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The violence inherent in the system - Office of Naval Contemplation

Nov. 21st, 2011

01:02 pm - The violence inherent in the system

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From:maniakes
Date:November 21st, 2011 11:52 pm (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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Without knowing the full details of the incident, I'm inclined to agree that the cops at UC Davis should have tried to arrest the perpetrators first, and only used pepper spray if the perpetrators were resisting arrest and the choice was between pepper spraying and hitting people with billy clubs. Indeed, that's one of the incidents I was thinking of when I wrote "I've seen video and heard firsthand account of several incidents where I strongly suspect the police used far too much force, far too soon."

I disagree with your claim that an arrest isn't use of force. If I, as a private citizen acting without justification, were to slap a pair of handcuffs on you and shove you into the back of my car and drive you somewhere, I'd be guilty of assault at the very least. I do agree, though, that arresting alleged lawbreakers for trial should be the by-far preferred form for use of force by the police, for precisely the reasons you mention.
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From:rustycoon
Date:November 21st, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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Ah, I did not mean to suggest that arrest isn't use of force.

I meant to state that use of force absent intent to apprehend is not a legitimate police power except in circumstances where there is an immediate threat of harm to the officer or bystanders that originates with the perp.

Use of force to make an arrest is the proper course of the use of police power - but again, they must first ask the protester if they will go sit in the car quietly (most would, btw), or if cuffs will be needed, etc, etc.

Here in Boston, there have been arrests, generally only of protesters that have been making asses out of themselves, but there have been some. There was also some non-arrest force (though nothing like we're seeing in Oakland, Davis, New York, or Seattle), which I have a problem with.
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From:maniakes
Date:November 22nd, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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I'm not sure it's fair to say that it was punishment absent intent to apprehend. There were 52 arrests made at the UC Davis incident. My understanding is that the reason for the pepper spray was because the students in question were refusing to submit to arrest and were linking arms to make it harder for the cops to grab and cuff them. If this was indeed the case, the cops can still be reasonably criticized for escalating force too rapidly to break up the resistance to arrest: the resisting-arrest was passive, there were enough police on hand relative to the number of protesters that it's very unlikely that the police had a reasonable fear of being swarmed by the protesters if the crowd suddenly turned violent, and (as far as I know) there were no threats of violence made against the police, so the cops could and probably should have at least tried to wrestle the students apart and into handcuffs before escalating further to pepper spray.

I've only looked at one of the Oakland tear-gassing incidents in detail. In that particular incident, a large crowd pushed past a small group of riot cops. When the cops tried to grab and cuff one of the people pushing past them, the crowd reacted by surrounding the police and shouting abuse at them, and a few members of the crowd threw things at the police (not clear from the video what was thrown). At one point, the police tried to push their way through the crowd and leave, but they were pushed back by members of the crowd. A few minutes later, more police arrived and fired tear gas into the crowd. To me, the use of tear gas looks less like summary punishment and more like a defensive response to an imminent threat of violence. Video here.
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From:maniakes
Date:November 22nd, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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Whoops, wrong link to the Davis piece. I looked at the month and day, but not the year; that's a completely unrelated protest from 2009.

Correct article:
http://www.sacbee.com/2011/11/18/4065739/uc-davis-police-arrest-10-in-occupy.html

The actual number of arrests in last Friday's protest at Oakland was 10, not 52.
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From:rustycoon
Date:November 22nd, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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Yeah, I'll confess: When I heard about Oakland I rolled my eyes and asked "Okay, and what did the protesters do?"

I'll grant that not all police departments, and not all officers, and not even all events to a given officer are incorrect uses of force.

But, for example, setting off flash bang grenades next to a guy whose skull you just caved in with a tear gas canister so as to prevent him from receiving medical care isn't cool.

The majority of stories hitting the news, however, are not of police acting gradually to make an arrest, they are of rapid escalation to the infliction of harm (and risk of death, remember you take your victim as you find him) upon legally innocent individuals. It is, therefore, incumbent upon you to be very specific as to what you mean by 'force' here. :)
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From:maniakes
Date:November 22nd, 2011 02:21 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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It is, therefore, incumbent upon you to be very specific as to what you mean by 'force' here. :)

That's the principle I was trying to illustrate with the speeding hypothetical.

But if you want specific, sure. Specifically, if protesters are violating park use rules, blocking traffic, or otherwise making an unlawful nuisance of themselves, I consider reasonable use of force by the police to run along the following lines:

1. Inform the protesters what they're doing wrong and ask them to stop.

2. If they don't stop, caution them that they'll be arrested if they don't stop.

3. If they still don't stop, approach individual protesters and warn them clearly, unambiguously, and personally they'll be arrested if they don't leave.

4. If the warning is refused or ignored, inform them that they're under arrest and ask them to come along quietly.

5. If they refuse to come along quietly, use just enough force to restrain and arrest them without putting the arresting officer in unreasonable danger. Usually, this will mean wrestling them out of the crowd and to the ground and cuffing them, but if they actively fight back rather than just passively resisting, it can be reasonable for the police to use more violent tools within their force continuum to overcome resistance and make the arrest.

6. In the case of large-scale organized violence (directed at the police or at bystanders -- a true riot), even more aggressive tools can be reasonable and necessary to protect life and property. The focus should be not on punishment and retaliation, but on interrupting an imminent threat of injury and destruction of property. Wherever possible, police should make every effort to identify individuals who are actively committing acts of violence and arrest and charge them.

7. Anyone who is arrested in steps 4-6 should be taken to an appropriate location (probably the local police station), identified, charged with an appropriate infraction (blocking an intersection, failure to move along, etc) or misdemeanor (disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, etc), given information on where and how to show up and contest the charges (including contact info for the public defender's office, when applicable), and either released on their own recognizance or allowed to make bail according to usual procedures for the charge being made.

The precise judgment of when to deploy which weapons within the force continuum in steps 5-6 is something I'm fairly fuzzy on: I know a moderate amount about police tactics and the tools within the force continuum, but not enough to proscribe with confidence an exact set of guidelines for which weapons and tactics to use under what conditions.
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From:rustycoon
Date:November 22nd, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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you and I are close enough, here, that I don't feel a need to yell at you for being Wrong on The Internet(tm). ;)

I'm pretty generous with leeway when it comes to #5 and #6. But I have yet to see numbers 1-4 being consistently used in the areas where there has been so much youtube footage coming out of.
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From:maniakes
Date:November 22nd, 2011 03:06 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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I've seen a number of videos of the earlier stages of the list in a variety of incidents. In most of these videos, only steps 1-2 or 1-3 occur. In the videos I've seen of steps 5-6 occurring, they almost always start in media res, without context of what happened before. In any given incident, given the information I have available to me, it's plausible that steps 1-4 happened off-camera and only the "good bits" were recorded and uploaded, but it's also plausible that the police unreasonably skipped significant portions of steps 1-4.

If the former is the case, it's an argument for the police to set up their own cameras and make their own record of the entire event in context (they way most police departments now do for traffic stops with their dashboard cameras). If the latter is the case, it's a sign of something seriously wrong with either the way the police procedures are written or they way some individual officers are carrying them out (or failing to carry them out).
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From:rustycoon
Date:November 22nd, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)

Re: The missing piece:

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It's also just a fact (and this is why I choose to blame departments, rather than officers) that riot/crowd management training in this country is for shit.
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