Blogs > Liberty and Power > Police 'threat' increases

Jun 26, 2004 11:40 am

Police 'threat' increases

A Michigan court has once again ruled that the police have absolutely no responsibility to"serve and protect" anyone except the local government. (I examined this theme in two articles "Prevent Violence: Disarm the Police" and "The Thin Blue Lie". In the"Thin Blue Lie" I criticzed the police not merely for not providing protecting but also for presenting a positive threat to liberty. The article opens,"I'd rather take my chances with criminals than with the police. For one thing, criminals usually want your property, not control over your life. Policemen will angrily assure me that they are the barrier between civilians and a world of random violence. This was a common theme in the flood of hate mail I received from policemen who responded to my earlier column, 'Prevent Violence: Disarm the Police.' Many officers provided the further assurance that - given my bad attitude - I had best not count on their assistance against a rapist."

Now the threat posed by the police has just increased. An article in the New Scientist examines"Long-range Taser-like high-voltage weapons that do not use wires, and can potentially"stun" (electrocute) entire crowds." The article states, in part,"The laser pulse must be very intense, but can be brief. So the makers of the weapons plan to use a UV laser to fire a 5-joule pulse lasting just 0.4 picoseconds - equating to a momentary power of more than 10 million megawatts. This intense pulse - which is said not to harm the eyes - ionises the air, producing long, thread-like filaments of glowing plasma that can be sustained by repeating the pulse every few milliseconds." A correspondent who is a physicist in an unrelated area wrote to me,"...said not to harm the eyes"?!!? I am no laser physicist, but I would venture to guess that anything that packs enough power density to IONIZE CLEAR AIR *will*, in fact, harm the eyes. Acutely. Further, 5 joules"every few milliseconds" translates to hundreds of watts of average power, more than enough to roast most biological materials even if *not* concentrated into a point at the end of a"thread-like filament". Now, if you wanted to adapt this into a dot-matrix-style"printer" to print custom suntans... :-)" Here's another advance in police tactics and technology."A police officer stops you on the street, then taps something into a device in the palm of his hand. The next minute, he knows who your relatives are, who lives in your house, who your neighbors are, the kind of car you drive or boat you own, whether you've been sued and various other tidbits about your life. Science fiction? Hardly. A growing number of police departments now have instant access via handheld wireless devices to vast commercial databases that contain details on just about anyone officers encounter on the beat." the article comments,"But placing a commercial database full of personal details at an officer's fingertips also raises troubling questions for electronic privacy activists." As a feminist, just the first question that comes to mind concerns the series of recent allegations and convictions against police officers who sexually assaulted women they'd pull over for traffic offenses. Now they're to have easy access to unprecedented information on those women? Yeah, that'll encourage victims to come forward.

For more commentary, please see McBlog.

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