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Why the US military usually punishes misconduct but police often close ranks (theconversation.com)
815 points by znpy 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 531 comments





Having become very interested in police brutality for obvious reasons, I recently finished Danger, Duty, and Disillusion: the Worldview of Los Angeles Police Officers [1] by Joan Barker, an academic book from 1999 that takes an anthropologist's view to understanding the LAPD after the Rodney King riots, and pretty much the only work I could find that tries to understand the police officer mindset holistically.

It is utterly fascinating and I highly recommend it, but one of the most interesting takeaways (consistent with this article) is that police officers quickly become utterly disillusioned with the integrity of the police department as an institution. They complain about unfair recruitment and promotion policies, injured officers who become "disposable", an emphasis on quotas instead of applying the law consistently, on politicization of policing priorities, and above all the city always settling cases against police misconduct so that accused officers never get a chance to clear their name in court, when innocent.

With this mindset, when they don't trust their own institution, the only people they trust are fellow officers -- not captains, not management, not the department, not the mayor. Which aligns with this article -- that Marines view the Marines as a trustworthy institution, while police don't see their own police department in the same light.

Now obviously police misconduct and brutality exist and are a huge problem. But the book very much opened my eyes to the idea that it's not only the behavior of police officers that needs better standards and accountability -- that treating police officers themselves better and more fairly may also be just as necessary to achieve full transparency and accountability. What if the "blue wall of silence" dissolved because police officers trusted their own institution, rather than just each other?

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Duty-Disillusion-Worldview-Off...


I think it's important to understand the extent to which this is a culture, i.e. self-perpetuating in spite of outside influences.

While your comment explains the origin of this culture... it's generally not as easy to change such a culture as it is to maintain it. Once a group of people believe that the rest of the world does not understand them or is against them, they are somewhat inoculated against efforts by the rest of the world to change them.

New officers spend most of their time with older officers, not department leadership, not the mayor, not journalists, not activists, etc. Older officers teach younger officers how to act, and to some extent, what to believe. And, they act collectively to punish new officers who fail to adhere to this culture.

This is well-enough known to become a storytelling trope: a young idealistic officer finds him- or herself facing not only criminals, but also the cultural inertia of the disillusioned existing police force, as they try to do the right thing.

In many contexts, we accept that organizations have to end, and be replaced, to enact meaningful change. Companies go out business; political administrations lose elections.

This is why the idea of "abolish the police" or "defund the police" might not be as crazy as it sounds on its surface. It's not that we don't need people who are paid to investigate crime and keep people safe... obviously we do. But police forces as they currently exist may have too much cultural inertia to evolve the way they need to.


Here's one real-world example of ending and replacing a police organization:

"As a result of the ‘Rose Revolution’ of 2003, the government began a process of reform by sacking all the existing police and creating a smaller force of new recruits, with the help of the international community. The reformed police force became one of the most well-regarded institutions in the country."

(https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/siezing-mom...)


Also note this is not about replacing a police force of a city. It's about replacing the police force of a country of 40 million people.

To be fair, the cold reboot was their way of dealing with the traffic police specifically, not all police.

But still, the scale here is massive - they fired 30,000 people overall, and half of them on a single day. And, just as in US today, the opposition claimed that such a disruptive measure would unleash a wave of criminal or reckless behavior (on the roads), and a lot of people would die as a result. That didn't happen.


NYC is running this "experiment" now, with the NYPD having disbanded it's anti-crime units, and with many reported incidents not being responded to.

New York City’s homicide rate has hit a five-year high as the amount of people shot has jumped 42 percent compared to last year.

Shooting incidents have gone up 86% since last year, and the murder Rate has gone up 47%.

It's obviously a result of many different factors, but I'm not so sure the same thing that worked there would work here.


It sounds to me that:

1. The NYPD isn't trying to replace their police workforce. They've simply stopped policing.

2. The current social ajd political environment would cause a hike in crime-rate regardless of police action, and it's not easy to disentangle the effects.


Disbanding all traffic police also seems to be very different from disbanding all anti-crime units.

Any change from approximately zero is large.

Nyc has had several months without a single murder.

When quoting percentages, it is helpful to establish what the baseline is and how it compares historically.

Previous “slowdowns” by the NYPD have resulted in a drastic reduction in reported crime in NYC. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-nypd-slowdowns-dirty-littl...


Months without a single murder? Which months?

Some historical data -- 2019 average just under one murder per day, 2020 is over one murder per day and up significantly from 2019 so far:

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statist...



More like one every three days in 2019.

319 is not one every three days. It's technically .87 per day if you want to be precise.

Thanks, I read it wrong!

Or, a little over 5 every 6 days.

that's certainly another way to put it.

> Previous “slowdowns” by the NYPD have resulted in a drastic reduction in reported crime in NYC.

I couldn't find where that was mentioned in your linked article, but the Occam's razor takeaway is that the crime is still happening and not being reported because people know nothing will be done.


Hard to not mention violent crime though

My bad, I just glanced and conflated two events. The one I had in mind was replacing the police force of Ukraine in 2015. A country of 44 million people fired all the 150 thousand policemen and hired 120 thousand new ones.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militsiya_(Ukraine) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Police_of_Ukraine


Small correction, population of Georgia (the country) is ~4 million, not 40 million. I've been there multiple times, it's a country trying very hard to become more European and less Soviet. I wish them well.

My bad, I just glanced and conflated two events. The one I had in mind was replacing the police force of Ukraine in 2015. A country of 44 million people fired all the 150 thousand policemen and hired 120 thousand new ones.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militsiya_(Ukraine) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Police_of_Ukraine


I don’t think anyone expects that to be done atomically. Most of the advocacy I have seen is directed at individual police departments, with some organization between the efforts and some advocacy for nationwide criminal justice and policing reform.

An order of magnitude mistake. The population is circa 4 million.

My bad, I just glanced and conflated two events. The one I had in mind was replacing the police force of Ukraine in 2015. A country of 44 million people fired all the 150 thousand policemen and hired 120 thousand new ones.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militsiya_(Ukraine) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Police_of_Ukraine


I think one reason that worked is that there was a clear blueprint for how do organize a better traffic police force.

Without that, I think a new organization will settle in to be the same as the old one, as it's formed by the same incentives.

Is there such a vision for US police departments? I haven't seen it aside from anecdotes about Camden, NJ.


To put in very common language here: there are times when refactoring would be way more costly and difficult than rewriting.

I suspect people here can comprehend the idea without requiring a tortured programming-related metaphore.

I've actually heard the some other devs say they interpret the current calls to action as "refactor the police".

Saying "defund" and "disband" has somewhat derailed the discussion with people asking "does that mean when we call 911 it goes to voicemail?"

"Reform" is already a loaded word, as it's been associated with plenty of do-nothing or make-the-situation-worse initiatives.

Refactor is a great choice, except for limited currency outside the programming sector. It implies wholesale changes, an attempt to improve quality, but also that the existing desired functionality is still being honoured.

Indeed, it does bring up the appropriatre set of folloup questions-- can this be refactored with reasonable cost constraints and chances of success?


This is one of those rare cases where the right thing is to throw out the current system and “re-write” it from scratch.

Yet at the same time couching ideas in familiar language helps contextualize and retain them.

Yep! A codebase has so much “culture” in it-it reflects the values and the experience of those who wrote it

You need to make an accurate comparison though. It's like shutting down your servers, rewriting from scratch, and hoping that your customers will still be there for you when you've reached feature parity.

One theory for why Chauvin stepped on Floyd's throat for 8 minutes with his hands in his pocket is that he was training 2 rookies on site and he was afraid that backing down to pressure from the public (people yelling at him to stop) would make him look weak and lose face in front of the rookies. And the rookies were deferential to Chauvin's seniority.

It's easy to imagine that if it was an overeager rookie on Floyd's neck, the rookie wouldn't have had his hands in his pocket and Chauvin would have told him to ease off a few minutes earlier before Floyd died.

In a sense it's not too different from the mindset when a captain crashes a plane over the better judgement of a junior co-pilot.


> In many contexts, we accept that organizations have to end, and be replaced, to enact meaningful change. Companies go out business; political administrations lose elections.

There’s obviously a significant difference between the regular election cycle (which applies to police chiefs and mayors that run these departments) and abolition. I don’t think the people calling to defund or abolish to police just want to see the administration change, or the officers get fired and re-hired.

I think aside from the Marxists and Anarchists there are very few people who are supportive of abolishing or defunding police. Fomenting resentment and fear of policing, advocating violence against police, and diminishing police’s right to self defense seems to be a deliberate strategy to destabilize communities and increase crime while framing attempts to restore law and order as oppression and racism.

Police forces have gone through some major and rapid shifts due to technology, first in terms of statistical tracking of crime and enforcement and more recently with regard to widespread surveillance and body cams.

Police can ultimately expect to have every response recorded, maybe even automatically analyzed and flagged by AI. Perhaps surprisingly most police are supportive of body cams because more often than not they are used to support an officer’s actions.


> I think aside from the Marxists and Anarchists there are very few people who are supportive of abolishing or defunding police.

The simple slogans and close approximations poll poorly, the actual concrete policy objectives wrapped up in the “defund” section of the movement, as distinct from the more radical “dismantle/abolish” section, poll quite well: https://www.vox.com/2020/6/23/21299118/defunding-the-police-...

But even with the more simplified versions, the support is more than Anarchists and Marxists, unless those are vastly more common than any previous research has suggested (so that they are a majority of Democrats and an even larger majority of Blacks): https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/64-americans-oppose-defund-p...

> and diminishing police’s right to self defense

Is not something the defund/demolish/abolish movement is interested in. That movement is interested in moving the police out of problematic situations in the first place (and in the extreme dismantle/abolish case, getting rid of the police and redistributing law enforcement responsibilities more diffusely and out of centralized paramilitary organizations), not in reducing the right of anyone to self-defense. If anything, it's the more “moderate” reformers who refuse to consider changes to the fundamental structure of law enforcement that are forced, because of that refusal, to try to address the problem by doing things that might fairly be described as restricting the rights of police to self-defense, or at least the available means.


And somehow those body cams malfunction at the most opportune time. Also, there are plenty of economical and libertarian reasons to defund the police, but I am guessing you somehow missed them during widespread discussion over the past 4 weeks.

Happy reading.


diminishing police’s right to self defense seems to be a deliberate strategy to destabilize communities and increase crime

Indeed, you just need to look at marxist countries to see the hypocrisy: they all have a well-funded, scary, unnacountable police.


That's interesting, but may not apply to the difference between military and police. My impression, confirmed by a family member who was in the army, is that soldiers are typically cynical about the military as an institution, and their loyalty is to fellow soldiers in their unit. It may in fact be typical of people in any large organization that their loyalty is to their team and not the institution. We're tribal creatures that way. And being subject to danger together strengthens bonding.

Former Marine here, and that's definitely true in this branch.

I'll say though, those who think it will be better out almost always get out when they can. The limitation of those so disenchanted with the Corps they think using the GI Bill or doing some other work will be better is the end of their current contract. It provides a sure out. You have to actively convince yourself it doesn't suck enough to be trapped another 2-6 years, while other jobs you need to take an active role in leaving. Those who stay in think the Corps is worth it.

I've been in a couple industries and never seen the same. People hate their job/occupation field/company, and stay in it for a million reasons. The military is nicely set up to spit out those who won't buy into the institution.

I would be curious to compare percentages within military and police forces of those who agree that "life would be better out, but I don't have a better opportunity out". I'd put money on that subsection of the population being much lower for military than police (and most to all other industries really).


> I've been in a couple industries and never seen the same. People hate their job/occupation field/company, and stay in it for a million reasons. The military is nicely set up to spit out those who won't buy into the institution.

That's an interesting point. Some companies, like Netflix, are famous for doing something like this. Offering new hires a lump sum at the end of their probation if they wish to leave.

I know the CEO of a company I once worked for was kinda enchanted with that idea. The company went so far to offer at one point a severance for anyone who wanted to leave within the next month. Small company but I'd guess based on what I heard 4-5% of company in the end took her up on it. And not necessarily the people she (or maybe just I) would have wanted to see leave.

I still thought it was an interesting experiment and not a bad idea. Your comment here reinforces that inclination.


Thanks for sharing. It makes sense that moving from an opt-out model to an opt-in model changes who stays, who goes, and how they feel about it but I never would have thought of it that way.

Do you think there would be meaningful changes if the police moved to using terms of enlistment? I can imagine a hypothetical society where signing up to serve as a police officer/constable/whatever would be mostly something people did for a single term because they felt it was a civic duty, or maybe because it let them access govt-provided education benefits.

Nobody on the right or left is really at ease with the militarization of police forces in terms of equipment, tactics, and outlook towards the policed. Even those who support harsh policing implicitly support it as something to be used against other people; no sane person would choose to be on the receiving end of a pre-dawn, no-knock warrant themselves.

Given that, it'd be ironic if it was a different sort of militarization which improved the state of policing.


I honestly can't say I know if moving to opt-in would change police forces. I'd guess that military provisions of the GI Bill and training towards some tradecraft also help make the decision to leave easier. I wonder if there is something along those lines that could sweeten the deal to get people both in and out with less friction.

Just riffing now, let's say you add benefits the police officer can use after a term (versus only retirement type benefits that incentivize staying in) and some means of assistance into a new occupational field within the first term. It would seem the force also gets the added benefits of (1) more and a wider range of recruits, (2) workers who hate it have incentive to leave or at least don't feel/aren't trapped, and (3) just guessing, but I imagine the cost of the whole force goes down. Between a drop in average time in service of police officers due to more dropping out and fewer staying to retirement, the cost of the whole police force would drop. The new benefits' costs are an offset, though.

Edit: I wonder how an ROTC-type program would do. Make the rule police officers need a degree. That gets the level of officer up. The department pays for the four year degree and perhaps some living stipend, but you commit to an equal number of years on the force. As an office approaching end of that first term, you're making some new-ish public worker pay despite having a good Bachelor's degree (and no student loan debt). That gives incentive to leave.

Having to graduate first is a definite pro for the department, but it does run into problems if the recruit student fails a class, doesn't graduate, etc. Not sure how you deal with that. Maybe they work a lower level job for the department while in school to help offset that.


It's not too hard to imagine what a national civil service equivalent of the GI Bill might look like, put in X years of service on multi-year enlistments with the same style of benefits and get sent where your discipline and training was needed.

It would have the side benefit of discouraging the phenomenon of people camping out in the same government job for decades, long after they stopped giving any sort of a shit.

It could even make use of the same training programs as the Army but the individuals would be under a civilian authority where-ever they were sent, and potentially even tied in with the military reserves and state guards.

Cities and counties might not even need to maintain their own expensive departments, union relations, and attendant pension problems if this was effectively handled at a state or national level. But aside from disintegrating ossified and diseased institutions, it also provides much more financial security to young people instead of pensioners.


Do you really think that ordinary civilians will sign up for a term of enlistment as police where ~40-50 officers are shot and killed every year? (This only includes deaths by gunfire alone and not knifes/assaults/beatings). AFAIK more police officers got killed in active combat than American soldiers in the last couple of years.

You also need to work 70-80 hours in high stress situations.


Being cop is not all that dangerous job and most deaths are traffic accidents. This is trying to create a sense of it being something more dangerous then other occupations and it just is not.

There is also nothing fundamental about policing that would require 70-80 hours of work per week.


Not only are most deaths traffic deaths, the next largest reason for deaths on the job are heart attacks, which are preventable with a proper diet and exercise.

Please re-read - those figures are from deaths from hostile gunfire not traffic accidents. 89 officers died in the line of duty in 2019. Offenders used firearms to kill 44 of the 48 victim officers. Only Four officers were killed with vehicles used as weapons - the traffic accidents.

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-release...

My apologies, your second statement is fundamentally false in a very deep way. There is no metropolitan city in the US where the police are not overworked.

But perhaps we have disconnect in meaning - what do you define by policing ? My definition is the maintenance of law and order. But I have observed that activists refer to it as simply keeping the peace. These are two fundamentally different things. Tyrants and Crime bosses keep the peace far more effectively than the police.


The "cops work 70-80 hours a week" thing is a policy choice. Nothing more nothing less. I agree that this has negative impact on policing, maybe more then it would be with other jobs. It makes it less effective just like any other person working 80 hours a week becomes exhausted and ineffective.

But, it is still a result of policy and culture, not something inherent to the task itself.

Given that overall cop deaths are not unusually high, no I have trouble to see that as some kind of super high risk occupation. Overall, being cop does not make me more likely to die and most of deaths are actual traffic accidents due to cops being in the traffic a lot.

Traffic is the primary danger for cops.


Cops make a median salary of $105,100 a year before overtime and bonuses[1]. They can make over $250,000 a year with overtime[2].

Many cops want to work overtime, because they can make more than double what they do otherwise.

[1] https://www.nj.com/news/2017/05/how_much_is_the_median_cop_s...

[2] https://www.nj.com/somerset/2019/11/4-cops-in-this-nj-town-e...


I have heard of a scam with firefighters, and it wouldn't surprise me if police do a similar thing.

There are standards for how many firemen are required to be working: https://www.iaff.org/wp-content/uploads/Departments/Fire_EMS...

To increase their take-home pay, firemen call in sick on a coordinated, rotating schedule, and the minimum staff requirements force off-duty firemen to be called in to work and get paid overtime.


Back in the years from 2003 to around 2008 Iraq was very dangerous and hostile. You should check out the historical press releases from the DOD. The ones where the DOD announced the casualties. It was depressing. However, there were always people enlisting in the military and in fact the USMC and the Army expanded.

I think going to a term of enlistment would be a good think and would allow the police department to only retain the best. The default could be that the police department could only retain 50% of the first term police officers.


I'm a retired Marine. I wonder how much the retirement system of the military effects the decision. Although it just change a couple of years ago the retirement was an all or nothing deal. You do your 20 years or more and you can retire. You do 19 or less you get nothing.

The military, and I believe the USMC, can be downright hostile to it members. Just being able to retire is more like survival of the fittest. I can't tell you how many good Marines have been kicked out or not allowed to reenlist for poor decisions.

The USMC also has a up or out policy. You either get promoted or you get out and later on in your career you might have to retire or wait for someone else to leave the service so you can get promoted.


Out of curiosity, if you found a member of your unit doing something illegal, would you report them? Does how illegal matter? How about who it is in your unit?

I was only in five years but saw lots of reports and made maybe half a dozen job-related (DOD order/Constitutional related offenses) and one EO-related.

I'd say in general the likelihood of something illegal on the job being reported is high, while doing something illegal on one's off time (like something alcohol related) is much lower, especially among those of similar rank. On the former, my workplace had a huge layered nest of rules from all levels of organizations, and those being broken were taken seriously, though I did have to argue with my chain of command on whether certain ones needed to be reported. Some of that was due to particular bosses.

Personal/Personal time ones, I heard of things that got reported and some that didn't. Those are definitely more mixed.

On in versus out of unit, I can't really think of much mixing with people out of a unit. I think if there is a difference, someone is more likely to report on someone within one's own unit. From boot camp on, you learn the weak link ("shitbag") in your unit is going to get you all in trouble, so you need to make sure they're dealt with. In my first school after boot camp, there was a beach party reported that had underaged Marines among them. For like a month, the whole detachment on base, maybe 300 Marines, we're not allowed to be out of uniform even in our own room, among other punishments. Group/Mass punishments mean you either deal with a person who will lead to trouble or report them.


This is an interesting line of discussion. Maybe the more relevant difference is group punishment/accountability. Could that be ported over the police (ignore the current political realities and unions etc ...)

Can you fine a whole precinct for the abusive acts of one officer? Would that encourage more self-policing or more coverups? What kind of incentives could you build into the institution that would encourage "dealing with the shitbag"?


> Can you fine a whole precinct for the abusive acts of one officer?

Absolutely not, because such measures would likely be considered governmental acts that violate constitutional rights such as due process. More than just being allowed to have their own criminal courts (as mentioned in the article), the military is granted many other exceptions under the law.


Define: “deal with”

If you found your collegue does something illegal or unethical, would you? What about manipulative or lying management? Would you?

Looking at our own companies and institutions, we are not eager to deal with own narcissists or quite cool but slightly asshole people.

And the stakes for us are much lower and extend to which we form emotional ties to collegues is lower (shared ennemy, fear and struggle is bound to create those among cops).


It would also depend on what that member was doing. Since the military also falls under the UCMJ they held to a different standard. Sexual assault is obviously illegal for the person doing it but under the UCMJ if you know about or saw something happen and didn't report it you could also be held accountable.

While a lot of military members don't like the UCMJ I think it is pretty effective. It is more then a set of laws in that it regulates conduct on and off the battlefield.


Army officer here. I can speak a bit to this as somebody who has conducted a few 15-6 investigations.

https://usacac.army.mil/sites/default/files/documents/sja/15...

The loyalty of leadership all the way up and down to the fresh E5 is generally to the process first and to the favor of the soldier second. This ensures the proper steps are followed with the necessary supporting documents with keeping all parties informed and protected. The goal is benefit or improve them opposed to harming a soldier unless the facts dictate the soldier has violated a law or is at risk of harming themselves or others.

People are generally eager to do what they believe is the right thing, which means disclosing all manners of information. As an investigating officer my job is to gather the relevant facts of an incident, write a report, disclose any additionally discovered violations, and provide a recommendation to a commanding officer. The commander, in consultation with a lawyer, will impose a legal action, order a change, or recommend the case to a more appropriate venue.

Never would an investigator falsify a report because they will be prosecuted as a criminal. It’s simply not worth it to protect people who are typically strangers to the investigator. After all the system will generally look out for the soldier but not at the risk of other people. With as much support and aid as the military provides its hard to empathize with breaking the law.

Perhaps the biggest differences between the military and police that I have observed is that the military attempts to resolve problems at the lowest level the law/policy allows. Ignoring misconduct is generally a symptom of toxic leadership that will eventually grow out of control. There is also no risk of civil suits.

For police it appears misconduct is either a slap on the hand that means little or the community is throwing the books at those guys with life destroying prison time and police can also be sued. That imposes a lot of risks that don’t exist in the military. It’s not just the officer that’s at risk but a law suit on top of a criminal prosecution imposes financial harm on their family which adds to the risk pressures.

Also policing entails far greater ambiguity at great quantity of decisions than the military typically handles. It’s one thing to blame a person for something after the fact but it’s different when you are there in the moment and have to make hard decisions under time pressure.


> For police it appears misconduct is either a slap on the hand that means little or the community is throwing the books at those guys with life destroying prison time and police can also be sued.

The bar is _amazingly_ high for a personal suit to even be _allowed_ against a police officer. Most unions have it in their contract that the department/city/county has to assume good faith and defend their officers, including defending their 'qualified immunity'. I'd argue that isn't a real threat to most officers, and if it is, there's a reason behind it.

Similar for me as a paramedic. If I'm operating within my scope of practice, within my departments policies and procedures, medical direction or my own reasonable clinical judgment, I'm not getting sued personally. The County and the Department are hit first, and even in the event that somehow through that, I'm personally sued, my Department's policy is that as long as I was within policy and procedure, they and their insurance will indemnify.

It would take something outrageously egregious. Near here we had a situation where EMS was called out for a death, with no coroner/ME/funeral home available. EMS took the body to the fire station for temporary storage, no more than a couple of hours at most.

All good so far.

Less good: allowing personnel to practice intubation of the body in the hallway, without consent. Allowing _non medical_ personnel (front office reception) to also practice. Worst: be doing this still when the person's family shows up at the fire station.

Even that didn't result in all the lawsuits you'd think it might. (Sadly. That was absolutely atrocious, despicable, unethical).


Heh, this sounds like the Army Version of a Commander's Directed Inestigation:

https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/ig/CDI_Guide_18-Febru...

Like you said, the invstigator of a CDI is someone who is higher rank than everyone involved (so there's no attempt at sway), and someone very far removed from everyone else. This way the CDI can provide a fair and impartial judgement of a situation and if it should lead to further action.

One of the biggest take aways that I had was when the accused was a straight up jerk to me, and made my investigation as difficult as they possibly could. I am still amazed that someone whose livelyhood was in my hands would be so rude to that person. It would have been also incredibly easy for me to record facts to sway the information I had to the point that the accused would have gotten in more trouble (I did not do that).

I say that to put myself into the shoes of a police officer. I can only imagine how that would grate on someone who had to deal with it on a semi-routine basis.


It’s probably almost identical. In the Army the investigating officer does not have to be a higher grade to run the investigation, but a higher grade preferred because UCMJ requires a higher grade to charge an officer with a crime.

Yeah, witnesses and the accused have always been very straight with me because, as you said, their careers are in my hands. I believe if somebody were being hostile or deceptive with me I would dig deeper.

My biggest learnings from these is be careful what you wish for. If somebody is reporting a crime or requesting an IG investigation I will be completely objective and impartial. However, when you start digging into people like that all kinds of incidental unrelated private things can shake out from discovery, and if any of those things are a violation of ethics there is now grounds for a separate additional investigation.


I can't talk about police, but some misc. thoughts on why the military is different:

- Military does NOT have qualified immunity in the same ways a police force does.

- I am an Authorizing Official for DTS (aka, I approve travel for other people in my unit). I know very well if I make a mistake, I can be personally liable for paying back the US government. And I know for a fact that it is checked incredibly rigorously. I have made people redo travel vouchers if they are off by even a cent, because I will get into trouble for it.

- Likewise, I do contracts with civilian companies. Likewise with DTS, I can be held personally liable for "directing" a company to do something that costs the government money. In our required training, they have an example where a government person makes an "offhand" remark to use better paint (ACQ 201A in case you are curious), because it will do better. The entire module is how it ended up costing $20,000, and the government almost went after that person to make up the difference. This is why if you work with the government, and they make a suggestion, they make it absolutely clear that it is not to be considered direction.

- The military (in at least it's officers) ingrain the fact that the US government holds you in a position of trust. This includes faith in your integrity and that you are held to a higher standard. Likewise, the military ingrains the idea of "perception is reality". The concept is do not even do things that could have the perception of compromising your integrity or your position of authority. And yes, you can get in trouble for doing things that even have the perception of wrong doing.

- Investigators (OSI, JAG, IG, etc.) are in very separate chains of command, and they take their job very, very seriously. There is no "blue wall of silence" to block investigations, as that would go very, very badly for the individuals involved with that. Same with reprisal. If you reprise against an individual who made a complaint (EEO, fraud, waste, and abuse, etc), you will be in a much more world of hurt than just the complaint. This is re-enforced from the top all the way to your first line supervisor.

- For commanders, consider what is shown here:

https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/csaf/afi1_2.pdf

“All commanding officers and others in authority in the Air Force are required:

(1) to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination;

(2) to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command;

(3) to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices, and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Air force, all persons who are guilty of them; and

(4) to take all necessary and proper measures, under the laws, regulations, and customs of the Air Force, to promote and safeguard the morale, the physical well-being, and the general welfare of the persons under their command or charge.

-Title 10 USC § 8583

Accordingly, commanders must be above reproach, bothmorally and ethically, and exemplify Air Force Core Values and standards in their professional and personal lives.”

These are not just words on paper. If you hear about someone being relieved of command due to a “loss of confidence in that individual”, it is related to the above quotation.

EDIT: A couple of other thoughts:

- If you look at the oath of enlistment and the oath of office (what officer's recite), we obey the lawful orders of those above us. We are also told that it is our duty to disobey unlawful orders, and if you obey them, say you were just obeying orders is NOT an excuse.

- Further down, there was a discussion on My Lai Massacre and Guantanamo Bay. When I went to Squadron Officer School (a requirement for Captains), we discussed ethics for at least 2 weeks out of our 6 week curriculum, and we did an extensive study of why My Lai and Guantanamo Bay happened (We spent a full day on each). This was so we could learn form mistakes of our past.

- Anyone in the Air Force will know the "Air Force core values". The first one is "Integrity first". https://www.doctrine.af.mil/Portals/61/documents/Volume_2/V2...


Thank you for sharing! Your inside perspective of how the military's organizational structure was designed is very interesting.

You're welcome! If you have questions about it I am happy to share my thoughts on it.

Thank you for communicating that here. I spent about a decade working in some niches of flight safety. What you say matches up with my very positive impressions of the sense of integrity and duty that seemed implicit in the people and processes.

Nice! I spent four years in flight test, and safety is truly no joke in the flight test world.

For others, if I named one thing I have seen the Air Force care about more than anything else, it would be safety. Flight Test investigations are actually very interesting, because there are two investigations:

- The safety investigation

- The criminal investigation

NOTHING you say in the safety investigation can be used against you in the criminal investigation.You could have violated every rule in the book and admit to it in the safety investigation, and it will not be used against you in the criminal investigation. That is because above all else, the Air Force does NOT want whatever happened to happen again.

Edit: I think this applies to all Air Force safety investigations, but I don't have experience with anything other than flight test.


That's impressive. FAA ASRS seems related, on the civilian side.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_Safety_Reporting_Syst...

ASRS provides some protection for crew and others to share any proactive observations related to safety, as well as to acknowledge mistakes without reprisal under certain conditions. (Sounds like the USAF Flight Test related policy you mentioned goes even further.)

All the data and information coming from all these many forthright reports is analyzed and shared in various ways, and used to drive improvements.

I suspect aspects of institutions like this would resonate with a lot of dotcom people, were we aware of it.


Navy has the same regulations on safety investigations, for the same reasons.

Terrific replies, very informative, thank you.

<<...the military ingrains the idea of "perception is reality">>

I really wish this was the norm. It's so weird that we civilians need to have the smoking gun, signed confessions, and video tape before even hinting at malfeasance.

Like this privacy stuff. Just the fact that Google (or equiv) can abuse the data should be a full stop no go. We shouldn't have to prove abuse before demanding reforms.

I experienced institutional incredulity first hand as an election integrity activist. "What, don't you TRUST us?!" We were repeatedly dismissed unless we could demonstrate someone was harmed by the current system. IANAL, but the courts said we didn't have standing. So even though the gear couldn't work as advertised, we had to prove someone was disenfranchised. Of course, vendors, election admins, editorial boards, and misc electeds were also appropriately factblind.


Agreed, there's some people in this thread with a rosy view of the military as an institution and what veterans think. Specifically, the marines where brought up, and I know many veterans that ended up very jaded within months to the first 1-2 years. They got out at the first chance.

That's an interesting and I think valuable angle to all of this. Trust in institutions is absolutely key to the proper functioning of government, but it is also key to maintaining ethical behavior in any institution. If you can't trust your institution to do the right thing, it means you're less likely to speak up when there's wrong doing, and it emboldens those who commit wrongdoing. Over time one can see how this system calcifies into a culture of unaccountable behavior.

This is why the solution to police misconduct problems is going to require systemic change. There needs to be independent investigations and oversight of misconduct, and better systems to support whistleblowers. Those that are terminated for misconduct should not be reinstated and shouldn't be able to become officers elsewhere. In the military, you can't re-enlist if you've been dishonorably discharged, why should officers who abused their power be allowed to regain that power?


> Trust in institutions is absolutely key to the proper functioning of government,

There's an entire thesis to be found in "high trust" vs "low trust" societies; higher trust overall provides huge benefits, as there's less need for checking and defensive behaviour, and people can more readily trust others to help.

But a high trust society, built up over decades, represents a resource that can be looted by individuals exploiting that trust for their own benefit. Or simply sowing mistrust for entirely partisan reasons.

The Eddie Gallagher pardon is an egregious part of that: at no point has anyone advanced the argument that it was a misconviction, the purpose of pardoning him is to signal the willingness of the US government to commit war crimes. It's hugely destructive of trust for no good reason.


I know a few old dudes who did a lot of swimming around Coronado. They've been out of the service since before the turn of the century, all with more than 20 years in.

They've said that someone like Gallagher wouldn't have had the career path in the 80s that he had 20 years later. The SEALs were smaller, tasked less often, and tighter knit. Someone would have had a private talk with him, the culture would have helped him direct some tendencies differently.

Now that SOC gets all the funds and glory, the talent pool has slipped. The institution has lowered its standards, and the old hands have retired, to be replaced with young guns.

This isn't unique to the SEALs and other groups, the entire military has been experiencing a degradation in leadership. Whether it's the USN that can't buy a decent ship, nor sail without colliding with other vessels, to an Army that has has wasted so much money on trying to buy new helicopters (Comanche), new artillery (Crusader), or even radios. The ChairForce can't buy a new tanker properly, and has burned through so many airframes flying donuts in the mideast.

When the leadership of institutions fail, the results are ugly. We're seeing that across many police departments in the US, but it's not limited to just law enforcement.


Regarding the navy ships colliding, touchscreens are being blamed - accompanied by complete lack of training. Also, there are lesser hands to do the same jobs - leading to lack of sleep.

https://news.usni.org/2019/08/09/navy-reverting-ddgs-back-to... https://www.militaryaerospace.com/computers/article/14038202...


Although technology and training are factors in the collisions, the core problem is a navy that has been overtasked for a decade. This is a leadership issue, both military and civilian.

And if you really want to see the rot, look at the material condition of the ships. IIRC one of the navigation systems was off line (Fitzgerald I think). Heck the appearance of the ships is disgusting as well. Rust everywhere.


Yes, I looked this up. It's quite shocking and deeply frightening. The US navy are the primary military counter to PLAN (PLA Navy). I wonder whether this happening solely due to leadership or because China has become the first manufacturing base for the world and the US is losing its expertise. Difficulties in Navy supply chains indicate a more systemic problem.

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2019/01/14/worse-th...


I think the USA as a whole suffers from a general disinterest among the best and brightest to pursue important careers.

It's a topic that's on my mind a lot. On one hand, I'm disappointed to see important institutions constantly lowering their standards, but on the other, I don't want these important jobs either.


Other than a great marketing job by the US military, we don't do anything to attract the best and brightest to government service. Reagan did a good job of poisoning that well.

For proof, look at the average pay for EMTs (less so paramedics). Oftentimes it's minimum wage, and if you make more than $12/hr on an ambulance, you're in the minority.

While a lot of the transports done are not at all critical, I know in my time as an EMT and paramedic of all the people that would not make it alive to the hospital if not for EMS.

And I started at $9.60/hr 8 years ago as an EMT trying to get patient contacts for paramedic school.


The Gallagher trial was itself egregious, with the lead prosecutor spying on the defense team until he was removed by the judge, and the prosecution's star witness admitting to having committed the most serious of the alleged crimes himself - after being granted immunity in return for his testimony.

But a high trust society, built up over decades, represents a resource that can be looted by individuals exploiting that trust for their own benefit.

This is exactly the business model of Uber, AirBnB and other "disruptive" companies that extract profits from side-stepping regulations that their competitors bear the overhead of complying with. People have seen the powerful and wealthy getting away with it - Uber is still in business no matter how many times courts find that their employees really are employees - and so try it themselves.


> Trust in institutions is absolutely key to the proper functioning of government

There is this fascinating 2011 paper [1][2] showing that this trust is very long lasting: They found more trust in public institutions in those areas that had been part of the (well-run) Habsburg Empire a century earlier.

[1] The Empire Is Dead, Long Live the Empire! Long-Run Persistence of Trust and Corruption in the Bureaucracy [pdf] http://ftp.iza.org/dp5584.pdf

EDIT to add:

[2] A summary and nice map: https://voxeu.org/article/habsburg-empire-and-long-half-life...


What I find interesting is how behavioural patterns seem to have travelled through not only generations of the same population, but even when they experienced significant immigration and changes in government - for more than a hundred years.

I wonder what the implications are in the context of the U.S., its military and police force. One thing I've realized in recent times is how history - and dark, violent history - is alive to this day. There are things that have been going on for centuries, old forces and habits that keep repeating the same sins, erupting to the surface. I suppose this is the flip side of the coin, what happens when a population loses trust in public institutions.

I'll quote the conclusion from the latter link.

> Our results show that past formal institutions can leave a long-lasting legacy through cultural norms – even after some are generations of being governed by other authorities. Nearly a century after its demise, the Habsburg Empire lives on in the people living within its former borders – in their attitudes towards and interactions with local state institutions.

> Comparing individuals living on either side of the long-gone Habsburg border within the same modern-day country, we find that respondents in a current household survey who live on former Habsburg territory have higher levels of trust in courts and police. They are also less likely to pay bribes for these local public services, demonstrating that the institutional heritage influences not only preferences and unilateral decisions but also bilateral bargaining situations in citizen-state interactions.

> The specific mechanisms through which the Habsburg effect prevailed remain an open question for future research. The substantial waves of migration and displacement that accompanied the institutional disruptions in the successor states of the Habsburg Empire suggest that the cultural norms of behaviour are unlikely to have survived solely by intergenerational transmission within families. It rather seems that such channels as the persistent nature of continuous reciprocal interactions in local communities, the content of knowledge and behavioural patterns conveyed in schools, and the quality of human capital of bureaucrats and citizens may have also played a role.


> why should officers who abused their power be allowed to regain that power

Unions.


Ironically this is "broken windows" theory applied to the police: if they don't see the rules fairly enforced inside their own organisation, how can they enforce them outside?

The weirdest thing is that police complain so loudly about public mistrust of police, when police don't even trust police.

Let me point out the dog who isn't barking:

The people completely absent from this are the 1M+ active US Police Officers. We have no idea what they think about their jobs and these issues. Sure, we hear from the unions, but they have a professional agenda.

There must be amazing stories about what policing life is actually like, how it forms you and why people do what they do. If they're being told, I have not found where.

I expect that one part of it is that cops are asked to do impossible things. There are things we citizens don't want to deal with or know about, but still want handled, and these are the people who take care of it.


Give me a break. Police with the backing of their unions have some of the cushiest benefits. It really just sounds like a bunch of ungrateful people especially in light of how terribly they do their jobs.

How do we truly fix the problem? We dissolve the police union and make police jobs less secure. They should feel the pressure of the fragility of their employment. It’s not like it’s a skilled position that is hard to fill.


I have to agree. Cops can retire with a full pension after only 20 years of working. They make a median salary of $105,100 a year before overtime[1], and can make more then $250,000 a year with overtime[2].

[1] https://www.nj.com/news/2017/05/how_much_is_the_median_cop_s...

[2] https://www.nj.com/somerset/2019/11/4-cops-in-this-nj-town-e...


This would be a really good explanation as to why the blue wall is as pervasive as it is regardless of thr geographical location in US. I always wondered about and could not find a good reason ( after all, cities have their own PDs - you would think there would be maasive differences between them ).

Seems like that only applies for conduct amongst themselves. For things like war crimes against others we go out of the way to protect them and reinterpret law.

Look at the sentencing around Abu-Ghraib:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisone...

One guy got 10 years, most much less.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisone...


Sounds like the US education system.

Can we do the same thing there as we are doing with the police ("defund"/reboot)?


Really? Catch-22 implies they military doesn't trust the military, or maybe I missed something.

Really good article, but misses a large part of why military self-enforces well: integrity above all is a, or the value that is stressed-stressed-stressed.

The reasoning goes that while any UCMJ violation short of the big ones (abandoning post, AWOL, murder, etc.) is recoverable from with regards to career impact by a PCS (change bases you're stationed at), a new commander, whatever, the ONLY thing that will really sink you is lying.

You can recover from all sorts of failures. What you will never recover from is lying on a sworn statement about that failure.

Enforcement of UCMJ proves this out. Officers and Enlisted both follow this in various ways from small infractions to things that involve UCMJ. The service academies only have 1 non-crime that will really get you kicked out: honor violations. Etc. etc.

The interesting background aspect is Army values get pounded into you from Day 0, and Integrity is one of them. Legitimate corrective action will go around violating them from Basic Training all the way through the last day of your career. Not a lot of other orgs take organizational value lists that are on the proverbial office wall quite so seriously.

I'm almost positive the police do none of this approach, but also they don't have a federal police force really to enforce it top-down like the Army does.

edit grammar


The military is a national organization with a hierarchy stretching from the first-day-on-the-job cadet all the way into the White House. In the US, almost every police department is it's own thing. I'm not aware of any national organization. Usually the mayor is the top of the hierarchy. That means a faceless bureaucracy, towns and states removed, will deal with individual concerns in the military. Not a known person three miles from your house.

Not just that, but much of the hierarchy above police forces is opaque if it exists at all.

The Austin PD chief has come under intense scrutiny for his department's handling of various arrests and protests over the past few months, and after roughly half of the city council called on him to resign, it was reported that neither the city council or the mayor could legally fire him.[0]

The city manager, which is appointed and not elected, has the power to demote the police chief, but the state does not permit a police chief to be terminated.

Long story short, none of Austin's leaders have the power to fire the police chief.

0: https://www.texastribune.org/2020/06/18/austin-police-chief-...

edit: added reporting


County sheriffs are similarly "protected", in that they have to be voted out in most cases in the next election.

That's fine. They are accountable to the electorate who can recall them.

It’s less fine when the electorate consistently delivers a mandate to brutalize a minority population, or just isn’t paying enough attention to such down-ticket races to care.

> or just isn’t paying enough attention to such down-ticket races to care

The Open Society Foundations has had a ton of success in changing how crimes are prosecuted at the local level by pouring money into district attorney elections across the country. That's a major reason the BLM protests have been successful: most people are not being prosecuted because the local DA is a "friendly." Since many people don't pay attention, money spent at this level has been very effective.

Presumably the OSF could target county Sheriffs races next, which would stop those cases from even reaching the DA's desk. Then the police wouldn't need to be abolished per se, they could simply stop enforcing laws that disproportionally target minorities, while simultaneously ratcheting up enforcement on the people who voted for those laws.


Criminals are a minority population (by number and temperament, not by race or anything). There structurally can't be any unbiased mechanism for effectively protecting minority populations or the criminals would use them.

Look at the taxes-are-theft crowd; they think the electorate consistently delivers a mandate to brutalize their finances. They aren't totally wrong. They'd love a mechanism to avoid arrest if they don't pay taxes.

So fine or otherwise, it is probably systemically optimum.


What does this have to do with systematic abuse of specific groups? Criminals are people who break laws, they aren't a cultural group. They aren't some collection of people that are oppressed. I'd be impressed if you could show me some data showing that criminals (not prisoners) are systematically abused. What are you arguing for?

Thread ancestor said that the electorate was consistently handing out mandates to "brutalize a minority population".

The electorate's power to hand out such mandates is also the power that it uses to define who criminals are.

There can't be a check on that power without also opening up a huge can of worms for general law enforcement.

> Criminals are people who break laws, they aren't a cultural group.

If a majority hands out a mandate to oppress a minority group they can probably define the minority group to be criminals. In fact, there is a persuasive argument that that is happening.


Hence "defund the police": they may not be able to fire the police chief, but they can give him an ultimatum to quit or have the budget from which his salary is paid reduced to zero.

That's not even remotely how it works. You can't legally do that.

The city could absolutely cut the police budget to $0.

In my childhood, I was in an area with so-called community-policing (not in the US). It was a living nightmare. Our family was glad to get out of the area.

Even knowing that US police are harsh and trigger-happy, I find it deeply amusing that first world citizens protected by the world's strongest military will talk about community policing.

Pass laws to reform the police. Abolishing them will just ensure that power hungry and petty tyrants fill the void. And these folks will happily beat and murder any and all who act against them, tax/toll all economic opportunities (roads/bridges/vendors, etc), keep the local politician and bureaucrats in their pocket, assault/abuse any woman on the streets - and no-one will dare to report anything.


You haven't added any reasoning or even anecdotal evidence to the discussion, only that you had a "living nightmare" experience, and then you went on to fantasize about some dystopia and why our only option is to pass reforms.

The police aren't following the laws now. Why would you think that adding laws would make them follow the existing ones? Police reform isn't the only tool we have available, and it feels very silly to hear people continue pounding the reform drum in 2020.


Not really a discussion for HN. I can't offer you any evidence. This was in the 80s in a somewhat backward region in a specific state in India ruled by "Panchayat" when I was a child far before the advent of the cellphone. There is no evidence apart from the memory of a lot of beatings. My sister getting assaulted. Folks going missing. And frightened shopkeepers.

Of-course things are far different today since someone or the other carries a cellphone and in modern India, law and order has far improved - thanks to more effective policing and prosecution. (Still have a long way to go)

You are a protected first world citizen. I suspect you will need to learn for yourself what living without the police means. I assure you there is no fantasy "dystopia" made up here. There are real consequences to not having an armed force enforcing the law.


Can do all sorts of things, but when somebody turns up with a gun there has to be some physical mechanism to stop them from seizing control of the local supermarket.

The city can defund the entire police force, but it will have to set up or allow an alternative which will end up the same as the current one if the incentives don't change. Resetting the entire system every time something goes wrong isn't really a viable strategy. It'll work every so often.


Of course. This isn't controversial.

If someone takes a bunch of hostages then we need people who can de-escalate and rescue them, but that isn't what most cops spend their time doing every day.


Not if it means you can't pay officers their salaries, and those salaries are protected by a collective bargaining agreement. Now the city is in violation of a contract and is going to end up paying more in litigation costs plus punitive penalties. That's the difference between "technically can" and "can, but will open up the municipality to so much liability it probably constitutes gross negligence on the part of anyone who votes for it."

Collective bargaining agreements aren't contacts. You can still fire everyone.

> ... or have the budget from which his salary is paid reduced to zero.

That doesn't sound legal -- at the least, he could sue the city/state for those wages


On what grounds could "he" sue?

Creating a new federal body to specifically deal with use-of-force by law enforcement could correct many issues by conducting investigates in a more impartial manner.

It could also issue nation-wide guidelines such as making it impossible to turn off body cameras.


I see this much like the Civil Rights Act. There was no way segregation was going to be ended without significant legislation and enforcement from the federal government. Bottom line is that the sort of large scale reform needed to end systemic problems of police misconduct is going to be extremely difficult to achieve via local reforms. Congress needs to end qualified immunity, end civil asset forfeiture, increase federal oversight, and potentially write new laws governing the use of body cams.

One idea I've seen from police reformers is a 'Missing Video Presumption' law. The basic idea is that if the body cam (or vehicle cam) footage goes missing and there is a conflicting account of events, the court will presume the video would've corroborated the civilian's version of events. This would give an extremely strong incentive to not turn off cameras or sabotage video as police have done in a number of cases.


A lot of these policing issues seems to come from progressive localities so I'm not sure it's even due to government unwillingness to solve the issues.

Most organizations are really extremely bad at dealing with internal abuses which is why external watchdogs could work very well.

Mandatory body cams make a lot of sense but if you need to deal with the opposition of 1000s local police unions it's not going to happen very quickly.


> A lot of these policing issues seems to come from progressive localities so I'm not sure it's even due to government unwillingness to solve the issues.

Part of the reason for this is that police unions fight vigorously against reform and police unions are powerful in local politics. That's why some police departments ended up getting disbanded by their municipalities to restart from the ground up.

It seems like opposition to body cams in general isn't strong, but the real fight will come when stronger laws are proposed for when body cams need to be on, penalties for not having them on, and when footage must be released.


> police unions fight vigorously against reform and police unions are powerful in local politics

Aren't the Democrats the notionally pro-union party? I think it has fallen out of rhetorical favour in recent years, but I thought there was an association between Democrats being in charge and strong local union presences.


Yes.

Police unions are seen as an exception to the usual party alignment. The Minneapolis police union and its president Bob Kroll supported Trump's campaign:

https://www.lawofficer.com/minneapolis-police-union-touting-... (2019)


External watchdogs are only as good as their leaders. For example, the Seattle PD was recently under a consent decree with the Department of Justice over civil rights abuses. Yet they still beat the shit out of people expressing their 1st Amendment rights.

Most large PDs are in urban areas that are either in blue states, or that are blue islands in red states. They also tend to be the most problematic. So this problem can largely be solved at municipal level - if there's political will for it.

> could correct many issues by conducting investigates in a more impartial manner.

Police already think that Obama's DoJ was incredibly political and it did exactly this[1] when issuing more consent decrees (source: police in family). Putting a new "Space Force" brand on the box doesn't make officers trust either their own brass or the feds more than they did.

There's no solution to a lack of trust here except perhaps a massive airing of grievances and more transparency. People like me don't trust that police officers charged with crimes will ever be impartially prosecuted by the same prosecutors who need their hard work on all other cases (departments and unions have actually tanked careers of DAs and ADAs who have aimed to cross the "think blue line of silence"). In my city, the police union used propaganda and threats to scare an independent civilian oversight (private attorney acting in a public role) into quitting his oversight role.

[1] https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-the-doj-refor...


Wouldn't a federal body less reliant on a favorable disposition from the police be the answer here?

Few are going to welcome more oversight of themselves, but it seems more and more like what's required. That oversight doesn't seem to work when it's locally based, for all the reasons you've outlined.


I think there should be nationwide training standards and standards for tactics that then get enforced. What I get from a lot of videos is that cops often have to improvise because they aren’t trained to deal with a situation. Most of the time the improvisation goes well but sometimes it doesn’t. I think this uncertainty is causing a lot of stress to cops and the people they have to deal with and then leads to bad behavior. I used to know some cops personally and they all said there was almost no way to discuss a difficult situation and develop better approaches. The general attitude seems to be “suck it up” and be quiet. It seems the whole organization is rotten from the top and highly abusive to people working in it.

Americans: we don't trust authority, most of our Constitution deals with limitations to authorities and opens with a stern remainder that power comes from the will of people trough armed militias

also Americans: we need more authority to deal with the untrustworthy authorities


I see you're being downvoted, perhaps for the directed satire (something, as a Brit, I enjoy… it is our natural habitat:) but it's a legitimate point.

I read a book by Chomsky (I forget which) in which he went through why the American democratic system was corrupt. It was very compelling. His solution, however, would be to "guard the guards" with more state apparatus and a more involved electorate. This is where he and I digressed because it's obviously pie in the sky and open to the same kinds of corruption. Turtles all the way down.

Less is more when it comes to the state - smaller government as a principle can be extended to the police by defunding and not abolishing. Remove their military vehicles, remove their ability to get no-knock warrants and other vast overreaches of power, and strengthen the power of the citizenry. Has that (less government, more individual rights) ever not worked?


and these same city officials, especially mayors, are politically connected to their police departments doubly so if they are unionized; not all police are unionized. politicians learn real fast to not go up against any organization backed by a public employee union. police and educators are the absolute worst in this regard.

I keep looking back at how many bemoan corporate money in politics and how references that Citizen's United was the cause but completely ignore that DNC platform while supporting that completely ignores these unions contributing; in fact one certain Senator's webpage is explicit in only using corporation examples. Hell that same person wants you to pay for the DNC and RNC conventions; its criminal we pay for their convention security as is

Simple reason, when people are paid by tax coffers that means their unions are and in turn it just becomes one giant slush fund for politicians who want to remain in power.


Yeah having a tight value set and tight enforcement of integrity violations among other values is certainly a function of the federal structure.

Police don't have that. It's too localized and going beyond the current state of affairs requires on a police chief with ethical super powers to really enforce things, as it would be starting from Base 0 with an Elliot Ness-like reform.


We give the police some slack because its a dangerous job. They are often paid quite well because its dangerous.

But how dangerous is it?

1 Logging workers

2 Fishers and related fishing workers

3 Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

4 Roofers

5 Refuse and recyclable material collectors

6 Driver/sales workers and truck drivers

7 Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers

8 Structural iron and steel workers

9 First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers

10 First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service and groundskeeping workers

11 Electrical power-line installers and repairers

12 Grounds maintenance workers

13 Miscellaneous agricultural workers

14 Helpers, construction trades

15 First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers

16 Police and sheriff’s patrol officers

Source: https://www.ajc.com/business/employment/these-are-the-most-d...

EDIT: Be nice to your fellow HNer's. Also, no one could pay me enough to be a policeman.


I used to sell life insurance. Dangerous careers would be more expensive. When I was an agent in 2004-2005 in the USA, being a police person was not considered dangerous enough to warrant a rate increase. As a professional wrestler, you'd be lucky to get life insurance at any price.

I'd love to see what would happen if cops had to carry doctor-style malpractice insurance, instead of the taxpayers picking up the bill for abuse settlements.

"You've beaten enough innocent people your premiums are going from $500/month to $50,000. Your choice."


> I'd love to see what would happen if cops had to carry doctor-style malpractice insurance, instead of the taxpayers picking up the bill for abuse settlements.

Then taxpayers would pick up the bill for the higher salary demands of officers due to the cost of insurance, and then the police unions would lobby for targeted tort reform to limit their liability and insurance costs on the basis that it would save the taxpayers money, and succeed, and the structural problems that foster abuse would manage not to be dealt with at all, and the victims even worse off. That's what.

“Let’s absolve ourselves of liability”—which is what this amounts to unless it's a cop proposing it—is just an excuse to avoid addressing the problem.

(Doctor’s malpractice insurance is not instead of their private or public employer being liable as usual under principles like respondeat superior or just plain direct liability for acts aligned with bad policy or direction, and only covers professional negligence, not criminal acts. Mere police malpractice, is—while also an issue, to be sure—not the focus of concern here, and the acts involved are the kind for which it is generally illegal to insure liability for, for good reasons. Insurance for liability incurred through murder is not a thing, and I don't think anyone who has thought it through wants it to be a thing. Except maybe prospective murderers.)


Sure, but there’s someone managing a budget and has to decide to either hire 2 good cops or 1 expensive bad cop.

The next step might be that departments have to publish their insurance rates, like the recent hospital bill law.


> Sure, but there’s someone managing a budget and has to decide to either hire 2 good cops or 1 expensive bad cop.

They already have to do this when the agency is liable and the cops aren't because of QI; which is equivalent to the agency self-insuring and managing risk through personnel policies and decisions.

Making the major crimes involved insurable would negate any benefit from making cops individually liable by eliminating or restricting the scope of QI.


>> I'd love to see what would happen if cops had to carry doctor-style malpractice insurance, instead of the taxpayers picking up the bill for abuse settlements.

> Then taxpayers would pick up the bill for the higher salary demands of officers due to the cost of insurance, and then the police unions would lobby for targeted tort reform to limit their liability and insurance costs on the basis that it would save the taxpayers money, and succeed, and the structural problems that foster abuse would manage not to be dealt with at all, and the victims even worse off. That's what.

Maybe that could be addressed by modifying the proposal to require that departments buy malpractice insurance individually for each of their officers, and make sure the cost of that insurance shows up on the budget of whatever department or team the officer is a member of. Basically make it more expensive (on a predicable, ongoing basis) to employ bad cops than good ones, which hopefully would then factor into personnel decisions.


Make the officers buy it personally. Have cities pay officers 110% of the base rate, such that officers with clean records get a bonus based on it. Those whose rates go up will pay the difference or leave the force.

BTW, I hate that America has become so neoliberalized that I end up needing to consider how to build a profit motive into having cops not violate constitutional rights.


Wouldn't this incentivize police to even further suppress reporting of incidents?

Those who don't report incidents within x days of the first report should forfeit their 10% bonus for some pay period y to a pool to be split among those who do report incidents in the time frame, with those who report earlier receiving larger portions than those who report later.

It thus is always in everyone's individual best interest to try to identify incidents and report them as quickly as possible.


Unfortunately not everyone has the same sense of duty and the respect for life. Since "these bad apples" don't get punished anyway, and since the system is evidently useless from removing them from ranks, one alternative is to hurt them where it really hurts them, their wallet. I don't know of this will push the half-dirty in police forces to go all the way to the dark side since they will feel that society owes them and they need to make up for the reduction on their disposable income.

I hate that America has become so neoliberalized that I end up needing to consider how to build a profit motive into having cops not violate constitutional rights.

The sort of person who makes a good cop isn’t motivated by money. You don’t pay him to be a cop, you pay him so he can be a cop. So he can pay his bills while deriving job satisfaction from duty, honour, etc. The same way the really good programmers are in it for the love of the craft.

The instant you bring commercial incentives into it you drive away the people you really want. That’s why the military don’t do it. And why tech goes toxic when the techbros show up.


>> I hate that America has become so neoliberalized that I end up needing to consider how to build a profit motive into having cops not violate constitutional rights.

> The sort of person who makes a good cop isn’t motivated by money. You don’t pay him to be a cop, you pay him so he can be a cop. So he can pay his bills while deriving job satisfaction from...

That's likely also true of many classes of bad cops, as well (e.g. deriving job satisfaction from dominating others/exercising power over them).

I also think your kind of missing the point. I interpreted the comment on neoliberalism to be critiquing the idea that institutional solution to every problem has to be some kind of system involving money and markets. Basically, why dick around with insurance and budgets to dis-incentivize the employment of "cops who violate constitutional rights" when you should have an institution that's capable of just removing bad cops like that simply for the violations themselves.


But you're not paying them more to be a cop. For the good cop they get paid a little more, they buy the insurance with the money, nothing really changes.

For the bad cop they get paid a little more and pay a lot more for the insurance, so that it eats too much of their salary and they have to quit and find another job.

The people who are in it for honor and duty aren't going to be the ones paying the higher premiums, right?


Tech was toxic long before techbros showed up. RMS' problematic behaviour drove a lot of people away from the FSF, and he's never struck me as a man motivated by the fat stacks of cash.

Well said. I too find it disturbing that upholding Constitutional Rights has become a defensive position against people who have sworn to uphold the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

What does neoliberalism have to do with it?

i think they are saying that because, in the neoliberal era, markets and market-based incentives are the go-to tool for solving problems

I can't even get personalized life insurance, so I think there's little chance of this working. At my height and weight, I'm considered "overweight" BMI, and they charge me for it. But I'm at 12-14% bodyfat with a 30" waist. I have diet logs to prove how healthy I eat, and training logs to prove how much I workout.

I can't even find a life-insurance insurer that will measure my waist to add context to my BMI despite the clear predictive information that contains and I get penalized for having more lean body-mass despite the fact that it is also predictive of longevity.


There needs to be some collective or individual cost to being a bad cop or the incentives aren't there to behave well. That could be financial, it could be prosecutors actually charging cops; there are many avenues that would help align incentives. Of course cop unions will fight this every step of the way.

> There needs to be some collective or individual cost to being a bad cop or the incentives aren't there to behave well

Sure, cops should not benefit from QI, at least as currently constructed (a more limited form may be appropriate and arguably even Constitutionally necessary from a due process perspective), and that may make merely negligent acts something they can, and may even be required as a condition of employment, to cover with insurance. That isn't instead of their public employer being liable (the absence of QI for private employees doesn't negate respondeat superior), nor does it mean that the important acts (which are intentional crimes) at issue in the present discussion of police abuse would (without major and undesirable changes in public policy) be insurable. That would actually dilute the goal of effective cost to being a (deliberately) bad cop.

I don't have a problem with direct liability for cops.

I have a problem when what is proposed is that as an excuse for absolving public-agency liability, or when it is suggested that civil liability for the intentional violent crimes at the core of the abuse discussion should be made insurable (which has the same problem as QI with only public agency liability, since then the agency effectively is self-insuring the crimes and dealing with individual costs of employees in it's hiring and firing policies.)


Interesting idea... The resultant increase in salary may in fact attract better police, and that could head off a large range of systemic problems itself.

Or the increased salary might constrain the headcount of police departments and keep them below the staffing level where they have the resources to bother mostly law abiding citizens over minor stuff. Either way it's a win.

What matters for changing behavior is the marginal impact of a police officer's actions on their income, not the average income of a police officer. Even if all police officers would be paid more by the current amount that a city dishes out in damages each individual officer would still face an incentive to reduce their excessive use of force to increase their own take home pay. Which is exactly the incentive we're going for here.

I think we're going to start seeing this. Colorado just enacted a new law yesterday that removes qualified immunity from officers. Officers can now be sued personally for civil rights violations. They're going to need insurance. Let the actuaries decide who's a good and who's a bad cop!

> They're going to need insurance.

Liability from criminal acts is generally legally uninsurable for very strong public policy reasons, even without a conviction of the crime, and deprivation of rights under color of law is already a federal crime. (And many of the other things at issue with police abuse—murder most obviously—are more specific state and/or federal crimes, as well.)

There's a space of insurable liability without QI, but it's not actually the space of most interest in the police abuse discussion.


> Liability from criminal acts is generally legally uninsurable for very strong public policy reasons...

OK, but cops are also subject to civil suits, as well as the legal fees themselves. It'd be a start.


> OK, but cops are also subject to civil suits

Civil liability for ones own criminal acts (at least wilfull ones, and often wilfull rather than merely negligent acts more generally) is often prohibited (the exact boundaries differ by jurisdiction), for very strong public policy reasons, and the vast majority of the acts of concern with police abuse are (very frequently unprosecuted, but that's not material when it comes to whether the civil liability is insurable) both willful and crimes, not mere negligence in either the general or professional malpractice sense (almost always intentional deprivation of rights under color of law and/or conspiracy against rights, and very often wilfull/intentional violent crimes on the assault to voluntary manslaughter to murder spectrum.)

Drawing analogies to medical malpractice misses the fact that medical malpractice covers mistakes that fall short of the professional standard of care, but don't cover when someone who happens to be a doctor just decides to murder someone.


No! The whole point of removing qualified immunity is they no longer need to take criminal actions to be sued. Anything they do can be subject to a civil suit which the cop will now need to defend against.

> The whole point of removing qualified immunity is they no longer need to take criminal actions to be sued

No, it is so accountability no longer, in practice, relies on public prosecutors choosing to file criminal charges. The acts of major concern are criminal acts, that are routinely unprosecuted (in some cases, this might be just because of the civil vs. criminal standard of proof differences, but it's very clear that there are a lot of cases of prosecutorial favoritism to law enforcement, whether because of the working relationship that the two institutions naturally have or for other reasons.)


Isn’t QI specifically an immunity against civil suits?

Yes, it is specifically about civil suits. It is no shield against criminal accusation - it only protects them from their victims, not their masters.

This is already very much a thing that has driven improvements: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/03/22/705914833/epis...

In fact, there have been many such forces, technology being o a big one, which have driven many such improvements over the years. It just isn’t moving fast enough to save everyone.


As user dragonwriter points out there are a number of reasons this likely won't help very much.

I'd love to see all complaints of brutality and all deaths caused by police be investigated by a different organization (maybe a state level org) and if cops are found to be brutalizing/murdering people they are fired or arrested depending on the severity of their actions.


We have a version of that in Ontario: The SIU, the Special Investigations Unit, which investigates every incident of police action that involves injury or worse in the province. It rarely finds anything wrong and can't really punish people. It's mostly staffed by former cops (because who else does investigative work? lawyers maybe? but would they work at their rates?)

There needs to be consequences for bad behaviour, but I think beyond that the solutions are further down the roots, in terms of the institutional culture that attracts and protects bullies, brutalizers.


Here is one idea along those lines, Constitutional small claims court: https://www.cato.org/blog/constitutional-small-claims-court

- independent investigations not carried by the police (to be honest I did a double take when I read that the US do things this way... my original country also has a systemic police brutality problem but we still have a completely separate branch of the police to investigate this kind of things)

- the end of qualified immunity

These 2 would already help a lot.


In some cases departments have cleaned up their act (a bit) because of no longer being able to afford liability insurance:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/insuran...


It's amazing that this writer is based in New York and didn't mention NYC's $200M+ annual police settlement payments. It's completely insane.

Maybe a hybrid model where basic malpractice insurance is included in the job, but if your premium raises you pay the difference.

They'd behave more like doctors who order hugely expensive tests, procedures, and medicine they know patients don't need for the purpose of indemnity. They'd never admit to mistakes which could be used against them in the court of law. Frivolous lawsuits would abound, and doubly so when successful suits impugn the integrity of officers' statements in criminal court (even after the fact). The policy holders would settle to save money because court is more expensive on average. In other words, we'd expect them to stop policing in general.

> They'd behave more like doctors who order hugely expensive tests, procedures, and medicine they know patients don't need for the purpose of indemnity.

Good. It's gone far too much in the opposite direction.

> They'd never admit to mistakes which could be used against them in the court of law.

Already the case.

> when successful suits impugn the integrity of officers' statements in criminal court (even after the fact)

As it should.

> The policy holders would settle to save money because court is more expensive on average.

Already the case. https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2019/09/04/police-lawsuit-settl...

> In other words, we'd expect them to stop policing in general.

Given current policing, that might be a positive.


That's such a weird typical US way of looking at it. Find a way of using money to solve it.

Why not treat it as what it is, a criminal matter. If a non police officer would repeatedly beat up people the person would be in jail. And they would likely not get their job back. It's really as simple as treat police officer like everyone else.


You're not wrong, but the US currently has a problem getting legislators to write laws that are effective.

Also doing this nationwide would require up to 18,000 different jurisdictions to write similar laws and change other law to homogenize the laws they already have. Police unions are extremely effective at watching legislators when they propose bills and have strong lobbying efforts (combination or money for election campaigns, money against election campaigns, public relations, and the ability to threaten strikes which scares citizens into pressuring politicians to back off their positions).

In short, there's a reason that we look to money to solve part of this problem and that's because it's far more likely that money will solve it in the US political system than good thoughtful legislation despite the pressure of 1.1 million law enforcement officers (and their families and their "blue line supporters" and their social media campaigns).


Insurance rates are such an underrated source for risk assessment.

Though not always reliable (see: credit default swap pricing in the lead up to the financial crash in 2007/8).

A credit default swap is not an insurance contract; you're in the world of 'buyer beware' not 'utmost good faith'.

Even the monoline insurance wrappers around the various credit products were very atypically constructed insurance contracts.


Not the swap itself, but the assessments provided by the ratings agencies.

Are they? What’s the alternative that gets all the undeserved attention?

Simple Death rates?

Insurance rates are developed by financially-motivated actuaries that consider a whole bunch of variables in order to create market-efficient rates.


Well, in this case, the testimony of cops and politicians themselves

Even a firefighter. I asked about life insurance on my personal policy, mentioned my career.

"That's fine. As long as you're not a smoke jumper." (parachute into isolated wildland fires to get ahead of the fire).


I would worry more about PTSD than about death or injury if I was a cop.

Almost getting killed tends to cause PTSD, but the tendency is stronger if someone intentionally tried to kill you.

And doing violence to another person is also potent cause of PTSD.

For those 2 reasons, I would expect rates of PTSD to be higher among cops than among the other 15 occupations you list.

I would also worry that the habit of suspicion needed to be effective as a cop would be bad for my marriage and other relationships. In other words, I would worry that the work might make me pathologically cynical.

Finally, some people really enjoy having power over others and using that power to inflict pain. Even if the other disadvantages of police work did not exist, it might be wise for me to avoid it just to pessimize the probability of my needing to work with someone like that. It is a complicated issue, but certainly I find such people distasteful and suspect that most adults in my country (the US) share my distaste.


I would argue that this applies to the people being policed as well, if not more so. A black man has little recourse if he is assaulted by a police man, or if his wife or child is killed by them. Families are torn apart by drug laws and prison pipelines.

While thats true, I can’t imagine the slow bleed that ptsd from working 50 hour weeks of stress can do to the human brain. It would be a surprise if you retired and weren’t screwed up after decades of that imo.

Oh no, cops are fucked over for sure. They suffer in many ways themselves. They also benefit in other ways, and IMO are not innocent, but they are definitely fucked over by how we do policing.

How about the slow bleed of living your entire life knowing you're always one random police encounter away from being shot. The whole law enforcement system creates a slow bleed of stress and trauma on both officers and citizens.

At the jail I go to, there is more concern expressed by the prisoners about the destruction caused by the drugs than the drug sentences.

Because that's the narrative that gets your sentence reduced and what any lawyer would advise: from now on, publicly you'll condemn the drugs that got you here.

No. You have no clue.

It's because they are mourning their lost years, their failing health, their dead friends, their dead parents, their dead cousins and brothers and sisters. Oh, and their dead wives, girlfriends, and children. And probably more often than anything else, their fear that they will just go straight back to doing it all again when they get out, just like the last time they got out.


> No. You have no clue.

> It's because they are mourning their lost years, their failing health, their dead friends, their dead parents, their dead cousins and brothers and sisters. Oh, and their dead wives, girlfriends, and children. And probably more often than anything else, their fear that they will just go straight back to doing it all again when they get out, just like the last time they got out.

For a lot of drugs, it's not the drug that killed all those people and tore apart those connections, it's the illegal nature that causes violent black markets and heavy policing.


It's not violence and police that are killing them where I live. It's drugs. I'm not saying the jail system is the solution, but let's not kid ourselves about what's going on.

I can see that perspective and also say that I think what it speaks to is that we don't provide a better systemic solution to drug addiction than imprisonment, which is an embarrassing failure of American culture and society.

>A black man has little recourse if he is assaulted by a police man, or if his wife or child is killed by them

To be clear, those are not statistically significant events. In fact, they are insignificant at the population level, and there is no discrepancy across racial lines (as in, the numbers do not show Black Americans being targeted more than other demographic groups).

One of the challenges is that if a demographic group disproportionately engages in criminal activity (more or less), then it will necessarily have a disproportionate negative (or positive) interaction with the entire judicial system (police and courts) - but you cannot fix that with police reform. You can still make the case for Police reform and there are a lot of places of improvement (e.g. the practice of 'swatting' should NOT be a thing - police and judges that issue these warrants should be MORE discriminatory !!!), but that will not lessen the proportion of negative interactions.

>Families are torn apart by drug laws and prison pipelines.

That has NOTHING to do with police. Police enforce laws on the books - typically municipal and state laws. Most cities have progressive Democratic leadership (from mayor, to council, to police chiefs) and those cities also had the biggest issues with protests against police brutality.


There is more to the story of those statistics you refer to:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-statistics-dont-cap...

One needs to look at who the police are choosing to interact with to understand the denominator properly. The numbers seem to show that they are biased towards interacting with black people.


I get it and I have no disagreement with qualifying the numbers. It's a very complicated issue, but, if it is in fact true, when controlled for all other factors, if a particularity defined demographic group engages in disproportionate amount of criminal activity (less or more), then wouldn't you expect that that would filter down to the individual interactions?

If an individual police officer is choosing who to frisk (or interact with), and the only things they have to go on are visible superficial characteristics (i.e. age, gender, ethnicity, clothing, etc.), and the global fact that those characteristics are statically correlated with more or less crime, that would be impossible for an individual to control their biases.

We know this is a painful exercise, because people are not just those superficial characteristics, and it's unfair for an individual to be singled out for those characteristics - but that's the ONLY information available to the officer.

The officer cannot control their bias, because if they try, they will either over or under compensate and because they are human. It's why we have double-blind trials and the scientific method - we know even well-meaning humans cannot control their biases. And this isn't an example of racism, because it could clothing or gender that trigger the frisk (I guarantee you that men are stopped more than women - WHY?!?!?), but aspect of human cognition. The only way to control for that is by introducing a non-biased random decision maker. For example, in airport security, there will be a device that will randomly flag passengers for extra screening. Perhaps something like that should be the case in these 'stop-and-frisk' policies? But even that has limited value. If a particular neighborhood with issues of crime, is dominated by an ethnic group, even random sample will involve disproportionate 'harassment'.

A while back Sam Harris had a debate with an airport security expert on profiling in airport security[1]. Sam Harris advocated for profiling and security expert was not. Sam Harris was 100% wrong and didn't admit it. The security expert talked about how proper airport security should work (and the problems with profiling and how to control for that). That debate has analogues to this conversation, because police should adopt some of those strategies because profiling is socially painful and breeds resentment and has limited success ... and individuals will not make the right decision in context.

[1]https://samharris.org/to-profile-or-not-to-profile/


I could have been a bit more clear in my summary. The article cites statistics that claim a higher rate of police stops of Black and Hispanic people are unfounded than those of white people. If true, this is evidence of police targeting practices that are disproportionate with actual underlying criminal activity rates.

Taking a step back to look at the historical context... The brutal wake of slavery and ingrained systemic racism are primary contributors to heightened criminal activity we see in some predominantly black neighborhoods. Black people didn’t collectively choose to live in worse conditions with high crime rates... After unlocking their literal chains, a savagely racist society pushed them in that direction.


If society were savagely racist why are asians not pushed in that direction?

But lets say this is true: it still means the whole police thing is a symptom, and not the cause. So the big question (and elephant in the room) is, what can be done.


For starters, Asian people in America aren't dealing with the ongoing aftermath of 200+ years of slavery.

Yes, I think the police thing is partially a symptom. But I would guess there are many complex feedback loops. So it is a cause as well.


> if a particularity defined demographic group engages in disproportionate amount of criminal activity (less or more), then wouldn't you expect that that would filter down to the individual interactions?

What you're asking is "is it legitimate to discriminate against individuals because of the demographic group to which they belong".

I realize that it's not obvious that that's the question you're asking. But when reframed in that way, my answer is obviously no. You should engage with an individual if you have evidence of a crime or suspicious activity. Existing while black is neither.


> Sam Harris advocated for profiling and security expert was not.

I don't think "profiling" by itself quite captures what Harris was arguing for. He was arguing for profiling based on a characteristic--being a Muslim--that can't be directly observed. This was a key point of Schneier's rebuttal. So Harris's version of profiling isn't workable even if we admit that the characteristic in question does increase the probability of the person causing harm.

The profiling done by police does not have the same problem, because the characteristics involved are visible. However, visible characteristics are not limited to the ones you note: they also include behavior. So your statement that visible characteristics like age, gender, ethnicity are the ONLY ones available to the officer is not correct. The officer also sees what the people are doing and whether it looks suspicious, the people's body language, and so on. It is not unfair to single out people for their behavior.


The same article bashing a wide range of crime statistics uses even shallower statistical misdirection to support its argument.

It demonstrated in a very straightforward way how the given statistic can result from very different underlying realities, and then provided evidence of the less obvious possibility. The fact that police stops of black people are less likely to find contraband than those of white people seems rather significant.

> Almost getting killed tends to cause PTSD, but the tendency is stronger if someone intentionally tried to kill you.

I'd be more concerned about being the first on scene of traffic accidents, fires, etc, especially those involving kids. I have vivid visions of stories I've been told from first responders, so I can only imagine it is worse for them.


Does that really happen that often? Police officers getting "almost killed"?

No it actually doesn't. This is anecdotal but... my father in law is a police officer in a city with 1.2 million people and the way he talks you'd think officers were dropping like flies. I looked it up and in the last 150 years 20 officers have died while on duty in his police department. Many were traffic accidents. One was a heart attack.

I found it disturbing to discover that my local cemetery has a memorial already up for local officers killed in the line of duty. The only name on it is a police dog. There is a lot of empty space.

I'm sure this came from a salesman at a law enforcement expo who has been selling these to every community in the country. It suggests a national narrative where the police are convinced that people are plotting to kill them at every moment, and even if none actually have, it's only a matter of time.

Every encounter with police begins with hostility. You know they're armed. You know they're assuming you are, too. I can only imagine how that's magnified for people who "fit the profile" solely because of the color of their skin.


The sources of that narrative are very prominent. Here's one.

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/jun/05/architect-of-c...


The police have been made good by decades of "good cop" "bad guy" TV dramas.

I mean look at Law and Order, or Chicago PD, or Blue Bloods. There's a token episode about police brutality or corruption that is "solved" by the "good apple" standing up to them.


Good apples get fired, harassed, and stripped of pension for breaking the code of silence.

I often (disgustedly) hear "it's a war out there". The only "war" that is equivalent to the current policing in the US is the occupation of the axis post WWII. It's absolutely a war, but it's a war where the natives are being raped and pillaged by the occupying force with no recourse because they already lost.

I'd be willing to wager the source of violence in police|public interactions is the public in less than 5% of interactions, probably less than 1%.


> Police officers getting "almost killed"?

Your comment only addresses dead, not almost killed as the comment you are replying to.


You don’t have to almost die to get ptsd. You can get it from * responding to a bad domestic violence call * responding to a bad child abuse call * getting attacked by someone on PCP where you ended up shooting him five times because he wouldn’t stop coming until you physically blew out his knees * any situation where death feels possible, but unlikely, in the way that car accidents can cause ptsd because you thought you would die, but car technology makes it unlikely for that type of accident.

In all these cases, watching the amount of damage someone has taken can easily cause ptsd.


This is undoubtedly true. But EMTs, firemen and emergency physicians encounter trauma every day on the job and we don't hear them taking it out on wives, children and the general public. What gives?

Good points. PTSD stressors can come from minor traffic stops too, since while it may be rare, they can turn into a lethal situation in a blink of an eye.

I think on that last point it would be dangerous if everyone that that way. What the police need are honest good and moral cops who are not afraid to stand up to their colleagues.

The original source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics [0], which is a bottomless rabbit hole of detail.

Data quality side note... Others have pointed out before that a primary work related risk for nearly all of these professions is transportation. That's why the only landscapers we see on this list are the supervisors: supervisors are on the clock while they're behind the wheel, the workers aren't. Reading this data in a meaningful way requires consideration of transportation related risks.

[0] https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshcfoi1.htm


Leading cause of death for peace corps volunteers is (was?) motorcycle accidents.

>They are often paid quite well because its dangerous

2019 median pay for a police officer/detective: $65,170[0]

2019 median pay for high school teachers (often cited as underpaid): $61,660[1]

[0]https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/mobile/police-and...

[1]https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/mobil...


That omits overtime, which is a massive component of compensation in many departments. It also ignores after-hours gigs they can get because they're cops and pensions, which not so many get anymore.

OT in Chicago: https://chicago.suntimes.com/2019/1/14/18343141/editorial-re... :

"In 2017, a sergeant who apparently never sleeps made $279,612, which included $158,917 in overtime pay. A detective made $285,070, including $144,926 in OT. In all, according to a Sun-Times report on Sunday, rank-and-file police officers in 2017 pulled in about 60 percent of the city’s overall overtime pay."

Please point me to all the six-figure teaching opportunities.


> a sergeant who apparently never sleeps

Isn't that a public safety hazard? I'm not sure I'd want to trust the judgement of a sleep-deprived workaholic with a gun. Either that or if indeed his working hours are nigh super-human then maybe that sergeant isn't human at all and that salary in the budget is being embezzled.


There was a scandal around here recently about some police officer billing the government for weeks where they worked for something like 27 hours a day. Which would be very unhealthy, I imagine, if there was a way to do that.

Truckers have strict rules about how much driving they can do in a 24-hour period.

there are several counties in maryland where a teacher with an advanced degree and/or many years on the job can make around $100k.

http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/about/Documents/DCAA/SS...


Same with eastern PA, Bucks County comes to mind. A friend of mine teaches middle school, has her masters degree, and makes north of 100k. The property taxes in Chester Country, Delaware County, and Bucks County definitely reflect the salaries. The schools in those areas are generally pretty good, I've heard.

The 90th percentile of "Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education" makes upwards of $99,660[0] per year.

[0]https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm


But it's not just the 90th percentile of cops that get OT. They virtually all do.

Nope I'm taking issue with this maybe in large cities NYC, Chicago, LA they do, but remember most cops aren't in those cities the majority of them are paid for by small municipal budgets and aren't having hours and hours of OT to bill. Remember the vast majority of cops in the US aren't generally violent aren't working in huge cities with thousands of people and may only have a couple dozen people on their force.

My neighbor is a cop (sergeant) in a midwest town of roughly 300K people. His base salary is $95k, and last year he earned $40k in overtime. He's been with the PD for roughly 22 years. Police start at $56k. There academy training is paid for by the city.

In contrast, teachers start out at $46k, and are required to have a BA, plus teaching credential that they pay for themselves. The maximum a teacher can earn in the city is capped at $88K, and that requires a PhD plus 24 years of experience.

If teachers got paid overtime, they'd be the highest paid employees in the nation.


Hi, my hometown is in the Midwest and has about 70k residents. The police department budget is two-thirds the general fund and increases about six percent year over year, for the last five years.

This year they added some building code enforcement officers to evict poor people; 95k/year plus benefits.

I think these small town cops are doing just fine with their community college associates' degree in "criminal justice".


High school teachers generally require post-baccaleureate education, police officers require a high school diploma, and are the only profession I know of where employers have gone to court (and won!) to defend using IQ tests in hiring with a high score being a negative factor. The latter getting paid slightly more represents a very high premium for danger, given the difference in entry qualifications.

Being a police officer requires no qualifications and barely any training, and low intelligence is notoriously preferred [0].

Being a teacher requires at least a bachelors degree. The two jobs shouldn't even be comparable.

[0] https://abcnews.go.com/US/court-oks-barring-high-iqs-cops/st...


That figure includes detectives, who do often have a degree[0], removing them brings to total down to $63,150[1] for year round work.

[0]https://www.learnhowtobecome.org/detective/

[1]https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/mobile/police-and...


The IQ thing blew my mind, although to be honest "low IQ" is not correct since average policemen IQ is slightly above average. Suddenly I'm reminded of Brave New World.

Does any have a reference for the evidence of high intelligence make the police more likely to leave the job early? I wonder what a police force recruited only from the intelligent would be like?

The great thing about IQ tests if you are smart is it is easy to pretend to be stupid.


In Redwood City, police officers start out at $120,000 a year (plus a pension). I know mechanical engineers in the Bay Area that start out making less than that and do not get a pension.

A lot of software engineers in the Bay area make $120k, no pension, maybe stock options, maybe a 401k.

Does that include overtime, holiday pay and pensions? Using only a cop's base salary is incredibly misleading.

It never occurred to me to compare policemen to teachers. But imagine if teachers could levy fines to students and use the proceeds to pay their overtime. Or could walk to a child and steal their lunch money or whatever they have in their pockets (civil forfeiture).

It would help if 75% of the police force weren't there drawing a salary because they need to make money for the police force by harassing people for minor traffic violations.

Being a high school teacher is a far worse job than being a cop. Cops don’t even have to pretend they care about helping people.

I would have no problem with being a police officer in iceland, but certainly in the US. I get why they don't want to give up their guns, especially now, but that has consequences for policing work. If you can assume your "victim" to be unarmed, you approach the situation differently.

So I do think it is a quite dangerous job there to be honest. Moreso than the ones you mentioned. Some time ago deep sea fishing was the deadliest job. Would still prefer it from a risk assessment perspective.


30-40% of police officer deaths aren't gun-related, they're traffic accidents[0] with another 30% being "job related illness"[1]. And in some years traffic accidents is the leading cause of deaths.

About 50~ police officers die via guns per year. The police kill about 1,000 citizens per year via guns though[2].

[0] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/leo/default.html

[1] https://nleomf.org/facts-figures/causes-of-law-enforcement-d...

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/polic...


>About 50~ police officers die via guns per year. The police kill about 1,000 citizens per year via guns though[2].

There's a KD ratio joke in here somewhere.


I do actually believe that in case of deep sea fishing routine may be the source of many accidents as well, pretty similar to driving.

But there are other factors that I consider dangerous. Imagine you actually do have to shoot someone. Even worse if it is an accident where you panicked because your feared for your life.


Are there any statistics on officers who are shot but not fatally? With the widespread use of body armor, you’d expect that would drive fatality numbers down.

You're looking at deaths, not shootings.

I posit that cops have body armor, training, and generally are equipped to take bullets, so to speak. Only 50 officers might have died, but if 1500 were shot, that makes the 1000 civilian fatalities look different; civvies aren't wearing vests.


That's a good point, but the corollary of that is, how many people were shot by the police but didn't die?

And going one step further, we've seen the stat for yearly police gun homicides but as far as I know there are no reliable statistics for how many people are killed by police by other methods. How many people are dying from chokeholds, from beatings, from having medical attention withheld?


>That's a good point, but the corollary of that is, how many people were shot by the police but didn't die?

... and how many times did the police miss the unarmed suspects they were shooting at and hit innocent bystanders?

https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/15/justice/times-square-police-s...


Don't forget this one: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ups-hijacking-gun-battl...

There's even a video of this incident that shows them using occupied civilian vehicles for cover.


It is not just shootings, violence comes in many forms.

It's worth noting that while every unjustified shooting is one too many, the vast vast majority of shootings by police are unambiguously justified. The US has a lot of violent criminals, many of who are bold enough to even try to kill police officers.

Is there some independent research on the subject that you’re referring to? Note that the bar for “legally justified” is extremely low[1], so it would be nice to see some kind of audit that doesn’t rely on legal rulings.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Tamir_Rice

> An FBI review by retired agent Kimberly Crawford found that Rice's death was justified and Loehmann's "response was a reasonable one."


WaPo did a whole series of articles on police shootings a few years back. Part of that was creating a database of all police fatal shootings since, unbelievably, none existed.

One of their articles looked at every fatal police shooting in 2015 and looked at the circumstances. They found 30% occurred when the victim had pointed or brandished a gun, 28% when they had fired a gun and 16% when they had attacked some other way. They identified 5% to have occurred in a manner likely to cause public controversy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/10/24/o...


Police routinely falsify reports, if this was really true, it would not be the same officers involved in shootings again and again.

Slightly related: I saw a comment the other day by someone who had somehow managed to blame Obama for the rise in violence against minorities, with the rationalization being that “we didn’t have all of these problems until Obama was in office”.

It’s a classic case of correlation != causation. Smart phones with video cameras in them became ubiquitous during Obama’s time in office. Similarly, bodycams became more commonly used by the police. That’s the difference.

This has been happening all along, we just couldn’t prove it until now.


Also the ubiquity of auto-uploaded videos and livestreaming. Only in the last few years has virtually all video recording become online first. Before all police had to do was take a person's phone away to hide their actions.

That’s a great point. Oddly enough it works the other way too. My neighbor is a detective and told me that a young lady livestreamed herself looting Target. Shared it on Facebook.

So maybe 30-60% are clearly justified.

Since they kill 1000 people a year (as cited early in the thread, didn't look it up), that would leave 400-700 controversial killings, or 1-2 per day on average...

If these figures were accurate far more police would die in shootings every year.

No, because police are trained to not get into situations where they are at greater risk whenever possible (and it doesn't endanger others). Like it or not, a significant part of officer training in the US is for 'combat-like' scenarios that are active and violent, and risk management, and it's at least partially to keep the number of officer deaths down. That and they're basically allowed to shoot someone who maybe has a gun and looks like they're drawing it, which may also contribute towards the relatively low number of gun-related officer deaths. It also results in more people getting shot than need to.

And as others in the thread have said, it's actually really really hard to accurately shoot a target with a gun, and the number of non-fatal gun-related injuries probably far outweigh the fatal ones.


Some anecdotes to illustrate.

"The officers with SWAT and dynamic-entry experience interviewed for this book say raids are orders of magnitude more intoxicating than anything else in police work. Ironically, many cops describe them with language usually used to describe the drugs the raids are conducted to confiscate. “Oh, it’s a huge rush,” Franklin says. “Those times when you do have to kick down a door, it’s just a big shot of adrenaline.” Downing agrees. “It’s a rush. And you have to be careful, because the raids themselves can be habit-forming.” Jamie Haase, a former special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement who went on multiple narcotics, money laundering, and human trafficking raids, says the thrill of the raid may factor into why narcotics cops just don’t consider less volatile means of serving search warrants. “The thing is, it’s so much safer to wait the suspect out,” he says. “Waiting people out is just so much better. You’ve done your investigation, so you know their routine. So you wait until the guy leaves, and you do a routine traffic stop and you arrest him. That’s the safest way to do it. But you have to understand that a lot of these cops are meatheads. They think this stuff is cool. And they get hooked on that jolt of energy they get during a raid.”"

"Narcotics investigators had made a controlled drug buy a few hours earlier and were laying plans to raid the suspect’s home. “The drug buy was in town, not at the home,” Taylor says. “But they’d always raid the house anyway. They could never just arrest the guy on the street. They always had to kick down doors.”"

"The thing is, when law enforcement officials face suspects who present a genuine threat to officer safety, they do tend to be more creative. When the FBI finally located Whitey Bulger in 2010 after searching for him for sixteen years, the reputed mobster was suspected in nearly twenty murders and was thought to be armed with a huge arsenal of weapons. Of all the people who might meet the criteria for arrest by a SWAT team, you’d think Bulger would top the list. He was also aging, in poor physical health, and looking at spending the rest of his life in prison. If ever there was a candidate to go out in a blaze of cop-killing glory, it was Whitey Bulger. And yet instead of sending a tactical team in to tear down Bulger’s door, the FBI did some investigating and learned that Bulger rented a public storage locker. They called him up, pretending to be from the company that owned the facility, and told Bulger someone might have broken into his locker. When he went to the facility to investigate, he was arrested without incident. Why can’t investigators handle common drug offenders the same way? A big reason is a lack of resources. If your department is serving several drug warrants a day, you just aren’t going to have the personnel to come up with that sort of plan for each one. A second reason is that drug offenders simply aren’t all that likely to shoot at cops, and it’s easier to use violent tactics against people who aren’t going to fire back. It’s by no means a universal rule, but often when police do face a genuinely violent suspect like an escaped fugitive with a violent history, a suspect in a series of violent crimes, or a barricade or hostage situation, they don’t immediately storm the place. They set up a perimeter or try to figure out other ways to make the arrest safely. This again isn’t possible with drug warrants—there are just too many of them. But because drug dealers aren’t all that dangerous, it works out to raid them instead."

(all from Radley Balko's "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces")


A police officer is murdered every week on average. I imagine the numbers for those shot at is much higher, since most gunshot wounds don't result in death and most shots probably don't result in hits.

And a police officer murders 3 people a day on average, then, in comparison?

In one weekend, over a hundred people were shot in Chicago by criminals. I'm not sure you appreciate how many extremely violent, dangerous criminals there are in the US.

I hope you see the difference between people not being able to trust law enforcement and not being able to trust gangsters.

This crime is in many ways the result of the violence of the police which means other citizens are afraid to call and cooperate with the police. Exactly what you need to reduce this crime.

Similar stuff happened in Iraq. When civilians could not trust the American occupying force then militias and terrorists filled the power vacuum.


I think I appreciate it well enough to stay far away from Chiraq.

They shot about 20 people dead every week though. Compare that Germany or the UK where it can take decades for the police to kill that many people.

> the vast vast majority of shootings by police are unambiguously justified

Is that so? What counts as "unambiguously justified" to your eyes? I don't see how this squares. I mean... let's pick "the dead subject initiated lethal violence first" as a reasonable proxy for what you're talking about.

You're saying that in situations where someone attacks a police officer, the police are 1000/50 == twenty times more likely to win that deadly confrontation than lose? Really? They're well trained, they aren't that good shots.

I think the jury is very much out on that assertion. In this era of pervasive video, we're finally getting a look at a decent fraction of these confrontations, and a shocking number are not justified at all, much less "unambiguously". I don't see how you can reasonably assert that all the unmeasured ones must be...


The Seattle police department releases bodycam footage of lethal encounters. I'd encourage you to watch some of the controversial ones and draw your own conclusions.

What's been interesting to me is that the narrative that develops between the event and the video release almost always survives the video even though the video challenges the narrative.

For example, somewhat recently spd killed a man that was brandishing a knife. Reports indicated he was shot in the back, causing an uproar. The video footage shows that the suspect was twisting and lunging towards them when shot.


To be clear: citing one episode in Seattle against the dozens and dozens of "less justified" killings isn't really making the case the "vast majority of police killings are justified".

FWIW: I'm in the region, follow these things, and don't remember that episode. I'd be curious to follow a link to that video if you have it.

Edit: I found it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8lebkOR_M4

You are deliberately misrepresenting that video! The shots are fired at 1:06, and the guy was, MAYBE in the process of stopping and turning toward the police. He was not facing them, at all. There is absolutely no "lunging" happening. His arms are tight to his sides, the knife isn't even visible, much less extended. And the shots are fired from WELL out of arms range, maybe 8-9 feet away. Hell, if you told me he was trying to surrender I'd half believe it. I'm looking at this and thinking... sorry, that killing was needless. He wasn't a threat. Or wasn't enough of a threat to make it worth killing him over.


After watching the video again I stand by the description. At that position in the video the man faces them and has his knife arm fully extended before the shots are fired. There is a second perspective following the first that shows this more clearly.

Given he yells "you're going to have to fucking kill me" seconds prior to being shot it's hard to interpret any of that as a surrender.

The other controversial killing in recent memory is a non compliant armed man. The body cam footage is inconclusive on this one to me. The man certainly doesn't seem like a threat because he's on the ground. However, he was struggling and armed with a pistol. They gave him many opportunities to surrender.


I just stepped through it again, and you're spinning like crazy. He doesn't extend that knife. He doesn't face the police until after he takes a bullet in his side. He never got within knife range. He never approached the police.

He did not have to be killed. You're really telling me that we can't ask for three more seconds to let him drop the knife or actually approach an officer with it?

And that's the problem with this logic. You want to allow absolute hair trigger aggression by police officers. And when you allow that, you get innocent people killed. Because the cops can't make that decision correctly every time, and if you train them to shoot first, they will.

This guy didn't have to die. I don't know what was in his head, but I know he didn't have to die.


There's a 21-feet distance supposedly required for a trained shooter to draw and fire a gun before a knife attacker can close in. Sure, they had guns drawn, but you still cannot "wait" until they approach.

And, frankly, this "didn't need to die" perspective is alien to me, and I bet most people. If it was my life on the line, I wouldn't even allow a 1% increase in risk - the guy readying to, and obviously willing to, attack someone with a knife deserves to die. Does he "need" to die? No. Maybe event if he's literally in the process of stabbing someone, it would be wonderful if we could freeze time and just take him to a mental ward. But is it acceptable for him to be killed? Without a shred of doubt, yes.


But.... they were pursuing him! They chose the distance! If they weren't able to safely stop him because they were too close and had to kill him if he stopped (because let's be honest here: they killed the guy because he stopped)...

Isn't that STILL a failure of policing? It's it STILL true that he didn't need to die? Why were the cops' "lives on the line" if they were the ones choosing to engage?


You don't have to be within "arms range" of a police officer for them to shoot you if you have a knife. It's generally accepted that someone with a knife is a deadly threat at about 20 feet or so away, as it takes a little over a second for them to cross that distance. In that video, the man who was shot clearly drew a large knife and turned towards the officers before they started firing.

"You're saying that in situations where someone attacks a police officer, the police are 1000/50"

Are you claiming that it would be "more fair" if this ratio was different? Should it be 50/50? I think not, I assume that at least some members of this 1000 were indeed dangerous criminals, not innocent citizens murdered by cruel police officers?


The question wasn't about "fair", it was about "justified". And... yeah? The police aren't assassins or solidiers. They aren't supposed to kill anyone at all. When it happens, it's a tragedy that is supposed to be avoided.

So when must it happen? Well, when they need to defend themselves, I guess. So yeah, I think that kill ratio becomes an important point of evidence as to how dire the need for defense was. If you come to me and tell me that the police are dying as fast as the criminals, then OK, fine, I'll buy that those are just shootouts. If it's 2:1 in favor of the police, then I guess I'd be OK with that and rationalize it as the police being better trained and more worth preserving. Four to one? Maybe.

TWENTY to one? Come on. That's not reasonable on its face.


Again, the set of actions that would drive a reasonable person to use deadly defensive force is much larger than those where the subject is actually (with perfect knowledge) trying to kill the officer. E.g. a suspect might shoot at cops in order to get away, not actually trying to kill the officers.

Shouldn't we hold police to a slightly higher standard than what random-sally-with-a-gun is expected to do? Isn't that the whole point of having police in the first place: that we trust them with powers we don't give to ourselves?

You're avoiding the point. "Reasonable officer" then. My point is that suspects aren't necessarily trying to kill when they give the police officer good reason to think that they are using unlawful force that that threatens someone's life.

And MY point is that you are applying the wrong standard. Law enforcement policy needs to be aimed at optimizing the net good to society and not making individual police officers feel safer. Because the standard you want leads to horrifying rates of false positives where people end up dying needlessly.

They are supposed to kill every criminal that tries to kill them.

No, they are supposed to arrest every criminal that tries to kill them. Sometimes they have no choice but to shoot (and maybe kill) someone to protect themselves or others, but that is not the goal.

The inverse is true though. They are not supposed to kill any person that doesn't try to kill them.


No they aren't. They are not mercenaries. They are supposed to arrest every suspected criminal and prevent those suspects from committing acts of violence. They are allowed to use violence to prevent loss of life, but they are not supposed to kill anyone.

The point is, if every one of those deaths were someone who presented a credible threat and were actually trying to kill an officer, why do so little of them succeed? If anything, they have the element of surprise on their side. Police are often only given little ammunition and training time every year, literally just a couple boxes of ammunition. Anyone just casually going to a gun range every couple of months for fun is going to have more experience than most law enforcement officers.

If they were only killing every criminal that actually attempted to kill them and had the means to, there's no chance the defenders in that situation are coming out successful 20 to 1.


Criminals using deadly force against police probably have intimidation/escape as their goal, not murder. But from the perspective of the police officer, you can't wait to find out. When a police officer starts to shoot, he has essentially made the decision to keep shooting until the threat ends.

It would be better to capture those criminals and dismantle their networks.

What from the perspective of the police officer is reasonable grounds to fear for his life, is going to be a larger number of situations than those where someone is actually, with perfect knowledge, making an attempt on his life. Or put another way, people do things with (e.g.) the intention of injuring/obstructing/etc. and escaping, but that a reasonable person would interpret as being an attack on their life. If you wave a gun in someone's face, they are in their rights to shoot you, even if you had no intention of ever firing it.

> If you wave a gun in someone's face, they are in their rights to shoot you, even if you had no intention of ever firing it.

That is absolutely not the case. If so, there would be a bunch of very justifiably dead 2A protesters and some cheering hippies. You would NEVER say that about a white man holding a 5.56mm and yelling at someone outside your local state house.

Where exactly did you get that logic? Brandishing a weapon is a crime. Bearing one is not. The difference is squishy, and in neither case are you reasonably allowed to kill someone.

The only reason that makes sense to you is because you have a preconceived notion of whether the person "waving" the gun has a life worth preserving or not.


You took one very strange interpretation of the word 'wave' and really ran with it into a very ungenerous interpretation and attack. I'm not going to engage with that.

I interpreted it, and explained so, as "brandishment", which is the legal term of art for exactly that act of displaying a weapon in a threatening way. I submit that if you meant something different, you're the one who needs to clarify.

What evidence leads you to this conclusion?

Both of these statements can be true: 1) the vast majority of shootings by police are justified, and 2) there are way too many cases of excessive use of force by police, including shootings.

You can look at the reports. They don't usually leave local news, if they even make it there, because there is nothing remarkable about them. People have done aggregations of the data. I'm not saying it's going to convince you if you're already convinced otherwise.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2015/10/24/o...

"But only a small number of the shootings — roughly 5 percent — occurred under the kind of circumstances that raise doubt and draw public outcry, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were, like Snyder, armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats."


Frankly, that’s incredibly difficult to believe. When the cameras are off, police lie about the circumstances to make their violence seem justified. (Or even when the cameras are on — for example, the NYC police union has opposed the firing of Eric Garner’s murderer.)

Hell, when the cameras are on, they plant evidence and make threatening comments about killing African-Americans, and judges...

This is technically a conspiracy theory right?

Would you say it’s a conspiracy theory that politicians lie? If not, why so for police?

Conspiracy theory: you claim they’re colluding together but you have no evidence of it.

Yes this easily fits a lot of things said about politicians.

They can be obviously corrupt/"bad" without collusion or being somehow inherently evil.


> Conspiracy theory: you claim they’re colluding together but you have no evidence of it.

The entire point of the article is to investigate why there's so much evidence of police colluding to hide misconduct.


Maybe not backed by evidence, but definitely a reasonable extrapolation. Basic logic and social analysis will inform you that the role a police officer has attracts two mentalities: those who very strongly want to uphold law and help people, and those that enjoy abusing power and controlling people. Obviously these lie along a spectrum, and there is some overlap.

Anecdotally, I know many of the bullies from my high school ended up being police. They enjoyed the power and feeling of beating and subjugating their classmates, and they found a job that pays well and gives them fulfillment.

Let me posit this: if you were that type of individual, what better job is there to have than being a cop? Also, if you had that job, would you incriminate yourself after abusing your power, or would you lie, knowing that police protect their own and are often given the benefit of the doubt?

I think it's extremely naive to assume that the situation isn't exactly as I described above. The real question is what is the ratio of abusers and bullies to helpers and law upholders.


> I think it's extremely naive to assume that the situation isn't exactly as I described above. The real question is what is the ratio of abusers and bullies to helpers and law upholders.

And ignoring all the unsubstantiated claims you're making - it's completely compatible and most likely that the ratio is overwhelmingly good cops with a few abusers, and generally if/when present, concentrated in specific localities.

The generalization that cops are inherently predisposed to evil or something is bizarre, unhelpful and polarizing - not to mention inflammatory to all the cops that are in fact lawful and in many ways more honorable than most citizens in terms of sacrifice, risk, and social good.


We simply don't have any data of quality that could substantiate any claims on this subject. So all claims on it are unsubstantiated.

> it's completely compatible and most likely that the ratio is overwhelmingly good cops with a few abusers, and generally if/when present, concentrated in specific localities.

What is your reasoning? Not only is this an unsubstantiated claim, but it also comes with no logical reasoning describing how you reached this conclusion, unlike my original post.

> The generalization that cops are inherently predisposed to evil or something is bizarre, unhelpful and polarizing - not to mention inflammatory to all the cops that are in fact lawful and in many ways more honorable than most citizens in terms of sacrifice, risk, and social good.

You call this idea bizarre, inflammatory, and state that cops are in fact lawful and more honorable than most citizens. You haven't given any evidence to support this, nor have you explained any type of reasoning or logic for how you arrived at this conclusion.

I find this very ironic and hypocritical, as you directly accused me of making unsubstantiated claims; I at the very least provide logical reasoning, while you fail to provide anything other than vacuous conclusions.


> So all claims on it are unsubstantiated

> I at the very least provide logical reasoning, while you fail to provide anything other than vacuous conclusions

At least you're admitting to a priori reasoning and using that to conclude generalizations about an entire profession.

A cursory search tells me there's around 1 million law enforcement officers in the US. Like all conspiracy theories - what are the chances there's widespread and indefensible corruption such that all of them are complicit but very little ever leaks?

Clearly we see cases of indefensible abuse (as we'd expect in law enforcement given a population of 300+ million people), but perceived prevalence of abuse seems to be hysterically skewed towards "ubiquitous evil" when social media, etc. broadcasts local incidents directly onto everyone's radar where people are primed to view everything in terms of their preconceived narratives and worldviews.


I preceded my reasoning by stating that there wasn't good data; I'm not sure why you point that out as if it were some new development. In the lack of good data, logical reasoning is the only framework for generating a hypothesis. Am I wrong about that? Other than a priori reasoning, what should I have used; the same style of baseless claims that you make?

And if I was generalizing across an entire profession, I clearly did NOT state that the entire population of police is rampant with abuse. I extrapolated from well known understandings in economics that people who are attracted to the incentives provided by being a police officer indicate that some police officers will be amoral bullies who take pleasure in wielding unmitigated power over people, while others will be those who take pleasure in helping people and upholding the law. Feel free to reread my comments completely.

You still have provided no logical reasoning for your conclusions. I'd really like to hear why you think what you think.

> A cursory search tells me there's around 1 million law enforcement officers in the US. Like all conspiracy theories - what are the chances there's widespread and indefensible corruption such that all of them are complicit but very little ever leaks?

What are the chances that people who have immense power and immense protection from legal action will become corrupt? Quite high really.

Is your argument at this point summed up as "they haven't been caught misbehaving at scale, so let's generalize their entire profession with the benefit of the doubt"?


> Is your argument at this point summed up as "they haven't been caught misbehaving at scale, so let's generalize their entire profession with the benefit of the doubt"?

I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I'm saying that it's reasonable to assume that complete information suppression by a conspiracy of bad actors across independent localities is likely impossible. This is why most conspiracy theories are false. Information suppression is hard and even more rare is uniform behavior across many thousands of individual police departments.

It's definitely true that police act in their self-interest and corruptly sometimes. But sometimes is a term that represents vastly different circumstances with tons of different causations, effects, etc. Just saying "cops are unaccountable power-abusers" is simplistic, unproductive, offensive and wrong. There's an opportunity for conversation about reform, but the rampant groupthink, stereotyping and dogmatism is killing it.


> I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I'm saying that it's reasonable to assume that complete information suppression by a conspiracy of bad actors across independent localities is likely impossible. This is why most conspiracy theories are false. Information suppression is hard and even more rare is uniform behavior across many thousands of individual police departments.

The only one in this thread that has mentioned either conspiracy theories or complete information suppression is you. You responded to this comment:

"Frankly, that’s incredibly difficult to believe. When the cameras are off, police lie about the circumstances to make their violence seem justified. (Or even when the cameras are on — for example, the NYC police union has opposed the firing of Eric Garner’s murderer.)"

With the following:

"This is technically a conspiracy theory right?"

I don't know how you arrived at "complete information suppression" from the first comment. I think that most cops, like most drivers, would lie to protect themselves. I also think that some portion of cops don't NEED to lie to protect themselves, because they aren't people who abuse their powers. There is some unknown portion, however, that became police because they enjoy the opportunities for power and domination over others, and use their power to abuse others.

> It's definitely true that police act in their self-interest and corruptly sometimes. But sometimes is a term that represents vastly different circumstances with tons of different causations, effects, etc.

This sentence is in line with my conclusions throughout this discussion. It is something we agree on. This is an argument along a spectrum; I've given solid logical reasoning for why I think there is some percentage of police that are amoral and abusive, namely that it is the MOST attractive job for people of that persuasion, and I am a first-hand witness of it with n=~7.

What I am still waiting for is any sort of logic behind claims you've made that are of this ilk:

"most likely that the ratio is overwhelmingly good cops with a few abusers, and generally if/when present, concentrated in specific localities."

Where's your reasoning for why cops are overwhelmingly good? You keep blasting a message without providing your reasoning. You've seen my reasoning, as I've repeated it several times now, but provided none for your claims. Please do so now.


>The real question is what is the ratio of abusers and bullies to helpers and law upholders.

The ratio is tilted heavily in favor of abusers and there has been ample evidence showing this since the dawn of modern policing. Modern policing descended from slave patrols and it shows. The militarization of police is a more recent abomination, but not the root cause.

There is a third category beyond abusers and "law upholders": those who stand by and do nothing, thereby enabling the abusers and silently endorsing their behavior.


> The ratio is tilted heavily in favor of abusers

This has been my personal experience, but I don't know of any statistics that capture this, so I don't think we can make that conclusion at this moment.

However, from my time in the Marine Corps, which also attracts some people who are amoral dominators, I can say it very much depends on the culture. The Corps pushes personal accountability and camaraderie very strongly in its culture. I witnessed people who were professed racists change in just a few months to accepting all skin colors, people who were completely self-centered narcissists turn into strong team players. It didn't work all the time, and wasn't uniform across the service, but a strong, zero tolerance culture can mold people into it.

> There is a third category beyond abusers and "law upholders": those who stand by and do nothing, thereby enabling the abusers and silently endorsing their behavior.

When I listed categories, I should have made it more clear that it's really a spectrum with opposing values on either end. People who stand by and do nothing would lie more towards the middle, not having a strong enough valuation of justice to step in and stop it, but not a strong enough desire for power abuse to join in. A random person on the street could have a strong sense of justice but still not condone police brutality by standing idly, but I think you are right that a police officer is responsible for violence by not attempting to circumvent it; stopping violence like that is the REASON they have special legal protections.


Also, the police omertà business means the law upholders knuckle under to the bullies or get driven out of the force.

Kind of like the Illuminati. Or Bill Clinton's criticizers - speak up and he orders a hit! /s

Ah, never mind, don't bother responding to my comment above. I didn't realize that you are just trolling.

> police omertà business

IDK I consider blanket generalizations about policing in the US as the mafia or something to be trolling...


You responded to a reasonable argument based on understandings of incentive with:

> Kind of like the Illuminati. Or Bill Clinton's criticizers - speak up and he orders a hit! /s

No argument, but references to the Illuminati and assassinations. Not a whole lot of credibility to stand on, and definitely no reasonable discussion.


Says who? From what I've seen I'm pretty sure many could be avoided using a different approach/mentality.

You're welcome to try it.

Try what exactly? Joining the Police?

Not very likely, I believe they will find themselves on the wrong team any day now.

It was never about protecting and serving the people, the whole thing is a lie.


Regarding this often-cited argument of "people can own guns, so cops need them" - in a situation with a gun, does it actually help if the cop also has a gun? Now you have a gunfight on your hands. By analogy, people are allowed to own rocket launchers as well (it's true!) but that doesn't mean every beat cop should carry one. What's the actual problem with disarming the police completely, and having them call in a SWAT team in the rare event that someone actually threatens a cop with a firearm?

Just to extend on this - this is how it's done in the UK.

Specifically in London the regular police are not armed. Armed police patrol the city in cars - if you're in the city you can identify these cars as they have a big yellow spot on the windows and there is an officer in the back seat. The aim is to be able to respond to a request within 8 minutes.

During the London bridge attack the attackers were shot dead by armed police 9 minutes after the first call to the police.


This is also how it's done traditionally in Ireland, the regular police aren't armed but there is a "Special Branch" of detectives, usually plain clothes in unmarked cars.

Recently they've been sneakily expanding the use of armed police though. In Dublin, I see more and more cars marked "Armed Response Unit" which have regular cops with guns. And just last week a detective was shot and killed with his own gun while doing a traffic stop. There's been a massive PR blitz about how good a guy this cop was, but zero discussion about why the duties of armed police have now been extended to include road traffic policing. I suspect it's planned to arm more and more of them and I wouldn't be surprised if the British followed the same slippery slope.


Yeah, that is something that always puzzled me. German police is armed, always. Seeing unarmed police always strikes me as strange.

Have to agree, so, that a gun not carried cannot be used.

Just out of curiosity, is police violence and discrimination a problem in Ireland? Outside of Northern Ireland, off course.


Not particularly, Irleand is a relatively homogeneous country. There has been an uptick in the last few years in drug gang related murders due to a feud between two pretty brutal drug cartels (the leader of one now controls an international cartel from Dubai and rather outrageously is the promoter behind the Tyson Fury Vs Anthony Joshua heavyweight boxing fight). I think this has probably lead to an increase in gun carrying by Gardai (Irish police service).

Thanks! Very interesting bit of information regarding the cartrlys and the Fury vs. Joshua fight.

In 2018 and 2019, there were over 30,000 assaults on police officers in UK.[1] In 2017 and 2018, there were over 110,000 assults on police officers in US. You can't just adopt this in the US, policing is more dangerous in the US.

[1] https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2017 https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2018

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...


As of 2020, the US population is ~327000000. The UK population is 63000000 [Source: Wikipedia]

Now, do some division. That's ~1 assault on a LEO per 2990 people in the US and ~1 assault on a LEO per 2100 people in the UK.

So assaults on LEO per capita are 26% greater in the UK.

Of course, it is also important to look at the number of LEOs in each state (in the sense of country, not US state).

From [0] there are ~686000 LEO in the US, or 1 per 479 people. From [1], there are ~123000 LEO in the UK, or 1 per 512 people.

So there are 6% fewer LEO per capita in the UK than the US, but the assaults on LEOs happen 26% more often per capita.

So how is it more dangerous in the US again?

[Edit: forgot sources! my bad.]

[0] https://www.statista.com/statistics/191694/number-of-law-enf... Actually, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detect... suggests 808,000 LEO in the US, which makes the per-capita LEO even higher in the US. Population data is hard.

[1] https://fullfact.org/crime/police-numbers/


I know simple math, thank you. As I pointed out in the other reply, the rate of assult to US police, who are armed and more hostile to you is only about 25% lower than UK police where the majority of them don't carry a firearm. Actually we don't know the proseuction rate so we don't even know it's that lower.

The US population is more than 4x bigger than the UK, and seems to also have more police per capita, so those numbers would imply that policing is safer in the US. (Which I don't quite believe; more likely those assault numbers are incomparable or just wrong).

I wanted to point out that the rate of assult to US police, who are armed and more hostile to you is only about 25% lower than UK police where the majority of them don't carry a firearm.

Has anyone done any deep analysis of this kind of thing.

Of those assaults, what impact did the police officer's gun have on the situation?

You can imagine an example where the gun is an asset - for example if the officer encounters an ongoing potentially deadly assault and then can shoot the perpetrator.

But I feel like more often the gun is a liability, an unarmed person is held at gunpoint and becomes violent - the police officer is left with the option of shooting the person or letting them get away. If they were using a batton/cs spray/taser (options available to regular British police) they then have many more options available to them.


The stats I'm looking at say there are ~65m people in the UK and ~330m in the US. So about 5x the number of people. If that's true (5x people) and the assault stats are true (3.6x assaults), then policing more dangerous in the UK.

(this feels off to me.. am I doing my math wrong?)


Those figures don't look like they're adjusted for population. US pop is about 5x UK's.

> By analogy, people are allowed to own rocket launchers as well (it's true!) but that doesn't mean every beat cop should carry one.

They can own rocket launchers the same way they can own private jets. They're comparatively rare, expensive as hell, and utterly unrealistic for the average person. It's a bad analogy.

Meanwhile, regular long-arm firearms and handguns are insanely common in the US, comparatively cheap, and often very practical to carry or store in vehicles. The US has a crazy level of per capita gun ownership, like 120 guns for every 100 people. Gun ownership isn't rare, and disarmed police are going to get killed haggling after heavily armed civilians.


Another option essentially is to move certain functions away from police, such as traffic enforcement (use more cameras and non-armed officers who need not be police) certain kinds of house calls like for the mentally ill to be done by social workers, and such. The police can be reserved for violent, life-or-death situations.

If you can easily get a $500 device that makes 95% of cops stop chasing you, wouldn't every rational violent criminal buy one?

I suppose it could work if 95% of the police were engaged in something other than apprehending violent criminals...


According to https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rpa11.pdf , approximately 8.2% were "reported crime emergency". So, in effect, 91.8% of all police contact with the public is something other than apprehending criminals at all.

> I suppose it could work if 95% of the police were engaged in something other than apprehending violent criminals...

I would be surprised if apprehending violent criminals was more that 5% of the job, personally. Wouldn't you?

To the downvoters; it is your right to do so, but think about it - Police are on patrol, taking reports of crimes that happened previously, they guard things, they help keep order at sporting events, they're on hand for political events. They're being traffic cops, white collar cops, they appear in court, all sorts of activities. And there's paperwork.

I would be very surprised if at any one time more than 5% of cops, or for a cop on average, more than 5% of their time was directly "apprehending violent criminals". It's important they do so, of course.


It's even lower than that in most of the US where cops are basically waiting around for something to happen most of the time. But the narrative is bullets flying every time they enter the war zone of placid suburbia.

Cop work is exceedingly boring. If you ever do a ride-along, you'll see how boring. And with a ride-along, they try to show you the exciting stuff since it's a recruitment method. Lots of driving around, lots of running tags, lots of looking for something meaningful to do when it's dark and not much is happening. Idle hands are the Devil's workshop etc etc.

https://medium.com/@OfcrACab/confessions-of-a-former-bastard...


There’s absolutely no benefit to shooting an officer as a criminal. You instantly become added to America’s most wanted list and the courts will throw the book at you.

That might not be a marginal deterrent if the criminal has already committed significant crimes.

[murder suspect] + [doesn't fight] = [life in prison], [no chance of escaping]

[murder suspect] + [does fight] = [life in prison], [non-zero chance of escaping]

This is actually a reason we might want to reduce sentences for some crimes. 'Tough on crime' laws make criminals more brazen.


Some crimes, sure. I don't think (intentional) murderers should be getting released back into the public very quickly though

Criminals committing acts of violence often are not acting based on rational reasoning. Often it based on emotion/fear /anger.

You don't need to draw and shoot a gun if merely having one visible makes the cops get out your way and await backup.

Which is good. It means we can avoid violence, collect evidence for an easy conviction (such as videoing a firearms violation) and apprehend criminals safely using trained SWAT forces.

Nah, cops will just gun you down if they "think" you have any sort of firearm.

Watch this video. The cops don't see a gun, they think he has one because of the call, but they don't see one. The minute his hand goes towards his waste, they blast him...

https://www.abqjournal.com/1380152/apd-man-shot-by-officers-...


I'm seriously wondering whether this is a form of sarcasm or a bait. 10.8% of sworn officers faced assult in 2018[1], while armed. Cops threatened by people with or without firearm is not that rare. In 2018, 2,116 sworn officers were not only threatened but actually got shot(!) by a firearm.[1]

[1] https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2018


2,116 officers were assaulted with a firearm, but only 6.1% of those 2,116 were injured in the assault. That's approximately 129 firearm injuries. That means the rate of non-fatal firearm injuries is approximately 16.1 per 100,000. In 2012 the rate of non-fatal firearm injuries from assault was approximately 15.67 per 100,000 for the general population. When adjusted for the sex demographics of the police (88% male) the rate is 24.93 per 100,000.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4700838/#!po=19...

Edit: It looks like the non-fatal firearm injury rate for officers is actually 23.6 per 100k. I had the wrong number in the denominator because not all police stations responded to the FBI survey.


You know you're comparing people fully armed and cautious people versus the general population, right? Also it's a biased comparison because the 2,116 could have been shot where the rate of "could have been shot" is much lower in the general public because obvious reasons.

You know that you failed to understand your own source and therefore claimed a number of officer shootings ~16x higher than reality, right? And 'sacred_numbers was kind enough to correct you?

In most states, the legal definition of assault doesn't even require physical contact.

Trying to shove a police officer and miss? Assault. Stepping on their shoe while being arrested? Battery, and also probably assault. Spitting on a police officer? Battery, and probably aggravated assault.

It's very misleading to claim that 10% of police officers were assaulted in 2018. That might be true in a strict legal sense, but most of them probably walked away from their "assault" without so much as a bruise.


An assault? An assault is anything, and they slap charges such as Resisting Arrest on every one of their victims to help prosecutors stack charges.

I suspect, and I don’t have any numbers, the occurrence rate of encountering a concealed rocket launcher when performing a traffic stop is quite low.

> By analogy, people are allowed to own rocket launchers as well (it's true!) but that doesn't mean every beat cop should carry one.

This would only seem relevant if your knowledge of weapons came from movies or video games where "bigger = better".


So if a guy pulls a gun on the cops they are supposed to hide while he shoots until SWAT gets there? Its reasonable to have cops with no guns when encountering a gun is incredibly rare.

Of course it helps to have a gun if your opponent has a gun, because both of you now have a risk of getting shot.

If I know you don't have a gun because you're one of these unarmed cops, I can completely dominate the situation. I can make you stand on one leg and do a recital.

> By analogy, people are allowed to own rocket launchers as well (it's true!) but that doesn't mean every beat cop should carry one.

Rocket launchers are not anti-personnel weapons and no ordinary criminal carries them or would be expected to carry them. The best weapon to neutralize a threat wielding a rocket launcher is not another rocket launcher, it's a rifle.

Should we arrive at the situation where criminals routinely arrive in armored personnel carriers or tanks, then we can talk about arming the police with rocket launchers.


Right, so police need body armor, not handguns.

Body armor might save your life, but it doesn't make you invincible to bullets. If you take a bullet with body armor, you're going down.

You're no threat whatsoever. You have no power in the situation, you can't get it under control, mitigate the threat, and so on.


Are you saying that the stats posted above are wrong? Based just on your imagination? Or do you have some information about shortcomings in how they were collected?

No, I didn't say that they are wrong. My imagination is unlimited of course.

A shortcomming I see here is that the danger is reduced to fatalities as average over the whole profession.

There certainly are areas in the US where policing is extremely safe, everyone knows you by name, sponsors you a donut from time to time and is happy to see you. I would do it without a problem and this is probably true for most officers. But allow me to specify, I wouldn't want to be a police officer in urban areas with focal points in crime.


I really haven't really heard anyone, even protestors, claim that police in the US should give up their guns. The recent high profile cases of deaths haven't been by gun, but with bare hands. Mostly, the discussion is around if/when deadly force should be used, no matter the implement.

Ummm... I mean the protesters around here want the Police completely disbanded...

That doesn't mean there won't be police. Other cities have disbanded their police departments. All have been replaced with a new police department. The idea is to replace a poorly run department when reform isn't good enough. The idea isn't to have a completely unpoliced city.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/09/us/disband-police-camden-new-...


Camden City PD was disbanded to reduce the costs of salaries and benefits with new union contracts. The CNN article doesn't even contain the word 'union'.

That's beside the point. My reason for linking the example was to illustrate that departments have been disbanded before and it's a more aggressive strategy for change than attempting to reform an existing department, not a call for lawlessness.

"disband the police" fits on a sign, but it's an incomplete statement.


I agree with that impression, and actually find it really puzzling that disarming police isn't a central message. I think it's very likely that if the police on George Floyd had been unarmed that eventually the bystanders would have intervened (at least I hope).

> I would have no problem with being a police officer in iceland, but certainly in the US. I get why they don't want to give up their guns, especially now, but that has consequences for policing work. If you can assume your "victim" to be unarmed, you approach the situation differently.

Iceland has a fairly high guns-per-capita number, with about one gun for every third person. An odd choice to use as an example of a country safe due to an unarmed populace.

> So I do think it is a quite dangerous job there to be honest. Moreso than the ones you mentioned. Some time ago deep sea fishing was the deadliest job. Would still prefer it from a risk assessment perspective.

"I see your data, and I willfully ignore it."


> one gun for every third person.

I would suspect it's a high rate of long guns, not hand guns.


not hand guns... you mean footguns?

"Longarms" or "long-arms" generally refers to rifles and shotguns, as opposed to handguns.

It's an important distinction, as something on the order of 80-85% of gun violence in the US -- rape, murder, robbery, suicide, etc. -- are with handguns.

Attempts to ban handguns have met stiff resistance, though, e.g. Heller v DC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_v._Heller


That's still less than 1/3 the per-capita number of guns in the US.

Almost all deaths deep sea fishing are from mistakes. Many deaths from policing are people intentionally trying to kill you.

Maybe that comes into play. With deep sea fishing , if you're careful enough, you can drastically lower the death rate - it's in your hands. Not so with policing.


My Dad was a lobsterman for 12 years and just being careful is not enough to "drastically lower your death rate" for a profession fisherman unfortunately.

You can't control how long you've been awake. You can't control a rogue wave the sweeps you off the tail of the boat. Professional fisherman have enormous respect for the sea.


You can control your wakefulness with certain drugs that are very common on commercial fishing boats.

You can improve your odds of not being overswept by using your tethers appropriately and wearing proper protective gear which many people forego because it's less comfortable to work in.


I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right.

Are they really? It seems likely to me that many are simply reacting to being cornered and threatened. Taking the behavior of the police out of the equation makes the answer useless.

A major part of their job is arresting people who usually don't want to be arrested. Yes, I'm sure some police over-escalate a situation and end up dead for it, but that's probably not the norm.

Probably not? It's not like there's a lack of evidence out there now that everyone has a camera in their pocket.

From what I've seen it looks highly likely that their behavior is a big part of the problem.


Are you the type of person who thinks the world is much more violent today than it was 50 years ago?

I am me, period. Put me in whatever box you feel like.

I honestly have no idea if policing has gotten more violent or if it's just more visible now. I would guess both. But it doesn't really matter, does it? It's still a major issue that we need to fix somehow.


So it feels more dangerous to you. I’d assume it’s because the danger is so far out of your control?

What does Iceland have to do with anything? Those numbers are from the US.

Would you say there's a difference in kind between the risk of death due to equipment failure or negligence, versus the risk of another human being actively trying to kill you? They seem different to me, but I'm not sure how to reason about the difference.

Death-by-person probably less controllable than death-by-equipment-failure. But, in reality, I'm not sure that it is. There are processes/procedures to reduce the likelihood of both.

This is exactly what I'm struggling with. Intuitively, the idea of another person trying to injure me sounds scarier than a harness failing or tree falling. People can be a lot more unpredictable than gravity or metal fatigue. But then again, the safety of loggers and roofers depends not only on their own gear & diligence, but also on human co-workers who can be just as unpredictable. Versus violent criminals, at least the co-workers aren't actively and creatively malicious (usually).

The actual homicide rate of cops is almost half of the normal population.

Interesting. Do you have a link? Those numbers are hard to Google, all the results I'm getting are for deaths caused by the police vs. of police themselves.

I agree that being a police officer isn't as dangerous as cops would have you believe, but aggregating statistics for the whole profession probably hides some spikes of larger danger.

Lots of cops work essentially desk jobs. Lots of cops work in safe, quiet jurisdictions. They're pulling down the average, while cops who are responders to 911 calls in high violent crime areas pull it up.


There is a statistic somewhere (my googlefu can't find it at the moment), that shows that in less then 1% of the cases where police are called there is actually even the chance to intervene. In otherwords in 99% of the cases they come after the (possible) crime and are really just taking a statement. Still they walk into every situation with their hand on their gun.

Often enough situations escalate because of that. I believe many situations would be much saver if the officers would not carry guns. Call the armed units for cases where it's warrented, like e.g. in New Zealand.


I believe that ranking shows based on statistics but the real X-factor in Police vs everything that ranks above them is "other people" or your sense of control of the situation.

Think about why many people are fine with driving but fear flying, despite flying being significantly statistically safer. The difference is that when you're driving, you feel in control.

The same is true of all the professions listed as more dangerous than police here. If you're following your training and the safety protocols that go with it, safety isn't a huge concern with any of them.

For police, they respond to 911 calls and serve arrest warrants. A huge part of their job is getting called to potentially dangerous scenes with people who may or may not be armed, may be violent, may fire at them, may ambush them, etc.

This is a recent national story from my hometown that illustrates it.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/24/us/south-carolina-police-...

I can't imagine being more fearful about logging than worrying that something like this would be on the other end of one of the dozens of 911 calls I'm asked to respond to each day.


There's a continual mental impact of always dealing with the nasty side of humanity that I think often gets overlooked- everyone is always lying to you or hiding something, and you get to see a large number of dead kids and wasted lives.

And a lot of the corrosiveness that cops have to suffer is from other cops. Racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia etc. If you're smart, you're excluded by IQ tests since departments prefer to avoid you.

This ends up altering your worldview as an "Us versus Them" where there are cops and there are criminals. Everyone else is a potential criminal. Everyone is given side eye. The system is rigged, so why not put in for extra overtime. Bump up your salary the last three years so that your pension goes from a $90k/year basis to $175K.

And if you think cops are out to protect you? What a joke. Cops are out to protect themselves first. They've been glamorized since the 1980s as "foot soldiers in the war on crime." Their unions have fought to protect the "few" bad apples, when the bunch is rotten.

They go through the motions of "protecting" us, but that's just paperwork. Showing up and taking some notes. If you've ever had anything stolen, you'll know what I mean. The cop will write down some information, maybe give you his biz card, then that's the last you'll hear of it. They never do any leg work/investigation, unless it's something mandated by their bosses.

Defund needs to happen soon. Spend the money on drug rehab, mental health, etc. We need less than half the cops we have, and no damn PD needs an MRAP.


I mostly don't agree with this as I know too many cops. The racism is tricky- if the only X people you saw were criminals, without any balance on the positive side it can very easily get into some sort of loop. And lots of places are like that in the US, for a variety of reasons- the cops see the bad side of X, without a balance of neighbors and other helpful examples to counterbalance. They're part of the problem, but they're also caused by the problem.

This is exactly right. Growing up, my dad was a police officer. The mental part of being a cop dramatically affects officers and their families.

Eventually, my dad got very injured on the job and had to quit. The mental part is what injured him the most.


The danger also scales with the number of aggressive assholes wearing the same uniform. It is like any job where your coworkers don't do their job. Eventually you will be held responsible for their results. When the boss asks you about it you might be reluctant to point out your coworkers since you still have to work with them.

>They are often paid quite well

Big cities, yes. Small towns and rural areas, not so much. National average is around $60k/year - but the variance is high (from $30k to $120k - depending on the area).

>But how dangerous is it?

The numbers don't tell the entire story. There's a difference between danger coming from negligence vs from a chance of murder by another human. Soldiers coming back from Iraq suffered high numbers of PTSD, even though the mortality rate would probably be similar to one of the dangerous jobs you listed. Not only that Police have to deal with the darkest sides of society, including scenes of murder, rape and violence even against the most innocent of our society - like children.

'Police' is a type of job that is closer to the military example I gave, than to a logger or fisherman.


Most of the deaths are accidents. Actual homicide rate of police are 3.0 per 100k vs 5.6 per 100k of regular people.

Can't believe people are citing this data. Comparing homicide statistics of people armed with guns being killed vs armed or unarmed regular people and thinking cops are safer than armed or unarmed regular people? Come on.

How about we account assults? In 2018, 10.8% of sworn officers faced assult. Of them, 30.6% sustained injuries. In 13.2% of the incident, the attacker was prosecuted.[1] But the rate of aggravated assult against regular people is 0.2%. Clearance rate is 52.5%. Prosecution rate is much lower.[2] I really don't care about your ideology or anything, but saying police is a safe job is just stupid. 10.8% of sworn officers faced assult while armed. Let's see how things changes when police is forced not to be armed.

[1] https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2018

[2] https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018


10.8% faced “assault” is a very misleading statistic because “assault” as reported here is completely up to the discretion of the reporting officer.

Only ~1/10 of these “assaults” are even prosecuted. If prosecutors aren’t even willing to charge someone with assaulting an officer, it probably wasn’t worth calling an “assault”.


And it's not just assault, either.

There was one famous case from Ferguson, where a guy was charged with destruction of property, because he bled on the uniform of the four officers who were beating him in the cell they've just thrown him in, after he complained about conditions.

(The reason why the victim was in jail in the first place was because they arrested him after incorrectly identifying him as a target of an outstanding arrest warrant. Filing the property damage charges allowed them to keep him in cell for another week, until he could procure the bond money.)


Even accounting for that rate, police faces 5x "prosecutable assults" more than a "reported assult" on a normal person. We don't know what "prosecutable assult" statistics on a normal person so we can't compare them directly, but the rate is approx. 67%[1]. Clearance rate is 52%, so it shows that while policing in US, you get approx. 15x more chance of facing "prosecutable assult".

[1] https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/scpdvc.txt


>15x more chance of facing "prosecutable assult".

Several issues with that statistic.

1. Police are much more likely to report an assault than average citizen is. Just by the nature of their job, very nearly every single assault against a police officer is likely to be reported.

2. Once reported, an assault against a police officer is much more likely to be prosecuted because courts, prosecutors, and juries place much more weight on the testimony of a police officer than an average citizen.

3. "Assault" is a very broadly defined crime. Generally assault doesn't actually require a physical attack, so using it as a metric for "danger" is dubious.

Assault usually only requires someone to do something that makes the victim think they were in danger of being physically attacked. Police officers are trained to be hyper aware of threats, and they know that the legal definition of assault is different than the colloquial definition, so the police (and prosecutors) have a much broader view of what qualifies an "assault" than the general public does.


Cops are also looking to throw the book at a hookup, with the help of willing prosecutors. We've given cops the benefit of the doubt for decades, and only now with widespread phonecams are we seeing the truth.

Unfortunately, a police assaulting a civilian, wherein the civilian victim performs any act of self defense down to and including bleeding on an officer counts as a prosecutable assault on the officer.

I have seen so many videos of cops beating up a person and then charging that person with assault. These statistics are meaningless.

I've seen so many videos of cops being beat up. These statistics are facts. By the way, I was being sarcastic.

A more important question is what is the homicide rate of the demographics of people who go into policing. Probably lower than 3.0.

It's easy to get a drastically lower personal chance of being murdered in the US through simple steps like not being part of a gang.

Most Americans on HN aren't going to be murdered at 5.6/100000, or even 3.0


Something about this list is fishy. Where are the soldiers? Also I'm thinking this is just a simplistic comparison with a base death rate on the job (ignoring age & co-morbidity factors). Police often retire after 20 years so you're looking at the majority of the police force being under ~40-50. That's a significant point of comparison because other jobs you kind of just work until your body fails you (either through extra clumsiness, too much labor for the heart, etc). So the manner of fatal death & age are super important factors here that are ignored.

I don't think it's helpful to say police don't actually have a dangerous job. It is perhaps helpful to consider other HNer comments like "You couldn't pay me enough to be a cop". That might explain the pay difference.

More importantly, the entire framing is the problem. As soon as you're looking for reasons to cut officers slack, you're on the wrong side. Being a police officer should have at least the same seriousness, responsibility, training, & consequences (if not more) as being a lawyer, judge, doctor, etc. Probably more since they have greater training and capability to end a life and put themselves in such situations more frequently (& often instigate/escalate such situations whether through their own actions or their association with police).


> Where are the soldiers?

They don't even make the list, obviously. The majority of the military is non combat for every branch, and only a small minority is deployed at any particular time. This isn't WW2, soldiers rarely die.

Over the 8 years of the Iraq war 4.5k US soldiers died out of 1.4 million troops (300k deployed). That's 40 per 100k, compared to 97 for pilots, 64 for metalworkers, and 46 for taxi drivers.

The list in op is for the current year. The number of troops killed this year was far lower than any point during the Iraq war, and they don't come anywhere near the top of the list.


> Where are the soldiers?

Without doing any research, I'm guessing it's one of two possibilities:

- They're not in the top 25 because death rate among soldiers is low overall. The vast majority of soldiers are clerks, mechanics, and other support personnel, many of whom will never even deploy. Of those who do, many will spend their time on a large base in minimal danger. Those who are in danger from combat and IEDs are those who venture outside the base frequently (infantry, drivers, combat engineers, etc). These are a small fraction of what would be considered "soldiers" on a list like this, which brings the overall mortality rate down significantly.

- This list doesn't account for soldiers at all because, to put it bluntly, calculating this for the military is a pain in the ass. Doing it properly would likely require an entirely separate and more detailed study and breakdown of the data. One reason is because of the variance in jobs. Another is because the danger varies wildly depending on whether we're actually in a war. Being an infantryman during WWII, Vietnam, or in a place like Fallujah circa 2004 was risky business. Right now, not so much. It's worth noting that the military has its own government-funded life insurance program (SGLI) rather than contracting it out to a civilian agency. I suspect this is because no civilian insurers are willing deal with the unpredictability.


Well, to be fair, they ARE in that list. It's just that most the deaths are more from occupational hazards than actual combat. Electricians get electrocuted, welders fall off of scaffolds, and some guys just get hit in the head by something that falls off of something else:

"{REDACTED}, age 31, was injured during training at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., when an auxiliary fuel tank fell off the HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopter he was inspecting. Clement and another sailor were struck by the tank. {REDACTED} died from head injuries sustained in the accident."


> Where are the soldiers?

I think the rate of death and injury where they weren't back to work in a couple of days for US troops in Iraq was a bit less than 2 in 100. *

Note that most soldiers work in supply, administration, artillery, cooking, running the mail system, and things like that, and aren't exposed to any combat at all at any point in the careers.

I can imagine refuse collector being more dangerous than that.

* Death and Injury Rates of U.S. Military Personnel in Iraq , Goldberg, 2010


I would not expect soldiers to be included as the potential and expectation for death is much higher and generally totally different. As pointed out elsewhere in this thread if you're in the military you can legally be ordered to do something that will 100% result in your death with no ability to refuse, which is not true of any of the professions on that list.

> 16 Police and sheriff’s patrol officers

Also of note, the primary reason police are even this high is for the same reason as truck drivers -- traffic accidents.


It reminds me of Taleb’s Extremeistan vs Mediocristan. I think it was in Fooled by Randomness.

For police the danger comes in spikes with mostly non-dangerous work. For a lumberjack the danger is evenly distributed.

So I think for police, it’s the constant low probability of great danger.


I would think logging would be less dangerous now. When a was growing up in Maine, loggers cut down trees with the chainsaw and pulled the trees into the wood yard with a tractor like skidder (skidah in Maine-speak).

Now, they are more likely (I think) to use a machine that clips the tree off (like scissors) and takes the branches off.


I knew a really nice guy that ended up working in forestry in the US, and tragically died after backing into a powerline whilst up a tree in a harness cutting branches. Working with trees is so dangerous.

I can't help but think of this xkcd https://xkcd.com/795

The title is conditional risk. The characters reason that since very few people die of thunderstorms, they don't need to take any precautions.

The point is of course, that the reason that so few people die of lightning is that people are sensible and avoid danger. And that if you are reckless then you will be at much higher risk than the average person.

I'm not saying that this is necessarily the case here. But it's a hypothesis that I think needs refutation.


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