Monday, December 02, 2019

The paranoid style in policing

It is a sad enough statement that we have to note this past weekend's Canal Street shooting is far from the first such incident in recent memory. It's not the first shooting to occur in a large crowd during a major event. We can easily call to mind previous similar episodes during Mardi Gras along the parade route, or during a Second Line, or on Canal or Bourbon Street during a big game or holiday weekend.  We literally hate to see it.  But we have seen a lot of it.

So we can say that it's frusrating or we can say it's depressing, but the one thing we can't say about it at all is that it is surprising. And, if we are the police, who are professionally tasked with responding to these incidents, our training and experience should prevent us from lapsing into paranoid fantasyland when they occur. And yet, here we are.
Ferguson said officers were on the scene immediately after gunshots started to ring out, as patrols had been beefed up for the game. He said that officers at first thought they were being fired upon since the shots rang out so close to them. No police officers were injured, Ferguson said.
What. Why? Why would they think that?  When, in the long sad history of gunfire breaking out in a New Orleans special event crowd, have police ever been the intended target?  It says something about the NOPD's culture that this is their first thought. It says they instinctively view the public as an enemy threat. 

Without getting off onto a tangent about the fundamental nature of policing and criminal justice as an institution of state control, let's agree, for the sake of argument, that there is such a thing as an equitable police department culture and that such a thing does NOT encourage an adversarial relationship with the community at large.  Accepting that premise, this reaction should be a clear warning sign that NOPD is falling alarmingly short of the standard there.   

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