Tuesday, October 4, 2016

So the Question is Why? Why Does This Keep Happening?

Victim blamers are a significant portion of those who post on the intertubes, as are compliance fetishists. I noticed this many years ago, somewhat to my shock, since supposedly the intertubes were a bastion for free-thinkers, liberationists and outright libertarians, generally "left-leaning" whatever that meant.

But so many of those who posted on message boards and internet fora were deeply imbued with an authoritarian spirit, no matter what they professed to be their politics, and they practically worshipped at the feet of police and military (thus the pejorative, "bootlicker.")  We've all heard of "Comply or Die" as the underground motto of the police. It was clear that many of those who posted to the internet were dedicated followers of just that belief.

Of course these things are skewed because the internet is attractive to certain kinds of people, not so much to others. How representative the internet is of the general population is hard to know. It seems to be quite a cesspool at times and I'd rather not believe that it is representative of much more than a tiny segment of the population. But what do I know?

Meanwhile the killing by police continues seemingly unabated. WTF? Other murders also continue seemingly without let up, no matter the violence of the police -- or perhaps partly because of it. That's a separate but related topic. It's related in part because police are modeling violent reaction to disrespect and disobedience which has a ripple-effect in society, particularly in affected communities. But it is a separate topic I might be able to get to in another post.

Scholars have pointed out that the number and rate of police killings  (and killings of police) is WAY down compared to earlier times, as are murders in general. Despite appearances, this is actually a far less violent era all around than -- say -- the idyllic '50s I grew up in. I'm aware of that from personal experience. I was shot twice when I was a kid, and many other kids I knew went through worse. My mother was practically raped by a neighbor. There was much more general violence of all kinds in society and in US enterprises overseas -- where wars, overt and covert, were a constant. While I use the '50s as a nostalgic touchstone, I don't romanticize the era. It could be and often was rough. Just to note, we lived in relatively quiet, in some cases new suburban neighborhoods that were considered then and are considered now to be typical lower-middle class to middle-middle class, not in poor or notorious neighborhoods at all.

Crime was not so much an issue in part because not so many acts and activities were criminalized, and there wasn't such an intense need to punish rather than rehabilitate those who violated the law. Filling the prisons was not considered necessary or wise. On the other hand, mental health facilities were prevalent and often full to bursting. While we decry the absence of mental health care facilities in today's society -- and the substitution of punishment and imprisonment and summary execution for what's missing -- we may not understand how the mental health care system was formerly used -- abused? -- as a kind of warehouse for those who didn't "fit in" to society, as well as warehousing all kinds of genuinely mentally ill and mentally challenged individuals. The system was not exactly a prison system, but very often the inmates could not leave the asylum. Many were there for life. And in the '50s that meant that millions were being held indefinitely or for life, many more millions were cycling in and out of the system.

That system held about twice the number of today's vast prison system, 4 million as opposed to 2 million. It is often claimed that half or more of those in prison today are mentally ill, and that American prisons and jails are used as substitutes for mental health facilities (absent "care") far more than they are used to house criminals.

That's one reason why I think we see so much violence in policing -- even though it's less objectively violent than it once was, just as society as a whole is less violent. The problem is that the typical police -- and "corrections" -- response to disobedience, misbehavior, and signs of mental illness is punishment/violence. There is no alternative except death.

They'll either beat you bloody, electrocute you,  or they'll kill you. They have no other viable options for control. They do not have or use de-escalation tactics, they do not know any way except through dominance to approach someone in the midst of a mental/emotional crisis, and they are conditioned not to have empathy or compassion for those in crisis -- particularly if they disobey "lawful orders."

Lack of obedience together with "furtive movements" -- the infamous "reaching for his waistband" -- is interpreted as an existential threat to be neutralized, and that generally means killing the subject (not at that point a human being, only a subject.)

Police are trained and conditioned to react to visual/verbal cues, react almost robotically, no matter the objective reality of the situation. When they detect particular cues, they will kill. If they don't they might be fired from their jobs or otherwise disciplined. That's the reality of the field of policing. Let's not fool ourselves.

Internet apologists will say that all the individual has to do is "obey" and nothing bad will happen to them, forgetting (conveniently) that people in crisis or otherwise disabled cannot necessarily obey promptly or at all, and that even people with their wits about them cannot promptly or properly obey contradictory shouted "commands."

If police are determined to kill you, they will, no matter what you do or don't do, and they will generally get away with it.

Disobedience is a cue to take more domineering or violent action, but obedience will not necessarily save you, as so many individuals find out.

But why do police so often only have domineering or violent -- or deadly -- options, when there are so many more effective an positive alternatives available, alternatives that are based on a respect for the sanctity of human life.

It has to do with how they are expected to see their role in civic life post-Columbine and post-9/11.

This is due essentially to the ravings of two consultants and their teams who go around to police departments all over the country lecturing and training on concepts of use of force and killing.

These men, (Dr.) Bill Lewinski, and (Lt. Col.) Dave Grossman, are probably more responsible for the current state of violent policing than any other two individuals in the country. And they're proud of it.

They make no apologies whatever for the death dealing and violence that goes on every day in police work. They celebrate it, and they defend and celebrate the killers. No matter who they kill or under what circumstances. They are reaching their highest level of accomplishment when they kill -- according to Grossman. And they are serving the public by killing according to Lewinski. Every killing by police is defensible, necessary and ultimately for the good of all. They are removing threats, wolves as Grossman calls them, who would otherwise be preying on the sheep (ie: you 'n' me) . Every kill is a good kill, without exception. After all, a sheepdog would never kill without reason or necessity, no? Even when, sometimes, a sheep is caught up in the crossfire or targeted. No one who is killed by police is truly innocent in any case. All are worthy of death for one reason or other, without exception. They are criminals and threats, now or in the past, and society has no place for the likes of them. None.

This is what Grossman and Lewinski teach. It's what they believe. And it is a belief shared by enormous numbers of cops and chiefs of police and sheriffs and public officials throughout the land. It is the interior culture of policing, indeed, the interior culture of rule. More importantly, it is a belief shared by elites, Our Betters as it were, almost universally.

You and I, the Rabble, have no right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, no rights at all that police are bound to respect, once you or I are targeted for liquidation. And when they decide to kill, there is essentially nothing we can do to stop them from carrying out their bounden duty.

Many of the examples of police killings we've seen recently demonstrate that belief as clearly as possible. Some are outright murder/summary executions, others are a little more complex, involving stages of force but inevitably leading straight to the morgue. "There is no alternative" once police have decided to kill their quarry. And that's a truism. Once the decision is made, they will kill, guaranteed.

We hear a lot about "split second decisions" but it is rarely that way at all. Police will go into a contact/confrontation having already decided to kill, or sometimes they are designated to do just that. Police departments all over the country employ snipers and shooters whose job it is to kill. When they are deployed, that's what they do. It is not a "split-second" thing at all; their deployment is itself the "decision" to use lethal force.

In other cases, beat cops or special purpose cops -- who are not necessarily or ordinarily assigned to kill -- take it upon themselves to "neutralize the threat" (ie: kill) based on what they are told via dispatch or their supervisors. That is not a "split-second" decision at all; it is a built in requirement of their dispatch to the scene. (Cf: John Crawford III, Tamir Rice and others, killed on sight without the least consideration of the facts but based solely on reports which are often inaccurate or downright false, sometimes purposely so.)

We could go on and on listing other incidents -- recent and historic -- where police kill and get away with it when there is no objective threat to them or anyone else. That's not the point of this post, however. Instead I'm not looking so much at what happens as why it happens, and why it is so difficult to change the pattern of police killings.

Inherent bias and racism is a fundamental and apparently intractable part of the problem of policing in general as well as police killings. The proportion of black and brown men killed by police is way out of proportion to their population, and it is due largely to training and conditioning which assumes a threat from these populations -- and to inherent cultural bias and racism that is fostered in society and particularly within police culture. There is no greater threat to police and society in general than raging and armed white men, but police typically approach them with deference. Black and brown men on the other hand are seen a inherent and existential threats by their nature. They are approached aggressively and often lethally with no recourse for the victim at all. This is racism and cultural bias, but it is also something else: it is a demonstration of Othering, something that is very deep seated in American culture and society.

Black and brown men, especially, are not seen by police as full "members" of society, and they are typically seen as inherently threatening to the "good order" of that society, no matter what they do or don't do.

There are other categories of the population who are "Othered" in the same way, and they are often treated as badly or worse by police, but it is the constant killing of black and brown men by police that gets the majority of the attention. That's not inappropriate at all, though I sometimes see complaints that this or that white victim of police is not being highlighted or featured by the media, and it's so "unfair!!!!" No it isn't, and no these incidents are not ignored. The problem is the proportion of police killings is vastly greater among black and brown victims, and no, it is not because they are all criminals nor does it have anything directly to do with crime in their communities. It generally has absolutely nothing to do with previous accusations or convictions -- often cited in excusing the killing of a black or brown victim -- because police typically don't know anything about that when they kill, and even if they did, it should have no bearing on their current encounter.

I was going to post some videos of Lewinski and Grossman raving about the "science" of their kill--think, but it's really sickening to me. But if you're interested just google up Dave Grossman and Bill Lewinski and you'll find plenty of information and probably hundreds of videos between them. Their poison theories and "science" is a major driving factor in police killings. Changing the situation requires discrediting their bizarre and crazy theories and beliefs, but it also requires putting in place viable alternatives.

That's a subject for another post.

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