a quick one while our motivation is away

let me be honest, i would be lying if i said either of the following things: #1: that i wasn’t sincerely trying to keep our formerly-standing practice of “one update a week,” which to be frank, is about the maximum output i can manage under my solo power; and #2: that, let’s be honest, it’s just not happening, which i find VERY aggravating as we’re winding down 2013 into “whatever is going to happen around these parts in 2014.”

actually, it’s a weird dilemma, because it leaves me in a weird limbo of feeling like i am not getting enough done in terms of updating (which, to be fair, is ALWAYS true) and yet not enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of “eh, fuck it, i’m taking a break from feeling any sort of responsibility for this nonsense” because i really DO feel like i owe some output here and can’t really enjoy not getting it out. so… let’s focus on some other unpleasant thing. why not?

Members of a police SWAT team conduct a door-to-door search for 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev on April 19, 2013
“unassuming, quiet professionals operating without the need for recognition”

SWAT cop says American neighborhoods are ‘battlefields,’ claims cops face same dangers as soldiers in Afghanistan

i’m always really torn about Radley Balko’s current blog, because i love his work (if nothing else, i cannot think of any other non-gun owners who are bothering to really stick up for gun rights), but his current work forces me to link to the Huffington Post (ugh). that’s fine, though, let’s keep it moving. so Balko’s book Rise of the Warrior Cop came out recently and i have, unsurprisingly, enjoyed it. it’s filled with many sad, sad turns in the militarizing of policy, as you can PROBABLY guess from the title and all. anyway, recently it’s been that phase where the book’s out there and feedback on it, as well as Balko’s related work, is getting lofted around. which brings us to this article by Sgt. Glenn French.

now Balko properly rips this and so i don’t want to be redundant, but here are some additional thoughts and invectives and the rest regarding that essay:

“SWAT Operator with Sgt. Glenn French”

so i have to assume that “SWAT Operator” is a PoliceOne.com thing and not something French is using to identify himself. still, as Balko points out with other examples, notice how it’s SWAT [b]OPERATOR[/b] and not something like “SWAT Officer.” i know it’s pretty common to mock the guys fully embracing the ‘tacticool’ by noting how much they consider themselves to be high-speed, low-drag operators, but it works here: even a SWAT team member is supposed to be a police officer, not a special forces operator. i know they’re highly trained, i know they’re not patrol cops, i know many of them are legitimate bad-asses in every sense of the word. but if you want to be a Green Beret, you have to go be a Green Beret. SWAT is supposed to be something else.

French then goes on to actively declare police officers should act like soldiers (“we trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector”) and throw out dubious statistics (“The fact is, more American police officers have died fighting crime in the United States over the past 12 years than American soldiers were killed in action at war in Afghanistan. According to ODMP.org, 1,831 cops have been killed in the line of duty since 2001. According to iCasualties.org, the number of our military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan is 1,789”) and to some extent, okay, you have to expect all this, even if you don’t appreciate the deceit. Balko on the numbers:

“Even accepting French’s preposterous premise here, his numbers are wrong. The U.S. has lost 2,264 troops in Afghanistan, about 22 percent more than French claims. Moreover, more than half police officer deaths since 2001 were due to accidents (mostly car accidents), not felonious homicide. Additionally, depending on how you define the term, there are between 600,000 and 800,000 law enforcement officers working in the United States. We have about 65,000 troops in Afghanistan. So comparing overall fatalities is absurd. The rates of cops killed versus soldiers killed aren’t even close. And that’s not factoring in the soldiers who’ve come home without limbs. The dangers faced by cops and soldiers in Afghanistan aren’t remotely comparable.”

now French does, to his slight credit, acknowledge that SWAT teams are often used when they should not be and should strive for professionalism. but he undercuts all his points: he notes SWAT teams are deployed when “unnecessary and, more importantly, unjustified”… but he says that right after claiming they face the EXACT same threats as soldiers, so who can say when they’re truly “unjustified?” he states SWAT teams should be composed of “unassuming, quiet professionals operating without the need for recognition”… but doesn’t ever fault ANY aspect of the police tactics that deploy military-style helicopters or armored vehicles and swarms of men in full battlefield kit on the streets? take the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing: was that level of gear truly necessary for the threat faced? and does it represent “unassuming, quiet professionals?”

like Balko, i don’t say any of the above to bash cops, most of whom work unpleasant hours at thankless jobs and who DO face real danger in their work. SWAT teams ARE necessary in many situations. but while that’s all well and good, i don’t think we need this breathless declaration that the average beat cop is stuck in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban when he’s on duty.

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