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March 23, 2008

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Noel Maurer

Tell us more as you read it. That tome seems very worthy of a blog entry.

Meanwhile, I'm trying not to go down to Chicago and strangle Jeremiah Wright. (Well, he could probably kick my ass.) Aargh. I understand what Wright meant and why he said it; but being a bit of a flag-waver myself, especially before 2004 or thereabouts, I /also/ understand why hearing it is a kick-in-the-gut.

So remind us that things used to be worse.

Say, anyone else on this blog been tear-gassed?

Andrew R.

Yep, got tear-gassed in boot camp, and then a few times thereafter for my yearly gas chamber qualification. It's unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as all that. Indeed, I actually found yearly rifle qualification more onerous (since the whole gas chamber business was over in a couple of minutes, but the range took a week and a half).

Noel Maurer

There is this particularly nasty trick that the drill sergeants like to pull at Fort Benning. When everyone is out in the field, they'll force the recruits into full MOPP gear (in the summer, in Georgia), sans masks, and run then through calisthenics. Then they'll hit them with ... smoke. Followed by more calesthenics. Followed by ... you see where this is going.

Running is not an option. They're ready with more gas.

It doesn't end well.

Although it is educational. I think.

After that, getting a whiff in a Mar de Plata high-rise is nada.

You know what it is about CS though? It's not the tears, it's not the stinging. It's the /choking/, that feeling that you're not getting any air into your lungs.

Nobody else?

Andrew R.

Yeah, I agree that the worst part of CS is that stabbing feeling in your respiratory system when you try to inhale. The whole business definitely teaches you the importance of being able to don and clear, though.

Noel Maurer

Y'know, I can't really describe it in a single adjective. It feels like you can't open your lungs, like you can heave your chest up and down as much as you like but no air will enter.

But yes, it does. But more than those gruesome pictures of the effects of a chemical attack? I'm not so sure.

Carlos

I wonder how well riot control gases would work on organic chemists?

Regarding Wright... you know, I used to read tape.

Dennis Brennan

As you know, Bob, Philly didn't bomb itself until 1985. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,956982-1,00.html

I'm old enough to remember the Rizzo-Goode mayoral election of 1987 (Rizzo, who had been elected to two mayoral terms as a Democrat in the seventies, switched to Team Red and ran against then-incumbent Goode. The debates were... something else. I'm not sure that either of them had more than a passing command of the English language.

In 1991, Rendell ran again. After winning the Team Red primary, he dropped dead. His opponent was Ed Rendell. SHWI probably could have chewed on that one.

Noel Maurer

You mean, "In 1991, Rizzo ran again," right? I don't think Philly experienced anything like New York's Koch versus Koch.

Carlos

Dennis, a theme of Wills is the growth of sales of military-style equipment to urban police departments, which happened pretty much overnight. Those must have been some interesting sales conventions.

"Now this is a nice gentle *water*-based gel! [voice drops] explosive."

"Uh, you mean, like nitro?"

"If you like!"

(Another theme is the use of urban police departments as white suburban paramilitary groups operating in the city. True enough, but not as far-ranging as Wills feared, and rolled back. Dennis Franz as an agent of racial healing?)

Andrew R.

I figure that actually getting gassed is more instructive in the value of your MOPP gear because it has a very visceral *feel*. I mean, pictures of people who've been hit with blister agents or what have you are a warning, but for the reptile brain, I think that the full body experience of CS is a bit better than simply seeing a graphic image.

Tony Zbaraschuk

Wills has always been a pretty interesting writer, but boy that book was strange, in the way that the 60s were. (Or so I am told, not having been there for most of them.)

Doug M.

-- In retrospect? The integration of police forces in the 1970s was huge.

There are a lot of samples of this all over Europe, BTW. The Brits got it right, though it came a decade later (or two or three, in Northern Ireland).

On t'other hand, not being able to integrate the cops is one of the huge outstanding problems in Eastern Europe, esp. the Balkans. There's no Romanian "Hill Street Blues" with a Hungarian and a couple of Roma.

Sales of military equipment to police forces: Hunter Thompson mentions this in passing in _Fear and Loathing_, a book which is pretty much burned onto the hard drive at this point. It's easy to miss, but there's some real journalism under the drug-addled raving. Actually, it's very easy to miss, and most people did miss it, and still do. Which is why FaL is a great book with a thousand crappy imitations.

But I digress. Police force integration was huge, but how did it happen, I wonder? I know very little about this.


Doug M.

Dennis Brennan

Noel-- my bad, I meant Rizzo. Rendell is, as far as I can tell, not dead, and this was also true in 1991.

Speaking of highly-armed police forces...
If memory serves, the police force of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania (a small, wealthy municipality in the western suburbs of Philly, near where I live) has way more firepower than it reasonably needs. This was because back in the 1990s, a wealthy resident and gun enthusiast by the name of John E. DuPont procured a lot of guns, vehicles and so forth for the police force, out of his own pocket. He also built a firing range on his property for the cops' use. He just liked hanging out with cops. He also liked hanging out with wrestlers (*), and constructed a large, world-class wrestling training facility on his property too.

Then he went nuts.

From what I've heard, he shot Olympic champion wrestler Dave Schultz (who lived on DuPont's property since he was associated with the wrestling facility) either because he (Schultz) rebuffed DuPont's sexual advances, or because DuPont thought that Schultz was part of a conspiracy against him.

At this point, DuPont's previous chumminess with the police starts to become highly ironic. DuPont barricaded himself in his house (I once delivered a pizza to him at that house-- small world), and he refused to talk to the police unless they addressed him as the Dalai Lama. He also claimed to be Jesus, the President, and a Bulgarian secret agent.

Fun facts about John DuPont-- he owned (still does, as far as I know), the 1 cent black magenta guiana stamp (supposedly the only known specimen of that stamp in the world). Villanova University's main athletic facility was named after him, until it was renamed to simply "The Pavilion".

Carlos

Hm. "Don't let it be a black and white one/ 'Cause they'll slam you down to the street top/ Black police showing off for the white cop." My God, the song is twenty years old.

Noel Maurer

I haven't read the book, and I'm not disagreeing with Doug that the integration of urban police departments kept many urban problems from getting much worse.

I will suggest, though, that another factor was even more important in mitigating the risk of urban riots: police forces simply stopped trying to carry out police functions in majority-black areas. The Amsterdam News complained about this as early as 1962; the LAPD stopped patrolling in black areas after 1965; and it is still true in many (perhaps most) cities today.

This is still true in many places today.

http://www.law.upenn.edu/blogs/dskeel/archives/2008/03/race_and_crimestuntz.html

I think his conclusions about the reasons for the disparity are wildly wrong, by the way, but the phenomenon is tragically real.

Carlos

Um. Stuntz appears to be misusing the term "rational" in his third paragraph as commentary on his second. It may be that I'm ten times more likely to be killed in a car than by walking; does this mean it's rational to fear cars? That I should avoid them, that I should pattern my life around their absence, that this would be at all a sensible way of life? I call hooey.

That's poor enough reasoning to make me doubt a priori his paper.

Michael

Aw, come on! True, Rev. Wright has got a rabelaisian streak that occasionally careens over the edge, and his prophetic style has gotten old-fashioned. But that's not the problem. This is the problem:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TRINITYCHGO

The problem is how to define the irreverent reverend as the great American character that he is in a way that's not Faulkner vs. FOX (in fact, ABC). That was the point of Obama's speech. Axelrod can't do it. So Obama had to prod the country's creative juices. And it worked! Behold Peggy Noonan going around trying to help liberals with their talking points:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23766063/page/3/

Michael

Ugh, they just moved that video down the page. Direct link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvMbeVQj6Lw

Lynn Kendall

Ah, Rizzo. He boasted of having increased city police firepower so greatly that they could have successfully invaded Cuba. He promised to "make Attila the Hun look like a faggot." And he never saw his mother naked.

He presided over the first MOVE disaster, but it was Wilson Goode who bombed his own city and then said, "Let it burn." And when the neighborhood was rebuilt at fabulous government expense, there were years of lawsuits over shoddy building practices.

Then there were the days when City Council had a quorum in prison over the Abscam sting.

As Lincoln Steffens said in 1902, "Philadelphia -- corrupt and contented." Some things don't change.

Jussi Jalonen

Same here, I was tear-gassed in the military. Part of the normal basic training.

I also had napalm thrown on me. Once again, part of the normal basic training.


Cheers,

J. J.

Nich Hills

Are police necessary?

Noel wrote:

> The Amsterdam News complained about this as early as 1962; the LAPD stopped patrolling in black areas after 1965; and it is still true in many (perhaps most) cities today.

If the Republic can survive without policing in majority Black areas, is policing really essential in any other districts?

eyelessgame

Nich -

If you rob, or shoot, a white man, you go to jail. If you rob or shoot a black man, you don't.

Given that, I prefer policing.

Noel Maurer

Nich, what was your point, if you don't mind me asking? Once again, I feel like I'm missing an obvious joke.

But if you're not joking, well, go to East Baltimore and then reassess the premise of your question.

I'll admit that I'll be surprised if you're not kidding; I'm just missing the punchline.

Nich Hills

Hi guys,

My point was surprise that there are some areas that the police have stopped patrolling. My assumption was that these were high-crime areas. If so, then these are the areas that most need patrolling. If patrolling is optional in high-crime areas, is there a need for patrolling anywhere?

Of course, there is the possibility that policing is done on the interests of the police themselves, rather than the citizens. The cops may be staying out of harm's way. Police will often focus on their own needs ahead of the community's. We saw this in Sydney, Australia a generation ago where the Armed Robbery squad planned armed robberies, the Vice squad managed vice etc. However such behaviour is antithetical to the sphere of true public service. If squads or forces act in their own interest rather than citizens' interests then they should be disbanded and - if still needed - reformed.

A police force that acts in their own interest, or in a sectional interest, is not a community police force. Its existence can be called into question.

Jussi Jalonen

There's a regional factor, Nich. Patrolling is still necessary in safe areas in order to pre-empt and prevent a potential spill-over from those high-crime areas.

So, instead of its old role as a long-range recon patrol, these days the police force is basically acting as a border guard. It's still in the interests of some citizens; and those would be the same citizens who pay taxes for the upkeep of the said police force, and whose interests consequently are most important.

Granted, it would be simpler to sub-contract those tasks to some private security agency, which is what's done in Poland and Iraq.

(I'm surprised that Stuntz didn't mention that possibility when he decided to draw a parallel with the Iraq situation.)


Cheers,

J. J.

Doug M.

There's a certain amount of confusion here between "weak and/or crappy law enforcement" and "no law enforcement". But there is a large difference between the two.

I lived for a summer in one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago, across the street from Cabrini Green c. 1989. It was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as Baghdad c. 2004 or even New Orleans in September 2005.

There's an old saying that "public services for the poor are poor public services". That is, in the US, often true. Nevertheless, there's a huge difference between poor and none.


Doug M.

Noel Maurer

Nich, the relative ack of patrolling in black neighborhood is a bad thing for those neighborhoods. It does not follow, however, that no patrolling would be better.

The beginning of the problem was, as far as I can tell, a toxic combination of white racism and black frustration. Police patrolled black neighborhoods, police violated people's rights, black neighborhoods rioted. The easiest thing to do, politically, was keep the police from policing.

Black control of city governments and police departments should have changed that dynamic, but in practice it didn't. I don't know the reason, but I suspect that a lot of it has to do with how the first generation of black mayors established well-entrenched political machines: they didn't need to fix the P.D. to get re-elected.

It's probably not a coincidence that the most serious police reforms (and resulting crime drops) have occurred in ethnically-diverse cities. Even Los Angeles, albeit less so than elsewhere. Boston's P.D., for example, is dealing with the combination of a homicide wave and the emergence of a code of omerta among the city's youth, but ignoring the problem is not an electorally-viable option.

Of course, abolishing the police force would only make the situation much worse. Ineffective patrolling is still patrolling, and Jussi's point (while overly sardonic) is also correct.

The Wire is a good way to see what this dynamic looks like from the inside. The truly sad thing, of course, is that it can be changed, and has been in several American cities.

Noel Maurer

Doug, you said it better than I could. (Christ, my muse has departed me these last couple weeks, which is scary, considering the mass of professional writing that I've churned out.)

Only caveat I'd like to add is that in most parts of the U.S. public services --- particularly law enforcement --- are much better in poor white neighborhoods (or even poor nonblack ones) than in poor black neighborhoods.

Nich Hills

Doug wrote:

> There's an old saying that "public services for the poor are poor public services". That is, in the US, often true. Nevertheless, there's a huge difference between poor and none.

Well said, Doug. I'm not arguing against public service but am arguing for needs-based public service. If the most needy are being denied basic public services what is the justification for providing better services to the less needy? If the needy are denied the public service it brings into question, in my mind, the justification for the public services at all.

I am not arguing against having a police force. If you believe, as I do, in the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness then we need a police force to help protect our lives, liberty and pursuits.

[BTW, it's taken me two days to work out in Typepad how to get beyond the first 25 comments. Apologies for the delay in responding to you and Noel.]

Noel Maurer

No apology needed, Nich; I had the same problem, and it took me longer to figure it out. (BTW, how is your first name pronounced?)

I'm still a bit perplexed, perhaps because I'm engaging in logic-chopping. If that's the case, I apologize.

You wrote: "If the needy are denied the public service it brings into question, in my mind, the justification for the public services at all."

Why? This seems like a logical fallacy, although I do completely understand the emotional point.

And in practical terms, I believe that we both share the desire to solve the issue by providing the needy with the public services that they require. But I don't see why "poor African-Americans receive less police protection than they need" translates into "makes me think that maybe the police should be abolished."

Don't you in fact contradict conclusion that in your next sentence? Or am I missing something?

Nich Hills

Hi Noel,

My name is pronounced 'Nick', the H is silent.

You wrote:

> You wrote: "If the needy are denied the public service it brings into question, in my mind, the justification for the public services at all."

> Why?

I fear I'm making a terrible hash of explaining my thought processes. But I'll try again.

If it is decided - for reasons of efficiency or whatever - that those in most need of a public service do not need it then it follows that those with a lesser need need it less. For example, if it is decided that those in high-crime areas can do without police patrols then it follows that those living in low-crime areas can even more easily do without police patrols.

The fallacy in the above paragraph is that of course citizens in high crime areas *do* need policing. It's just that in the examples given in this comment thread these citizens have been deprived of these services by decision-makers who are not taking a needs-based approach.

I hesitate to give another example to demonstrate my 'logic' but feel compelled to. What if the Administration declared that in the event of an invasion US troops would not be sent to Florida, Mississipi, Alabama or Loisianna? The climate is uncongenial, there is a disease risk, whatever. The risks aren't worth putting the US Army in harm's way.

For citizens in those four great states this decision would, I believe, be vexing. Some might even wonder why they pay their taxes to support the defence forces. They might even - making a leap of reasoning here - wonder if the Army were necessary when there are well-regulated militias.

Noel Maurer

Gotcha. The problem is in the last sentence.

If the Army announced that it would not defend Florida, Mississipi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and no one invaded, then the logic of your last sentence would hold.

If the Army made the same announcement and someone did invade, then nobody would doubt the utility of the Army. They would just be pissed off that it didn't defend them.

In poor African-American neighborhoods, the metaphorical invasion has occurred, even though non-metaphorical policing is not nonexistent, merely arbitrary and inefficient.

Jussi Jalonen

The problem, Nich, is that you're looking at this issue not only in an overtly simplistic manner, but you're also allowing your own cultural - and possibly political - background to colour your analysis.

Now, thankfully, since I'm familiar with the present-day Finnish social policy, I'm able to look at this in a more fair and balanced fashion.

Let's review your comments: "If the most needy are being denied basic public services what is the justification for providing better services to the less needy? If the needy are denied the public service it brings into question, in my mind, the justification for the public services at all."

And also: "If it is decided - for reasons of efficiency or whatever - that those in most need of a public service do not need it then it follows that those with a lesser need need it less."

Except that it doesn't. As I said before, the authorities may still regard public services as a pre-emptive solution. Thus, it makes perfect sense to limit the access of said services to those who may not have any immediate need to use them, but who nonetheless prefer to retain this option. Especially since they are the ones who pay the taxes for it, and have the most at stake.

Maintaining intensive police patrolling on the high-crime areas, on the other hand, is not a pre-emptive solution, because the damage has already happened. It's a lost cause. So, what's the point?

Also, the authorities may regard public services as an investment, in which case they will expect concrete returns. Limiting the access of public services to the upper echelons of the society is, of course, a very safe investment.

Allowing public services to the lower strata of the society is, in contrast, a high-risk investment, and more likely to turn into a drain rather than produce any tangible returns. See the reasoning?

It's sort of like taking care of sick, elderly retired people. They don't contribute anything material to the society, so obviously taking care of them would just not be rational.

Cheers,

J. J.

Nich Hills

Noel wrote:

> If the Army made the same announcement and someone did invade, then nobody would doubt the utility of the Army. They would just be pissed off that it didn't defend them. The problem, Nich, is that you're looking at this issue not only in an overtly simplistic manner, but you're also allowing your own cultural - and possibly political - background to colour your analysis. Except that it doesn't. As I said before, the authorities may still regard public services as a pre-emptive solution. Thus, it makes perfect sense to limit the access of said services to those who may not have any immediate need to use them, but who nonetheless prefer to retain this option. Especially since they are the ones who pay the taxes for it, and have the most at stake. <

In my country, which may be exceptional, we all pay taxes. Especially through a VAT-type arrangement that ensures we are all taxed uniformly on most goods and services. [I'm not denying that Australia has poor, marginalised people who often miss out on services that most of us take for granted; I'm just saying these people are tax-payers.

And I'm not denying that prevention is better than cure. But prevention can occur in high-crime as well as low-crime areas. Ideally a preventionist strategy would be to place a police office at a location where a crime is most likely to occur, so that the officer can prevent it. After all, an officer is more likely to see a burglar in the act of burglary in a high-crime suburb that in the low-crime district.

But if I put my free market hat on I'll narrow in on your phrase, "they are the ones who pay the taxes for it, and have the most at stake." If they are wealthy, and they have a lot at stake, let them carry their own risk rather than leeching off the state. After all, they can afford it. Let them hire their own security guards rather than relying on the state's own crime-averse police.

Which means we have the poorer people without police protection and the richer folk relying of private security. Which brings me back to my original question: Are police necessary?

Noel Maurer

Yes.

Nich, I'm just not following your logic. (Note, though, that you conflated Jussi's post with mine. I never said anything about the wealthy having the most at stake.)

We have poor black people with lousy police protection. We have rich people with rather better police protection. You can draw absolutely no logical conclusion about the necessity of police protection from these two facts.

In addition, as I suspect you know, most police services are provided by local governments in the United States.

Why do you continue to conflate "lousy" with "none" and deny that there are in fact positive spillovers from decent police protection outside poor black neighborhoods?

Serious question ... either there is something that I'm missing (quite possible) or your argument is incorrect.

Nich Hills

Noel wrote:

"Nich, I'm just not following your logic. (Note, though, that you conflated Jussi's post with mine. I never said anything about the wealthy having the most at stake.)".

Yes, you're right Noel. A large piece in the middle of my last post seems to be missing. Bother. Consequently my post makes little sense. Sorry about that. [And sorry to Jussi too, with my _reducto ad absurdum_ on user pays mangled.]

You also wrote,

'Why do you continue to conflate "lousy" with "none" '

Because upthread the conversation was about districts that police have pulled out of. I took this to be 'none' and it gob-smacked me.

"and deny that there are in fact positive spillovers from decent police protection outside poor black neighborhoods?"

Have I explicitly denied this? I may have implied that citizens living in districts deprived of police protection are deprived of police protection. This is, of course, not entirely true. Citizens living in deprived areas still can leave their homes and travel about their business into other districts. In these other districts police officers stand ready to protect the travelers lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

And just as citizens have mobility so have criminals. As criminals ply their trade between un-policed and policed districts they will find themselves being arrested in the policed districts thus reducing criminal activity in both areas.

So positive spill-overs. Or at least positive trickle-downs.

Noel Maurer

Re-reading it, I see the confusion. Doug M. made the clarification; there isn't no policing in American ghettoes, just bad policing.

I've got to plug The Wire, season 1. I recommend renting it; it think you'd enjoy it.

Hmm. Am I making the incorrect assumption that everyone knows what "The Wire" is? I think Carlos has a comparative advantage in explaining these things.

Jussi Jalonen

_Reducto ad absurdum_? No need to apologize, Nich, because you're finally on the right track.

But you're still wrong on some of the fundamental issues. Yes, all people pay taxes. However, at least in the country that I live in - which may also be exceptional - some people pay more taxes than the others, thanks to the progressive taxation.

Obviously, it stands to reason that those who contribute the most should receive the most. Vice versa, those who contribute less should also receive less.

This holds true even in those countries with a flat tax, because the wealthy people still contribute more, in absolute numbers.

Ergo, the rich people really do deserve better social and public services than the poor people. It's the moral thing to do.

The accusation of "leeching off the state" is unwarranted. The wealthy people are the ones who make the investments on which the state exists. They deserve to see returns for their investments.

The possibility of relying on private security was already raised by me earlier on. On the other hand, what prevents the poor people from setting up their very own private law enforcement agencies - street gangs, militias, paramilitary groups or and so on?

But really, as long as the traditional trappings of state and government exist, a conventional police force is still the right option. After all, it's very much necessary for various other tasks not legally allowed to the private security firms, such as, say, suppressing dissidents.

Noel, "The Wire" was shown in this country by MTV3, a channel once described by Ari Asikainen, a long-time SHWI contributor, as "that purveyor of good taste and sophistication". They're also known for their impeccable talent of picking the best possible time-slots for those few good shows which they somehow manage to obtain every now and then.

Consequently, "The Wire" was shown on Saturday nights at 23:30, 00:30 or 1:00. Since I happen to belong to the majority which prefers to spend those hours either on social life, gender-based activities or just sleep, I never watched "The Wire".

I know what it's about, but that's it.


Cheers,

J. J.

Noel Maurer

Jussi, when's your birthday? The proper present just became obvious.

I do in fact believe that you'll enjoy the show.

Jussi Jalonen

November 16th.

This year, the aetas won't be divisible by five or ten.


Cheers,

J. J.

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