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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."


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:


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.

Or, a little over 5 every 6 days.

that's certainly another way to put it.

Thanks, I read it wrong!

> 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.


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.


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:


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:


“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...

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.

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.


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.

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.


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


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:


One guy got 10 years, most much less.


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.

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