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Posts tagged The Agitator

In which I court public opinion

About three weeks ago, a man named Sam Hicks led a gang of heavily-armed men to Robert and Christina Korbe’s house in Indiana Township. They got there at 6:03 in the morning to make sure their target would be groggy and would be less able to think quickly about the situation he was in. They knew of Robert Korbe’s reputation as a cocaine dealer and they were there to force their way into the house, take his stash of drugs, and abduct him so that they could lock him up as long as they needed to. They knocked on the door and told him who they were, and that they were there to take him and his stash of drugs, so he should open the door to avoid a violent showdown. Instead of opening the door to this gang, he bolted and tried to hide or get rid of his stash. So Sam Hicks ordered the gang to break down the door and force entry into the house. When they began to swarm into the house, Robert Korbe’s wife, Christina Korbe — who had been upstairs with her children, and who says she didn’t hear the conversation at the door — came out with a handgun that she kept for protection. Fearing for her own and her children’s safety, she fired at the first intruder charging through the door. Then she ran to call 911 and told them she had shot an intruder.

But, since Sam Hicks’ title within the gang was Special Agent, and since that gang was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and since the home invasion was dignified by the law as a SWAT raid, Christina Korbe was arrested and hauled away on a charge of murder.

Later, on the Internet, Paleoconservative Chris Roach groused — pointedly referring to Radley Balko’s long-standing and influential criticism of paramilitary SWAT raids and no-knock raids — that libertarians (by which he meant Balko) didn’t report on the story within 24 hours of when the story appeared in newspapers, and that since The arrest went down using the knock and announce tactics and non-SWAT gear that libertarians have long asked for, that somehow proves the folly of libertarian complaints about paramilitary SWAT raids. Radley Balko replied that the basic issue is not about the no-knocks. It’s about the home invasions, and that FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks is dead because (knocks or no knocks) the Feds still chose to stage a needless high-stakes, confrontational early-morning storm-trooper raid on a family’s home over an arrest for nonviolent offenses. Balko went so far as to suggest an alternate scenario [for arresting Korbe outside his house] where Agent Hicks unquestionably comes out unharmed.

All well and good, I guess. But here’s my take. FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was a professional thug whose salary was paid by an extortion racket. He made his living invading people’s homes, rousting out harmless men and women and turning them over to a hellhole prison system that locks them in cages for years at a time even if they’ve never done anything to threaten or violate the person or property of another living soul. The morning FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was shot, he was in the process of violently storming his way into a the Korbes’ family home, in order to take Robert Korbe’s private property by force and to abduct Robert Korbe himself, so as to lock him away in a cage for years, even though Robert Korbe was doing nothing that violated, or threatened, the person or property of even a single living soul. If anyone without a badge went around doing that sort of thing to peaceful people, we’d call him a dangerous gangster, and if he got himself shot doing it, nobody much would wring their hands about it. But taking a gangster and giving him a badge and calling what he does The Law doesn’t make him any less of a gangster or what he does any less violent and dangerous. The men and women who march under the banners of the State remain men and women, just like you and me; they are no more exempt from everyday morality than you or I are, and they have no more special right than you or I do to go around threatening, hurting, seizing, or killing innocent people — and by innocent I mean innocent of violating any individual person’s rights. Seeing as Sam Hicks was a professional thug who was shot in the course of violently enforcing a tyrannical law on an innocent man — and endangering that man’s whole family in the process — I’m glad he got himself shot while he was doing it. That was a righteous kill. If only more of his fellow gangsters had reason to fear that they might get shot whenever they attempted these storm-trooper raids on innocent families to enforce unjust laws. And I don’t even care whether FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks could have saved his own skin by enforcing that tyrannical law through other, less confrontational means.

Chris Roach’s original post complains that Even now, libertarians pretend that drug dealers' sordid lives are equal in social value as those of FBI agents, blaming the FBI agents for their raid tactics rather than looking at the long string of criminal, illegal choices that led to the suspect's position on the wrong end of a raid in the first place. If he means to make a statement about all libertarians, he’s wrong about that. I certainly don’t think hat the lives are of equal value. I would never presume to speak for all libertarians, and certainly not for Radley Balko. (Who I suspect disagrees entirely with me, and who would never think of saying any of the things I’ve said here.) But, speaking only for myself, as a libertarian, I think that drug dealers’ lives are worth far more than the lives of FBI agents, because at least some drug dealers make their living nonviolently, by peddling a valued product to willing customers. Whereas FBI agents, and especially FBI agents on drug task forces, make their livings by imprisoning people who have done nothing to deserve it, in the name of protecting people who never asked for it and often don’t want that kind of protection, and taking home a salary that was extracted from their protected victims at the point of a gun.

Chris Roach rejoins that It seems elementary, but highly controversial among libertarians, that so long as a law exists, it should be enforced. I don’t doubt that this seems elementary to Chris Roach; it seemed elementary to lots of people at the time that as long as the Jim Crow laws were on the books, the police ought to have enforced them, and it seemed elementary to a lot of people at the time that as long as the Fugitive Slave law existed, the slave-catchers and the federal courts should have enforced those, and it seemed elementary at the time that as long as the Nuremberg laws existed, the Gestapo should have enforced those, too. But in fact if there are any moral restraints at all, even in principle, on what governments can do to people, then there must be some moral restraints on what laws government law enforcers can rightfully enforce, and there must be at least some laws which are so unjust that no-one can be bound in conscience to enforce them — indeed, there must be at least some laws which are so unjust that everyone is bound in conscience not to enforce them, no matter who may order them to do so.

Of course, Chris Roach is free to argue that (of course, of course) he didn’t mean those kind of laws when he said that; he just meant the normal kind. And thus that there’s some important difference between Jim Crow or the Fugitive Slave Act or the Nuremberg laws, on the one hand, and U.S. federal drug prohibition, on the other. That difference may be that, in his view, drug prohibition doesn’t really violate innocent people’s rights, and that he believes in locking people in prison for years, merely for doing things he considers anti-social, whether or not they pose any threat whatsoever to anyone else’s person or property. If so, fine, let him argue that; but then his real disagreement with libertarians is over the justice of drug prohibition, and it’s disingenuous to pretend that it’s really about how we gotta enforce the laws we got. Or the difference may be that, in his view, drug prohibition does violate innocent people’s rights, but somehow doesn’t violate them badly enough that people have a moral duty not to enforce it. But then it’s up to him to explain what his standards are for making the distinction. How many years of your life would you agree to have stolen from you in a hellhole federal prison for something that really shouldn’t be a crime at all? Just how much injustice is it O.K. for someone to violently inflict so long as they’re Just Following Orders? In either case, Roach owes us an explanation and an argument that he certainly hasn’t yet given.

Unless it can be given, I see no reason to conclude anything other than that Christina Korbe is innocent of wrongdoing. Whether or not she knew ahead of time that she was shooting at an FBI agent serving an arrest warrant. FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks had no moral right to be there at all or to arrest Robert Korbe for anything, and he fully deserved to be treated like any other gangster breaking into your family’s home, for the purposes of armed robbery and abduction, would deserve to be treated. So, I repeat: I’m glad he got himself shot doing it. I don’t take any pleasure from Hicks’s suffering, and especially not from his family’s loss; it’s sad when anyone dies. But I do think that gangsters should have to fear the consequences of their reckless violence, and right now I’m a lot more concerned about the fate of the Christina Korbe, the innocent woman who now has to fear that she will end up locked in a cage for the rest of her life, for having dared to carry out an admirable and courageous act of self-defense against a gang of armed thugs invading her home and threatening to use extreme violence in the attempt to enforce a tyrannical law.


I am sure that Chris Roach will take this as proof beyond anything he could hope for that The moral compass of libertarians is more than a little off course, and that is why they remain a fringe movement in America's public life. The first claim is nonsense — it is libertarians who insist that men and women claiming to act with the authority of the State should be held to the same moral standards that everyone else is, and statists who insist that they be given free passes for violence against innocent people.

But I’m sure the second claim is probably true. Government depends on popular enthusiasm, or at least popular tolerance, for whatever violence it may inflict against the people it has marginalized as criminals. Armed professionals who represent the State are widely celebrated as heroes for their violent efforts to uphold the status quo, and questioning their right to inflict that violence, or holding them accountable for the injustices they participate in, is, as a general thing, no way to make yourself popular. There are some things you just can’t say in circles that accept mainstream views of the limits of acceptable dissent. Certainly that sort of thing does not square with the agendas of any of the political parties, or with the etiquette of polite society in the talking-heads political media. So there are lots of people who just cannot say this sort of thing, and lots of people who think that, if a certain handful of media figures can’t say something, that makes it obviously wrong. But that does not make it wrong, and I’ll speak up for it even if nobody else well. FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks was the criminal, not the Korbes. Christina Korbe didn’t do a damn thing wrong and she ought to be a free woman.

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#4)

(Via Radley Balko 2008-06-23.)

These are scenes from a SWAT team training exercise in Floyd County, Georgia, in which a squad of heavily armed paramilitaries practice storming, sweeping, and occupying a house, while dressed in military-style fatigues and heavily armed with assault rifles, body armor, gas grenades, etc. The training exercise is part of a recruitment video that the Floyd County Public Safety department is preparing, in order to show potential [job] applicants what Floyd County Public Safety is all about, apparently because Floyd County cops want to hire on even more of the kind of people who would be attracted to the prospect of doing things like this all day, and who believe that this sort of thing is what policing is all about:

Do you feel safer now?

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Neighborhood Safety Ghettoes in D.C.

So, there’s this poster that’s been circulating around anarchist, civil libertarian, and lefty blogs for a few months now. It’s become popular because it’s funny (in a nerdy way), and also because it makes an important point:

It has a photo of a column of people dressed as Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars is marching down a city street. Caption: Fascism: You really think it'll be this obvious?

But, well, the awful truth is that, as with so many other things in American politics, the answer to that rhetorical question can’t really be taken for granted, because it really depends on what kind of neighborhood you live in. The poster makes an important point addressed to, and about the daily lives of, people of a particular socioeconomic class (specifically, the people who most often spend their time reading blogs). For many if not most people in other social classes, the answer really is just, You bet it will. Or, It already is. Has been for decades. Where you been?

For example, consider the cops plans for improving neighborhood safety in the D.C. Ghetto. No, I’m not using that last word as a careless synonym for slum. I am using it in the most literal sense.

D.C. police will seal off entire neighborhoods, set up checkpoints and kick out strangers under a new program that D.C. officials hope will help them rescue the city from its out-of-control violence.

Under an executive order expected to be announced today, police Chief Cathy L. Lanier will have the authority to designate Neighborhood Safety Zones. At least six officers will man cordons around those zones and demand identification from people coming in and out of them. Anyone who doesn't live there, work there or have legitimate reason to be there will be sent away or face arrest, documents obtained by The Examiner show.

— Michael Neibauer and Bill Myers, The Examiner (2008-06-04): Lanier plans to seal off rough 'hoods in latest effort to stop wave of violence

Guess who decides what counts as a legitimate reason for being in the neighborhood — the people who live and work in that neighborhood, or the government’s goon squad?

Lanier has been struggling to reverse D.C.'s spiraling crime rate but has been forced by public outcry to scale back several initiatives including her All Hands on Deck weekends and plans for warrantless, door-to-door searches for drugs and guns.

Under today's proposal, the no-go zones will last up to 10 days, according to internal police documents. Front-line officers are already being signed up for training on running the blue curtains.

Peter Nickles, the city's interim attorney general, said the quarantine would have a narrow focus.

This is a very targeted program that has been used in other cities, Nickles told The Examiner. I'm not worried about the constitutionality of it.

— Michael Neibauer and Bill Myers, The Examiner (2008-06-04): Lanier plans to seal off rough 'hoods in latest effort to stop wave of violence

Just so we’re clear, neither am I. I couldn’t possibly care less whether surrounding poor neighborhoods with cops, giving everyone the Ihre Papiere, bitte treatment, and chopping a community up into police-occupied strategic hamlets for the purpose of a government quarantine without any probable cause whatsoever for believing that any of the individual people you will be surrounding, stopping, hassling, and threatening with jail have ever committed any crime against any identifiable victim, is or is not countenanced by the United States Constitution. Who cares? The basic problem with terrorizing and brutalizing entire neighborhoods is that it is evil and incredibly dangerous, whether or not the Constitution allows for it.

Others are. Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the D.C. police union and a former lawyer, called the checkpoint proposal breathtaking.

Shelley Broderick, president of the D.C.-area American Civil Liberties Union and the dean of the University of the District of Columbia's law school, said the plan was cockamamie.

I think they tried this in Russia and it failed, she said. It's just our experience in this city that we always end up targeting poor people and people of color, and we treat the kids coming home from choir practice the same as we treat those kids who are selling drugs.

The proposal has the provisional support of D.C. Councilman Harry Tommy Thomas, D-Ward 5, whose ward has become a war zone.

They're really going to crack down on what we believe to be a systemic problem with open-air drug markets, Thomas told The Examiner.

Thomas said, though, that he worried about D.C. moving towards a police state.

— Michael Neibauer and Bill Myers, The Examiner (2008-06-04): Lanier plans to seal off rough 'hoods in latest effort to stop wave of violence

But what the hell did D.C. Councilman Harry Tommy Thomas expect, anyway? You can’t go around pushing your paramilitary crack downs with rhetoric about war zones and then act all surprised when you get a police state. If you plan for an occupation, you can expect that you are going to get lock-downs and de facto martial law.

Radley Balko writes:

Last week, I received the following email:

I live in Eckington, a transitional neighborhood in northeast DC. I got a knock on the door this morning from a guy with ACORN (looks like a lefty community group that I'd never heard of) saying that DC police would be coming around shortly asking to search homes in the neighborhood for guns, and explaining we had the constitutional right to refuse, etc. He added that anything the police find they can use against you because you never know what a friend of a friend might have left in your house Not sure if he told me this because I had just gotten out of bed and had answered the door in my bathrobe looking disoriented, but I digress. He was handing out a packet of info from the ACLU including a nifty doorhanger you can put out that says NO CONSENT TO SEARCH OUR HOME. One of my neighbors told me the guy told them they were only doing this in poor black neighborhoods, and this notice from the ACLU that I found online seems to bear this out.

I know it's not exactly a wrong-door no-knock raid, but I am concerned because while I certainly don't want the police (or any other strangers) rummaging through my junk, I'm kind of afraid of what would happen if I refuse the search. I already live on one of those streets with the surveillance cams installed. Does my address get marked for being uncooperative or suspicious? I should mention of course that I don't own any guns and have never touched anything more powerful than a bb gun.

You are free to refuse the searches. But if a regular reader of this site feels uncomfortable asserting that right, you can imagine how other people subject to these searches might feel.

— Radley Balko, The Agitator (2008-06-04): Police State D.C.

Please also keep in mind that this is the same metro police force which will toting around AR-15 assault rifles as they surround and cordon off and do door-to-door searches and raids in these inner-city neighborhoods.

Do you feel safer now?

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter…. (#2)

From the Arkansas Tactical Officers Association and the North Little Rock Police Department:

The ATOA would like to announce:

Warrior Mindset is a class being offered by the North Little Rock Police Department. Taught by Dr. Jason Winkle, It is an opportunity to train with one of the most sought after tactical trainers in the country. Class includes topics (but is not limited to topics) on fear management, decision making, emotional survival, physical fitness as they pertain to law enforcement officers.
Class is designed for all officers from patrol to investigations to SWAT. This class is limited to law enforcement and military only. Proper credentials are required. It will be a state certified course and officers will receive 8 hours of credit for the course. The class will be held at the North Little Rock Police/Fire Training Facility 2400 Willow St. NLR, AR 72114. Class will run from 0800-1600 and will be offered on three different dates: May 9th, August 8th, and October 24th, 2008. Contact Officer Steve Chamness at steven.chamness@nlrpolice.org or 771-7190 for details and registration. Slots for this class are limited.

Checks should be made payable to Dr. Jason Winkle ($150.00 per officer) and sent to the North Little Rock Police Department C/O Officer Steve Chamness
2400 Willow St.
NLR, AR 72114

JASON WINKLE, Ph.D. is President of the International Tactical Officers Training Association and the senior, contributing editor to SWAT Digest. ** Jason is currently a Professor at Indiana State University. **He was the former Director of Combatives for the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Dr. Winkle has over twelve years experience working with and training members of the joint special operations community, **SWAT teams, and corrections special operation groups. ** Jason has over two decades of martial arts experience and holds black belt instructor rank in seven martial arts systems. His combat-readiness regimens have revolutionized the training approach utilized by numerous SWAT teams and military special operators. Dr. Winkle is recognized as a top international consultant in school, military, and law enforcement communities.
He has been published in the areas of tactical operations, combat readiness, warrior mindset, combat martial arts, fitness, and leadership.

The class is being offered for a discounted rate with assistance from the Arkansas Tactical Officer's Association.

— SWAT News & Events

Here’s more of Winkle’s workshop schedule, courtesy of his Martial Concepts [sic] website:

Dr. Winkle will be a keynote speaker as well as the MC for the XTREME CERT Special Operations Conference and Expo in Virginia from May 8-10. Dr. Winkle will be speaking on the Warrior Mindset for Corrections Officers as well as introducing his classified corrections CQB system to the US C-SOG operators.

May 15: Dr. Winkle will be presenting his Warrior Mindset workshop to the Indiana State University Police Department.

June 5: Dr. Winkle will be presenting Active Shooter Doctrine at the ITOTA’s conference on Active Shooter Doctrine In Academic Environments. The conference will be held from 0900-1500 at Indiana State University. Cost for the conference is $50. For more information contact Jason at jwinkle@itota.net.

Here’s what he was doing last fall:

Ending the week in Florida are two 4 hour classes taught by the President of the International Tactical Officers Training Association, Doctor Jason Winkle. Doc served as the Director of Combatives at West Point Academy and is currently an assistant professor at Indiana State. He is a contributing editor for SWAT Digest and published many times over in for his work in tactical operations, martial arts, fitness, and leadership. Doc will hold his Active Shooter class in the AM and finish the day with Warrior Mindset in High Risk Law Enforcement. Active Shooter is designed to prepare participants for the reality of violent encounters and their resolutions in high stress environments. Warrior Mindset deals in practical preparation and operation for, as well as, recovering from traumatic tactical engagement.

Here’s some of what he covers:


Louis Rapoli, a police sergeant in the School Safety Division of the New York Police Department, debriefed workshop attendees on the shooting at Virginia Tech, and explained each step that was taken by law enforcement and administrators.

A picture of Jack Bauer from the TV show 24 appeared on the screen behind him, and Rapoli said to the attendees, When an incident like this happens, there will be no Jack Bauer to come and save your school. You're the people who are either going to prevent this from happening or be first on the scene when it does happen. You need to be prepared. If not me, then who — that's what you need to be thinking about to get your schools ready for a terrorist attack.

Winkle calls this the Warrior Mindset.

These are situations of extreme stress, extreme fear, and extreme violence, and that shuts down most people. We need to be prepared, Winkle said.

The defining characteristic of a warrior — whether you're a police officer or a business owner — is your willingness to move toward danger, he said.

People are trying to run out of building, and you, as a school administrator, need to get on the PA system and call out codes for lockdown. You have to be a warrior at that moment, he said.

The role of law enforcement is to move toward something that everyone else is running away from, he said.

Charles Butler, Vincennes district officer and firearms instructor for the Indiana State Excise Police [! –R.G.], attended the workshop because excise officers might be called in by state police to assist in active shooter situations, he said.

**It was good to hear the warrior mindset emphasized, Butler said, and they gave good examples of training that law enforcement needs to have. An officer can never get enough training. It is the best tool a police officer can have.

Winkle recommended the following guidelines for law enforcement to be successful in active shooter situations:

  • Develop physical fitness and toughness through challenging, contact-driven training.
  • Become familiar (and comfortable) with the physiological changes that accompany high-stress and high-fear situations.
  • Become familiar with the nature of violence and be willing to use it when appropriate.
  • Engage in training that is as close as possible to the actual situation, involving fear and stress.
  • Internalize a code of conduct.
  • Know the nature of the enemy [sic] and active shooter doctrine.

Here’s Radley Balko on the Arkansas tactical officers’ class (read the whole thing):

I'm afraid this intermingling of domestic police and military is well beyond the point of no return.

Do you feel safer now?

See also:

Well thank God #7: Sagging and the new sumptuary laws

A couple years ago, the Virginia state legislature took bold action against a grave and gathering threat to democracy, freedom, and our way of life:

The House of Delegates voted 60 to 34 Tuesday to impose a $50 fine on anyone found wearing pants low enough that a substantial portion of undergarments is showing. Note the vote: It wasn’t even close.

About those pants: Lots of kids these days are conducting a large-scale experiment to see if trousers can defy gravity. This results in the widespread public exposure of underpants.

This greatly offends Del. Algie Howell Jr., a Democrat from Norfolk and author of the no-low-pants bill, which still faces a vote in the generally more skeptical Senate. People that live in my neighborhood don’t want to have to see undergarments, Howell told me. It’s not about individual rights; it’s about values. I own a group home; we take in kids who’ve been in trouble. Most of the men who come in in shackles and handcuffs are trying to hold up their pants. The way you dress does have something to do with how you behave.

Since the state has an interest in fighting unemployment and crime, Howell figures the state is right to ban a practice that he says makes young people less attractive as employees and more likely to turn to crime.

— Marc Fisher, Washington Post (2005-02-10): Droopy Drawers Drive Va. House To Distraction

Now here’s the latest from Delcambre, Louisiana:

The Delcambre Board of Aldermen outlawed indecent exposure in the form of sagging pants Monday, but not before several residents voiced their objections.

The board voted unanimously to make it illegal for anyone to wear clothing that exposes them or reveals their underwear in public.

The ordinance states, It shall be unlawful for any person in any public place or in view of the public to be found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity, or in dress not becoming to his or her sex, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments, or be guilty of any indecent or lewd behavior.

It is punishable by up to a $500 fine or up to six months in jail, or both.

Delcambre Police Chief James Broussard said violators can be arrested if officers spot them while on patrol, or if another resident files a complaint.

— Jeff Moore, The Daily Iberian (2007-06-12): Sagging bagged by town

Radley Balko informs us that there is a movement afoot amongst the Real Americans, in both Red states and Blue:

Moreover, civic organizers in Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., are planning antisagging rallies, says Pastor Dianne Robinson of Jacksonville, Fla., who last week handed out 78 donated belts at a belt rally. This sagging of the pants is to me a defiant act, and it has all kinds of implications, says Ms. Robinson, who is black. If you can’t get up in the morning and pull your pants up, that says a lot about you, even if I don’t know anything about you.

–quoted by Radley Balko, The Agitator (2007-07-20): Droopy Drawers Banners See Cracks in Opposition

Now that we already have a professional cadre of bureaucrats running behind us all, yelling You’ll put an eye out with that! and Don’t drink that, it’ll stunt your growth!, how could our statesmen and civic organizers possibly refuse their duty to set the Law running around after people wearing dress not becoming to his or her sex [sic!] and black kids committing defiant acts, screaming You’re not going out like that, are you?! and Don’t you take that attitude with me, young man!

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