Saturday, June 20, 2015

They Made Him Do It


There are problems with this summer's story of Dylann Roof (apparently pronounced "Rauff") and his killing spree at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and yet there's a tremendous amount of symbolism involved in it, too.

Of course it's yet another incidence of mass murder by a white male American, one of hundreds over the years. Another day, another massacre. It's American as apple-pie, and according to opinion leaders, there is nothing that can be done about it. Too bad, so sad. Next?

"This is a violent country" -- supposedly -- and "this is a violent culture." Well, yes, true enough. But to then claim that "nothing can be done" about it is just silly. To claim that because elected leaders won't do anything about it, and courts essentially make things worse that therefore nothing can be done is crazy.

I pointed out in another venue that some of the commentary surrounding this mass murder in Charleston recognized that Dylann Storm Roof had for all intents and purposes been granted permission to kill Negroes by systems of impunity for murder of black folks, operating ever single day in this country, and generally involving police committing acts of summary execution -- such as the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston only a few weeks ago.

Officer Slager is accused of murder in the case of Mr. Scott, and he is apparently being held in the cell next to Roof. 

I must qualify a lot of my comments in this post with the term "apparently" because -- apparently -- a lot of the "information" being spread by the media is false. The spreading of false information by media would ordinarily be considered propaganda, but this is a summer news cycle, and during the summer news cycle, false narratives are routinely produced and spread regarding pretty much any topic, false fears are generated (sharks, missing white women), false tales are spun. It's the way the "news" business is organized and operated. Just as the major mass media tends to take the weekends off and produce little or no "news" on Saturdays and Sundays, so the media uses the summer for a vacation from seriousness... It's been this way for generations, and there is little sign of breaking with this tradition.

Thus we need to maintain skepticism in the face of whatever is being said or shown about this mass murder or any other story that is featured in the major mass media over the summer (or really at any other time, but that's another issue.) False information and false narratives are all but guaranteed.

What we can point to with some degree of certainty is that while Negroes continue to be gunned down by police with almost complete impunity, every now and then someone is caught and/or held to answer for doing so, and two of them are being held right now in the North Charleston, SC, jail.

We can also point to the fact that white men who kill Negroes are treated with respect, courtesy and dignity. They are protected by the System. Negroes, on the other hand, are mostly treated like disposable or surplus... animals. They are not simply shot on sight -- though that happens with some regularity -- they are warehoused in vast numbers in America's astonishingly cruel, brutal and exploitative prison-industrial system. They are the meat which feeds the system of injustice in this country. White men who kill Negroes simply don't face the kinds of consequences Negroes face for being alive in this country.

In this case, Dylann Roof was apprehended while armed in North Carolina some 14 hours after he shot and killed nine parishoners at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. He was reported to have been apprehended "peacefully," though he was reported to be armed. He was taken into custody and provided with a bulletproof vest for his perp-walk on his way to being flown back to Charleston, some 220 miles from his apprehension point.

This sequence was staged for the cameras, and what was so striking about it to me was that Roof was being protected throughout. There was no violence in his treatment at all. A black man in similar circumstances would have been treated roughly -- if, that is, he wasn't shot on sight. That's simply the way "justice" works in the USA. And hardly anyone would consider it unusual.

The message is clear: law enforcement exists to protect the white folks and to suppress the Other.

That's its primary function. When we see such stark examples of it, many people don't even notice.

One aspect of the mass murder that has been extensively reported (though who knows whether it's true?) is that Roof apparently told his victims: "I have to do this. You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

In other words, "You Negroes are making me do this..."

This is a historical claim that has been used for centuries to justify oppression and lynching and all sorts of depredations of Africans and African Americans, the quinessence of victim blaming. The Negro doesn't have to actually do anything to be accused of forcing the white man to act against Negroes who rape white women and would take over the country if they could -- if they weren't being killed and suppressed by heroic police and white vigilance.

They made him do it...

Isn't that always the case though? Whether the excuse is "reaching for his waistband" or being reported to be armed or any number of other supposed "threats," the Negro is always to blame for making the white man kill...Always. Of course it isn't just Negroes who are subjected to summary execution by police and white vigilantes, but they are the most likely to be subjected to it. The fear they inspire in some segment of the armed and vigilant white population is fundamental to very their existence. Without their fear of what the Negro would do if they weren't being summarily killed and routinely suppressed, some of these white folks would have no reason for living...

Police are the primary actors in this drama, but when policing fails (as it did in Charleston when Michael Slager was arrested for the on-camera killing of Walter Scott) it's incumbent on white vigilantes to step in and take care of what needs to be done, right?

One of the stories being circulated is that Roof researched the history of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston (a founder, for example, was Denmark Vesey who planned a huge slave revolt in 1822; the pastor was Clementa Pickney, a state senator who was responsible for a number of laws restricting police action and making them accountable for their actions...) and he targeted the church on the anniversary of the intended slave revolt and just before Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery. Supposedly, Roof knew quite well what he was doing, where he was acting and why, and he likely intended to induce... panic at the least. According to some reports, he wanted to trigger a civil war or a race war.

Was it because Michael Slager had failed?

I have no way of knowing, but the coincidences are there.

I sensed there was "something in the air" that would make this summer a serious and quite possibly tragic one. I didn't know exactly what it would be, but this mass murder seems to me to be an opening salvo, not the climax, far from it. The summer has only just begun.

Despair is hard to vanquish under the circumstances.

And the killing goes on and on...

[Adding: A history of Charleston's 1822 slave uprising worth pondering in light of current events: ]

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Warrior vs the Guardian Cop Mentality

The summer has just begun, but I have little doubt that there will be more incidents like the Mess in McKinney, Texas, that led to the surprisingly swift resignation of officer Eric Casebolt -- who I took to calling "Officer Pissant" -- after release of a video of his absurd and violent behavior toward African American residents and visitors to a community swimming pool at the Craig Ranch North subdivision.

His violence, though shocking to witness, wasn't unusual. Cops tend to be frightened and violent around certain categories of people, particularly if those people are black or brown and/or young. They are considered "offenders" by definition.

Then there is the problem of drug abuse, particularly anabolic steroids, cocaine, and meth, that is said to be rampant among police forces and not unknown in the military. 

In this context, Casebolt was acting like a "warrior" where none was called for. Apparently he believed that all the African American youth on the scene were definitionally "offenders" simply because they were there and someone had complained about it.

He manhandled and abused some of them on video, most shockingly a 14-15 year old girl clad only in a bikini who he violently threw to the ground and then tossed around by her hair and her arm as if she were a piece of meat or a sexual object or toy. In fact, many observers commented on the psycho-sexual nature of what he was doing to her, especially once he had her prone and subdued and he was putting his full weight on her back. It was a scene of virtual rape. Unfortunately, that too is part of a "warrior" mentality.

Radley Balko wrote a book called The Rise of the Warrior Cop in which he dramatically details how the militarization of the police in this country has taken place and graphically describes the unconscionable destruction of lives, families and communities that has ensued. I may be ideologically opposed to his prescription (in effect, privatizing police forces -- and letting them do pretty much what they do now, but under corporate rather than government authority) but he has been the one who has made a career out of opposition to the infection of warriorism that has spread throughout American policing, and he has been among the ones who has most frequently pointed out what a problem it is.

I have long pointed to one individual, (Lt Col) Dave Grossman, who has been primarily responsible for promoting and sustaining the warrior-cop mentality based on his crackpot "Killology" theories promoted in his books, seminars and consultancies. And yet, as responsible as he is for so much of the mentality of today's police forces, he's not the only one, not by a long shot. And he only got into the fray with regard to domestic policing (he was a West Point psychologist and military instructor) in response to the spate of school shootings in the late 1990s.

This infection of Warriorism in domestic policing has been raging many a long year, well before the advent of the "active shooter scenario" which has been at the core of police violence in recent years. In some ways, police warriorism goes back to the urban riots of the 1960s and the reaction of police and status quo defenders to the youth rebellion that gave rise to hippies and communitarian solutions to social problems.

Fighting these social change agents in the field, particularly the Negroes who demanded rights and respect and the youth who demanded freedom and liberty, became the primary mission of police forces throughout the land. Whenever they couldn't manage to impose their authority completely, a police riot (such as that outside the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968) would occur, or if that failed, the National Guard would be called in -- sometimes with tragic results.

The War on Drugs was the key element that led directly to the kind of violent and destructive warrior-policing we see reported practically every day, often with graphic and bloody video accompaniment.

That failed drug war still serves as the basis for violent policing and police warriorism throughout the land. Ending it would be the first step to true reform, but the whole system policing, courts and incarceration has been so corrupted by the various elements of the drug war that there is little likelihood that reform can be accomplished within the same system. The system itself has to be abolished.

In opposition to the warrior mentality of police in the field, more and more thinkers and consultants on the problem of violent policing in this country are adopting the theories of Guardian Policing.

These ideas have begun to take the place of Community Policing theories that were once hailed as a positive solution to the problem of police violence, but which were so quickly corrupted that some observers saw Community Policing (basically flooding designated areas with police who were supposed to "get to know" the community) as causing more problems than it solved.

I would suggest that Guardian Policing has the same -- or even a greater -- risk of corruption, for the ideological basis of it, that a community needs and wants guardians because the community and the people in it are essentially children who cannot take care of themselves, is bogus.

What is needed -- rather than police as warriors or guardians -- is a corps of public servants  (which the police were once touted as being) there to assist and aid and enable the public to take care of themselves.

Warrior cops see their proper role as that of an army of occupation set over a resistant population to enforce whatever control they are ordered to with whatever level of force they deem necessary. It leads to mayhem, murder, death and destruction on a daily basis all over this land. The control and enforcement of the warrior-occupation police forces is very often a matter of imposing chaos, not order at all. The violence of the warrior-occupation police forces induces chaos by its nature, and that social chaos becomes the primary feature of warrior-occupied communities. Victims are always blamed, but the recurrence of the basic problem of chaos brought on by the warriors themselves is manifested over and over, very much like the graphic demonstration of the chaotic behavior of (former) Officer Casebolt in McKinney, Texas. He was the chaotic element, he an no one else. His actions induced chaos in what was an otherwise relatively simple situation.

Thankfully no one died. The one young man who was arrested -- seen at the end of the principal video of the incident -- said that the officers who arrested him behaved professionally and that he bit his tongue accidentally as he was submitting to them. He was not, he said, injured by the police who arrested him. I found his praise for the officers who arrested him to be remarkable, but remarkable things have to happen if there is to be fundamental change in the way the US is policed. Charges were dropped against the young man who was arrested, by the way.

The Guardian Cop mentality in contrast to the Warrior Cop would not necessarily apply to this situation, however. What we saw in McKinney was two distinctly different approaches to policing and problem solving, one involving officers in communication with the public -- not as guardians over them but as interested community members interacting with them. The other was simply chaos, violent, and clearly out of control, with which no communication was possible. It may have been an attempt at warriorism but it went very awry.

Seth Stroughtan has written a number of pieces on the problem of Warrior Policing. While his position is that reform is possible and desirable, he is reticent about getting there. On the other hand, a number of alternatives to the seemingly unreformable police departments so prevalent today have been proposed, among them "Peacekeeper" a simple app that links community based mutual aid providers and citizens.

Decoupling from the dangerous and destructive policing that has led to so much outcry is necessary. How to do it is still being worked out, but alternatives are being tested, and more and more communities are taking steps to protect themselves from police.

The time will come when there will be no alternative...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

So, He Resigned Did He?

The news yesterday was that the violent little pissant McKinney cop whose actions caused a national uproar thanks to video shot by Brandon Brooks has resigned. Eric Casebolt, former McKinney Cop of the Year (2008) sent word through his attorneys that he was resigning effective whenever.

This action defused the situation in McKinney for the moment, but word has it that Casebolt was a police trainer, and my sense of his departure is that his trainings will continue and perhaps flourish. Who knows, he might even join up with (Lt Col) Dave Grossman's "Killology" Road Show.

Word has it that the one young man who was arrested at the Incident in McKinney -- he's the one the pissant cop draws his gun on and is seen at the end of the Brooks video being escorted back by the other two uniformed cops while apparently spitting blood from his mouth -- has been released with no charges. He had initially been arrested for "interference".

The pissant cop's unprofessional behavior in McKinney unfortunately is not unusual. In this case, observers wondered if his chaotic and violent behavior was enhanced by, if not directly caused by, substance abuse, particularly steroids or perhaps cocaine or meth. Who can say? Cops are typically not drug tested, though steroid abuse is said to be rampant among them, while other drug abuse is by no means unusual. Drug abuse is widely encountered in any high-stress occupation. The fact that the other cops on scene behaved themselves indicates that whatever was going on with Casebolt was his own private fantasy world alone.

This is an important point in my view. It only takes one cop going wild to cause a whole scene to degenerate into mayhem -- or in too many cases, to cause the death of innocents.

The other cops on a scene may or may not participate in the mayhem, but they are for the most part powerless -- and perhaps too fearful -- to intervene to stop it.

Entire departments can be infected this way, and I would say from observation over many years that far too many departments are infected. Removing the "bad apples" may have a salutary effect, at least temporarily, but the infection goes to the heart of the department and can easily break out again, despite the removal of "bad apples." But most infected departments don't remove their "bad apples." Many departments promote them instead.

So it's a good thing in the short term that Officer Pissant Casebolt is leaving the McKinney police department. But I'll bet you anything he'll show up somewhere else, either as a consultant/trainer or a supervising officer.

It's just the way these things seem to go.

Not that I'm cynical or anything.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What the Actual F*ck??!!

This video has been making the rounds today. White cops in suburban Dallas going ape-shit on black pool-partiers, a particular example being that of the sergeant on duty, hurling a bikini-clad partier onto the ground, hauling her around by her arm, and kneeing her on the back until another cop comes along with handcuffs to truss her up.

Apparently the big-bellied fat fucks are plainclothes officers, though it's hard to say.

The story I've read is that a white female resident of the housing development objected to black pool partiers in her community pool. She got into a fight with a black girl -- who is apparently also a resident of the development -- when the white woman said the others should go back to the "projects". The white woman, according to what I've read, initiated the physical struggle. Another white woman intervened to break it up. Others called 911 claiming that there were all kinds of black people using the community's pool uninvited. Still others called saying there was a fight. A dozen police responded, the little pissant sergeant (now referred to as piss ant Police Supervisor Cpl Eric Casebolt).

Supposedly the pool party was advertised as "open to the public" on social media, and from what I've been able to glean, those who objected to the presence of black people in the pool were adult white people. From the video, it's not apparent that white kids have a problem with the presence of black people at the pool party.

The little pissant corporal, the one who savages the girl in the bikini, is out of control and he has to be restrained by his buddies when he pulls out his gun to threaten youngsters who come to help the girl he's thrown to the ground.

"Failure to obey" quickly and completely enough is the trigger for his actions -- at least so far as I can tell.

It's been pointed out that the police are only interested in the black kids. But the other issue -- which I think is a key -- is that they are responding to repeated 911 calls.

In too many situations, callers to 911 are a menace, as are dispatchers and responding officers. Something is dreadfully wrong with the flow charts that are used and the protocols of dispatch. Too many people are killed and injured and wrongly arrested/harassed by police sent in response to ambiguous or hostile calls to 911. Something has to be done. Further, police in this instance chose to escalate where there was no need. They did it because... they knew nothing else? I don't know. But what they did was wrong.

And too typical...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Flipping the National Conversation

Well, with the overkill (so to speak) local coverage of the death of Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benner on May 25, it's pretty clear to my rheumy eyes that the phase of the "national conversation" about violent policing has changed once again. It went from the appalling facts of the shooting of James Boyd, a homeless mentally ill camper, in the hills above Albuquerque, to the multiplicity of police killings of black men (and women, who were initially forgotten about in the "conversation") both armed and unarmed, to a consideration of "best practices" by the panel of experts appointed by the President (though its recommendations, both interim and final, were largely ignored -- such is the way of the world -- to now coming almost full circle to consider the pure evil of the criminals out there who shoot and kill police officers with such a disregard for human life, yadda yadda.

But a couple of other things have happened, too.

After it became clear that the only near real-time tracking of police killings in the whole country was being done by a crowd-sourced website called "Killed by Police" and repeated calls on the government to track these killings were being ignored -- or rather, they weren't being followed through on, despite the fact that there has been tracking and reporting legislation in place for decades -- a couple of other intrepid media outfits, the Washington Post and the Guardian, took it upon themselves to do (some of) the tracking that "Killed by Police" has long been doing (since May 1, 2013) and to publish findings relatively quickly (ie: not wait for annual or quarterly reports, but actually publish results in a timely fashion.)

The Guardian's coverage is very similar to the tracking of media reports done by "Killed by Police," and I think they do acknowledge KbP as one of their inspirations for doing their own coverage. The data they have assembled about police killings since January 1 of this year is impressive and they analysis of that data by the Guardian is equally impressive.

Washington Post's coverage is not nearly as extensive, as one of their objectives is to only cover police shootings. While that accounts for the majority of police involved killings in this country, it is not the totality of the carnage, not by a long shot (so to speak) and the way the WaPo's coverage is caveated and slanted is clearly intended to minimize the appearance of carnage at the hands of police and to make it seem as if those who die deserve it.

That's pretty much been the police and local media position on violent policing for as long as I've been following the stories, for decades now, so the WaPo's perspective fits in with the status quo that has long been a feature of local reports of police killings. The typical reports include the police perspective first and foremost, starting with the stenography of police press releases on the incident. They might or might not include contrary witness and/or family reports of what happened (frequently they do not). They almost always take the police reports as truthful and accurate, even though they are often filled with lies and fabrications. Local reports will cover demonstrations, should there be any, but often the coverage of demonstrations "Otherizes" the demonstrators or outright criminalizes them. The victim of the police killing is always, always smeared. The fact that he or she has had "numerous run-ins with the law" is featured and played up -- even if they were only traffic stops or minor issues -- as a means of making the victim out to be the bad guy. Almost always, the officer(s) who kill are protected from any criminal liability for their actions because of a little thing called "fear." So long as the officer(s) says "Fearing for my life and the safety of others ..." at the right time and to the right people (the police officer's union will provide gratis legal advice so as to make this statement useful and meaningful) the officer is almost certain to be exonerated from criminal culpability. By and large, civilians cannot use that legal sleight of hand, however.

Until the killing of James Boyd in Albuquerque in 2014, the pattern of coverage and the "conversation" was almost always the same: local only, but sometimes extensive in the locality wherein the killing took place; nearly complete victim-blaming by the media, with little or no questioning of whatever the police department chose to say about the incident and the victim; implicit hero-ization of the killing officer; contempt for the victim, dismissal or "Otherization" of survivors, family, and protesters.

The Boyd killing changed and began to nationalize the coverage and conversation. When the APD chief released the video of the shooting, he said that the actions of the officers were "justified." He said that what they did was justified because Boyd had two knives and thus was an armed and dangerous threat to be neutralized.

Except that isn't what the video really showed. It showed Boyd surrendering to the police, the pocket knives nowhere to be seen (they were in his pockets). The video showed Boyd gathering up some of his things and beginning to walk down the hill toward police. The video showed one of the officers (whose helmet cam was recording the scene) say "Do it!" and immediately a flash-bang grenade was launched and a dog was released. The video showed Boyd dropping his things and pulling out his knives while officers (still thirty to forty feet away) shout at him to get on the ground. The video showed Boyd turning to face uphill and away from the police as six shots are fired at him, three from each of two officers. All six shots strike him, and the video showed Boyd collapsing on the ground mortally wounded. The video then showed subsequent actions by the police that I won't describe.

The video was quite clear about what really happened, and the narrative the police were spinning out to the media and the public about "justification" --- because of some mortal threat Boyd represented to the lives of the officers and the safety of others -- was simply false.

It was the last straw. There had been so many killings by APD so frequently, and often so outrageously, that even the local media had started questioning what was going on. The mayor and police chief always, always defended the actions of police, and the DA never, ever found that any of their killings were unjustified. This had been going on for years, and finally, enough of the survivors and victims had gotten together to press the Justice Department to do an investigation of the pattern and practice of the APD. That investigation was underway, though slowed, when Boyd was shot and killed.

Small-scale protests against police killing had been going on for years, and civil awards to victim families had reached tens of millions of dollars, but the killing of James Boyd unleashed a torrent of condemnation from the public. Demonstrations grew to include thousands of protesters, and in one unfortunate night of protest, the APD used horses and ordnance against the protesters. Thanks to the wind, the police actually wound up gassing themselves and the residents of the dorms at UNM. Oh well. There was some vandalism by protesters as well and as usual, thought the vandalism was quite minor (mainly spraypainting several police substations) it was blown completely out of proportion by the media and used as justification for the police crackdown on protest.

Only the protest didn't stop. It continued through the spring and into the summer. Early protests apparently got the DoJ to release it's long-stalled pattern and practice report, leading to the media referring to its "scathing indictment" of APD's pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. In fact, the report was an indictment, quite remarkable in its way for the blunt honesty of its findings that the APD used force and lethal force too frequently, too often unconstitutionally, and that reforms were necessary.

Until then, the APD had been lauded by city officials for their excellence. Suddenly, that was no longer the case.

Numerous police departments around the country had previously been found to have a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. It was so common as to be expected, and there had already been extensive media coverage of the slaughter APD was engaging in long before the Boyd killing. When the son of the Deputy County Manager was killed by police, for example, it was clear to anyone paying attention that police killing was not at all confined to the Otherized poor and dispossessed. Anyone could be a victim, no matter their prominence and position, or worse, anyone's son or daughter could be killed by police.

However, findings of pattern and practice violations and recommendations and even orders for reform were frequently fought tooth and claw by police departments, and in many cases they were openly defied. Police simply would not adhere to reforms nor would they listen to the public. Defiance was too frequently the rule and the killing and violent policing went on without let up.

I laid the blame for this on people like David Grossman whose "killology" trainings and seminars made killing out to be the highest accomplishment a police officer could achieve. It was the officer's raison d'etre. To kill -- righteously -- was the whole purpose of Warrior-Police. It was sickening to read or watch his presentations and justifications for police violence, for it was clear (to me at least) that the man was quite mad and was going around the country infecting police departments with his madness and leaving police officers convinced that their killing spree was not only justified, it was required by their oaths and their natures.

Others, like Bill Bratton, had used their positions as police chiefs to institute a version of policing that formalized falsity and didn't curb the killing. It merely made justification for overpolicing and killing by police much easier. Through false narratives about broken windows and other minor offenses and defenses of intrusive policing methods, and through acknowledgement of "tragedy whenever someone loses their life" -- while fiercely defending officers who take those lives -- Bratton and others like him managed to make over-policing of poor and minority communities and routine death at the hands of police seem normal, and furthermore -- most dangerously -- Bratton and others managed to make this kind of policing and falsity into American "best practice" policing.

As the deaths piled up and the brutality of police was revealed more and more frequently by cell phone and body-cam videos, however, more and more people saw for themselves what was going on, and more and more of them were revolted  by what they saw.

It was noted that FBI statistics of police killings were grossly understated to the point of ludicrousness. The police kill-rate was two to three times greater than the FBI's "official" statistics suggested, and those who used FBI statistics were subjected to ridicule, as was the agency itself, as it made no attempt to gather and present accurate information or statistics on police killings.

When James Boyd was killed in March of 2014, people recognized that mentally ill and homeless people, whether armed or unarmed, are frequent victims of police aggression and death, and they have little or no recourse as there is so little mental health and/or homeless service available -- and accessible -- to the public. Treatment and services are very hard to come by and sustain thanks to the way mental health and homeless service have been cut back especially since the Reaganite dismantlement of the state mental hospitals and mental health service system as it once was.

When Mike Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August of 2014, the conversation about violent policing changed to focus on the fact that black men, often unarmed black men like Mike Brown, are subjected to violent policing and killing by police at a rate far out of proportion to their numbers in society. There were hours of "negotiations" with James Boyd before he was executed in the Sandia foothills. Many black men were simply shot on sight on a belief that they were armed and dangerous. The mere sight of a black man was too often considered an a priori threat to be neutralized. Mike Brown was unarmed. He was shot at as he ran away from the officer. He was killed as he turned to surrender.

And as is almost always the case, the officer was considered "justified" -- because he was frightened of a Big Black Man who had "demon eyes."

Ever since, the national conversation has focused on the prevalence of police abuse and killing of black men, almost to the exclusion of any other victims of police violence. This focus has caused more than a little tension due to the fact that blacks are by no means the only victims of police violence and killing. There are many others; the problem is the violence the police bring to situations not calling for it.

Blacks too often are victims, and blacks too often are considered existential threats to police simply by their existence. This is derived in part from military beliefs and training that propose that the mere presence of an armed -- or thought to be armed -- Iraqi or Afghani or other native of some foreign land under American attack or occupation is sufficient justification for killing said native, regardless of any other fact at all.

But it also comes from America's long history of black and brown oppression and murder. It simply doesn't occur to police that an "Otherized" racial/cultural minority is actually "human." They have become objectified to such an extent in the minds of many police officers that their killing is seen essentially as nothing more than pulling out a weed.

This is demonstrated by the many killings themselves and by the fact that so often, police officers who use force or lethal force provide no first aid to their victims and all too frequently prevent EMS from attending to them.

This happened in the South Valley of Albuquerque not too long ago when a sheriff's deputy shot and wounded Billy Grimm, claiming that he saw Grimm with a gun, and then the officers refused any medical aid to Grimm for hours after he was shot, though EMS was available within minutes. They claimed that Grimm refused their orders to exit the truck he was in, and it was only after he did so and a dog was unleashed on him that officers felt the scene was "secure" enough to allow EMS to enter and tend to their victim. By then, of course, it was too late, and Grimm died in the hospital shortly thereafter.

Shaun King at dKos has documented numerous similar incidents in which a victim has been shot and mortally wounded by police -- who then refuse to provide any aid whatsoever to their victim and often prevent others from rendering aid.

This callous indifference to human life displayed over and over again by police officers, every one of whom is trained in first aid, is one of the hallmarks of American policing, obviously a matter of department policy that is nearly universal.

It's criminal negligence, though some court decisions have stated that officers have no affirmative obligation to render aid to those they have injured. Some of the consent decrees that have been entered into with police departments require police officers to render or summon aid to their victims immediately ("Provided it is safe to do so" -- always the caveat). But this is policy, not law. Court decisions can protect officers if they don't render or summon aid, but the policy of the department can easily change the dynamic, just as policies can stop the killing.

In Albuquerque and Oakland, among a few other places, the killings by police have all but stopped.

It can be done.

The national conversation is now shifting to the risks police officers encounter on the job, including the fact that they might get shot or injured. Well, yes.

It's one of the hazards they supposedly signed up for. The problem is that too often, facing any risk at all is considered to be an unacceptable hazard for a police officer. Killing a subject that might pose a risk is the far better alternative, no? Large numbers of the public have been saying "NO!" quite clearly and loudly, but with the wounding or death of several officers recently, the conversation about that risk is now under way.

What sort of risks should officers expect to face and handle? Police unions and many departments say "None at all." A risk is by definition a threat, and threats are not to be faced, they are to be neutralized with whatever force the officer deems necessary, including lethal force, in every case.

That has long been the position of police and their departments. But the questions that have been raised about violent policing have shone a light on police behavior that was often ignored or thought acceptable in the past. No longer is unquestioning acceptance of grotesque behavior by police considered necessary. The questions that have been raised -- about the constant killing, the "Otherization" of Americans subjected to violent policing, the racial elements in violent policing and police killings, the distance of police culture from that of the communities police are supposed to serve and protect, and the risks and hazards police are expected to take -- have reached a kind of crescendo.

My view has long been that police are way too violent, they kill and maim far too often and unnecessarily, and they are enabled by a corrupt system of injustice that protects them from accountability let alone criminal liability. That has to change.

There are signs it is changing.

Until recently, police departments as a rule had no idea they were doing anything wrong or that the louder and louder objections from the public were something they needed to listen to rather than simply suppress. The hundreds of millions of dollars -- indeed, billions -- paid out to victims of violent policing meant nothing to them. The money didn't come out of their budgets, and because police as a rule are not held criminally liable for any use of force they deem necessary -- regardless of other facts -- they saw no reason to change their behavior under pressure from the public. The public was often seen as enemies, and those who actively protested police violence were often seen as "enemy combatants."

This was wrong from every direction, but police were -- and to a great extent are -- incapable of seeing the truth of the matter, presuming that they can enforce their will through greater levels of violence.

That conversation may be next. Should police become even more violent than they are? Is 3 a day too few to kill? Should every police encounter include a bit of ultraviolence -- just because?

Or should policing become more or less a substitute for absent social services? Should violent policing be consigned to the ash heap with so many other theories of policing that have come and gone?

Should the police be abolished?

That's where this conversation needs to be directed sooner rather than later.

We need to find a better way of ensuring something close to dignity, peace and justice in our society, because what's been happening is going entirely the wrong direction.

[I'll try to add links later, as I am pressed for time today... ]

Monday, June 1, 2015

Neither a Warrior nor a Guardian Be -- Advice the Cops Need

Sometimes when I explore the issue of violent policing and police abuse of the public, it seems perfectly obvious where their beliefs and attitudes come from, why so many die at their hands or through their neglect of basic human decency. It's a matter of character -- individual and institutional -- and it's a matter of training and inculcated beliefs (brainwashing) about their jobs and the people and institutions they serve.

A key to understanding is that the police don't serve the public. They serve the powers that be operating through governments. In many jurisdictions, "the public" are enemy forces to be corralled and suppressed by any and all means necessary, including use of lethal force, so as to maintain "order" -- which is to say established systems of authority, control and exploitation designed and implemented to protect wealth and the property of the wealthy, not in any way to serve and protect the Rabble.

To the extent they are not violently and abusively policed, the public should consider themselves lucky. To the extent they are violently and abusively policed, the public should realize they deserve it. Thus runs the mindset in many, too many, police departments.

Recently a column appeared at, the often controversial website maintained by a cadre of retired police officers, equipment and training suppliers and consultants and by others as a means to foster and enhance police "professionalism" -- a term much used and misunderstood in the field -- in service to... well, that's typically left unstated, but it's not the public.

The column lambasted President Obama for his call on police to adopt a guardian as opposed to a warrior mentality as a means to overcome some of the objections to their behavior that have been raised during the lengthy "national conversation" about police and their appropriate role in the 21st Century.

This call grew directly out of the presidential task force, "Policing in the 21st Century" (116 page final report, pdf), empaneled last year after the so-called riots in Ferguson, MO following the summary execution of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson PD, apparently for the crime of having demon eyes and disrespecting the officer's authority in broad daylight.

This killing followed on the heels of many others, and there would be many more to come. Summary execution has become one of the favored tools of US police forces and is employed some 1,000 or more times a year, frequently on unarmed individuals and those in mental health or other crises, with nearly total impunity. All the officer has to say to avoid criminal responsibility and liability for these killings is that s/he "feared for my life and the safety of others." Bingo, home free to their families and who knows, maybe a medal and parade on top of it.

On the other hand, the city is often left liable in civil court for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in awards to the victims, survivors and families of those subjected to summary execution and abusive policing. Oh my yes. The awards seemingly have become more frequent, and the amounts awarded are growing. This despite the fact that it is all but impossible to charge and convict a police officer for crimes committed while on duty -- apart from sexual indiscretion or impropriety.

The columnist at PoliceOne, Lt. Dan Marcu (ret) disputes the call on police to adopt a guardian as opposed to a warrior mindset, a call that came from a task force that had a heavy police presence and represented mostly an establishmentarian point of view.

No, says Marcu, the police must maintain warrior competence and vigilance, because the Persians are at the gates, and the police are the Spartans at Thermopylae, holding off the invading horde and protecting Democracy. I kid you not.

Guardians will fail in the task according to Marcu. Only warriors can keep us safe from the Persians at the gates.

This is nonsense on stilts, but it represents the kind of thinking that infects police departments throughout the land. The idea that the police must behave as self-described Warriors to prevent the Persians -- or any other foreign entity -- from invading and having their way is insane and ridiculous. Marcu even cites the threat of ISIS in his defense of Warrior Policing.

No. No. No. No. No.

I'm not a fan of Guardian Policing, either, because it assumes that the public, the Rabble, are nothing more than incompetents and infantile, unable to look after themselves and their own communities without the sometimes heavy hand of the police to guide and protect them from... themselves, primarily.

I tend to be more of an abolitionist, truth to tell. But I realize that police cannot be abolished without thinking through the means and methods and the many consequences thereof. We're nowhere near that point yet. The thought process for abolishing police has barely begun.

But the cult of Warrior Police is out of control, and people like Dan Marcu and David Grossman -- who retails the cult of the Sheepdog-Warrior Police -- are a big part of the reason why.

Marcu's argument is that the President is wrong because he calls on police to "abandon" the Warrior mindset, whereas, according to Marcu, every police officer is already a guardian, and inside each and every one,

there must reside the beating heart of an honorable warrior ready to be summoned at a moment’s notice...

What he and so many others of his ilk seem incapable of comprehending is that that's the problem you fools!

That so-called "honorable warrior" is shooting down people they've been called on to help each and every day; that "honorable warrior" considers any questioning or challenge to his or her authority to be an existential threat to be neutralized with whatever force the officer can muster; that "honorable warrior" sees a black man with a weapon or thought to have a weapon as an existential threat to be neutralized with lethal force; that "honorable warrior" sees all residents of certain sections of their jurisdictions as insurgents or potential insurgents who must be made to obey with whatever force and intimidation tactics the officer chooses to utilize. They must be made to obey -- or they must die.

This is absolutely the wrong way to deal with the American public, but it is the way the police have come to believe they must believe and behave or... the Persians will overwhelm the Spartans at Thermopylae. The heroic Spartans who are only defending Democracy, after all.

Which is complete and utter bullshit. It's ahistorical bullshit besides.

But it's the belief. It's one of the underlying beliefs that drives the killing spree the police have been on. It's a big reason why they feel it is necessary to shoot down various categories of threats:
  •  The mentally ill -- just because.
  • Anyone addled by drugs whose actions are not under complete control and whose compliance is not 100% at all times -- and even then, execution may be carried out... just because.
  •  Negroes, Mexicans, and/or American Indians, whether armed or unarmed particularly if standing still, driving or running away.
  • Anyone challenging the authority of the officer, particularly if armed -- but not white people if open carrying
  •  Non-compliant individuals who may be demons or Hulks in disguise and therefore may pose an existential threat to one and all.
  • Anyone -- and/or any pet -- in a structure at which a warrant is being served who does not immediately comply with any and all commands issued, no matter how contradictory, incomprehensible, whether or not accompanied by grenades and bullets.
These are the people -- and animals -- who die at the hands of police at mind numbing rates.

These are warrior actions that are completely inappropriate in a civilian/domestic context, and were (or still are) inappropriate and counterproductive in the context of the military occupations they have been derived from.

Thousands upon thousands of completely innocent civilians in our overseas satrapies have executed by troops in much the same way domestic police forces have been summarily executing civilians in the United States.

As observers and critics have long been pointing out, most of this killing is completely unnecessary, and it leads inevitably to distrust of police/military and rebellion against their authority. Inevitably.

They are not protecting anybody, not even the masters they are in place to serve. They are not even protecting themselves. They are acting crazy. Causing more problems than they solve. Precipitating chaos not order.

The police and the troops they emulate are the problem, not the solution.

But it's clear that powerful forces and voices within the police and military want it this way and will not brook opposition or counter arguments.

They want more killing, not less; they demand more chaos, not order; their rules of engagement are madness. They are actively destroying what they pretend to preserve.

A stop must be put to it.

Cops must become neither guardians nor warriors but become the servants of the People they were long mythologized to be. They must cease their contempt and violence toward the public, stop the killing and abuse, and de-police communities rather than becoming ever more intrusive and violent. The commando mindset must be eliminated. Military equipment and trappings must be removed. Laws which protect police violence must be revised or overruled, and the system of injustice which the police serve must be overhauled top to bottom.

Given the kind of resistance and full-on paranoia and insanity that pervade police departments nationwide (not all of them, but far too many of them)  the kind of necessary reforms that are being mentioned more and more simply can't happen -- or at least they can't happen soon enough to preserve life and liberty of the public. The police are infected with a cult of death. They cannot comprehend that what they are doing is crazy and destructive. They can't imagine that they are doing anything wrong.

It doesn't occur to them to change their ways to suit the interests of the public. The only thing that occurs to them is that they have the power and authority to use whatever force they deem necessary at any given time to enforce obedience to their command. And they can do so with impunity. No matter the consequences.

That's what they know.

That's all they know.

And that's why I think abolition is the necessary solution once the means, methods, and consequences are sufficiently thought through.