Monday, April 9, 2018

A Spate of Police Killings Hits the News

[Note: as this hiatus continues, I've been going to physical therapy to try to deal with my increasing left-side lameness. Mixed results: able to walk a bit better most of the time, but various hip and back pains following treatments suggest the onset of sciatica -- which the therapist acknowledged might be triggered. What a drag it is getting older...]

There's been a fairly regular spate of police killings in the news lately, reminding me a bit of the coverage uptick after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, MO, all those years ago. (Can it be almost four years now?) Of course, it was the shooting of James Boyd in Albuquerque in March of 2014 that set off numerous protests, not just of his killing by police, but of dozens of killings over the previous few years. I was involved in some of those protests though not as much as I might have wanted to be -- thanks to my lameness even then.

The killing of Stephon Clark in his grandmother's Sacramento backyard was very disturbing. I didn't know him, but I know the Meadowview neighborhood where it happened, and it's easy to imagine how terrifying the whole thing has been. Meadowview is not an easy place to live, but many people who live there have no choice. They have been pushed out of other neighborhoods, either through gentrification or because of some stain on their records.

I understand Stephon's grandmother had lived in the neighborhood for decades, and for all the trouble with the law Stephon had been in, he was a potential community leader with a magnetic personality and a vibrant presence who was "turning his life around."

This is a common enough story in many communities of color throughout the nation. What's also common is that up and coming black male community leaders are intentionally or accidentally targeted for elimination.

This seems to be an "accidental" elimination perpetrated by a couple of panicked cops on the hunt for someone who was reported to be breaking car, truck and house windows. They found a Negro who they thought had a gun and blasted away at him until he was a riddled mess of bullet holes and then let him bleed out until he was dead, dead, dead.

In New York, Saheed Vassell, well-know to be a harmless kook in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, was shot down pretty much on sight by specialist crew of killer cops deployed because of reports of a Negro with a gun threatening people on the streets.

In American society, cops consider an armed Negro or the report of an armed Negro -- doesn't have to be with a gun -- to be an existential threat to be neutralized promptly. Saheed was reported to have a gun. He didn't, but it didn't matter. The reports were sufficient, and apparently cops are not trained or required to ascertain the truth of the matter; in the case of Saheed, they were deployed to kill, which is what they did, BAM, BAM, BAM. Dead.

There was a recent incident in Portland, OR, in which a deranged white man, said to be armed with a knife, was being hunted by police based on accusations of a carjacking earlier in the day and a wreck of said car on the poor side of town. Man enters homeless shelter, shirtless and acting bizarre. He has a knife and (apparently) is threatening to kill himself with said knife. Police converge, man is cornered and (according to reports) man starts stabbing himself in the neck. Police "deploy lethal force." Man is "deceased."

And so it goes. It should be stated this goes on all the time. More than a thousand times a year, every year (looks to be even more this year) are killed by police, and some of these killings become news items that garner a lot of attention nationally and internationally. The US has a widely recognized problem with gun violence, police killings and mass shootings, a problem that seems completely intractable on some levels, is rather easily dealt with on others.

Police killings are an issue because the officers involved are almost never held to criminal account, are rarely even reprimanded by their departments. Many times, officers who kill -- regardless of circumstances -- are rewarded and hailed as heroes, in part because police consultants like David Grossman and William Lewinsky have been going around the country for decades telling police that killing the Bad Guy is their highest accomplishment, and they'll have the "best sex of their lives" afterwards. No lie.

Many of these killings are nothing but summary executions disproportionately afflicting black,  brown, and poor white subjects, many suffering mental health crises for which no treatment or services are available. Obviously something is wrong but supposedly nothing can be done about it.

Much like periodic episodes of mass shooting, it's just something Americans have to live with as "the price of freedom." Or something.

It's happened so much for so long, I believe we're dealing with deliberate, cynical and cruel policies of murder/mayhem that are intended to keep the Rabble in fear and helplessness... Over and over again, the Rabble are shown that they cannot rely on police or officials to protect them; over and over again, they are shown that they are helpless in the face of American Gunners. Over and over again, they are shown that they are targets of whoever wants to target them, and there is nothing they can do about it.

So here we are, again.

And what do we do about it? Ideally we change it, but our policy makers don't seem to be interested. They're satisfied with things as they are (except for the movements and demonstrations that arise). A relatively steady number of police killings, infrequent but increasingly deadly mass murders, constant low-level gang and other murders, constant suicide by gun, all of it just fine with our Overclass -- because it never (or very rarely) affects them. It is always something for the Lower Orders to deal with. Too bad if they can't.

I'm too old and infirm to have much of an effect on these things anymore, but I hope and pray the young folks will make the changes necessary. As many people have testified in the recent cases, "We know what's wrong and we know what to do about it."


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