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Why do bad cops get off easy?

Steve Chapman in Reason: American police live in a place even more wondrous than the one you know from A Prairie Home Companion. In Lake Wobegon, all the children are above average. In Police Land, every cop is a model citizen, including those who outwardly resemble criminals.

When a cop thrashes or kills someone, the ensuing investigations almost always find that what the officer did was excusable, if not commendable. Jesus Christ would get tougher scrutiny from a band of angels than most cops do from the people who review their conduct.

So it barely registered with most Americans last month when a Cleveland cop was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter for firing at least 15 shots at an unarmed couple as he stood on the hood of their car after a high-speed chase. Outcomes like that, even when the cops grossly overstepped their bounds, are the norm.

Over four years, the Chicago Tribune recently reported, only 4 percent of all 17,700 complaints against Chicago police were upheld. In those rare instances, the punishment was the equivalent of a disappointed sigh. Of the few cops found to have abused citizens, nearly half got off with verbal reprimands, and only a dozen were fired.

Even a court finding of misconduct doesn’t count for much. The Tribune uncovered several cases in which victims filed lawsuits and got monetary damages — even though the department had cleared the officers.

Consider Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the police department looked into 4,427 uses of force by cops over four years and gave its blessing to each one.

“Military advisers” won’t win Iraq war

Owen West in the New York Times: Last week, President Barack Obama approved an additional 450 troops to join the roughly 3,000 already in Iraq. Living inside secure bases nicknamed “lily pads,” they will train Iraqi soldiers for a few weeks via lecture and drill instruction. The graduates will then be sent outside the wire to fight the Islamic State.

This strategy is no more resolute than a lily pad, and our generals know it. It is tokenism that reflects confusion at the top, and it will fail.

Obama has declared that advisers are not combat troops. But in fact, to influence battlefield performance, the adviser’s first job is to set the example in combat. The goal is to instill in the local force a sense of professional aggression — of seizing the offense — that must be demonstrated firsthand.

Put simply, if the president wants to destroy the Islamic State, he will eventually renege on his ephemeral pledge not to engage in ground combat.

Advisers are “combat multipliers.” Small teams of them vastly improve the performance of local troops, at a sliver of the cost of deploying large American battalions. Perhaps because of the divisive legacy of “adviser teams,” who were the first large-scale American commitment in Vietnam, it took years for the Pentagon to recognize this fact. Instead, we poured hundreds of thousands of troops and billions of dollars into Iraq and Afghanistan year after year. The “surge” in 2007 worked precisely because it partnered Americans with Iraqi soldiers and tribes.

Democrats rebuke Obama, again

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: Ten months ago, American forces began air combat operations over Iraq and Syria that continue today.

Four months ago, President Obama sent Congress a proposed “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — consistent with earlier demands by the House that the president seek just such an authorization.

But nothing happened — until Wednesday, when a quixotic band of lawmakers led by Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, used a provision in the War Powers Resolution to force a debate and a vote on the House floor on military action in Syria and Iraq. Their proposal — a withdrawal from the region — was acknowledged by supporters to be a “blunt instrument,” but they figured that they could use the threat of an artificial deadline for a withdrawal to force their colleagues in the House to take action on passing a use-of-force authorization.

“Only Congress has the ability to declare war,” Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, said in Wednesday’s debate, “and so this blunt instrument is ultimately about backing up the bluntness of the Constitution.” Sanford told his colleagues that “this is something that Democrats and Republicans ought to equally care about ... This is something Republicans absolutely ought to care about.”

It won’t be easy to pass a use-of-force resolution. Many Democrats thought Obama’s request too broad, and many Republicans thought it too narrow. But that’s no excuse for inaction.

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