08 Aug 2008

Police Outrage in Prince George County, Maryland

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Prince George County, Maryland police violated a warrant they were serving for the questionable arrest of the wife of the mayor of Berwyn Heights by staging a SWAT team raid and carrying out an utterly unnecessary forced entry. Two friendly Labrador retrievers were shot dead, and two respectable people were manhandled and manacled for hours.

Baltimore Sun story.

The training and culture of law enforcement has gone outrageously astray in this country.

Remember the federal officers who came to collect Elian Gonzalez equipped with machine guns, wearing tanker helmets and loaded down with paramilitary gear?

Preposterously excessive force, a systematic kind of cringing cowardice expressed by the mentality that sends paramilitary SWAT teams armed with automatic weapons to kick in doors and make arrests of people who’d come down to the police department if contacted by telephone, the overly-prudential point of view that insists on strip searches and manacles for non-violent middle-class members of the public has become typical of today’s police.

It’s been going on for decades. I can remember marveling in Brookfield, Connecticut, years ago, stopping one evening at a fast food joint and seeing a local cop on his dinner break toting around one of those 9mm Beretta semiautomatics and five, count them, five! extra 15-round magazines on his belt. Has anyone ever actually fired upon a police officer in the 200+ year history of Brookfield? I wondered at the time. And was there currently reason to expect a Zulu impi to come over the hill and attack? Why would a local cop possibly need to be carrying 90 rounds of ammunition? That many cartridges are heavy.

I decided back in the early 1990s to get a Connecticut pistol permit. The process required me to stop by the local Newtown police station to pick up a form. Imagine my surprise, when I found the police barricaded away, inaccessible to the dangerous public of upper middle-class suburban Fairfield County, behind locked doors. One communicated with a secretary in a booth protected by bulletproof glass, passing papers back and forth in one of those sliding bank trays. Obviously, Newtown’s police officers led a life of constant fear.

I grew up in a family with many members who were working or had worked in law enforcement. The kind of men who became policemen in the old days were not afraid of criminals. They knew that they were tough and they knew just how uncommon men like themselves were. They knew most criminals are cowardly scum, and incompetent screw-ups to boot. The human being who will initiate violence is rare, and the human being who will initiate violence against a man in authority recognizably skilled at violence is even rarer.

The kind of men who used to become police officers were adequately armed with a .38 revolver or even just a nightstick. My father, working as a Marine Corps MP, and armed only with a nightstick, placed a dozen men under arrest and marched them off to the brig. He told them he knew perfectly well there were enough to them to overcome him, but he promised that he’d kill the first one or two who tried. They submitted to arrest.

The Texas Rangers used to boast of a necessary ratio of “one riot, one Ranger.” And the Pennsylvania State Police long had the same policy of sending a single State Trooper to suppress a civil disturbance or quell a mob.

Today, they send jack-booted Storm Troopers armed with machine guns to bring in 8 year olds.

Contemporary law enforcement culture is a disgrace and a genuine public hazard and it needs to change. They should dissolve every single SWAT team, get rid of every single item of paramilitary equipage, and –of course– end drug prohibition and the accompanying crime epidemic providing most of the excuse for the militarization of US law enforcement.

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7 Feedbacks on "Police Outrage in Prince George County, Maryland"

David Moelling

Absolutely true. Police work is not the same as military action and the degree of firepower reflects this. It’s time to drop the military style uniforms and go back to simple “cop” attire. In our CT town a few years back we bought the oversized small town force new semiautomatics. I remember talking with a neighbor and saying why did we need to spend the money when our force never used their service revolvers against anything except rabid racoons!



Mark Helm

More proof of why we really need the Second amendment. The most dangerous criminals in the US wear badges.



jim

all cops are out of control
the swat uniform looks like WW2 NAZI’s
and the tactics seem pretty close too

are we being slowly communized ?



_Jon

Well written.



Nashville Republican

JDZ, your blog provides much good content, but this is truly off the deep end. We do not have a police state, or even a police force that oversteps its boundaries. SWAT teams are used sparingly and only as deemed necessary, and we’d all be underserved if our police did not have the ability to handle situations only SWAT teams can. The reality is that the vast majority of police situations are handled without the use of any weapons, and even fewer without the use of SWAT force. Also, to lump an equally outlandish position against our country’s drug policy to this issue is absurd. As a daily reader, it almost seems as if your blog has been hijacked…can this really be your position?



wt20

Wow! As a conservative west coast cop I am deeply offended by the labelling of cops as out of control. Your site and comments sound more like gun control fanatical democrats than conservatives. The overwhelming majority of cops I know and work with are conservative and share many of the same viewpoints as your site but the views on police are ridiculous. Maybe in your part of Conneticut cops dont get killed or have to use their guns, but here in the big city death on duty is an ever present reality. It is not just drugs, as you mention, that has perpetuated the police becoming better equipped but gangs and terrorism as well. We are not here to take away your guns! You can blame the politicians and judges for that. The police just get saddled with enforcing the rulings. Whether we like it or not. As a gun owner myself I would like to see our gun rights insured and the laws that are already in place to keep those that shoudn’t have them actually enforced. As for SWAT teams, I agree there are some that either should be disbanded or seriously looked at before they continue doing business. But a comment that they should all be disbanded is simply ignorant. There are many professional SWAT teams around that don’t just go out after bullshit arrests or look to mess with those who are law abiding citizens. However, if I could point out who is and is not a potentially violent criminal, willing to kill at the drop of a hat, I surely woul not have to be doing this job. I would be a rich man. Also to the point of the Texas Rangers and “one man, one riot” this isn’t the 50’s or 60’s anymore. More cops are assaulted now than ever before and the reason that there aren’t more deaths is because of advanced medical technology. A very sad day to see what I thought was nice conservative site turn out to be a cop bashing democratfest.



SJ

The two last comments are why many middle class professional folks, like the
people in the Fortune 500 company where
I work are TERRIFIED of “the cops”. The
“Law Enforcement” folks should ponder
why they are feared and hated so and
never respected. The local sheriff in the
small Dakota town I grew up in would
be horrified and humiliated to be called
a “cop” today



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