Sunday, October 19, 2014

Now That We Know This -- And Have No Excuse For Not Knowing -- What Do We Do?

"Police killing ruled 'justified'" -- every single time. No matter what, if the officer says he (or rarely) she felt threatened, then any use of force including lethal force is almost always ruled "justified," and the officer is in essence rewarded for a job well done. Killing, crippling and maiming, causing any amount of emotional and psychological trauma on witnesses, survivors and victims, ruining lives, destroying communities, all of it and more is ruled "justified" if the officers says he or she felt "threatened." Or if, as is so often the case, the officer's absolute authority is questioned...

Now that we know this -- and we have no excuse not to know it by now -- the question is what is to be done?

Tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts to victims of police brutality and murder have had no negative affect on police departments or on elected and appointed officials who write off these sometimes extraordinary payouts as simply the cost of doing business, or as a necessary public safety expense. To them, all these millions are nothing; they are not coming out of the department's budgets or the officer's pockets, or the hides of city administrators. Ha! They're a levy on taxpayers, either directly or indirectly.

The protests don't have any perceptible effect on the culture of suppression, oppression, and killing that has routinized and professionalized among police forces nation wide. The public can rise and yak and yabber all they want about the brutality and killing. Officials and their officers don't care. It's nothing to them, except perhaps some welcome overtime for the officers on the line, and damn, isn't it fun to get out all those riot costumes and toys and threaten the crowds of protesters with immediate and lethal force when they get uppity? Heh. Put them in their place.

"Scathing" reports by the DoJ and investigative journalists haven't had much of an effect on the police killing spree, except for this: when the DoJ issues a "scathing" report, the police undergo a "progressive professionalizing program," in which their rules and their training is coordinated with the "best and most progressive" national policing standards. It doesn't necessarily cut down on the killing for it isn't necessarily meant to. The killing and brutality may get the Rabble riled up, but that's rarely the problem. The problem is that the police aren't doing it right. Once they have the rules and the tools and the training that meets national standards, they're home free. Use of force, especially lethal force, is now routinized. Have at it.

As long as the Right People are served and protected, what's to worry? What's to complain about?

If that means a thousand or more of the Rabble are gunned down by police every year -- 3 or 4 a day, every single day -- so what? If that means tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of the Rabble are brutalized and traumatized by police every year, often arbitrarily -- so what? If that means millions upon millions of Americans are sent through the bloated prison industrial system -- so what? As long as it's primarily the Rabble who's subjected to this, why should anyone who matters care? They don't. They won't. It doesn't bother them because it doesn't involve them.

The way the officials in Albuquerque have behaved toward the problem of police violence and killing is instructive and it should be seen as exemplifying the point of view of most officials faced with growing outrage and protest by the Rabble toward police.

The only time they concern themselves with the opinions of the Rabble regarding the conduct of the police -- or really regarding much of anything else -- is when the Rabble interferes with comfort, convenience and routines of those in charge. The response then is always the same: suppression. If need be: oppression. Otherwise the Rabble is really rather free to carry on as they choose, but no one (who matters) is listening, and no one (who matters) gives a good god-damn. Even if they put on a show of "concern..." Sure. Right. Whatever. They have more important things to do, and a far more important clientele to serve.

The mayor and city manager of Albuquerque have been quite clear that they are not interested in hearing from victims of police violence. The mayor refuses any but the most distance-keeping contact, and the city manager's interactions are typically filled with bluster and threats toward those who seek justice. He was, after all, the chief officer of the New Mexico state prisons. (A whole long other topic, but it is informative to understand where he is coming from, and to understand that his state prison tenure was considered "progressive.")  It's useful, too, to understand that the mayor and city council of Albuquerque are not in charge of the police. As is the case in most cities around the country, the police are not accountable to nor are they supervised by elected officials. They are only accountable to the city manager or the equivalent, an appointee who often holds the mayor and council hostage to an agenda that the public is essentially unaware of. In Albuquerque, too, the appointed police chief appears to be a figurehead, nothing more. From appearances, he has no authority and very little knowledge. The police department appears to be run directly out of the City Administrator's office with little or no consideration of the "chief." That, too, is not all that unusual in city administrations around the country.

How city governments actually work is another topic that I could go on about at great length but not here, not now.

To these people and especially to those whom they serve, "justice" means suppression of the Rabble by any means necessary, including killing and brutalizing them routinely for any reason at all -- or no reason but to keep them in a state of fear, panic and terror.

For whatever reason, many of the Rabble are convinced they can get justice by appeal, but most often they can't. There is no one to appeal to who cares. There are very few who the Rabble might appeal to who see justice in the same way the Rabble does.

That's a major problem right there: "justice" to the victim/citizen is one thing, "justice" to the perpetrator/ruler is quite a different thing. "Justice" to the perpetrator/ruler protects them from the Rabble; "justice" to the Rabble is something else again: a brake on excess, exploitation, and oppression and an expression of social fairness.

So how does the Rabble deal with this situation? What will it take to change the dynamic sufficiently to reduce the rate of killing and brutalization by police on the one hand and ensure fairness on the other?

Is it even possible or have we reached the point where the Powers That Be have so divorced themselves from the interests of the People, there is no longer any way to heal the divide?

What then must we do?

Let's explore the topic next time....

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