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by Peter Moskos

April 7, 2008

Car vs Foot Patrol

There's a good discussion I've been contributing to in the comments section from a post in marginal revolution.


Anonymous said...

This was a very productive discussion, Peter. There were some fairly silly (and typical) instances of cop bashing going on, along with some very valid criticism of current practices and the ever present "us vs. them" mentality. As a criminal justice student, I used to get overly defensive in the face of such "arguments," and sometimes I still get the urge. How do some of these people know for sure that they have never been helped by a cop? Who knows what a cop has deterred with his or her presence in your neighborhood? Or maybe the recently arrested killer, rapist or mugger had you in their sights before those mean old POLEECE took him off the streets.

These days, I have more success by trying to get people I know to focus on needed systemic changes instead of sophmoric, ill-informed generalizations. We all have to take responsibility for the inadequacies of our system of law enforcement. In a way, we deserve the police we have, because we keep falling for the easy solutions (more prisons, more arrests, more gun control...) that establishment politicians offer us. Currently, I am being nominated for my local ACLU board (Man, this is surreal), so I maybe I'm doing something right. But, even on my best days, I don't handle things as smoothly as you did on marginal revolution. I salute you, sir!

PCM said...

Gosh, I love fan mail. Thanks, Dave. Good luck!

Grant said...

Re: the cop "bashing", I don't think anyone has any issues with police doing their jobs and taking dangerous people off the streets. The issue is obviously how often they do things other than this. I think it is pretty simple: when cops are seen as enforcers of justice, they are liked and respected, often as heroes. When they are seen as enforcers of their own or someone else's will, they aren't. Some of us live in areas with very little in the way of violent crime and theft, and so the police often seem to be doing a lot more of the later than the former.

Its true that much of the blame can't be placed on cops. However, the cops themselves usually have a choice on what charges to press, whether or not to arrest someone, or how much force to use. In situations where they do things which are, in my view, totally out-of-step with common morality, I do place some blame on them as well as the system at large.

I have a friend who is a public defender, and he describes some of the ways people's lives are ruined by the system to me. If I were a cop, I could not in good conscience do some of the things and make some of the arrests many cops seem to.

A popular perception of problems with police is one of adverse selection. Many people feel that because the system is flawed, it attracts the wrong sort of people to police work, and those sorts of people tend to be easily hated. I don't know if thats true or not, but I don't think its an entirely irrational opinion to hold.

Noumenon said...

That was a good thread. I referred somebody to it, remembered your comments and found my way here. Now your book is on my reading list. From the library, though, sorry, if books were as easy as bookmarks then I'd collect them too.