Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Despite the fact that the protests against violent policing continue -- though not on as large a scale as they once were -- nothing seems to have changed, and the killing by police continues as well. Men, women, children (well, not so much children...) shot down or run down in the streets, three a day almost like clockwork, pow-pow-pow. The dead continue piling up.

The dead tell no tales. It's been said that one of the rationales for so many of the killings is to ensure that there will be only one "side" to the tale of what happened, the police side. And of course, we hear all the time that the police are not allowed to "shoot to wound." They are trained to "shoot to stop," which means they must aim for center of mass or head, whichever seems most effective in "stopping" the culprit, and unfortunately for the culprit, that means they frequently... die. Oh well!

The fact that the police and media are eagerly complicit in smearing the dead after their demise has been noted as well. The point of the media campaign launched with nearly every police-involved shooting is to justify the killing on the basis of the deceased person's presumed "badness." It doesn't matter what happened in the incident in question, at least not usually. What matters -- really all that matters -- is the deceased's "long record," his (or sometimes her) tattoos, his/her drug use, his/her demeanor.

So every mug shot will be paraded around, his/her relatives' run ins with the law will be highlighted, the criminal statistics from his/her neighborhood will be bandied about, some traffic warrant from years ago will be cited, on and on.

What happened in the incident that got the culprit killed will not be clearly stated, even who killed the culprit will not be known for days, weeks, or months as the "investigation" goes on. The "investigation" is most often conducted by the killer's own comrades, and it can drag on indefinitely, as the killer's comrades "piece together" the events that led to the killing and the events of the killing itself. Almost always, the killing will be ruled justified and what is "pieced together" is mostly what was going on in the mind of the killer. He or she was scared. He or she was reacting to a "reaching" movement by the culprit. The culprit "lunged," therefore the officer fired in self-defense. There's a litany of approved justifications, and as long as the killer-officer invokes one or more of them, it's all good.

 Investigations tend to be lengthened when there is serious dispute over what happened and the culpability of the police is highlighted. Nevertheless, police will generally not be held liable for anything they do in the conduct of their jobs -- so long as what they do can be excused via policy, protocol and training. Thus, for example, the killing of sweet little Aiyana Stanley-Jones is ruled "just one of those things." The officer walks free. Of course.

There's a must-ness about it. There's a must-ness about three-a-day killings by police, and there's a must-ness about letting officers who kill get away with it, no matter the circumstances of the killing. They must go free (to kill again?)

I'm not the only one who's noticed the relentless pattern and commented on it, but the whys of it remain a bit murky.

*Why three-a-day almost every day?

*Why are killer-police enabled and almost always set free to kill again?

*Why are the victims almost always smeared by the police and media acting in concert?

*Why can't this pattern be broken?

Who do you protect? Who do you serve?

I continually run into claims that the People should be going to City Council meetings and getting in the face of mayors to demand an end to police violence. It's fine if they do, but I point out that doing so will rarely make much difference because the police are usually not under the authority of the Mayor and Council. The person with authority over the police is usually the City Manager or his/her equivalent. The City Manager is not elected, and s/he only listens to the voice of the People to the extent s/he must in order to pursue his/her civic agenda. In other words, the City Manager operates nearly independently of the Mayor and Council. The Mayor and Council can direct that the City Manager (or "Staff") do something, but the City Manager/Staff don't have to comply or can comply in such a way that their "compliance" is actually "defiance."

When it comes to the police, City Managers will rarely ever do what electeds and the public want unless what they want coincides with the City Manager's agenda. There is little or nothing the electeds and public can do to force a resistant City Manager to do what they want. In a pinch, they could get another City Manager, but more than likely any replacement would have the same agenda or a similar one as the Manager who has been dismissed. But even dismissing a City Manager is typically difficult, requiring a supermajority on the Council, and generally requiring a very expensive buy-out of the Manager's contract with the city.

It's much the same with school district administrators, indeed with high ranking civic officials of any kind.

City Managers rarely listen to public officials, rarely have any interaction with the public at large. Often enough, the public has no idea who they are or what their authority really is. In most municipalities, however, the City Manager or the equivalent is the one person in actual charge of every or nearly every aspect of city government. He or she is the one who runs things. Not the Council, not the Mayor, not the Chief of Police.

City Managers talk to one another, and they listen to the Powers That Be in their cities -- the men and women who have wealth, power, and influence. They typically don't listen to the Rabble at all.

The nearly universal practice of violent policing in this country comes from a consensus of City Managers directing their Chiefs to implement certain protocols and policies which are considered "best practices" in the field. They are often not the announced "best practices," they are instead a set of protocols and policies which authorize and underpin a hostile relationship between police and communities. In other words, they are "best practices" which posit the police as a "protective-occupation" force rather than a protective-service force. One of the consequences is a vast increase in the utilization of para-military SWAT teams, often for the most mundane of police activities. Police departments now routinely have and deploy snipers where none are called for. Any Negro-with-a-gun scenario and many domestic violence scenarios are treated as "active shooter" situations in which the police are expected to advance and "neutralize the threat" -- whether there is a real threat or not.

The mentally ill are often treated as if they, too, were "active shooters."

All this comes from a spate of school shootings in the 1990s and the everlasting effects of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

A so-called War on Crime that had been going on for years was transformed into a War on Threats. Anything or anyone who either posed an immediate threat or might pose one was to be "neutralized" -- often that meant killed -- forthwith. No quarter, no mercy. Potential threats were seen everywhere, in every police encounter, and in every deviation from the norm. To be black was to be an ever present danger and threat. Depending on where you were, to be Indian or Hispanic was also considered an existential danger and threat to police and everyone else.

This has been going on so long, many people just assume it's natural, but it's not.

Violent policing was not always the rule, though it was frequently the exception to the rule.

The relentlessness of violent policing comes from policy decisions made in City Managers' offices throughout the land, made in concert with the "best practices" as determined by consensus of the Managers themselves. Violent policing is the rule because City Managers have determined and declared it to be the rule. They don't want another Columbine. They don't want another 9/11. Not on their watches. So, if a few darkies or other members of the Rabble get a bullet in the head to prevent something much worse from happening, so what? "Protect and Serve," get it?

But who tells the City Managers to implement such policies?

Where do they come from?

They come from people like Bill Bratton and Dave Grossman who have studied the matter closely. Bratton, of course, is NYPD commissioner now, as he was in the past, and he's apparently decided to go full Bull Connor against the uppity Rabble-Terrorists. No more Mister Nice-Guy, beat the crap out of them and kill them he will. Or at least hold the perpetual threat over their heads.

Grossman is in the shadows, whereas Bratton is right out front. Grossman psychs the cops up to kill and kill some more, relentlessly and without remorse. That's his function. Bratton soothes the Rabble with talk of "community and peace." Grossman celebrates and energizes a cult of punishment and death among the police. That is their calling, that is their job, to rain punishment and death on the populace.

The policies of violent policing also come from the Department of Justice in Washington, and from numerous court rulings which say in essence that when push comes to shove, police are above the law and absolved from wrong-doing.

We note that the relentless killing spree and practice of violent policing has not abated -- except for anomalies here and there such as the apparent stand-down of the Albuquerque police and the temporary slow-down of NYPD actions during supposed disputes with the Mayor.

In St. Louis, there are suggestions of reform -- or maybe not. In Seattle, the police continue their resistance to change and acting out violently at the least provocation or none at all.

Chicago, on the other hand, celebrates their reform of the police -- while actually changing very little if at all.

The problem of violent policing is nationwide, almost universal. City-by-city "reform" is not really addressing the problem adequately. How many thousands more must die before "reform" is implemented nationwide?

The way to stop the killing, from a policy perspective, is to put "preservation of life" policies in primary place and remove or reduce policies which posit "neutralizing the threat" as the most important objective of policing.

It's actually not that hard.


  1. I looked up "city manager". This looks like the same system used in any modern authoritarian state, with a showpiece "democratic" apparatus that exercises no real power and an appointed headman who the bureaucracy and police agencies really answer to.


    They say that the answer to a hopelessly undemocratic federal political system is to work for change in local politics. It sure sounds like you won't find the little red ball under that shell either.

    1. Well, yes and no.

      If the city manager -- "staff" -- is on board with reform then it can work pretty good.

      If not, not. It's very hard, almost impossible, to vote in reform if the entrenched appointees are against it.

      We were lucky in Sacramento when we pushed for reform of a very brutal -- though not particularly murderous -- police force. The new police chief and the long-time city manager were both on board with most of the reforms we advocated, and so most of it was done.

      But it was almost 20 years ago. Needs to be done again... and now the staff is not so inclined as it once was.