Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chapter 3: In Which Children are Enlisted into the National Security Apparatus

I read this story from the NYT last week, but it has haunted me through the weekend, enough that I am moved to write about it now. An affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America, known as the "Explorer Scouts," run a careers program, where children (boys and girls) get to explore different occupations, advised by people who work in those fields. 

It all sounds fairly innocuous, and even praiseworthy, until we meet the kids learning about careers in law enforcement. What might such a program include? A primer in constitutional rights? Maybe a discussion of how police officers establish a bond of trust with the communities they serve? Perhaps a reminder that force should be the last resort?

Yeah, right. 

Meet the next generation of cops. 

The program is an education in "the fun stuff." Training with real and simulated (airsoft) firearms, drills in small-group tactics for firefights, and how to identify threats. They then use these methods in competitions simulating hostage situations, drug raids, and the like. But don't worry, the kids are learning important skills that they can transfer directly to their daily life. Like what to do when someone won't stop talking:

“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”
I can't wait to see the first time one of thse young Explorers busts that out on the playground. If the program is run the way it is described, I wouldn't be surprised if one did. Rather than focus on the public service that law enforcement provides to, well, the public, the program seems to emphasize the power of a law enforcement officer over another indvidual. I'm old enough to have played cops and robbers as a kid, but I never had the benefit of an actual cop telling me that the game was an accurate portrayal of police work. Shouting orders, brandishing cuffs, putting faces on the ground and knees in the back. Never taking statements, resolving disputes, or filling out reams of paperwork (that a real career in law enforcement includes), the program indulges a power fantasy. Become a cop and dominate another human being. 

And a lot of that domination was going on in the program itself, according to researchers
(warning, PDF) from the University of Nebraska:
*A San Bernardino, California sheriff’s deputywas sentenced to 120 days in jail in April, 2003 
for the statutory rape of a 16-year-old Explorer scout

*A Clackamas County, Oregon sheriff’s department lieutenant was demoted in July,
2002 for having asexual relationshipwith an 18-year-old Explorer Scout.

*In June, 2003 an Anaheim, California officer charged with oral copulation with a 17-year old 
Explorer fled to his native England. California authorities are seekingto have him extradited.

*A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police officer with the department mounted patrol unit 
was sentenced to prison in 2003 for over 100 sexual acts with a 13-year old girl enrolled in his
riding club.
There have been more than a dozen cases of sexual abuse in the program within the last 10 years. What are the kids learning about the rule of law now?

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