I heard on the radio this morning that 1,400 police officers took part in an operation to shut down Occupy Los Angeles. When I got online I saw the now-familiar images of riot police dragging away unarmed campers. Heavy equipment was hauled out to remove protesters who fled into trees. Meanwhile, on the other coast, a massive show of police force resulted in another crackdown on illegal camping in Philadelphia. That raid on Occupy protesters resulted in injuries, including one induced by a police horse.
I’m becoming accustomed to these excesses of police force and to the outrage I feel as a result. But this morning, when I heard the sheer number of police involved in the effort, it suddenly struck me what a complete recklessness of public resources goes into these operations.
Imagine, instead, if 1,400 police officers were deployed to clear a neighborhood of violent crime. I used to live in a neighborhood in Detroit that had far worse problems to overcome than tents going up without permits. Friends and neighbors were beaten, burgled, kidnapped, raped, and gunned down. I remember the first time I was there when drive-by shooting occurred on my block. The shooter missed the mark. My roommates—two people who are paragons of virtue and have a deeper sense of civic responsibility than almost anyone else I know—just went about their business. “Should we call the police?” I exclaimed.
They shrugged. “If you want. I mean, it’s not like it will hurt anything to call them,” said one. (more…)