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We need peace officers, not pinkertons: What's Wrong with Police in America

By       Message Dave Lindorff     Permalink
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By Dave Lindorff


NY's 'Finest' bust up a legal protest during Occupy Wall Street (
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Americans got a glimpse of what policing is like in a more humane and civilized society last year when four young Swedish cops, on vacation in New York City and riding on a subway, found themselves faced with a bloody fight in the aisle by two angry black men.

A car full of New Yorkers watched in stunned disbelief as the four Scandinavian cops, all in civvies and unarmed, leapt into action. They used non-lethal techniques to pin the two combatants without hurting either one and then began trying to talk them down, calmly, never raising their voices, and avoiding any swearing or verbal abuse. Neither man was hit by any of the officers despite their struggling. As the Swedish cops waited for New York's Finest to arrive, they gently rubbed and patted the distressed captives and spoke to them reassuringly.

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It was not the way that situation would likely have gone down had it been three off-duty New York cops in that car. First of all, they would almost certainly have had guns on them. Second, they would have been shouting and upping the tension level. Third, they might well have applied chokeholds instead of arm restraints, and would have had the men pinned face down, with knees in their backs. Quite possibly punches would have been thrown, and also kicks. Given the history of prior such incidents, it's conceivable that shots might even have been fired, and that passengers could have been hit by stray police bullets (as happened in a Times Square incident not long ago. One or both of the fighters might well have been injured or even killed.

Instead a violent incident was peacefully halted...incredibly with nobody hurt.

That's how policing is done in much of Europe, where police shootings are almost unheard of. It's how it should be done here.

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But the whole concept of policing in the US is quite different from what it is in most democratic countries. For one thing, abroad police are not ubiquitous in most places. I was in Finland, Austria and southern Germany last year, as well as in Quebec, and it's actually hard to find a cop in any of those places when you're looking for one. I walked for two hours in Montreal and didn't see a single police officer, on foot or in a patrol car. Not so in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or even my local community of Upper Dublin, PA, where it's easy to pass two or three cop cars just while driving the three miles between my house and the train station.

America is infested with police, and instead of responding to emergencies, they spend a lot of their time, from what I can observe, looking for things to bust people for. Laws that can get people arrested have proliferated over the past few decades so fast that today most of us are probably breaking laws every day that we don't even know are on the books. This country is so over-policed that departments are thinking up ways to keep busy by spying on us, and they're using tax money and confiscated cash to buy fancy new toys, from "Stingray" mobile phone taps to drones (including armed drones), that will help them do it.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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