Tuesday, November 29, 2011

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT VIII: Disorder Control Memo

Previous installments: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, an update, and VII
The NYPD Disorder Control Memo leaked on Gothamist contains this point as point #1:
"A strong military appearance, with sharp and precise movements, is a force multiplier and a psychological advantage to us."
I wrote a long series of posts in the past about how rules of engagement are actually key to our culture, because:
Rules of Engagement are an under-examined but crucial aspect of a civilization. Every human being has the capacity for violence and destruction, but as societies we have slowly crafted a series of rules as to when we consider it acceptable to use that violence. A man beating another man to take his cell phone is banned by law; a man fighting off an attacker is presented. 
Usually, if you ask the question "Am I allowed to use force?" the answer is usually no. For the average civillian, questions of force and violence are simple, because we have removed most of the need for force and vested it in a number of uniformed force officials: police, agents, and soldiers. But having vested broader powers of force into police, agents, and soldiers means that those classes of individuals have a more complex relationship to force.
In terms of how we live out our beliefs as a country from day to day, these rules of engagement are more important than even the death penalty, because they are tested and tried every single day, and can be the difference between a brutal, detached dictatorship and a tolerant democracy.

Reading that memo recalled strongly to me a conversation I had with my father, which I recorded in an earlier installment:
[I]n the last story from the last segment, border agents used deadly force on a young boy because he was throwing stones. That's not an unfamiliar story, although the usual background is in Israel. It brought to mind (obviously) the recent shootings of protesters on the aid boat
I mentioned this to my father, after hearing the story, and he mentioned that Israel didn't used to shoot people with bullets. He said, "At some point in the last ten years, they simply stopped. They just started using bullets. Nobody talks about it, I don't know exactly when the decision was made."
I don't know much about the behind-the-scenes of the NYPD, but underlying the calculus of creating a "military" appearance and thinking in terms of force multipliers/psychological antagonism is the assumption that Occupy Wall Street is the enemy. 

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