(as one would be able to tell, much of this was written back in July/Early August. There’s nothing about the recent police murders of Keith Lamont Scott and Terence Crutcher. The death are coming too often for me to properly chronicle them, and that adds to my outrage).
I’m kicking a beehive here. The escalating number of police shootings of people of color has made it impossible to write about the problems I’m usually concerned with (such as near term human extinction and impending war with Russia). The outrage of the waning days of the end of the summer was/is the videotaped story of Charles Kinsey, #charleskinsey, a behavioral therapist who was shot by North Miami police for the crime of doing his day job–working with an autistic patient who had a panic attack. The video has gone viral, as have the videos of fatal shootings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, or Delrawn Small (killed by an off-duty NYPD officer using his service weapon in a ‘road rage’ confrontation). Kinsey is still alive. That’s going to make it hard for police and their apologists to blame him for the confrontation. And if that weren’t enough, we now find that Officer Dan Pantaleo, the man who choked Eric Garner to death, has received a big fat raise since going on modified duty. Did he get the raise for killing Garner? .
Of course, this being ‘Murica…
Any questioning of police conduct in such cases makes you a ‘cop hater’. And when a Baton Rouge shooter killed several police officers, you’re accused of terrorism or double- standards if you don’t organize protests to mourn dead police officers.
Anyway… Some thoughts on all this (and the reason I want to run and hide).
WHILE I DEMAND THAT POLICE DEPARTMENTS HOLD OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CRIMES, THE OFFICERS AREN’T THE PROBLEM. If we made elected officials pay the price when these shootings occur–if we mounted recall elections based on our mayors’ and judges’ inabilities to control the police–things would start to change. .
Let me explain. Taking advantage of my white privilege, I have met my share of police one-on-one during my multi-year career mistake in the 1970s. More than a few of my fellow reservists and the police I met in the course of doing riot duty were deeply racist, but (unfortunately) racism is like violence in America–as American as Cherry Pie. And in my years in NYC, I’ve seen cops do really bad things to all sorts of civilians (protesters, homeless people, and people who talked back). But wearing blue is a job, and cops are civil servants. Their job, while monotonous, frequently unpleasant and occasionally dangerous, is not a dream career. They’re mostly interested in getting in the 20 years (or whatever) and filing for the pension where they can do something that doesn’t involve cleaning vomit out of one’s squad car after taking a belligerent drunk into the lockup. They are not going to do something that puts their pension on the line. So…They do the things that won’t get them fired and take on the tasks that can get them promoted. And apparently, beating up or shooting civilians will not get them fired.
And (conversely), police will take on tasks that involve brutality if their bosses tell them to. Exhibit A is the 2008 Critical Mass ride through Times’ Square, when Officer Patrick Pogan was caught on-camera assaulting rider Christopher Long and knocking him to the ground. Long was then falsely charged with assaulting a police officer until the video of the incident made that charge impossible to prove. But the police officer did no time for the attack (though he was found guilty of falsifying charges) and if there was a City cash settlement with Long, I haven’t found it. I bring up this case because the NYPD had already been hit with a 2006 judge’s determination that they had to let the Critical Mass! rides continue, even though then-Mayor Mike made no secret of his disdain for the rides. So it seems to me that, while the police are the ones carrying out the violence, somebody has made it clear to the ranks that they will not be reprimanded if things get out of hand. And it undoubtedly goes deeper than that–the police may well be told to ‘tune up’ arrestees and will not be disciplined if something goes wrong.
Of course, the whole system blows up if a conscience-stricken officer decides to go against his brethren after police violence turns deadly. And it gets worse for those who blow the whistle on the climate of violence encouraged by the senior officers. Ask Adrian Schoolcraft. But look at the allegations tied up with recent killings of civilians and you will find no matter how egregious the crime, the police officers protect their own, and the criminal justice system facilitates the freeing of officers accused of brutality or murder.
Meanwhile, the stories of police killings of black men and women* continue. The recent story (not covered by MSM) to cross my FB feed is that of Sgt James Brown, an Iraqi war veteran who was murdered in custody while he served a two-day jail sentence in El Paso, Texas for DWI. The video, made public and shown on Democracy NOW! indicates that he was murdered, even as he pleaded for his life. I’ve blogged about the deaths of Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and others. I’ve also urged readers to sign onto the Danette Chavis petition for a permanent DOJ investigator/prosecutor to be appointed for the express purpose of investigating cases of police murder. This individual would not be subjected to local pressure to find officers not guilty (a problem for local DA’s who are put in the position of prosecuting the police they depend on to support their cases against other individuals).
In the meantime, I have to credit Colin Kaepernick, Number 7 of the San Francisco 49’ers. I don’t know how he’s dealing with all the crap coming down for his refusal to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, but (instead of being alone), he’s being joined by others. Even high school students are going down on one knee to protest a situation that echoes the racism and xenophobia that us good YOU rope-eeeyans brought to this continent five hundred years ago and never fixed. I had blogged about this back in January-–Beyonce’s homage to the Black Panthers at the Superbowl party. Resistance to the status quo of police being able to murder with impunity may well break into resistance to the empire–an interesting coincidence coming as it does on the Fifth Anniversary of the occupation of Liberty Plaza by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Colin is making me rewrite my play.
Back to what fixes this. This is all opinion and I could be wrong. But (referring to earlier), Police are civil servants and are to some degree focused on that pension. They don’t do things that haven’t been encouraged by their superiors, and their low-level superiors are also civil servants. Somebody is giving the orders. I am not a ‘coincidence theorist‘–the explosion in both the number of such killings and the violence we see in the video indicates to me that this is a phenomenon that has some orchestration (Maybe DHS? The people who went to war on the Occupy Movement?). If you want to stop the killings, make sure your mayor or governor knows THEIR job is on the line–if cops are found not guilty when they murder, then work your way up the command chain.
And I DO hope there’s a conspiracy. That this is not thousands of police officers acting out the hatred that’s bred into their hearts.