Thursday, July 20, 2006

How Not to Frame an Argument

Eric Zorn tries to rile up some outrage over the report about Chicago Police torturing suspects, but he makes a terrible mistake:

Wilson killed two police officers in 1982 and was sadistically worked over during interrogations by an Area 2 police crew led by the now infamous Cmdr. Jon Burge. That beating ultimately proved a window into numerous others incidents, but information about it was brushed off at the time by then States Atty. and now Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Regardless of his case being a "window," was Wilson the best example Zorn could find in that 290-page report? Naturally, a few commenters jumped on the fact that Wilson was a cop killer. And of course, some anti-brutality (dare I say anti-police?) activists said it didn't matter that he killed two police officers because he was still a victim.

Yet the nature of his offense does matter. In general, I don't think police should torture suspects. I don't think police should be above the law. But police are human beings -- how can we expect them to be above emotion? When an officer looks at a guy who killed two of his men, what goes through his mind? You bastard, you killed my friends. Or maybe, That could have been me you shot. Perhaps the activists expect someone in that position to calmly say, "Ah well, I am sure justice will be served. Have a nice day." Sorry, but killing police hits too close to home for officers. Say you caught someone trying to molest your kid. Given the opportunity, wouldn't you pound on that person for a while before contacting the authorities? I can pretty easily forgive the police for beating a cop killer.

Another commenter likened police brutality in Chicago to the torture at Abu Ghraib. That's interesting because the key to illustrating the atrocity of what guards did at Abu Ghraib was choosing good examples. The prime example I heard was that one torture victim was a guy who stole a car -- he wasn't a terrorist, just a thief. When car thieves are being tortured, many of us ask why. It seems just a tad extreme. Notice the example was not a guy who killed two Marines. Citing a case like that would have elicited very little sympathy from the average American.

As for the report, it was a stupid exercise, really. They spent $6 million to investigate things that happened in the 1970s and 1980s, too long ago to be prosecuted. The police can still face civil suits, but why should public funds be used to gather evidence for a civil suit? What a supreme waste of time and taxpayer money. That should be the outrage.

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