Nov 23

Cops—Us versus “Them”

In Brief—Few are the days when the news doesn’t report the deaths of suspects, sometimes innocents, at the hands of police. In a nation bulging at the seams from guns, the deaths of humans, whether the shooters are our neighbors or the officers on the beat, demands a solution. Do we have the will to change this ongoing tragedy?

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A License to Kill—

A reliable source who grew up with a police officer step-father who later taught Police Science has said that he was not only an authoritarian who relied on denigration and psychological games, his students were frequently “spooky” types looking for the power to dominate others. It is confirmation of numerous studies showing at least—at least—inadequate psychological screening and a lack of adequate training of potential police officers.

Coast to coast, north to south, we too often see police officers killing unarmed people and justifying the killing by saying that they were in fear for their lives or were defending others. Just one recent example of this is a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer killing an unarmed black 18-year-old who, according to several witnesses, had his hands up and was attempting to surrender.

Although the case is reportedly still under state and federal investigation, it shows a disturbing picture of law enforcement. The Grand Jury, a “secret” and one-sided proceeding, has been presented by a notably police-friendly prosecutor who allowed Officer Wilson to present his version without rebuttal. Furthermore, the Missouri governor refused to appoint an independent prosecutor. A leak says the Grand Jury is alleged to have found that Officer Wilson who killed the youth was “in fear for his life.” Yeah, right. Abundant evidence clearly refutes this interpretation thereby showing that prosecutors can be part of the problem.

There’s no question that being a police officer is one of the most important jobs in America. The police are charged with the responsibility of protecting ALL of the citizens of America’s communities as well as investigating an array of crimes and preserving the peace. In short, they are there to protect and to serve.

Unfortunately, they are underpaid, taken for granted and placed in stressful environments without adequate training or preparation for the job they are expected to perform. It should not surprise you that too many police officers, seeing only the excitement and the power they wield over others, succumb to the temptation to exercise their power in an abusive manner.

On top of this is the racism and nativism, conscious and subconscious, that arises from America’s history of slavery and immigration. It’s to be expected that low pay and inadequate training will combine with societal maladies such as racism to produce the widespread dysfunction that we see today.

Examples—

Here are some shocking examples illustrating the dysfunction that exists in America.

John Crawford, a black man of Beavercreek, Ohio, was shot in July of 2014 by police officers in a Walmart when he was innocently holding a toy gun he was considering buying. He was unarmed.

Ezell Ford of Los Angeles, California, was shot several times in the back and killed by a police officer who allegedly shot the unarmed black man while he was on the ground and complying with the officer’s demands. The victim was known to have mental problems. This occurred in July of 2014.

Eric Garner of New York was suspected of selling loose cigarettes in July of 2014 when he was killed by a police officer who applied a fatal choke hold to the unarmed black victim who had surrendered and was on the ground.

Sean Bell, a black youth of Queens, New York, was standing with friends outside a strip club on his wedding day in March of 2012 when he was shot and killed by police officers who have since been fired for the unlawful and senseless killing.

Amadou Diallo, a recent West African immigrant without any criminal record and unarmed, was deliberately shot and killed in the doorway of his Bronx, New York apartment in February of 1999.

Akai Gurley, an unarmed man who had just had his hair braided, was shot in the chest and killed Thursday, November 20, 2014, in Brooklyn, New York by Officer Peter Liang, a probationary officer. The New York Police Deprtment claims that Officer Liang’s gun “accidentally” discharged. If there was no threat, then why was the officer’s gun out? This is yet another questionable killing by untrained police officers.

These are just a few of the numerous instances of unarmed innocent black men being killed by police officers. Interestingly, there are no statistics on such killings in the many records on police shootings. Why?

What about unarmed Hispanics?

Rafael Laureano was “accidentally” shot in the back in October of 2014 in Brooklyn, New York, when he came to help police deal with a man who was threatening a former girlfriend. The other man, armed with a knife, was also killed by police.

Manuel Diaz of Anaheim, California, was shot in the back and the head by a police officer as the victim and others ran away from a slow-moving unmarked car that happened to be carrying the police officer. The following day, in July of 2012, police wounded several people, including children, who were angrily protesting the previous day’s killing of the unarmed man.

Israel Hernandez Llach an 18-year-old award-winning Colombian art student who had recently received his approval papers from the Immigration Department was tased to death in August of 2013 by Miami Beach, Florida police officers who found him drawing the letter R on the side of an abandoned McDonald’s. The officer responsible for the youth’s death had several previous complaints of having used excessive force and had been suspended once.

Eli Escobar, age 14, was “accidentally” shot and killed in 2003 by a Houston, Texas rookie police officer who was reported to be inadequately trained. Houston (i.e., the taxpayers) paid a million and a half dollars to the boy’s parents for his unjustified killing.

This is just a tiny fraction of police killings because, as noted earlier, there are no statistics kept on unjustified killings by police officers. Tellingly, the shootings of innocents and suspects—I repeat, SUSPECTS—involve people of color far in excess of their percentages of the overall population. Query: does this reflect inadequate training or racism? There is no excuse for either.

To Protect and to Serve is too often a license to kill. As stated earlier, the causes are there. It is a deep stain on America. Isn’t it past time to do something to remedy this?

Readers are invited to see my piece, “Justice? What Justice?!”

13 comments

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  1. It’s truly a sad state of affairs and is not likely to change in the near future. Racial and ethnic divides seem to be widening rather than narrowing in recent times, and a mind-set among many police officers that a suspect must be guilty, prompts reactions that all to often lead to the field implemented of a sentence that does not fit the crime.
    I suppose better training can help, but I also suggest that far too many power-mad egocentrics seek to become police officers. There are many good and well intentioned officers as well, but it only takes a few bad apples, as they say.

      • Don Bay on November 24, 2014 at 13:16
        Author

      Well said. While there are still many responsible police officers, there are far too many sociopaths—as my source points out—who are more than willing to act as judge, jury and executioner. The militarization of the nation’s police forces coupled with inadequate training and abysmal screening to weed out racists and sociopaths inevitably lead to what we see far too often today.

      Unfortunately, your view that there’s no sign of change for the better appears to be America’s future.

    • Kathy on November 23, 2014 at 23:17

    This isn’t just a black or Latino problem. Here in Albuquerque, Anglos have also suffered from “excessive force.” A white mentally ill man who was shot to death in the foothills, a law student at a traffic stop who was kicked in the groin so hard one of his testicles ruptured and had to be surgically removed… There are more.

    As the title of your post states, the true issue is “us vs. them.” And unfortunately, the “them” in question are the members of the public who are now so afraid of the police that they raise their hands to show they’re unarmed when police approach– as our neighbor did when the cops arrived after he’d put in a call. And I’ve talked to others who react in a similar manner when interacting with police.

      • Don Bay on November 24, 2014 at 13:34
        Author

      You are certainly right that some white people are unjustly gunned down or unnecessarily roughed up by the police, but their numbers, however tragic and unjustified, can’t begin to match the numbers of black and Hispanic victims of police violence. The police in the U.K. and other European countries look at America’s police violence with dismay. They often don’t carry guns and are far more likely to deal with suspects without violence. Face it, America is a punitive society.

      Your description of the frequent public response to a police stop as one in which the suspect raises his/her hands to avoid being shot is a sad commentary on America today. Is this the future or can America stem the rising tide of police violence before it destroys the country?

  2. Right, Dave and Don. Add racism, militarization of police, a gun culture where all of us are uncertain who is going to kill us and our children at random times. All of what you’ve said is proving more and more to be true. Where are the white victims of police brutality. There are some, but very few in comparison.
    We are a white couple living most of the time in South Africa, a country where black people were brutalized by white people for hundreds of years. Almost all police here are black and I’m never afraid of police, ever. So what’s this about. I’m more afraid in the US than I am here.

      • Don Bay on November 24, 2014 at 16:29
        Author

      The South African perspective sheds some light on the differences between there and the United States. In South africa the blacks were brutalized and killed by the whites ever since the whites landed there and certainly during apartheid. In the USA, blacks were enslaved and brutalized by the Southerners (predominantly). During later years up to the present, those afflicted with the Southern mind-set try to keep the blacks from getting “uppity” (translated: equal citizens treated with dignity). With the enthusiastic support of racist cops, the whites who feel threatened by blacks as equals work at seeing blacks—and now Hispanics—keep their place at the back of the bus. The discrimination is so bad that even some blacks attack other blacks who are perceived as threats to the little they have. Same for the Hispanics. It’s a toxic situation created and furthered by the Southern mind-set.

      By contrast, the South African blacks are now treated as equals even though too many are poor while some corrupt black S.A. politicians grow rich. As I see it, the critical difference is the sense of equality felt by the average black in South Africa contrasted with the abuse and discrimination suffered by the average American black (and Hispanic). Equality versus inequality and discrimination. I could be wrong here and I am probably missing something.

      You don’t feel threatened by the black police because they don’t see you as a threat to them. You are all equals. Maybe that’s the difference. You can tell me if my theory is all wet or if I’m on to something.

        • Susan on November 25, 2014 at 01:34

        And let’s not forget all of the police and security guards who have been shot and killed or maimed.

        I think we need to outlaw guns. Why should anyone have a gun?
        I don’t think animals should be shot either.

        Remember when police entered a home and found a little boy in a back bedroom w a toy gun and shot him to death? His mom was bllamed for her sons death because she had to leave him alone to go to work so they could buy food. She couldn’t afford pre-school or a baby sitter. Maybe she was a bit stupid, but still.

          • Don Bay on November 25, 2014 at 18:41
            Author

          Although I agree that America has way-y-y too many guns and that we should outlaw hunting (see my early blog piece on the subject), your description of the fatal shooting of the child by police describes just one of the problems with America’s trigger-happy police. At a minimum, those cops lacked proper training. More likely, it illustrates the police philosophy of shoot first, ask questions later.

          The police in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, many of whom don’t even carry guns, are dismayed at the American police propensity to shoot at the slightest excuse…sometimes with no excuse at all. As pointed out in my piece, racism drives many of the shootings and killings of people of color. It’s a legacy of slavery and the Southern mind-set about blacks and Hispanics. Face it, America is a punitive society. Wait until you see my piece on the Missouri grand jury’s finding that Darren Wilson won’t be indicted for killing unarmed Michael Brown. Talk about travesties.

    • Linda on November 26, 2014 at 18:27

    I think there are signs of change, evidenced by the nationwide protests we are seeing against not indicting Darren Wilson for the killing of the unarmed, eighteen year old, Michael Brown. Without the protests, this unjustice might have stopped with the announcement, but it clearly is not the end, but the beginning. And, it was not a surprise to most people – black or white – which for me is an indication that not only is our society aware of the unjustice and the reform that is needed, they are tired, if not fed up, with the way things have been going.

    These protests are significant and leaders in the police departments across the country are definitely taking notice of what can happen when they kill citizens…..unarmed citizens…..politicians are taking notice as they should be.

    Change and progress is a lifetime process.

      • Don Bay on November 27, 2014 at 16:27
        Author

      My cynicism will show here when I say that while we have made some progress, we have made little if any progress against the down-deep racism that lurks inside the majority of Americans. I must hasten to point out that racism, both conscious and subconscious, can be found all over the world, but we are talking here of America’s racism.

      I felt after the massacre in Newtown that America was at long last going to grapple with the abundance of guns in the country. We all know that my hope—the hopes of all rational people— evaporated in the ensuing months. It appeared that the reality was that the majority of Americans and the politicians we elect are prepared to live with the horror of guns rather than pass rational laws to rein in the excesses. That is why I am so cynical about the lessons of Ferguson.

      Yes, these protests are significant, as all rational people believe the outrages generated by America’s injustices are significant, yet they disappear in time as the system shoves the outrages down the memory-hole and gets on with business-as-usual. We have submitted to the demands of “the system” that money and “things” are more important than lives, particularly the lives of people of color. Until the rational people like you stand up and say, “No more!,” the outrages will come and go until America’s fading democracy ceases to exist.

      All that said, you are absolutely correct in saying that “Change and progress is a lifetime process.” We have to stay active in combatting the Fergusons and the Newtowns and all the other outrages that are dragging America down. We need to dig in and be prepared to fight against the darkness as long as it takes to bring the light of justice.

      As hackneyed as it is, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. First steps have been taken; let’s take as many steps as it takes to win.

        • Linda on November 29, 2014 at 19:37

        “…the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. First steps have been taken; let’s take as many steps as it takes to win.” Absolutely the words of progress!

          • Don Bay on November 30, 2014 at 19:23
            Author

          The progress that has been made has taken a century and a half. While that can be considered as progress, it has been VERY slow. People have marched, people have been beaten people have been lynched and still unarmed black people are 21 times more likely to be killed by police officers than a white. This is 2014.

          Sure, we have a black president (who has been subject to racist attacks since his inauguration), but the average black person still suffers the indignity of discrimination in jobs, in education, in buying a house and many other aspects of discrimination. Has progress been made? On the surface, yes, but down deep where it counts, the discrimination continues though it has a different face.

          I have said that we—all of us regardless of skin color—must continue to take as many bold steps as necessary to bring about genuine justice and equality. To do otherwise is to erase the little progress that has been made. Progress must continue, but the pace of progress must increase lest it be lost like Rodney King’s tragic lesson.

            • Linda on December 1, 2014 at 03:24

            Yes, absolutely progress gained has been too slow and too little. It is precisely because racism is so ingrained in our society that gains are little and slow. Still, I believe we need to acknowledge that while our black president has been subject to racist attacks — oh my god! we have a black president! That is a big deal. I’ve always said we would have a black, male president before we would have a white, female president.

            Yes, he has been the target of inexcusable behavior but what kind of behavior would one expect with racism so a part of this country’s soul? In a perfect time, I’d like to think he would be afforded the same dignity given other leaders of this country.

            A-ah, now I sound like the pessimist….except, really it is no small accomplishment that we have Barack Obama as President of the United States. That is progress not to be denied.

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