Thursday, December 07, 2006

Policing: "Guns Gone Wild"

The most informative article I've read on the Sean Bell killing outside the Kalua Nightclub in New York City is Sean Gardiner's piece in The Village Voice. The bottom line: cops appear to have more firepower than they know how to manage these days. Commissioner Ray Kelly, during his first tour, had tried to limit them to six-shooters. Then he brought in semi-automatics but limited them to ten shots. His successors upped the fatal ante to 15. In the Sean Bell killing, one cop, who'd never fired his gun in the streets before, went through two clips and one round in the chamber -- 31 bullets -- in less than 20 seconds. Obviously this wouldn't have been possible with a Smith & Wesson. But, that said, a lot of policing has to do with the psychological environment. One part of that is creating a sense of security for the public -- the approach laid out by Wilson and Kelling years ago in "Broken Windows." But another part is creating a sense of security for the cops. Now that they're used to their Glocks, it's all but impossible, and could be deeply demoralizing, if they had to give them up. - C.D.

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