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‘Militarization Has Corroded The Soul Of American Policing’

18 August 2014 @ 20:38

Mark Steyn from his most recent column of 15 August:

…I’ve written a lot in recent months about the appalling militarization of the police in America, and I don’t have much to add. But I did get a mordant chuckle out of this line from Kathy Shaidle on the green-camouflaged officers pictured above:

Shouldn’t a ‘Ferguson’ camo pattern be, like, 7/11 & Kool-Aid logos?

Indeed. To camouflage oneself in the jungles of suburban America, one should be clothed in Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell packaging. A soldier wears green camo in Vietnam to blend in. A policeman wears green camo in Ferguson to stand out – to let you guys know: We’re here, we’re severe, get used to it.

This is not a small thing. The point about “the thin blue line” is that it’s blue for a reason. As I wrote a couple of months ago:

“The police” is a phenomenon of the modern world. It would be wholly alien, for example, to America’s Founders. In the sense we use the term today, it dates back no further than Sir Robert Peel’s founding of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Because Londoners associated the concept with French-style political policing and state control, they were very resistant to the idea of a domestic soldiery keeping them in line. So Peel dressed his policemen in blue instead of infantry red, and instead of guns they had wooden truncheons.

So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it’s not a fashion faux pas, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these “policemen” talk. Look at the video as they’re arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: “This is not up for discussion.”

Really? You’re a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you’re a constable. And the fact that you and your colleagues in that McDonald’s are comfortable speaking to your fellow citizens like this is part of the problem. The most important of the “nine principles of good policing” (formulated by the first two commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and thereafter issued to every officer joining the force) is a very simple one: The police are the public and the public are the police. Not in Ferguson. Long before the teargassing begins and the bullets start flying, the way these guys talk is the first indication of how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing.

Damn well put.

Here are the Principles Mr. Steyn refers to:

The 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 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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 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.

9. 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.

These Nine Principles also guided American Law Enforcement for well-over a century.

Regarding the last Principle: What we witnessed in Ferguson was the latter and not the former — and it’s still that way as of the writing of this post on the Evening of 18 August.

Regarding #7: Great numbers of our police officers no longer consider themselves as being the same as us.  Rather, like the majority of the rest of American Society, they consider themselves part of a tribe.  Before this Balkanization happened, in the midst of the worse upheavals of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the police considered themselves part of us.  We were joined together to fight to preserve Law And Order against those Radical Revolutionaries who wanted to sow Chaos in The United States.  Somewhere in the decades since, the police began to think of themselves as separate from the rest of American Society.  We, the Sovereign People, became, in their eyes, the ‘Other’, potential enemies, eternal suspects.

That Law Enforcement ‘had watched the [1960’s/1970’s] rioters’s fellow traveller radicals in suits with briefcases use the courts and legislatures to impose unworkable restrictions on our law enforcement officials and persecute those police officers who utilized Common Sense in the carrying out their duties’ [which was morally wrong] and somehow began to believe that we, the law-abiding, were also enemies is a true Tragedy.  But it has happened.

As I argued back in late May: the ‘para-militarized law enforcement agencies and police departments of 2014’ have become the modern version of those Standing Armies that The Founders protested against and vigorously opposed.  And they fought against such Standing Armies because of the threat they posed to Freedom and Liberty, as Samuel Adams well understood:

…No man can pretend to say that the peace and good order of the community is so secure with soldiers quartered in the body of a city as without them….

…It is morever to be observ’d that military government and civil, are so different from each other, if not opposite, that they cannot long subsist together. Soldiers are not govern’d properly by the laws of their country, but by a law made for them only: This may in time make them look upon themselves as a body of men different from the rest of the people; and as they and they only have the sword in their hands, they may sooner or later begin to look upon themselves as the LORDS and not the SERVANTS of the people…. [Samuel Adams, unsigned article in the Boston Gazette, 17 October 1768]

The mentality needed to be an effective Soldier is not suited to the Civil Society.  It is geared towards War and, therefore, restrictions on actions by our Armed Forces against the American population were, quite rightly, severely restricted to extraordinary circumstances.

The Police were never intended to be Soldiers-Lite, watered-down versions of of our Military.  We, The Sovereign People, created police departments ‘to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence’.  In other words, we delegated to the Police and other law enforcement agencies, the power to maintain Order in our communities, to see that those who broke the Law were brought before the Justice System, and to help us, the People, protect our Lives, our Liberties, and our Property.

From the beginning the Police were to act as our agents.

In their embrace of the code of behavior of the Military, in their convincing of themselves that we, the Law-Abiding, are not the same as themselves, the Police violated their oath ‘To Protect And To Serve’ us.

Such a group, such a tribe, is easily susceptible to adopting the ways of Tyrants.

America in 2014 is not only a nation where those in control of the national government, and many state and local governments, consider we, The Sovereign People their Public Enemy Number One, but where many of our Police Officers consider us Outlaws, who need to be watched very closely because we are all suspect, to be treated as Suspects.

This is Despotism.

This is Law Enforcement run riot.

…No man can pretend to say that the peace and good order of the community is so secure with soldiers quartered in the body of a city as without them. Besides, where military power is introduced, military maxims are propagated and adopted, which are inconsistent with and must soon eradicate every idea of civil government. Do we not already find some persons weak enough to believe, that an officer is obliged to obey the orders of his superior, tho’ it be even against the law! And let any one consider whether this doctrine does not directly lead even to the setting up that superior officer, whoever he may be, as a tyrant….

—Samuel Adams, ibid.

10 Comments
  1. 18 August 2014 @ 21:07 21:07

    When I was a kid growing up in SoCal in the 60’s and 70’s, I remember cops as being friendly for the most part. They were approachable to talk to, even to just shoot the bull with.

    My uncle, who lived with us for a bit while he went through the academy, was a cop until he was broadsided going through an intersection during a call.

    Most of our parent’s friends were cops. They used to drink and party together at a bar on Euclid Ave.

    I just know that we were brought up to respect police officers and through my life, I’ve found that if you show respect to police officers, they will reciprocate in kind even when they’re putting on the cuffs. 😉

  2. 18 August 2014 @ 21:29 21:29

    Reblogged this on BLOGGING BAD w/Gunny G ~ "CLINGERS of AMERICA!".

  3. 18 August 2014 @ 21:29 21:29

    Reblogged this on Gunny.G: BLOGGING.BAD ~ ORWELL '84+.

  4. 18 August 2014 @ 22:23 22:23

    “, I’ve found that if you show respect to police officers, they will reciprocate in kind even when they’re putting on the cuffs. ;)”

    That is not always the case. It certainly can’t hurt but it by no means ensures you will be treated in kind.

  5. 18 August 2014 @ 23:44 23:44

    Just want to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is just spectacular and
    i could assume you are an expert on this subject.

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    Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

  6. 19 August 2014 @ 07:14 07:14

    The soldier’s primary mission is (or is supposed to be) to kill the enemy; the cop’s is (or is supposed to be) to protect and serve the public. When the latter starts to think like the former, he has become derelict in his duty. Yes, if the cop needs to go up against bank robbers with machine guns and body armor, we shouldn’t arm him with nothing more than a truncheon and a no-nonsense attitude, but pile on enough Army surplus equipment and “tactical” training justified by that rare occurrence and pretty soon he’s pointing an M-24 sniper rifle at a crowd of peaceful protestors.

    • thecampofthesaints permalink
      19 August 2014 @ 07:43 07:43

      THIS.

      On Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 7:14 AM, The Camp Of The Saints wrote:

      >

  7. indyjonesouthere permalink
    19 August 2014 @ 14:30 14:30

    I’m retired and was in RVN in 67-68. The police chief in my city (50,000+-) was a Korean war vet and viewed youth drinking as no problem as long as the parents were aware. In earlier days the cops would take your keys and drop you off at home. During the 60’s riots he kept close control of officers (college town) and let protesters do their thing as long as property wasn’t damaged. Few cops of the era would even consider arming up like the current police “forces”. So what happened? Neither parents, clergy, politicians or educators lived up to their responsibilities to maintain a civil society. We have a thug culture where government grows in order to force compliance with whatever they mandate. If people think Ferguson was militarized then go look at the militarized Boston marathon fiasco. Did Obama or Holder view that as excessive…or look at the Bundy ranch thugforce. Ferguson was small potatoes by comparison. Now we have black muslims from the 60’s transforming into the ISISmuslims of today…anybody think this will end well. I would rather this equipment be out where the general population can “draft” it into use than on a military post. Every institution in this country is failing and we had better be willing to step in and shore up civilization.

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