Monday, November 26, 2007

Let's ... Be Careful Out There (Very Important Update, 11/28)

Vancouver, B.C. October 14:
Canadian police swarm 40-year-old Polish expatriate Robert Dziekanski and electrocute him to death with Taser International's renowned "non-lethal" implement of torture.

(For the November 28 update, see the bottom of this essay.)

The kind folks at Taser International, makers of the eponymous portable torture device that is rapidly becoming notorious for its overuse by police, maintain a charitable foundation for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty.

On November 19, the makers of the reliably lethal “non-lethal” stun gun donated $500,000 to the Taser Foundation for Fallen Officers. This is sofa-cushion change for a company that saw its profits double during the third quarter of this year, surging to $28.5 million on the strength of a bull market, both domestically and internationally, for implements of State coercion.

Coercion through individualized torture is Taser's business, and that business is booming.

We lose an average of 145 officers per year and the Taser Foundation provides immediate financial support to these families during terrible times of crisis,” explains Gerry Hills, the Foundation's executive director.

(Continues after the jump)

From Sci-Fi to Street Reality: In the Nazi-like "Mirror Universe" of Star Trek, personnel carried a Taser-like device called an "Agonizer," which was used to administer instant punishment to inept or insubordinate personnel. Go here (at about 1:13) to see the sci-fi device used against a fictional character. Go here and here to see the real thing used needlessly against living human beings.

See the video below for an account of the death of an elderly, wheelchair-bound, schizophrenic woman through Taser torture at the hands of police:

Providing for bereaved families of fallen police is a worthy undertaking. But if Taser executives were acting out of genuine altruism, rather than cynical corporatist calculations, they would create a similar fund to aid victims of illicit police violence and their traumatized families.

There's little doubt that police work can be a dangerous occupation, and that it is often a thankless one for those attracted to it by an honorable desire to protect the innocent. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, individuals of that sort are not over-represented in today's “law enforcement” community.

And as I've pointed out before, the role of police officers today – whatever it had previously been – is not to protect the public, but to enforce the will of the State: Police officers are not legally or civilly liable to provide protection to individual citizens, but they are required to enforce the State's mandates, however asinine or corrupt they may be. This is why, in my view, episodes of genuine police heroism in defense of the innocent are worthy of celebration – well as careful examination with an eye for the counter-intuitive finding.

Consider the paradigmatic case of police heroism, that of the officers who raced into the stricken World Trade Center towers on 9-11. Like most people, I cannot imagine dashing into a building I know faces imminent collapse in order to rescue strangers. The heroism of the 23 NYPD officers who died at Ground Zero is genuine, and isn't diminished one whit by the fact that they were “just doing their jobs.” The same can be said of the firefighters and rescue workers who likewise perished while trying to save the lives of others.

Admirable and inspiring as it is, this example of authentic police heroism in the face of lethal violence is entirely unsuited as a symbol of routine police work. Most police officers – “most” in this case being a term that leaves the smallest quantum imaginable as a remainder – will serve out their careers without being exposed to anything resembling the mortal danger faced by the brave NYPD officers who died on 9-11.

That's because police work simply isn't that dangerous.

As Forbes magazine noted in late 2002, the atrocity at Ground Zero dramatically skewed data on workplace fatality rates collected each year by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics through its “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.” In “a normal year, like 2000,” explained Forbes, “the most dangerous jobs do not involve firefighting or police work; they involve cutting timber and fishing.”

In an essay drawing on the most recent BLS findings, David R. Butcher of Industrial Market Trends compiled the following roster of the ten most dangerous U.S. occupations:

*Fishers and Fishing Industry Workers, whose fatality rate was 142 deaths per 100,000 workers;

*Pilots and Flight Engineers, particularly crop dusters, test pilots, and chopper drivers (88/100,000);

*Loggers (82/100,000);

*Iron and Steel Workers (61/100,ooo);

*Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors (42/100,000);

*Farmers and Ranchers (38/100,000);

*Electrical Power Line Workers – Installers and Repairers (35/100,000)

*Roofers (34/100,000);

*Drivers – truckers or sales personnel (27/100,000);

*Agricultural Workers (22/100,000);

One arresting aspect of this list is the fact that not a single one of the most dangerous occupations is a “public” sector job. Some of them (such as garbage collectors and test pilots) might work for government, either directly or via a contractor, but there isn't a single job on that list that “must” be done by government. The fatality rate for all government occupations, incidentally, is 2.5 per 100,000.

Which means that in our society, as in every other, it is the private producers, rather than the parasitical tax-feeders, who face the greatest dangers on a daily basis.

If you work as a logger, farmer, field worker, truck driver, or in an occupation that requires a long daily commute, your job is statistically more dangerous than law enforcement.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were more than 1.1 million full-time police personnel on duty as of 2004. Rounding that figure down to 1 million, and accepting Taser International's officer fatality figure of an average of 145 per year, would produce an average workplace fatality rate of about 14.5 per 100,000 employees for the police – well below the lethal attrition rate the BLS found for Agricultural Workers. While this comparison isn't an exact match (the BLS figure encompasses all work-related deaths, not just those resulting from violent crime), it's close enough to validate my point.

A new book entitled Some Gave All: A History of Baltimore Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, estimates that between 1792 and 2007, 17,900 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were killed. That works out to an average of a little more than 83 a year over 215 years. And it stands to reason that the annual death toll – assuming the figure is accurate -- must have risen dramatically at some point in order to pull that average up (for one thing, there were no federal law enforcement officers prior to the early 20th Century).

This would suggest that, statistically, law enforcement has never been a particularly dangerous occupation, even during the frontier period. Make that “particularly” during the frontier period, when miners, railroad workers, homesteaders, and others probably faced sudden and often violent death much more often than law officers did.

(And don't even get me started on the subject of the mortality rate for dispossessed Indians taken into the care of the federal government.)

By way of contrast, there is reason to believe that the danger of violent encounters between common citizens and police has grown appreciably in recent years.

A study publicized by Wired about a year ago suggested that an American's odds of being killed by terrorists were slightly lower than his odds of being shot by a law enforcement officer. That comparison isn't entirely sound, since even now the overwhelming majority of those killed by police are people suspected of committing crimes against persons or property, rather than commonplace citizens innocently trapped in bad circumstances.

For me, this is a key question: Is the number of unambiguously innocent citizens killed by the police greater than the number of police killed in the line of duty?

A very incomplete map of paramilitary police raids involving deaths or injuries (click to enlarge).

According to Joseph D. McNamara, a former police chief in Kansas City, Missouri and San Jose, California, police work is actually less dangerous today that it was in the late 1960s and 1970s. Writing in the Wall Street Journal about a year ago, McNamara observed that 51 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2006 “out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops [meaning sworn personnel with arrest powers]. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts.”

If this is the case, why is police violence continuing to escalate?

Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed,” McNamara explains. “An emphasis on `officer safety' and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to shoot or be stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.”

Arguably the single biggest source of unnecessary police violence is the “War on Drugs,” which has also nurtured police corruption and begotten countless abuses of the Bill of Rights. That “war” is actually a perverse symbiosis between the criminal underworld – which has a federally enforced monopoly on marketing substances once entirely legal in this country – and the law enforcement agencies that suck up huge federal subsidies in the name of “fighting” those same drug traffickers.

This cynical charade has abetted the militarization of law enforcement and the proliferation of no-knock raids, which result in needless death and life-threatening injury to both police and innocent civilians.

A typical monument memorializing police who died in the line of duty. Where are the monuments to innocent civilians who died needlessly from police violence?

These are some of the reasons why Chief McNamara, like many other current and former police officers of integrity and principle, joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which is agitating for an end to the War on Drugs, which is the single largest preventable cause of law enforcement violence against the innocent.

There are reasons – both constitutional and ethical – to believe that the law enforcement apparatus as it presently exists is fundamentally misbegotten.

Pending that welcome day when the public can force the political class to revise or abolish the institutional impediments to genuine individual liberty, the most useful reforms would be to end the Drug War, and to begin the comprehensive de-federalization of law enforcement at all levels.

This won't happen, of course, until the public at large liberates itself from many State-imposed delusions, among them the idea that police work is somehow a sacred and uniquely dangerous occupation.

Update, November 28

Thanks to a comment from an alert and well-informed reader, I am now aware of Chief McNamara's long and impassioned commitment to the cause of civilian disarmament. How one can be so clear-headed in opposing drug prohibition, yet so misguided on the even more fundamental question of the right of individuals to armed self-defense, is a question I'm not competent to answer.

This is particularly perplexing in light of the fact that McNamara clearly understands the growing danger posed by militarizing the police -- yet he doesn't understand how this process is related to the question of civilian disarmament. He clearly wants to de-militarize the police, but enforcing "gun control" laws leads to exactly the opposite result: If the State is going to compel this citizenry to surrender its firearms, it will ultimately have to resort to military or para-military means, by either militarizing the police or deploying the National Guard or other military assets domestically.

Vide what took place in post-Katrina New Orleans as a perfect example:

All hail our heroic local police at work!

Men of integrity and principle can be earnestly mistaken about some important matters; I think this best describes McNamara's present situation. It is to be hoped that he will change his views on this supremely important question. Pending that welcome development, his insights regarding the dangers of police militarization are all the more valuable, coming as they do from someone who cannot be accused of harboring "anti-government" sentiments.

A Brief Personal Note:

I have just learned that my former colleague Gary Benoit, editor of The New American magazine, is seriously ill. For many years before this happened, Gary was a good and generous friend. Those of you who pray, please take a moment to offer a petition to God on behalf of Gary and his very large and delightful family.

Dum spiro, pugno!


Jerri Lynn Ward said...

I think that it is notable that Taser International is becoming so aggressive against all this bad publicity that they are suing medical examiners to force them to change reports that list tasering as a factor in people's deaths.

Anonymous said...

I thankyou for mentioning the taser murder by the RCMP (kanada's national thug squad) at the Vancouver International aiport. Video is on youtube. The visitor who spoke no english was in a secure area when the thugs arrived and 25 seconds later he was killed. It happened at 1:30 am. Airport is basically empty. It is interesting to read the misinformation the thugs have been disemenating in our local media. It was about 25 min. before medical help arrived, called by the killers. The person who shot the video tape had to threaten to sue before the tape was released back to him for public viewing. The murders would have kept it from the public if not for the tapers brave actions. The taser is, also being used indiscriminately up here in kanada. How sad.

Anonymous said...

After re-reading the account of your "dismissal" I will offer up imprecatory prayer for Mr. Benoit. David, as a man after God's own heart, would approve. Agape love was my recent study, I LIKE it!

Braveheart said...

I hope the cowardly Benoit recovers and is able to find work suitable for him outside of the liberty movement. Although I have total disrespect for him as a man I am sure he is a loving father. I will pray that he comes to a knowledge of the Lord before it is eternaly to late for him.

As far as the use of the taser is concerned it should be used only when life threatening force is justified both morally and legally. Police officers have the same right to self defense as all other citizens. In my view all people are endowed by our creator with the right to protect ourselves and our property. If that means we must use a taser or a shotgun so be it.

In fact all citizens should be well armed to protect thensleves both from the everyday street thugs and the even more dangerous political powers working to destroy our liberty.

We are fast approaching the time that armed agents of the Federal government will demand that we are disarmed. At that time Christian police officers must join the rest of the citizens and defend the Constitution even if it means turning their weapons on those who would disarm us.

Of course it would be best if Americans would join the Ron Paul revolution and find others like him to replace the globalist traitors infesting the halls of government peacefully.

Some of the regular writers on this Blog have been working towards this revolution for some time while others obviously don't have the moral courage or intellectual capacity to do anything more than spew forth their vitriolic venom.

Although I represent the minority view on this Blog that their remain to this day many outstanding men in law enforcement who are oppossed to the escalating police state I know for certain that they are under pressure to leave because the system has indeed been corrupted. There is ample evidence as Will has consistantly exposed that a sea change has and continues to occur in the mindset of governmental policy makers. Law enforcement is changing form its original purpose of keepiong the peace and protecting innocent people to that of protecting the state tyrrants from the people.

How many of you who complain about the growing police state and the abuses of its armed agents are going to buy a case of Will's new book to distribute in order to 'wake the town and tell the people'?

Fred said...

McNamara observed that 51 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2006

The total for 2006 the feds have is 48 feloniously killed, 66 accidentally.

There's no doubt there are some occupational hazards one must accept if he is to be a cop. But the odds are in his favor. The unpredictable variable is WHO he will run into in that dark alley.

Parts of McNamara's opinion rings true. But the remainder don't cut it.

Carrying a gun to defend yourself if it is likely you might need it requires serious attention. And if you are going to need a piece to save your miserable hide in a pinch you do not want to carry a .38 wheel gun. Why carry a gun that limits you to 6 bullets when you can carry a gun that holds 16? You're going to miss a few anyway when the pressure is on. Back then TWO handed shooting was a new thing! What if there's more than one bad guy? If you have to reload a six shooter under fire, cancel Christmas.

If someone really needs to be shot to stop them from doing whatever they are doing, a pistol bullet is the least likely object fired from a gun to do the job. Pistols MIGHT help someone who is in a jam.

McNamara mentions how many cops were killed when he was on the beat. Back then they were shooting38s with one hand under stress, with no body armor and probably with no flashlights, and at moving bad guys while the cop was standing still exactly as he was trained on the range (gun fights don't happen that way in real life).

Add to this additional training oversights and you have more killed or injured cops. And that's not taking into consideration how many of the cops back then who were killed by someone they knew and/or were associated with because of an illicit relationship.

Waiting to be shot at or stabbed before you take action- citizen or cop- is not the standard we should want. REASONABLE reaction to someone's actions should be the standard for all.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Shannon,
I plan on buying a case of Will's books. Is it hot off the press yet?

jbrock said...

It was interesting to read on Taser's own site:

"With the dismissal of six product liability lawsuits during the quarter, Taser has had a total of 58 wrongful death or injury suits dropped, said Douglas Klint,"

Seems like Taser is having exceptionally good "luck" in the court system.

Anonymous said...

When he was police chief of San Jose, CA, McNamara, your man of "integrity," was vehemently anti-gun and did everything he could to try and ban the possession of handguns by lowly private citizens.

Marty said...

This year, so far, 168 cops have died in the line of duty. Some, are not gun shot wounds but vehicle accidents racing to some home where violence may be occuring or broken into. I guess to me is that the difference between the truck driver deaths and the others on Will's list and that of police and fireman is that the fireman and cops know the danger and run into the danger. By nature of the others jobs they know there is danger but are to avoid it.

There is a lot of good things to praise in Will's article. Cops should be held to a higher standard.

"Support your Local Police and Keep the Local"

Anonymous said...

Marty said: "I guess to me is that the difference between the truck driver deaths and the others on Will's list and that of police and fireman is that the fireman and cops know the danger and run into the danger."

Cops run towards danger? You have to be kidding.

The cops at Virginia Tech, for instance, waited outside in full body armor and behind trees until they had an army at the door, all the while unarmed and unarmored students were being shot every few seconds. They waited over five minutes by their own account; and according to other witnesses, the shootings actually began about ten minutes earlier than the police say. Those witnesses say people in the classrooms were calling 911 much earlier than the 911 logs the police have released apparently say they did.

Cops routinely wait until all the violence is over before they don their janitor hats and clean up the mess left behind.

Why are they paid so well if all they're going to do is act as if they are a cleanup crew?

Cops are overpaid and have one of the safest occupations you can have -- not to mention one of the most secure.

Don't depend on the police for your protection. Expect them to be late, expect them to screw up and shoot you rather than the perp, and expect them to slap each other on the back no matter what.

I can't think of a better way to reform the police than to get rid of their overpaid, over-secure jobs.

Abolish government police forces and instead allow individual neighborhoods to contract with security providers.

I agree with the "support your local police" idea. Except I think that "local" should mean LOCAL. You should be able to walk to your security guard's office; and otherwise you should see him patrolling your neighborhood for you once every couple of days (or nights).

WRG said...

I recently discovered your blog and your name was familiar to me. I formerly was a subscriber to TNA during the early to mid-1990s because of the influence of a local JBS member. Today is the first time I have learned of why you left TNA. The local JBS member, a man who is now approaching 80, also fell into the practice of morphing Mr. Bush into the newly-ordained fourth member of the Trinity (it is now a "Quadrinity," I suppose). I have not seen him since the eve of the 2004 election, when he expressed TOTAL puzzlement and exasperation as to why I was not bowing and scraping before Dear Leader as he was. It is amazing to see men who were totally devoted to the Constitution and individual liberties be transformed into advocates of tyranny by the bogus events of 9/11 et seq.

dixiedog said...

How one can be so clear-headed in opposing drug prohibition, yet so misguided on the even more fundamental question of the right of individuals to armed self-defense, is a question I'm not competent to answer.

There just had to be some logical reasoning behind his supposed opposition to the militarization of the police. And now it's quite clear ;).

Well, he's all for the police losing their military arms and other implements they've managed to obtain from being partners with the DoD and DHS over the years. BUT only IF and WHEN civilians are completely disarmed, can he apparently be satisfied to see the police returning to their "measly" pistols and general 1960s era modus operandi.

Why would you think this a paradox for a lifelong lawman, Will? I think your overly zealous opposition to the so-called "war on drugs" for some reason, Will, sometimes clouds your judgment of other issues. It makes perfect sense to me, given his background. Come now, you didn't really think McNamara, after all those years as a lawman, had rid his body and soul completely of a government-centric mindset?

In some ways, McNamara and his ilk are more insidious than an open, above board "in your face" gun-control radical. He appears to be a citizen ally when in reality he's a police ally. No surpise there.

From looking at the video stream at the Hoover Institute, the problem that all three debaters failed to mention or address, as with most issues these days, is the state of the culture itself having anything to do with the mishandling of guns and nefarious use thereof.

Although, addressing the culture would have certainly diluted Lott's concise arguments more than those of the other two participants, unfortunately.

Remember Will, this constitution of ours is only feasible and workable in a nation where the aggregate people possess a Christian-based moral foundation and they know right from wrong by themselves, take responsibility for their lives by themselves, i.e. can adequately self-govern, without any input required from an authority figure! We obviously no longer meet that criteria and the culture reflects that.

Tony said...

William, excellent and well-written usual!
I recently resigned as a Canadian municipal peace officer after 5 years of futile attempts to help protect people from victimization. I worked in Canada's largest city, Toronto.
I applaud your continued efforts to educate citizens on the true state of police affairs, as well as the true motivation of most police personnel.
In particular, your identification of the police as "revenue generators" is stunningly accurate. It took me almost 5 years to accomplish the same level of "big-picture" understanding. It is easy for people to accuse the police of traffic ticket quotas and other revenue generation conspiracies, however the true extent of systemic traffic enforcement corruption is full and complete, analogous to a load-bearing beam rotten through and through.
Most police officers are not intentional corrupt, however they stand by and refuse to stop the infestation of corruption from destroying the organization. This, while receiving an excellent salary, top-notch benefits, and a generous pension package.
I can say with sincere happiness that I have begun the slow and deliberate process of cleansing myself of any and all remnants of indoctrination that I received.


Vernon Malcolm said...

Retired NYPD and NYFD are the core talk radio angry white male Repuglican campaign workers.