Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cops -- and the Grand Juries and Prosecutors Who Protect Them -- Are Ruining Things for Cops

Something I've been thinking about ever since the Trayvon Martin case was followed hard by a seemingly endless stream of homicides by white citizens and white cops, whether they be "stand your ground" incidents or cop killings in the line of duty is that death by uncalled-for violence of people of color is clearly out of control. I don't know if it's because it's happening more or if more attention is being drawn because of expanding media, social or otherwise.

Many of the civilian-on-reckless-youth killings have led to indictments and convictions, as if somehow George Zimmerman became the last one that's going to get away with murder. That's been a hopeful development.

But the failure to indict Darren Wilson -- and now the failure to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Staten Island incident exposed by the above video -- has led to a growing sense that the system is rigged to let cops off the hook.

Tell me, why in the world would anyone get that idea?

Just to be clear, the choke hold used against Garner has been illegal for police officers since 1993 because it has a tendency to kill people, and the coroner had ruled Garner's death a homicide.

This video showed the following, according to
Three experts in police procedures find fault with the Cleveland police officers involved in the Nov. 22 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice for pulling their cruiser so close to someone whom they believed was armed.
The experts, contacted Tuesday by Northeast Ohio Media Group, each concluded from viewing surveillance video of the shooting that the officers should have maintained a greater distance between their cruiser and Tamir.
"The tactics were very poor," said David Thomas, senior research fellow for the Police Foundation. "If the driver would have stopped a distance away so that the primary officer wasn't right there to get involved in shooting, it may have played out differently."
Surveillance footage shows a cruiser driven by sixth-year officer Frank Garmback cut across the grass in front of a gazebo at a West Side Cleveland park and roll within feet of Tamir, and first-year officer Timothy Loehmann shooting Tamir within seconds from an open passenger door.
What are the chances that this officer will be indicted for homicide in this senseless killing of a 12-year-old black kid? The chances are slim to none.

Why in the world would anyone get that idea?

Look, I'm going to put the best spin I can on this thing. Like I said at the top that I've been thinking about something as all these events unfold, and that's that our country, in spite of the tumult of hate, racism, and outright panic and flailing about caused by the rapidly changing mores of the U.S., is going through a positive set of growing pains, the scope and likes of which I've never seen in my life, with the possible exception of the 60s and 70s.

What's going on now, though, seems to be traveling at hyper-speed. Let's look at what's been happening:
  • A black man (black man!) is elected president.
  • Don't ask, don't tell ends in the military.
  • Medical marijuana expands to several more states, and outright legalization spreads from Washington state, to Colorado, to Washington DC.
  • An all-out assault on mandatory minimum sentencing begins, with California scraping much of its three-strikes law while also knocking down mandatory minimum sentencing -- which is often used against drug offenders.
  • Same-sex marriage spreads like wild fire, engulfing more than 30 states.
  • An exposé about asset seizure laws being abused by law enforcement across the country points out that cops not only get their hands on massive amounts of property and cash -- whether any proof of a crime is ever even alleged, let alone charged -- but also rely on these seized assets for a continuing and substantial part of their annual budgets. Continued scrutiny of this abuse of discretion shows what a scandal it is and may, hopefully, lead to its curtailment.
  • With the legalization of marijuana and the rejection of over-incarceration of drug offenders, the whole notion of our War on Drugs -- a colossal failure by anyone's measure -- is coming under heightened scrutiny. How long will that madness continue? And how full of non-violent drug offenders do our prisons have to be?
  • Stop-and-frisk is on the ropes in several cities and is curtailed in NYC.
  • In spite of -- and possibly because of -- the all-out attacks by Christian conservative groups on the PPACA's provision of free contraceptive services to women, women will probably end up with these reproductive rights, anyway. What we're seeing is only the classic death throes of the end of white male privilege and dominance in relationships. Women will win this one.
  • That doesn't mean that women's rights are on the ascendancy, but the re-invigorated war on sexual assault, most notably on college campuses, seems to indicate a step toward correcting this massive wrong against half of our population.
  • Though income inequality has its supporters (what??), it is attracting more attention, and we may yet see a return to the kind of progressive taxation practices that served us well in our high-growth decades in the post-war period while financing one of the greatest pushes for infrastructure across the land, as well as promoting the idea of the public good being the focus of an advanced society.
I may be overly optimistic -- how can I appear to be anything but, given how discouraging much of the recent news has been -- but I see us as a society approaching a critical mass, a "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" inflection point. True, there's another side of this dynamic at play, the gun-loving, gay-bashing, blacks-are-the-real-racists, liberals-just-want-government-to-control-our-lives conservative, white, Christian males who support cops for killing blacks because, uh, the blacks are the thugs, the blacks are the takers who just want their Obama phones and flat-screen TVs and refrigerators fer chrissake!?!! And the gays? Ugh! And the Latinos? They want our American jobs!!

Don't tell the conservatives that we stole a huge part of Mexico back in the 1800s, and they're just reclaiming it. They're the Social Darwinists after all, it turns out. They don't like evolution except for the survival of the fittest part, most especially because they think they will survive. Well, guess what?

Maybe not. And that frightens them.

This reminds me of the Gandhi saying: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

As for the cops, which started this whole rumination, they're ruining it for themselves. If they'd have been a little less arrogant, a little less violent, a little less obvious in their contempt for social justice, their blatant racism and hair-trigger sense of justice wouldn't have doomed them to be, I don't know, so obviously, completely found out. But they are so busted, and now every time they screw up, the pressure will build until every cop in the land will be looking over their shoulders, worrying who's filming them, and increasingly it will be themselves.

Thanks, cops, we're on to you. Now start behaving.

And this is not happening in isolation. More videos, more outrage on Twitter, more taking to the streets. More lapel cams. More transparency.

The cop party may be over, and we'll all be the safer for it.

Police made the streets look like this. You fucked it up for yourselves. Thank god.

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