'Standard Police Procedure'

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Friend of the room, former cop and sociologist, Peter Moskos gives some insight into training from his days walking the beat in Baltimore:


In the police academy, I was taught to pepper-spray people for non-compliance. Ie: "Put your hands behind your back or I'll... mace you." It's crazy. Of course we didn't do it this way, the way were taught. Baltimore police officers are too smart to start urban race riots based on some dumb-ass training. So what did we do to gain compliance? We grabbed people. Hands on. Like real police. And we were good at it. 

Some people, perhaps those who design training programs, think policing should be a hands-off job. It can't be and shouldn't be. And trying to make policing too hands-off means people get Tased and maced for non-compliance. It's not right. But this is the way many police are trained. That's a shame. (Mind you, I have no problem using such less-lethal weapons on actual physical threats, but peaceful non-compliance is different.)

Not to put Peter on blast, but I was just cruising the net and happened on this:

Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters. 

"When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them," Kelly said. "Bodies don't have handles on them." After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of "active resistance" from protesters. 

In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques. 

 "What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure," Kelly said.

I don't if that contradicts or buttresses Peter's point on training, but in any case, its important to note that, at least in Baltimore, this is not a cop going rogue, but a cop doing his job. Note that "baton strikes" could also be added on. This is not deviance. It is procedure.

As an aside, I think the video above is really effective at silently mocking the notion that these students were a threat.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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