How cops see themselves (#2). National Police Memorial Week and El Monte, California.

Continuing in the vein of GT 2009-05-07: Occupying forces, GT 2009-03-28: It doesn’t take much imagination, and GT 2008-09-25: How cops see themselves, see also this all-too-earnest article by Robert O’Brien, in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-13): National Police Memorial Week: Never Forget, written in honor of Washington, D.C.’s annual drunken police riot, in which we are informed, along the way, that Law enforcement deaths could easily weaken our profession’s resolve [sic] to protect and serve. However, the exact opposite is true. Instead of weakening us, our thin blue line strengthens into a solid steel band of brothers. We may bend, but we will never break.

I’m not sure how many solid steel bands of brothers bend without breaking. However, the important upshot of this purple-blue prose is this:

As Lt. Dave Grossman says, you are society’s sheepdogs, and you willingly and selflessly protect your flock—with your lives if necessary.

— Robert O’Brien, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-13): National Police Memorial Week: Never Forget

Cops believe that they are like big dogs corralling a flock of sheep (for their protection). Guess who’s the sheep?

And then what follows:

You are our nation’s domestic warriors and heroes. And I thank you for your continuing dedication and service.

— Robert O’Brien, in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-13): National Police Memorial Week: Never Forget

Meanwhile, in Kicking Up a Stink Over California Incident (the incident was a cop kicking a prone man in the head after he had already surrendered, and then high-fiving his buddy-cop after; hence the cutesy title), Dean Scoville is outraged by the outrage, and openly longs for the good old days of you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride:

There is one thing the cop is unquestionably guilty of: Working in the wrong era.

There was a time when post pursuit ass-kickings were obligatory. Cops knew it, suspects knew it, and there are enough old timers on both sides of the fence that will verify the assertion when I say that what this officer did was NOTHING compared to what would have happened in another place and time. This might account for why back in the day punks thought twice before running. Nowadays, they’ll flip off a cop and run for the hell of it with little fear of reprisal (unless, perhaps, it’s El Monte PD doin’ the pursuin’).

— Dean Scoville, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-15): Kicking Up a Stink Over California Incident

Scoville is disgusted by simplistic arguments that all life—however vile, wicked, or inconsequential it might actually be—is valuable. He believes that it’s impractical for them to be expected not to inflict extrajudicial punitive rage-beat-downs on Suspect Individuals:

… I am forced to ask if we’re being practical.

Perhaps matters of practicality shouldn’t even be considered in a profession that embraces terms like war on drugs, war on organized crime, and war on gangs, but is not allowed the means to fight them as such. These are our domestic Vietnams. They are wars we could win, if only we could really fight them.

— Dean Scoville, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-05-15): Kicking Up a Stink Over California Incident

Cops believe that they are domestic warriors, a class separate from mere civilians like you and your neighbors. They are fighting a battle in your hometown’s streets, as part of an ongoing occupation of hostile territory. They believe that they are in the midst of several Wars, wars which are like the United States government’s occupation and counter-insurgency campaign against South Vietnam, and that they need to be freed from restraints on the tactics that they can use in order to really fight like a military force engaged in total war. (Complete, no doubt, with the usual free-fire zones and strategic hamlets.)

Who gives a damn about Posse Comitatus, or about whether or not the Army patrols American cities, when the local police forces already patrolling them are already indistinguishable from an the Army in self-conception, attitude, tactics, arsenal, personnel, and just about everything else except the cut of the uniform?

21 replies to How cops see themselves (#2). National Police Memorial Week and El Monte, California. Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Darian

    Who gives a damn about Posse Comitatus, or about whether or not the Army patrols American cities, when the local police forces already patrolling them are already indistinguishable from an the Army in self-conception, attitude, tactics, arsenal, personnel, and just about everything else except the cut of the uniform?

    Though the regular Army patrolling the streets could get more dangerous (they are trained to shoot people more than they’re trained to beat them and throw them in cages) I appreciate your point that there is already a standing army patrolling America’s streets. This is something that isn’t realized enough.

    Regarding the “good old days” of police brutality, I think this shows tension building between the police state and the people. The government used to be able to get away with doing more harm to certain people. Now there are more cops and more victims, but cops are sometimes getting in trouble. Though maybe showing outrage over the latest police violence does little unless rioting is feared. I suppose us anarcho-propagandists can contextualize police behavior to build anti-state sentiment though.

  2. Rad Geek

    Darian,

    Well, in any case, one of the reasons that the distance between patrol cops and official Army patrols is shrinking or disappearing is simply that more and more cops are now ex-military, and specifically ex-military with combat experience in the US government’s occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan. So they get the training, and the practical experience, in things like shooting unarmed or restrained people just for running away from you, and then they bring it back home into their cop-work.

    I agree that just showing outrage over this or that latest incident of police violence has little effect on the margin, unless you’re in a position where you can actually exert some significant local pressure on the cops, of which rioting is unfortunately the most visible example. (I would like it if we were talking more about alternative pressure tactics — about, for example, things more like Otpor’s tactics against Milosevic’s state police.)

    But, like you say, part of the idea here is cumulative effect, and contextualization, rather than the effect of any one O tempora! O mores! sort of pots. I think that perhaps the single most useful thing that police watchdogs have done over the past few years is to cultivate and express and spread a healthy contempt for the Yet Another Isolated Incident burial of complaints that the boss cops invariably roll out; when every week brings A Few More Bad Apples, it becomes increasingly unbelievable, and I think that the availability of widespread information on so many incidents so frequently over and over again is increasingly changing the awareness of anti-statists in particular (look at how, say, Lew Rockwell’s attitude towards cops and Law-n-Orderism has changed in the last 20 years) and indeed a large minority of ordinary folks (look at the comments thread on any police brutality newspaper story these days; of course, you’ll see the sado-fascist bully-boys doing everything they can to smear and defend; but what’s interesting to me is how, just in the past couple years, they’ve been increasingly met and overtaken by the number of anti-cop commenters in many different stories).

    Organizationally speaking, I hope that this kind of documentation, awareness-raising, and contextualizing of the disparate facts that people already knew, also provides a lot of impetus towards organized, on-the-ground responses, like CopWatch.

  3. Roderick T. Long

    you are society’s sheepdogs, and you willingly and selflessly protect your flock—with your lives if necessary.

    Or, um, with their lives too, apparently.

  4. Aster in Bangkok (why am I awake this early??)

    “[A] solid steel band of brothers.”

    In other words, they are self-conscious fascists. They may not identify with the name, but then the fascists of the early twentieth century were split into national and ideological divisions (Italian fascists, National Socialists, Strasserites, Falange, Iron Guard, etc.), which didn’t always diplomatically recognise each other as practitioners of the same essential political philosophy. This is also true of different kinds of White nationalists, Christian theocrats, and Islamic totalitarians today(=1).

    Whatever names they prefer, a fascist is a fascist. And if this is what they write in police journals, and given that what I gather amounts to a plurality of police are identified with the (usually religious) far right, then yes: this means that the occupation, the martial law, the final step in a society’s tranformation to true dictatorship, has already begun- with or without the involvement of armed services personnel.

    We are clearly losing the historical lessons of the WWII. Much of the world, of course, never learned: Hitler is often treated as just another historical head of state in India. I have read in several places that in Russia various synthesis of Nazism and Stalinism (promently, National Bolshevism- check out their flag) are becoming disturbingly popular. Ernst Junger, author of Storm and Steel and Fire and Blood, who “hated democracy like the plague”, has been promoted in certain grottoes.

    Fascism is manifesting again in overt form- civilisation has learned to fear the symbols and names, but the philosophical and cultural premises which make fascism possible were not properly destroyed. The ominous parallels are now.

    What is to be done?

    One thing I think we need is a new edition of The Open Society and its Enemies bottled in a form appropriate for the times. But that’s like a ten year project, and the way things are going everyone who will ever find a clue will recognise the US and UK as dictatorships by that time.

    Can anything else be done now? I agree with everything Rad Geek says above, and Lakey’s account of Otpor is really good- and his work is going near the top of the eternal reading list (%#%#$!!) regularly as soon as I get back to NZ and start getting organised. But more ideas is a good thing.

    Should we be be building priest’s holes in attics which don’t show up on thermal imaging devices?

    That wasn’t really a joke.

    (=1) And those who oppose nationalism should be grateful for the irrational Balkanisation inherent in tribalism. We should encourage it. The Enlightenment only got a foothold in Europe because the ultimately indistinguishable spiritual prisons of Catholicism and Protestantism exhausted themselves fighting each other and never effectively deployed their full resources against the good guys. People with Brains are a minority in any society (albeit a potentially very powerful one where they are not atomised and isolated, and freedom of speech and the press functions effectively), and in any society the only people one can count on to defend liberty are the very few that by necessity or conviction defy the social consensus enough to have a personal stake in the open society. The Judeo-Christian ecumenicalism of the earlier XX century was mostly a watered-down Enlightenment detente which (however lame) was in the interests of greater liberalism, but today’s cooperation between Protestant reconstructionists, reactionary Catholics, and Jewish fundamentalists has created a powerful and dangerous coalition consciously opposing reason and freedom.

    Arthur Silber has noticed this; it would be a very good thing for the prospect of a free society if such pan-authoritarian coalitions were broken up, with the exploitation of conflicting tribal and religious identities the obvious place to start.

  5. Kirby

    I’ve read Grossman’s essay (On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs) and I agree with it. He writes that “most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation.” I don’t see anything offensive about this definition of sheep.

    The only problem is the police and military are the right arm of the state and often (most of the time) don’t do any protecting at all. They are wolves.

  6. Anne Minos

    I don’t see anything offensive about this definition of sheep.

    ‘To be a friend you must be capable of being an enemy.’

    ~ Nietzsche

  7. Anna Nymus

    For the record, that’s not me.

  8. Ann Animus

    This isn’t me either.

  9. Dennis Wilson

    I have these remarks regarding the published comments by Sgt. Robert “Bob” O’Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret.:

    What is expected from a professional is different from what is expected from a pervert. Why is the alleged “professional” ACTING like the pervert? And WHY do other “professionals” go to such extremes to rationalize this perverted behavior? If “society” is confused, it is the professional-pervert who has created the confusion! Clean the perverts OUT of the profession if you want to be considered “good guys” again. You are letting your bad apple/perverts ruin YOUR profession and YOUR reputations.

    And why do “professionals” with access to radios and helicopters, insist on participating in dangerous, high speed pursuits?!? Where is the “professionalism” in that?

  10. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-06-02 – The Police Beat:

    […] mentioned a story that POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine ran a couple weeks ago, in which Dean Scoville was outraged by the outrage over an El Monte police kicking a prone Suspect Individual…. (Scoville also openly praises extrajudicial punitive police beat-downs as an institutional […]

  11. Rad Geek

    Kirby,

    Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

    It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

    […] The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

    Dave Grossman, On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

    I don’t think his attitude towards sheep is quite as benign as you seem to think that it is.

    In any case, though, my main concern is that this understanding of the world holds that most people are (1) incapable of defending themselves, and (2) also incapable of deciding for themselves who else should protect them and how, and so (3) must be kept in the fold, even against their will, by self-appointed protectors over whom they have no effective control, putatively for their own good.

    The sheepdogs don’t work for the sheep; they work for those who want to shear them. Their relationship towards the sheep is one of absolute and unaccountable command. And someone who thinks of himself as the sheepdog to a flock is going to end up shoving a lot of people around who never asked for and don’t want his brand of protection.

  12. Roderick T. Long

    The sheepdogs don’t work for the sheep; they work for those who want to shear them

    But turning the sheep over to be sheared is a different craft from shepherding. Or, um, so I hear. :-)

  13. Discussed at realitysbitch.com

    BeatDown CrackUp – Reality’s bitch:

    […] mentioned a story that POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine ran a couple weeks ago, in which Dean Scoville was outraged by the outrage over an El Monte police kicking a prone Suspect Individual…. (Scoville also openly praises extrajudicial punitive police beat-downs as an institutional […]

  14. Don Cordell

    All the more reason to make sure Citizens have the second Amendment rights tocarry guns to protect us from an out of control police for many years. In the 1930’s in Detroit the workers trying to form Unions were beaten by the cops, and Detroit hasn’t changed in 80 years. If we do not have a President that will protect our Rights, we will be subject to more and more abuse. Have you had enough? Don Cordell will protect our citizens and restore our rights to be armed to protect us from abuse. Obama wants you to be cowards, and submit to Terrorism by our own government. Will you?

  15. Roderick T. Long

    Why does Don Cordell talk about himself in the third person?

  16. Roderick T. Long

    Hey Don Cordell, I clicked on your website; do you know that most of the links there don’t work? (That’s not the only possible criticism of the site, but it seems like an important one.)

  17. Discussed at darianworden.com

    DarianWorden.com» Blog Archive » Government at Work:

    […] planning in development and transportation. Rad Geek goes straight to the source to show that cops see themselves as a military force keeping the sheep in line and think violence they use ought to […]

· July 2009 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-07-31 – The Police Beat:

    […] are hanging out on public property. And once again, it is clear that disorderly conduct charges are the sheepdogs’ favorite threat for making that the sheep stay just where they’ve been herded, regardless of […]

— 2010 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2010-01-23 – Siege mentality:

    […] in the magazine’s Patrol Tactics section. (You may recall Sergeant Scoville from his previous ill-tempered tirade in which he openly praised police brutality against captive prisoners.) This most recent tirade, Four More Cops Killed: Where Is The Outrage? launches into this subject […]

  2. Discussed at www.copblock.org

    Domestic Soldiers | copblock:

    […] tactics that they can use in order to like a military force engaged in total war. [Charles Johnson, "How cops see themslves (#2)," Rad Geek People's […]

— 2011 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2011-01-28 – Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d):

    […] bullying and instead are trained to think of themselves as paramilitary strike forces who are occupying hostile territory, and engaged in a war of classic […]

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