Welcome Radley Balko (HuffingtonPost) (Twitter) and Host Michael German (ACLU) (Reason.com)

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces

If your image of American policing is Mayberry’s Sheriff Andy Taylor, who used homespun wisdom and a deep knowledge of his community to solve their problems and keep big city crime at bay, you won’t recognize the picture Radley Balko paints of modern law enforcement in his excellent new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Most here at FDL are likely familiar with Balko’s work (as a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, on his blog, “The Agitator,” and as a journalist with Reason Magazine and now Huffington Post) because his superlative coverage of the drug war and police violence hits that sweet spot where libertarians, fiscal conservatives, progressives and civil libertarians all meet in shared indignation.

Rise of the Warrior Cop represents a culmination of Balko’s reporting on these subjects, with an added history lesson regarding policing in the United States from the colonial era to the present. He presents a novel theory that the Third Amendment prohibition against quartering troops in Americans’ homes symbolizes a broader national antipathy toward military involvement in domestic policing. Since Reconstruction the military hasn’t had much occasion to infringe on our Third Amendment rights, fortunately, but the “Symbolic Third Amendment” has taken a beating from what Balko calls indirect militarization of our police forces. In his telling, the role of the police in American society has gradually been transformed due to urbanization, industrialization, the war on crime and the war on drugs. This metamorphosis has also been fueled by asset forfeiture laws that provide financial incentives to prioritize low-level drug cases over more serious crimes; ill-conceived or poorly managed federal grants programs to state and local law enforcement that hyper-aggressive police administrators use to buy military hardware rather than rape kits or other tools that actually address real crime problems; and TV shows that glorify and regularize police violence.

Balko focuses on the development of highly militarized SWAT teams, combined with the weakening of Fourth Amendment protections by courts, Congress, and presidents from either parties to illustrate this shift over time. And this is where his storytelling skills shine, recounting one heartbreaking story after another. Examples include Heyward Dyer, a 22-year-old husband and father living with his family in Whittier, California. A police officer’s .223 caliber assault rifle accidentally discharged during a drug raid, sending a high velocity round through the floor and into the apartment below, where it hit Dyer in the head as he held his infant child, who was awoken by the commotion above. Or a more notorious case involving an NYPD raid in Harlem based on an informant’s tip that a felon was dealing weapons and drugs out of the building. The NYPD threw a flash-bang grenade to initiate the raid, stunning the building’s only resident, 57-year-old city employee and “devout churchgoer” Alberta Spruill. Spruill went into cardiac arrest and died, one of several fatalities from stun grenades, confounding their description as non-lethal weapons.

Balko cites dozens of these events in excruciating detail, bringing home the pain and destruction caused by this often unnecessary initiation and escalation of police violence. Yet despite these tragedies the number of SWAT raids has rapidly increased, with between 50,000 and 60,000 such raids in 2005 alone. This statistic highlights another strength of the book: a “numbers” section at the end of each chapter in which supporting data is provided in simple bulleted format.

Balko has many villains in this tale, particularly Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who he credits with originating and popularizing the SWAT concept, as well as an “us-versus-them” mentality within the LAPD. But Balko goes to pains to state that he is not anti-cop, but rather anti-politician. Though the many badge-heavy cops described in these stories seem to lust for the opportunity to impose their will on the citizens they serve, Balko suggests it is the policies that encourage this official violence that are to blame. The Nixon administration is credited with pushing for the most damaging policy development, the no-knock raid, which ironically was not a power requested by law enforcement but rather pushed by a political operative looking for a wedge issue.

But while Balko calls out the aggressive policies pushed by successive Republican administrations, he points out that Democrats were often little better. It was during President Clinton’s administration that the Justice Department entered into a formal agreement with the Defense Department to share military equipment and training, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development instituted the “one strike you’re out” public housing drug policy that encouraged more police raids on the poorest communities. Clinton’s appointment of a former Army general as drug czar also sent the wrong message to law enforcement: that military experience and tactics were appropriate for drug enforcement.

But Balko lauds Clinton’s shift toward community policing, in which police officers walk beats and engage with and become part of the communities they serve, as the more effective and legally appropriate methodology for American policing. In other words: policing more like Sheriff Taylor, and less like Dirty Harry. Unfortunately, Balko also found that police administrators often misunderstood community policing methods and used federal grants provided to support these programs to fund SWAT teams and other military equipment instead.

We at the ACLU share Balko’s concern about the increasing militarization of the police, and we’ve filed nationwide Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain better data and increase transparency regarding the programs that encourage and enable this disturbing trend. As Balko suggests, reform will require a culture change within law enforcement, as well as stronger accountability mechanisms. We’re not a police state yet, he argues. But to avoid that fate, policymakers must be educated about the threat posed by militarized police in order to drive reform, and Rise of the Warrior Cop is a great place for them to start.

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

116 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces”

BevW August 4th, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Radley, Welcome to the Lake.

Mike, Welcome back to the Lake, and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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dakine01 August 4th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Good afternoon Radley and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. Good afternoon Mike and welcome back.

Radley, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but I know I look with amazement at all the police departments buying things like tanks (which you covered the Concord, NH PD doing). I’ve known cops on the Manchester, NH PD and they are mostly good guys as are most of the cops I’ve known in other cities. What do you think drives this level of craziness, beyond the Darryl Gates effect (the TV show SWAT of course glorified this aspect of the cop shops far beyind the needs of most PDs)

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Thanks Bev, and welcome Radley.

Radley, you’ve been covering the drug war and police violence for more than a decade now. What got you interested in focusing on these issues? Do you see any improvement, even if only greater awareness to the problem than when you started?

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Thank you to FDL for hosting a Book Salon for RWC. It’s my pleasure to be here. Looking forward to your questions!

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:02 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

I think it’s a mix of incentives — think asset forfeiture, federal anti-drug grants, etc. — along with about a generation of war rhetoric from public officials. It obviously isn’t the case everywhere, but in much of the country, I think police have been conditioned to see themselves as fighting a war. And if you see yourself that way for long enough, you start to want to acquire all the accoutrements of war.

Elliott August 4th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Welcome to the Lake

Not a question but
Two things that scare me the most
forfeiture laws and DHS arms for boroughs

toss in a Gilberton Police Chief and watch out!
http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/07/mark_kessler_gilberton_borough.html

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi Radley and Mike, thank you for joining us here at Book Salon. Let’s get down to some new news. Digby today brought attention to a 95 year old man, constrained to a walker, if not indeed a chair, who was put to death by tasing and “non-lethal” beanbag rounds by cops responding to a convalescent home disturbance.

clearly we are going to have a lot of discussion today on the root issue of militarization of police, but can the two of you address the corollary issue of the fact that cops are now being called into what were once in house issues such as schools and retirement homes?

The two issues look to become more inextricably intertwined as funding diminishes for social services and tension increases in American society.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Bev also sent me this link to videos showing roadside searches of women in Texas that have to be seen to be believed: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/04/1228847/-What-s-Going-On-In-Texas-This-Is-Rape-By-Police-VIDEO

I’ve never heard of such a practice. Is this going on elsewhere?

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:09 pm
In response to Mike German @ 3

I think I initially just found the subject matter interesting. I was working for the Cato Institute when I started covering the drug war, and civil liberties just interested me more than, say, economic policy. Perhaps it’s because I’m terrified of math!

But as I started learning about this stuff, interest grew into outrage. I’d get genuinely angry at what was happening to some of these people I was writing about. Then when I started blogging about these issues, there were a few instances where my coverage actually had a bit of an impact. So here was a set of issues few others were covering, that I found fascinating and outrage-inducing, and where one journalist could actually have an impact. I was kinda’ hooked at that point.

As for positive signs, I do think public opinion is moving in the right direction, on almost all of these issues. I’ve definitely notice a shift in how the public reacts to botched raids, for example, or for some small town getting a new tank. I think cell phone videos, live streaming, and social media have also done a lot to make the public more skeptical of the police.

I note in the book that the nice thing about all of this is that violence against police officers has been dropping for 20 years. So we’re becoming more skeptical of cops, which I think is healthy, and we’re registering that skepticism in positive ways, which I think is even healthier.

RevBev August 4th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Also TX, we are having a noted increase in shooting while the suspect is fleeing. Supposed to be controlled by clear procedures….

Elliott August 4th, 2013 at 2:13 pm
In response to Mike German @ 8

straight up sexual assault, but what you gonna do?

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to bmaz @ 7

Hi bmaz-
We at the ACLU have long been concerned about police in schools, and the criminalization of what used to be treated as school discipline issues, which creates what we call a “school to prison pipeline.” Here’s a link to our report: http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/school-prison-pipeline

I think part of the problem highlighted by the story you cite about the 95 year old man being killed is the development of “non-lethal” weapons, that often are anything but. Because they are treated as non-lethal though, they tend to get used in situations far from what would justify lethal force.

allan August 4th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Just eyeballing many cops, it looks like their gym time is getting a pharmaceutical assist. Radley, to what extent do you think that steroid abuse is a problem in today’s militarized police forces? The combination of ‘roid rage and battlefield weapons seems like a recipe for disaster.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Radley, you highlight a lot of wrong-door raids in which the assaulting police frighten, harass, injure and kill completely innocent people (or dogs), either because the police made simple mistakes or relied on bad informants. But your arguments against using militarized SWAT teams for routine searches or arrests for non-violent offenses, and especially the no-knock raids, would apply even when they hit the right address, correct?

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to bmaz @ 7

I haven’ looked into that beanbag case to have an opinion. At first blush, it seems awful. But I did read somewhere that he was wielding a knife. I’d have to read more about it.

But I do think police seem more ready to use more force in more situations. I was talking to a police officer a few weeks ago, a guy who is generally supportive of SWAT teams, but who had an interesting observation. He said that when he started on the job, he had three items on his belt — his revolver, replacement bullets, and handcuffs. His theory was that as cops get more and more “stuff” on their belts — batons, Tasers, pepper spray, etc. — they’re less likely to try to use talk and persuasion to deescalate a situation. It’s easier just to reach for the toys. I thought that was a fascinating and intuitive observation. Other cops have told me that cops today are less fit, so they’re less confident about their ability to use any sort of force short of lethal. That makes some sense too.

But also think there’s a training problem. Norm Stamper and Neill Franklin, two guys who have taught at police academies, tell me that while cops get a lot of training in use of force, they get far too little in counseling, persuasion, and dispute resolution. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, if they consequently start resorting to force earlier, and more often.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:18 pm
In response to Mike German @ 8

I couldn’t say for sure if this is happening more often, or if we’re just more aware of it thanks to dash cams and social media. But there have been several stories like that one in recent years.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
In response to Mike German @ 12

Right. But, interestingly, in the state and local criminal courts I work in, use of such weapons would be absolutely indistinguishable from a regular firearm for any defendant not a police officer. But they ARE repeatedly deadly. I think part of the rise of the warrior cop, so to speak, is also the legitimization and expansion of means. “Deadly force” used -used to – subject cops to very strict oversight and even civilian review. But a LOT is being washed away under the false guise of “non-deadly force”.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 15

I have looked and, to date, best evidence is that he had a long shoehorn. Time will tell….

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to allan @ 13

Oh, there have been lots of scandals with cops and steroids. To be honest, I’m not quite as concerned about the ‘roid rage aspect as I am of the general desire among a generation of cops to make themselves look as intimidating as possible. I note in the book that you can search YouTube and find the recruiting videos that police agencies send to high schools and colleges. Too many of them are full of images of cops tackling people, shooting at people, kicking down doors, and so on. It’s all about the ass-kicking aspects of the job, not the community service.

So I think the more fundamental problem here is that police agencies are recruiting the wrong personalities to the job. And that probably has a lot to do with these scandals.

BrandonJ August 4th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Good evening everyone! Hope I’m not that late.

I have a question that has plagued me when I started reading on such militarization. How has technology affected it? How it made it much more stronger or exposed a weakness?

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to Mike German @ 14

Yes. The wrong door raids and raids gone bad are terrifying, but my criticism is broad then that. I’m arguing that these tactics should be reserved for those situations in which lives are immediately risk. When you send a SWAT team to break down the door of some suspected drug offender in the middle of the night, you’re putting lives at risk. You’re creating violence.

Some of my critics like to point out that only a tiny percentage of these raids end up at the wrong house, or even end in gunfire. But that misses the point. We could start sending SWAT teams after people who have overdue parking tickets, and I’d bet an even smaller percentage end in gunfire. That doesn’t mean it’s an appropriate use of SWAT teams.

BevW August 4th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

It was during President Clinton’s administration that the Justice Department entered into a formal agreement with the Defense Department to share military equipment and training,….

I remember when that occured (late 1990s), I worked for DOJ / BOP, we had to attend the signing ceremony, VP Gore, AG Reno, and a General from DOJ – signed the documents for a “technology transfer” between DOD and DOJ.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 19

Radley I think the portion of your book where you talk about the impact movies and TV is having on policing is interesting. I know it is hard to determine whether art is imitating life or the other way around, but I’m fascinated by the reality shows in which cops know they’re on tape yet they have no hesitation in gang tackling someone and abusing them during the arrest. That is light years away from the training we received at the FBI, but it seems commonplace now. “To Catch a Predator” always stuck out to me because the let the suspects talk to a reporter before being arrested, so there was no reason to think they were dangerous. Yet often the cops slammed them to the ground anyway.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to bmaz @ 17

A few months ago, I had lunch with a guy who teaches use of force to police agencies. He said he’s appalled by what’s happened in recent years. He’s noticed a shift in the tenor of the classes from an emphasis on deescalating situations so force isn’t necessary, to teaching cops how to justify their use of force after the fact. That’s revealing — and a little scary.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Most seem in agreement about the civilian police having become militarized, and that the trend is progressing.

Radley and Mike, how can it be pulled back? What change modalities can individuals utilize to address the problem?

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
In response to BrandonJ @ 20

As in most other areas of society, I think technology is mixed bag. The advances in personal technology have been great for holding police accountable, as I explained in a previous comment. But technology can of course also be weaponized, as we’ve seen with Tasers, sound canons, and some particularly creepy stuff I’ve seen in the pipeline.

I also dread the day when police agencies start figuring how to, say, block out cell phone coverage at a protest.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 24

Oh, my use of force experts have been telling me that since the early 90s. Absolutely correct.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Mike German @ 23

The thing to remember about all of those reality cop shows is that the police agency almost always retains veto power over what gets on the air. So that means that when you see some cops rough someone up who doesn’t deserve it, not only was that cop not affected by the presence of cameras, but the police agency itself, even after having some time to reflect, saw nothing particularly embarrassing about it. Or at least nothing embarrassing enough to keep it off the air.

Elliott August 4th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Since the 9-11/Iraq Invasion has the percentage of soldier > police officer increased?

CTuttle August 4th, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Aloha, Radley and Mike…! I was wondering what your thoughts on the information aspects in the militarization…! For instance, with the advent of the ‘Fusion Centers’ and the sharing of intel and/or police resources/manpower for many of the recent protest actions…!

bigbrother August 4th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 21

Mr. Balko:
The street movements of Occupy and others public protests as well as political demonstrations at political conventions have been surpressed by military tactics used by combined agencies. Set up of military command posts in a war like fashion combined with underground intelligence ops. We now know they had internet, phone and emails of activists.
1) How is this not a police state suppression against dissent?
2) The National Lawyers Guild is trying to proctor these events to quell some of the violent responses.
3) Herding demonstrators and cordoning them has become common…how is the ACLU addressing these constitutional violation of freedom of assembly?

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:37 pm
In response to bmaz @ 25

Unfortunately, I think it is going to get worse before it gets better because as the military pulls out of Afghanistan it will be looking to get rid of a lot of equipment. As Radley points out, this stuff too often ends up on the streets here at home.

I think the answer starts with more transparency, which is why the ACLU has embarked on the FOIA campaign: http://www.aclu.org/militarization

Then it is up to all of us to hold the police and politicians accountable. Too often politicians want to be seen as supporting the police, even when they’ve abused someone. I think we have to start adding up the payouts that are made in the many lawsuits Radley documented. Too often that money doesn’t come out of the police budget, so they don’t care. That was one of my biggest concerns when I learned that police agencies were buying liability insurance before big protests. It seemed like a license to violate rights.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
In response to bmaz @ 25

I think raising awareness is the first step. I’ve found that when people actually discover what’s going on, they tend to get pretty outraged by it all.

Unfortunately, I think the most substantive policy changes will also be the most difficult to attain. In descending order, my preferred reforms would be….

– Ending the drug war.

– Limiting the use of SWAT teams to situations where a violent crime is either in the act of being committed, or will be committed imminently without intervention.

– Ending the Pentagon giveaways, DHS grants, and federal anti-drug grants.

– Rolling back qualified immunity for police officers. They should have some protections from civil liability, but qualified immunity sets the bar too high.

Beyond that, politicians who support these policies and continue with the constant war rhetoric need to be held accountable. Until supporting these policies becomes a tangible political liability, I don’t see much hope for change. The price of appearing anti-cop is just too high for most politicians to make the effort.

emptywheel August 4th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 19

Just beginning your book (but found stories I’ve read you tell before really engaging in book form).

How much of what’s going on is returned veterans joining law enforcement and treating Americans like they’ve been trained to treat Iraqis or Afghans?

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to Mike German @ 32

Heh, I’ve done several §1983 cases, couple rather large, and the money invariably comes out of general liability fund for self insured deductible where excess liability carrier coverage kicks in. Never hurts the police men or agencies themselves.

BrandonJ August 4th, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 26

What “creepy stuff” would that be?

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 31

Regarding your third question, about what the ACLU is doing, our affiliates are usually pretty active before during and after big protests. Here’s some success we had in PA after the G20 summit, in which similar tactics were used: http://www.aclupa.org/pressroom/cityofpittsburghsettlesg20.htm

and Denver: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_18692391

and Minnesota: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/aclu-sues-st-paul-and-minneapolis-release-educational-materials-seized-during-raids

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 31

The sad irony today is that the more important the event being protested, the more influential the decision makers, the more consequential the policies they’re discussing . . . the less likely it is that political protesters will be heard. We’ve really reached the point where the degree of our response to protest is in direct contravention with the intent and principles of the First Amendment. Security has trumped all. No city wants to be the first to see, say, a WTO delegate beaten or killed by protesters. So the response gets a little more oppressive each time. Never mind whether or not there has ever actually been any danger of that.

In the book, I interviewed Jerry Wilson, who was police chief in D.C. in the early 1970s, a time that saw far more tumultuous civil unrest than we see today. But Wilson was an outlier for his day. He took a much more community-minded, less confrontational approach to policing. He told me that when he knew a protest was coming, he put his regular cops in their police blues on the front lines. He had to keep the riot squad handy, of course. But he put the riot squads on buses, and parked them on side streets, out of view. His philosophy was that if you come to a protest expecting a confrontation, then you’re almost assuredly going to get one.

And that I think is the flaw in how we respond to protest today. In preparing for the worst, this cities send their police forces out expecting confrontation. And so they inevitably get one.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 33

All superb suggestions.

I am self interested on more than a few fronts, but would especially love to see qualified immunity doctrine statutorily rolled back. Not only as to the cops themselves, but also prosecutors and a whole slew of government officials.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to bmaz @ 35

Is there an easy way to track them? I think that may be one way to generate some concern from fiscal conservatives.

emptywheel August 4th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 33

On the giveaways, I really liked Coburn’s report on the Fusion Center gravy train and the House repeated that kind of analysis.

It seems there is room there to make a stink about what is basically govt waste going to local cops (though the returning toys from Afghanistan will still get divvied up, I guess).

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Radley, the completely innocent victims of police violence you highlight in the book are obviously more compelling case studies than the guy slinging dope out of his apartment, but do you worry that putting the emphasis on those cases could lead to reforms that focus on identifying and correcting procedural mistakes rather than the sort of sweeping reform and change in police culture you’re seeking? How do you find the right balance as a reporter?

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 34

Though it sounds intuitive, I’m not entirely sure this is as much of a problem as it’s often made out to be.

The cops I’ve talked to — the ones who agree with me on most of this stuff — say military people tend to make better than average police officers. They’re more likely to have a college degree, and the military is more structured and instills more accountability and discipline than you get at most police agencies. They say former military people actually tend to be a good influence on the cops with a cowboy mentality.

In fact, I’ve even had some military people tell me that they object to the term “militarization” — not because they disagree with my general point, but because when they were raiding villages in Iraq or Afghanistan, they treated the citizens of those countries better than American citizens typically get treated on drug raids. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, or if it’s true across all of the military.

But I was surprised to even hear the argument. And it’s been made to me several times.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:53 pm
In response to bmaz @ 35

True. But I think the argument is that if taxpayers have to keep ponying up, eventually there will be some political pressure on the police agencies to reform. In fact, I’ve actually seen a couple cases where after several large settlements, municipal insurers have threatened to pull a city’s coverage unless the police department made changes. So allowing for more lawsuits would help, I think.

But getting more to your point, I think making cops individually liable for particularly egregious abuses could also help.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to BrandonJ @ 36

Here’s one particularly horrifying example:

http://reason.com/archives/2013/03/01/handcuffs-20

emptywheel August 4th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 43

Interesting. Thanks.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
In response to Mike German @ 40

No. Frankly I could not even specifically tell you about the ones I was involved in. They are usually settled pre-trial (but after hellish litigation and motion practice) with sealing and non-disclosure agreements.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 41

I think that’s right. We’re starting to see conservatives get concerned about the drug war — in most cases not because of civil liberties or individual rights, but because of the sheer cost of mass incarceration. So I think it helps to emphasize, for example, just how much of a boondoggle these DHS grants really are. They’re basically creating and subsidizing a cottage industry that exists solely to use taxpayer dollars to buy battle gear for places like Tuscaloosa, or Concord, or Newport Beach.

Don’t forget that alcohol prohibition ended because politicians needed tax revenue, not for all the reasons it should have ended.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 44

Ha! You would THINK SO, but here in Maricopa County Joe Arpaio is rapidly closing in on the vicinity, give or take (haven’t done hard check in last year or so) of $100 million in liability payouts and is STILL the most popular politician in the county.

Okay, we ain’t real bright here, but just sayin….

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:02 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 43

I think I’d have to agree with the cops you talked to. Many former military have the training, discipline and experience to make good judgments in difficult and threatening situations as police officers, so generalizing is inappropriate. That said, there are definitely some individuals who have developed some bad attitudes, or received problematic training reflecting strong anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/?p=80131

Of course the FBI and DHS were just as culpable on that issue.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Mike German @ 42

That’s a great question. I mean, I guess I just try to balance the raw numbers with the stories that put a face on the problem.

But that’s one reason why I think that video of that 2011 raid in Columbia, Missouri is so powerful. I often show that video at the beginning of my talks on this issue. You can see people get viscerally angry. I often see tears in the audience. The video is powerful precisely because it isn’t a “wrong door” raid, or even a botched raid. No one dies (save for a dog). No one is shot. It’s a standard, everyday drug raid, little different than the dozens just like it done every day in America. They even found some pot. The only real difference is that it was recorded and the video was posted online.

So I think that most people are going to be surprised and outraged at what’s happening even when these tactics are used against people with whom they may not otherwise sympathize.

petal August 4th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

In the last week it came out in the Concord (NH) Monitor that the police are at it again-they received a grant from the federal government to buy another BearCat. The comments from the police chief and text from the grant application are interesting, especially regarding Occupy NH and the Freestaters.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to bmaz @ 49

Fair point. It definitely won’t work everywhere.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 45

Yikes! That is a spectacularly bad idea!

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to Mike German @ 50

That’s a good point. And of course you also need to be careful about PTSD.

CTuttle August 4th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 41

As you’ve once speculated, EW, that the first Drone strike, Stateside will be for a drug raid…! What are your thoughts on the proliferation of Drones, Radley…?

Elliott August 4th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 45

all our dystopian nightmares coming true…

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
In response to petal @ 52

You say “interesting.” I’d say, “wholly inappropriate and possibly enough to disqualify him from his position.”

Potato, pot-ah-to.

But I’m afraid that if even if the hardcore Free Staters in Keane can’t fight off a Bearcat, it’s probably a lost cause.

By the way, if you haven’t yet, be sure to take a look at the video that Lenco uses to market the Bearcat. Quite revealing, I’d say.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/lenco-inc-maker-of-armore_n_3429575.html

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Radley, as you’ve said, the drug war obviously plays a big role in the rising numbers of SWAT raids. Do you think recent successes in legalization and de-criminalization of marijuana across the country will help staunch this tide? Or do you think the people driving the anti-drug hysteria will just find another substance to demonize? I thought your discussion of the raid on the rave in Racine, Wisconsin, and Sen. Joe Biden’s RAVE Act suggested this possibility.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 56

Wary. On the one hand, it’s hard to get too upset about using a drone in the same way police would use, say, a helicopter to look for an escaped prisoner, fugitive, lost kid, etc.

But we all know that once they have them, that isn’t the only context in which they’ll use them.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to Mike German @ 59

The vast majority of these raids are for pot, so it seems like legalizing the drug would have to have a pretty significant impact — especially if we correspondingly decrease the pot-related incentives like anti-drug grants and asset forfeiture.

But government agencies are rather savvy about finding new reasons to justify their existence. I think we’d have to be particularly on guard about these tactical teams simply finding new reasons to go on raids. Would be nice to see a good chunk of them just disband altogether.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:13 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 60

Though I would argue drones differ from helicopters the same way a GPS tracker differs from a physical surveillance. The drones can stay up longer and burn far fewer resources so they would likely be used more and for longer periods. Not to mention the improved camera optics…

Peterr August 4th, 2013 at 3:14 pm
In response to bmaz @ 47

Sounds like they learned from the Catholic Church and pedophile priests. No expression of wrongdoing, sealed records, and promises of non-disclosure. “You can take this settlement now, under these terms, or you can spend years fighting us and end up with a whole lot less and a whole lot more hassles.”

Like the Catholic church scandals, until folks start rejecting non-disclosure clauses, there will be no accountability.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Well I think this was supposed to run for an hour, right?

The questions seem to have slowed down, so I think I’ll sign off and go get some dinner. Thank you for all of your terrific questions, and for hosting me this afternoon.

I’ll be posting speaking dates, book signings, etc. on my website soon (www.theagitator.com). Hope you’ll come out when I’m in your town!

BevW August 4th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 58

The BearCat video, hard rock music, lots of guns and a disturbing reminder of Waco – with the tear gas insertion through doors. It really makes you wonder about what is really being sold here – a vehicle or complete legal approval to run wild.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Oh, I see this was for two hours. Carry on!

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I’ve noticed cops seem to respond much more aggressively to left-wing activism (such as the Occupy protests) than to right-wing activism. When the Minuteman Project and other border militias were staging a lot of protests and border patrols in the mid-2000s, and when the Tea Party activists were out in the streets during the healthcare debate the police response was much more muted, even though many of the activists were openly armed. Now none of these groups were particularly violent as a whole (of course there were isolated incidents), and therefore none deserved an aggressive police response, but do you think the police feel freer to act violently toward left-wing protesters? Why?

BrandonJ August 4th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 45

Yikes. Thanks for the link.

You speak about Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates and what he has done. I am curious about what leaders like Ray Kelly have when it comes to influence among police departments. His stop and frisk program seems to have a connection to militarization and talk of an appointment to the DHS seems to indicate his influence not only in here in NY, but across the nation.

bigbrother August 4th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 51

Mr. Balko:
The social safety net that treats many of societies mis-behaviors has been slashed over and over. In today’s local paper a story of the quandry that beat police face daily was aired.
Violence and drug abuse go hand in hand with poverty. 60 million Americans go to bed food insecure. Single parent households abound. Two jobs per adult still put the household below the poverty line. And our media praises violence in sports.
The solution to a lot of this is good jobs that pay a living wage. A $200k settlement for police abuse of power is chump change. The 99% syndrome attempts to define these issues.
What will the cause a political shift to these humane solutions? As you point out ending the drug war is a great opener as Uraguay has done to legalize MJ.
But the social services must be made available before change will make our society a safer one. Police power has never done that. A surveillance state is doomed to fail as we saw in the USSR.

Peterr August 4th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

As the military ramped up post-9/11, one big source of the new troops were police departments, with a non-trivial number of officers in Reserve units that we called up. As a result, police departments had to bring in a parallel number of new officers. I’m really curious about the quality of these new folks, as well as their training.

In the political environment that tended to put “first responders” on an accountability-free pedestal, bringing in lesser quality recruits and giving them quickie, substandard training is a recipe for disaster.

petal August 4th, 2013 at 3:21 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 58

Yes, you are right! My apologies-I should have put quotes around interesting.

It amuses me the police are so afraid of these two groups, especially Occupy NH. It’s absurd. Plus, the issue of wasting so much taxpayer money on this thing would normally not go over well here. I don’t know if they are worried about situations like what happened with the Browns in Plainfield a few years back occurring again. In that case, the marshal just waited them out and the situation was diffused peacefully. It seems like by bringing in tanks and high powered weapons they are hoping to ratchet up situations in order to provoke confrontations? Is there a psychological aspect to the increased militarisation on the side of the police, and not just by their attempted intimidation of groups?

Please keep doing what you are doing, Mr. Balko. It is so important.

CTuttle August 4th, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 61

The vast majority of these raids are for pot, so it seems like legalizing the drug would have to have a pretty significant impact — especially if we correspondingly decrease the pot-related incentives like anti-drug grants and asset forfeiture.

Ironically, here on the Big Isle, Hilo’s Finest, uses it’s Bearcat often to raid pot farms here! Despite a County Council provision categorizng pot as the ‘lowest priority’ for investigation/prosecution…!

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Not for anyone in particular, but I wonder what input local city councils, boards of supervisors and the like have had in the trend documented in Radley’s book?

Were they really briefed on what the militarization portended or was it simply “money and war equipment is great, of course you will sing off on this or you are pro-crime!”?

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

One criticism I have of the book is in your chapter on reform, in which you say police unions are the primary obstacle to accountability for police misconduct. It was surprising to see because you hadn’t really discussed police unions up to that point, and only offered one anecdote – albeit an egregious one – in which a police union failed to support a police officer whistleblower who testified against other officers. It is always easy to charge unions with protecting the bad apples, but the truth is that they are there to protect all the apples management calls bad, to ensure there is due process for everyone. Obviously unions are made up of people, and there are certainly abuses. But when police managers and politicians protect violent cops, as they often do, isn’t that as great, if not greater a problem?

petal August 4th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I guess what I mean is, are they getting some kind of a rise out of living out Call of Duty in their jobs and then it feeds on itself and the militarisation keeps increasing?

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to bmaz @ 73

I think it is important for us to weigh in to all of our elected representatives. As Marcy suggested, Sen. Coburn has really turned up the heat on DHS grants. We need to do the same with DOJ. But local activism also has an impact. In my experience state and local reps don’t have the staff to do investigations, so any data you can bring to their attention – like Radley’s book – will help.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to Mike German @ 67

I suppose this is where I reveal my right-wing bias, eh? : )

To be fair, I think the Tea Partiers for the most part obtained protest permits, and vacated at their designated times. Yes, some were armed, but from what I understand, they were in compliance with all the appropriate laws. (Adam Kokesh is a different story.) Things get a little dicier when you claim a public space as your own and refuse to leave on any foreseeable timetable. Those protests were also more prone to result in property damage, and a few instances of intimidation and violence. (Or that’s at least my impression — maybe I’m wrong.)

None of which justifies the brutality of some of the Occupy crackdowns, of course. But I think the two movements were different. (Although in both cases I found myself sympathizing with the protesters early on, then found my sympathy waning over ensuing weeks.)

But I do think that one reason we’re starting to see more concern about this issue across the political spectrum is that these tactics are starting to be used for more white collar crimes, on college campuses, and for regulatory law. It’s a sad reality, I guess. But when they were just being used on poor, mostly communities of color, it was more difficult to get people to take notice.

hpschd August 4th, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Hi,

I just got the book from the Toronto Library (4 copies in the system 15 holds currently). I have not gotten very far yet.

In June of 2010 Toronto hosted the G 20. Harper spent 1 Billion on it and refuses to give an accurate accounting of how it was spent. There were over 4000 cops here and way too much military gear. It was also clear that this was a rehearsal for future events.

They had sound cannons, rubber bullets, horse charges, beatings, ‘kettleing’ of a street crowd not actively protesting, pepper spray, attack formations, etc. It was way. way over the top. There was no violent resistance to the police but there was some Black Block action – window smashing (ignored by the police – undercover cops?), and two burning police cars. The patrol cars had been left unattended in areas away from patrolled sectors, and were left open with the gas caps off (so they would be less likely to blow up?). They were left to burn for a very long time before the appearance of firetrucks (which were only a few blocks away). Seemed like a photo-op setup.

A crowd in a ‘designated protest area’ was charged and stomped. There were over 1000 arrests (a record for Toronto and Canada).

There was a local rally in my neighborhood (far from downtown) with a member (MPP) of Ontario parliament attacked by the police – anyone with a phone number on their arm (lawyer’s number) was detained. A woman was arrested for blowing bubbles at a cop (Officer Bubbles on
YouTube ) A local support center for meetings and coffee was raided.

My attitudes about Canadian Police changed after that.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 77

Not just a libertarian thought, I am a life long bleeding heart liberal but recognized from the start the controlling precedent of Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence. The issue was actually pretty old and well litigated.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:35 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 69

I don’t do enough work on economic issues to assess the statistics use, although there’s no disputing that the economy has been tanking for several years.

I will say this, though. Crime is down, and has continued to drop for the last 20 years. We’re at record-low levels for both violent and property crime in most of the country. The rape rate is the lowest it’s been since we began tracking the statistic. So I don’t think this is a case of poverty = corresponding crime = correspondingly heavier police actions.

I think the troubling thing here is that the use of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics has continued to soar, even as there’s been increasingly fewer legitimate scenarios for which these kinds of tactics are appropriate.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 72

I’m not sure ironic is the right word. I’d go with predictable.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:38 pm
In response to bmaz @ 73

Just in my coverage, the only time I’ve seen any serious discussion of this issue on the local level is just after a high-profile botched raid.

Although I have seen at least a few recent examples in which a proposed purchase of a Bearcat has at least generated some discussion in a local newspaper, or on local radio.

Teddy Partridge August 4th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thank you, Radley Balko, for this remarkable book.

I appreciated your chapter on Reform, but I wonder if it goes far enough. I can only see Revolt as the solution to the post-militarization of our local police forces, especially given their lack of accountability and the constant “everyone followed procedures” bleating we hear from politicians and police management when an over-escalated situation goes horribly awry.

As someone who lives in a city (Portland) whose police are under federal court ordered reform, I wonder what we can really do to make changes. I suppose it’ll take non-cop-fans on the Review Boards, and Review Boards with teeth. But however can we turn off the federal spigot of toys, weaponry, gear, and processes?

Thanks again. I’ll keep this book for reference forever, and have recommended it to many friends. Your work is excellent. Please carry on.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to hpschd @ 78

Yes, unfortunately this type of reaction is becoming commonplace, mostly because police are training this way.

mafr August 4th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Any thoughts on the “Hollywood Shootout”?

Peterr August 4th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 77

On the right, at least here in Missouri, the concern about this issue is driven by the NRA-fed fear that “everyone knows that the Govment is going to take away *our* guns.”

Does your book get into the NRA’s promotion of the “what our society needs are more guns, not fewer” answer to “the crime problem”?

bigbrother August 4th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 80

Agreed, All very good points well taken. The decline in crime responded by more police militarization is troubling. But then Big Brother is watching you closer than ever.

Suzanne August 4th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

sliding in late…. welcome and thanks for coming to fdl to discuss this fascinating book. i’m still reading it but wanted to say that i’m glad i got out in ’04. after 9/11, i saw a huge increase in the militarization of what had been a progressive community policing based department in the sf bay area in ca. lots more federal tasks forces for things like computer crime, gangs, etc.

i do not like what policing has become — i joined to serve my local community not to spy on them. besides tanks and other military hardware, departments are now getting drones.

thank you for writing this book — as i said i’m still reading it but it certainly opened my eyes to things that i didn’t put together during my 24 years on the force.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

You have a lot of stories in the book about bad cops and bad police administrators, but there are also a lot of police leaders you praise. How do we as a community amplify these voices? Is there a group or organization of current or former law enforcement officials that lobbies for the types of police reform we’re seeking?

mafr August 4th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hollywood shootout

“Local patrol officers at the time were typically armed with their standard issue 9 mm or .38 Special pistols, with some having a 12-gauge shotgun available in their cars. Phillips and Mătăsăreanu carried illegally modified fully automatic AKMs and an HK-91 rifle with high capacity drum magazines and ammunition capable of penetrating vehicles and police Kevlar vests. The bank robbers wore full suits of body armor which successfully deflected bullets and shells fired by the responding patrolmen. SWAT eventually arrived bearing sufficient firepower, and they commandeered an armored truck to evacuate the wounded. Several officers also appropriated AR-15 rifles from a nearby firearms dealer. The incident sparked debate on the need for patrol officers to upgrade their capabilities in similar situations in the future.

I think this event affected the type of weapons police thought they needed.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 88

I agree. I left the FBI in ’04, too. At that point it had become clear the overwrought responses to 9/11 weren’t going to be temporary.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to Mike German @ 74

I actually haven’t seen that criticism. But my original manuscript had many, many more examples of police union malfeasance. It was just one of the places we did some cutting for length. (The manuscript was about 2.5 times longer than the final book.)

There’s no question that police management and politicians are awful at holding bad cops accountable. But I could send you dozens of examples where police unions have made it nearly impossible to fire even egregiously misbehaving cops. They help enforce the blue code of silence. They tie up personnel decision with litigation. And they negotiate accountability out of city contracts. These “police officer bill of rights” that they’ve negotiated in numerous states not only make it difficult to fire bad cops, they essentially serve as “how-to” guides their colleagues can use to get them off the hook.

http://reason.com/blog/2009/09/09/louisiana-cop-accused-of-beati

It seems like a couple times a month, some city newspaper does an expose on how it’s impossible to fire bad cops — even when a police chief or sheriff wants to. And even in the rare occasions that they’re fired, the taint doesn’t follow them. They can just get another law enforcement job with a different police agency.

Police unions are also pretty bad about perpetuating the “us vs. them” mentality of the job. I wrote a couple weeks ago about one way that’s manifested — in police t-shirts:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/what-cop-tshirts-tell-us-_n_3479017.html

I’m relatively up-front about the fact that I’m a libertarian. So as you might imagine, I’m not particularly fond of public service unions. But given the powers we afford to police officers — to detain, use force, and even kill — I think police unions are particularly pernicious.

bigbrother August 4th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

We can send this book to head of sheriff and police departments and the Mayors and Supervisors they serve.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Write your congressman. That’s about all I can say. They need to know that (a) you care about this issue, and (b) this issue will help determine how you vote. That’s the only way they’re going to get interested.

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Hey folks, I urge anyone who has not yet read this book to not only read it, but buy a copy to support the excellent journalism at the source.

Teddy Partridge August 4th, 2013 at 3:49 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 15

And the proliferation of “stuff on the belt” leads to officer confusion in a crisis, or so says Johans Meserle, of Fruitvale Station infamy.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:51 pm
In response to Peterr @ 86

Not really. I do address Waco, Ruby Ridge, Elian Gonzalez, and that period in the 1990s when groups like the NRA were actually worried about police militarization. But that changed with the Bush administration, and at least since I’ve been covering this issue, the NRA won’t go anywhere near it. I suspect this is because a good percentage of its membership are cops.

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

So what’s next for you Radley? I know you’re over at Huffington Post now. Are you going to stay on this beat or tackle some other issues?

BevW August 4th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 64

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Radley, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and for your research and writings on the militarization of the police forces.

Mike, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Radley’s website and book

Mike’s website

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Suzanne August 4th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
In response to Mike German @ 91

yup – it had become permanent and appears to have increased significantly since then. scary times and the gov’t pushes fear on steroids.

are there any studies showing how fear fear fear all the time impacts officers working the streets? does it make them more prone to over-react?

bgrothus August 4th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

In Albuquerque we also have a federal investigation of our police, for the huge number of police killings we have had in the last number of years.

We have a “police oversight commission” which is supposed to be a civilian committee to look at the facts of each police shooting. We also have grand jury investigations, but our DA pointed out that it is not just our killing police who go unpunished, it goes unpunished nationwide, essentially. So I guess if you want to murder people, being a cop is the way to go.

We just had a very high profile trial of a cop who was eventually charged with murdering his wife, who he claimed committed suicide. He was found not guilty, of course, and the police investigation (it happened in another county) was compormised by the ABQ force he was on, his fellow officers showed up and tampered with evidence/destroyed crime scene evidence since they immediately decided it was a suicide.

I saw Fruitvale Station the other day. What a tragic story, writ over and over all across the country.

Teddy Partridge August 4th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 21

Isn’t there a “use-it-or-lose-it” mentality among police management, though, especially in an era of tightened municipal budgets? I mean, having convinced the City Council to buy the toys and outfits and training components, the Chief needs to find ways to use all that, doesn’t he? Because, if unused, won’t the Council ask him, “hey, what’s all that stuff we bought you *for* anyway?”

So it gets used, even if its use isn’t as promised in the proposal.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to mafr @ 85

I have a section on the Hollywood shootout in the book. I think it’s overblown. The fact that a 16-year-old incident remains the go-to example of why cops needs to be militarized probably says something about just how infrequent such incidents really are.

In any case, that shootout followed a bank robbery. And I don’t think many people — certainly not I — would object to using a SWAT team to respond to a bank robbery in progress. So in addition to the incident itself being somewhat anomalous, I’m not really even sure what point it really proves.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
In response to Mike German @ 89

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (LEAP)

One of my favorite advocacy groups out there. Look them up. Publicize them. Give them some money. They do great work.

Elliott August 4th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thank you both

Best of luck on your book tour, may your impact be vast and wide

Thanks BevW!

Mike German August 4th, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 99

Thanks Radley, for your very important work. Thanks Bev and everyone at FDL for having me back.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:57 pm
In response to Mike German @ 98

I just wrote a long piece for Huffington Post on prosecutorial misconduct:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/prosecutorial-misconduct-new-orleans-louisiana_n_3529891.html

I’m back full-time at HuffPost now, and I’ll continue on the criminal justice/civil liberties beat.

Hope to write another book sometime in the somewhat-near future. But it will likely be about something lighter — or at least a topic less likely to turn me into an alcoholic.

Radley Balko August 4th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Thanks Mike, thanks for all your very smart question and thank you to FDL for hosting me.

The response to the book has been really wonderful. Broad support, really across the full range of political ideologies. That’s been really encouraging.

bgrothus August 4th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

A friend of mine told me today that she had a gun held to her head when she was at a cash register paying for a service and the shop owner would not open the drawer and give the cash out. She was grabbed and punched, the guy took her bag which they found a couple of blocks away. It turned out the guy had robbed the place before, and the people (immigrants and maybe had people working there w/o papers) would not give up the info on him, who they knew. The police did catch the guy, she was able to ID him from photos and in a line up, and the detectives told her not to expect anything to come of it. “We’re sorry to tell you.” The guy had a gun, they got him, and there will be no prosecution because it is a low priority for our police or DA. Incredible.

mafr August 4th, 2013 at 3:59 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 103

ok, thanks for the response.

The video I have seen of that event is horrific. The police were clearly outgunned.

CTuttle August 4th, 2013 at 4:00 pm
In response to Mike German @ 106

Mahalo Nui Loa, Mike, Radley, and Bev for another excellent Book Salon…! *g*

bmaz August 4th, 2013 at 4:01 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 107

This piece is long, but well worth the read. The corollary to militarized cops is immune and out of control prosecutors.

Teddy Partridge August 4th, 2013 at 4:02 pm
In response to Radley Balko @ 104

I was honored to have Neill Franklin in my home just before the NORML meetup in Portland three years ago. He’s a phenomenal activist, and very television-talented. I wish he got more airtime!

Teddy Partridge August 4th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Thanks to one and all for another great Book Salon!

BrandonJ August 4th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Thanks to everyone for this Book Salon. It was very informative.

Elliott August 4th, 2013 at 4:25 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 109

jesusmighty

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