Well, actually, we really don’t know.
D.Brian Burghart is the editor of the Reno News & Review, the city’s alt-weekly. Driving home one day, he came across the aftermath of a police shooting, and became curious about it. So he started to look for the figures on how often officer-involved shootings happen. And he couldn’t find them. Anywhere.
Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn’t being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn’t have a way to compare to other cities? Hell, how could citizens or police? How could cops possibly know “best practices” for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn’t.
So, he decided to create one. He’s spent the last two years building a crowd-sourced database of officer-involved shootings at Fatal Encounters. And it hasn’t been easy, as he explains:
The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.
It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.
I’ve been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time. They’ve blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.
Frankly, I find this all too easy to believe. After all, a database of officer-involved shootings would be an enormously useful thing to have for the police, in order to draw lessons about best practices. But, an even more important use is for the public to use the data to provide better visibility and accountability for police operations. And the latter reason, I strongly suspect, is precisely why the police don’t want such a database. The police interest in coming up with best practices is far outweighed by their interest in preventing increased transparency.
The attitude of the police seems to be that of Colonel Jessup in “A Few Good Men”:
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.
But, here’s the thing: The very essence of a free society is the open ability to question the manner of how those we entrust to defend us provide that defense. It’s what prevents us from becoming a police state. I would argue that we’re already on the cusp of becoming one.
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How do you argue a point with a side which hasn’t a clue how the real world works or what a logical “non-sequitur” is?
I think we all know which side that is.
Here’s the premise put forth by an article in The New Republic:
“Libertarians Who Oppose a Militarized Police Should Support Gun Control”
Here’s a sketch of the argument:
There is indeed agreement between many liberals and libertarians that the militarization of the police, especially in its dealings with racial minorities, has gone too far. But this consensus may crumble pretty quickly when it’s confronted with the obvious police counter-argument: that the authorities’ heavy firepower and armor is necessary in light of all the firepower they’re up against. At that point, many liberals will revert to arguing for sensible gun control regulations like broader background checks to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and the mentally ill (the measure that police organizations successfully argued should be the gun control movement’s legislative priority following the Newtown, Connecticut shootings) or limits on assault weapons and oversized ammunition clips. And liberals will be reminded that the libertarians who agree with them in opposing police militarization are very much also opposed to the gun regulations that might help make the environment faced by police slightly less threatening.
But it doesn’t “crumble” at all. You have to buy into the premise that it is a more lethally dangerous out there for police than it appears to be. But it isn’t:
The number of law-enforcement officers killed by firearms in 2013 fell to levels not seen since the days of the Wild West, according to a report released Monday.
The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.
According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.
Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms.
The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.
And the drop is credited to bullet proof vests, not SWAT Teams and MRAPS. Pretending that the threat is any higher now than it always has been seems obviously wrong, given the facts. Certainly there are toxic cultures within our society who believe that violence is the answer to whatever they encounter as a problem. And yes, police have to face that potential threat all the time. Do I think police should be armed adequately? Yes, but that doesn’t at all begin to cover what we see among today’s police forces in terms of both equipment and tactics. In fact, I believe it is all of these “wars” on everything from drugs to terrorists which have had a hand in helping to militarize the police.
That said, agree or disagree with that point, gun control is essentially not only been shown to be ineffective but is a non-sequitur in this “argument”. See Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC for proof the ineffectiveness of the ban. But you have to ask, who in this day and age but a clueless journalist would even begin to believe that “broader background checks” are going to keep guns out of the hands of “violent felons?” Have they in the past (their answer is they just haven’t be stringent enough)? Honestly, do they really believe a felon is going to waltz into a gun store to buy what he wants knowing full well he’ll have a background check run? Really?
Have these rubes never heard of a black market (they can buy guns from Mexican cartels, thoughtfully provided by the DoJ)? Do they not realize that any “violent felon” who wants a gun isn’t going to even try to get one legally? So, knowing that, why in the world would any libertarian grant the absurd premise knowing full well that doing so only limits the freedom of the law abiding citizenry? It’s absurd on its face. And, logically, it is a non-sequitur to any libertarian (again, libertarianism isn’t about shrinking rights and freedoms for heaven sake). How does making it more inconvenient for citizens who aren’t “violent felons” to buy a gun for self-protection going to stop a felon from obtaining his gun illegally? It isn’t.
Because, of course, that’s not what they really want (i.e. incremental change via “broader background checks”). They want a total ban on guns, for government and felons to be the only people with guns and to essentially outlaw then outright. Obviously they are oblivious to the danger of only government having guns and they certainly don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that felons aren’t going to pay any attention to the law. Nor will the black market in illegal guns. So why, again, should anyone grant this argument credence?
I swear, you just wonder at times what goes on between their ears all day, because it certainly has nothing to do with the real world or reason.
The PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for August rose 1.7 points to 58.0.
The Philadelphia Fed Survey for August rose a sharp 4.1 points to 28.0, a rise not supported by the report’s underlying indices. Both new orders and shipments slowed by half, while unfilled orders are shrinking and delivery times are improving. All of these are symptomatic of slowing activity. The headline number is not a a composite of components but is based on a single subjective question in the survey. This month, at least, the answer to that question seems at variance with the other indices in the report.
Existing home sales rose 2.4% to an annualized rate of 5.15 million units in July.
Initial jobless claims fell 14,000 last week, to 298,000. The 4-week moving average rose 5,000 to 300,750. Continuing claims fell 49,000 to 2.500 million.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.2 points to 36.6 in the latest week.
The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-19.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.412 trillion. Reserve Bank credit fell $-3.7 billion.
The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply fell by $-8.7 billion last week.
I think George Will is on to something:
In physics, a unified field theory is an attempt to explain with a single hypothesis the behavior of several fields. Its political corollary is the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything , from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans’ comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.
Washington’s response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism’s ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches’ contents, which validates regulation of what it calls “competitive foods,” such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
What has this to do with police, from Ferguson, Mo., to your home town, toting marksman rifles, fighting knives, grenade launchers and other combat gear? Swollen government has a shriveled brain: By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.
Examples? Will provides plenty of them.
Here’s the point though:
A cupcake-policing government will find unending excuses for flexing its muscles as it minutely monitors our behavior in order to improve it …
“Improve” should be in scare quotes, because the deeper the medling, the more it “minutely monitors our behavior”, the less it improves it and the more it interferes with it.
But … that’s the state of being now in the US.
Nick Gillespie at Hit and Run agrees with Will but issues this warning:
He’s right that confidence in government is plummeting mostly because of the simultaneously stupid and overreaching actions of politicians, administrators, and bureaucrats at all levels. Recognizing such a reality may be the beginning of (libertarian) wisdom, but as I’ve written before, it also carries a very serious potential risk. Counterintuitively, distrust in government may lead to calls for more government.
And that’s one of the reasons we suffer Leviathan today. Many of our “problems” in the past have had their roots in government interference or over-reach. The real problem is we petition government for relief and government’s answer is always more government.
Here’s a clue: when you ask government to fix any problem it will always answer with more government, regulations, laws, whatever – nature of the beast. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to look to government for relief from all our problems. The end-state of that is always more government control and less citizen control. And here we are.
A major ray of hope—indeed, the beam of sunshine that’s warming up this libertarian moment—is really the ways in which people are creating workarounds that simply bypass government whenever possible. Taxi regulations screw consumers? Create Uber. Public-school educators are unresponsive? Create your own curriculum or even your own school. Can’t sell unpasteurized milk products? Create a buyers club. Major parties won’t listen? Create the Tea Party. And on and on.
As Matt Welch and I discussed at length in The Declaration of Independents, workarounds are a great thing and easier to pull off than ever, but they have serious limitations (witness foreign policy, Ferguson, the drug war, and so much more). It’s well past time that we start insisting on a limited, trustworthy government that is actually competent and restrained at the few things that it should be doing. That will not only reduce the desire for more government, it will free up even more time and resources for the free-range experiments in living that will actually make the world better, more interesting, and more prosperous.
Btw, I disagree this is necessarily a “libertarian moment” (although like the “Tea Party”, I see the liberals loading up the rhetorical guns to shoot down anything that might take flight suggesting it). However, what Gillespie talks about above is where this sentiment that has grown tremendously over the past 6 years (surprise, huh?) needs to be herded. Whether that’s possible or not will tell us all how “libertarian” the moment has been.
Until then, enjoy your cupcakes.
Like her or not, I think MoDo pretty much nails it here:
A front-page article in The Times by Carl Hulse, Jeremy Peters and Michael Shear chronicled how the president’s disdain for politics has alienated many of his most stalwart Democratic supporters on Capitol Hill.
His bored-bird-in-a-gilded-cage attitude, the article said, “has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office.”
Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, an early Obama backer, noted that “for him, eating his spinach is schmoozing with elected officials.”
First the president couldn’t work with Republicans because they were too obdurate. Then he tried to chase down reporters with subpoenas. Now he finds members of his own party an unnecessary distraction.
His circle keeps getting more inner. He golfs with aides and jocks, and he spent his one evening back in Washington from Martha’s Vineyard at a nearly five-hour dinner at the home of a nutritional adviser and former White House assistant chef, Sam Kass.
The president who was elected because he was a hot commodity is now a wet blanket.
The extraordinary candidate turns out to be the most ordinary of men, frittering away precious time on the links. Unlike L.B.J., who devoured problems as though he were being chased by demons, Obama’s main galvanizing impulse was to get himself elected.
That fact was apparent to anyone who took the time to review what little we knew of Obama’s sparse political record. He only stopped at each elected office long enough to get himself elected to the next higher office. He had no record of accomplishing anything of substance at any of those stops and spent most of his time campaigning for the next job he wanted.
Yet that was ignored. What was gobbled up were his words. Words that were backed by nothing but hot air. He had no record as a “uniter”. He had no record as a legislator. He had no work record nor had he ever actually run anything that could be described to have given him “executive experience”.
So, what some of us saw, everyone got. An empty suit. A clueless political face that managed to pull off one of the most incredible, and it appears, devastating victories of modern times.
And yet his own party is now “surprised” he’s so useless and clueless. They’re surprised he’s been so pathetically incompetent. As they watch the world crumble, they still want to complain that it is someone else’s fault (meaning those old reliable standbys – the GOP and Bush).
But as each horrific day of this presidency moves into the next, it is clear that most of the country hold the president responsible for most of the problems – both domestic and international – we are suffering.
And Democrats, as well as the liberal media, have finally figured out that defending this failure is “politically dangerous”.
So we see the Claire McCaskills and Maureen Dowds of the world beginning to really distance themselves from “The One” – the one they backed to the hilt.
Rats. Sinking ship.
Sometimes though, it’s not particularly helpful to be right about something or someone, as those of us who pointed out all these problems before Obama was elected were. Because when you’re right about something like that, it means you’re also right about the consequences.
Cast your eyes upon them – they are exactly what logic dictated would happen when you give a job as important as the presidency to a grossly unqualified man or woman.
The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in July, at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 2.0% at the headline level, and up 1.9% less food and energy.
July housing starts jumped 15.7%, to a 1.093 million annual rate.
ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -1.3%, but were up a strong 3.8%% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook, meanwhile, reports a slowing to 3.7% in retail sales over last year, compared to 4.8% last week.
But not that much.
Because it is a re-run. In fact, it’s a re-run of a re-run. A re-make if you prefer. The same-old, same-old.
It is so predictable that you could set up a timeline and be pretty sure that you’d be 90% right.
It begins like this:
Incident occurs. In this case, black teenager, white cop (template says black/white with black the victim). Tensions build. Protests erupt and violence ensues.
Then the real problem occurs.
Before everything can be sorted out and calmed down, the media shows up.
Of course, as soon as the media grows enough to include national outlets, the professional race baiters are soon to follow. Right on their heels the other opportunists arrive – the anarchists, communists, community activists, agitators and looters. And soon the circus is in full swing.
Rumor is published as fact. Hate rages from both sides. Social media is inundated with trash talk, nonsense and stupidity aided and abetted by an agenda driven media. Death threats, threats of violence, racial hate and other garbage flows like a river. Anchors from the national outlets put on their safari jackets (or now I guess it’s their protective vests and helmets) and get cameo shots near the protests to certify their “bona fides” as brave news men and women. Irresponsibility and immaturity on all sides rules the day.
Former CNN anchor and Fox News Channel’s “MediaBuzz” host Howie Kurtz criticized some outlets for creating “almost a lynch mob mentality” in Ferguson, MO in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown.
“Some liberal outlets [are] creating almost a lynch mob mentality around this, the Huffington Post today, screaming banner headline ‘Arrest Him.’ Now, the Huffington Post, nor you or I, knows exactly what happened” he said. And “when you cross that line into becoming an advocate and to demanding that somebody be prosecuted before the facts are in, while the investigation is going on, you’re grandstanding, you’re trying to keep the story alive and I really think it’s troubling.”
Kurtz also criticized CNN for showing the house of accused officer Darren Wilson, stating, “It defies my understanding how you could put his life or the life of his family in danger by even briefly showing the house or naming the street.”
When it all finally sorts itself out, we’ll likely find that the problem wasn’t necessarily about race, didn’t conform to any of the preconceived notions presented by the press (like, you know, “George Zimmerman” wasn’t white) and wasn’t any of the nonsense the “experts” opined endlessly about.
It was an unfortunate incident that needs to be addressed, but hasn’t had the chance to be addressed. And now the DoJ has decided the Civil Rights division needs to be involved along with 40 or so FBI agents. And the governor has sent in the National Guard.
Is there an injustice here? Possibly, but I don’t know yet. I’d go as far as to say probably, but again, I don’t know. I do know that it points to a growing trend of over-policing that I attribute to a seeming change in philosophy among police departments. Police, in many cases, seem to escalate a situation instead of defusing it. That needs to be reversed, in my opinion. But I certainly don’t know if this officer would have acted any differently if the teenager had been white. Nor do I yet know whether his actions were warranted or not (which is why we impanel juries and have evidence presented in cases like this). And neither does anyone else.
But in the street theater all of this has become, that’s likely to be lost in the shuffle.
In other words, this is the Trayvon Martin template redux with nightly violence added for variety.
Formulaic, predictable and disgusting. But that’s how we do it in America today.