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There is a trend that is very troubling happening in our country; the police are increasingly violent and in many cases, seemingly out of control.
In New Mexico a Federal investigation is ongoing into a flurry of police shootings of unarmed people by policemen. One YouTube sequence shows a New Mexico cop shooting an unarmed, tee-shirted homeless man — in the back with an assault rifle.
One hundred ten people are arrested by a riot squad of helmeted, baton-weilding cops at McDonalds’ headquarters in St. Louis, MO, yesterday because they are complaining about low wages. (Follow this link for graphic photographs of the demonstrator/police confrontation.)
Each week another story breaks about some unarmed person being shot by police officers who seem to be on edge and nervous enough to shoot first and ask questions later.
And yet there are no Congressional hearings on the trend, no politicians shouting for changes, no mayors threatening police chiefs jobs.
Somehow we need to cause a change, or the people will rebel against not just the obvious oligarchy, but also the police forces that do their bidding.

The feeling that the police forces in the USA are more dedicated to protecting the investor class than it is dedicated to protecting the average citizen is increasing.
Several phenomenon lead to that impression:

1. Police are always on the side of business whenever there is a labor strike or a demonstration that complains about big business. One never sees them protecting demonstrators against the business interests. Never.
Even politicians get into the act when campaigning. During G.W Bush campaign for President, he had local police cordon off demonstrators in “free speech zones” fenced off and far from the venue in which he was speaking. No one charged his campaign with the obvious violations of the First Amendment clause guaranteeing freedom of the people to assemble along with a prohibition on government impinging on citizen’s freedom of political speech.
2. All policemen are armed with lethal weapons, whether they have need for being armed or not.
The tendency when frustrated is to pull that weapon out and threaten anyone with it that is making them uncomfortable. The distance between pulling the weapon and pulling the trigger is less than one-eighth of an inch.
3. Citizens are armed themselves these days with cameras in cel phones, on dashboards and ubiquitous security cameras, so that police violence incidents are much more often recorded and displayed on publicly viewed web sites. Being under the microscope, with his actions recorded so often can make a cop more nervous and insecure.
It can also hold policemen to the standard they profess, “Protect and Serve.” It can give them the cover to be prudent and disciplined in their actions.
4. Police unions always protect the policemen. So do Internal Affairs departments. Coverups are, if not prevalent, hidden away from public view so there is no way to judge their frequency, nor the unit’s efficiency and efficacy. Do Internal Affairs units do their job? There is no way for us to tell, is there? Their reports are all ‘internal,’ and are not made public.
Mayors and police chiefs worry way too much about police morale and the reputation of the force as a whole and lean over backward to protect violators from any accountability. Policemen who shoot unarmed people for non-violent acts or by mistake are rarely punished nor even prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Police Favoring Business Over Citizens

The first problem of police bias against citizenry acting in masses over any social, economic or legal situation is largely caused by the nature of police forces. They are formed by governments and bureaucrats, largely without citizen input. They may answer to politicians elected by the people, but are not directly answerable to the people in any way. They are under the power of the political powers that run the county, town or city.
Some Sheriff’s are elected, sure, but then you rarely see sheriff deputies harassing demonstrators.
Politicians are elected by voters, but they are made eligible for election by the moneyed interests within the jurisdiction. Political campaigns cost big money, and that money comes from those with money to spare for obtaining such power. That means the big businesses in that jurisdiction have more voice in how the police department is run than you and I have.
So if a crowd of citizens forms outside of McDonald’s headquarters in St. Louis, embarrassing the company and threatening to give it bad publicity, you can bet the police department will respond to the McDonald’s CEO asking for the cops to disperse the crowd and arrest the leaders of the demonstration.
And you can bet the judges hearing the charges against those citizens who were demonstrating for a fair wage will also answer to the McDonald’s CEO before considering what you or I think about the issue.

Armed Cops

The second problem, that of policemen always being armed, is tricky. Some nations do not traditionally and constantly arm their police forces, though they have weapons handy if needed. Britain, among other European countries, comes to mind. Shootings by the police of civilians is much, much less in Britain than in the USA, when balanced for population.
In addition, the police have a societal expectation in the USA that they shall be armed. Since the days of Wyatt Earp, lawmen have always been armed here. In addition, the populace is armed here, a rarity among civilized nations. Only in the USA do citizens believe they have a right to carry a gun. And citizens argue vociferously over the issue, so we cannot deign to solve it here.
Suffice it to say that policemen are always armed, and that makes it difficult for them not to use deadly force when they feel vulnerable.

Citizens Recording Police Actions

The third issue, that police violence is being revealed more often today than ever before, is a real issue. It brings to mind whether police violence is indeed increasing, or whether we just see more evidence of a traditional trend because of the proliferation of recording devises.
Most certainly the ubiquitous cameras and recording devices help bring these issues to the public’s eye.
But now that we know the extent of the problem, what are we going to do about it?

Self-Policing

The fourth problem of policemen policing policemen is caused by the silly idea that the police can police themselves without bias or favoritism, an idea that has not worked for the AMA, the ADA, the ABA, the SEC, the CIA, the FBI nor any other self-policing profession or association.
And it does not work at all for police forces. The old rule of conflict of interest rules supreme in police forces. People cannot be depended upon to be honestly critical of their brethren within a profession, association or organization. It is too much to ask and too much to expect.
Investigations of an organization must always be performed by an independent and uninvolved organization completely outside of that organization that is dedicated only to strictly enforcing the law. Internal investigations must, by definition, always be tainted by being inside of that organization.

The Solution?

The solution is to provide the funds to form an independent agency tasked with investigating police effectiveness, malfeasance, bias, corruption and violence. Since that is a bit much to ask of most towns and small cities, it should be at least a state level agency, fully staffed and equipped for the task.
It also should have a strong citizen reporting mechanism, where citizens can post recorded evidence and testimony without being censored or stifled by the local police force.
At present the only really effective mechanism for exposing police malfeasance is the social media, (Facebook, YouTube, among others), primarily on the internet.
Those sites could easily be modified to include sites for a state-wide investigative agency dedicated to keeping local police forces honest, effective and citizen-friendly.

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Comment Preferences

  •  started with (6+ / 0-)

    border militarization years ago- wait it started with the drug war decades ago. Wait! It started with anti-union massacres a hundred years ago. No, it started with the slave laws hundreds of years ago.
    Thank you for the essay.
    The lawn order industry- prisons, arms, drugs, SWAT, is far too entrenched and connected to be stopped now.
    Name one place in the world, let alone the USA, where a highly militarized police force has been scaled back.
    Never happen.
    We just have to live with it.
    It hate to say it, but the Americans got what they wanted, and "never saw this coming".

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Thu May 22, 2014 at 03:56:15 PM PDT

    •  I disagree. It used to be 'Pinkertons' rather than (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gfv6800, mookins, old mule, macguru

      uniformed cops, but there have often been small, private armies that had to be disbanded. We can do this. Again.

      I do agree that we've let it go way too long, tho. And that it gets harder the longer we put off dealing with it .

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
      ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

      by FarWestGirl on Thu May 22, 2014 at 06:18:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  hope you are right. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl

        But if the courts provide no recourse, and the laws are rigged, then what?
        Just the number of mentally ill people killed by police every year...America is a rough place. Generations of movies and TV have taught us that violence is the only effective means of conflict resolution.
        I wish there was a solution. But if there is, it is so far off, and so utopian and difficult that it seems impossible to me.
        I just read that there are 13 times more of the mentally ill in jail or prison in the USA than in mental institutions. and the racial disparity in prison? and just the vast numbers of Americans in prison?
        No, we made this bed and now we have to sleep in it.

        I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

        by old mule on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:21:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Actaully, Bush leeft a trail of court cases (4+ / 0-)

    behind him, each saying that what he did with the free speech zones was illegal, but the event was over so no redress was available.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu May 22, 2014 at 03:58:52 PM PDT

  •  another thing, dammit, (2+ / 0-)

    courts have held for meany years that the psychiatric records of police officers are secret and usually cannot be used in trial evidence.  Why is that?
    Years ago before the net was invented I decided to make a little xeroxed book called, "Have you ever known anyone who became a cop?"
    I expected some stories, but holy shit!
    The best one was a lady applying to the Oakland CA PD- "A black girl cut my throat when I was in 9th grade, and I swore I'd be a cop some day".
    I got dozens of "Oh yeah he was really weird in high school, he got picked on all the time" and "He got hit in a football game and urinated in his pants in front of everyone. The next time I saw him he was a Minnesota Highway Patrol officer".
    Wish I still had a copy of it.

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Thu May 22, 2014 at 05:34:59 PM PDT

  •  I was in the grocery story last Sunday morning... (5+ / 0-)

    I walked into the bakery section and saw a local cop.

    I won't challenge or question why he was there, I lack the information. By his behavior, it was very obvious he was on official business. My guess is that the store spotted a regular shoplifter and summoned him. That's fine.

    The problem I had was how the cop was attired. Or should I say militarized. All black (it was bleeding hot and sunny out). I literally attempted to count the guns and various gadgets affixed to him. I lost count. I swear to you.

    He looked to be better armed and equipped that the soldiers I see on the news patrolling Afghanistan. Before someone says "but he may have been after a dangerous criminal" let me tell you I see them outfitted like that all over our fair city. Even "crowd control" at the farmer's market.

    I live in a quiet suburb. There's little violent crime. The cops used to be able to police it in normal cop attire. Blue suit. Side arm. Yes, body armor--but under the uniform shirt.

    What is happening? Why is it suddenly necessary to dress cops up in military gear out of some B-movie set in the future?

    Sorry, I don't get it. It's overkill. My father was a cop for 37 years. He didn't dress up like a character in a video game. He would have hated that, felt a fool. And he still managed to be a very good cop.

    •  Interesting; (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Eyewitness Muse, macguru

      Which gets me to thinking about millennial generation cops. They grew up in the era of violent online video games, with the "good guy" wearing all sorts of tactical gear and uniforms. Then they get hired on as cops with a gamer's mindset, growing up social misfits by spending an inordinate amount of time not socially connecting with anyone but with online gaming communities instead of with real people. Then, fast forward to a critical incident, where perhaps good dialogue would have prevented a problem, they are instead shooting first. Maybe this could be a factor in this horrifying trend of fatal shootings; that their perception of life and death is not really real; but really distorted. I was just thinking...SSK

      "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards UID 194838

      by Santa Susanna Kid on Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:43:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We so easily forget . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    macguru

    . . . that cops are our enemy.  Police doing something good for somebody is such an anomaly that it amounts to an urban legend.

  •  Welcome to 1875-1935 (0+ / 0-)

    redux.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Thu May 22, 2014 at 06:25:13 PM PDT

  •  Awry? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    macguru

    "Awry" as a term implies unintended or accidental.  Not at all.  Violent police domination is an essential component of police training as it is conducted coast to coast.  The operational doctrine is "dominance from the moment of first contact".  This precludes any time or effort on the part of police to inquire about the particulars of a situation.  That's how, for instance, it comes to be that a deaf man is beaten continuously by cops for over 7 minutes for failing to answer their questions.  Their doctrine taught them to assume immediate dominance, and not take the 30 seconds it would have been necessary to determine the citizen's disability.  

    Secondly, police are not generally drawn from the ranks of the brightest in our society.  Teach them to assert dominance, and for almost all of them, that can only possibly mean to use force.  At the very least spittle-flying outbursts of vulgar abuse.

    There are no "bad apples".  Our cops are doing exactly what we pay them to do, what we pay to have them trained to do. That's not "awry", that's America getting exactly what it wants, nay, demands.

    Pay no attention to the upward redistribution of wealth!

    by ActivistGuy on Thu May 22, 2014 at 11:58:59 PM PDT

  •  Not to mention that... (0+ / 0-)

    It seems every 'police force' from a burg of 200 population or more has a 'swat team', many proudly on display in photographs decked out in full military gear, including assault weapons.

    And then there was/is the transfer of DoD 'surplus' to police forces, including armored personnel carriers.  (Wonder if that includes LAW's , grenade launchers, .50 cal mg's, .50 cal Barret's, etc.?)

    Several years ago (was in the news), Miami patrol officers were equipped with M-16's (or variants) in their vehicles.  I suppose this was in addition to pump shotguns with 00-buck loads.

    Aside from weaponry and militarized gear, for years and years, police have collectively and increasingly violated civil rights and Constitutional protections, without censure.  Lower courts uphold them (police), and those most often the victims usually do not have the resources to fight back.

    Then again, there is outright criminal behavior by police which largely goes unpunished, such a property seizure (usually money) incident to such things as even traffic stops.  (Honestly, I am not in favor of 'property seizures' , even 'legal' ones. as they are currently conducted without even any semblance of 'due process'.)

    But police abuses are only the tip of the iceberg for an increasingly corrupt and abusive legal/justice system.  IMO, citizens are generally unsafe from police abuse, and those with lesser means are increasingly at risk.  There seems to be little recourse, unless, of course, you are wealthy.  (Yes, there generally two systems of justice, one for the general populace, and one for the wealthy.)

    Life is not a 'dress rehearsal'!

    by wgard on Fri May 23, 2014 at 12:50:01 AM PDT

    •  Cop lives in my neighborhood (0+ / 0-)

      A local cop lives in the tiny subdivision, way out in the woods where I own a house.
      The police here space out their cops so there is always one living within a couple of blocks of everyone.
      This guy practices with his 60 cal on weekends sometimes, firing from his back yard toward the woods. It scares the dogs so much they must be let inside because it is louder than the sonic booms from a nearby airbase.
      I agree this article just scratches the surface, which was my intention, to scratch the itch and see if anyone responded. Thanks for doing so.

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