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July 2008
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McDonald’s Happy Meal

Serving and protecting (via Radley)

A confidential informant and an undercover detective waited inside the restaurant [McDonald’s] to sell Dixon an ounce of cocaine and 100 Ecstasy pills for $950.
More than a dozen officers waited outside, including Lt. Steve Breakstone, who organized the operation. His role was to radio for squad cars to drive up for the arrest once the deal was complete.
The uniformed officers were supposed to swoop in and arrest Dixon in the parking lot. The deal, according to reports, went as planned — with Breakstone calling for the squad cars when Dixon was about to leave.
Then, the milkshake.
With the squad cars zooming into the parking lot, Dixon turned around to get his drink from the counter.
When he got back to the door, he saw the cars waiting for him and, realizing he was about to be arrested, he ran for the bathroom.
He shoved a boy out of the way and hid inside.
The police officers burst through the door and yelled for everyone to get down. A customer, a woman who did not want her name used, ducked under a table and worried that the masked men were robbers, not police.
“I thought it was a gang,” she said. “I mean, they had masks and guns and I never heard anyone say, ‘police.’ I thought these guys were coming to rob us.”

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this operation didn’t appear to be making us much safer (and was, in fact, perhaps recklessly endangering a large number of civilians).
This simple fact wasn’t lost on a number of commenters to the story at Tampa Bay Online.
What’s sad is how this criticism was characterized by some of the other commenters:

Woe to you cop-haters. […] Don’t be a fool who alienates law enforcement. Be one of the wise citizens who give them due respect… and dare I say deserve gratitude for risking their lives to make our life better — for what, so you can act like a biggot on this blog? I AM SICK OF IT […] The cop-haters are drawing really negative Karma and I would not want to be them. […]
They are risking their lives daily for the honest people and all they get in return are these bleeding hearts that say they should be gentler to the POS. […]
You are just the typical bleeding heart that complains about how the police do their Jobs […]
So what is your solution.. let the POS gang bangers run wild out there like the is the Wild west […]
so don’t hate on the cops who are out there protecting your sorry selves. […]
I wish when someone posts something stating the police did the wrong thing they would also post their credentials which gives them the expertise to make such a post. If they are such experts they should wing it through the police academy, pass the 1000 question state test and join a department.[…]
Good job to the cops. Sorry there are so many losers out there to critize every thing done to protect their sorry azz. […] For you druggies on here, its just a matter of time before its YOUR time.

Sigh.
It is possible to criticize tactics or operations used by law enforcement without being a cop-hater. Or a bleeding heart. Or to be advocating gentler handling of ‘POS’ individuals.
It is possible to analytically critique the broad strokes of law enforcement strategy without having passed the police exam. In fact, it is part of our responsibility to do so, as they are our employees.
It is a disturbing element of our nation’s discourse that in recent years it has become popular to claim that somehow, mere criticism of government itself is out of bounds.

  • If you criticize the government, you’re an America-hater
  • If you criticize the war, you hate the troops
  • If you criticize drug war tactics or policies, you’re a cop-hater.
  • And if you defend the Constitution and individual rights, you’re a pro-terrorist and pro-criminal evil creature who wants America to die.

This is the rhetoric of authoritarianism. And those who buy into and use those arguments are their foot soldiers.

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