POLICE: FRIEND OR FOE?

Posted December 3, 2014 on 10:49 pm | In the category Police, Police brutality, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Always Remember… Once You Give Up Your Rights, You Can Never Get Them Back. Once You Turn On That Police State, You Can Never Turn It Off.”
― Ziad K. Abdelnour

America is caught up in an all too familiar argument about the relationships among young black males, mostly white police departments, the press, politicians and the general public. And it would be a real dandy if it addressed the reality of what has happened in America in recent years. This is the case especially since the 9/11 attacks that have contributed to a level of free floating existential fear, furthered by a host of American politicians, aided and abetted by a mediocre – or worse – media..

The Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri subverted the discussion by directing it to the narrow and away from the broad. The narrow allowed people to argue that Mr. Brown was a “thug” because he pushed a convenience store employee and stole some cigarillos. It allowed people to argue that he was a very big and very black and ergo a very scary guy. Therefore for some, he deserved to die. The narrow also allowed the discussion to accept as truth the carefully scripted grand jury testimony of the policeman without any questioning by – for instance – the prosecutor – at the grand jury proceedings. So be it. The dice were loaded, the game was fixed. Few of us were surprised.

The police in America have way more power than they should or that they deserve, given past behavior. They work for us and we do not expect them to play dress up in Camo duds to come out and scare us. We expect them to be on our side and that does not include killing people because the are big and black. But the problem – while largely one suffered by young black males – is not and will not be restricted to them. We are giving the police in America powers they do not need, do not deserve, and that in the end will haunt us all.

Michael Brown was one in a long line of victims of criminal police action. Tonight a grand jury refused to indict a NY policeman who choked an unarmed black man to death with the help of three or four additional cops – on video. No indictment from that grand jury. Last week a 12 year old black child in Cleveland was shot for holding a toy gun. The excuse? The yellow tag that identified it as a toy had been removed. The reality? The cops arrived, waited less than 2 seconds and blasted him into the history books. But these well-reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. From May 2013 to today over 1450 people have been killed by American police. Some were no doubt bad people – perhaps deserving to die – but there is simply too much evidence in the public domain to ignore the fact that the people we hired to protect us have become one of our major threats. In 2013, 111 police were reported to have died in duty 46 died in traffic accidents; 33 by gunfire and 14 by heart attack, the rest by various means. So a total of 33 by gunfire (although the report does not indicate whether it was friendly fire or suicide – neither uncommon).

The basic issue sits out there. How afraid are we? 9/11 happened 13 years ago; can we please get over it? Apparently not. But why would we foster the development of a police state that infringes on all of our freedoms and that becomes more dangerous than the so-called enemy and provides no real increased protection? The police work for us. We pay them more than we pay our teachers while requiring less training and background. Then we give them guns and a badge and they become a national nightmare. And then we give them tanks and assault weapons and camouflage uniforms. And then they begin to believe that they are all powerful and can get away with murder. And guess what? They can and they do.

4 Comments

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  1. No question the cops have dangerous work to do, and no question they have every right to protect themselves while they do it. But also there is no question the cops are over-weaponized and militarized.
    Police body cameras are being touted as one solution, and there is some evidence that they can effectively restrain the cops where restraint is indeed an option. But simple fixes are rarely a solution to complex problems. The police will continue to gear up for action to meet the capabilities of their equipment. If they have armored humvees at their disposal, they’ll want to use them. If they have helmets, and bulletproof vests, and masks, and glocks lashed to both thighs, and unlimited firepower, they’ll want to use them. If they look like Robocops, they’ll want to act like Robocops.
    And they’re not just dressing up and killing, they are also committing highway robbery. In a recent series the Washington Post revealed the extent to which the cops are stopping ‘suspicious’ drivers on the nation’s highways and are unabashedly stealing from them under the civil forfeiture statute to the tune of almost $4 billion – all without charging these poor travelers with any crimes! That’s right – no crimes charged, just theft by police. The cops use of that statute, which was intended to thwart drug dealing, has now gone mainstream, and the cops are literally stealing from highway travelers to enrich themselves and their police departments.
    The police departments of our nation need a serious mental adjustment.

    Comment by John — December 4, 2014 #

  2. Good post. (Like John’s comment too. In Thailand the Generals have established –not mental adjustment but Attitude Adjustment– Camps for those exercising something like free speech (google ‘3 finger salute’). Could be coming to a police/surveillance commonwealth near you.) If the folks do not resist this it will get a whole lot worse. There is a great line spoken by a south of the border bandito in the film Sierra Madre. When the bandit claims to be a Federale one of his victims asks him for his credentials (sort of) and the Bad Bandito sneers ” Badges. Badges! We don’t need no stinking badges.” Well I guess that is where I am headed, unless my Attitude gets corrected by some surveillance ourced black mail. Yeah, I am beginning to think we don’t need no stinking badges. Many of those hiding behind them are far worse than the folk they hassle to death.

    Comment by bucky lovelace — December 4, 2014 #

  3. To the Ramparts, Brother Bucky.

    Comment by John — December 4, 2014 #

  4. Matt Tabbai has written a terrific piece on where we are headed with our police centric culture in Rolling Stone. Read it at :
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-police-in-america-are-becoming-illegitimate-20141205

    Comment by cofogetty Newhouser — December 6, 2014 #

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