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Priority number one

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 13 years ago, in 2009, on the World Wide Web.

Here’s a couple passages from a recent article in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine on big police manhunts. It’s interesting partly because it has something to do with topics that have come up here before (note the tactics mentioned at the end). But also for other reasons. In the original article, the two sections are separated by a good 6 paragraphs; I’ve cut those out here, because it’s more interesting when you look at the statements side-by-side.

Law enforcement exists to keep society safe from criminals, which means apprehending and arresting those who would do harm.

. . .

Normal policing grinds to a near halt as all LE resources from entire regions focus on catching cop killers. This means massive searches of areas and buildings, saturation patrol, vehicle and pedestrian stops, stakeouts, checkpoints, and roadblocks.

— Robert O’Brien, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-03-18): Police Manhunts. Emphasis mine.

I don’t have any complaint about these passages, at a factual level. I think it’s pretty much an accurate summary of how government police operate in that kind of situation. And, granting that it is accurate, what does that tell you about priorities in government policing? Just who and what are government police really working to protect from harm?

Is it you? Me? Society? Or somebody, and something, else?

Sidebar. If you click through to the article, you may note that there is one weak attempt, along the way, to justifying priorities like these with reference to the safety of ordinary people, outside of the government police force: Anyone willing to kill or shoot police won’t hesitate to kill anyone else–especially cops. But then there’s that especially there at the end of the sentence. Not a not just; not a not a besides; an especially. What work is that especially supposed to be doing here? Why isn’t the threat to anyone else enough of a reason? The first half of the claim doesn’t make a lot of sense — cop killers typically kill cops because of the specific threat of arrest that cops pose, and that anyone else doesn’t pose. But even if we granted it, what part of the claim is really doing the work of setting the priorities here? The alleged threat to just folks, or the threat to especially cops? And what does that tell you about government policing?

See also:

4 replies to Priority number one Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Kevin Carson

    Aside from the implications of that “especially,” the whole statement fails miserably as an a fortiori argument. It implies that killing cops is so irrational and such an outrage that anyone doing so is even more likely to kill others. In fact–as you say–killing cops is quite rational from the perspective of someone whose life or property is immediately threatened by a cop, and there’s no special reason to assume they’ll just go out looking for anyone else to kill.

    OTOH, if black marketeers kill non-aggressive competing merchants who threaten their monopoly, it’s quite reasonable to assume that they’ll look upon cops as any other kind of organized crime bosses: i.e., they’ll be just as likely to make an accommodation with them to divide up the market, as to kill them. That’s why we see the levels of corruption that we do, under the infuence of the “Drug War”: cops being paid “protection money” not to interfer, or even to suppress the tributary gangster’s non-protection-paying competition. And the state often finds organized crime useful in carrying out its own activities, e.g. laundering money for “black ops” overseas (like the Contras and other death squads).

    The state is an organized criminal that profits from the control of black markets, and cooperates or competes with other crime lords as its interests dictate.

  2. Gabriel

    Kevin: Sorry to derail the topic, but the last part of your post sounds like an incredibly wild claim. Governments typically perceive mafias and organized crime as threats to their own authority, not potential partners. Do you disagree, and if so why?

    Obviously the extent to which governments cooperate with mafias varies with geography, and there are indeed some governments that have so much corruption they would meet your description. But suppressing a mafia’s competition? Profiting from drugs? I don’t see how that describes the U.S. or most any other Western government.

  3. Discussed at attackthesystem.com

    Attack the System » Blog Archive » Updated News Digest April 12, 2009:

    […] Priority Number One for the PIGS by Rad Geek […]

  4. Gary Chartier

    Hi, Gabriel,

    For what it’s worth, there is some evidence of precisely the behavior you suggest is so unlikely. Begin with the most publicicized, the links between the CIA and drug trafficking highlighted by Gary Webb:


    You might also check these out:




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