the autumn of policing, fractally speaking

fn=wo4174. at
Hal April 17, 1994

Methodological Madness

My realities are other people's metaphors. Consider my biological
theory of the ageing of US-centered policing. It begins with my
observation, around the time I turned forty, that my hair was graying
upward (or more properly outward roughly from my navel), while the
sprouting of my hair was falling downward--from the widening bald spots
on the top of my head to hair sprouting on my torso in fresh patches in
places I don't care to mention. Hair, as I understand its place in the
constellation of ways my organism disposes of waste, is the shit that
lingers longest on the body. You can shave it, pull it out or dye it,
but honest hair recoloring and redistribution is the most reliable index
I have of the flow of life energy in my own life process. Roughly, the
villains I used to identify in my social life are turning gray for me--
into just plain sad people--and my action is become more centered, as
friends put it, in my heart chakra. So I believe it is with policing
worldwide, as I perceive it from near the navel of global violence
a.k.a. shit/excrement as it forms strands of hair in the US. (Actually
I believe the true navel of violent global expression happens to be
sited in or near Mexico City on earth's tetrahedronal axis, but this
essay is going to be crazy enough without my getting into that.) I've
never seen a lotus or anything else growing out of my navel, but my hair
flow indicates I'm a living/dying incarnation of Narayana; Hindu imagery

Where others see metaphor and dialogue in a manifestation of life/death
cycles, I presume that if the mechanism fits the ageing of my body, it
also fits the ageing of social interaction from dyads in which I
participate right on to global human trends in violence and peacemaking.
Chaos theorists call this recapitulative principle fractal ordering, and
so drawing on this language of the day, I have called my method of
empircal inference fractal.

What I see revealed in the layering of recent events is a dramatically
accelerating ageing of armed, uniformed policing of humanity worldwide.
I see it because in my own mind I'm as fully a biologist of crime as
anyone else: I'm prepared to postulate that as my hair and individual
life go, so goes world policing. See if the pieces don't fit as nicely
for you as they do for me.

Thinning At the Top in Police Use of Deadly Force

Warfare and policing are twin manifestations of state use of deadly
force. As all criminal justice folk know, rules for police use of
deadly force are constantly under review and in controversy, spurred on
by political fallout from tragic innocent loss of life.

In military terms, regulations for the use of deadly force are called
"rules of engagement." I saw such rules regularly being reviewed and
rewritten during my brief tenure as a summer legal intern on East Asian
Affairs in the State Department in 1967. In ordinary foot policing, the
rules for an armed opponent commonly require that one's "suspect" be
given fair warning and opportunity to lay down his or her gun and
surrender. In the air, this means that rules of engagement generally
provide for a policing fighter pilot to hand signal, establish radio
contact on an international emergency band, and warn a pilot to signal
compliance with an order to be escorted to a landing site. Thanks to
mounting technology and countertechnology, opposing aircraft carry air-
to-air missiles and such which have made it increasingly hazardous to
get close enough or wait long enough to negotiate with the opponent.
Hence, you have to be able to use deadly force without the usual
preliminaries. So, in the escalation of technology, the technique of
giving one's soldiers a secret password to pass a sentry in the dark
without getting shot has been fully mechanized, and so highly developed
that the US helicopters the US fighters just shot down in Northern Iraq
(or is it Kurdistan?) had two independent systems for automatically
sending beaming out a password.

There's one other human failsafe mechanism in police use of deadly force
that has not been mentioned--requiring clearance from a commander before
firing. It may not have been mentioned because such a rule would
implicate higher military officers in whose interest it always is to
reduce a tragedy to a choice between mechanical accident and
pilot/patrol officer error. More likely, young fighter pilots have
probably been given authority to shoot on sight without further
authorization, upon failure to receive the password. Hey, it's the kind
of discretion commanders normally give their sentries.

I expect we are destined to see news story upon news story in days to
come about what might have gone wrong with the equipment or the fighter
pilots. I project that behind closed doors US military/political
leaders realize the real failure here: the failure of room for human
contact, for human dialogue, for human negotiation prior to firing the
lethal volley. Pentagon types appear to me to have a way of giving way
quietly to reality. They won't figure the US public can handle knowing,
nor our worldful of "adversaries" dare confirm, that "friendly fire"
risk grows exponentially with reliance on technological devices to
determine whether to use deadly force. The downing of the two
helicopters is a microcosm of reality as it manifested itself in Bush's
over Gulf War where most US soldiers died at the hands of their own
forces. The quiet part is that Pentagon analysts will become leerier of
deadly force as they brief US presidents in the future. They don't want
to keep getting burned this way. Hurts morale and all that. Before
long I expect US forces will pretty much give up shooting in Iraq
altogether, sanctions will be lifted, and perhaps Saddam Hussein himself
will again become a US ally of sorts.

Iraq is the oldest of the military engagements I'll review here. One
could obviously extend the analysis backwards too, as to US use of force
these days in Korea, but I'll move forward in time of onset of US
military engagement instead for brevity's sake. Use of military force
is thinning, falling out rapidly in Iraq. Our fighters can't even
safely shoot down helicopters there any more...sigh...

Next comes Somalia. I'm supposing (finding?) that as one moves south,
US forces engage and disengage covertly and overtly more freely than
they do in higher northern latitudes. But entered Somalia almost two
years after he first bombed Baghdad, and yet we're outta there. This
you may recall was to be Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's grand
opening of the NWO force of global "peacemakers" in contrast to that
pre-police, Cold War handcuffing of UN forces which limited them to
being "peacekeepers" (except of course that in his eagerness for a place
in history, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the rest of us conveniently forgot
that UN forces were out-and-out police warmakers in Korea; so much for
claiming to be doing something brand new). This defeat of the move to
legitimize world policing is to me especially significant in light of
the larger multi-millenial cycle of our swing into human militarization:
as readers will recall, I cite the polity for which Egyptian pyramids
were built as the first Aryan, misogynist, elitist literate, monumental
state order. Boutros Boutros-Ghali--the UN's first venture into African
leadership, is heir to the African Brahman, Aryan tradition. Somalia
represents darkskinned pools of slave labor in his tradition; no wonder
he could so easily presume that Somali savages were a symbolically
significant starting point for world policing. I recall we had UNCJIN-L
discussions about policing in Somalia at the time. The drift of the
conversation was that we were encountering new stuff here. But in
fractal terms all we saw in Somalia was just one more showpiece police
crackdown in a black community. All crackdowns are shortlived and
abandoned. Somalia has proved no exception.

Then there's Bosnia. That's pretty far North, and there are lots of
Christians where we'd be shooting, so we're more restrained than in
Somalia or Iraq. But the force of the old logic that US forces have
been chosen by God and circumstance to police everyone has after a
couple of years of fumbling over "rules of engagement" finally led a UN
commander to order US warplanes to fire down at Serbian gunners in
Gorazde. The result was inevitable; Serbians retaliated by accelerating
their warfare and threatened to take over the city completely. In what
has been described as round-the-clock high-level diplomatic negotiation,
the Serbians have for now stopped a few blocks short of the city center
where residents have gathered, there may be just enough chagrin over the
whole episode on all sides to return to the status quo ante US air
attacks. As we back down, we leave two precedents in place: first,
that a US president defers military command to a foreign national (UN
forces commander), and second, that we give up using force after the
merest token of a military gesture.

Globally, then, now that the USG has won the Cold War, US military use
of deadly force is thinning rapidly.


Back in one of my obscure articles I wrote in Norway in 1986 (appearing
in Humanity and Society, August 1987), I noted I had found a recurring
oscillation in US history, since the middle of the nineteenth century,
between incarcerating young men at home and sending them abroad to fight
foreign wars. Now we in the US are stuck not being able to have our
young men shoot so freely outside the country, and our military urge is
focused on domestic law enforcement. And here, I'd say US police force
is graying, ageing. It has gotten to the point where our focus is on
trivial, non-threatening law enforcement. I heard about it on the news
this weekend, and witnessed it at home as close as the apartment complex
across the street.

The symbolism is rich, known as taking the "crime issue" away from the
Republicans. The Chicano populist in the cabinet, aka the prototype of
the modern liberal Democrat, Henry Cisneros, goes and stays overnight in
a notoriously violent Chicago public housing project. The next day,
yesterday, he and his president simultaneously announce a new
initiative: resident will "be asked" (Clinton's words) to sign leases
giving police permission to search their apartments any time for any
reason. That is more authority to search a home than parole officers
have over parolees, for people for whom the projects are--as an NPR
commentator wryly noted this morning--housing of last resort. You want
shelter, you give up all privacy. All that is left, presumably, is
residents' rights not to have their persons searched (as against
frisked) unless they have been lawfully arrested. Clinton and Cisneros
make this out to be a small price to pay for safety, one many residents
in desperation are quite willing to agree to.

The force of a police state always extends first to the politically most
vulnerable people. This new federal policing initiative amounts to
nullifying the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, cast as a
liberal, mainstream leftist initiative. That's the kind of move which
makes conspiracy theorists among us believe some behind-the-scenes world
government cabal is pulling our president's strings, accommodating the
US public to escalating intrusion into our lives. On the face of it,
that poses no great problem--yet--to us middle-class white folks, or so
I might have thought were it not for the amazing police presence in my
hometown this weekend on the occasion of Indiana University's major
student spring festival, named for the bicycle race immortalized in the
movie "Breaking Away," Little 500 Weekend.

We're a pretty white town. Our most vulnerable law enforcement targets
are our youth, both local teenagers on the streets and transient IU
students, who together constitute the bulk of people arrested by our
four local police forces (state police, county police, city police, and
the largest armed force of all, IU police). Several years back an
officer wandering into a disturbance call at a student apartment complex
on Little Five Weekend decided he was going to take control of the
situation. Cars got rolled in the ensuing "riot" and even police
officers got bruises. Since then each year, the overtime forces on duty
in town have gotten bigger and bigger. This year, thanks in part to a
cold snap which kept people indoors, we have had a really quiet weekend.

Yesterday as I was spending my treehugging time on our corner lot, I
spotted a pair of police cars parked in the entrance to the apartment
complex across the street. I thought they were set up as a speed trap.
Criminal justice busybody that I am, I strolled over to chat with the
officers, who turned out to be from Stinesville, an outlying town in the
county. One officer drove off as I got there. The other told me he was
pleased to be getting well paid by the landlord off duty to check
residents' passes before allowing any car into the apartment complex
parking lot. He would be there from the middle of the afternoon until
two am. The landlord wasn't issuing any visitors' passes. The message
seemed to be that the residents were not to hold any parties at this
location, and indeed the officer told me the landlord had other officers
at his many apartment complexes around town. The officer did smilingly
acknowledge that he had no authority to stop anyone walking into the
complex, a subtlety I imagine most naive partygoers would overlook.

This is not the only story of the weekend indicating to me that in
effect the leading adults of this community effectively imposed martial
law on students, and largely kept partying from becoming at all publicly
visible. If I were a tenant in one of these complexes with a lease
which presumably authorizes free private enjoyment of one's rented
residence, I would be apoplectic at the landlord's policing of my
privacy. I heard young people grumbling timidly. I read news stories
extolling the success of Little Five policing. I wonder how many more
police will be hired and kept on overtime patrol next year.

I call the local extensions of the police state this past weekend in
Bloomington and Chicago a graying of the blue bottom of US policing
because, on the face of it, the force is as low-level as it is pervasive
and intrusive. I imagine few searches in the housing project lead to
arrests, and I know there were remarkably few arrests in Bloomington
this weekend. Still less was there ever a threat of deadly force
associated with the partying. (Some youths did manage to heave a rock
through a police-car windshield without injuring the officer inside in
an unrelated incident; in Bloomington, that's bigtime weekend
misbehavior.) Like the US military abroad, domestic police are
generally, I perceive becoming more timid about applying raw force and
sublimating by increasing their "omnipresence." There are more cops,
but the cops appear as a force to be ageing into softening each
officer's blows.

Meanwhile, stories and news analyses proliferate indicating that the
exploding expansion in US imprisonment the last decade or two is a
magnificent failure of historically unprecedented proportions. All in
all as police work with politicians and leading adults to create more
overtime work for expanded police forces, US police like US fighter
pilots are having to cope with growing restraint criticism of the levels
of force they apply encounter by encounter.


Thinking fractally about General MacArthur's personal reflections upon
returning late in life to Manila, old policing never dies, it just grays
and thins away. If there ever is a recurrence with "modern" military
force of a world war in which one nation like the US take supreme allied
command of an unconditional surrender of opposing forces, there won't be
much of humanity left to police. So far the human survival instinct has
proved strong enough to draw us steadily back from the abyss of global
destruction. I foresee no possibility of any national or unified power
assuming the global policing status US presidents assumed after World
War II. I see the graying and thinning of the US policing as the final
ageing out of global militarization and policing of millenia of Aryan
statehood. I may and often do get exasperated at the foolishness of
continued US military engagement in an Iraq or Bosnia, but on the whole,
I perceive the force of history now to lie with the peacemakers.