19 August 2014

crime and policing

This is a quotation worth pondering I think.
The Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice (Damian Green):
I am today publishing statistics on police use of firearms in England and Wales for the period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013. These show that:
  • The number of police operations in which firearms were authorised was 10,996 – a decrease of 1,554 (14.1 %) on the previous year
  • The number of Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO’s) was 6,091 – a decrease of 665 (10.9%) officers overall on the previous year

  • The number of operations involving armed response vehicles was 13,116 – a decrease of 1,145 (8.7%) on the previous year
  • The Police discharged a conventional firearm in 3 incidents (down from 5 incidents in 2011-12)

A little math based on this page makes the population about 5 to 1 USA. That sheds an interesting glow does it not?

Straight line statistics are often a problem, but consider what those numbers would look like simply adapted for per capita differences:
Category England & Wales USA at 600%
Incidents 10,996 65,999
AFO's 6,091 36,546
with armored car
13.116 78,696
Shootings by
Police (AFO's)
3 18

A few things jump out when we view this sort of speculative data. Imagine what America might look like if only thirtysix thousand law enforcement officers nationally were allowed, after special training, to carry guns, if and only if a particular need were established for a particular incident! Over here, pass through the police training required by your State or city (this is extremely variable) and you get a badge, an id, and a gun. One need only win an election to be an armed county sheriff. In, Chicago for some time aldermen automatically were authorized to carry weapons. I think that was finally rectified, but I am not sure.

As my younger son noted, there are major cultural differences. English police generally do not expect to confront an armed population. English police carry, and use batons (clubs really) we won't tolerate. These things matter.

But still, consider this. With almost 11,000 incidents where police were specifically authorized to be armed, that is where the threat of violence was considered by higher than patrolman level review authorities, so significant, that armed police might be needed, actual firings totalled three. Three is a slow Summer weekend in Cook County.

In Ferguson, MO. Cops train .50 cal. sniper rifles on citizen protesters. Egypt, whose record on human rights we justly consider terrible has seen fit to have its ambassador ask our State Department to pass on its concerns that we, "exercise restraint" echoing our comments when the government there repressed pro-democracy demonstrators. We have slipped that far in some people's view.

What of our own view of ourselves?

We palefaces really cannot understand the fear and anger the police engender in communities where a third of the young men are either in either trial or prison systems. We need to understand our culture, and the militarization of our police. And we need to stop.

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