Is the United States a police state?

Those of libertarian bent (like those who comment on Slashdot articles) think so. Heck, even here there are many who say that the default reaction to the police should be terror and hatred.

What do you think of the current state of things in the U.S.? Feel free to connect with my other thread on the National Counterterrorism Center if ya like. Slashdot has a thread on that too.

What do you think and why?

Define “police state”.

Good question. From the Slashdot commentary, it’s apparently “a state of affairs in which the police are generally corrupt/self-serving, and can do anything to citizens they want without consequence or recourse.” IOW, the cops have all the power, and the citizenry are helpless to do anything significant about it.

As for what I think… I don’t know. My life experience is too limited, and all I hear are the stories and commentary of people online - which is, of course, extremely valuable and always true.

I’m going to have to answer in the negative. The number and extent of restrictions on official power here in the U.S. is vast, relative to the rest of the world. We have a Bill of Rights that recognizes our natural rights, and a body of court decisions that clarify and defend those rights.

Due process and the rule of law are unquestioned assumptions about how the government operates in the U.S. Arbitrary or unjust use of government power is so rare as to be a major news story and point of controversey when it does occur.

So, going with “no”, unless one waters down the definition of “police state” to something like “nation where the police have power.”

That is a servicable definition, but it in no way describes the state of affairs in the United States.

Here’s a place to start: Criminal procedure in the United States. You’ll find that it’s a far cry from “the police can do anything they want without consequence or recourse.”

Well, we don’t have a 100% conviction rate in criminal trials, so this is pretty obviously not true in the US.

There’s no ideal balance between police-power, civil-liberties and safety concerns. I tend to think we’ve gone slightly farther in the direction of giving the police too much power then we should. But calling the US a “police-state” is ridiculous.

A few data points:

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

The USA has far more prisoners than any other country.
Entire world - Prison Population Totals

The USA also has the most prisoners as a percentage of the population:
World’s Largest Jailer By Far, It’s Not Even Close

Here is the definition, from Wiki:

So, no…I don’t see the US as even vaguely like a police state.

People see what they want to see through the filter of their own ideology. Der Trihs sees the US as a right wing theocracy, poised to torture and kill at the drop of a hat. Right wingers see the US as on the road to European style socialism. Libertarians, according to you, see it as a police state.

I think we are fundamentally sound, but have some serious issues, most of them having to do with partisan politics, but some having to do with convoluted regulations and counter regulations, with the price and cost of our labor, and with how businesses and corporations are stifled or given unfair advantages in uneven ways, and a people who want the government to do everything for everyone all the time, but are unwilling to pay the price that would cost in terms of money…so, we get half assed programs that STILL break the budget every year.

I would say the US has a few problems shared with police states. Here in Seattle, for example, there is no crime a cop can commit (up to and including murder) while in uniform that will lead him to being charged or convicted. While there are oversight boards, they have no teeth. That is definitely a problem.

But is the United States a police state? No. The US has problems with law enforcement, like every country has problems. But we’re not a police state. Not even here in Seattle.

Quite the opposite. I’m sure there are some corrupt cops here and there, but they’re rare exceptions rather than the rule, and they are hardly above the law. The fact that we prosecute corrupt LEOs is evidence that we’re not a police state.

I remember being at parties in college where a group of drunken students would be hanging out on the porch, openly drinking beer, and purposefully taunting the cops that patrolled the student district when they walked/rode by. The police did nothing. Check out this (go to about 5:30) video of some Occupy Portland folks heckling the police. They’re just standing around, and don’t even look that pissed off. I imagine the scene would have been different if someone pulled that shit on the Gestapo.

The fact of the matter is people in the US feel comfortable openly mocking the police, both in writing and in person, with little fear of reprisal. If we’re a police state, then we’re the pussiest police state in history.

Plenty enough corrupt cops to go around, some places have a lot more than others but we certainly haven’t reached epidimic proportions yet.

Modest proposal: spend some time observing criminal court proceedings. They are open to the public (thanks to the US Constitution), and are close by (your county courthouse or judicial center).

I think the US is so NOT a police state, that it sometimes seems like it is, mainly due to the methods the police sometimes employ in order to maintain some measure of effectiveness while working around the strong constitutional rights.

You’re seriously not equating the number of prisoners in US prisons as evidence of a police state are you?

Remember, they all get/had their day in court.

I would say one of the biggest problems with police is they aren’t quite as accountable in a criminal court as the average citizen. But, that is just impression and not based on real data so I don’t want to give the impression it is more than just a gut feeling. I’m not someone who is anti-police whatsoever, but what I have seen is that when police do something really bad it almost “feels” like they get a “get out of jail free card.” For example in a clear cut case in which a police officer uses excessive force and someone dies, the police officer will often lose their job, but will not nearly so often be convicted of any serious crime.

But I can’t really say it is anything other than the result of combining a position of respect with our criminal justice system. The vast majority of cases I’m aware of, in which a police did something bad enough to lose their job but either were not prosecuted or beat the prosecution’s effort the case was a “close matter.” The evidence was not strong and definitive, and basically they were the “marginal cases” in our criminal justice system where the prosecutor felt they had enough to go to trial with but just barely, and then you have a jury deciding whether or not to convict a very respected member of society.

I don’t know that it’s the sign of any real institutional “police state” type affair, but rather just the case that in many such cases the police officer being tried is in a situation where they can easily mount a defense by just saying they didn’t do it and there isn’t readily available evidence to convict beyond reasonable doubt.

Hop, hop…to court we go…hop, hop…

The problem isn’t the police arresting people, it is that we have dumbshit drug laws which make things that a lot of people do that don’t harm anyone illegal. And the police didn’t make those laws.

Yeah, on the right they say that the cops can’t enforce the law because of the shackles put on them by the courts, and on the left they say the cops can do anything they want because the courts let them get away with murder.
So we must be in pretty good shape.

I don’t think that’s evidence of a police state. In a police state, even the police are scared of the police. Everyone is afraid that everyone else is spying on them and reporting to the authorities.