambridge student, but attributed to everyone throughout history, all the way back to Plato.

When you have a hammer, every problem is a nail.

and when you're a sadistic authoritarian with a hammer, every problem is a snail.

dr ngo, I haven't seen Blue Bloods, and it hasn't been touted here, so, as usual, it might the window from which I view things. I remember someone mentioning it here, I think and nothing that it was (and this is from memory) ridiculous because every cop was a good cop, except the bad cops who get taken down immediately. I suppose Hawaii five-0 is another example, in that the good guys are always good guys and you need to respect them even when they go outside the law. But to twist my thesis into some pretzel that fits the facts, it is almost like we (i.e US society) have two poles, Accept Authority and Reject Authority.

Well, I'd tag the poles as "personally identify with traditionally recognized authority figures" and "not so much", at which point it comes down to "[accept] ma authoritah" on either pole, but yeah. We are a nation divided on the topic.

(If I were a rosy-eyed, optimistic young anarchist instead of a cynical, hypocritical aging one, I'd tag the poles as "accepts hierarchical statist authority" and "accepts non-hierarchical democratic authority", but I can't muster the blinkered optimism to do so.)

"Yes, the waning generation may claim that in their day respect was growing, and before their time it was worse, "

It's not as someone else says "the typical generational rant". I blame US, the Woodstock generation, for raising a generation of kids that didn't get the basics. We didn't grow up fast enough to change our tone, just enough to draw the right balance between questioning authority and respecting it. Questioning authority became disrespecting all semblance of authority. The generation that never trusted anyone over thirty raised one that trusts no one.

Marty, I have unwavering faith that every typical generational ranter likewise protests that no, this time it's different, and those kids today really don't have any discipline or respect. Plus ça change, etc.

(My faith is bolstered by having seen those selfsame "kids" who have no respect for any authority hitting 30 (or in extreme cases, 25) and woefully lamenting the exact same thing about those born 10-20y after them, to include how they were never this bad. And so it goes.)

Well, Marty, I grew up almost in the generation of which you speak (just too old to be a proper "Boomer") and my recollection is that one of the causes of the change - if there was indeed a change (and NV is salient on that topic) - is that the authorities were more and more visibly unworthy of respect.

Do you remember/realize that many people were actually shocked when it came out that Ike lied about the U-2 flights over Russia. No one objected to the flights, but the President of the United States actually lying in public - not just fudging or evading or "spinning" the truth but outright lying - was perceived as unprecedented.

And this was before the assassination of JFK and the "escalation" of an unwinnable - and to many unjustifiable - Vietnam War, etc. In the mid-1950s it was (IMHO) still reasonable to respect authority, if you didn't look too closely, and most didn't. By 1970 and the Nixon Presidency, it struck many of us as preposterous. And, sure, there were agitators urging us to "Question [or F**k] Authority," but they wouldn't have had the traction they did if Authority hadn't proved it self, publicly, so unworthy of respect.

dr ngo:

To take Marty's side, sort of, I don't think authority's "worthiness" of respect had actually changed, only public awareness of it and willingness to act on it.

Maybe.

In the case of the police, during most of the 19th century they were neither much respected nor particularly worthy of respect. Fear, yes, but respect? No, a policeman went to the *back* door, not the front.

Authority means, strictly, the trust knowledge inspires. A look at the many "answer my question" sites on the Internet will put to rest any worries that this sort of authority has diminished in any way. Authority, in the sense South Park uses it, waxes and wanes over the development of societies; in the English speaking world, authority in the "modern" sense grew up over the nineteenth century. I prefer to refer to that sense of authority, as something imposed from outside that enhances the power of certain people apart from their personality, as legitimacy.

This leads me to two conclusions: first, the legitimacy of any policy and, in a larger sense of any society, depends on public experience. Policies that work gain legitimacy; failed policies lose it. In that sense, legitimacy like other forms of authority depends on trust inspired by performance. Just as people who give correct answers on the web gain trust, policies that work gain legitimacy. When the wave of superpredators predicted by conservative criminologists failed to materialize, the solutions they proposed lost legitimacy. Second, the refusal by the police to go on enforcing policies that the public regards as having lost legitimacy represents an opportunity.

The generation that never trusted anyone over thirty raised one that trusts no one.

What on God's Green Earth are you talking about?

Marty, I have unwavering faith that every typical generational ranter likewise protests that no, this time it's different, and those kids today really don't have any discipline or respect.

The meta-generational-super-ranter is what we're now up against.

Questioning authority became disrespecting all semblance of authority.

i wonder how the boomers managed to go back to 1884 and get Mark Twain to publish Huck Finn?

What on God's Green Earth are you talking about?

I'm guessing that he's referring to Jack Weinberg's quote (often attributed to Tom Hayden) of 'Don’t trust anyone over 30".

Strangely enough, synching with cleek's invocation of Twain, I'm reading George Steiner's review of Zen and the Art of Motocycle of Maintenance, and this appears:

Pirsig's work is, like so much of classic American literature, Manichaean. It is formed of dualities, binary oppositions, presences, values, codes of utterance in conflict. Father against son; the architectures of the mind against those of the machine; a modernity of speed, uniformity, and consumption (of fuel, of space, of political gimmicks) against conservancy, against the patience of true thought.

I'm guessing that he's referring to Jack Weinberg's quote (often attributed to Tom Hayden) of 'Don’t trust anyone over 30".

That's not the part that confuses me. I'm just wondering about this generation full of people who trust no one.

That's a bold statement, no?

MArty: "If they abuse it we take away the badge, this doesn't change the promise we made to the rest of the cops."

This is not just wrong, but it's a lie, and the biggest reason that it's a lie is because right-wingers *like* police abuses, so long as it's no they themselves being abused.

I don't want to pile on, but that desire to see things as being great in the past is sort of the foundation of being a conservative, so I'm not so surprised that Marty might not think much of the current generation.

I'm sure that there's always going to be some nostalgia for "the good old days".

After all, we were all younger then, so it was automatically better, amirite?

What may be more relevant is the level of comfort with a hierarchy, and how that affects "respect for authority", "know your place", etc.

that desire to see things as being great in the past is sort of the foundation of being a conservative

Actually, it's the foundation of being a reactionary. (Who, admittedly, in the US have appropriated the label "conserative" for themselves.)

A conservative (in the traditional sense, or as used outside the US) is merely someone whose approach to problems is to make the smallest change possible when addressing it. No sense that things were wonderful in the past, or that nothing should ever change; just a reluctance to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Sorry for not being more precise, my memory/sense is that marty is a US conservative.

At any rate, I tend to identify the locus not as 'making the smallest change possible', but consciously trying to stop change, that 'standing athwart, yelling stop'.

A conservative (in the traditional sense, or as used outside the US) is merely someone whose approach to problems is to make the smallest change possible when addressing it.

IMO it goes a bit further than that.

The cautious approach to change is, as I understand it, founded in conservative's pessimism that changes will actually result in the situation being better.

All good.

But they also appear to be founded in the sense that the status quo has merit *because it's the status quo*. I.e., it's the product of some number of generations or centuries of social activity, and and therefore embodies the collective wisdom and experience of Those Who Went Before.

It seems to me that there is an assumption about the value of what already exists that is based on the fact that it already exists.

Wow, that was a long circular argument about nothing. It should be noted that just because every generation says it, it isn't true. Perhaps it is the trend of people generally getting more conservative as they age that creates the Meta-generational-whatsywhosies but our society has changed in the last two hundred plus years.

There is a constant lament here about the good old days from the progressive faction, as I perceive the progressive faction, that goes a lot like "I wonder where my country went". I find it fantastical that evaluating that change across generations is somehow bad.

Because not a single person addressed the point, they just tried to make it irrelevant by mocking it. Except perhaps Russell in his last comment at 12:52, but only tangentially.

I don't know a teacher who has been in the profession 30 years who wouldn't agree with me. But maybe its just because they are old too.

There is a constant lament here about the good old days from the progressive faction, as I perceive the progressive faction, that goes a lot like "I wonder where my country went". I find it fantastical that evaluating that change across generations is somehow bad.

That constant lament may be more about discovering how bad things have always been, or it may be about something other than how kids today are so much worse than before.

As an example, the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people isn't a matter of opinion. It's a demonstrable fact. You may have an opinion one way or another about that fact, but it's still a fact.

On the other hand, all the crap about incivility in politics is probably, um, crap. That's nothing new, though we may be at a local mininum as of late.

If your point is "liberals do it too," I probably wouldn't argue otherwise, depending on the definition of "it."

I personally don't see much in terms of the good old days that I would apply to entire generations of people. Some things were better at various times, and some things were worse. It don't think that's a very controversial position.

I should add that this:

As an example, the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people isn't a matter of opinion. It's a demonstrable fact. You may have an opinion one way or another about that fact, but it's still a fact.

has happened before. The results haven't been good. But it is a current trend only over some number of decades and not unprecedented over the centuries.

right-wingers *like* police abuses

This statement is in need of a cite. Badly in need.

For the world take as whole, things have improved greatly over the last few decades.

Not some much that conservatives like or approve of police abuses as there may be a knee-jerk tendency to assume that the police are right or justified in the actions they take. Especially if it is dealing with those people in them there inter cities.

"or it may be about something other than how kids today are so much worse than before."

I tend to believe the problems are more in how the parents deal, or don't, with their naturally disrespectful kids. And the lesson that teaches.

My earlier, more cryptic, comment about trusting is my assessment of the cause of much of the societal disrespect for all authority. No one, especially those in a position of power, are trusted. Every action is questioned, and someone on some front can find something wrong with almost anything they do. So real issues get a muted response.

Marty, for someone complaining about people asserting instead of showing their work, you're really not even beginning to show your own work, you're just stating sweeping, generalizing platitudes.

I'll engage, though. The problem I see with your latest assertion is that it's doing an awful lot of conflating. Sure, someone questions every action, but not the *same* someones. And for your thesis to hold, it should not just be the same someones questioning every single thing, it should be everyone questioning everything. And that simply does not happen. "Kids Today" question authority figures they disagree with, and don't question those they don't. My anecdata for this is all the teachers who I did my undergrad with, and the slice of Kids Today I served with in the Army. You're positing something fairly radical without offering any proof beyond the warm fuzzy common sense notion that well of course it's like that. And having actually spent a lot of time with yoofs and people who work with yoofs, I'm absolutely not seeing it, nor seeing any reason to not believe my lying eyes.

I don't know a teacher who has been in the profession 30 years who wouldn't agree with me. But maybe its just because they are old too
I've met plenty that would laugh at that opinion.

So our respective generalities and a few bucks will get us a cup of coffee.

Frankly, I don't see it.

For one, I'd take now over the 1950s. In a heartbeat. But then, I'm familiar with the actual 1950s.

From communist witch hunts to the absolute marginalization of women and minorities (including minority religions), there ain't a lot about the 1950s that's superior to today.

Maybe everyone tipped their hats to the police more back then, but from my perspective in Texas -- well, I can say the blacks certainly where aware that failure to properly bow and scrape got you run out of town at best.

Those who are sure that some time in the past was far superior to today, like those who are convinced that progress is happening everywhere, are guilty of selective memory. But in general, and ignoring some specific areas which run contrary, things are a lot better not than they were in the 1950s IMHO.

But then, when I was born my marriage would have been illegal here. Not sorry to have seen that change -- however horrified the conservatives of the time were by it.

My earlier, more cryptic, comment about trusting is my assessment of the cause of much of the societal disrespect for all authority. No one, especially those in a position of power, are trusted

I think this is overly broad, especially if it's meant as a comparison of now vs some earlier generation.

To the degree that it's true, it makes me ask why it's true.

Are people just being brain-washed into not trusting anyone in authority? Or is the lack of trust a reasonable and correct response to how "those in a position of power" use that power?

Trust really does have to be earned, it's not a perq of office.

"Trust really does have to be earned, it's not a perq of office"

No, it is a perq of the office. We, I, respect the office, and trust the holder, of the President, the badge of a cop, the position of the teacher, until they individually do something to break that trust and respect.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad