Michael Brown was 18 years old, black and unarmed when a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot him to death after a scuffle in the street. The incident has provoked ongoing mass protests, vandalism, and national calls for an independent investigation and higher standards of police accountability.

The police, citing death threats, have refused to release the name of the police officer who shot Brown. The hacker collective Anonymous has promised to discover and make public the officer's identity anyway. I suspect they will succeed (if they haven't already).

General questions for those who have followed this story:

Do you think the shooting was reasonable under the circumstances?
How do you feel about the police?
Do you trust the police? Why or why not?
Who do the police answer to? Who ought the police answer to?
Are police held too accountable, properly accountable or not accountable enough for their actions?

Tags: Brown, Michael, Police

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they already have released the names and addresses of the police. The events of that teens death are currently still under investigation. It's a mess here right now. they tried to shoot down a police helicopter,which made ferguson a no fly zone for commercial traffic and since it's really close to airport it gets flown over pretty regularly.Most of the police in St.louis county are good guys. As to trust that would be a rather strong word for it. I would say more wary respect. The police do have a special division that over sees their actions. Who should they answer to a non corrupt legal system. Lets be honest here no legal system is non corrupt. I think accountability is based on which judge they go before. Sorry if seem jaded but this is the best honest answer i can give you. I never thought I would see a riot in missouri much less 15 miles from were i live.  what i know pretty much went out the door. The moment i began to analyze what i had that could be used as defensive weapons.

I live 200 miles away, don't plan on a road trip to the area anytime soon, but from what I gather there are people going there to observe the riots..."What a Country." (borrowed from Yakov Smirnoff).

The best plan I've heard to date is live cameras on cops during their shift.  I would live stream the data from the cameras to a central storage facility outside the reach of the local authorities and the public but available to both sides at a court hearing.

That way no one can hide, not the public nor the police.

Investigations of the police should not be performed by the police, this practice hasn't show a high degree of success, a better format needs to be developed where a bias for or against the police doesn't exist.

As to your Questions:

1. Do you think the shooting was reasonable under the circumstances?
2. How do you feel about the police?
3. Do you trust the police? 3a. Why or why not?
4. Who do the police answer to? 4a. Who ought the police answer to?
5. Are police held too accountable, properly accountable or not accountable enough for their actions?

1. Not enough information leaning toward unreasonable at present.

2. Wary.

3. No.  3a.  Have know enough of them through the years.

4. Currently to themselves, the Thin Blue Line exists.  4a. The public (like all citizens).

5. Improperly accountable, improvement to the system of accountability is needed.

Having lived in both the Anglo-Saxon world (Canada and the UK) and continental Europe, one of the most striking differences I found were with people of authority.

It amazes me how extremely friendly Americans and Canadians are in the street (not to mention welcoming, smiling, helpful etc.) and yet the police often have a nauseating swagger, deadly stern serious faces and a confrontational attitude to the point of even menacing. Except around tourist places and maybe the very centre of a down town area, I found police very grumpy or even unwilling to help with directions or questions about how to park or get somewhere. When the police get caught planting evidence or unnecessarily smacking up a suspect, no one is surprised. As a kid in Ontario we practically maintained a 100m radius around all cops, either that or we even went out of our way to antagonise them. I feel guilty when close to them, the opposite of protected and safe and I often have the feeling that they are moralizing me, judging me and ready to clamp down on me for the slightest of infractions. I generally don't trust them.

This is so remarkably different with many (though not all) continental European police forces (not including the more serious national police). While in general people in restaurants are surly and customer service and treatment of strangers leave a lot to be desired...the local police are nice (even charming sometimes especially in Italy, France, Hungary, Denmark and Spain). They walk around lazily, often blind to small infractions. They smell marijuana and don't care. Happy to give directions or help out tourists. I rarely even notice they are there and I certainly don't check to make sure my bicycle lights are working properly or that the light is green when I'm walking across the road. I feel very safe around them (when there isn't a protest) and their presence is extremely reassuring. That doesn't mean that they won't change in a second if there is a serious problem. But otherwise, people have ambivalent attitudes towards them and rarely think of them as pigs.

Why are North American police such dickish cowboy like ass holes, especially when everyone else is so friendly? Why are they so antagonistic to the point of creating problems where they don't exist? Why are they so quick to arrest people?

Why is the militarization of North American police-force tolerated?

I've noticed much the same regarding the difference in policing tactics between NA and EU myself. I have no good words for the US police officers, they are generally a horrible bunch which seems to take pride in being the bigger asshole of any situation. There also seems to exist a massive gulch between the police and the public, where the public fears the police and their unpredictable responses.

As for the EU police I've found that they prefer to just talk to and reason with you. As long as you don't act up they will be courteous and helpful. The video below shows how the police here handles situations, if it were in the US I think the drunk guy would be beaten to a pulp by a couple dozen officers within a few seconds:


I haven't followed the Fergurson thing all that closely, and I think it's safe to assume that it would probably be a good idea to delay judgement until the wheels of justice has turned - which is to say a few years time.

There were no subtitles I could see, despite the claim in the title of the video. 

Anyway, perhaps it's due to living in a fairly mellow part of the country (Portland, Oregon), but I've seen many interactions between cops and people on the street that were kind and sensitive and generous. This includes encounters with racial minorities, youth, undocumented aliens, and others.

Any broad characterization of "American police" is false right from the start. 

Particularly grating for me as an American is the way foreigners don't understand that cops on the street in US cities are not employees of the Federal government. So, they'll see some regrettable incident on TV or Youtube, often done by a city cop, and start talking about "American police" as though they all reported to President Obama, whereas there can be a vast difference in tone and policy between, say, Portland, Oregon and  Birmingham, Alabama.

You see, a lot of the people who make these comments do live in countries (and I'm sure Norway isn't one) where the cop on the streetcorner DOES work directly for the national administration and is carrying out national policies under direct orders from the top. Nothing could be further from the way things are done in the US, where authority is very dispersed and Federal powers are extremely limited.

American cops at almost every level and in every jurisdiction do tend to have their most unpleasant encounters with young black men, and so, understandably if not ideally, young black men do get "profiled" and more or less have to overcome all of the preceding unpleasant experiences they've had with young black men.

I don't know if people outside the US understand that young black men account for a much greater proportion of crime than their pure demographics would indicate. There are socio-economic reasons for this ranging from poverty to the lack of a responsible male father figure in their lives. The responsible part of the black community is largely a matriarchy. The criminal part tends to be dominated by males.

But the extra time police spend investigating and controlling young black men inevitably affects their (the cops) view of the world. They know they are more likely to be assaulted or shot or even killed in an encounter with a black youth than with an equivalent encounter with a white or Asian youth.

I think you can already see that there is a vicious cycle going on here. And it's often perpetuated by the young black men as well as the police. Recently, for example, I saw a group of blacks in their late teens wait at a street corner until the crossing light turned against them. Then they chose that time to slowly walk across the street against the light, spaced out so as to block traffic in both directions. Blacks in America have a lot to be unhappy about, but annoying the general public with acts of pointless defiance like that doesn't help fix anything. 

The situation in Ferguson almost qualifies as a special case. The police chief there seems to want to antagonize the black community, and a great example of that was his releasing of the tape of the deceased youth robbing a convenience store over the objections of the FBI and Justice Department. You see, contrary to the way things are in many of the countries in the world, the local police are independent and out of the control of the Federal government, until they actually break a Federal law.

Try opening it on YT and ensure that subs are enabled.

I was painting in very broad strokes about the US police, but this is my experience from living there for 4 years and travelling mostly in the south (mostly around I10 and I95). Of course your mileage may vary. As I have understood it there are substantial differences between the required education for police officers between states, which would be my guess as to why their quality ranges. In North-Western Europe policing is a bachelor study requiring 3 or 4 years of college, and in Norway there is such a high number of applicants that many take 1 or 2 years of (usually) criminology or law before entering the police college. I doubt we disagree that smart people generally make for better police officers.

My guess would be that most small/non-federal European countries would only have national police forces (seems like a pretty good thing to nationalize anyway), though I do know some, especially in the south, also have military police (carabinieri). Yet I'm not necessarily convinced that the organization of the police force is equated with its efficacy. 

As for profiling it seems silly that the police shouldn't do it, since heuristics is very much how humans orient themselves about the world. In these parts we label it socialist political correctness gone awry and usually cite Sweden as the prime example. Also, I am very much aware of the dangers posed by young black guys in the US since I've lived not far from the ghetto. (Not that the PWT meth heads are particular safe either, nor LatAm gangbangers or even the stereotypical fratboys.)

The vicious cycle you are referring to certainly a major issue the US faces. As an outsider, I think it has to do with the general attitude towards violence, which is much more accepting of violence than in most other places. I recall a psychologist being interviewed which blamed it on a culture historically reliant on animal husbandry and having scattered settlements. As strangers are rare and can quickly abscond with your livelihood the best strategy for survival is deep mistrust and quick escalation dominance. In addition there are pockets of pure racism which I've never seen anywhere else, which makes it understandable that blacks are skeptical of whites.

"There were no subtitles I could see, despite the claim in the title of the video. "

Click the CC button on the YouTube frame.

Ah. Didn't think of that because I've never had to do it before.

It's unbelievable the patience they can have. I remember listening to two police outside my window in Spain listening to some drunk guy say the craziest obscenities and threats and after about five minutes the police calmed the guy down and offered to walk with him to his home. Their voices never raised once and the tone of their words showed they were totally amused by the scene. If it was a policeman in Ontario he would have been in the patrol car within seconds with his head bashed on the door as he entered the car.

I have seen a lot of patience and compassion out of American police. It's the exceptions that tend to end up on the evening news or on Youtube. One has to be careful when drawing conclusions from exceptional cases.

But what if one's experience is based on, you know, one's experience, as opposed to by YT and click bait journalism?

I've already related my own experience.


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