Seven Reasons Police Brutality Is Systemic, Not Anecdotal
Posted on July 2, 2014 at 10.56 am
My first article for The American Conservative went live this morning! Check it out:
Darrin Manning’s unprovoked “stop and frisk” encounter with the Philadelphia police left him hospitalized with a ruptured testicle. Neykeyia Parker was violently dragged out of her car and aggressively arrested in front of her young child for “trespassing” at her own apartment complex in Houston. A Georgia toddler was burned when police threw a flash grenade into his playpen during a raid, and the manager of a Chicago tanning salon was confronted by a raiding police officer bellowing that he would kill her and her family, captured on the salon’ssurveillance. An elderly man in Ohio was left in need of facial reconstructive surgery after police entered his home without a warrant to sort out a dispute about a trailer.
These stories are a small selection of recent police brutality reports, as police misconduct has become a fixture of the news cycle.
But the plural of anecdote is not data, and the media is inevitably drawn toward tales of conflict. Despite the increasing frequency with which we hear of misbehaving cops, many Americans maintain a default respect for the man in uniform. As an NYPD assistant chief put it, “We don’t want a few bad apples or a few rogue cops damaging” the police’s good name.
This is an attractive proposal, certainly, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Here are seven reasons why police misconduct is a systemic problem, not “a few bad apples”:
1. Many departments don’t provide adequate training in nonviolent solutions.
This is particularly obvious when it comes to dealing with family pets. “Police kill family dog” is practically its own subgenre of police brutality reports, and most of these cases—like the story of the Minnesota children who were made to sit, handcuffed, next to their dead and bleeding pet—are all too preventable. Some police departments have begun to train their officers to deal more appropriately with pets, but Thomas Aveni of the Police Policy Studies Council, a police consulting firm, says it’s still extremely rare. In the absence of this training, police are less likely to view violence as a last resort.
2. Standards for what constitutes brutality vary widely.
“Excess is in the eyes of the beholder,” explains William Terrill, a former police officer and professor of criminal justice at Michigan State. “To one officer ‘objectively reasonable’ means that if you don’t give me your license, I get to use soft hands, and in another town the same resistance means I can pull you through the car window, [or] I can tase you.” The special deference police are widely given in American culture feeds this inconsistency of standards, producing something of a legal Wild West. While national legislation would likely only complicate matters further, local or state-wide ballot propositions should allow the public—not the police—to define reasonable use of force.
Yes, college is too expensive—but forgiving student loans won’t fix it
Posted on June 30, 2014 at 11.33 am
So apparently I should have written about Hobby Lobby to be in tune with the news cycle this week, but I didn’t. I guess if you’re sick of that already, this is the article for you, haha.
When I was college shopping back in 2004, the idea of “tuition inflation” wasn’t on my—or most people’s—radar. We knew that college was expensive, of course, but I don’t remember my classmates or our parents thinking there was anything to be done about it other than working hard and, in most cases, taking out massive loans.
For me, however, loans were always off the table. My main criteria when looking at schools was that I’d be able to graduate debt-free. Given that my family isn’t named Rockefeller, that wasn’t an easy task.
So I went to the less prestigious choice of schools, which gave me a full ride scholarship. I worked long hours over the summers and took extra classes so I could finish a year early.
When I graduated, I didn’t owe a single dime. It was all worth it.
Most of my generation is not so fortunate.
As proud as I am about what I accomplished, my path simply isn’t available to most people. The scholarship I recieved, for instance, was only given to ten students each year, about 0.3% of my graduating class.
And my alma mater? Its tuition now runs more than $30,000 annually, which is a 50% increase in the last six years alone.
And don’t even think about paying that kind of bill with a summer job. Fewer and fewer college students are working their way through school now because it’s just not possible to make tuition payments with low wage jobs anymore.
In 1979, it took only one 8-hour day of minimum wage work to pay for a single credit hour of in-state tuition at a public university. Now, it takes 60 hours—a week and a half if you’re working full time, which is unrealistic for many students.
But don’t forget, you need 15 of those credit hours every single semester to graduate on time. Even at public university rates, that’s 22.5 weeks of full-time work to cover a semester’s tuition, even though semesters are only about 15 weeks long.
And that’s not even scratching the surface of costs for room and board, books, and spending money.
With these numbers, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps can’t work. College is just too expensive.
What I’m reading this summer
Posted on June 27, 2014 at 2.12 pm
Let Me Be Clear: Barack Obama’s War on Millennials, and One Woman’s Case for Hope
by Katie Kieffer
The tone and title of this book may suggest a simple partisan polemic against the GOP’s enemy #1, but Kieffer’s freshman effort offers what is often a pleasantly liberty-friendly message. Consider, for instance, her comments on the drone war:
Obama authorized a drone strike that killed an innocent sixteen-year-old American boy, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and six other civilians, including his seventeen-year-old cousin…The DOJ white paper was the most articulate justification for murder in American history. (p. 233-234)
Or on foreign policy:
By 2008, young people—the crucial swing voters—were tired of war and looking for a harbinger of peace…Obama promised to bring our troops home. Instead, he kept them in the Middle East longer…Anti-American sentiment and episodes of fatal blowback against American troops soared under Obama. (p. 182, 211)
This is not a tome of academic libertarianism. It is, however, a solid choice for your more traditionally conservative friends and family, who will find themselves nodding along to libertarian arguments before they even know what hit them. In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book by the publisher to review. I was not under any obligation to offer a favorable review, nor did I receive any compensation.
The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation
by Michael O. Wise, et al.
This one, as you may have guessed is for my summer grad school class. I suppose you’d have to be a history or theology nut to really get into it, but it’s often a fascinating read—particularly given that many of these works were lost to scholars for no less than two millennia.
It’s kind of like the Indiana Jones of reading material (or at least that’s the sort of thing I tell myself when I’ve got to get through 100 more pages of a text written for an audience and culture so incredibly foreign to my own!).
The Cost of Discipleship
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
My first Bonhoeffer book, which one of my Young Americans for Liberty coworkers was kind enough to give me. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m super excited to do so.
Bonhoeffer, for those who don’t know, was a German pastor and theologian who advocated a “religionless Christianity.” A staunch pacifist, he nevertheless felt an obligation to participate in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer ultimately died while imprisoned for his dissent against the Nazi regime. Discipleship is one of his most famous works, and it deals with ethics, sacrifice, and more.
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
by Neil Postman
Another one I haven’t started yet—probably won’t get to it until August, realistically.
I’m not sure if I’ll end up sharing Postman’s concerns, but my previous experience of his work has been excellent. He’s good at provoking thought about topics which we can easily take for granted as inescapable parts of modern life.
Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition
by Ludwig von Mises
I started reading this like four years ago, and I’m embarrassed to say I possibly never finished it (which is very unusual for me). Either way, it’s a small volume, and I’d like to give it another perusal this summer. It’s been too long since I read any economics stuff, anyway.
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
by C.S. Lewis
It’s also been too long since I anything from Lewis, and the “pope of Protestantism” always bears up to a rereading. Plus, Surprised is a treasure trove of quotes like this:
[T]he greatest service we can do to education today is to teach fewer subjects. No one has time to do more than a very few things well before he is twenty, and when we force a boy to be a mediocrity in a dozen subjects, we destroy his standards, perhaps for life.
While friendship has been by far the chief source of my happiness, acquaintance or general society has always meant little to me, and I cannot quite understand why a man should wish to know more people than he can make real friends of.
I’m very possibly being over-ambitious here, given that I’m also going to be moving, traveling, and doing a considerable amount of reading for class, but we’ll see how it goes. So what’s on your reading list for the summer?
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