Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Every Eight Hours"

The killing and violence by police continues.

Every eight hours, three a day, day in and day out, someone is killed by police. From my own analysis of figures compiled last year by "Killed by Police," a third of those killed by police are unarmed, a third are black or brown, a third are mentally ill or suicidal, a third are involved in domestic disputes.

Very, very few are engaged in active criminality when they are killed. Sometimes the excuse for killing is that the victim had a rap sheet. The pattern is repeated over and over: someone calls police for assistance, the police arrive with guns drawn, the soon-to-be victim fails to comply immediately with often unheard or uncomprehended police orders. Or the victim runs. The victim is killed.

Until recently, almost every one of these killings was officially deemed to be "justified." Someone did a statistical study recently and found that only 1 out of 1000 police killings resulted in the prosecution of the officer. One out of a thousand. That sounds about right.

And yet I've long contended that 90% or more of police killings are not necessary. Too often, police kill their victims because they believe that's what they are expected and are supposed to do with people who don't follow their orders or who don't fit certain rigid guidelines of appearance and behavior.

They believe that because that's what they've been told by those in charge of police forces. "You have a gun; you have training; use it at your discretion." So they do.

And they are protected by law when they do.

Laws and court decisions over many years say that police have qualified immunity from prosecution, and that they can kill blamelessly -- even when they kill the innocent.

But it's not the law that enables police killings. The law protects police who kill. It is instead the policies of police departments that enable the constant rat-tat-tat of police killings, the year in and year out "every eight hours, three a day" killing spree the police have been on for decades. Those policies can change.

Many people argue that the drug war is the main cause of so much police violence and murder these days, and they have a point. Others argue that the level of police violence and murder was greater in generations past than it is now, and they have a point, too.

The idea that the police can kill or torture/beat down suspects with impunity is woven deep in the DNA of most police forces in the country. Violence and murder is part of what they were organized to do -- whether it was as slave patrols in the South, Wild West marshals, county sheriffs patrols or civil police forces in the big cities of the 19th century.

Their violence was intended to "protect" white women from negro rape, to suppress slave uprisings, to control immigrant populations, to keep the wild Indians at bay, to maintain a rough and ready order among contending white men -- by killing those who got out of bounds or out of line.

This is who our police forces are and have always been.

When the police killing spree was well under way in Albuquerque, last year for example, it was often pointed out that police shootings and killings had a strongly 'Wild West' quality to them. I don't doubt it's true. And you still see elements of Wild West shoot-em-ups in police behavior in many cities in the West, particularly in Texas, in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and even supposed Progressive bastions as Portland and Seattle.

It happens in the country, too.

Not long ago, for example, a dude was shot and killed by a state police sniper in a little town not far from us in New Mexico. The incident was eerily similar to a state police killing last year even closer to us. In both cases, a relatively young armed (white) man had an "episode" during which he became enraged and seemed to pose a threat to others. Negotiators were sent to obtain his surrender, but he would not surrender as ordered. He insisted he be left alone. In the recent case, apparently the man wanted only to go home. In the earlier case, the man was in his own home.

In addition to negotiators, a sniper was deployed by the state police -- I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same one in both cases. When the opportunity presented itself -- in the earlier case, when the victim appeared in a window, in the recent case, when the victim got out of his truck -- the sniper shot and killed the victim.

Episode concluded.

This is not unlike what happened to James Boyd in the Sandia foothills last March. After hours of negotiation, snipers were sent, and Boyd was killed. Apparently the decision was made to kill him rather than continue negotiating or allow him to surrender. There's apparently an unstated time limit on negotiations between someone having an "episode" and police before snipers are deployed and the victim is shot and killed, regardless of whether the victim chooses to surrender.

Albert Redwine, for example, was killed by a police sniper in Albuquerque as he was surrendering shortly after James Boyd was killed as he was surrendering as well. Both were aware of the jeopardy they were in -- whether or not they surrendered. They knew the police were out to kill them no matter what they did.

Redwine was Native American, Boyd was white and mentally ill. Both of the (white) men killed by state police snipers out in the country where we live were having episodes of rage, whether fueled by drugs or alcohol, I don't know. But both of them had had previous encounters with police, and I think they both had fairly long rap sheets.

Many people think that most of those killed by police are black, typically young black men. It's not true. In fact, the majority of those killed by police are white men. It seems that mostly black men are killed because those killings are the ones most widely publicized. The reason for it is clear enough: police killings of black men are a form of terrorism long used against the black community to keep them in fear of what could/would happen if they got out of line, above themselves, or made trouble. This has been going on since Slavery Time, and it hasn't substantively changed. There is a fear among white folk that if the blacks aren't kept in a state of perpetual terror, they would run wild and rape all the white women after they killed all the white men.

Publicizing the police killings of blacks while barely acknowledging the more frequent police killings of whites is one way to maintain the terror so often deemed necessary to control the black population.

The resistance through "Black Lives Matter" and other movements is growing, though, and the terror that police killings of black men is meant to inspire is fading. "We are not afraid" is part of the protest movement philosophy. Until police killings stop, people will continue to die, of course. But the movements are losing their fear. The terror no longer is as effective as it once was. Soon enough, it may not be effective at all.

When police terror is no longer effective, sometimes the terror tactics are increased, but sometimes the terrorist police or occupation forces withdraw. That's eventually what happened in Iraq. After causing as much mayhem and misery as possible and triggering a civil war, and after their own terror tactics ceased causing more than momentary fear among the Iraqi people, American ("Coalition") forces withdrew, first to bases, then out of  the country altogether, leaving only a remnant force to protect the Fortress America Embassy. Something similar was happening in Afghanistan but has recently stalled.

The use of police as domestic terror-squads to control the population is nearly at the point of diminishing returns. Payouts and settlements for police murder and misconduct are probably reaching into the billions annually, at least into the hundreds of millions, and crime, such as it is, even with many, many more activities criminalized, is at the lowest rate in generations. The purpose of police killing, brutality and terror may have been to control those deemed to be criminals, but compared to the past, there are so few such people on the streets, police aren't even considered necessary in some communities. They cause more trouble than then solve.

For the first time in anyone's memory, police are being indicted and may even go to trial for the killings and brutalizations of civilians. Police misconduct is being acknowledged by segments of the powerful -- the very powerful whom the police serve.

This startling development wouldn't have happened were it not for the sustained pressure of the nationwide movements and protests against police violence and murder that were triggered by the brave people of Albuquerque who stood in surprising solidarity against continued police violence and impunity last year following the outrageous killing of James Boyd.

Protests continue, but so does the killing.

The locus shifts. I did a quick analysis of where civilians were being killed by police most often as of February, according to data compiled by "Killed by Police," and I was startled to find that the majority of the killings were in Texas, followed closely by California, and then, with far, far fewer killings, but still at a high rate considering the smaller population, by Arizona. Florida -- with a much larger population than Arizona -- had the next highest number of police killings.

Most states had very few or none, notably New York, with only 2 at the time.

While we may think that police killing are random-universal throughout the country, they're really not. They're concentrated in certain states and certain cities of those states. One of them was once Albuquerque, and another was Oakland, CA. Both cities have reduced their police kill-rate to practically none over the last few months or a year. Many other states and cities never had a significant police kill-rate.

The strong message is that police don't have to kill, and further, that police killings can be significantly reduced without leading to collapse and chaos.

This lesson has yet to be learned in places like Texas and California where it seems that the killing has intensified since February. But there are other places where it hasn't, and some places where police killings are almost completely absent.

A key factor in police training that seems to be a cause of so much police killing is the "active shooter" scenario. Active shooter situations are very, very rare but some police forces train as if all encounters with the public were potentially active shooter scenarios -- with predictably tragic results. Hundreds of innocent and/or unarmed individuals are killed every year by police who seem to think they are defending against an active shooter -- that doesn't exist. Black and brown men are stigmatized and shot way out of proportion to their numbers in the population in part because for some unfathomable reason they are considered existential threats by police who are playing out "active shooter" scenarios or something similar in their minds eye. That's how John Crawford III and Tamir Rice -- among many others -- were summarily executed by police officers who thought that both were armed and prepared to engage in an active shooter situation. No, the only ones who were actually armed and who shot and killed were the police.

Another factor is the constant -- and inappropriate -- deployment of SWAT teams to serve warrants. Doing such is a recipe for tragedy. SWAT was never intended for routine warrant service, but since it is deployed for these actions, many individuals who have done nothing wrong have been killed -- along with their pets and children -- and lives and homes have been destroyed all to violently serve a routine warrant that could be handled much more peacefully.

These deployments must end, the active shooter scenario brainwashing must be curtailed.

Doing those two things alone would probably reduce police killings by 50% right off the bat.

The killing must stop.

Violent policing must stop as well.

Wendy Davis over at her own site clued me to one means of curbing police violence, the substitution of police forces with a model based on threat management rather than threat neutralization. It's explained in this video by Dave Brown in Detroit:



Brown makes clear in this video something I've been saying for a long time: Violent policing, let alone police killing, is almost never necessary. There is another way that works as well or better to control crime/criminals, and that is what he calls "threat management." All it takes is the will to do it and the skill to do it -- which many police forces today lack.

But that can -- and must -- change.

Friday, April 10, 2015

We've Got to Get Beyond the "National Conversation" About Police Violence to Action

The United States has been engaged in a "National Conversation" about police violence and murder since last August when Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson gunned down an unarmed black youth named Michael Brown.

This "conversation" has been driven and moderated by the media, a media which is fully in the hands of the Powers That Be and which determines the course of "discussion." The People are permitted to participate in the "discussion" so long as they adhere to the rules set by the media moderators. When they operate outside those rules, they are ignored, and so they are not part of the "discussion."

I've wondered why, during the course of this ongoing, rolling "National Conversation" the initial police killing and protests in Albuquerque in March of last year, in which an illegally camping mentally ill man named James Boyd was ruthlessly gunned down by two APD snipers, has been all but disappeared from the "discussion."

The issue of police violence and murder became nationalized due to the killing of James Boyd last year, but you hardly ever hear about it these days, and it isn't part of the overall "discussion." The activists who were determined to cause fundamental changes in the way the police in Albuquerque behave -- and so enable Albuquerque to become a model for police reform in the rest of the country -- have largely either shut up about it or have moved on to other projects.

Meanwhile, the "National Conversation" about police violence continues, as more and more Americans are killed by police -- still at the consistent rate of about three a day -- and hundreds and hundreds are assaulted and abused as part of routine policing. When these incidents of violence and death are particularly egregious and caught on video, there is a momentary shift in the "conversation" to focus on this or that incident. But on the whole, little seems to change. Police violence and killing continues as the "conversation" rolls on.

The "conversation" is in essence a stalling tactic used by elites and their allies to ensure that the status quo is maintained -- or that the appearance of the status quo is maintained while adjustments in the way Power is maintained are made behind the scenes. The "conversation" exists primarily to divert attention from the necessity for Action.

Two recent incidents of police violence have caused slight shifts in the "conversation." In one, the video of the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, caused a remarkable action by the local PTB: they arrested the officer who killed Scott and charged him with murder one, an almost unheard of action against a police officer in the performance of his duties.

In the other, the apprehension and savage beating by sheriff's deputies of a man who fell off a stolen horse in the hills above Apple Valley, CA, has caused the typical action of police departments when confronted with video evidence of apparent misconduct: an acknowledgement that the "video is disturbing" (ie: the video is disturbing, not the actions of the deputies caught on video), and the incident will be "thoroughly investigated," which typically means exoneration of the officers involved in the incident -- due to internal, unknown and unknowable policies and procedures that authorize such violence against non-resisting suspects. Happens all the time.

Sadly, in the Apple Valley incident, the local ACLU issued a mealy-mouthed and useless statement acknowledging the authorization of the use of force by law enforcement -- an authorization that may or may not have been exceeded in this case. There was no real attempt by the local ACLU to hold police accountable for the violence documented in the video. Just as a side note, San Bernardino County was the site of sheriffs deputies burning alive Christopher Dorner who dared to point out the inherent racism and violence of the LAPD and took matters into his own hands to settle some scores after he was dismissed from the force.

The tendency in the "National Conversation" about police violence is to cast the problem/issue in racial terms, even though the issue is (IMHO) more a matter of class than race. Race enters into the picture through class, not independently, at least for the most part. Yes there are racists in police departments all over the country, and some of those departments operate from a racist basis. But the focus on race to the exclusion of class or other aspects of modern policing suggests that the issues of police violence and murder can only be solved by solving the inherent racism of American society (as teacherken suggests in this essay at dKos.)

Well, no. That's a further distraction -- perhaps one of the worst going -- because "solving" the inherent racism of American society is not something that can or will happen anytime soon, if ever. In fact, racism is so deeply ingrained in American consciousness and subconscious that it probably can't be solved short of divine intervention.

What can be solved and what must be solved through persistent action is the problem of police violence and murder which seem to be universal in American policing -- but aren't quite.

I mentioned the uproar in Albuquerque that followed the egregious police killing of James Boyd in March of last year, and how that uproar seems to have dissipated or disappeared. Something else has changed, though. The killing stopped. Well, mostly stopped. There has been one killing by APD since last July. I believe there have been three killings by Bernalillo County deputies in the unincorporated areas, and two by State Police in the outlying areas since last July. Though it is still too high, that's a remarkable reduction in the rate of police killings compared to previous periods, and it happened because of concerted public action and the determination of certain segments of the Powers That Be to conduct a thoroughgoing reform of the Albuquerque Police Department's policies regarding violence and use of lethal force.

The first thing to do was to stop the killing.

It really is that simple. The order must go out to STOP THE KILLING.

And then STOP THE VIOLENCE.

Both of these actions can be taken almost instantaneously if there is the will -- and the order -- to do so. It does not mean that the inherent racism of American society is cured or even addressed. But it does mean that the violence and killing perpetrated by police (which is one aspect of inherent racism) is curbed, and at least for a while, the other social and cultural problems can be dealt with.

The actions that caused such a steep reduction in police killings in Albuquerque are mirrored in some other cities such as Oakland, CA. The lesson is that the police can unilaterally stop killing and stop being violent assholes, and the world won't come to an end, the Apocalypse isn't any more nigh than it ever was.

The further lesson is that police violence and killing simply isn't necessary -- let alone desirable -- for a civil society to function. When police are responsible for a double digit percentage of homicides in this country (as they are), then a big part of the problem is the police themselves, not the criminal element they are supposedly protecting the rest of us from.

The public needs to mobilize against police violence and murder, but in some ways the "conversation" prevents mobilization. It's by design, of course. Those who benefit from the status quo of violent policing  and all of its many subsidiary aspects, including mass incarceration and the criminalization of whole categories of the population, will do practically anything to prevent the disruption of that status quo. But at times and in certain places, the People combined with the operators of the structures of Power can not only disrupt the status quo but institute a new status quo in which official violence on the part of police is curbed and the constant litany of killing by police is suppressed.

Those who benefit from the status quo include the media -- which is driving and moderating the "National Conversation" about violent policing. It's time to get beyond the "conversation" to action, and if that means that protests intensify and actions become inconveniences, so be it.

The killing by police must stop.

The violence by police must be curbed.

It's really that simple.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Congo Thing

[Sorry for the relatively long hiatus... it's what happens in Blogistan, so I've heard...]

I've been reading a book I received as a door prize at an event in Santa Fe a few weeks ago, a book called "Captive in the Congo, A Consul's Return to the Heart of Darkness" by Michael P. E. Hoyt.

I haven't gotten very far into it, but so far it's a pretty good read as these things go, though I take strenuous issue with the notion that the United States Government is/was somehow innocent or blameless for what happened to the Congo during and after the Belgian colonial period.

The author was appointed US Consul in Stanleyville in 1964, and within a couple of weeks, he was taken hostage along with about 250 others -- Americans, Belgians and some other Westerners and Congolese -- by rebels, "Lumumbist Rebels" they are called, who captured and held Stanleyville until the hostages were rescued by a joint Belgian/American/Cuban exile quasi-military operation that routed the rebels at least temporarily.

Who remembers any of this? I do, strangely, at least I recall parts of it, some of the names of the players and the places where some of the events of the period took place. It was on all the news at the time, but there was something fascinating about the Congolese independence movement, Patrice Lumumba, the strategic jockeying for power over Darkest Africa between the Soviet Union and the "West," the appalling behavior of the Belgians, the disgusting behavior of Americans. It was all amazing and revelatory to me at a time when I was barely conscious of politics and world events at all.

I was only 12 when the Belgian Congo achieved a very fragile independence, and only 16 when the events in this book took place.

Yet what happened -- or at least what was reported -- has left an impression on me to this day.

I wrote about Lumumba and the Belgians and the coup that overthrew him and his subsequent assassination almost five years ago now. At the time it happened, it was shocking to me, but it was being purveyed as simply the "tragic way of the world," oh well, what can you do, It's Africa, and all that.

The fact that Lumumba was an African nationalist who saw the future of the Congo and Africa in general as a future freed from Euro-American colonial oppression and exploitation was what got him overthrown and killed. The Belgians had no qualms whatever about doing what wet work was necessary to maintain control over their captured territory even if a nominal independence was granted under pressure. Exterminating a pest like Lumumba was all in a day's work for the Belgian mercenaries and their allies who continued to infest the Congo long after "independence."

Americans were part of the neocolonial pattern in Africa even as all the countries of the continent were nominally freed from their colonial overlords. They would all become economic vassals of their former colonial masters or of the transnational corporate interests fostered by the United States. There would be no alternative.

And whatever ruin was brought in the wake of this new -- but not so new at all -- order would be the problems of the Natives, not of the West or the Powers the West represented.

Natives continued to struggle for freedom from neocolonialism in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa, and Hoyt makes abundantly clear what the Official Line was about that: the Rebels were savages with little or no conception of the higher purposes for which the United States and the West were "helping" in Africa; they relied on magic to achieve incoherent ends; they brutalized and killed with bloody abandon; they could not be reasoned with; they could only be met with force and crushed.

And so it would be.

I've noticed a through line of madness that's built in to the framework of the diplomatic service of which Hoyt was a part and from which he retired (like many others of his ilk have) to Santa Fe. Madness is the word I use because of the consistency of error in American foreign policy, error which literally cannot be corrected. It is built in, part of the DNA of the Foreign Service, the CIA, and all the other "helping" agencies that go to make up the Foreign Service.

Hoyt, like so many of his peers, has no conception of the policy errors he's implementing. The institutionalization of error and the inability to do anything to correct it is one of the fundamentals of American government(s) and policy, as I found out in my eleven years in the federal service.

In the Congo, the errors compound and continue. Things may get slightly better or worse at any given time, but the underlying premise of American policy in the Congo, in Africa, and in most places around the world is simply wrong. And there is no earthly way to fix it.

Thus all the nationalist and nativist uprisings we witness. People will not put up with the kinds of indignities, injustices, exploitations and worse that come with American-style or any other style of neocolonialism without resistance. The use of force to put down the rebellions ultimately leads to more and more and more of them, until inevitably the system that neocolonialism supports collapses.

The horrors that people go through in the lead-up to the collapse are unnecessary and yet somehow seem inevitable so long as colonialism and neo-colonialism is in power and able to assert power over weaker interests.

We see what a mess so much of Africa is to this day as its neocolonial exploitation continues apace. We see the rebellions of people who understand exactly what's been happening and want it stopped. We see the consistency of error in American foreign policy with regard to Africa.

This book, despite my disagreement with the premise of American exceptionalism and innocence, helps set the stage for the perpetuation of errors to come.

I am more and more convinced that changing it requires much more than an election or two...

Heart of Darkness indeed.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Down Country and the Persistence of Colonialism in New Mexico

I've been thinking about colonialism as endemic to New Mexico.

It's part of Pueblo culture and other Native culture, too, including Diné/Navajo.

I've been reading Lucy Lippard's magisterial "Down Country" (mostly) about the Tano people of the Galisteo Basin, just to the north over a ridge from our own place in the Estancia Basin. The Tano came as colonizers from the north and west in -- perhaps -- 1200AD or so; there were already scattered settlements in the Galisteo, some a thousand years old, perhaps (then again, maybe not so old.) The inhabitants were overwhelmed, driven out or incorporated into the new Tano pueblo villages, the ruins of which are found all over the Galisteo. The Spanish, in their turn, overwhelmed the Tano pueblos, and eventually, they were all abandoned, the remnant Tano people moving to Hopi-land where their descendants still are.

The Spanish settled in after a while, and they in their turn were overwhelmed and the Anglo colonists moved in. Galisteo itself has been a Tano pueblo, a Spanish pueblo and it is now (mostly) an Anglo artist colony, an offshoot of Santa Fe's art colony.  Fancy people, all 250 of them,  in their fancy houses and studios, with their fancy (non-functional) mailboxes, lording it over... well, their own domain. A domain taken from others, who took it from others, who in turn took it from others still.

I'm a colonist too. Ms Ché is in a slightly different category being Native and all, but Cherokee are not the local indigenous even so.  Cherokee are more or less in charge of IAIA, and even though it is Indian-centered and Indian run, IAIA is very much a colonial enterprise.

Where we are, the Empty Quarter, has a similar pattern to that of the Galisteo Basin, though much attenuated, as no one (much) lived here to take the land from, and there were few resources easily exploitable.

The closest pueblos were fifteen/twenty miles away. This was an open grassland where buffalo roamed. The deer and the antelope played in the hills and mountains round about, among the cholla, pinon, and juniper. Before the Spanish, the Tompiro people coming from the west established a few outposts which became large pueblo trading centers, the chief product being salt which the people collected from the salt ponds to the east, the remnants of the once mighty lake that had filled the Estancia basin. The trade was between the local pueblos, the pueblos along the Rio Grande on the west side of the mountains, and the Plains tribes, chiefly the Kiowa and Comanche who roamed and were fierce in their war paint wherever and whenever they wished. They followed the buffalo, but so did the Pueblo peoples whose hunts were legendary.

The Tompiro fought the Spanish and submitted to the Spanish and that was their undoing, for once they sumitted, they no longer were able to rely on their own customs and resources to ensure their survival, they had to rely on the Spanish -- who literally had no concern for the well-being/survival of the People, only for themselves. Ultimately, the remnant Tompiro people (perhaps only a few hundred by then) left en masse and joined the Rio Grande pueblos, chiefly Isleta, just before the outbreak of the Pueblo Revolt.

They never came back. The land was empty -- except for the birds, the buffalo, the deer and the antelope, the coyotes and the occasional forays from the Kiowa and Comanche, who now had to scale the mountain passes to get to the pueblos and the Spanish settlements for slave-raiding and trade. Such an inconvenience, but they managed somehow.

This land became part of contested and competing land grants and was used primarily for sheep-raising when it was used at all. It was wild-country, no-man's land.

There were a few Spanish villages along the east foothills of the Manzanos and there was a ranch headquarters at Estancia, and that was pretty much it for settlement. The ruins of the stone-built pueblos did not dissolve back into the ground like adobe would but still stood stark, rigid and crumbling, not unlike tiny versions of Chaco and Mesa Verde.

Anglo colonists came from Texas with their multitudes of cattle and claimed the land for their own, demanding that the sheep-ranchers and their sheep withdraw forthwith. There was a notorious shoot-out after a friendly poker game. The colonists came from Texas, but the Anglo colonial enterprise was directed from California, via Boston, or vice versa. I had no idea until after I'd lived here for a while that the cattle operation was owned by the Whitneys who had a vast ranch and experimental farm outside of Sacramento which turned into one of the many microchip suburbs and where I had worked from time to time. The Whitneys came from Boston at the tail end of the Gold Rush. In New Mexico, the Whitneys claimed to be from Boston, though their entire expansion program was being run from their California ranch. Colorado didn't escape their ministrations, either, I'm told, but that's another tale for another time.

(I'm sure I've told this story before) The Whitneys fought the Oteros on the ground and in court for decades for control of the land, and finally they both lost at the Supreme Court, and the land was opened for Anglo homesteading/settlement. The railroad promptly laid tracks, and the remnants of history are all around, as are the many ruins of broken dreams. Our house was one of those ruins until we, colonists from California, "rescued" it and rehabbed it enough to live in. With the skunks underneath and the song birds nesting in the eaves.

Now and then, we still hear a coyote howl or see an eagle soar. There are no buffalo, though, no more. I don't know why not. There are vast ranches nearby where they could be raised and roam, ranches that host numerous cattle, horses, llamas, or goats, and if they can host any of those, they can host buffalo, but they don't. The pronghorn, they say, are not the Native variety -- they were hunted to extinction in historic times -- they are an imported variety from Wyoming; colonists you might say, in their own right, like the cattle, the horses, the llamas and the goats.

The Russian olives are colonists as are most of the plants that now cover the grasslands. The farms and most of their crops are colonists, though corn, beans and squash are raised in abundance and are highly sought after by city-folk who flock to the country at harvest time. Colonists. The farm nearby where the cranes roost in the daytime is a working farm, but also an "attraction," hosting thousands of school children bussed in from the city every year to see what a "real farm" is like.  Colonists.

All I'm saying is that there is no escaping colonialism in New Mexico. Even the Diné/Navajo are colonists -- coming in from the north so late in the game they were practically simultaneous arrivals with the Spanish, within a hundred years or so. They were raiders like their cousins the Apaches. The pueblo peoples feared and despised them. Some still do. Colonists all.

The question is whether colonialism will continue to be imposed by force and bloodshed. That's the issue of police violence in a nutshell. That's the issue raised by so many of the Indians we've come to know in New Mexico -- who say, almost to a one, "It didn't have to be this way."

The violence was never necessary.

The taking and the stealing and the use of force and bloodshed was never necessary. Matters could be worked out (relatively) peacefully. Accommodations could be made. They still can be.

That's what I'm hoping to see happen in the next phase of opposition to police violence -- and implicitly to the violence of Anglo-colonialism.

The Spanish and the Indians learned -- the hard way -- to accommodate one another in this harsh and unforgiving land. As I've heard said, they're all related now, they're children of one another's mothers, and though they may maintain distinctive cultures, they are still family. They often unite to oppose more Anglo colonial impositions and these days they can and do succeed in their opposition.

The question is whether the Anglos will learn there is another way. In my view, they must learn.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

People's Tribunal in Albuquerque

Last Sunday, ABQJustice conducted what they called a tribunal with regard to the long and disreputable record of the Albuquerque Police Department's racist and violent policing.

I wasn't able to attend, but I have seen the videos (Part I and Part II) of the event and I've read the report that formed the basis of this tribunal.

This wasn't really a tribunal as there was no means of adjudication and only certain testimony was allowed. There was no "other side" in other words. Thus there was no way to weigh the testimony and evidence. Further, the focus was not on racism and violence by APD, it was on historical resistance and utilized the indirect testimony from victims of APD's history of racism and police violence.

Nevertheless, I am a strong advocate for People's Tribunals and courts as a means of highlighting social problems and solutions, and of making a public case for change while holding those who commit public violence responsible to the public.

Such tribunals can be very dramatic and very effective -- at least as long as they stay focused on the issues they're organized to examine and they are able to render a judgement based on the evidence, including testimony, presented.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case here. I can only speculate on the reasons why.

Part of the problem may be that APD's rate of killing has fallen dramatically since last July, when for all intents and purposes, the killer cops were told to stand down -- and to a degree I never anticipated, they did.

With the kill rate so surprisingly reduced, the point of the protests and actions against police violence in Albuquerque may have been lost, or there may be some other agenda in operation, one that sees the killings that triggered so much outrage in the spring and summer of last year as merely a starting point. I don't know.

At any rate, while the report on police racism and prejudice in Albuquerque is welcome, it lacks the kind of statistical basis and focus on police violence that I would like to see and that I think is necessary to catalyze real and lasting reform -- if reform is even possible and the desired outcome.

For example, if you're going to accuse the police of racist and prejudiced policing, it can help immeasurably to have and to show statistics that back it up. Unfortunately, the report lacks those statistics, though there is plenty of evocative testimony that suggests as much.

The objectives of the report are not entirely clear, although there is a list of desired "Expectations" which include:

1. An independent agency with the authority to discipline officers and make policy changes. 
2. Routine extensive outreach to collect complaints against APD.
3. The acceptance of anonymous complaints against APD. 
4. The decriminalization of homelessness. 
5. Police officers who use unjustified force must be held criminally accountable. 
6. The publishing of all officer shift rosters at the end of each week, and the immediate online posting of all lapel camera video. 
7. The recruitment of officer candidates who hold degrees, or have experience, in, social work or allied fields. 
8. Limiting promotion to officers who have experience in, or show an inclination for, community-based policing.
I don't know how ABQ Justice came to these expectations, but they seem in the aggregate to lack cohesion. Even if adopted by APD and the city -- which is unlikely -- they don't lead to reform (assuming reform is the desired outcome.)

What is most surprising to me is that they aren't based in concepts of racial and social justice. Instead they are aspects of information desired and the interests of those who developed the report.

Let's go one by one:

1. An independent agency to discipline officers and make policy.

As far as I know, no police department anywhere in the country has such a truly independent agency. The issue is "independence." How do you judge that? How to you ensure that? Police departments are the creations and creatures of civic authority, authority which is nominally vested in the elected representatives of the citizens, but which is actually almost always controlled and implemented by appointed officials, usually the City Manager or the equivalent. You can create a commission or review board or oversight agency, but the vexing problem is assuring its independence and authority outside the chain of command of the city's government. This is quite apart from the problems of oversight caused by police unions and their enforceable agreements. There is no "independence" in other words. Discipline has historically been a contractual matter, pursued internally; policy is ostensibly the purview of the elected representatives of the citizens, but policy recommendations are largely and implementation is entirely at the discretion of the City Manager and his/her delegates -- such as the police chief. If you want to change that, you have to change the whole structure of authority in city governments.

2. Routine extensive outreach to collect complaints against APD. 

By whom? Police? Nonsense. The problem that is mentioned in the report is that those who might be making complaints of police abuse and misconduct are terrified of the police. Police, therefore, are not the appropriate civic authorities to do such outreach, but who is? Social service organizations? Perhaps. But the problem for most of them is that they are already overwhelmed and severely restricted in their abilities to perform services as it is. How are they to add further outreach to their responsibilities. And who would they report to? What would be done with these complaints? Would they go to a powerless quasi-independent agency to languish and eventually be dismissed -- as most complaints typically do? Or what?

3. The acceptance of anonymous complaints against APD.

That should be a no-brainer, but acceptance doesn't mean action.

4. The decriminalization of homelessness.

Homelessness per se is not a crime. Sleeping on the sidewalk or urinating in public may be crimes. The problems of homelessness are manifest, and the solutions are relatively obvious, but for whatever reason, policy makers largely refuse to employ them (ie: provide housing.) Using the criminal justice system (such as it is) to deal with homelessness is stupid. The issue isn't so much the criminalization of homelessness as it is a public policy of harassment and humiliation of the homeless, using the police and the so-called justice system to make already miserable lives worse.

5. Police officers who use unjustified force must be held criminally accountable.

Who decides what is "unjustified?" Again, the problem is lines of authority and where decision making lies. In theory, police are already held accountable for the use of unjustified force. The problem is that the police and district attorney in concert decide that (almost) all uses of force are "justified." The public may disagree, but the public has no control over the process and decision-making. There's no current mechanism to ensure that this expectation becomes operative.

6. The publishing of all officer shift rosters at the end of each week, and the immediate online posting of all lapel camera video. 

The objective? The rosters should be available in real time, and there should be a secure (tamper-proof) lapel camera footage repository. In other words, camera footage should be uploaded as it is acquired rather than stored in the camera itself and uploaded at the discretion of the police. On the other hand, making all footage immediately available to the public seems counter productive.

7. The recruitment of officer candidates who hold degrees, or have experience, in, social work or allied fields.

While I understand why this could be desirable, I don't agree that police should be assigned to social work responsibility. This has been one of the major issues of hundreds of police involved shootings every year. Police are sent on calls that need social or medical worker intervention or services, with too often deadly results. Even when the police sent on these calls have special training and experience. The answer is to send social and medical workers, not police. But that means changing policies and protocols, and it means increasing the numbers of available non-police workers to go on such calls.

8. Limiting promotion to officers who have experience in, or show an inclination for, community-based policing.

Who will define the terms? "Community based policing" needs to be defined here. Then policies can be implemented and promotions made on the basis of those policies. Until then, this proposal is too vague to be useful.

If there had been a real tribunal last Sunday, there would have been charges presented against the city of Albuquerque and certain of its employees including the Mayor and the City Administrator and named police officers who have engaged in egregious or violent conduct.

A real tribunal would have then heard testimony from individuals who have been victims of police violence or other mistreatment and abuse, and the city authorities and police would have had an opportunity to present a defense either directly or by proxy.

Then the tribunal would have made a judgement and recommendations.

Instead, the report was presented as a fait accompli. The tribunal made no recommendations itself, nor did it render a judgement.

I like the tactic of a People's Tribunal, and I'd like to see it continued so as to make clear what the policing problems are and what to do about them... and to point out who is responsible.

This report and tribunal didn't quite do that.






Thursday, March 12, 2015

Burst of Action, Rage and Outrage in Ferguson

Well.

How much will these developments matter in the long run?

Ferguson's city authorities have been overhauling their little fiefdom by shuffling around some of the city's personnel and getting rid of some of the more egregious masters of the Negro Farm. The city manager was duly separated from his overseer seat; the police chief resigned; the municipal court judge who had been so good at harvesting the Negro crop for the city left town -- but he's still right next door; two police commanders who had chuckled over their racist email "jokes" took off for parts unknown; the racist court clerk who thought the Negroes were so funny also departed.

Things were looking somewhat positive in Ferguson for a change, though who would be stepping into the vacancies was anybody's guess. Given the economic structure of many of the municipalities in St. Louis County, it's hardly practical to bring in a more, shall we say, public-service oriented team.

The problem is that these tiny fiefdoms grandly called "cities" in St. Louis County are simply not economically viable unless the population or a significant portion of it is "farmed" as a cash crop might be. They do it in St Louis through the constant petty extractions of the municipal courts, backed up by predatory policing. It's a system worked out over many generations.

These things don't change overnight.

But overnight, shots rang out at the Ferguson Police HQ and Muni Court Building, an iconic symbol of the oppression the residents -- well, the black residents -- of Ferguson feel, and the sight of numerous protests and demonstrations since the outrageous killing of Mike Brown by FPD officer Darren Wilson last August.

Two police officers were wounded, though apparently neither of them were FPD officers.

There have been endless claims of "shots fired" during the protests against police violence in Ferguson, literally from the first moments of outrage after Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown on Canfield Drive that hot August noon last years. Literally from the first moments of protest and outrage in Ferguson, the claim has been made by police that shots were fired. This statement was made over and over again during protests, but there was no proof of it, certainly no proof that members of the protest crowds were firing at police.

What we witnessed instead, through Livestreams and other mean, was police firing tear gas, flash grenades, smoke bombs, and rubber bullets at protesters. Time and time again. The police would only confront "peaceful protests" -- and they did it with such over the top armaments and technology that the scenes often turned chaotic and absurd, thanks to the police response to protesters. The police never interfered with arsonists, vandals, and looters, however. Never. They only responded to non-violent protests with overwhelming force.

And often their excuse was that somebody had fired at them, or they heard gunfire somewhere, or somebody not involved with the protests was arrested somewhere and they had a gun. They would show off the guns they had taken from people they arrested -- people who had nothing to do with the protests -- and they would often imply that these guns were being used by protesters against the police. But no such thing was happening, and there was never any evidence or proof whatever that protesters were firing at police.

There was abundant evidence that the police were firing at protesters, however.

All the police had to do was make the claim that they were being fired on by the protesters to justify in their own minds and the minds of their supporters their violence against nonviolent crowds.

It was an obvious tactic to garner support for their often outrageous actions. In the end, the claims of shots fired made their way into the DoJ's report on the Darren Wilson matter, as a justification for many actions -- such as leaving Mike Brown's body in the street for hour after hour. "There were reports..." of gunfire nearby, and as we know, force protection is the prime directive of all police forces and public entities everywhere, all the time. Thus, if there is any suggestion or suspicion of danger, protecting the force (and their fort) comes first and foremost.

So last night, as a protest demonstration in front of the Police Fort in Ferguson was winding down, shots really did ring out, and two officers -- neither from FPD -- were wounded. An "active shooter" situation was declared, police guns were drawn on the remnants of the crowd, and the fort was protected. Flying squads of police were dispatched to the site where the gunfire was thought to have have originated, well away from the few remaining protesters.

There were reports -- not confirmed that I know of -- that there were four shots, all of which reached their targets. In other words, two shots hit each police officer. The distance was calculated at about 200 yards, perhaps farther, as the exact location of the shooter was not determined. Obviously, however, whoever shot the officers was a skilled marksman, no doubt using a high powered rifle, perhaps with a nightscope.

A pro.

Immediately, there was speculation that this was a provocation, a false-flag operation by someone interested in stirring things up a bit. Could be. This is America, and false flag operations are as American as apple pie and motherhood.

But who knows. Sometimes what seems to be clear... isn't.

At any rate, the hand wringers are out in force; this incident will "kill the movement," yadda yadda, which, not surprisingly, is exactly what a false flag operation would be designed to do. "We must practice non-violence! Gandhi! King! etc." Yes, well, those who are so loudly invoking King and Gandhi at a time like this simply falsify history, but that's been going on so long, hardly anybody knows the real history of King's and Gandhi's movements, and those who do know are often loathe to dispute the received narrative.

The shooting of the officers in the Bronx was supposed to "kill the movement," too. Of course the police and the defenders of their violence and murder utilize any incident like the one overnight -- incidents which are very, very rare -- to claim that the police are under constant assault and attack from the murderous public. We hear it all the time. It's false, but now and then there are incidents in which police are attacked and even wounded. Now and then.

What happened in Ferguson overnight is anybody's guess, and given the way "gunfire" has been investigated throughout the protests against police violence, I expect we will never know what happened or who was responsible.

Finding that out is not a particular priority.

The priority is to declare the people at war with the police, and thus to justify any level of suppression deemed necessary.

We'll see how it shakes out in the daylight...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Additionally, the Ferguson PD Report and the DoJ Failure to Find Fault With Brave Officer Wilson's Bravely Killing Michael Brown

The cognitive dissonance is strong with this one-two punch.

The DoJ's scathing report [105 pg pdf] on the pattern and practices of unconstitutional policing in Ferguson, MO was released pretty much simultaneously with the failure of the DoJ to find fault [86 pg document file] with the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, the singularity which has led to months and months of protest actions all across the country, and what's called a "national conversation" about the problems of racist policing and violent cops.

Yes, indeed.

One scathing report after another; one policeman-killer after another allowed to walk free.

It's quite a pattern, and there are reasons for it.

The dissonance is deliberate.

Yes, the police in Ferguson and many other places around the country are racists and practice racist policing. There are so many places where this is true, we might say it is all but universal. Police best practices presume the guile and the guilt of an array of minority and poverty stricken sectors of the population as a matter of course.

Statistically, the crime and criminality of minority and poor sectors of the population appears to be a fact. Thus the presumption is said to be justified. But when the statistics are broken down, it becomes clear that the presumption of guile and guilt is self fulfilling in that police interest and action is concentrated in minority communities, poor communities, marginal communities, and in many cases, police create the crime they then suppress and profit from. It's all quite circular.

When the DoJ investigates and declares a police department to have a pattern and practice of "unconstitutional policing" -- including racist policing -- it is merely pointing to the obvious. In the case of Ferguson, nearly every complaint we've been hearing in the media about the FPD is validated by the DoJ report. The local police operate as a racket, extorting money from the people, primarily the black residents of Ferguson, to fund police and city operations. It's deliberate intent every step of the way. It involves violence as well as more subtle coercion. It's been going on a long time. It is racist at its core.

Anyone who's been following the story is not surprised by these findings. We've been hearing and reading about it for months. Anybody who is familiar with the way St. Louis and the County work is familiar with the patterns and practices detailed in the Ferguson report. It's the same throughout the County. It's monstrous. And according to the DoJ, it's unconstitutional.

On the other hand, the white folks are quite satisfied, it would seem, and want nothing to change.

Similar patterns and practices are found all over the country, but perhaps the most egregious examples are found in the South -- where cities and towns in many cases have always worked this way -- and in the Border regions, such as St. Louis and Baltimore and so forth.

I've been calling it "Negro Farming" for some time, the idea being that black residents of these towns and cities are regarded as a cash crop, to be farmed and harvested of whatever money can be squeezed out of them. That's their chief -- in many cases their only -- value to the Powers That Be, and they, like any other crop, have no say in the matter.

I was thinking about this the other day in the context of what I know about city managers and their thinking. I've only had experience in this field in Sacramento where working on reform of a violent (though not particularly murderous) police force required dealing with the city manager and his office. Like most other cities, the city manager of Sacramento is in charge of the police department.

What I learned very quickly is that the city manager's office categorizes the population according to their worth to the city -- ie: how much revenue they produce, or contrariwise, how much of a cost burden they are to the city.

The city manager's constant goal is to maximize the revenue value and minimize the cost burden of the population. They segment the population by district, by age, race and gender, by income, and by occupation -- among other categories. As a rule well off white people are considered "contributors" to the civic enterprise (oh, yes, the city is itself an "enterprise" with many subsidiary enterprises all of which are treated as revenue sources or cost burdens). Well off white people are considered contributors because they own property and/or businesses which are taxed, generally quite modestly, but taxed just the same. They produce a reliable revenue stream.

On the other hand, poor people, people of color, the marginal, the mentally ill, the addicted, and so forth are almost universally considered revenue drains, costs in other words, and in every civic enterprise I'm familiar with, costs must be contained -- unless there is an off-setting revenue stream. That stream can come from an outside source -- say state or federal funding for programs or prisons -- or it can be extracted through fines and so forth from the people themselves.

Because the revenues extracted in this manner are not generally reliable, however, the place of the people from whom it is extracted is never equivalent to that of well off white people whose revenue stream is much more reliable.

This is a very simple model of what goes on in most towns and cities where populations are routinely categorized according to their civic value.

But it is the basic model that underpins how Ferguson and surrounding cities treats their populations.

In this model, someone like Mike Brown has no value.

Someone like Darren Wilson does have value.

Thus the dissonance between condemnation of an unconstitutional pattern and practice of policing -- and the failure to find fault with Darren Wilson's actions that hot day in August 2014 when he shot and killed Mike Brown in the streets of Ferguson.

The pattern and practice of policing -- not just in Ferguson but generally -- is justifiably condemned as unconstitutional, but it is based on the civic value of individuals and population segments, and the lower the value, the greater the excuse for use of force, violence and death in dealing with them.

The problems come when the costs of use of force, violence and death outrun the revenues that can be derived from the force and violence. And that's happening in city after city.

Whether it will happen in Ferguson, I don't know. Immense efforts (and expenses) have been made to protect Darren Wilson throughout this episode, efforts and expenses which are continuing. I don't know why he is being protected this way, but he is. The various "exonerations" of his actions that have taken place appear to be intended to limit or eliminate any civil award Mike Brown's family might receive, but even that is not clear. Something is going on behind the scenes in which Darren Wilson is seen as a victim somehow, whereas Mike Brown is being cast as the perpetrator. This has been going on since the killing itself. What actually happened and why is not as important as the narrative competition that's been produced. It's as if Wilson and Brown are proxies for a police/civilian culture clash that can only be resolved in favor of the police.

This is something to keep in mind: DoJ is always going to favor the police, even when they issue their scathing reports. In fact, police departments routinely defy these reports and recommendations. It's cultural. And DoJ has no independent enforcement power over police conduct. Any enforcement must come through the courts, and the courts have almost no enforcement powers independent of the police they are attempting to reform.

Consequently, if the police want to -- or they are directed to by their city managers and police chiefs -- they can and do ignore and defy these scathing reports and recommendations.

DoJ will let them get away with it, may even encourage it clandestinely.

We see it right up front with the Ferguson report and the Wilson matter: clean up your act (if you want) but no one will fault you for killing black people.

Reform itself is not enough.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

So The President's Police Commission [Interim] Report Was Released And...

I missed it. Well, no. I saw the headline but had to gloss over it due to more pressing matters. Turned out the news report I saw didn't link to the actual report anyway.

Apparently, its main recommendation is to form a task force to make further recommendations.

Punt!

Yeah, no real change at all, no real change likely, not now, not ever. The way things are is the way they are supposed to be and the way they will be for all time to come, world without end, amen.

Bill Bratton, Dave Grossman and all their acolytes and devotees have yet again won the day.

How and why does this happen over and over and over again? Just like police shootings, the same scenario plays out again and again, study after study is commissioned, excuses and made, nothing changes

I finally found a news report that actually links to the commission's findings and lists the major other recommendations made by the commission. It took some searching, and that tells me that the commission is being treated as irrelevant, its recommendations optional, and that the media-government has no particular interest in the matter. Things will stay as they are.

But these are the main recommendations of the Commission as listed by Philly.com in a post titled:

TLDR: Key Recommendations from Obama's policing task force

(Link to the actual report. 115 pg PDF. You be the judge.)
1. Embrace a guardian mindset to build public trust and legitimacy.
2.  Acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.
3.  Establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy.
4.  Law enforcement agencies should promote legitimacy internally within the organization by applying the principles of procedural justice.
5.  Proactively promote public trust by initiating positive nonenforcement activities.
6.  Consider the potential damage to public trust when implementing crime fighting strategies.
7.  Track the level of trust in police by their communities just as changes in crime are measured.
8.  Strive to create a workforce that contains a broad range of diversity
9. Build relationships based on trust with immigrant communities.
10.  Collaborate to develop policies and strategies in communities disproportionately affected by crime.
11.  Develop comprehensive policies on the use of force that include training, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and information sharing.
12. Mandate external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths. Report data on all officer-involved shootings to the Federal Government.
13. Adopt identification procedures that eliminate or minimize presenter bias or influence.
14. Release department’s demographic data.
15. Collect demographic data on all stops and arrests.
16. Implement response protocols to mass demonstrations that prioritize de-escalation.
17. Use civilian oversight of law enforcement to strengthen trust with the community
18. Refrain from quotas for arrests, tickets or summonses. Don’t use quotas to generate revenue.
19.  Seek consent before a search and explain that a person has the right to refuse consent when there is no warrant or probable cause.
20. Adopt and enforce policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination
21. Federal agencies should provide technical assistance and incentive funding to jurisdictions with small police agencies and encourage small departments to  consolidate.
22.  Establish national standards for the research and development of new technology, for instance, body-worn cameras and social media.
23. The Department of Justice should develop best practices that can be adopted by state legislative bodies to govern the acquisition, use, retention, and dissemination of auditory, visual, and biometric data by law enforcement.
24. Update public record laws.
25. Federal government should support the development of new “less than lethal” technology to help control combative suspects.
26.  Require both basic recruit and in-service training on policing in a democratic society.
 Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/TLDR-Key-recommendations-from-the-21st-Century-policing-task-force-report-Philadelphia.html#UcekdW3YCCytZRHL.99

Sigh.

Well, this is pure Bratton and Grossman, it has little or nothing to do with what the public has been trying to communicate to the Powers That Be about national problem of violent policing.

What this report tries to do is re-conceive the problem, not as one of violent policing, but as one of perceptions -- perceptions which can be changed by better communications and slight modifications in behavior.

In other words, keep doing what you're doing, only be smoother and less aggressive about it.

Keep on your killing spree because that's what's driven down crime rates. But do it with a bit more.... finesse. So as not to rile the peeps so much. M'Kay?

Recommendation #1, this "guardian mindset," is pure Grossman and his "sheepdog" bullshit. It's time to take the blinders off. Grossman uses that "sheepdog" analogy all the time and it's now emblazend on the minds of movie-goers thanks to its uncredited use in "American Sniper." It's been a factor in police culture for decades, and it is one of the reasons why there are so many killings by police.

The police are brainwashed to believe that their highest accomplishment is to "kill the wolf" -- and the "wolf" is defined as anyone who deviates from the fold, not someone who preys on the flock at all, merely someone who doesn't quite fit the standard set by the shepherd and ultimately by the owner of the flock.

The Guardian/Sheepdog doesn't work for and doesn't care about the flock per se. The Guardian/Sheepdog works for the shepherd -- who in turn works for the owner(s) of the flock, an the Guardian/Sheepdog's highest goal is the approval of the shepherd and the owner(s).

When the Commission says their first recommendation is for the police to adopt a "guardian mindset" all it means is that they are recommending that all police start with the insane premise Grossman has been promoting for decades.

It doesn't have anything to do with police violence and killing; it may in fact increase  the level of violence and killing overall.

Yes, indeed, let's have another task force with more recommendations. Let's have more Best Practices.

Sigh.



Monday, March 2, 2015

An Automatic Death Sentence From Which There Is No Appeal



I can't tell for sure what all is going on here, but a man is dead after being shot by police in Los Angeles, that much is clear.

Yet another execution on the streets of LA. Happens all the time.

The man is seen in the video disobeying and struggling with the po-po. He should have known that would be a death sentence. Many of those commenting on the video say as much. Po-po seem to believe it without question: disobedience and struggling with the police is justification for use of lethal force in most jurisdictions, most especially in places like the meaner streets of Los Angeles where this incident took place.

The police claim that the man they shot and killed was "going for the gun" of one of the officers. This is the justification police use almost as often as the "reaching for his waistband" justification. They are often false justifications, but you can see for yourself that it is difficult/impossible to tell whether the man they shot and killed in this video was "going for" a gun or anything else. It looks like he's simply trying to ward off the blows raining down on him, but it's too dark and the distance is too great to be sure.

Po-po lie routinely and they are routinely allowed to get away with it, so I would not take their word without question.

On the other hand, video isn't necessarily conclusive. This one certainly isn't, but it will have to do until something more definitive shows up.

The point here, obvious as sin, is that the man who was shot and killed was disobedient and struggled with police, and whenever that happens, it seems that the police have full authority to kill at will.

Just as they have the authority to kill any Negro they see with a gun -- or who they think has a gun. It doesn't matter whether it's true or not. All that matters is their perception.

At any rate, another man is dead on the streets of LA, killed by police. He was black and homeless and possibly mentally ill or impaired, but all that really matters in the eyes of the police is that he was disobedient and struggled with the police.

Doing so is in their eyes justification for summary execution.

They are cowards, every one of them.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On the Meaning of Homan Square and Places Like It

Yesterday there was a rally of a couple of hundred or maybe more protesters at the Chicago "black site" known as "Homan Square," a former Sears warehouse that has been turned into an off the books police interrogation and detention site.

Thanks to Spencer Ackerman's reporting for the Guardian, Homan Square has become a Big Deal in the civil liberties community. It wasn't back in the day. The anger and protest that has been elicited since Spencer and others at the Guardian have been reporting on the connections between domestic policing and corrections practices and the torture regimes in our various gulags, particularly Gitmo and Chicago, are due to the confluence of various factors, movements and protests.

In 2012, though Homan Square and what went on there was known of and reported on, it didn't cause the kind of outrage or the level of outrage and public pressure for change that it does today. In 2012, most people -- including the victims of the Homan Square practices -- pretty much took it for granted. They knew it was wrong and said so, but at the time, it seemed like nothing could be done about it.

Now it seems that something can be done about it, thanks to the various movements against police misconduct and violence that have arisen more or less spontaneously around the country. The people are sick of it. And they are not passively tolerating it anymore. They are pushing back, and they won't quit until and unless the police desist in their fantasy of "protecting and serving" -- by brutalizing and killing at will without consequence.

The Chicago-land media is falling all over itself trying to diminish the importance of Homan Square and what has been going on there for years. They're extremely defensive about the lack of local reporting over the years about the facility and its functions. They've been trolling lawyers to come forth and say that Homan Square is no worse than any other Chicago police precinct when it comes to legal representation and detainee abuse.

"It's a systemic problem!" they say. Well, yes, yes it is. "So stop focusing on Homan Square!" No, to stop now would not be wise.

The subtext, of course, is that because Homan Square has been primarily "processing" accused gang-bangers and the like, what goes on there is A Good Thing, because it's Keeping Us Safe. Yet so much of the testimony of those "processed" at Homan Square, whether accused of gang-perfidy or not, has involved innocent people who were detained and abused just... because. "They fit the profile."

This is -- or should be -- unacceptable on its face.

Unfortunately, for too long it wasn't.

It was thought to be proper.

And it is still going on.

Not just at Homan Square, but all across the land.

It's time to shut down the domestic Gitmos and the Gulags, and it's time to overhaul the whole idea of police, policing, and "corrections" in this country. It's past time.

That's the of this and other protest movements that have captured the imaginations of so much of the country. We can do better than this. We are better than this. And we don't need Homan Squares to be safe.
------------------------------------------------------
The story is being covered very well at the Guardian.

The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times however have basically been caught with their blinders on...

Much of the rest of American media has largely ignored this story, though some have re-printed some of the Guardian's coverage.

Amy Goodman interviewed Spencer Ackerman for Democracy Now!:



Thursday, February 26, 2015

Homan Square -- Chicago, America



Finally.

 Notice is being paid. There are black sites in the American Domestic Gulags where particularly interesting or difficult detainees are being taken and held for more or less time.

One of them is in Chicago, a warehouse blandly referred to as "Homan Square" where (mostly) black and brown suspected gang members are taken to be worked over in hopes of coercing confessions. At least that's what they say.

But in 2012, CPD raided crash pads ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago and nabbed several white men who were taken to Homan Square and -- at least for a time -- were disappeared there.

Now, years later, on the eve -- indeed the very day -- of Chicago's mayoral election, the Guardian posts a story by Spencer Ackerman using testimony from one of the NATO 3 detainees describing the Homan Square detention site and what happened to him when he was taken there. Other testimony is emerging of much worse treatment at Homan Square, including the death of a certain detainee under interrogation.

We can be sure it's not the only domestic black site nor is the reported death the only one in custody.

Testimony from one of the other detainees from the NATO summit raids was posted at FDL and dKos shortly after he was taken away in handcuffs and questioned and held at Homan Square until his release was arranged.

Three of the others who were taken that day were not released but were charged with various ridiculous crimes, including "terrorism" -- which led most sentient beings in those days to comprehend that in fact, according to Our Government, protesters against the Established Order are equivalent to and should be treated as terrorists. 

There is no other way to interpret what goes on with regard to protests and protesters and the police in this country.

This is a link to TarheelDem's testimony regarding his detention at Homan Square. Note the date of the post: June 7, 2012. His testimony matches almost exactly the testimony of the detainee who spoke with Spencer Ackerman at the Guardian link.

As they point out, this is not new. This has been going on for decades, and the problem is that Americans tolerate it, and some actively encourage it, regardless of political persuasion.

When that's the case, it's little wonder that police act the way they do. They don't just think it's a game and a joke, they think it's their job...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Killing Spree Continues

But the data seem to be showing a concentration of police killings... interesting.

By state since January 1, 2015:

TX -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1  (24)
CA -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (21)
AZ -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (8)
FL -1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (7)
CO -1 1 1 1 1 (5)
OK -1 1 1 1 1 (5)
MO -1 1 1 1 (4)
UT -1 1 1 1 (4)
GA -1 1 1 1 (4)
MN -1 1 1 1 (4)
NC -1 1 1 (3)
AK -1 1 1 (3)
IL -1 1 1 (3)
MT -1 1 1 (3)
MD -1 1 1 (3)
TN -1 1 1 (3)
PA -1 1 1 (3)
KS -1 1 1 (3)
MI -1 1 (2)
ID -1 1 (2)
MS -1 1 (2)
OR -1 1 (2)
WA -1 1 (2)
NY -1 1 (2)
VA -1 1 (2)
NE -1 1 (2)
NJ -1 1 (2)
OH -1 1 (2)
KY -1 1 (2)
MA -1 1 (2)
AL -1 1 (2)
IN -1 1 (2)
LA -1 1  (2)
AR -1 1 (2)
IA -1 1 (2)
NM -1 (1)
NV -1 (1)
HI -1 (1)
NH -1 (1)
ME -1 (1)

The Zero States (so far this year):

ND
SD
SC
VT
DE
RI
CT
WV
WI
WY
and DC

The pattern is stark and obvious.

The killingest states BY FAR are Texas and California. They are ranked #2 and #1 in population, #1 and #2 in police killings, but their populations are not so much larger than states with far smaller kill rates -- such as New York with ten times fewer police killings than California. Something else is happening. It's not just about population.

We could put it simply by saying that the authorities in Texas and California don't put much value on human life and police kill with apparent abandon whenever they choose. Like police nearly everywhere, they face few or no consequences when they kill; it's part of their job, a job that they are expected to do, and so they do.

For all the justified rage about NYPD brutality and killing, New York police do not kill at anywhere near the rate of other police forces. Their kill-rate is almost insignificant compared to others, and not just compared to the rate of killing maintained in Texas and California.

New Mexico has reduced its police kill rate substantially, demonstrating that it can be done without society unraveling and descending into utter chaos.

Arizona and Florida have a comparatively high police kill-rate compared with other states, but Arizona maintains a slightly higher police kill rate with a population only a third of Florida's. On a proportional basis, Arizona's kill rate is among the highest in the nation.

But then perhaps human life, particularly brown human life, has little value in Arizona.

It's barely two months into the year, and already at least 152 people have been killed by police, a national kill rate of one every eight hours, three a day, comparable to the kill rate documented throughout the period "Killed by Police" has been maintaining records gleaned from mass media outlets.

The kill rate has been rock-steady at three a day for almost two years -- despite all the protests and public outrage at the constant bloodshed that arose last year and continues this year.

Almost as if by design. As if a certain number of "sheep" must be culled on a daily basis... to keep the rest of the herd in line?

If it worked, of course Our Rulers would require such a thing. Pragmatists to the end.

The protests continue, though somewhat abated by time and exhaustion. Some things have changed, and there will no doubt be more changes before too much longer.

But it's unlikely the basic premises of policing in this country will change substantially for the better any time soon.

The police state will most likely consolidate and endure, even if its domestic kill rate is reduced (and let's pray it is.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mental Health Care and the Problem of Violent Policing

Surely by now many people understand that if they call 911 when a loved one is having a mental health crisis, their loved one is liable to be killed. This is doctrine all across the land. In any case where police are dispatched and they sense a threat of any kind, to themselves or others, they are supposed to neutralize the threat with whatever level of force they deem necessary under the circumstances.

Indeed, even when someone is suicidal and only threatening their own lives, the police doctrine is to "neutralize" the suicidal individual -- with deadly force if needed -- so as to... protect?

Police are dispatched any time a caller to 911 says they fear for their lives, or a loved one is armed and making threats, or there are guns or other weapons in the house, or it looks to them like a scary person is armed, blah blah blah, in other words, most any time there might-could be a threat of some kind to someone or some inanimate object.

If a diagnosed mental illness such as schizophrenia is mentioned, the likelihood of police killing the subject goes way up. Way-way up.

It is what the police are trained and expected to do.

Consequently, I have long said, "Don't call 911 in such cases unless you want your loved one dead."

Often enough in such cases, SWAT teams and snipers are sent on the call, the primary purpose being to kill. Period.

These are rules of engagement the public seems to be oblivious to is unaware of, because practically every day another call to 911 for help in dealing with a mentally ill loved one leads to another death, and families are shocked. "I called for help," they say, "but they killed my loved one instead." Yep. That's right. That's the kind of "help" first responding police are trained and expected to render. Why is this still a surprise? It's been SOP since most of the mental hospitals were closed decades ago.

Because so many loved ones in mental health crisis are killed by police year in and year out -- by my reckoning close to 400 a year, about a third of the total killed by police each year -- there is a nascent movement to revive the mental health care system something like it was before the Reaganite push to dismantle the system in the name of "civil liberties." Yes, that worked out well, didn't it?

Liberty for whom, to do what?

There is no doubt that there was a problem in the mental health care system as it was prior to the Reaganite dismantlement. It was enormous, for one thing. At any given time more than 4 million people were incarcerated in public and private mental hospitals and asylums across the land. This is about double the outrageous current prison population. Too often, patients had no way out, and many were held for life against their will, and sometimes against the will of their loved ones.

Too often, too, the care patients received in state run institutions was abominable. Private institutions were not much better.

The Reaganite solution was just to shut the institutions down and suggest that relatives and communities take care of their mentally ill -- or let the police do it in their stead.

This policy led to an enormous increase in the homeless population to start with, an increase that has never abated. Prison populations skyrocketed as well. It's often pointed out that a third or more of those in prison are mentally ill and most of them receive no treatment -- apart from periodic beatings, solitary confinement, pepper-sprayings and such like.

There are inadequate community mental health care facilities in the best of circumstances, and in many areas, there are none at all. Families are rarely prepared to cope adequately with a mentally ill loved one, and even their best efforts may lead to tragedy. Especially when they call for Emergency Services to "help."

Service providers and consultants milk the system for money while providing as little care as possible. This is how the system, such as it is, is set up. Mental health care budgets are often the first cut when times are tough -- as they have been for years during this Permanent Recession. Too bad for the victims.

Reviving and restoring the previous system of state run asylums and mental hospitals is probably not the best idea under the current regime of public parsimony and brutality. I can see it easily leading to something like the eugenics programs that operated in this country and abroad, most horribly in Nazi Germany.

A better system is one that operates locally not centrally, and is tied in with the communities served. This was supposedly what the devolution of mental health care from the closure of state hospitals to communities was leading to, but it never did. Instead, the police and prison system expanded to take on the difficult cases, and the rest were pretty much left to fend for themselves as best they and their families could manage. That was the "civil liberties" solution.

It's not working.

Or perhaps it is working but not the way anyone of compassion envisioned.

No, it's cruel and deadly. It's violent and catastrophic. It's corrupt and dangerous.

When a third of the police killings in the country are of mentally ill and/or suicidal individuals, it should be plain as day that there is a structural and institutional problem that might be correctable. Unfortunately, pro-police propaganda has worked well to convince many people that the proper course of action toward those who do not obey police is to kill them, regardless of mental health or suicidal tendencies.

If it's only 400 a year, what's the big deal, right? More than that die in a week in traffic accidents. More than that are killed in a week by non-police firearms. This is a violent country. Always has been.

A compassionate mental health care system would not dispatch police, snipers and SWAT teams on every 5150 call. It just wouldn't happen. Instead, there would be crisis teams available to perform interventions, and care facilities would be available that would provide more than a 72 hour observation window and a few prescriptions for psychotropic drugs -- which can cause more problems if not monitored carefully.

There would be mental health care facilities in the community provided as a public service like any other, staffed by professionals and available on an as-needed basis.

Care would not be restricted to certain hours or days of the week, and appointments would not be so limited that weeks or months pass before someone could check in for care and treatment.

A proper mental health care system would include homeless and addiction services, without discrimination toward patients based on the nature of their homelessness and/or addictions.

All this can be done, probably for less money than the current violent policing and imprisonment "treatments" for mental illness, homelessness and addiction cost, but money isn't the real issue. More public money is going to prison systems these days than to higher education in many jurisdictions, and there is little notice, let alone complaints about it. Mental health care spending is a relatively minor component to many public budgets, and what little is being spent is constantly on the chopping block when public budgets need tightening.

In some places like California, taxes were raised specifically to fund more adequate mental health care provisions, and the additional tax revenue was immediately -- and perhaps permanently -- diverted to fund other state budgetary needs.

We need to be clear with one another and with our elected representatives that the current system of incarceration and killing the mentally ill is not acceptable.

But that's only the first step.

Creating and sustaining an acceptable system will take a massive effort, but it can be done.

The question is, when will that first step be taken?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In the Matter of Jamar Nicholson -- Dumb and Dumber With A Gun



This is insane, and the LAPD is defending it? This is Bratton's old stomping grounds, do not forget, and he is ever-so-proud of how the department was turned around under his watch and of how the community now loves and respects their police.

Then something like this happens. It's not the only incident of its kind, but it's one of the dumbest, and the department is determined to do what all departments reflexively do: blame the victim(s), maintain the ranks, insist that even in obvious error, they were right.

It won't be long before the smears of young Jamar begin. It's so routine, many just accept it as the way things are supposed to be.

A cop sees what he "thinks" (I use the term advisedly) is a Negro with a gun, and his automatic, "split-second decision" is to shoot. He hits a bystander -- Jamar Nicholson. Oh well, too bad so sad. Bystander is wounded, so he is handcuffed for transport to the hospital. At least he did get medical attention. As we know, so often in these cases, none is rendered until it is too late.

Nicholson remains handcuffed at the hospital until some brighter light in the LAPD recognizes that, oops, he was completely innocent of having a gun or of threatening anyone -- let alone a cop.

Oops. Oh well, all in a day's work for the Manly Men of the LAPD, right?

Jeebus.

A "Negro with a gun," whether or not said Negro actually has a gun, whether or not said "gun" is real, is routinely a target for amped up police who see threats to be neutralized everywhere, especially among youth of color. Just the report of a "Negro with a gun" is enough to get the supposed suspect shot on sight (re: Tamir Rice, John Crawford III, etc.) 

This situation is very closely related to the behavior of troops in Iraq: the very sight of a Iraqi with a gun -- or the perception that an Iraqi had a gun, whether or not s/he had one -- was sufficient cause for immediate execution. Hundreds were killed in practically every city in Iraq on that basis. Hundreds more were killed at make-shift checkpoints for "failure to obey" orders they could not understand. Every time, or almost every time, the killings in Iraq were ruled "justified" because the brave trooper -- who was actually scared out of his wits of the local Natives -- was "following procedure" and the rules of engagement (even if he wasn't.)  This is not much different than the behavior of police departments and district attorneys in ruling (almost) every police killing "justified" because of policies and procedures, training, and unstated rules of engagement.

Clearly the unstated rules of engagement domestically are that Negroes who are perceived or reported to have weapons are to be shot on sight. They needn't be threatening anyone -- they don't even need to have a weapon. The report of a Negro with a weapon is sufficient cause for summary execution. Many police departments employ and deploy snipers to carry out executions -- just as the military does. And it does not matter whether the target has a weapon or is an actual threat. The perception is all that matters. "What was in the officer's (trooper's) mind at the time?"

In the case of Jamar Nicholson, the officer who fired claimed to have perceived a weapon in the hands of Jamar's friend with whom he was walking to school at the time. The police officer claims that he ordered the friend to drop the weapon, but the friend refused. The officer then fired, unintentionally striking and wounding Jamar -- who was unarmed and a witness not an offender.

The LAPD at its press conference regarding this officer involved shooting displayed an air-soft pistol which was claimed to be the one Jamar's friend was holding "in the shooting position" when the officer fired, striking and wounding Jamar. For his part, Jamar says he never saw his friend holding a gun that day or any other day, and that the only thing he can remember is that he asked his friend for some cologne, and his friend had sprayed some on him. Was that what the amped up officer perceived as a weapon justifying the shooting?

Where did the air-soft pistol displayed at the press conference come from, then? Speculation is that it was a "throw down," a toy weapon planted by the police. I suspect there was no "weapon" on the scene. The air-soft pistol came from the department's storage room along with all the other replica guns displayed at the press conference.

This incident was a cock-up from the get-go, but I will bet cash money that the officer has no idea he did anything wrong and basically cannot comprehend the  outrage this and so many other officer-involved shootings generate.

The department will back him up to the bitter end. More than likely, there will be no charges against him, as long as the case is made that he was "following" procedures. Jamar will probably get a financial settlement in the 6 or 7 figure range, and that will be that. Case closed.

Policies and procedures regarding shooting at suspects thought to have weapons might be slightly adjusted but not sufficiently to prevent the next shooting of an unarmed Negro who the cop perceives to have a weapon.

The makers of air-soft replicas will be blamed for these incidents, as they already have been in numerous previous cases.

But wait. Gun ownership is prevalent and legal in this country. White people with guns are considered normal and natural. The issue with air-soft and other "replica" firearms isn't that they look real, it is that Negroes sometimes have them, and thus represent an existential threat that must be neutralized.

White people with replica or real weapons are not automatically perceived by police officers as existential threats.

There's your trouble.

Another part of trouble in this case is that the young man who apparently precipitated the incident by standing in "the shooting position" and not immediately obeying the officer's commands about dropping a weapon that he may not have had in the first place, has not been produced. The LAPD asserted that he was arrested and is in custody, but their assertions in this incident have turned out to be false on more than one occasion.

The young man who was shot and was treated as a criminal after he was wounded, Jamar Nicholson, is the only one so far who has been named and presented to the public. In news reports, the other boy is described only as "the person with the gun."

The problem here is rigid and dumb police policies which enable and require shooting at Negro suspects perceived to have a weapon.

Those policies can be changed from the top. Legislation is not required.

I advocate changing those policies forthwith.