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by Peter Moskos

December 12, 2014

Hey, I'm quoted in the Economist!

And I managed not to swear.

But it might be behind a paywall. If so, here is the good parts version:
Even undercounting, America easily outguns other rich countries: in the year to March 2013 police in England and Wales fired weapons three times and killed no one.

Such comparisons should be read in context. America’s police operate in a country with 300m guns and a murder rate six times Germany’s. In recent years the New York Police Department (NYPD) was called to an annual average of almost 200,000 incidents involving weapons, shot 28 people and saw six of its officers shot (mostly non-fatally). Despite the headlines, it is one of America’s more restrained forces.
In a small town policemen are investigated by people they work with all the time. “The prosecutor is the guy who went to your kid’s confirmation,” says Mr Moskos.
A more obvious culprit is the way policework is measured. Police managers fret about lazy officers. To keep them away from the doughnuts, most forces judge officers by how many arrests they make. Preventing a rape does not count; busting someone for jaywalking does.

There is a paradox in all this. American cities have become much safer in the past two decades. Too many urban forces do not seem to have noticed. In Cleveland, the DoJ found a sign in a police parking lot that read “Forward Operating Base”, as if it were an outpost in Afghanistan.
The federal government stokes the culture of the warrior cop by offloading surplus military kit to local police. The Los Angeles School District Police Department has acquired three grenade-launchers and a mine-resistant armoured vehicle, perhaps to keep its sophomores in check.
The number of shots fired by police in New York has fallen by more than two-thirds since 1995. ... Even with these changes, “There is at least one crazy cop in every precinct,” says a retired NYPD officer.
That last part is so not true. The actual number of crazy cops in every precinct is three.

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