About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

July 20, 2016

Princeton in the Nation's Service

My alma mater sent this out to their graduate-student mailing list.
From: W. Rochelle Calhoun [rochelle.calhoun@PRINCETON.EDU]
Sent: Friday, July 08, 2016 2:44 PM
To: allgs@Princeton.EDU
Subject: Letter from Vice President Calhoun and Deans Dolan and Kulkarni

Dear Princeton Students,

Within the past few days, we have been faced with the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, and the deaths of five police officers after a peaceful protest rally in Dallas. Last month, we grieved the deaths of those mostly LGBT and Latino/a/x people slaughtered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We’ve also read about suicide bombings in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed too many innocent people, as these incidents always do.
Grave injustices continuously plague our communities of color at the hands of law enforcement. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile will now be counted among the 509 people who have lost their lives at the hands of the police in 2016. The 49 people who died at the Pulse in Orlando join the countless people targeted because of their sexuality, race, or ethnicity. The bombings in Bangladesh and around the world exemplify the use of terror to assert hegemony.

We must be willing to confront global and national hatred head on. As Angela Davis, who spoke on our campus last spring, said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
We intend to use all of our intellectual and emotional campus resources to address the violence in global culture and to consider how we might act against social injustice and hatred. We also hope you will work in solidarity with your own communities to speak out against injustice of all kinds.

Most of you are away from campus this summer. But we want to remind you that we will continue to engage, educate, and empower our Princeton community to confront racial, gendered, ethnic, religious, and all systematic cycles of oppression.

W. Rochelle Calhoun, Vice President for Campus Life

Jill Dolan, Dean of the College
Sanjeev Kulkarni, Dean of the Graduate Students
Normally I'd just let this slide as just crazy talk (sort of like two spaces after a period). But sometimes you gotta call sh*t out. For shame. Those "who have lost their lives at the hands of the police" should not be compared to victims of suicide bombers and innocents killed on a dance floor.

Let's take three of the 532 (at the time of this writing) killed by police, apparent victims of "systematic cycles of oppression."

Mario Sandoval:
A 19-year-old Hispanic man armed with a gun, was shot on March 24, 2016, in Pueblo of Laguna, N.M. A Laguna police officer was investigating a stolen car outside a casino. When the officer confronted the car's two occupants, gunfire was exchanged. The officer was shot, and Sandoval was killed.
How does "global and national hatred" fit into this shooting?

Or Rakeem Bentley:
A 24-year-old black man armed with a gun, was shot on Jan. 15, 2016, in Southfield, Mich. An FBI task force was conducting an undercover operation at a hotel. Bentley, a fugitive from Kentucky, exchanged gunfire with an officer. Bentley shot the officer, who was wearing body armor, in the chest.
Was this "a grave injustice" against "our communities of color at the hands of law enforcement? What part would you change, exactly?

Or Tristan Vilters:
A 24-year-old white man armed with a gun, was shot on June 30, 2016, in Park County, Colo. Park County sheriff's deputies responded to a domestic disturbance. Vilters had shot and killed his brother. When deputies arrived, he began shooting at them, injuring one.
Sometimes people need to be shot. That's part of the reason we have police.

No cop goes to work hoping to shoot somebody. Certain not any one of the six graduated-from-Princeton police officers I've spoken to. These men and women, unlike most investment bankers or management consultants, got a good education and manage to live up to the university's motto of "In the Nation's Service."


john mosby said...

I will briefly reiterate 2 of my soapbox speeches:

1. Target police recruiting at the elites, the same way that judicial/prosecutorial and press recruiting targets the elites. When it's a congressman's or even businesswoman's kid squeezing the trigger, the analysis will magically change.

2. Police draft. I think it's constitutional under the states' militia powers. If not, amend the darn thing. The police magically get transformed from "them" to "us."


Andy D said...

John I think both ideas are amusing thought projects. My $.02:

1. You'd have to dramatically increase police salaries for that to work; only in some large metro areas does police pay even get halfway reasonable and in a lot of the areas where these shootings happen the pay is almost stupid low. When you tell "the elite" that they'll never crack 6 figures they'll laugh.

2. Can you imagine the shit-show that would be? It'd make the mess that was the military draft look like a highly motivated elite group.

john mosby said...

Andy D - thanks for participating in the thought experiment. Here's your change from the two cents:

1. Not necessarily. The examples I gave, judiciary, prosecutorial, and press, all have quite low starting salaries compared to what you can earn at later/higher stages. There's also the unpaid-intern system at so many nonprofits and even for-profits. Or think of doctors who spend their first 5-10 years out of medical school as low-paid interns/residents. And then there's the Production Assistant position by which people get on the first rung in Hollywood. Not to mention the tenure track our own poor Prof has to endure, even at his advanced age! And if university faculty aren't elites, no one is....Basically, Biff and Buffy get subsidized by their parents Thurston and Lovey in the low-paid first few laps of the cursus honorum. It's how the elite self-maintains. Policing could fit into this just like getting coffee for Francis Ford Coppola does. It would just require a change of mindset.

2. A true police draft - bereft of the exemptions that plagued the military draft - would improve the recruit pool. Rather than taking the applications, tossing out the disqualified, and making offers to whoever's left, you'd pull up a file of possibles, toss out the disqualified (as determined by NCIC searches, etc), send telegrams to who's left, give them some more tests and screenings, then give a gun and tin star to who's left - which would include people who never would have thought of applying. Even after this funneling process, you'd probably still have more recruits than slots to fill, and they'd be higher quality than the present pool. Now many of them would not want to be there, true. But with time, the culture would make the adjustment. Much larger cultural shifts have happened: everyone going to university; women having years of nonmarital sex; etc. And I think you could find cross-aisle support: righties would love the idea of people taking responsibility for their own safety, while lefties would love the idea of The People replacing The Pigs, as well as the opportunity for social engineering the captive audience of draftees. Plus there wouldn't be the pesky foreign-policy just-war issues you have with a military draft.



IrishPirate said...

Lowry and McWhorter have another bloggingheads video up.


Near the end they get into the divide between ordinary black folks and black leftie academics or intelligentsia. It sort of speaks to the issues this email brings out.

Perhaps you could have a bloggingheads threesome with Lowry and McWhorter?

It would violate the biblical injunction against any type of threesome that's not MFF, but it might prove amusing.

Also while searching for the link I just noticed Lowry and Heather MacDonald spoke the other day. I need to watch that.


I may or may not have been involved in a MFF threesome one time. Quite annoying. The two young woman in question spent more time focusing on each other than me. Or so I would say if it happened. I have to maintain my viability for the GOP nomination next round.

Lisette said...

As someone who knew Tristan Vilters since he was 5 I take great exception to the fact that you tell his story - the part that was in the paper - and follow it with the statement - "Some people need to be shot". You don't know anything about the young man or the circumstances that lead to that night. He was someone's son and most certainly did not 'need' to get shot. I do not fault the police in Park County (where there is still an internal investigation going on surrounding the shooting) for protecting themselves. I believe the term used in situations like this is "suicide by cop". But to say he 'needs' to be shot is cold, callous, and uninformed.

Peter Moskos said...

I'm sorry. I don't mean "needs to be shot" in the grand scheme of I wish there could have been a better way for that life to play out. It never should have gotten to that situation.

But here I'm talking from a police officer's perspective. If or when you arrive on a scene and somebody starts shooting at you and your partner gets hit and the bullets keep coming? Yes, you're right: it is cold and callous and even uninformed. But at that moment when it's shoot or be shot, a shooter does need to be shot.