If patrolling US soldiers can avoid shooting civilians, why can't US cops stop murdering unarmed black men?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/05/americas-violent-occupiers.html


A cousin, now a police officer and formerly a military officer, who tried to justify police practice to me, said, “You just don’t understand, it’s a war zone out there.”

I replied: “Except that in war zones, our forces have rules of engagement.”

He didn’t have much of an answer; I think I actually made him think.


kennykb beat me to it. If we give police military weapons of war, they should be held to the same standards as the military - where “shoot first, ask questions later” leads to court-martials, not paid suspensions.


This reminds me of a podcast I listened to sometime last year. I think it was an episode of This American Life. They interviewed a police chief whose force seems to police the way most of us wish our police would, and among other things, one of his practices was to hire military veterans and avoid fresh-out-of-the-academy rookies. He said the vets understand concepts like rules of engagement and are less apt to panic and overreact in a stressful situation.

Obviously he was generalizing, but his argument seemed sound to me. Giving preference to military vets was not the only thing he was doing, but he seemed to think it was pretty important. Ultimately one of my takeaways from the story was that our police get woefully inadequate training in how to handle situations that could become violent.


Because the police exist, in part, to murder unarmed black men.


Or rather, the wrong kind of training.


Exactly! As well as meaningful training.


Oh come on, US forces were responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq alone, I’d hardly say that cops could do better if they emulated an occupying army. Disarm the police and abolish the military is the best way to stop them from killing people.


While I appreciate the sentiment, this concerns me:

From the article

Our troopers fought pitched battles in the streets, called in air strikes, fired thousands of artillery rounds, and killed, wounded, and captured dozens of terrorists.

Who made the assessment that all of those killed, except for the two mentioned, were terrorists? Can that assessment be trusted?

As I understand things, the US classes all “males of military age” (which I think means boys of 15 upwards) killed by drone strikes as unlawful combatants, unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

What are the criteria for determining the status of people killed by troops?


I sincerely hope so, but I wonder if his fuzzy response had more to do with holding back on his knowledge of cops’ tacit rules of engagement.


why can’t US cops stop murdering unarmed black men?

Simple: they don’t want to.


It seems obvious enough to me. Unlike the police, military people are held accountable for their actions.
As long as we keep electing DAs who won’t prosecute wrongful police actions then the issue will remain no matter what else we do.


It’s a feature, not a bug.


My Take - Besides the Army having ROE, and actually locking you up if you violate it, killing too many of the wrong people in Iraq will turn potential allies and neutral parties in to your enemies. It behooves you to get it right, so that the next day you aren’t shot at or blown up by the same people who you are supposed to be protecting.

Cops rarely have punishments for bad shoots, and while they may consider certain areas as already “hostile”, the actual chance one of them will seek direct retribution is slim.

I could be wrong.

At any rate, we need to insist on more accountability.


My opinion?

If a cop has even a hint of doubt about the situation, they have two choices:

  • shoot the suspect. Nothing bad happens to them. Ever.

  • don’t shoot the suspect. Suspect may shoot them.

If the suspect would shoot and kill the officer say, 1% of the time, under our current system the officer is acting rationally to kill at any doubt because it is in their self interest to do so.

If we held officers accountable for bad shots, the calculus would change. Until then, the carnage will continue because they consider 1,000s of dead civilians better than one dead cop.

For the record, the major mode of mortality for police officers on duty is traffic related incidents.


So before this, I assume every news-reading person here would know that there is only one place worse than US police forces in terms of allowing violent and brutal abuses of power to go unpunished and that is the military. The “these soldiers got caught murdering a crowd of people, desecrated the bodies, took trophies. everyone knows and no one cares” stories outnumber “a cop shot this unarmed black man/kid in the back” stories.

But you people read one quote from one guy in the military who agreed with you that cops are bad and all of a sudden you just accept his insane version of military upstanding behaviour so you can join him in looking down at cops?

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If nobody takes on the rookies, how will they learn, though? It seems that rookies should receive their on-the-job training from the most disciplined and level-headed vets.

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Ah, good point Mr. Lazarus.

I was referring to the sheltered, privileged, almost certainly white, adult children who know nothing about the military, what ROE they work under and what the current bar for a court martial is but feel guilty/threatened by this lack of knowledge and so glamorize the military.

I didn’t mean to insult anyone else. Certainly not the people who are aware that right now the rates of civilian casualties and war crimes under trumps new ROE are skyrocketing.


All our systems are broken;


The majority of my countrymen have just been so lulled into a false sense of complacency by decades upon decades of psychological manipulation and propaganda that many of us never noticed until recently.

The facade is crumbling and the reality beneath is unpleasant as fuck.