Sunday, September 27, 2015

In the Matter of Junipero Serra (Saint)

Oh fer gawdsake. I mean really. This man has been proclaimed a saint? Why?

For God's Sake, why?

Please understand, I grew up in California, and in 4th Grade California History class the story of Father Serra was told with such a romantic glow that it would be a wonder if he weren't eventually sainted and venerated and made holy, holy, holy by the Pope in Rome. The picture we were given of Father Serra and the California Missions was one of intrepid bravery and steadfastness in the face of untold perils and fear.

I attended 4th Grade at San Jose Elementary School in the San Gabriel Valley about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. Our class visited the San Gabriel Mission on a field trip, and later on a friend and I discovered a mano  and  metate while digging in the schoolyard one day. The archaeologists who came from Cal Poly to assess our finds declared that we had found artifacts remaining from a now long gone Gabrieleno Indian village that had no doubt once been affiliated with the San Gabriel Mission.

One of our class projects was to construct miniature versions of the California Missions. Many of the students made generic missions out of sugar cubes, cardboard and construction paper, but my friend and I chose to make miniature adobe bricks and build a version of the unique and iconic San Gabriel Mission we had recently visited.

Mission San Gabriel via Wikimedia

Well, it was quite a hit. We even had little bells in the belfry, and there were balsa wood doors that opened to reveal a painted interior.

San Gabriel Mission was founded by Father Serra, and it along with the eight or nine others he founded became the centers of mission life in California for the next sixty years or so.

According the the stories we were told, California history began with Father Serra and the Missions. Before that was... nothing, I guess.

Well, there were Indians, of course, but they didn't read or write. They were little more than naked savages foraging and suffering in barbarous ignorance. Until the arrival of the White Men from Spain what could one expect, no?

One thing we added to our mission model were Indian huts made out of sticks and grass. For the missions in their splendor -- and they tended to be rather splendid given the fact that they were built on the wild frontier -- couldn't exist without the labor of the Indians whose souls Father Serra set out to save.

In exchange for their salvation and various trinkets and hoo-hah the Spaniards brought with them, the Indians were required to work for their new -- kindly, we were told -- overlords. So they did.

The Mission system we were told about was a remarkable, indeed an amazing thing. Enormous plantation like ranches were attached to the missions, and each mission was not only expected to be self-sufficient unto its needs, it was expected to produce a surplus to trade and provide for the needs of civilian colonizers who came from Spain and Mexico -- and later from other regions of the world.

Each mission was actually a huge enterprise, and Father Serra was the CEO if you will.

We were told the Indians came to the missions voluntarily, submitting to the authority of the Spanish Crown and the Heavenly Father proclaimed by our hero, Junipero Serra (Saint.)

The bells. They came because of the bells. I heard that story often.

And when the missions were dissolved after Mexico gained independence, the Indians were turned loose to fend for themselves. Tragically, many did not survive.

What we were not told is that by the time the missions were dissolved in the 1830's there were very few Indians left. Many tens of thousands had already died, and very few were born to replace them. We were not told of Father Serra's cruelties toward the Indians -- "Nah, he was always kindly toward them...." We were not told of the shackles and the floggings and the executions, the disease and almost complete social and cultural destruction in the wake of the Spanish and the blessed Franciscan Fathers -- Serra, Lausen and Crespi.

No, we were not told, and I didn't find out for many years. I've been to most of the missions, San Diego and Mission Dolores in San Francisco being exceptions. Most of them have graveyards beside the churches, and many of those graveyards have simple wooden plaques that state that so many thousands of Indians are buried therein. Thousands and thousands of dead Christian Indians... wait. The Mission system was only in operation from the 1760s to the mid 1830s. How could thousands of Indians be buried in each mission graveyard? I found out.

They died primarily of imported diseases: smallpox, measles, cholera, typhus, syphilis and the like. But many were worked to death. Some were executed for rebellion or disrespect of the Glory of God. Some died of despair when their voluntary service at the mission became a life sentence of imprisonment. Some were killed in conflict that could not really be called battles with the soldiers who protected the priests.

Father Serra delighted in every baptized Indian's death for it meant yet another resident of Heaven.

I learned that Father Serra administered some of the punishment to rebellious or recalcitrant Indians himself, wielding whip or club or whatever was at hand to chastise the rebellious savages.

He also mortified his own flesh, so it's not as if the punishment of the Indians was all that much different from what a prideful priest might have to endure. Not all that much different at all.

The California mission system didn't last very long but it wrecked havoc on the California Indian societies it touched, and some were completely wiped out. Others never recovered.

Things only got worse for California Natives when the Anglos took over after the Mexican American War and the discovery of gold in them thar hills. Much worse indeed.

The Anglos didn't even try to mask their genocidal tendencies with clever references to the salvation of souls. They just came, stole, and killed.

I came to understand that Father Serra was not necessarily a kindly missionary to the benighted savages, though he may have been somewhat kinder than the hidalgos and grandees and caballeros who came to California in his wake. Serra was an arrogant Spaniard, primarily a politician intent on expanding and securing the power and territory of his king and country -- and saving a soul or two along the way.

So when I learned earlier this year that Junipero Serra was to be declared a saint by Pope Francis, I was perplexed. What was the Pope thinking? But then he also proclaimed John Paul II a saint, and John XXIII. What could he possibly thinking?

Many have pointed out that there are others much more worthy of sainthood than Serra, so why him?

As I listened to parts of the ceremony of sainthood at the cathedral in Washington, it became somewhat clearer. Serra was seen by the Pope as a heroic Hispanic figure in the Western Hemisphere. Apparently Serra is highly regarded elsewhere in Latin America and has long been considered an example of the best that Spain sent to the New World during the period of discovery and conquest.

His legend is known far and wide.

He was a Franciscan as well.

The Pope apparently had the notion to elevate Serra to sainthood in order to...

Well, I don't rightly know, but it seems that his goals include solidifying the Catholic Church's position among Hispanics in Latin America and the North.  By making Serra a saint, apparently, Hispanics who have felt abandoned by the Church (it's a long story) will be inclined to return...


Meanwhile, the descendants of the survivors of the California Mission period are less than amused by this fairly overt political maneuvering. One even suggested that Cesar Chavez was far more worthy of sainthood than was the founder of the California Missions.

I would agree. The political problem for the Church, though, would have been greater had Pope Francis chosen Chavez for elevation (which he might-could do... later) rather than Father Serra. Even some Hispanics, and certainly nearly all the Anglo ranchers and farmers in California and much of the West, despise Chavez and would no doubt bitch to the Heavens above were the Holy See to confer sainthood on someone who made their lives so miserable by shame and long-suffering and truthtelling.

Serra, on the other hand, is such a romanticized historical and cultural figure, the "Founder of Modern California" and all that, that few besides the Indians would dispute his saintly reward. Few indeed have any idea what the Mission period was really like and how so much of California's deepest culture -- at least in Southern California -- is still rooted in the efforts of Serra, Lausen and Crespi to evangelize and proselytize among the California Indians of the late 18th Century.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pope In The USofA

I've been following a bit of the live coverage of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States -- live coverage as provided by the US Council of Bishops rather than what's been on commercial TeeVee.

The US Bishops, of course, have some issues with His Holiness, in part because he has shamed them.

There's nothing particularly radical about Francis's theology or message; instead, the bishops have been carrying on a radical crusade of their own to "purify" the Church of its taint of inclusion and spirituality and transform it into a reactionary and hostile social/political entity standing in opposition to any movement toward a better future for all.

Pope Francis has not only told them they are on the wrong path, he's used his authority to retire and/or replace particularly recalcitrant and bull-headed bishops in the US and all over the world. He is no slacker when it comes to enforcing his sway over the Church.

He has even gone so far as to suggest the bishops are obsessed...

Indeed, during the past few decades, the Church's obsessions, particularly with abortion, contraception, and control of women's bodies and other people's sex lives, have been idees fixe and often seem to be the only things that matter to the Church hierarchy. Under the circumstances, the Church has had a tendency to drive away members and has self-limited its presence in secular society.

The Church became a rejectionist force in the world. And Francis says, "No." Don't reject, withdraw, antagonize, denounce, or delimit. Go forth with joy. Proclaim the Gospel, do good and be holy.

For Heaven's sake. Who'd a thunk it?

With the bishop's negativity as a backdrop, Francis's presence and message is seen by some observers as a threat to the hegemony of radical rightist power that characterizes the United States and much of the English speaking world.

A threat because the Pope ("of the Holy See" as he was introduced to Congress yesterday) doesn't buy into the crap and the bullshit and the nonsense that have come to dominate the political and social dynamic of the United States. No way.

He sees things so much more openly and inclusively. And he has no fear at all.

Good heavens, when I saw him wading into crowds in Washington and New York, it was astonishing. American politicians and celebrities do not mingle with the common people. At all. Ever. They live and breathe a separate existence, as cut off from you and me as it is possible to get -- as cut off as any imperial potentate of yore.

And of course they live in holy terror of the rabble.

That may be because they know they are doing bad and bringing untold harm to the masses.

But that would imply a conscience, and I'm never sure the high and the mighty possess such a quality.

On the other hand, His Holiness simply does what he believes to be right, including mingling and presenting a simple and humble appearance, as if he were, perhaps, the servant of the servants of God. Oh. What a concept.

His motorcade, for example, marks the contrast between the humble Pope of the Holy See and the Titans of Security who accompany him. Pope Francis is driven hither and thither in a tiny Fiat 500 -- with the windows down -- whereas his security detail provided by the US Government travels in huge armor-plated and bomb and bullet-proof SUVs, the kind we've come to expect the higher ranks of pols and celebs to travel in as well.

They are so frightened, after all, of you and me.

I noticed the same phenomenon during the Queen's visit to Germany earlier this year. She was quite fearlessly riding around in a non-bullet-and-bomb-proof Daimler whereas Fraukanzler Merkel was surrounded with security forces while being transported in an armored limousine which probably nothing short of a nuke could penetrate.

So it is with the Pope. He's not afraid.

Just the fact that he fears not has the effect of shaming the Powers That Be.

I'll be eager to see the Pope at the prison tomorrow.

He has dared to say that hope must be part of any effort at punishment.

And he has repeatedly declared the necessity for Dignity, Justice, Community and Peace throughout his American journey.

His references to Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton in Congress yesterday must have stunned the assembly. How. Dare. He.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Then Must We Do (Abolitionist Version)

[Apologies to Leo Tolstoy] (173 pg pdf)

Corrina Shoemaker's (Tenten's) talk at the demonstration last Saturday against yet another Killer Kop Kompetition in Albuquerque moved me more than I think I have been moved by any other testimonial I've heard during the decades I've been an activist against violent policing. She tore at my heart.

Tenten makes clear that she is not an abolitionist, that as a society we need the police, and we need them to be responsible. When they killed her brother they were not being responsible, they were being reactive -- as it happened to a non-existent threat. The Killer Kop Kompetition celebrates and reinforces that reactive tendency among police -- kill now, worry about the consequences later (or don't think about them at all). Thus, it's irresponsible, and it encourages irresponsibility among police.

On the other hand, I came to the conclusion some time ago, after witnessing too much police "reform" go nowhere or actually become an excuse for even worse forms of policing, that abolishing the police (or police departments, a distinction I'll get into in a bit) is the only responsible course at this point.

I say this even though I know that there have been serious efforts at reform of police departments, and I know that some of those efforts have resulted in significant decreases in use of lethal force by those departments (I often cite NYC, Oakland, and Albuquerque as examples.) It can be done, and it's not hard at all. Nor does it take forever.

Reducing the rate of police homicide can literally take place overnight. It doesn't require solving structural racism or economic inequality first. It takes changing the rules authorizing the use of force and an order from the chief.


It's happened in a number of cities, and it can happen all over once there is a will among police chiefs and city managers and mayors to reduce the killing.

That will is being developed, slowly, imperfectly, through agencies such as the PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) which produced the seminal "Re-engineering Training on Police Use of Force" Report (84 pg pdf) earlier this month. This is the direction police departments are going, but it is taking forever on the one hand, and there is so much resistance from certain elements such as police officer unions, DAs and courts on the other, that a reduction in the overall rate of police homicide seems constantly out of reach.

Nice talk doesn't really get you to the point you want to be.

So. What then must we do?

I say "abolish" -- abolish police departments, for that's where the problem lies.

In a sense, I agree with Tenten that we need police -- or at least a cadre of professionals that function to serve the needs of communities -- something like the police are ideally supposed to do. What we don't need are their departments that function as quasi-autonomous armies of occupation within -- but completely divorced from -- communities.

Police departments which are oppressive and destructive,  lack transparency and accountability, and are unable or refuse to behave responsibly toward the communities they are supposed to serve need to be abolished.

I've seen an awful lot of blame placed on individual police officers for their actions, as if their actions take place entirely independently, and that's simply wrong. Police officers do not operate independently or autonomously; they are employees of departments which operate as enforcers of a system of oppression. They do what they are told and what is expected by their commanders in a hierarchical organization.

In other words, when they kill or brutalize individuals, police are doing what they believe they are supposed to do -- their "jobs" as it were.

While there have been far more charges against individual officers in the past year (since protests began in earnest) than previously for crimes including murder, it is still surpassingly rare for officers to be held criminally liable for acts while on duty. Two things account for that fact: 1) law protects officers from criminal liability in almost all cases of use of force while on duty; 2) DAs and courts are loathe to hold officers directly responsible for acts while on duty no matter the consequences to communities -- for DAs and courts rely on police officers to function as reliable enforcers and testifiers of fact in criminal cases.

So it is nearly impossible to hold individual officers criminally liable for acts while on duty. On the other hand, civil cases against officers often result in multi-million dollar awards to victims, indicating that in fact police misconduct, brutality, and murder are recognized and sometimes compensated by civic authorities and courts -- but not as criminal acts. In other words, civic authorities and courts acknowledge that police actions can be/are a fiscal liability, but haven't yet come to a realization that something ought to be done about it...

The payouts to victims, which cumulatively amount to billions every year, are simply the "cost of doing business..."

The destruction of individuals, families and communities that result from violent policing doesn't enter the perceptions of those authorities willingly paying out fortunes to victims.

They're not about to change. Why should they?  As long as someone (else) is willing to pay for the misfortune caused by police...

Why indeed?

That's why abolition is the only real solution.

We need something like police in our communities -- but not an army of occupation or a slave-catching/Indian-killing militia. Those are the models for police forces in America, and they need to be set aside. The police as currently constituted and generally operated are an anachronism, and as such they have become an element of social and community destruction... In my view, they can't be reformed because the models they are following are antithetical to the needs of the communities and society they operate in.

Police departments need to be abolished.

"Reform," of course, will happen first -- as abolition is too radical a solution to the problems of American policing to be accepted right off. But "reform" won't work in the long run. The original impetus for police departments -- in the military conquest and occupation of the continent, in the militias sent to hunt slaves and kill Indians -- will always assert itself, no matter what else is done.

"Reform" can only achieve a somewhat milder form of occupation/oppression.

If we want the occupation and oppression to end, though, police departments need to be abolished.

I doubt we'll see it in my lifetime, but you never know....

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I recorded the video above last night outside the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque. It's part of the talk by Corrina ("Tenten") Shoemaker, the sister of Victor Villalpando, a youth shot and killed by Espanola, NM, police a year ago last June. I had just heard about Victor's killing when I headed out that day to a meeting to discuss a protest march planned for later in June to highlight the continued police killings in Albuquerque and elsewhere despite the scathing DoJ report on the city's pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.

When I heard about Victor's death, I was shocked. At the time, it was not at all clear what had happened. There were news stories that the boy had threatened the police with a gun, and thus he "needed killing," but there was something clearly off about that. We hear those kinds of stories in the aftermath of police shootings all the time, and very often they later turn out to be untrue. There were stories that someone had called police from a fast-food joint in Espanola saying there was a young male outside waving a gun around. Then there were stories that Villalpando himself had been the caller. Thus, in some people's eyes, this was clearly an incident of "suicide by cop." The video of the killing itself, however, showed that that wasn't the case. The video showed him attempting to flee when he was shot and killed. He was not threatening the police in any way. Nevertheless, the Rio Arriba County grand jury ruled the homicide "justified" because Villalpando was "armed" with a cap gun, and how were the police to know it wasn't real?

Perhaps Victor lacked wisdom, but since when is a sixteen year old expected to be wiser than the supposed adults, like the police involved in his killing?

There was a march last evening in Albuquerque to protest -- yet again -- the city's hosting of what I call the Killer Kop Kompetition, an elaborate, multi-day shooting contest by Albuquerque's and the nation's "finest."

 Last year's Killer Kop Kompetition was won, we were told, by an APD officer who would later go on to some notoriety when he shot and severely wounded an undercover officer engaged in a drug sting. The shooter was the supervisor...  It was quite a remarkable situation and starkly demonstrated how trigger-happy and out of control APD's officers had become. On the other hand, it was one of very few police involved shootings by APD after July of 2014 when such shootings -- once commonplace -- came to an abrupt halt. At least for several months, there were no killings by APD.

Then, the day after the shooting of the undercover officer by his supervisor, John Okeefe was shot and killed by APD after a foot chase down an alley. The police claimed that Okeefe was shooting at them, and a stolen revolver was recovered at the scene beside Okeefe's body. The revolver, it turned out, had been stolen from the home of a sheriff's deputy a few days before, a factoid that set off an alarm bell or two among police-watchers, as did the fact that this killing took place almost coincidentally with the shooting of an undercover cop by his supervisor ("Ooops!") and the announcement that Dominque Perez and Keith Sandy, the killers of James Boyd, were being charged with Murder 2 by the Bernalillo County DA.

A lot of threads were woven together in last night's march and protest. Initially, I didn't intend to march with the rest of the protesters as I am still kind of lame from the episode of sciatica almost two years ago now. The march route was said to be a mile and a half through downtown Albuquerque, but it looked farther than that to me, and the tail end of it was uphill. I don't do uphill well at all.

Nonetheless, when I heard Victor Villalpando's mother and sister talk to the assembly prior to the march, I knew I had to go on the march with the rest, no matter whatever difficulty in doing so I might encounter. I'm glad I did.

The march was one of the most orderly protests I think I've ever been involved in. There were perhaps 100 or so participants, no police escort -- and if there were undercover officers seeded among the marchers, I didn't notice any. We marched in the street or on the sidewalk, depending on the preference of individual marchers. I carried the "Abolish Police Departments" sign -- in part because I am an abolitionist rather than a reformer these days (I've done my time as a police reformer... and found the results to be.... less than I had hoped.)

Signs prior to the march

Medics on foot and on bikes accompanied the march, and monitors with caution tape controlled the traffic while the marchers passed. Many, many drivers honked their support for the marchers. There were water stations set up along the route, and the medics distributed water to anyone who asked. Organizers let people know what was going on and how the march would proceed. Everyone felt comfortable and protected. It was the formation of a spontaneous community, something that will become increasingly necessary as the efforts to end violent policing continue.

While the uphill climb to the Embassy Suites was a bit tough for me, I made it, and the sunset view from the top of the ridge was spectacular. (I wanted to capture it in paint or pastel, and I still may try... the art-part of my life coming close to an obsession these days...)

As we reached the turn into the hotel driveway, a couple of bicycle officers appeared to help with traffic control. They were the first uniformed officers we had seen, even as we marched past the sheriff's and police departments downtown. These bicycle officers together with some other uniformed APD officers would form a phalanx protecting the lobby of the hotel from the protest rabble outside.

After reading the names of the dead at the hands of APD ("Presente!") about half the marchers made their way toward the lobby of the hotel. Access was denied. However, during the protest, a number of the participants in the shooting competition came out to observe the proceedings, and one even had himself photographed with the protesters.

Tenten wanted to talk to a police-officer competitor and to anyone associated with Embassy Suites, but the police inside were too afraid of her, and the hotel refused to send out a representative (at least this was my impression from observations and talking with some of the participants.)  Eventually, an APD officer (along with a backup officer "just in case") spoke with Tenten outside the lobby, but nothing was resolved. My video above starts just after the APD officers retreated back to the lobby.

Fear. The officers were so frightened... I call them cowards. They see the public -- at least an expressive portion of the public -- as their enemies, and they live in constant mortal fear of those enemies, and so they lash out, sometimes murderously, when confronted with protest, demands, or disobedience.

Last night, for the most part, they hid.

There was no hint of violence within the crowd of protesters last night, but at one point I was told that the officers inside the hotel were demanding that the protesters pledge to be "peaceful" if they wanted to speak to an officer inside. It was a ludicrous demand given the nature of the event being protested, but it was an example of kind of fear the police have of any expression of public outrage at their behavior. The same fear is seen among the occupying armies of our nation's vast overseas imperial adventures. It's inculcated from the top down.

Ultimately, the point was made -- that this competition is an insult to the many hundreds, indeed thousands of dead at the hands of police, and it is not wanted in the city of Albuquerque, not after everything that has happened, the piles of dead bodies, the protests, the pain and the outrage.

Victor Villalpando's sister and mother brought those points home to me more strongly than I think I have felt them up to now, and I've been involved in the protests against violent policing for many a long year.

We marched back to Robinson Park in the downtown area, and I slowed down the closer we got. A kind driver asked if I'd like a ride for the last few blocks, and I said yes. Well, I coulda made it on my own, but it would have taken me probably another half hour or so. Had a great talk with the driver, Sara Ruth (I think), someone who feels like I do that the context of policing, the culture, and the behavior of police must change or be abolished.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Again -- Patrick Lynch is All Butt-Hurt and Killer Kop Kompetition Comes to ABQ

What a week.

When James Blake, retired tennis pro, was ignominiously tackled by a wilding NYPD detective and trussed up like a roast while he waited for a ride to Flushing Meadows the other day there was something of an outcry about, oh I don't know, police brutality and excessive use of force. Yet again. NYPD has earned quite a reputation for targeting black and brown men for, shall we say, scrutiny, on the presumption of guilt just because. It's a quality of life issue, right?

At any rate, Blake was trussed up and left sitting there on the sidewalk while a plain clothes detective, who apparently did not identify himself to Blake at any time, went about his business of curbing identity theft or whatever assignment he was on until such time as another officer told him that he had collared the wrong man.


Blake was let go. But he made one unholy stink about what had happened to him, and before you knew it, the Mayor and Police Commissioner of New York City were holding news conferences to say, "Ooops, sorry." Well, sort of.

The problem here is not that the wrong man was targeted and detained. Nor is it even institutional racism (although pretty obviously enters into it.) The problem is that anyone could have this happen to them at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all, and most victims would never receive an apology, even one as tepid as Blake received. They would be treated as if they were criminals of the worst order, and they would be expected to accept this treatment as routine police practice. If they didn't like it, there were procedures they could follow to file a complaint, which more than likely would be ignored, or if not, it would be sent to a sham CRB which would find that the officer acted "within policy," ergo, the complaint would not be sustained.

This happens all the time all over the country. When there is an outcry, as there has been with the James Blake matter, there may be some public contrition or even a monetary payout, but little or nothing will change.

In this case, the public outcry included a scathing editorial in the New York Times which called for the firing of the officer involved and a complete overhaul of NYPD's practices. Oh my.

This led directly to today's statement by the PBA President Patrick Lynch, who never misses an opportunity to whine and kvetch about how misunderstood the brave and true officers of the NYPD are, so leave them alone!!!!!

What a whiny little pissant.

But then, that's what's come to be expected from police officer union heads. They cannot believe there are real problems with policing in this country, one of them being a first option resort to violence.

Speaking of, Albuquerque hosts the umpteenth annual Killer Kop Kompetititon this weekend.

Last year, there was a media firestorm about it. This year, not so much. In fact, I can't find anything online about it. Interesting. Well, helpfully, the NRA has an extended pdf (54 pages) providing all sorts of detail about the excitement soon to engulf the culture of violent policing.

There will be a march and protest at the hotel where the killer kops are staying this Saturday, sponsored and organized by the Peace and Justice Center. I'd like to think there will be a big turnout, but somehow I doubt it.

Once James Boyd's killers were charged and eventually, more than a year later, indicted (and are now out on their own recognizance until the trial next August, yet another year gone by) and once James Boyd's family settled their lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque the public anger level declined noticeably. The Albuquerque Police Department has instituted a number of reforms and has held off shooting suspects quite as often as they once did. Even though Albuquerque still hosts the Killer Kop Kompetition, the likelihood that APD will shoot and kill you has been severely curtailed.

As for those hundreds of other po-po gathering to get their kill on, who knows? The rate of police killings has actually increased this year, despite the fact that violent crime is at an all time low. Police forces all over the country have convinced themselves that the public is conducting a "war on police" -- a war for which there is no evidence at all, inasmuch as the likelihood of a cop being killed by a bad guy is close to nonexistent.

People know that Patrick Lynch has serious personal issues that should be addressed outside his duties.

But then that would be true of many cops, wouldn't it?

Saturday, September 12, 2015


There's nothing wrong with the police reform proposals from Campaign Zero. The problem I have with it is that it is a reform agenda, not a deconstruction/reconstruction one. It doesn't emphasize the key demand: "Stop killing us!"

Instead, it does a round about side step, like all of the politicians who have addressed the problem of violent policing do. Rather than deal with the immediate emergency of violent policing and killing, they look to the longer term to reach the goal of reduced killing by police through reform, and do it over time, however long it takes. Even if that means centuries.

On their feedback page, Campaign Zero lists a number of comments from the media and from the public regarding their ten point reform program. Public comment suggests some dissatisfaction with the 10 points, particularly in light of the fact that there is an emergency situation which doesn't seem to be the focus of these proposals for reform.

Reform is necessary if you want to maintain essentially the same police forces in place for the indefinite future. Reform modifies some of their policies, practices and protocols over time, but it does not fundamentally change the purpose of policing -- which is principally to suppress the lower orders and to protect the high and mighty.

This has been true from the outset of policing as we know it.

The only way I know of to deal with  the systemic problems of this kind of policing is to abolish it and start over.

That's a radical solution that Campaign Zero is not even close to accepting.

Another aspect of reform proposals is that they almost always focus on the beat cops rather than their supervisors an commanders.

It's an odd situation. True enough, the beat cops are the ones doing the majority of the killing and brutalizing, but they do it under authority granted to them by their departments and overseen by their chiefs, commanders and supervisors, all of whom must collude to permit -- indeed, allow and require -- police on the street to commit the atrocities they do.

It's not simply a matter of the "Blue Wall," though that, too, is a factor in what goes on. It's a matter of the high ranks of police forces allowing and sometimes requiring the lower ranks to commit certain acts of violence -- or be disciplined for failure to perform according to standards set by those same high ranking officers.

Police officers are conditioned through training to see existential threats -- to themselves and to those they serve -- and to respond to those threats with violence up to and including lethal force. Very often the existential threats police are conditioned to respond to are black men who are perceived to be armed and/or dangerous -- just because.

It's the same sort of conditioning that German Polizei went through during the Nazi period when they perceived Jews and other untermenschen to be existential threats to the Aryan Master Race and the German Volk. It is the same sort of conditioning military troops go through in order for them to kill without conscience or remorse in our nation's global battlespaces wherever and whenever they detect a "threat."

In each of these cases, however, despite conditioning and even laws favoring the use of force and protecting the use of lethal force, the killing stops when the command goes out to stop it.

In other words, it is up to those in charge of police forces to override the conditioning their officers have been subjected to and order them to stop the killing. Stop the brutality.

That order has gone out in a number of cities, but the killing continues. Violent policing continues.

In order for it to stop, there must be a general stand down order (even if it is masked) which allows police to do their jobs without responding to the civilian public as if they were an enemy.

But I doubt that general order will ever come.

Too many people are dependent on the status quo.

Too many police forces are commanded by men and women who disbelieve in nonviolent policing.

I see some progress but not enough and not fast enough.

Thus, I remain an abolitionist.

Friday, September 11, 2015


APD officers Perez and Sandy (Dominique and Keith) presented themselves for arraignment in Albuquerque District Court, judge Judith Nakamura presiding. They both entered not guilty pleas on second degree murder and other charges stemming from the shooting and killing of James Boyd in the Sandia foothills a year ago last March.

They were told they had one week to present themselves for booking at which time they would be released on their own recognizance with certain stipulations regarding travel and possession of firearms.

No trial date has been set.

As reported in the Albuquerque Journal:
Several uniformed Albuquerque police officers were in the courtroom as a show of support for Perez and Sandy, said Stephanie Lopez, the president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.
“These are officers who have served not only their country but their community,” she said, referring to Perez’s military service. “They’ve never hid from the charges they are facing … It’s unfortunate that in today’s society they’ve been deemed guilty until proven innocent.”
Luis Robles, Perez’s attorney, said the conditions of release were expected. He said there was some concern that the officers won’t be allowed to possess weapons while they await trial.
“They’ve both received death threats,” he said. “But nonetheless it is a decision and we will live with it.”
Perez remains on paid administrative leave. But Celina Espinoza, a police spokeswoman, said the department’s policies call for a process to begin soon that will likely lead to his termination in about two weeks because he has been officially charged with murder.
Sandy retired before he was accused of a crime and is collecting a pension.
Clearly all of this had been arranged in advance. The OR release is shocking given the gravity of the crime they are accused of and the fact that ordinary people are not given the benefit of OR release on even minor crimes. In fact, the special treatment of Perez and Sandy throughout the saga of their fatal encounter with James Boyd and the aftermath is a strong indication that the fix is in, and there will be no conviction of either officer.

The fix has no doubt been in from the get, but a show must be made to calm the rabble who have been somewhat upset by the constant litany of police killings in this country since Boyd was shot and killed.

One thing I noticed and have pointed to from time to time is that there have only been two killings by APD since a year ago in July. Those two (in January, 2015, and July, 2015) coincided with aspects of the Perez and Sandy charging and their preliminary hearing. I have thought there might be a connection.

When Judge Candelaria declared that there was sufficient evidence to go to trial at the preliminary hearing, I expected someone to die at the hands of APD, but it didn't happen (though there have been other police killings in New Mexico, one as near as Bernalillo just up the highway from ABQ).

When APD didn't shoot anyone after the preliminary hearing, it seemed to me that a deal of some sort had been struck. The boys would go to trial, but... it would be a trial that exonerated them, and by extension would exonerate the other officers who have been subjected to so much animosity for their own fatal or brutal acts.

We shall see, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

There Is No Excuse For This At All

The Fairfax County VA sheriff released the following video of the actions of her deputies that preceded the death of Natasha McKinney last February. The officers involved have been found to be not criminally liable.

There is no excuse for this at all. I haven't watched every minute of the video, and I don't recommend it as even something to witness in its entirety. It's a document of a horrible and inexcusable "extraction" for transport.

First off, Ms. McKinney should not have been in jail. She should have been seen and treated by mental health professionals for a serious condition that had previously manifested leading to the assault charges against her for which she was arrested and jailed.

Her condition deteriorated in jail to the point where the deputies decided she'd better be transported to the jail in Alexandria since the charge of assault was in Alexandria. The facility would not come for her. Therefore the deputies decided to transport her themselves.

In order to do this, certain jail protocols had to be observed, the first being that the inmate had to be restrained with handcuffs and shackles. Ms. McKenna at first agreed to be handcuffed, then refused.

The video begins with an officer stating the determination to "extract" Ms. McKenna against her will for transport to the jail in Alexandria.

Six officers in hazmat suits are delegated to perform the extraction along with another older deputy sheriff not in a hazmat suit who appears to be in charge of the operation. Three or four deputies -- also not in hazmat suits -- mill around at the end of the hall observing the procedure.

After some struggle, the older deputy manages to figure out how to open Ms McKenna's cell door, and she steps out. She is nude. She says, "You promised not to kill me!" At that point, I nearly lost it. Here are these men in hazmat suits, looking like some kind of hideous aliens, ordering her around and struggling with her, forcing her to the floor, and attempting for over fifteen minutes to secure her in various restraints, all the while shouting "Stop resisting!" and threatening her with a taser.

It's insane.

Part of the insanity is that these men are following protocols and do not know what they are doing. They are trying to achieve something that protocol demands -- the full restraint of the prisoner prior to transport -- without having a clue to how to accomplish it when the prisoner is a rather small nude woman having a serious mental health breakdown who would rather not be restrained, at least not the way these officers want to do it.

She's on the floor, on her stomach. There are four deputies on top of her pressing her head into the floor, and apparently also pressing down on her limbs and back. It's hard to tell from the angle of the videography just what they are doing, but they are clearly having a very difficult time restraining her.

One deputy has a taser and is not on top of her. The older deputy keeps trying to reason with her. The others are shouting and threatening and trying to force her legs and arms into position to shackle and handcuff her.

We've seen it a thousand times, even when people are not resisting at all officers are very seldom able to move arms or legs of detainees into the correct position for shackling and handcuffing without a tremendous struggle. I've often wondered whether they have any idea how to do it in the first place, and whether they understand why what they want to do is nearly impossible when the detainee is face down on the ground with three or four officers on top. It just doesn't work.

And the detainee is often injured, sometimes seriously, as the officers repeatedly attempt and fail to handcuff and/or shackle their quarry.

The procedure itself is faulty. It fails so often in fact that I've become convinced it is a deliberate form of "pain compliance" -- ie: torture -- for the purpose of asserting dominance, not in fact to "secure" the individual.

Ms. McKenna doesn't actually appear to be struggling or resisting; she appears to be responding to the pain being inflicted upon her.

More that fifteen minutes later, she is sufficiently restrained to be put in a prostraint chair for transport to a van which is supposed to take her to Alexandria.

Though they keep saying she's resisting, she doesn't appear to be. "Resisting" in this context seems to mean any movement at all. She's clearly uncomfortable and uncooperative. They want her to sit up in the prostraint chair and she doesn't do it. Ergo, she's "resisting" right? They keep telling her to stop kicking her legs, but she doesn't appear to be, or if she is, the movement is slight and may be involuntary.

So, because she continues to "resist" she's tasered. From what I saw, it appeared she was tasered once while she was on the floor, and three times while she was in the chair. Restrained. In other words, there was no need to shock her -- except for the fact that she wasn't in the exact position they wanted her to be in, and this was unacceptable.

Control is all-important.

Of course when a person is shocked with a taser, they can't obey orders to sit in such and such a position. When they're having a psychotic break, as Ms. McKenna may have been, they are rarely going to obey any order at all.

Police are the least qualified people to deal with a person in crisis, and what they do -- as amply demonstrated in this video -- is seriously detrimental to their own well being and that of their subject.

Ms McKinney appeared to go into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing shortly after she was tased for the fourth time in a few minutes. Medical personnel were summoned but did nothing. In fact, it appeared that CPR was eventually administered by the older deputy who had been trying to restrain her in the first place.

Ms. McKinney was revived [in the ambulance after 20 minutes without breathing or a pulse] and was taken to a hospital where she died in a coma a week later.

The medical examiner attributed her death to "excited delirium." Whatever that is. They say she was covered with bruises and lacerations, and apparently one of her fingers was amputated while she was in the hospital -- due to injuries sustained during the attempt to restrain her.

She shouldn't have been in the jail at all regardless of any charges that may have been made against her for things that happened while she was having a mental health crisis. Those restraint procedures should never have been applied to her (not to anyone). She should not have been tased (there was no need), and she should not have been tased four times within a few minutes.

The whole thing was a cockup, but the officers involved were exonerated of criminal liability, so they don't know that. The sheriff vows "changes" to protocols and procedures for dealing with mentally ill inmates.

She said the jail is where mentally ill individuals are sent more often than not.

This is wrong and insane, but according to those who say they know, Virginia does not have a public mental health care system. Mentally ill individuals who are acting out go to jail. There is no other facility available to most of them.

This is the legacy of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, coming right out of a belief that there is no such thing as mental illness, just behavior problems which can be corrected through medication, surgery or punishment.

Of course death is also a corrective for behavior problems, isn't it?

There is no excuse.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


A man died as a consequence of the actions of the officers you see in the video below.

The fundamental question is 'WHY?'

Why, first of all, did the officers feel they had to aggress against Lashano Gilbert in the first place?

Clearly he was not having a good time in the dismal, dirty holding cell where he'd been put after being returned to the New London, CT, jail from the hospital where he had been seen for an apparent emotional/psychological condition. But there was no sign at all -- at all -- that he was so upset or agitated that he would require the kind of physical force that was ultimately used against him. In fact, he is cooperative, compliant, and appears to be almost pleading with the officers, perhaps indicating he is not feeling well, perhaps requesting medical attention or perhaps to use the phone outside his cell. We can't tell for sure because there is no sound in the video.

But even if he was saying something else, it wouldn't really matter. He is doing nothing to cause what happens to him later.

The officers refuse to let him out of the cell.

As he approaches the door to the cell, one of the officers pushes him back, and he explodes. He races out of the cell, and throws himself all over the room outside, repeatedly escaping from the officers and throwing things at them. It's quite a scene.

Anyone who's been around psychiatric patients for any length of time has seen or heard of this kind of break. Professionals know how to deal with this sort of thing without causing harm to themselves or to the patient.

Unfortunately, officers of the law, particularly in custody/jail situations, do not.

Their entire perspective with regard to people like Mr. Gilbert is that they must be made to submit and comply with whatever demand the officers make.

Should compliance and submission be lacking, the officers will use whatever force they deem necessary to compel compliance and submission, up to and including use of lethal force.

That's what we see here.

The officers are so intent on forcing compliance and submission on Mr. Gilbert that nothing else matters, not even their own safety, and certainly not Mr. Gilbert's.

It's insane.

Because Mr. Gilbert does not completely cease all movement -- at least not until he is apparently unconscious -- the officers continue using force against him, including repeated stuns with an "electrocontrol device" and (apparently) use of pepper spray directly into his face.

One of the officers is seen repeatedly punching Mr. Gilbert in the face. Another is seen with his knee on Mr. Gilbert's head, and subsequently (after repeated uses of the stun gun and pepper spray) he is seen with his knee on Mr. Gilbert's neck. As we know, this is an extremely dangerous and potentially lethal control technique, especially after use of stun guns and/or pepper spray.

It's reported that Mr. Gilbert said he couldn't breathe when a towel was wrapped around his head -- a highly likely situation given the force and the pepper spray used against him. As long as he kept moving, however, even if his movements weren't in the least threatening to the officers, force was used against Mr. Gilbert. The officers did not relent until he was apparently unconscious.

Shortly thereafter he was dead.

The officers we see are not concerned with Mr. Gilbert's condition, but they are certainly concerned with their own condition as some of them seem to be reacting badly to the pepper spray. They cough and pull up their pant legs to inspect for injuries. Meanwhile Mr. Gilbert is being restrained with as much force and brutality as the officers deem necessary -- which, as it happens, is too much to sustain Mr. Gilbert's life.

There is literally no concern for Mr. Gilbert's life in evidence at all. This is typical of officers in jail and prison situations, and too often it is typical of officers on the street or behind the public counter at the department as well.

They do not care about the lives of the people they are sworn to serve and protect, and that is one of the prime reasons there are so many deaths and injuries to civilians caused by both the actions of police and by neglect from the police.

The culture of policing today enforces a lack of concern with any lives but their own, and even then, we have to wonder if the actions and attitudes of police serve anyone, even themselves.

What necessity was served by the death of Lashano Gilbert?

Why did he have to die?

So Even George Wallace Had an Epiphany

Georgie Bar the Door, c. 1963

I've been pondering the late George Wallace in regards to the current Kim Davis Affair -- an affair that will likely be gone once we're past Labor Day. These late summer news stories are often transitory as morning mist.

At any rate, George Wallace may have been a tiny man (5'6" maybe, if that) but he was a huge character in the civil rights era, the man who stood in the schoolhouse door preventing those Negroes from entering the lily-white schools of Alabama c. 1963.

Oh, he was a huge character and demon indeed, George Wallace was.

He was always railing about those Negroes and all the crime and misery they caused for good upstanding white folks, and how their needs and demands were at the top of Washington's list of things to do, whereas the good white folks of Alabam and the rest of the South and the Nation were being left out to fend for themselves, and why don't those hippies get a haircut and a job, huh, huh, and so it went, on and on, the little banty-weight piss-ant once and future Alabama governor (how many times George?) railing constantly, at full shriek, against anything and everything that represented racial progress.

Ol' George was a good man to hate in those days. Well, if you were on the side of civil rights as I was.

On the other hand, a lot of Americans were on Ol' George's side, they stood with Wallace. Bless their hearts.

He represented their shattered dreams... or something. I never understood how someone else's civil rights ruined -- absolutely ruined  -- the future of Good White Folks in the South or anywhere else. It never made any sense to me at all, but those opposed to civil rights and integration (and there were many of them) were sure that giving those people the same rights they had and letting them live next door and use the same facilities and so forth would lead inevitably to the ruin of white people.

They were sure of it.

How was that supposed to work, anyway?

Ol' George went around the country railing against anything that might provide a modicum of justice and dignity for those people. It just wasn't right, he railed, that they should have the same rights and privileges their Betters had.

Does it sound familiar? It should sound familiar, for there are all kinds of politicians who rail these days against rights and privileges for those people -- whoever the designated Other of the moment may be.

Comes now this Kim Davis in Kentucky (is that where she is?) refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples she is, despite the plain text ruling of the Supreme Court, deeming it contrary to her God and so on and so forth. She sits in jail in contempt of court therefore, a martyr like MLK and Rosa Parks her lawyer claims for following her conscience and religious faith rather than the Law.

Oh my, oh my. Poor sweet Kim Davis. What a martyr indeed.

Yes well, she's a martyr like George Wallace was a martyr, only not nearly so appealing.

Ol' George never went to jail that I know of, but he was shot by a would-be assassin in 1972 while running his umpteenth campaign for president (at least it seemed that way), and he was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his natural life. I would say that might be considered a form of punishment if not outright martyrdom...

Ol' George kept it up just the same, railing and railing as was his wont.

And then he stopped. He became a "Christian". He had been a Methodist, but everyone knows they're not saved are they? He became a "Christian" -- forgiven and saved he was -- and he came to an epiphany.

He wasn't a martyr, he was just a nasty little shit with a mean streak a mile wide who'd caused untold pain and harm to millions of people for no good reason at all.

He didn't mean to, but that's what he did.

So. He changed. He apologized to those he had harmed. He could not get down on his knees because of his injuries, but he let all kinds of people know that he knew now that he had been wrong to insult and denigrate them all those years, he'd been wrong to stand in the schoolhouse door, he'd been wrong to be such a nasty little shit for all those years when he could have been using his power to do good, and he vowed to do good with what remained of his power and life....

And according to those who knew him that's exactly what he did during his final term as Alabama's governor. There hasn't been anything like it since.

As for this Kim Davis creature, she came to her realization that she had to become a martyr for her God when she became a "Christian" like George Wallace did -- rather late in her life after several marriages, affairs, divorces, and children of different fathers.

She's been forgiven and saved like he was, but whereas late in his life  George Wallace used his salvation on behalf of the downtrodden and dis-included -- many of whom he had personally down-trod and dis-included -- she has convinced herself that she was ordered by her God to use her salvation to further dis-include and down-trod the Enemy, ie: same-sex couples wishing to be married in her county.

Bless her heart.

I've never been much of a fan of same sex marriage because of the religious/sacramental nature of the term marriage. Leave it to the churches, I've long said, some of which have been performing same sex marriages for decades, and leave the law out of that issue altogether. Let the law address only civil unions without regard to the genders of the couples uniting.

Well, I was out-shouted and the Supreme Court (which has not exactly covered itself with glory since the lawless rendering in Bush v Gore) has ruled that same sex marriage cannot be prevented by law.

Therefore the little missy in Kentucky (or wherever she is) isn't like Rosa Parks or MLK, she's like that nasty little shit who stood in the schoolhouse door in 1963 preventing those Negroes from entering.

Will she come to her own epiphany one day?

Funny how God works in such mysterious ways....

Friday, September 4, 2015

Millions and Millions Forced Into Poverty

I've been pondering this aspect of the economic collapse and the bogus recovery since they happened, way back in the 2000-oughts, almost ten years ago now, and I've noticed from the outset how the facts don't seem to register with very many observers.

The direct consequence of the economic collapse of 2006-2009 and the subsequent bogus recovery that we're still in is that millions upon millions of Americans were forced into poverty, a poverty which for most of them is permanent. They will never escape, and their progeny, born into poverty, will likely never be able to escape, either.

These millions upon millions of Americans were forced into permanent poverty by policy. It was not an act of God, nor was it an accident. It was deliberate, calculated, even calibrated year by year, as a means to enhance and maintain the well-being and wealth of certain individuals, families and institutions at the top of the economic pyramid -- and to maintain the power of the governments who serve them with such policies.

Strangely though, Americans have largely ignored this process of impoverishment by policy.

Consequently, they don't seem to see what's happened an is still happening domestically -- even when it affects them directly. When it happens to people overseas, as it has happened with a vengeance to Greeks among other "peripherals" of Europe, the widespread notion is that they deserve their fate because of their past profligacy and present obstinacy.

The absolute number of people in poverty in the United States has skyrocketed since the economic collapse, and nothing is done to lower it at all. Even if the employment picture is somewhat better than it was (arguable since so many millions of people have left the labor force and are no longer counted as unemployed) wages are so low and hours are so spotty that even many of the employed are in poverty -- and they cannot get out by working more.

The debt burden on millions upon millions of Americans increases, particularly student debt -- which is often literally criminal -- imposed by fraud and coercion.

Americans take on student debt as a means to "better themselves" through education, but in the end, millions have found there is nothing "better" to be had, there are few jobs for people with their education, and those that exist don't pay enough to pay off these odious debts.

This is again a matter of policy, not accident or divine will.

Poverty per se is not an intrinsically bad thing -- unless it leads to bad outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. In other words, one can live poor with dignity. But when being poor leads to injustice (as it does), destruction of lives and communities (as it does), and inability to secure a decent life (as it does), then living poor is a hazard at the least. Calls for lifting the brutal burdens of poverty are necessary.

On the other hand, economic growth per se can be and too often is a bad thing -- at least for the environment and for the legacy of the future.

Economic growth for its own sake is almost certain to be ruinous for the long-term well-being of the planet and its inhabitants though it may provide a comfortable cushion for the well-connected who seem to believe they'll be able to ride out any coming catastrophe.

What then is to be done?

If we allow as how perpetual economic growth is unsustainable and that forced impoverishment is deeply antithetical to the values we seek to enhance, then we need a creative solution to a fundamental dilemma.

We cannot have perpetual economic growth if we value the planet, yet forcing untold millions of people in the US and around the world into poverty is not a rational or reasonable answer. What should be done instead?

I  don't have an answer at this point. But the current situation is unsustainable. Something must be done, and it must be done soon.

What it will be, and whether it will be, is one of the questions for the ages....

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What's the Matter With Vallejo, and How Do You Fix It?

When I saw this story from March the other day while checking out Twit feeds from DeRay or Shaun King, I was gobsmacked. A single police officer has shot and killed three people under less than stellar circumstances and said officer is promoted to detective.

There have been demonstrations, quite a few of them, but the city on San Pablo Bay is not exactly up in arms about the rash of killings by this one officer, and the city administration is content to simply pull the veil over its actions and the actions of police in the hopes that soon enough passions will die down and business as usual will continue.

It's a mess, one of those typical messes that were once completely routine, and the reason why in so many cases, absolutely nothing was done to correct a system of policing that relied on brutality, violence and random lethal acts to maintain "order."

Since the protests began in Albuquerque last year and spread nationwide after the execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO in August, "business as usual" has been more and more difficult to maintain, but at the same time, police brutality, violence, and random killing seems to have increased rather than decreaed, and more and more, the media is focusing with utter horror on the very rare incidents of police encountering lethal force.

In other words, from a media perspective, it's still OK for civilians to be mowed down in their multitudes -- so long as it can be shown that they "deserve it" -- but it's horrific whenever a police officer meets a mortal fate in an encounter with a civilian.

Sigh. Plus ça change....

After all, a police officer's primary responsibility -- his job as it were -- is to go home to his family  each night,  right? 

If a few no-account scum have to die in order for that to happen, so. be. it.

End of story.

People believe this. They repeat it all the time. They seem to have no idea at all that people do not have to die at the hands of the police, that the officer's job is not to "go home to his family each night," or the killing has to stop -- and it can stop.

I've said before that sometimes the daily stories of police killings become ends in themselves, a kind of cop-porn/death-porn, with no suggestion at all that there might be alternatives to the constant killing. It's like there is a heavy investment in keeping the police killing spree going -- because it sells. 

Almost glee at each and every new atrocity; nary a hint that it doesn't have to be that way.

Vallejo is a strange, smallish Bay Area town on the edge of California's San Pablo Bay -- which connects with San Francisco Bay. It once hosted the workers at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. My grandfather (actually, my mother's step-father) worked there during WWII as a machinist helping to build ships sent to the Pacific Theatre. He and my grandmother lived in Vallejo. Both of them died before I was born, so I never had family in Vallejo.

My connection with the town is as a pass-thru place on the way to San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley or wherever the destination may have been in the Bay Area. I did some work there but not much, and I came away from it with an odd sense of disconnection.

The only claim to fame Vallejo has had since the shipyard closed in 1999 (or whenever it was) is an amusement park on the north side of town, one I've never been to, never had an urge to stop at -- though the roller coaster is visible from the freeway, and the highway to Napa and such passes right by the entrance.

I have been to the Solano County Fair at least once, maybe twice. I remember a knot of young cowboys spitting and cussing at the Fair while we enjoyed the livestock exhibits and the musical entertainment. Solano County is one of the areas of California which still can boast some real cowboys...

What I remember from working there briefly in the late-90s/early 2000s is that it was pretty rough edged, and the people tended to be as rough as the town. This was partly because it was one of the few places in the Bay Area where ordinary people could still afford to live, but that was changing fast. Living costs were going up fast, but with the closure of Mare Island, the opportunities to make a living were shrinking for many residents.

This transition was happening in many places in California at the time, and dislocated people were being left to fend for themselves. This led to a contemptuous police attitude toward people who might be on the edge of survival.

And so it seems to have been in Vallejo, where one police officer, Sean Kenny, has shot and killed time after time, in murky circumstances at best, and earned a promotion. Some have speculated that his promotion to detective was a clever way to get him off the street, but who knows?

As the death toll from police killings rises inexorably, it's been noticed that a relative handful of police are responsible for the the bulk of the killing, and in many cases the officers involved are repeat offenders. A pattern is beginning to emerge.

In Albuquerque, we noticed for example that a few officers appeared to be the delegated killers, snipers whose job  it was to kill suspects/subjects like James Boyd who refused to comply, or who otherwise complicated policing. Surprisingly -- or maybe not -- their names are often... "Sean."

Apparently this Sean Kenny in Vallejo was the delegated killer sent on calls where lethal force might be called for.

And so he killed, time after time.

And the police department did everything in their power to make sure the public had as little information as possible after the fact -- apparently to tamp down any likelihood of protest.

There were protests nonetheless, but they were (apparently) ineffective. Despite changes in staffing, the police, DA and the city manager's office are still in stonewall mode, simply refusing to provide the public with more than the sketchiest information, much of which is directly contradicted by eyewitnesses -- some of whom were never interviewed by investigators.

When police, DAs, and city managers collude to ensure the public has as little information as possible, it's not accidental. It happens because that's the policy decision made at the top. That decision is often made cynically -- because the "people" are viewed with condescension and contempt -- or it may be because of old-line traditions, "it's always been this way and we see no reason to change things...".

It may be due to a combination of factors. What seemed to have happened in Vallejo is that there was a culture clash between a largely white-rightist police force and city administration on the one hand and a shifting racial and economic demographic on the other made for tensions that authorities believed could only be relieved through use of force.

And so force was used, often and sometimes lethally.

So far as I can tell, it's still being used, frequently and inappropriately. The point being to keep those no-accounts in line.

When the economy of Vallejo collapsed after the closure of Mare Island, the city declared bankruptcy. It was traumatic for the city administration, and that trauma seemed to filter throughout the city's employees, including the police. But I somehow doubt the Vallejo police were ever measurably less violent prior to the trauma of bankruptcy.

Violent policing is a matter of policy. It is what is expected and demanded of officers in the field -- so as to maintain "order," don't you know.

You fix it by changing the policy.

In order to change the policy, you have to convince the Powers That Be that police policies MUST change.

To do that, you have to be a voice the police and the city administration (ie: city manager, not so much elected officials) believe they MUST listen to.

And who would that be? In most cities, it is the city's wealthiest and most financially potent individuals and interests.

They are the ones who tell the city manager what kind of policing they want.

The city manager tells the police chief who tells the rank and file.

And for the most part, they make it so.

The complication is that the wealthy and powerful talk to one another, city managers talk to one another, and police chiefs talk to one another. Sometimes a consensus is formed within each of these circles, and every now and then a consensus forms between them. Suddenly, "change happens." The public doesn't have to force anything into being, it just... is. Nor usually is the public consulted.

Policing policies are changing slowly, city by city, a process that is likely to take a generation or more, but there are also signs that consensus is being sought within the circles and then between them to -- potentially -- radically change policing from its current violent and deadly model to something more socially responsible and culturally sensitive.

Whether that will be any quicker than the city-by-city approach now under way is an open question.

Fixing policing policy in Vallejo is one of hundreds of "fixes" that need to be made. Resistance is certain. Yet overcoming that resistance is necessary.

Once the people at the top are convinced that further resistance is futile, the policies that enable violent policing and over-use of lethal force will change. Often the change comes overnight.