Crime, combat and the militarisation of police forcesSunday, April 04, 2021
The Attica prison riot in September 1971 began as a protest that quickly mushroomed into the murder of a prison guard by prisoners.
The four-day stand-off ended with the death of 43 people when the facility was stormed by police officers drawn from the highway patrol, traffic department, the guys who push the paper trolley and pretty much anyone from anywhere that they could pull a uniform and a gun.
Well I learnt in special weapons and tactics (SWAT) school that any operation that results in death is not a complete success, and if hostages die it is pretty much a failure.
This incident resulted in 10 hostages being killed. So it could only be considered a total and complete disaster. Just to put the icing on the cake of this horrible mess, the autopsies revealed that the hostages were killed by police bullets.
The above disgrace birthed what we now know as SWAT teams. It was realised that if people are not trained and equipped to deal with situations you get results such as was demonstrated at the Attica prison.
So the militarisation of police forces was a result of an identified need. It was not because it looks cool (although it does), or because there is a desire to petrify the public.
Like all things that happen in life, there is a reason they occur. Militarisation occurred because of the need to meet challenges that did not previously exist or were not being solved in a satisfactory manner. Criminal conduct caused militarisation.
Now let us look on police combat. This occurs because of crime. Now many would like you to believe that it is a result of police culture, corruption, ill preparation or brutality.
The beauty of the modern era we are living through is that data is available to determine fact from fiction.
Let us crunch some numbers.
Brazil is similar to Jamaica in many other ways than national colours or beautiful women. We have similar gang cultures, garrison-type communities and an unacceptable murder rate.
Now those with motives of pushing their agenda or justifying their jobs will try and present police combat as a comparative to population. I do not buy it. I am of the belief that police combat is a direct result of the level of criminal activity and should be compared as such.
In Brazil, eight per cent of people killed violently or one in 12 were killed in combat with the police, for the three-year period 2016 to 2018.
This would compare with Jamaica, which had a figure of 10 per cent or one in 10 of all people killed violently were killed in combat with the police. This for the period 2014 to 2016.
OK, so let us say Jamaica and Brazil have historical human rights issues. So let us look at the United States of America. They are the standard in our region and literally control whether we can defend ourselves from the gangs that wage a war against us.
They had a record of 10 per cent of all violent deaths occurring during police combat, or one in every 10 people killed violently are killed in combat with the police. This for the period 2010 to 2013.
It cannot be a coincidence that these three countries have similar statistics relating to people dying in combat with the police and the murder rate. That being 'if you live in a country where murders are rife then it is likely that criminals will lose their lives in combat with the police'. This is if the police force in question is actually trying to oppose the gangs.
Let me explain the relationship.
Murders drive police operations, particularly murders committed by gangs. This is because unlike domestic murders, the actual offender is harder to identify. For example, we may know the Klansman Gang committed the offence, but there are hundreds of them in the gang. Thus escalated police activity to arrest the offenders. The more operations, the more contact with gunmen, the greater the likelihood for gun battles.
Controlled societies like China, Vietnam and even Singapore present a totally different dynamic. Now I know Singapore is not a communist country, but it is very much a controlled society with a dictatorial Government. These countries have low murder rates and lower comparatives of police combat. They also have indefinite detention and capital punishment that works in an extremely timely manner, so that environment is not comparable.
This is where the errors in judging police forces come about. We do not compare apples to apples.
You cannot compare the police reaction to murders country to country if one country is combatting gangs in inner cities, favelas or government projects and the other country is having a domestic violence crisis.
The statistic is not representing police restraint vs excesses, it is representing the differed likelihood of combat to occur.
Gangs are always more likely to engage in combat because they are in numbers, armed and live in environments that assist gunfights.
The Haiti reality is going to make an interesting study for criminologists. This is a situation where the armed forces are no longer really combatting the gangs, but trying to survive them.
This needs to be studied by us in particular because it is a likely situation for our future if we continue pretending that we have the criminal environment of Canada or Denmark, rather than Mexico or Brazil.
Similarly, we need to be cautious about accepting figures from controlled societies, as they release the numbers that suit their narrative. The same way that forces in our country release the data in a way to further their donations. Oops! I mean their cause.
The message this week is do not just accept the message that is being barked at you. Look for the hidden obvious and sometimes look on the messenger also.
There is usually a reason that things are how they are. There is always a pre-story that you may not be old enough to have lived through and no one has told you the tale.
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