I Agree With the Assessment: This is Just So Banana Republic

Police hand out cards to friends, family, and political supporters that allow the holder to avoid legal consequences of various infractions.

This actually got me thinking about policing and race.  When I was growing up in the South, having white skin could confer similar privileges, though less reliably (I still managed to flirt with losing my license on a couple of occasions).  The tiny village where my high school was located (Houston at the time had a number of small villages inside its boundaries) actually hired one of the Houston Police officers who was fired for killing Joe Campos Torres as its police chief.   Today, I would hope things are much better than they were in the 1970's South but blacks today are still arrested for marijuana use way more often than whites despite similar usage patterns.


  1. Mercury:

    "This actually got me thinking about policing and race. When I was growing up in the South, having white skin could confer similar privileges, though less reliably "
    In the non-Jim Crow, modern era, cops treat POOR people like shit more than any other group. There may be more of this color or that color people who happen to be poor so it seems like it's a race thing but that's not the major theme. If you're perceived as being disruptive (or whatever) and it looks like you don't have a lot of resources at you disposal, the batons and handcuffs come out a lot sooner. That's because: A) cops correctly believe that they can probably get away with it and B) the drunk/idiot/homeless/hippie jerk in front of the McDonalds giving everybody a hard time probably deserves it and there are few other, evident considerations.

  2. Mercury:

    Speaking of white privilege and cops Coyote, I don't recall your bringing up what is probably the most horrific, unnecessary police shooting ever caught on video in United States history. It happened exactly two years ago, in your state...and you're usually pretty good about goings-on in Arizona.

    It has only received some media attention recently after a high profile lawyer lost the civil case against the cops involved following the criminal exoneration of both cops involved. Somehow this shooting didn't cause any mass riots, protests or "national conversations" - can't remember why.

    Daniel Shaver was a pest control worker from Texas who basically traveled around the southwest shooting pigeons or whatever with a pellet gun at 3 o’clock in the morning in Home Depots and warehouses etc. So, there he is one night hanging out in his room at the La Quinta Inn in Mesa, AZ having a few drinks with some friends he met at the bar. He takes out his pellet gun to show his friends and another guest, in another room sees him through the window holding a “gun” and calls 911 (or the front desk calls 911). The SWAT team comes in, extracts Shaver and a lady friend and….you can see the rest on bodycam video which took a very long time to be released.

    The guy yelling in the video is actually the commanding officer, not the guy holding the gun in the video - and the real culprit here IMHO. The guy who actually does the shooting is some 26 yr old meathead with the words: “You’re F*cked” laser inscribed on his rifle.

    Here’s just a WaPo report with the video but there are other case details and reporting out there (now, a year ago it was hard to find). See if you can watch the video without puking: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/12/08/graphic-video-shows-daniel-shaver-sobbing-and-begging-officer-for-his-life-before-2016-shooting/?utm_term=.be3d92c8a674

  3. John Dewey:

    So why might blacks and latinos be arrested more than whites, despite similar usage patterns? Some possibilities:

    1. Racism by police, although I’ve read that the higher arrest rate rate holds even for police forces where the majority of street officers are black.

    2. Police are more concentrated in sections of cities with higher violent crime rates, which also happen to be heavily populated with blacks and latinos.

    3. Blacks and latinos living in lower class neighborhoods are more likely to socialize outside in public places. Whites from upper middle class neighborhoods with large homes and large backyards socialize in private places.

    4. Households with greater financial stresses - which correlate with race - are more likely to be visited by police responding to domestic violence.

    I’m sure there are other possibilities. But I don’t think we should ignore the reasons why blacks and latinos are more likely to come into contact with police.

  4. kidmugsy:

    Those confounding confounding factors again!

  5. kidmugsy:

    Murder most foul. It's striking that he wasn't deterred by knowledge of the body cams - I suppose he must have known that juries tend to let policemen off for murder. I'm not suggesting that a murderous thug calmly thinks through deterrence before killing. I am suggesting that a broad understanding of the absence of likely punishment influences even apparently spontaneous, irrational action.

  6. marque2:

    It works both ways. I have been pulled over for doing nothing but being white and then given a ticket for something I didn't do but couldn't disprove after a thorough search of my car. Happened in Los Angeles when I didn't know better since I was new to the area at the time and was driving in a neighborhood that was suppose to be Hispanic. Of course, as a white guy, the only reason I could have for being there - per police logic - was to buy drugs.

  7. Mercury:

    Yup, but that's life. In early 90s the Grateful Dead used to roll into town for six show runs and my life for a week would be: wake up-->go to work-->go to show-->go to sleep--REPEAT. One year the street was being ripped up in front of the building where I worked. Apparently there was a lot of sensitive infrastructure underground and there were lots of cops around all the time. Going into the building in a suit and tie I occasionally had to wait for equipment to move or whatever and remember being treated very politely by the cops more than a few times. Once at night, that same week, at the Dead show in street clothes, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, too near a group of freaky dudes who were hustling drugs. A fracas ensued and I got a couple wacks with a cop's baton for no reason other than I may have plausibly been one of the "bad guys".

    Everyone profiles, it's how the human brain works. If you have incomplete information and/or don't have the resources or time to get more info, you profile. Most of the time it's highly effective. In my book such behavior is unacceptable when you have adequate info and/or the resources/time to get the adequate info (so you don't have to profile)...but default to the response that profiling may have justified anyway (i.e. laziness, stupidity or ulterior motive). I used to know a black doctor who would occasionally speed to the hospital in his Jaguar to tend to some emergency only to get pulled over and put face-down on the pavement (more than once) by cops who figured he must have been up to no good - but clearly the cops could have ascertained otherwise (at no risk/expense) without resorting to such measures.

  8. me:

    All in all, the US has pretty horrific policing. Relevant: police killings compared across countries - https://i.redd.it/8edh13r038c01.png.

    The thing that never ceases to amaze me is that this is largely shrugged off - I can't recall a single high profile politician running for office making it his mission to improve the state of policing in the US.

  9. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    One's perception of the situation can be influenced by one's own experiences. I do feel that I have received a couple of traffic tickets because I was white. For example, many years ago, civil rights groups were haranguing the Minneapolis Police Department for ticketing blacks more than whites. In response, the Police Department agreed to record the officer's impression of race on each traffic ticket. Shortly thereafter, I was driving through downtown Minneapolis at a speed to time the green lights. All of a sudden a jaywalker trotted out in front of me, and I braked to give him plenty of room; but that braking slowed my speed down so that I entered the intersection on yellow rather than green. An officer pulled me over, and I could just see the calculation in his face: "If I give this white driver a ticket and ignore the black jaywalker, then our statistics look better." So I got the ticket. A large part of me wanted to fight the ticket, but the time and resources needed to fight it was not worth it.

  10. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    A few comments about your graph. First, it looks at only 5 countries compared to the U.S. There are countries with higher homicide rates than the U.S. I will grant you that such countries tend not to be leading economic powers with social dysfunction, but they do exist.
    Second, aggregating at the national level sometimes hides meaningful insights -- especially if you want to discuss solutions. The U.S. compares more favorably when comparing its record outside of certain inner cities. Some sociologists talk about the "criminality" mentality of these inner cities. There certainly are rich discussion topics on theories why these problem areas persist, but to pretend that they do not exist does nothing to solve the problem and may actually make problems worse.
    Third, the starting point is so different for the U.S. than many other countries, and sometimes the starting point prevents getting to identical end point. Japan does not have history of private ownership of guns -- nor do they have the inner city issues-- and restricting gun ownership is a manageable task. However, in the U.S. with its history of gun ownership, its constitutional protection on gun ownership, its widespread presence of guns in the possession of criminals (which will persist through new laws), the imposition of Japan-type laws cannot be envisioned.
    By the way, I hate guns, and I do not allow anyone with guns to be in my home. But I do not let my personal feelings on guns cloud my analysis of proposals.

  11. me:

    Valid points.

    That said, it's not just the completely avoidable police homicides (seriously, courts giving cops paid time off for shooting down an unarmed man lying on the floor trying desperately to comply with unclear instructions while they themselves were wearing body armor because "he might have had a weapon" is a bit of an indication of a problem with the attitude towards policing)

    If you have to be more afraid of police than be able to look to them for help, that's where the problem starts.

    If police can just seize anything they want and not give it back for years without that raising flags - and Alabama of all places makes news for considering to introduce a right to ones own property again, that's an indication of a problem.

    If the word of a police officer always trumps the word of the guy who apparently beat himself up, if we are always ok with people being beaten up for resisting arrest while lying unconscious on the floor and if deaths and injury in custody is just the normal course of business...

    Then we have a problem.

  12. John Dewey:

    I don’t understand why this blog post would seem to imply that the South is a collection of Banana Republics. I don’t expect Warren Meyer to reply, but I have to wonder whether we are looking at different data. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding what Warren is trying to argue by mentioning the South twice in this five sentence post.

    According to a 2013 ACLU study, the greatest disparities for black vs white marijuana arrest rates are found in the North and in the Midwest, not in the South.


    I have searched, but I cannot find any data showing marijuana usage by race and state. I would be interested to see whether marijuana usage is the same for blacks and whites not just nationwide but also in individual states. Certainly there is large variance in marijuana arrest rates by race and state.

  13. me:

    Also, highly relevant: a post on privileges that only police officers get (other than handing out get-out-of-jail cards)


    I find these even more shocking - no wonder police are seldomly held accountable, it's entirely institutionalized.

  14. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    I think I agree with you. I believe that my major concern with BLM is that it makes avoidable police homicides a racial issue which I think is the wrong assumption. It probably is no more a racial issue than it is a sexist issue -- since virtually all avoidable police homicides have male victims. When the issue is treated as a racial issue, not only is the need for reform disguised (because statistics reveal that whites are more likely to be killed by police and 99% of police do not consider themselves to be racist), but also implemented solutions are not likely to be effective. In fact, the implemented solutions may be counterproductive to the safety of the community; note the increased violent crime in Baltimore and Chicago and elsewhere cops fear being labeled racist.

  15. me:

    Oh yes - please don't put me anywhere close to the BLM morons, I think they are not helping this discussion at all.

    Police homicides and police privileges are an issue, and focusing on the race of the victim unnecessarily confounds the problem and reduces its scope.

  16. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    you are so right!

  17. James White:

    Not a bad point. But you forgot to include the number and rate of officers killed while on duty. Both are significantly higher. Much of the problem may be that US cops are in shitty situations a lot more often.