Why Folks Like Me Are Ticked Off About Police Misconduct

It's not that I think that all police officers are somehow evil and out to kill black people, or whatever.   The issue is that we give police special and unique powers, and those special and unique powers should require special and unique accountability.  Unfortunately, we tend to do exactly the opposite -- give police less accountability than the average citizen for his or her actions (this lack of accountability can be blamed both on the Left and Right -- the Right tends to fetishize and hero-worship police, seeing them as the last bastion against creeping barbarism, and the Left refuses to take on the powerful public unions that represent police).

This is a great example of exactly why I get angry.  It causes us to wonder how many of those police stories from the past were just as full of sh*t as this officer's, but we lacked the ability through modern video to find out.  The police officer's actions in trying to cover up his misconduct (e.g. by screwing with the timeline in his dispatcher calls) turns out not to be unique (the most common variation of this is the now-ubiquitous officer yelling drop the gun about five seconds after he has already shot the citizen).  In fact, it seems to happen so often that one wonders if there is not an informal grapevine among police that train new officers in these cover-up techniques.

People often ask me in the comments why I don't respect officers for the job they do.  Sure I do -- policing is one of the few clear-cut government roles all but the most extreme anarcho-capitalist libertarians support.  But I am angry that my and others' respect for officers has been used historically against the public as a tool for evading accountability.

Update:  Making this proposed legislation in AZ to outlaw recording of police in public a really bad idea.


  1. Rob McMillin:

    Police unions explain part but not all of the left's unwillingness to deal with police abuse. The liberal road to utopia is paved with thousands upon thousands of laws. Their ideal, as we are constantly reminded, is one of legislative output; "do-nothing Congress" is an epithet. And always, at the end of such operations, is the policeman. Whether the liberal knows it or wishes to acknowledge it or not, police force is always the threat implicit in their remaking of society. The explicit rejection by liberals of sin taxes as the origin of Eric Garner's death should come as no surprise, as second-order effects simply do not exist in their world.

  2. Bram:

    I blame the unions, government at different levels, and the cops themselves. The union seems willing to protect a cop no matter how egregious his crime. Governments are militarizing the cops and sending them out to collect taxes, enforce ridiculous prohibitions, and generally annoy the public.

    Many (not all) cops have embraced their new roles as tax collectors and morality police - instead of the public protectors. Arrogance and itchy trigger fingers aren't going to win public support.

  3. Patrick Henry,The2nd:

    This sums up my arguments as well. I know policing isn't easy, and I respect the job they have to do.

    But because of their position, we need to have a higher level of standard for them, not a lower level of one. A lot of things can be changed, but removing qualified immunity would be a good start. And honestly, ending the war on drugs would help a lot as well.

  4. morganovich:

    cops lie, pure and simple.

    the utah cops are really bad and the judges here rubber stamp whatever the cops want.

    take a look at this:


    this was called a "good shoot". now, it comes to light (on video) that the cop was lying out his blue butt.

    he did not shoot a guy that "menaced" him. he shot a guy who was in handcuffs on the ground after deliberately turning off his body cam. this cop should spend the rest of his life in prison.

    here's a rare bit of good news though:


    the police, “out of caution”, sent a negotiator. this is impressive. they did not send
    a swat team. they did not escalate the situation. they did not
    create a flashpoint for violence and wind up killing the guy and putting the
    woman and the cops at risk. they talked him out and he surrendered
    peacefully and gave up a gun without a firefight. now THAT is a good

    this is my huge issue with US
    police. many of their shoots may be “good shoots” but the question is
    whether the situation where that was the best option could have been
    avoided altogether. in cases like this, it’s clear that it could be. I think
    what US police need is not more weapons training and more tactical gear, but
    more interpersonal training in de-escalation and talking people down.
    let’s avoid fights instead of needlessly picking them. it’s “protect and
    serve” not “provoke and shoot.”

  5. morganovich:

    don't forget the DA's. they are a HUGE part of this issue. no DA will prosecute a cop in any but the most insanely egregious cases. DA's need the cops. they need their cooperation on all their other cases. they need their endorsement for elections and the huge gobs of cash the police unions supply.

    to call it a conflict of interest is a wild understatement. it's borderline racketeering.

    what the US really needs is an independent office of the ombudsman that only prosecutes police and is fully independent from local police forces. until we get that, no reform will take.

  6. Rob McMillin:

    I certainly agree with you on DA's. However, I was more interested as to why the liberal response to police abuse has been fairly muted.

  7. Not Sure:

    I find the frequency of dog shootings as an almost casual aside to some sort of police operation disturbing. For some reason, you don't hear about mailmen having near as much trouble with dogs, even though the opportunity for human/canine interaction is much higher for them.

  8. jon49:

    Those of us that propose ordered anarchy wouldn't consider ourselves extreme. At least I don't. I consider extreme those that currently call themselves centrists.

  9. kidmugsy:

    Murder most foul. Hang him.

  10. ErikTheRed:

    "Sure I do -- policing is one of the few clear-cut government roles all but the most extreme anarcho-capitalist libertarians support."

    Love those clear-cut government roles for minarchists. The implied argument is "the state is thuggish and incompetent, so let's only leave them to do the absolutely most important things."

    The other thing that amuses me is that minarchist libertarians believe that markets are the fastest and most efficient way to optimize (but not perfect - nothing is perfect) outcomes... but that somehow markets are not necessary in physical protection, dispute resolution, etc. because natural monopoly and unicorns and fairies or something like that. It's doubly ironic for businesspeople because we spend so much time and effort trying to force dispute resolution into private hands (arbitration and mediation) and keep it out of the government courts that are insanely slow, expensive, and unpredictable.

  11. ErikTheRed:

    You don't understand. They investigated themselves and found themselves innocent. Why not respect that?

  12. pbft:

    For years now, I've thought that a simple one strike law for police killings would help. If you as a police officer kill one of the citizens that you're supposed to be protecting, then you will never carry a gun again. If this seems harsh, consider the two sides of the ledger: the police officer's career vs. the life of a presumed innocent citizen. If the reason for the killing was compelling or even clearly necessary, that we might sympathize with the officer's loss of career, but that's still pretty small potatoes compare to dying. I don't know what percentage of police officers kill someone in the course of their careers, but I *hope* it's a small number. I've had people argue that this would result in more police fatalities since officers would hesitate to shoot. I'm pretty sure that hesitation is the right idea here. This approach would help reinforce the proper role of police - to serve and protect, not to shoot and kill.

  13. Don:

    I think the entirety of the problem is, as you put it, "Special and Unique Powers."

  14. Tom Murin:

    They are taught to say "stop resisting." I have seen videos where the person can (no longer at least) resist and they keep saying it.

  15. Craig Loehle:

    When a person feels threatened, instincts say defend yourself. In the heat of the moment it is easy to fire 16 shots. However, police need training in how to handle semi-dangerous people. If someone is running away, or lying on the ground, the officer is not in danger. There also is a problem with officers responding with violence if they do not get instant compliance. But someone who is drunk or crazy (or suffering a diabetic coma, or doesn't speak English) can not give such instant obedience. What the hell is the officer's hurry--does he have to be at the gym in 20 minutes? If a standoff with a crazy person goes on for an hour, so what? Isn't an hour worth someone's life? I lay the blame on training. It takes intense training to be able to resist the instinct to kill someone who seems to be threatening you. But standing there with a knife is not an immediate danger.

  16. DaveK:

    It's no mystery why people distrust cops. If they won't remove the bad ones from their ranks (at least until they do something beyond the pale), we pretty well have to consider them all as bad.

    It's like the old saw about the barrel of apples. If you don't dig through it from time to time and get rid of the few that are starting to go bad, you'll quickly find that the rest start going bad, too. You will quickly reach a point where it's better to consider the entire barrel bad rather than trying to find the good ones that remain.

  17. mlhouse:

    While there may be some situations when cops lied, the proof to the lie doesn't exist otherwise liberal groups would exploit them to the hilt.