Blessed Are the Peacemakers: For They Shalt Have .50cal Machine Gun Turrets

September 6, 2008

Missed this story when it first broke, but can you think of a reason for a local police department to have an armored personnel carrier with a mounted 50 caliber machine gun turret? Can you imagine them actually using such a thing in a residential neighborhood in the U.S.?

Probably not. The Sheriff claims that the vehicle will “save lives” and reasons that when “something like this rolls up, it’s time to give up.” I’m all for the police being appropriately armed, but give me a break. First of all, this thing is not going to have time to “roll up” unless the police are either conducting a pre-planned raid, or having a long standoff. And in either case, I very much doubt that an APC is going to intimidate criminals any more than twelve guys in riot gear and machine guns already can. .50cal machine guns are for closed firing ranges and war zones: places where you either want to have safe, human-target-free gun fun, or else turn real human beings into hamburger. They don’t belong in residential or urban police operations for anything short of Die Hard.

But wait: what if I told you that it all made sense because… because… Jesus!

Sheriff Lott stated that the name selected from the entries will be “The Peacemaker” because that is the APC’s purpose and the bible refers to law enforcement in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”.

As DrugWarRant points out:

In all my reading of the beatitudes, I never once imagined Christ astride an Armored Personnel Carrier complete with a turret-mounted .50-caliber belt-fed machine gun, surrounded by apostles in SWAT gear, as he said to the crowd “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”


Double Standard for SWAT Shootings: Police Need to Address It, Not Just Deny It

August 14, 2008

I’m not sure I approve of the choice of examples, but the basic point made by Stephen Littau in this post is worth making: there’s a huge double standard when it comes to the actions of police officers and ordinary citizens that honest members of law enforcement need to seriously address and explain.

When an officer in the midst of a SWAT-style “dynamic entry” points a gun at an unarmed woman holding a baby and pulls the trigger, killing her, the fear and confusion of the situation alleviate all legal and moral culpability. In fact, they would only face 8 months in jail even if they were to be found culpable. Likewise if an officer fires through a door and hits civilians: it’s okay. Stuff just gets hairy on the job like that.

But when a citizen fires a gun at what they think is an assailant through a door, they not only face the death penalty, but often get it.

It’s true, of course, that every situation is different. Oftentimes the officers are noble people, and the civilians in question are not. But there is an undeniable overall pattern in which the very same mitigating factors are cited to completely exonerate officers in the line of duty, but yet are denied any role at all in the treatment of civilians.

Officers can’t have it both ways: the whole point of their “shock & awe” SWAT warrants is supposedly to surprise people (many of whom are sleeping and never hear the muffled cry of “police” through their walls and closed doors). The inevitable and predictable result is chaos and confusion. The police cannot deliberately and thoughtfully create such a situation and then claim that the chaos justifies anything they (trained professionals) happen to do. And they certainly cannot claim that excuse for themselves, but then at the same time maintain that ordinary citizens who often have no idea what’s going on are fully responsible for everything they do.


Smiley Face Serial Killer No Longer At Large?

June 11, 2008

Bwahahaha...hunhCNN’s Anderson Cooper laid out the case in hushed, grim tones in a story that even hit CNN.com’s “front page”: college-aged men all around the country have been drowning under mysterious circumstances since 1997. And as two retired NYPD detectives started to put the pieces together, they realized that “creepy” smiley faces have been found nearby at many of the scenes. And before long, the profile emerged: serial killer with a distinctive signature; preying on young, intoxicated men; and he’d been killing for more than a decade. It was enough to send chills down the spine of many readers.

Over at Skepchick, however, blogger Elyse has a different take: the hype just doesn’t pan out and the whole smiley conspiracy appears baseless. A case of impassioned officers trying too hard to make sense of too many tragedies at once, and improperly judging the statistical likelihood of several linked events.

And Elyse makes a darn good case too: one almost certainly similar to the reasons many local police departments have had for rejecting the “smiley face killer” connection. Her main points are as follows:

  • A conservative estimate of around ten thousand or so men have drowned between 1997 and today
  • Smiley faces are one of the most common pieces of graffiti found anywhere
  • Waterside areas are one of the most common places to find graffiti
  • The smiley faces identified at the various crime scenes share very little in common that could be regarded as a distinct signature-style: no distinctive shape, color, facial features, or design
  • Only 12 of the supposedly 40 linked cases, scattered all over several states, had faces anywhere nearby

Put all that together and you have something that isn’t even an eerie coincidence: it’s pretty much a mathematical inevitably that some feature, in fact, some piece of vaguely similar waterside graffiti would connect some drowning cases, especially if you could look at any case from 1997 to the present, pretty much anywhere in the country. If this is really all the investigators have to tie the cases together, it’s no wonder at all that the FBI isn’t impressed.

Their additional claim that each case has “mysterious” elements doesn’t help matters. While it’s statistically common that some young men in the U.S. will drown, it’s not at all a common or normal event in someone’s everyday life: some set of out-of-the-ordinary factors are likely to play into how each drowning happened, and in the cases where young men just vanished, and may have gone into the water alone with no witnesses, there will of course always be many unanswered questions about the circumstances.

Maybe there is a serial killer out there, or a cabal of them (an even more unlikely scenario that the investigators nevertheless seem to favor). But if so, they’ve managed to commit their crimes in a way that looks almost completely identical to what we’d expect to find if none of the cases (whether they were individually murders, suicides, or accidents) had anything to do with each other.


Drugging Patients Against their Will: Doctors and Nurses That Need to Lose Their Licenses

May 15, 2008

The Washington Post released a story today concerning yet another a disturbing practice that our government has quietly added to its repertoire: drugging deportees against their will with powerful anti-psychotics such as Haldol… all without a court order. Citizens or no, this practice is simply despicable, especially the seeming causal regularity of it. Many former victims of the Soviet Union will remember its own draconian use of Haldol on political dissidents.

The sad fact of the matter, however, is that the legal status of this technique is ambiguous. But for the doctors and nurses involved in these cases, things are a little more clear: they should lose their licenses to practice medicine. Practices like these simply are not in compliance with the ethical standards required to practice medicine in this country. The article doesn’t name names, but they should be fairly easy to figure out via FOIA requests.


More Seizure Silliness: Officer Praised for Grabbing Cash Without any Evidence of Crime

January 23, 2008

Not even a hint of skepticism in this article about an officer who’s getting a big pat on the back for taking $69,040 from a driver he pulled over, allegedly for speeding. The officer was apparently so happy with the windfall that he didn’t even give the guy a ticket or charge him with anything: he just took the money and headed back to the station to celebrate.

Now, for all we know, the driver in this case could well have gotten the cash through the drug trade. But there are many times when that isn’t the case. And the point is that police departments should have to prove their allegations in a court of law before going on a spending spree with money they nabbed off someone’s front seat. Or stole out of a locked safe after supposedly showing up to “help.” The police are supposed to be in the business of enforcing justice and public safety, not given incentives to find ways to line their pockets. These laws are deeply corrupting and corrupt.


Lima Ohio Police Steal 400,000 dollars, then Go Execute a Mother of Six

January 7, 2008

Actual Lima website graphic!Luther Ricks Sr., age 63, was attacked in his home: his son stabbed, his family threatened with death. Mr. Ricks managed to break free, grab a gun, and save his son by shooting one of the burglars who had invaded his life and attacked his family.

Unfortunately, then the police got involved.

While they cleared him in the shooting, they found a small amount of marijuana in his home, which Ricks claimed he used for treating his ailments. Based on this, and with no further charges filed, let alone any case proven in a court of law, the police department treated itself to more than 400,000 dollars that Ricks had kept in his home safe (Ricks and his wife had never opened a bank account, worked at a steel foundry for 30 years, and lived modestly).
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