Genius Aspirant

Crime Fighting as War?

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I was talking this morning to a friend of mine who is a police officer in Los Angeles. I mentioned to him a side discussion here under the torture topic about the difference between war and fighting crime domestically. He noted how in their force -- and he says this is true in others -- what police officers do is not that different in some ways than many battlefield areas -- a mix of working with the local community but also hitting the enemy/criminal element hard. He says that they have and use equipment that is not very different than what is used on the battlefield -- hardened vehicles, in effect small tanks, high powered rifles, even bombs. He was sympathetic to the idea that we should not make a big distinction between a foreign war and a domestic criminal threat. Techniques that are effective in one area are almost assuredly effective in another. In fact he said that there has been a good deal of cooperation among members of the military, private security companies (who both act as private police forces and run many of our prisons), and local police forces on capture and interrogation techniques. He was not sure if we should use torture in either case, but did think that if we found it useful in one he did not see why it should not be used elsewhere.

I wonder then if we are really hurting ourselves with all of the restrictions we place on the men and women who are paid to protect us from crime, both violent and other.

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I was talking this morning to a friend of mine who is a police officer in Los Angeles. I mentioned to him a side discussion here under the torture topic about the difference between war and fighting crime domestically. He noted how in their force -- and he says this is true in others -- what police officers do is not that different in some ways than many battlefield areas -- a mix of working with the local community but also hitting the enemy/criminal element hard. He says that they have and use equipment that is not very different than what is used on the battlefield -- hardened vehicles, in effect small tanks, high powered rifles, even bombs. He was sympathetic to the idea that we should not make a big distinction between a foreign war and a domestic criminal threat. Techniques that are effective in one area are almost assuredly effective in another. In fact he said that there has been a good deal of cooperation among members of the military, private security companies (who both act as private police forces and run many of our prisons), and local police forces on capture and interrogation techniques. He was not sure if we should use torture in either case, but did think that if we found it useful in one he did not see why it should not be used elsewhere.

I wonder then if we are really hurting ourselves with all of the restrictions we place on the men and women who are paid to protect us from crime, both violent and other.

I have some hesitation with modeling crime fighting as fighting a war. In a war you have death by friendly fire and death by collateral damage. This is at variance with the principle of protecting the rights of the innocent. We also set the default to presumption of innocence, so everyone dealt with by law enforcement is considered innocent until adjudged guilty, at least that is the theory.

This approach has some drawbacks, as we all know, but consider the alternative. Shall we go back to the rubber hose confession and the bright light third degree? Prior to Miranda and the requirement of confession in open court, that used to be standard operating procedure when dealing with bad actors.

it is a difficult question particularly since some of the Bad Guys are terrorists and not just criminals motivated by greed or passion.

ruveyn

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I was talking this morning to a friend of mine who is a police officer in Los Angeles. I mentioned to him a side discussion here under the torture topic about the difference between war and fighting crime domestically. He noted how in their force -- and he says this is true in others -- what police officers do is not that different in some ways than many battlefield areas -- a mix of working with the local community but also hitting the enemy/criminal element hard. He says that they have and use equipment that is not very different than what is used on the battlefield -- hardened vehicles, in effect small tanks, high powered rifles, even bombs. He was sympathetic to the idea that we should not make a big distinction between a foreign war and a domestic criminal threat. Techniques that are effective in one area are almost assuredly effective in another. In fact he said that there has been a good deal of cooperation among members of the military, private security companies (who both act as private police forces and run many of our prisons), and local police forces on capture and interrogation techniques. He was not sure if we should use torture in either case, but did think that if we found it useful in one he did not see why it should not be used elsewhere.

I wonder then if we are really hurting ourselves with all of the restrictions we place on the men and women who are paid to protect us from crime, both violent and other.

I have some hesitation with modeling crime fighting as fighting a war. In a war you have death by friendly fire and death by collateral damage. This is at variance with the principle of protecting the rights of the innocent. We also set the default to presumption of innocence, so everyone dealt with by law enforcement is considered innocent until adjudged guilty, at least that is the theory.

This approach has some drawbacks, as we all know, but consider the alternative. Shall we go back to the rubber hose confession and the bright light third degree? Prior to Miranda and the requirement of confession in open court, that used to be standard operating procedure when dealing with bad actors.

it is a difficult question particularly since some of the Bad Guys are terrorists and not just criminals motivated by greed or passion.

ruveyn

Yes-- I guess I do think there are and should be differences between war and crime fighting. I dont think one attacks a city in crime fighting as one does in war, as was suggested in the discussion under the torture thread. But I do wonder about how we determine guilt in both contexts when dealing with specific individuals. I am not sure I see why that should be different in the two contexts -- and I am here talking about the treatment of those who have been captured/arrested. It seems to me torturing someone is either a violation of their rights or it is not.

In crime fighting we do accept some level of collateral damage -- if an innocent person is killed or harmed we look at the reasonableness of the actions of the police -- the same currently applies in war.

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In crime fighting we do accept some level of collateral damage -- if an innocent person is killed or harmed we look at the reasonableness of the actions of the police -- the same currently applies in war.

Killing an innocent collaterally does not immunize a law officer from being sued for tort damages. It may save him from criminal charges if the conditions warrant and indicate no gross negligence. However a cop who kills an innocent unnecessarily has made a very poor career choice. He may be suspended, demoted or just dismissed from the force. The police force has a hard enough time dealing with the Bad Guys, they do not need problems arising from collaterally killing innocent citizens. In fact the procedure is to permit the target to escape if that is required to prevent the death of an innocent.

ruveyn

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War is a breakdown of civilization, fought to return civilized conditions as soon as possible. Treating the pursuit of criminals as if we were perpetually at war and the whole country were a battlefield destroys the concept of civilization and obliterates the distinction between civilized society and war. Such an ends-justifies-the-means mentality eliminates all protection of individual rights under limited government. Anyone would be guilty until proven innocent and treated accordingly. It is bad enough that tax authorities routinely do that now without turning all the police loose against us to pursue whatever force they want in the name of "fighting crime". Who do you turn to for protection when the government is running its own organized crime syndicate?

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War is a breakdown of civilization, fought to return civilized conditions as soon as possible. Treating the pursuit of criminals as if we were perpetually at war and the whole country were a battlefield destroys the concept of civilization and obliterates the distinction between civilized society and war. Such an ends-justifies-the-means mentality eliminates all protection of individual rights under limited government. Anyone would be guilty until proven innocent and treated accordingly. It is bad enough that tax authorities routinely do that now without turning all the police loose against us to pursue whatever force they want in the name of "fighting crime". Who do you turn to for protection when the government is running its own organized crime syndicate?

I agree. There is already a term for what seems to be under discussion and it is called martial law. Martial law is defined as the established law of a country administered by military forces in an emergency when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety. If a country was to stay under martial law they would most likely come to exactly what ewv gives as a description in his above statement.

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War is a breakdown of civilization, fought to return civilized conditions as soon as possible. Treating the pursuit of criminals as if we were perpetually at war and the whole country were a battlefield destroys the concept of civilization and obliterates the distinction between civilized society and war. Such an ends-justifies-the-means mentality eliminates all protection of individual rights under limited government. Anyone would be guilty until proven innocent and treated accordingly. It is bad enough that tax authorities routinely do that now without turning all the police loose against us to pursue whatever force they want in the name of "fighting crime". Who do you turn to for protection when the government is running its own organized crime syndicate?

I agree. There is already a term for what seems to be under discussion and it is called martial law. Martial law is defined as the established law of a country administered by military forces in an emergency when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety. If a country was to stay under martial law they would most likely come to exactly what ewv gives as a description in his above statement.

So given those concerns and the idea that war is a temporary measure to restore civilization, the policy of detaining, interrogating and even torturing, suspects is a violation of those individual's rights unless there is some process. Or is it really a distinction between US citizens and foreigners -- the former get those rights, the latter do not? The war we are engaged in against terrorism is not really different than the war we are engaged in with respect to crime. In both cases some have argued that the use of the term war is really a metaphor -- I am not sure I buy that, but given the definition of war some are using here I am not sure if the efforts to stop terrorism really qualify as a war. To be a bit more provocative, arent we violating the rights of those we detain in torture in the name of ultimately defending those rights? I actually think we should take off the gloves with respect to terrorism, both domestically and internationally, but many here resist that, so I am wondering where and how they draw the line.

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So given those concerns and the idea that war is a temporary measure to restore civilization, the policy of detaining, interrogating and even torturing, suspects is a violation of those individual's rights unless there is some process. Or is it really a distinction between US citizens and foreigners -- the former get those rights, the latter do not?

No, that's not it. I'll try to put this in different terms. Just as an individual victim of violence by a criminal has a right to defend himself by whatever means necessary in the name of his right to live, even if it means killing that criminal, so our government is morally empowered to defeat any enemy that threatens us en masse. War is an emergency situation on a national scale, and the military is a weapon we use in self-defense much as we might use a gun against an individual attacker.

"Crime fighting" generally refers to the punishment and prevention of crime, through things like police patrols, evidence gathering and arrests. In other words, it usually applies either to seeing that justice is done following an emergency, or that the emergency doesn't occur. Most of what police do is during times of normalcy. So the important difference here is not between citizens and foreigners, but between these ideas of crime fighting and war.

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So given those concerns and the idea that war is a temporary measure to restore civilization, the policy of detaining, interrogating and even torturing, suspects is a violation of those individual's rights unless there is some process. Or is it really a distinction between US citizens and foreigners -- the former get those rights, the latter do not?

No, that's not it. I'll try to put this in different terms. Just as an individual victim of violence by a criminal has a right to defend himself by whatever means necessary in the name of his right to live, even if it means killing that criminal, so our government is morally empowered to defeat any enemy that threatens us en masse. War is an emergency situation on a national scale, and the military is a weapon we use in self-defense much as we might use a gun against an individual attacker.

"Crime fighting" generally refers to the punishment and prevention of crime, through things like police patrols, evidence gathering and arrests. In other words, it usually applies either to seeing that justice is done following an emergency, or that the emergency doesn't occur. Most of what police do is during times of normalcy. So the important difference here is not between citizens and foreigners, but between these ideas of crime fighting and war.

Oh sorry, on the police side I was not referring to preventive policing, or to arrests or clean up after an emergency. I was talking about things like hot pursuit, on going investigations, etc. I agree with you on the self-defense analogy. I guess what I am having trouble with is some saying that there are certain rights in a domestic setting that do not apply in a foreign or international one. If we capture one of Osama bin Laden's deputies, I think we should torture him to find out what he knows. I would say that even for his driver -- who may be innocent of any wrong doing other than providing support through driving (and maybe even just to feed his family, having no idea of what bin Laden is really about). By the same token, the local drug peddler on the street who knows who is going around killing others, whether it be children, police, or what have you. I dont see why we cant torture him to find out where that individual is so that he can be arrested and taken off the street.

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So given those concerns and the idea that war is a temporary measure to restore civilization, the policy of detaining, interrogating and even torturing, suspects is a violation of those individual's rights unless there is some process. Or is it really a distinction between US citizens and foreigners -- the former get those rights, the latter do not?

No, that's not it. I'll try to put this in different terms. Just as an individual victim of violence by a criminal has a right to defend himself by whatever means necessary in the name of his right to live, even if it means killing that criminal, so our government is morally empowered to defeat any enemy that threatens us en masse. War is an emergency situation on a national scale, and the military is a weapon we use in self-defense much as we might use a gun against an individual attacker.

"Crime fighting" generally refers to the punishment and prevention of crime, through things like police patrols, evidence gathering and arrests. In other words, it usually applies either to seeing that justice is done following an emergency, or that the emergency doesn't occur. Most of what police do is during times of normalcy. So the important difference here is not between citizens and foreigners, but between these ideas of crime fighting and war.

This is why I think it is important to declare war. The rules then are that anyone in your country, not in uniform and identified as the enemy is shot as a spy (unless he is an escaping prisoner originally captured in uniform). By the same token those caught armed on the battle-field in civilian clothes should be shot. They will realize that a uniform is safer than hiding among civilians.

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Oh sorry, on the police side I was not referring to preventive policing, or to arrests or clean up after an emergency. I was talking about things like hot pursuit, on going investigations, etc.

Hot pursuits are only a small part of police work, and in those cases it isn't the public at large at risk, but future victims. There's no reason to apply war tactics to a scenario like that. Ongoing investigation is a part of what I said, gathering evidence, whether to discover the identity of a criminal or his whereabouts - again, something done outside of the emergency situations the criminal creates. War, on the other hand, is an emergency situation. It still boggles my mind why you would want to treat these contexts the same way. What do you see the police doing to fight crime as the military fights war? Besides torture, which you've been very clear on.

I agree with you on the self-defense analogy. I guess what I am having trouble with is some saying that there are certain rights in a domestic setting that do not apply in a foreign or international one. If we capture one of Osama bin Laden's deputies, I think we should torture him to find out what he knows. I would say that even for his driver -- who may be innocent of any wrong doing other than providing support through driving (and maybe even just to feed his family, having no idea of what bin Laden is really about). By the same token, the local drug peddler on the street who knows who is going around killing others, whether it be children, police, or what have you. I dont see why we cant torture him to find out where that individual is so that he can be arrested and taken off the street.

The very example you use proves that you have not really considered anything I've said. You want to torture a drug peddler to find a murderer? Even aside from the fact that you haven't convicted the seller, that isn't even a real crime and you want to torture him?

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Oh sorry, on the police side I was not referring to preventive policing, or to arrests or clean up after an emergency. I was talking about things like hot pursuit, on going investigations, etc.

Hot pursuits are only a small part of police work, and in those cases it isn't the public at large at risk, but future victims. There's no reason to apply war tactics to a scenario like that. Ongoing investigation is a part of what I said, gathering evidence, whether to discover the identity of a criminal or his whereabouts - again, something done outside of the emergency situations the criminal creates. War, on the other hand, is an emergency situation. It still boggles my mind why you would want to treat these contexts the same way. What do you see the police doing to fight crime as the military fights war? Besides torture, which you've been very clear on.

I agree with you on the self-defense analogy. I guess what I am having trouble with is some saying that there are certain rights in a domestic setting that do not apply in a foreign or international one. If we capture one of Osama bin Laden's deputies, I think we should torture him to find out what he knows. I would say that even for his driver -- who may be innocent of any wrong doing other than providing support through driving (and maybe even just to feed his family, having no idea of what bin Laden is really about). By the same token, the local drug peddler on the street who knows who is going around killing others, whether it be children, police, or what have you. I dont see why we cant torture him to find out where that individual is so that he can be arrested and taken off the street.

The very example you use proves that you have not really considered anything I've said. You want to torture a drug peddler to find a murderer? Even aside from the fact that you haven't convicted the seller, that isn't even a real crime and you want to torture him?

But torture -- aggressive interrogation -- is not punishment. It is a technique for soliciting information. On the drug peddler, the assumption is that he knows the whereabouts of the murderer -- lets say a serial killer. Lets get a bit more abstract -- someone who is terrorizing a community (through rapes, killing, etc.)

My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge. We are shielded from a lot of this -- just as we are in war -- there is a lot that happens to make the rest of us safe. My point is that we should be up front and deliberate about it -- figure out what works best and apply it to the greater end of protecting all of our rights.

To flip this -- I am assuing you dont think torturing bin Laden's driver makes sense. There is no evidence that he has done anything illegal or wrong in any sense of that word -- he just drove a car. Take away his car and he is not of very much use -- and in fact he and his family probably starve and we dont have to worry about him any more.

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My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge.

Sure it is. Like the woman in her 90's who was shot dead in her own home at night after non-uniformed police broke down her door and murdered her (then, to a man, lied about the circumstances afterwards.) These are thugs, plain and simple, violent power lusters who are enabled by non-objective laws to get their kicks legally. Their actions rarely make the news because their victims are seldom as obviously sympathetic as that woman. The war is a rights violating U.S. government against America, and those thugs are just the most crudely obvious example of that war. Most of it is a silent assault carried out under cover of altruist obfuscations by every three letter agency in D.C. and generally only with the threat of actual physical force.

The sum total of all acts by all private criminals who have existed in America since its inception would not match the rights violations committed by the U.S. government starting in the 20th century, by many orders of magnitude.

Yes, some police spend their time apprehending actual criminals, but that is not a war.

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But torture -- aggressive interrogation -- is not punishment. It is a technique for soliciting information. On the drug peddler, the assumption is that he knows the whereabouts of the murderer -- lets say a serial killer. Lets get a bit more abstract -- someone who is terrorizing a community (through rapes, killing, etc.)

My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge. We are shielded from a lot of this -- just as we are in war -- there is a lot that happens to make the rest of us safe. My point is that we should be up front and deliberate about it -- figure out what works best and apply it to the greater end of protecting all of our rights.

To flip this -- I am assuing you dont think torturing bin Laden's driver makes sense. There is no evidence that he has done anything illegal or wrong in any sense of that word -- he just drove a car. Take away his car and he is not of very much use -- and in fact he and his family probably starve and we dont have to worry about him any more.

Are you going to answer my points/questions instead of restating your original position?

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My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge.

Sure it is. Like the woman in her 90's who was shot dead in her own home at night after non-uniformed police broke down her door and murdered her (then, to a man, lied about the circumstances afterwards.) These are thugs, plain and simple, violent power lusters who are enabled by non-objective laws to get their kicks legally. Their actions rarely make the news because their victims are seldom as obviously sympathetic as that woman. The war is a rights violating U.S. government against America, and those thugs are just the most crudely obvious example of that war. Most of it is a silent assault carried out under cover of altruist obfuscations by every three letter agency in D.C. and generally only with the threat of actual physical force.

The sum total of all acts by all private criminals who have existed in America since its inception would not match the rights violations committed by the U.S. government starting in the 20th century, by many orders of magnitude.

Yes, some police spend their time apprehending actual criminals, but that is not a war.

Yet you condone similar actions when done in, say, Iraq, by US forces? Yes, there will always be bad apples, but I cant believe you would paint all of the fine men and women who defend us with such a broad brush. Even Obama/Biden do not do that!

If you think excessive force violates an individual's rights, then I assume you apply that in all circumstances?

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But torture -- aggressive interrogation -- is not punishment.

This is a very poor definition. It is non-standard and non-essential. Please give examples of what would or would not be "torture." Yelling at someone? Humiliating them? Arresting them?

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My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge.

There are also significant distinctions between crime and war, and they are relevant to the subject of this thread. Other posters have cited these distinctions, and they must be addressed and not ignored or blurred.

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If you think excessive force violates an individual's rights, then I assume you apply that in all circumstances?

It is unclear what this means. Please define what you mean by "excessive force" and give some examples that are and are not "excessive." Also, what do you see as the relationship between force and rights?

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But torture -- aggressive interrogation -- is not punishment.

This is a very poor definition. It is non-standard and non-essential. Please give examples of what would or would not be "torture." Yelling at someone? Humiliating them? Arresting them?

Sorry, but this is not meant to be a definition. It is responding to a post that concerns the proper application of punishment. Torture is not punishment. Torture is a method of interrogation. The definition of torture is the infliction of severe pain on an individual for the purposes of eliciting information.

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My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge.

There are also significant distinctions between crime and war, and they are relevant to the subject of this thread. Other posters have cited these distinctions, and they must be addressed and not ignored or blurred.

Absolutely. There are significant differences between crime and war.

The issue is which techniques to allow in which circumstance. So in both cases, individuals are allowed to carry guns (soldiers and police officers). Both cases allow the use of lethal force. Etc.

The question here concerns torture. Torture is an effective means of eliciting information. When we torture someone we are able to get important intelligence/information. This is our justification for its use in the war against terrorism (though we dont call it torture).

I am arguing that the same effective technique should be used in crime fighting (and in fact it often is).

Now of course there is a concern about the rights of the person against whom torture is inflicted. First, a person foregoes those rights by engaging in terrorist or criminal activity. Then, secondly, the question is how do we know they are involved in that activity. That is, what process do we provide to reach a level of certainty that the person we are torturing has information that is useful. Here is an easy example. The police have in custody a man who has kidnapped a 3 year old child. We know that the man has confined the child in an underground place with limited or no food or water. [Let's say we suspect this either because 1) we know he has done this with other children he has kidnapped; or 2) he has told us (which makes us more certain in our knowledge than the first scenario, which is more of a deduction based upon what we know he has done in the past).] So there is no question here of guilt. He is clearly guilty. The only question is whether we are willing to torture him if he wont otherwise tell us where the child is being kept. Waiting for a trial could take months, particularly if he has a good lawyer, by which time the child is dead.

So, I argue that torture in that circumstance should be allowed. Let me stop here and see if there is any problem with this argument so far.

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If you think excessive force violates an individual's rights, then I assume you apply that in all circumstances?

It is unclear what this means. Please define what you mean by "excessive force" and give some examples that are and are not "excessive." Also, what do you see as the relationship between force and rights?

Excessive force -- force beyond what is necessary for the situation. Example: a police officer shoots in the head a shoplifter.

The relationship between force and rights -- well, rights in part determine what force may or may not be inflicted against a person. So if I have the right to life, you cannot kill me, and I can use force against you to stop you from doing that. So my right to life gives me the right to use force in self-defense. That is a relationship between force and rights.

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But torture -- aggressive interrogation -- is not punishment. It is a technique for soliciting information. On the drug peddler, the assumption is that he knows the whereabouts of the murderer -- lets say a serial killer. Lets get a bit more abstract -- someone who is terrorizing a community (through rapes, killing, etc.)

My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge. We are shielded from a lot of this -- just as we are in war -- there is a lot that happens to make the rest of us safe. My point is that we should be up front and deliberate about it -- figure out what works best and apply it to the greater end of protecting all of our rights.

To flip this -- I am assuing you dont think torturing bin Laden's driver makes sense. There is no evidence that he has done anything illegal or wrong in any sense of that word -- he just drove a car. Take away his car and he is not of very much use -- and in fact he and his family probably starve and we dont have to worry about him any more.

Are you going to answer my points/questions instead of restating your original position?

Your question:

What do you see the police doing to fight crime as the military fights war?

My answer:

Use of force, including preventive force to break up drug and other gangs. Use of intelligence. Tapping phones. Bringing in suspects for questioning. Laying seige to a building that is taken over by drug lords -- which sometimes have even more powerful weaponry than many armies.

Your question:

You want to torture a drug peddler to find a murderer? Even aside from the fact that you haven't convicted the seller, that isn't even a real crime and you want to torture him?

My answer:

I was less clear in my example here than I should have been. My assumption is that the drug peddler knows the murderer -- for example, because the murderer is his boss. The premise is that the drug peddler has that information. But a better example would be the one I just provided in response to Betsy.

I think I have answered all the questions you raised in your earlier post -- and I hope by providing them in this format that it is clear which responses of mine correspond to which question.

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My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge.

There are also significant distinctions between crime and war, and they are relevant to the subject of this thread. Other posters have cited these distinctions, and they must be addressed and not ignored or blurred.

Absolutely. There are significant differences between crime and war.

The issue is which techniques to allow in which circumstance. So in both cases, individuals are allowed to carry guns (soldiers and police officers). Both cases allow the use of lethal force.

There are enormous differences between how lethal force is used in war vs. in police work. In the latter, lethal force is not allowed except in defined, and always unusual, circumstances. In the former, while always under the control of the chain of command and used in defined ways, using lethal force is the entire purpose of the military.

The question here concerns torture. Torture is an effective means of eliciting information. When we torture someone we are able to get important intelligence/information. This is our justification for its use in the war against terrorism (though we dont call it torture).

I am arguing that the same effective technique should be used in crime fighting (and in fact it often is).

Now of course there is a concern about the rights of the person against whom torture is inflicted. First, a person foregoes those rights by engaging in terrorist or criminal activity.

An enemy combatant is by definition guilty. A suspected criminal is innocent, not just presumed to be innocent, but is actually innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Not when thought to be guilty by the police, no matter what evidence they have, a suspected criminal is innocent until convicted. Torture of a suspect is torture of an innocent person.

Then, secondly, the question is how do we know they are involved in that activity. That is, what process do we provide to reach a level of certainty that the person we are torturing has information that is useful. Here is an easy example. The police have in custody a man who has kidnapped a 3 year old child.

No. The police have in custody a man suspected of kidnapping a three year old child. He is completely innocent of that crime until the moment he is convicted in court. This is an important legal principle that has been reaffirmed time and time again. To ignore it, or to reduce it to "presumed innocent" or "guilty because the police, not the courts, think there's enough evidence even though there's been no trial yet" is a fundamental violation of legal principle and of the rights of anyone ever suspected of a crime (if not of everyone altogether, suspected or not).

We know that the man has confined the child in an underground place with limited or no food or water.

We know that the child has been confined by someone in an underground place with limited or no food or water. We do not know that it was this man who did that, because a court, using objective laws, principles, and procedures has not determined objectively that he's guilty.

[Let's say we suspect this either because 1) we know he has done this with other children he has kidnapped; or 2) he has told us (which makes us more certain in our knowledge than the first scenario, which is more of a deduction based upon what we know he has done in the past).] So there is no question here of guilt. He is clearly guilty.

No, he is absolutely innocent until...well, do I really need to repeat it again? Besides that, the fact that he has done this in the past proves nothing about this time. And confessions are notoriously unreliable: random nutballs confess to all kinds of things all the time, and confessions can be coerced from suspects who have done nothing. Based on your conditions, we know nothing whatsoever - there would have to be a lot more information - information that is real, hard evidence - to get a conviction. I expect any decent defense attorney would agree.

The only question is whether we are willing to torture him if he wont otherwise tell us where the child is being kept. Waiting for a trial could take months, particularly if he has a good lawyer, by which time the child is dead.

The only question is whether we are willing to completely abandon rights and the rule of law. That the child may die is a tragedy, but the moral culpability falls entirely on the one who performed the kidnapping, whoever it is, not on law enforcement officials who did not torture a suspect.

So, I argue that torture in that circumstance should be allowed. Let me stop here and see if there is any problem with this argument so far.

I argue that it must not be allowed, for the reasons I've stated.

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My friend who is a police officer in LA can tell you loads of stories that make policing sound far more like war than you seem to acknowledge.

There are also significant distinctions between crime and war, and they are relevant to the subject of this thread. Other posters have cited these distinctions, and they must be addressed and not ignored or blurred.

Absolutely. There are significant differences between crime and war.

The issue is which techniques to allow in which circumstance. So in both cases, individuals are allowed to carry guns (soldiers and police officers). Both cases allow the use of lethal force.

There are enormous differences between how lethal force is used in war vs. in police work. In the latter, lethal force is not allowed except in defined, and always unusual, circumstances. In the former, while always under the control of the chain of command and used in defined ways, using lethal force is the entire purpose of the military.

The question here concerns torture. Torture is an effective means of eliciting information. When we torture someone we are able to get important intelligence/information. This is our justification for its use in the war against terrorism (though we dont call it torture).

I am arguing that the same effective technique should be used in crime fighting (and in fact it often is).

Now of course there is a concern about the rights of the person against whom torture is inflicted. First, a person foregoes those rights by engaging in terrorist or criminal activity.

An enemy combatant is by definition guilty. A suspected criminal is innocent, not just presumed to be innocent, but is actually innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Not when thought to be guilty by the police, no matter what evidence they have, a suspected criminal is innocent until convicted. Torture of a suspect is torture of an innocent person.

Then, secondly, the question is how do we know they are involved in that activity. That is, what process do we provide to reach a level of certainty that the person we are torturing has information that is useful. Here is an easy example. The police have in custody a man who has kidnapped a 3 year old child.

No. The police have in custody a man suspected of kidnapping a three year old child. He is completely innocent of that crime until the moment he is convicted in court. This is an important legal principle that has been reaffirmed time and time again. To ignore it, or to reduce it to "presumed innocent" or "guilty because the police, not the courts, think there's enough evidence even though there's been no trial yet" is a fundamental violation of legal principle and of the rights of anyone ever suspected of a crime (if not of everyone altogether, suspected or not).

We know that the man has confined the child in an underground place with limited or no food or water.

We know that the child has been confined by someone in an underground place with limited or no food or water. We do not know that it was this man who did that, because a court, using objective laws, principles, and procedures has not determined objectively that he's guilty.

[Let's say we suspect this either because 1) we know he has done this with other children he has kidnapped; or 2) he has told us (which makes us more certain in our knowledge than the first scenario, which is more of a deduction based upon what we know he has done in the past).] So there is no question here of guilt. He is clearly guilty.

No, he is absolutely innocent until...well, do I really need to repeat it again? Besides that, the fact that he has done this in the past proves nothing about this time. And confessions are notoriously unreliable: random nutballs confess to all kinds of things all the time, and confessions can be coerced from suspects who have done nothing. Based on your conditions, we know nothing whatsoever - there would have to be a lot more information - information that is real, hard evidence - to get a conviction. I expect any decent defense attorney would agree.

The only question is whether we are willing to torture him if he wont otherwise tell us where the child is being kept. Waiting for a trial could take months, particularly if he has a good lawyer, by which time the child is dead.

The only question is whether we are willing to completely abandon rights and the rule of law. That the child may die is a tragedy, but the moral culpability falls entirely on the one who performed the kidnapping, whoever it is, not on law enforcement officials who did not torture a suspect.

So, I argue that torture in that circumstance should be allowed. Let me stop here and see if there is any problem with this argument so far.

I argue that it must not be allowed, for the reasons I've stated.

Thanks Piz. Very well argued. Given that you are willing to let the child die I really dont have a good argument in response. My priority would be saving the innocent child and not protecting the guilty. And yes, I understand how you define guilty as only applying after a legal process -- I differ. A person is either guilty or innocent as a matter of fact. The question then is what procedures we use to determine whether a person is guilty or innocent. You argue that we should assume someone is innocent -- you would define this in fact as innocence -- unless and until we subject that individual and any evidence against him to a duly constituted court of law. That to me violates objective reality. Either I have written these words or I have not. Now you can suspect that I am dictating them, and you can try to prove that or not, but there is an objective reality about whether I have written them or not (or whether you have read them or not). Similarly, the person in custody either kidnapped the child or he didn't. At that moment he IS either guilty or innocent. The question then is what level of proof do we need to feel comfortable arresting him; detaining him; questioning him; torturing him. You think a full blown criminal trial. I dont. I respect your position, but I do disagree.

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A person is innocent before the law until proven guilty (except, in this country and improperly, for tax cases). The police do not decide for themselves that someone is "clearly guilty". It is absolutely horrifying that you are advocating turning that kind of power over to a police state.

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