Force Majeure

In the early 1960’s, H. Beam Piper wrote an SF novel (Kalvan of Otherwhen) about a police officer who gets sucked into a “para-time transporter” and shifted to an alternate reality. Early in the book, he describes Corporal Calvin Morrison of the Pennsylvania State Police and his fellow officers approaching a house where a known felon was hiding.

…there was no other sign of life, but he knew that there was a man inside. A man with a rifle, who would use it; a man who had murdered once, broken jail, would murder again

Here’s how the “para-time police” described the incident later:

This man Morrison and three other state police officers were closing in on a house in which a wanted criminal was hiding. He must have been a dangerous man–they don’t go out in force like that for chicken–thieves.

Before he started writing SF, Piper was a railroad detective, and was familar with police work. In the same way that The Great Gatsbey gives us contemporary descriptions of traffic conditions on Long Island in the 1920’s, or a late 14th Century discussion of paint gives us information on living conditions, Piper’s passing mention gives us an idea of how many state troopers it took to bring in an armed killer, half a century ago.

Meanwhile, last week in Florida (of course), fifty-some officers and a SWAT team responded to the possibility that a 75 year old man (who was asleep) had threatened his family. I guess he’s lucky they didn’t deploy the eight-ton APC, or one of the two tanks the nearby Tampa police department owns.

The Florida incident illustrates the ongoing weaponization of American police forces. Here’s a Tom’s Dispatch essay on the topic. As usual, the essay is more interesting than the lead in.

I am worried, America. In less than a decadeĀ I’ll turn 75.

And then what?

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2 Responses to “Force Majeure”

  1. vsinghsblog Says:

    Great. One more thing to worry about.

    The cops where I teach have recently gotten armed. I am hoping that merely possessing arms doesn’t make people trigger-happy,

    The SF book does sound interesting though.

    Back to sleep. Or maybe I should stay awake and watch for cops. Bah!


    • FoundOnWeb Says:

      Piper was an interesting guy. I spent a long weekend at a con in central PA, back in the 80’s, tramping around the setting for Kalvan, and talking to John Carr, who inherited that universe from Piper by way of Jerry Pournelle.

      The problem with arming the police is that they’re not very good with weapons. My impression, from years of living in the DC area, is that they hit as many bystanders as bad guys.

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