mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“We Create The World We Expect”: What Happened To Protect And Serve? Cops, Civilians And Guns

If you’ll excuse my descending into cliche, the issue that began in Ferguson, Mo. is moving beyond racism to the present-day penchant of police departments to apply military thinking to civilian life.

This thinking leads cops to expect and insist on instant obedience in any interaction. If they don’t get it, they escalate.

This can naturally take things in the wrong direction, a phenomenon reinforced by the intimidating appearance of surplus military equipment, widely distributed to urban, suburban, and rural departments alike from the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters .

Cops have very dangerous jobs. Anything can suddenly move from ordinary conversation to a life-or-death matter — especially in a country that has more guns than people.

And according to the most authoritative source, the Small Arms Survey, there were least 270 million privately-owned guns in the U.S. in 2007 — an average of 88.9 guns per 100 Americans. Since President Obama’s election in 2008, another 67 million guns have been sold–a total of 337 million guns in a nation with 319.3 million people.

With that many guns out there — Americans are the world’s best-armed people — cops can’t be blamed for assuming that anybody they stop may have one. So taking this approach is probably advisable, assuming the cop wants to live.

But the result has been that cops have been encouraged to adopt the thinking of combat officers. A combat officer’s job is to protect the lives of his men. He does that by killing the enemy. It’s a brutal logic, but appropriate for the circumstances. And it’s not a stretch to say that cops are in combat 24/7 and suffer a form of PTSD, and that this reality probably helps cops to have high suicide rates.

Still, we create the world we expect, and if cops stick to this rationale, we have to expect to see more of these incidents, however you want to label them. Even if Michael Brown’s death can be explained away (I don’t think it can be), Tamar Rice and Eric Garner’s can’t be.

In any event, the fundamental premise of this thinking is badly flawed, because cops are there to protect us, and by and large, ordinary citizens–the people cops mostly deal with–are not their enemies.

Meanwhile, MOTHER JONES has just published an excellent article proving with the available statistics they have assembled that black and Hispanic Americans are much more likely to be shot by a policeman than whites.

The usual objection to statistics like this is the assertion that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be committing the sorts of crimes that cops encounter. But if we accept that almost all crime is economically-driven, and not an outgrowth of some baked-in ethnic malignity, what they really show is that by and large, the non-white population in this country is poorer than the white population. So it follows that the real issue is likewise economic, since overall, the black and Hispanic populations in America are poorer than whites.

To my mind, if we want to resolve this wave of racially-tinged, indefensible killings of civilians growing out of the militarization of the police — on December 6, Phoenix, Ariz. police shot Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed 34-year-old, because they mistook a bottle of pills for a gun — we have to address how cops are trained, the sort of income inequality that’s been produced by supply-side economics, and the relentless pro-gun drumbeat coming from NRA headquarters.

 

By: Andrew Reinbach, The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 8, 2014

December 10, 2014 Posted by | Guns, Militarization of Police, Police Shootings | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Inflicting Terror”: In Ferguson, A Militarized Police Force Isn’t Necessary For Suppression

Nearly every night in Ferguson, a group of protesters gathers in front of the police department demanding justice for Michael Brown. The size of the demonstration has varied, depending on people’s availability and on the weather conditions, but the dedication to protesting has remained consistent since Brown’s death.

In these days leading up to the announcement of whether a grand jury has indicted Darren Wilson for killing Brown, everyone is on edge. The uncertainty of when the decision will be released to the public, coupled with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s declaration of a state of emergency, has left plans for action up in the air and the quest for justice without answers. But the people still show up to police departments.

The anxiety has only been exacerbated the last few nights in Ferguson, as those protests have been met by a show of force on the part of the Ferguson police department. The night I was there—Wednesday, November 19—there were no more than about forty protesters at any given moment, met with police presence of equal or greater number. Of course, the major difference was that the police stood armed, in riot gear, and the protesters had only their bullhorns, chants and emotion.

It remained relatively calm for a time. The police, lined up as if to block the passageway to the department doors, already unavailable to anyone because of the metal barricade, played a game of cat and mouse, advancing a few feet and backing protesters up, before retreating themselves. Things escalated when during one of their advances they arrested a young man who had shown up to livestream the event.

The police advanced further as the protesters took to the streets, directing traffic away from their action. Protestors ran to what they thought would be a safe space across the street, but a few weren’t lucky enough to make it. At least five people were arrested that night, mostly for unlawful assembly as well as resisting arrest.

Aside from the chanting, there was no provocation of the police on the part of the protesters. There was one instance of an object being thrown, a water bottle, but other protesters quickly handled it: the person responsible, dressed in all black from head-to-toe, including a black mask that obscured their face, was run off of the protest site and heckled as an agitator who was putting the lives of the protesters at risk.

“If the media wasn’t out here, they’d have arrested us all,” one protester remarked.

A similar scene played out on Thursday evening, with the lesson here being that a militarized police force isn’t necessary to inflict terror. The police have proved themselves violent even without the use of tanks and tear gas. The people’s right to assemble peacefully won’t be protected. The Ferguson police department hasn’t taken any of the national or international criticism they have received to heart. And as the announcement of the decision on whether to indict Wilson dangles in some unknown future, the anxiety builds and takes an unknowable psychic toll on the most dedicated protesters.

But their resolve to see this through is strong.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, November 21, 2014

November 23, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Law Enforcement, Militarization of Police | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arms Race On The Streets”: It’s Clear, Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong

To read a lot of the post-Ferguson discussion about the “militarization of the police,” you’d think the whole phenomenon was the product of the Pentagon or the Department of Homeland Security. But as Peter Mancuso argues convincingly at Ten Miles Square today, there’s another angle that libertarian folk like Rand Paul do not want to pursue: cops bulking up with military hardware as part of an arms race created by Second Amendment absolutism:

[The] larger story begins many years before our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It involves a tit-for-tat escalation of armaments between criminals, citizens, and police departments that has been egged on by America’s arms manufacturers and gun rights groups. That escalation has led to a breakdown of essential republican understandings among ordinary citizens and government officials alike, and it will continue even if Washington manages to turn off the spigot of surplus weaponry from the Pentagon. As a former Marine combatant, weapons instructor, and career law enforcement official, I am hardly gun-shy, but it’s clear to me that something has gone terribly wrong.

By the early 1980s, there was a growing perception among law enforcement officers and portions of the public that America’s police were being out-gunned in encounters with criminals…. [R]outine arrests for illegal gun possessions were increasingly turning up weapons more powerful than those carried by the officers making those arrests. As law enforcement officers, their families, and police unions began naturally voicing their concerns, the call became louder to increase police officers’ “firepower” (a military term). It was argued strenuously then that this would require replacing the highly reliable revolver, which had been carried by most departments for over a half-century, with a rapid fire, more powerful, semi-automatic side arm.

Of course, this call to increase police officer fire power was further exacerbated by the fact that state legislatures failed miserably in the face of the gun lobby to curb the sale of some of the most powerful and lethal firearms that posed threats to police officers across the country in the first place. As this dichotomy, of the availability of more powerful weapons in the face of police officer safety took hold weapons manufacturers finally broke through and hit real pay dirt. The true irony in all of this is that the huge fortunes realized by their marketing more powerful weapons to American law enforcement, was actually the result of them having already made a fortune selling these more powerful weapons, easily acquired by criminals, to the public to begin with.

It’s actually a bit worse than Mancuso suggests. The arms race between police departments and lawbreakers created an atmosphere of spectacularly lethal violence (even as violent crime rates actually went down) that made it easy for the gun lobby and its paymasters to argue that every single citizen needed to become his or her own police force, as heavily armed as the cops and robbers. “Army of One” indeed.

So we aren’t just witnessing the consequences of the “militarization of the police.” It’s the militarization of America, which happens when you deliberately destroy the state monopoly on means of lethal violence. But again, the Second Amendment fanatics of libertarianism, for whom the only violence worth deploring is state violence, just won’t go there.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 25, 2014

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Gun Lobby, Militarization of Police | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: