The truth about traffic stops and violence. The fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop by a police officer and union boss who supposedly can’t tell her taser from her gun spawned a rash of demonstrations against police brutality in which protesters were met with more police brutality. It’s also opened yet another discussion about U.S. policing—why do we need armed authorities to enforce traffic violations anyway?—and how overcriminalization leads to tragedy. Stupid laws spawn enforcement of stupid laws by trigger-happy cops who have been primed to see much of the American populace as threats to control, rather than people they’re supposed to “serve and protect.”
One commonly-offered defense in cases of cops murdering people during routine traffic stops is that such stops can be incredibly dangerous for police officers. State authorities and their bootlickers try hard to convince us that police fear and subsequent overreaction during traffic stops is only rational in the face of the extreme danger such stops place them in. Traffic stops very frequently end badly for police, they say.
But it’s actually not true that traffic stops are a major source of serious violence against police officers. A paper published in the Michigan Law Review in 2019 (“Policing, Danger Narratives, and Routine Traffic Stops“) found the likelihood of an officer being killed during a routine traffic stop was one in 6.5 million.
“It’s drilled into police that traffic stop ambushes are routine. They aren’t,” points out Radley Balko of The Washington Post on Twitter. “They happen, but they’re vanishingly rare. And the federal courts’ view that stops are inherently dangerous is based on an unscientific survey from 1964.”
Those cases are of course tragic and awful. But drumming it into cops to see every stop as his or her potential last has real world consequences. As we’ve seen.
An officer is orders of magnitude more likely to die of a lightning strike or insect sting. https://t.co/5ozoW2vztT
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) April 12, 2021
Serious injury to a police officer is estimated to happen in one out of every 361,111 stops, and the estimate for “the rate for an assault against officers (whether it results in injury or not) was only 1 in every 6,959 stops,” writes University of Arkansas Professor Jordan Blair Woods, the author of the Michigan Law Review paper.
For the study, Woods reviewed data of “thousands of traffic stops that resulted in violence against officers across more than 200 law enforcement agencies in Florida over a 10-year period.” He also developed a typology of violence warning signs:
The typology indicates that a narrow set of observable contextual factors precedes most of this violence—most commonly, signs of flight or intoxication. The typology further reveals important qualitative differences regarding violence during traffic stops initiated for only traffic enforcement versus criminal enforcement.
The study has significant implications for law enforcement agencies and courts. The findings and typology have the potential to inform police training and prompt questions about whether greater invocation of police authority during routine stops for traffic violations undermines, rather than advances, both officer and civilian safety. The findings also lay an early empirical foundation for rethinking fundamental assumptions about officer safety and routine traffic stops in Fourth Amendment doctrine.
In any event, the fact that stops over minor motor vehicle infractions do sometimes lead to violence—against police officers and the people they pull over—presents yet another reason to resist putting police and drivers in direct contact over non-risky matters like expired licenses, a broken taillight, or an illegally hung air freshener.
Everytime you say, “There oughta be a law”, you’re actually saying, “I wish armed thugs were roaming around using this as an excuse to murder people.” Because ALL laws are “enforced” via the implied threat of death: https://t.co/G6L1MRoGgQ https://t.co/HfYsTpkPzg
— Maggie McNeill (@Maggie_McNeill) April 13, 2021
If folks insist on criminalizing or fining drivers for some such infractions still, that could be taken care of with photographs and paper notices, as many speeding tickets are. This would put both cops and drivers in less danger. That we don’t operate this way shows how much authorities rely on routine—and often pretextual—traffic stops as a way to search for drugs or find other reasons to harass and arrest people they don’t like the looks of.
Why do federal health officials show such disdain for lifesaving drugs? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) want the U.S. to stop giving out the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because out of the 7 million doses given so far, six people developed a blood clotting disorder.
6 cases out of 7 million people. What a disaster. This is going to get people killed. And it’s going to create more vaccine hesitancy. These people don’t understand cost-benefit analysis. They keep making mistakes by orders of magnitude. https://t.co/DQdvqoujHR
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 13, 2021
“While the move was framed as a recommendation to health practitioners in the states, the federal government is expected to pause administration of the vaccine at all federally run vaccination sites,” reports The New York Times. “Federal officials expect that state health officials will take that as a strong signal to do the same.”
Meet Jane Coaston. The Washington Post profiles podcast host and always-interesting libertarian thinker and writer Jane Coaston:
• New Mexico’s marijuana legalization is here:
SIGNED: Special Session HB 2, legalizing adult-use cannabis in New Mexico!
This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state. Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better – our workforce, our economy, our future. pic.twitter.com/rosl1AJm6t
— Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) April 12, 2021
• President Joe Biden is once again pushing rape myths.
• Following Utah’s lead, Texas considers porn filter legislation. “Texas Republicans successfully amended a rural broadband bill last week to add a provision that prioritizes the awarding of contracts to internet service providers that ‘maintain a program to, by default, block access to pornographic or other obscene materials,'” XBIZ reports.
• Say yes to this philosophy:
1. Say no to crony capitalism. Providing special benefits to favored businesses breeds unfairness and incentivizes corruption.
2. Say no to punitive government. Retaliating against corporations for dissenting from government policies violates the Constitution.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) April 13, 2021
This is obviously not true. You can oppose racism while thinking student debt cancelation is bad policy, poorly targeted to address racial disparities, oppression, and poverty.
It does damage to the cause of actual anti-racism to try to hook all your favored policies onto it. https://t.co/0fVx6NdFCK
— Aaron Ross Powell (@ARossP) April 12, 2021
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