I once introduced a best-selling thriller writer at a reading here in Michigan and mentioned -- among other things -- that he was a finalist for some award. When he got to the podium he quipped, "You know what a finalist means, don't you? It means you didn't win."
Police officers in the U.S.A. are not better or worse than in Germany or Great Britain. What determines the conduct of an average police officer is the political and organizational climate in which they operate.
The people of Davis, California don't think so, as The New York Times reports this week. Their police department is returning the Pentagon's gift of a "mine-resistant, ambush-protected" motorized tank (MRAP).
Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam's armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality.
I worked hand-in-hand with SWAT and believe that its primary mission is to save lives, yet I also agree with Balko's demand for more transparency and accountability from law enforcement. It is this lack of transparency that contributes to the notion that law enforcement has run amok.