Monday, June 8, 2020

Patrick Skinner on the Police and the Protests

I wrote two years ago about Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East and Afghanistan who came home and became a beat cop in Savannah, where he grew up. When the latest crisis boiled over Ezra Klein had the great idea to call Skinner and get his take. I recommend the whole interview, but here is the last bit:
Ezra Klein
You said earlier you’re not optimistic a task force will change any of this. So how does it change? What needs to happen?

Patrick Skinner
People need to imagine the end of a war. That’s what they need to accept. Our training is spot on: We’re in a war on crime, and it’s us versus them, and our neighbors are sheep we need to protect. You hear the term civilians. I thought we were all civilians! Our training fits the mindset.

The question we need to ask is: What’s the point? What do we want to see happen? It’s about what we expect the police to do. If I was commissioner of all police on the planet, I’d say there’s a ceasefire in the war on crime. We’re going to work for the 99 percent of people instead of against the 1 percent. Most 911 calls I go to are not crimes. They may become crimes, but our job is to stop it. We’re taught that it’s a war. It’s not. But it’s becoming a war.

We are the action arm for a fucked-up national mindset. This doesn’t exist in isolation. America has the police force that it votes for, that it funds. This system is what we set up. We spent a lot of money and a lot of time over hundreds of years to have this police force. We are trained for what we’re hired for, and what we’re hired for is war.

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