Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Whatever Happened to Officer Friendly?

An argument could be made that Officer Friendly was always a myth we told children, like the Easter Bunny. What with the third degree, Bull Connor, John Burge, the Rampart scandal, and the blue code of silence, history is replete with police committing and getting away with every conceivable crime up to and including cold blooded murder.

It is also true that many police officers are fine, brave, upstanding individuals honestly trying to make their communities better places to live and work. The true story of Frank Serpico is a perfect example of both sides of that coin.

Police Are an Isolated Community
When was the last time you passed a police officer on the street and he smiled at you and said hello? My guess is never. Police usually wear those extra dark sunglasses designed to make any kind of eye contact impossible. They maintain a stern, emotionless expression designed to be both intimidating and off putting. Police have an us versus them philosophy where the us is other cops and the them is every other living person. They are taught that everyone they meet, everyone, is a potential enemy. That soon evolves into the belief that everyone IS an enemy.

SWAT Spells Bad
There was a time when Special Weapon and Tactics squad made sense. And, in very limited cases, they still do. In the '60's there were a handful of cases where police were completely outgunned. The two incidents that convinced police of the need for SWAT were the Watts Riots and the Hub pawnshop shootout in San Diego, both in 1965. While these elite squads were initially designed for crowd control and heavily armed opponents, over time uses of SWAT began to blur. It was like, why have an expensive Maserati if your not driving it to the Starbucks. SWAT was designed as a squad that might be need once every few years. Today, SWAT is being used when it is not needed and is, literally, overkill. There are 4.5 SWAT raids every day. SWAT is even being called out for no-knock raids to serve misdemeanor warrants. I'd also like to compare the SWAT officer above to this ISIS terrorist.
Both carry military grade automatic weapons. Both wear thick, probably armored, clothing. Both wear stocking masks to obscure their faces even at the risk of blocking their vision. Really, how can the cop even see with that balaklava covering his eyes. That can't be safe for either the officer or citizens. The point of the masks, in both cases, is to instill terror.

US Police Are Death Magnets
The 2012 Empire State Building shooting saw Jeffrey Johnson shoot one person. Two NYPD cops wildly fired 16 bullets killing Johnson and injuring nine innocent citizens.
It is no surprise that no agency from the Justice Department to any local jurisdiction keeps stats on citizens shot by police officers. No one, no politician and no MSM outlet, want to know the numbers because the truth is absolutely staggering. Jim Fisher's True Crime blog did the research for the year 2011. By his count, in that year alone 1,146 citizens were shot by police and 607 killed. For comparison, in the span of 15 years (1995-2009) United Kingdom police have killed exactly 33 people. UK police kill as many people in 15 years as US police do in three weeks. Estimates are that since 9/11 American police officers have killed over 5,000 innocent citizens.

That doesn't count deaths in custody, which is a stat the Feds do keep. In 2011, 4,238 American prisoners died in custody. In the UK the number is 223, 33 died in police custody and 190 in prison custody.  For reference, the US has 5.5 times the population of the England and Wales.

A lot of this has to do with the American gun culture. There are over 300 million guns in the US; there are less than 4 million guns in England and Wales. Since 1995, 34 British police officers died in the line of duty, six were shot. In the US for the same period, approximately 1,500 police officers died in the line of duty with 628 shot to death.

In 2011, there were 640 murders in the Britain, only 44 killers used guns. In the same period in the US there were 12,664 murders; 8,583 used firearms.

  • While the United States is a violent country its murder rate (4.7 per 100,000) is less than the global average (6.3) and half the murder rate in Russia (9.2). It is the highest murder rate of any industrialized nation, second place is Taiwan (3.0). The United Kingdom has a murder rate of only 1.0 per 100,000.
  • American police die in the line of duty at a rate eight times more frequent than UK police. They are shot at a rate twenty times more frequently.
  • However, American police kill citizens at a rate fifty times more frequently than in the UK.
That last number the most important. Every year American police officers kill more American citizens than the Mafia, than Mexican drug cartels, than terrorists. In the United States, especially in minority neighborhoods, police departments are an ever present, deadly threat.