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devil duck

police snippets

There was an interesting NY Times op-ed a few days ago, by a black man who was beaten up by the police as a teenager, then went on to become a police officer to see if he could improve the system. On his first day out of police academy, he was told "It's better to be tried by twelve jurors than carried by six pallbearers," and regaled with stories of his comrades killed in action. Which had two effects: it sanctified the memory of those fallen comrades (understandable and probably a good thing), and it trained police officers to start every shift in mortal fear of the civilians they were supposed to be protecting (almost certainly a bad thing). Which I guess makes things even: a lot of those civilians, at least if they're male and have dark skin, live in mortal fear of the police officers who are supposed to be protecting them. Mutual fear, distrust, and stereotyping are a great way to perpetuate mutual fear, distrust, and stereotyping -- just look at the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

In other news, shalmestere and I spent Sunday in Manhattan. As soon as we got off the train in Penn Station, we noticed there were even more police than usual, almost all white, and looking like they'd just stepped off the set of "Dukes of Hazzard". I counted something like fifteen, including one black, by the time we got out of the station. We got to Union Square for some holiday shopping, and found dozens more police officers, apparently preparing for a protest march. The march amounted to about fifty people chanting "Hands up! I can't breathe!", and an equal number of police, including four or five black officers. I didn't see or hear of any violence, but the row of ten on motorcycles with helmets and face-plates had a decidedly threatening look. I kept thinking "If I were a police captain preparing for a racially-sparked protest march, I would get every black officer I had to the scene. They've got less than 10%."

I was struck by the choice of uniforms. In recent years I've gotten used to seeing police in Penn Station wearing army-style "camouflage" fatigues (a classic example of "security theater"). This time we'd see not only a knot of three or four in fatigues, but a hundred feet away a knot of three or four in khaki park-ranger-style uniforms with broad-brimmed Mountie hats, then a hundred feet away another knot of three or four in traditional police navy-blue. And there were probably some plain-clothes officers too.


Thanks for linking; that was a thought-provoking read.

"It's better to be tried by twelve jurors than carried by six pallbearers," huh? Sounds reasonable on the face of it, but it's the precise antonym of "death before dishonor".