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March 25, 2008

Off Topic: Police Stuff

Police_cap I provide the warning "Off Topic" to those who find there to be some things which somehow ought not to be discussed on a Christian worldview blog. Things perhaps like engineering, skin maladies, the NCAA tourney (darn you, Notre Dame -- I hereby rescind my ECT sympathies!!), backpacking, mixed martial arts, Will Ferrell, and the like. If those topic examples seem rather un-Point-like to you, then, please, my apologies. Let's best maintain our e-friendship by meeting on another topic and foregoing this one.

If, on the other hand, you think that something called a worldview blog enables one to discuss anything in the world, even without providing authoritative judgments by John Calvin or the Pope, and if -- further -- you find "police stuff" at all interesting, then please proceed. Though I make no promise of quality.  It's just stuff.

Police Stuff -- Item #1: I realize that I'm one of the last few people on earth to read (I say "read" loosely, as I'm actually listening to the audiobook) Malcom Gladwell's Blink, but I've found his treatment of the physiological dynamics of police and deadly encounters to be a very accessible and fair treatment of the topic. I note "fair" because I rarely see any discussion of the occurrence or impact of those fight-or-flight effects -- auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, time distortion, maxed heart-rate -- in the mainstream discussion of police shootings. If anything, news coverage seems to simply anticipate injustice claims and provide any details which might (hopefully!) prove damning. But there's so much more to it. So much more that anyone who forms an opinion upon police use of force without the fuller understanding of the physiological dynamics involved really ought not to do so.

For those who find these topics fascinating, Massad Ayoob's books and articles are particularly instructive. Even if he is, as my former Field Training Officer assessed, "a little squirrelly."

Police Stuff -- Item #2: The AP is reporting that police departments are increasingly arming themselves with larger caliber weapons (the commonly misnomered "assault rifles"). The article notes:

Law enforcement officials say the trend toward issuing assault rifles to regular patrol officers started in Los Angeles after a 1997 shootout following a botched bank robbery. Two heavily armed men wore body armor that stopped 9 mm bullets fired by the handguns carried by police, 11 of whom were injured along with six civilians. The two robbers were eventually killed. The Los Angeles Police Department now issues AR-15s.

I found that fascinating, since, as a police officer, in 1997, in the wake of the L.A. shootout, I provided a report to superiors recommending .223 rifles (like the AR-15) for street officer issue, but was rebuffed. I don't say that critically; the superior who said "There's no way we're putting .223 out on the street" was an impressive leader and the kind of man I'd follow into anything, even as I disagreed with his conventional mindset on this issue. But I'm glad to see that a just concern for human life is has changed the consideration of what is "conventional" for first-responding law enforcers.

Though I'm not glad to read nonsense like this:

Last year, Miami Police Chief John Timoney authorized his patrol officers to carry AR-15s because of a rise in assault rifle use by criminals.

"This is a national problem. Police agencies all over the U.S. are going to bigger weapons," said Timoney, whose agency now has about 50 AR-15s and expects to get 150 more. He blames the 2004 expiration of the federal ban on assault weapons for the escalation of heavily armed violence.

News flash: Not one of the mass murders committed with a firearm in this country in the last four years would have been prevented by the logic-foiling "assault weapon ban" which finally ended with its 2004 expiration. That, of all the factors one might consider, Timoney evidently blamed the expiration of that legislation for the increase in mass murders is both uninformed and sad.

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James Willis

Although it is true that some departments are going to these weapons, most of these departments are also moving towards more non-lethal tactical weapons like tazers or bean bag guns. rifles have always been issued to SWAT and nearly all departments have a few officers trained in longer range weapons for special situations. There was a case a few years ago where a man was threatening suicide in Columbus and a State Police Sharpshooter shot the gun out of his hand without harming him. Like all weapons they are very effective tools if used properly.

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