Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Immigration, the state of policing and drones

My rambling thoughts on what our Presidential candidates WON'T talk about.

As the next round of Republican debates fast approaches, the candidates are more concerned with trying to somehow stop Donald Trump rather than trying to convince people to vote for them.  It has gotten so one sided, Governor Bobby Jindal tried to regain a little of the spotlight by writing a sniveling little piece on CNN.  Really Bobby, the best you can do is call Trump a madman yet you said nothing about why you would be a better President?  Last time I looked, Louisiana is still struggling with the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster (2011).

I'm not a Trump proponent, just disgusted with what passes for political discourse in 2015.  Trump and Bernie Sanders are polling way ahead of the establishment players because they are saying things that resound with the public.

Look at the situation with immigration in Hungary.  The Hungarian Army has been called in to seal their borders from hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in from war torn areas in the Middle East.  What no one is noticing, except for of all people al-Assad, is the refugees are almost all exclusively male.  This means potentially large numbers of ISIS operatives are arriving as "immigrants" into Europe's open arms.  Now McCain and Obama want those same refugees to come to the United States.  I doubt we will hear any real discussion of this from anyone other than Trump.

Similarly, none of the Republican candidates (and the Democrats still haven't scheduled a debate) want to touch the issue of race and the state of policing.  The issue are interrelated and we are rapidly watching it divided us based on race.  Everyone, both black and white, tend to point to the shooting of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, MO as to where things really changed.

However, I argue that what we are dealing with today is a legacy of the war on drugs.  Going back to Richard Nixon, who declared drugs as "public enemy number one", the US federal government has waged a "war" to arrest those who distribute, possess, manufacture, grow or abuse illegal drugs.  This sent into motion two disturbing trends that resound today.

First, the war on drugs sent police into the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, which were predominately African-American or Hispanic.  Drug crime is lucrative (for both sides really) and the dealers were able to afford better weapons to protect their business from marauders from rival organizations.  The police found themselves seriously outmatched in firepower during the early days and you began to see department switching first from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols, then later adding assault rifles and submachine guns.

That much firepower concentrated in a few neighborhoods inevitably will see violent, deadly confrontations between gangs as well as between gangs and police.  Rounds flying around from 7.62mm or 5.56mm rifles keep going until they hit something, often times innocent bystanders that had nothing to do with the crime being committed.

In response, citizens demand cops do more to reduce violent crime.  The cops oblige never truly realizing their actions to reduce crime and rid the streets of drugs means they are focusing almost exclusively on African-Americans.  A nasty closed-loop is established where the most cops are sent into black neighborhoods creating the highest number of incidents were police have to use force or deadly force to deal with the situation.

It is why "Black Lives Matter" has resounded in the black community leaving whites scratching their heads on the sidelines.  Blacks in these neighborhoods see cops only when their friends or relatives are being arrested or shot by a police officer.  Police officers working these neighborhoods develop a view that everyone is involved in criminal behavior and feel everyone in the community is out to get them.  Conversely, that sentiment is perceived by the African-American community that police are out to get them.

The war on drugs made political hay for elected officials which in-turn led to more legislation.  Mandatory sentencing was seen as getting "tough on crime" but all it really did was send more African-Americans to prison while forcing out violent criminals to make room for more prisoners convicted of drug-crimes (such as possession).  "Asset forfeiture" was seen as a way of disempowering major drug dealers by seizing their homes, cars and property.  Instead it became a way for drug task forces to fund themselves after Byrne Memorial Grant funds ran out.  In both cases, African-Americans took the brunt of these "get tough on crime" policies as police were already targeting black neighborhoods.

Crimes rates did in fact go down during the 90s and early 2000s but at the cost of turning many black neighborhoods into essentially war zones.  Police and blacks forms those neighborhoods targeted as a result of decreasing violence paradoxically found themselves in an ever increasing cycle of violent confrontations.  Cops, as a result, treated black suspects as "more violent and dangerous" since to do otherwise would have jeopardized their own safety, yet this is really a type of racism that has led to what we see today.

Flash forward to today, the headlines are making criminals feel more emboldened since they know cops are under a microscope.  Cops are shutting down rather that be the next poster child for the next shooting.  Crimes rates in Baltimore (where Freddie Gray died while in police custody) has soared.  People are getting concealed carry permits and purchasing weapons at a record rate.  The Black Lives Matter advocates meanwhile fail to the see irony that by continuing to call for the killing of police officers, they are creating the very environment they abhor, a violent lawlessness where blacks are seen as dangerous and violent (the same result again as was created under the "war on drugs").

Only a few people have recognized that the only way to change things is to reform how we do policing in the US.  Instead of creating ever more heavily armed officers looking to arrest at the slightest provocation, we should be looking at how police are used.  Instead of having large numbers of cops on the streets in the most crime ridden areas patrolling around looking for people to arrest, have them show-up like firefighters…when needed.  It is not as radical approach as one might think.  This is how policing is done much of Europe.

Back in April, four Swedish off-duty cops broke up a subway fight in New York city without guns or even injuring the suspect.  It was such a non-event for the Swedes that back home, everyone was shrugging their shoulders.  What was the big deal, that's what Swedish cops are supposed to do.  If they see something, they are supposed to help.  Compare that to the charge given to any American cop working in the city.

None of our candidates will touch immigration or the need to reform policing (other than maybe Trump) but this is what we need to have the next occupant of the White House deal with.

If this topic is too hot-button for a Presidential race, here is another one…drones.  These things are already getting out of hand with everyone from the federal government, police, local agencies and your next door neighbor flying these things around.  They are a danger to airliners (several incidents have already happened where drones have been in the flight path of airliners trying to land).  They are invasive (a man in Louisville, KY shot one down claiming it was spying on his sunbathing daughter).  Finally, they are dangerous.  Most drones use propellors to achieve flight so they are basically flying lawn mowers.  If they malfunction and get shot down, they can seriously injure or kill anyone they hit.

Speaking of malfunction, there is going to be a huge market for electronic devices that jam signals to or from drones.  Some more aggressive devices may allow people to take over control of the drone and either smash it into the ground or steal it.  Lots of chances of innocent people getting hurt as a result.

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