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“Police Union Throws A Self-Pity Party In Baltimore”: Freddie Gray Protesters Are A “Lynch Mob”

It seemed as though police union leaders had gotten some PR training lately, and moved on from their strategy of pretending they’re the real victims in the awful spate of police killings involving unarmed black men. New York’s Pat Lynch has stopped shrieking that Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands” for the time being. We haven’t heard anything lately from loud-mouthed Cleveland police union chief Jeff Follmer, who defended the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by insisting “the nation needs to realize, when [police] tell you to do something, do it.”

Instead, we’ve seen more sensitivity to the outrage of the victim’s family and community in the wake of recent killings. North Charleston officials famously arrested officer Michael Slager for shooting Walter Scott, after it was captured on a chilling video. In Madison, Wisc., the police chief quickly released the name of the officer who killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson last month, expressed sympathy for his family, and the district attorney continues to investigate.

But it seems that in Baltimore, police union leaders didn’t get the PR memo. Wednesday night Gene Ryan, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, compared the peaceful protesters who’ve gathered nightly in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray to a “lynch mob.

Gray, 25, died of a severed spinal cord and a crushed larynx he suffered while in police custody, and authorities have given no details about exactly how it happened. But videos of Gray’s arrest, after a foot chase, have surfaced, and they are painful to watch. His mysterious death has understandably touched off a wave of local protest, angry at times but lawful and peaceful. In news coverage we see citizens exercising their right to assemble and to question authorities, legally and non-violently.

That’s not what Gene Ryan sees. “The images seen on television look and sound much like a lynch mob in that they care calling for the immediate imprisonment of these officers without them ever receiving the due process that is the Constitutional right of every citizen, including law enforcement officers,” the union head said in a statement.

A little history note for Ryan: “Lynch mobs” didn’t demand the “immediate imprisonment” of African Americans. They murdered them in cold blood – and those mobs often included police officers. Even when they weren’t aided and abetted – or led – by law enforcement, the mobs only succeeded because law enforcement routinely looked away.

The Gray family’s attorney attempted to educate Ryan. “We’ve been the victims of the lynching and now we’re the lynch mob?” William Murphy asked. “This level of ignorance of history needs to be remedied by an education by the real history of Black America, a history that he has evidently never been exposed to.”

Ryan then tried to walk back his ridiculous comparison. “Maybe I need to reword that,” he said in a press conference Wednesday night. But he continued to make his officers out to be victims in the aftermath of Gray’s killing.

It’s hard to know if this is a strategy, or the inborn reaction of police to any citizen complaints about their behavior: hysteria, combined with attempts to intimidate the public, and elected officials, into silence. There would be no police killings, their mentality holds, if the nation realized, in the illuminating words of Cleveland’s Jeff Follmer, that “when we tell you to do something, do it.”

Sadly, the recent outbreak of calm and clear thinking in North Charleston and Madison, not the outbursts of Lynch, Follmer and Ryan, are probably the aberration here. As U.S Attorney Loretta Lynch stands on the brink of confirmation as attorney general, finally, let us hope the Justice Department continues to school local law enforcement leaders that when their citizen employers tell them to obey the law, they should do it.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 23, 2015

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Baltimore Police Dept, Police Abuse, Police Unions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Long Can This Go On?”: There’s No Such Crime As ‘Driving While White’

The shooting of Walter L. Scott in South Carolina prompts the question:

When is the last time you heard of a white man in a Mercedes-Benz being pulled over for driving with a broken taillight?

It has probably happened somewhere, sometime, but there’s a better chance of your car being hit by a meteor.

Getting shot dead during a minor traffic stop also isn’t a prevailing fear among white males in America, no matter what type of vehicle they own.

Scott himself didn’t imagine he was going to die when he was pulled over. Unfortunately, he happened to be a black man driving a Mercedes, which is what got him noticed. He was behind on child-support payments and probably didn’t want to go to jail.

Something happened at the scene, Scott got Tased and then tried to run away. Officer Michael Slager fired eight times, hitting the unarmed 50-year-old in the back. The killing was caught on cellphone video by a bystander.

Slager told the dispatcher that Scott had snatched his Taser, but the video shows the officer dropping an object that looks just like a Taser near Scott’s handcuffed body. Slager has been charged with murder and fired from his job.

The shooting was shocking to watch, as the whole world has, yet the sequence of events leading up to it is sadly familiar to black men in this country. They can’t afford to drive around as carefree as us white guys.

In September, a South Carolina state trooper shot and wounded another unarmed black motorist after pulling him over because he allegedly wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

I’ve got white friends who rarely buckle up, yet I don’t know of one who has been ticketed for it, or even stopped and warned. Maybe they’re just lucky.

The black comedian Chris Rock uses his Twitter account to record his traffic-stop encounters. In a recent seven-week period, he was pulled over three times (once as a passenger).

It’s possible he and his friends aren’t very good drivers. It’s also possible they’ve been targeted merely for “Driving While Black,” an unwritten offense that still exists in many regions of the country, not just the Deep South — and not just in high-crime areas.

The odds would be fairly slim for a black man driving a luxury car not to be pulled over at least once on a road trip between, say, Utah and North Dakota. Even in a ’98 Taurus he’d need to be watching the rear-view mirror for blue lights.

Generalizing about traffic stops can be problematic. The numbers often spike in certain neighborhoods at certain times of day, and a small number of officers can account for many incidents of racial profiling.

Still, the evidence that it exists is more than anecdotal.

Using a “Police-Public Contact Survey,” the U.S. Justice Department analyzed traffic stops of drivers aged 16 or older nationwide during 2011, comparing by race and weighting by population.

To the astonishment of hardly anyone, black drivers were about 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, and approximately 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than Hispanic motorists.

A series published by the Washington Post in September reported that minority drivers had their cars searched (and cash seized) at a higher rate than white drivers. That jibed with the Justice Department’s conclusion that vehicle searches occurred substantially more often when the driver wasn’t white.

Another unsurprising fact: Compared to other races, white drivers were most likely to get pulled over for speeding. Black drivers were statistically more likely to be stopped for vehicle defects or record checks.

Which is what happened to Walter L. Scott in North Charleston.

Never in almost five decades of driving have I been pulled over for a busted brake light or a burned-out headlight, even though I’ve had a few.

It didn’t matter whether I was in a Dodge, Oldsmobile, Jeep, Ford, Chevy or even, for a while, a Mercedes SUV.

The only thing I’ve ever been stopped for is, like many impatient white people, driving too fast.

And every time a police officer walked up to my car, I knew exactly why he or she wanted to chat with me. It was no mystery whatsoever.

That’s not always the case for a black man behind the wheel of a car in this country. This is not just a perception; it’s a depressing reality.

If it had been me or Matt Lauer or even faux Hispanic Jeb Bush driving that Mercedes-Benz in South Carolina, Officer Slager wouldn’t have stopped the car. Not for a busted taillight, no way.

Which prompts another question: How long can this go on?

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 14, 2015

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Police Shootings, Police Violence, White Privilege | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It Might Be Fox-Proof But It’s Not Foolproof”: The Video Of The Walter Scott Killing Has Silenced Fox Critics

The video that Feidin Santana took of Michael Slager, a white North Charleston, South Carolina police officer, allegedly shooting and killing Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, is Fox-proof.

The three-minute-plus video shut up the inevitable police apologists who’d always find a way to blame the black guy for his own death by saying he acted in a threatening manner. But now, even Fox News folks are saying it’s right and just that Slager has been charged with murder.

“This is not Ferguson,” Andrew Napolitano said on Fox & Friends on Wednesday. “In Ferguson, there was a bona fide fight over the officer’s gun and the officer won the fight. This is [sic] two disparate cases. This is a victim running away from the police, shot in the back. This is what some people said Ferguson was, but it turned out it wasn’t.”

Dr. Ben Carson, Fox’s favorite black GOP presidential candidate, called it “an execution.”

(UPDATE: You might think that the dash-cam video released last night showing the traffic stop and Scott running away would trigger a Fox instinct to reverse course and blame the victim. But, so far, that hasn’t happened. Sean Hannity said last night that Scott “was not a threat to anybody” and that it’s “irrelevant what happened leading up to” Slager shooting him. And this morning on Fox, conservative radio host Lars Larson said he still believes “the officer committed murder.”)

No, the Fox line seems to be that now that Slager is sitting in jail without bail, justice has been served, the system works. So let’s move on, folks. And, oh yeah, it’s not a race thing. Greg Gutfeld on Fox’s The Five claimed, as if channeling the “color-blind” Stephen Colbert, “I didn’t see a black man killed by a white cop. I saw a man shoot another man in the back.”

That’s funny, because the video is incredibly detailed and definitive. Arguably more definitive than the videos showing the death-by-chokehold of Eric Garner in New York, or the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy in Cleveland shot by police for playing with what turned out to be a toy gun, or the unprovoked shooting of an unarmed man, Levar Jones, by a South Carolina state trooper, or the brutal beating of Rodney King that set off the Los Angeles riots in 1991 after the officers were acquitted. They are all shocking videos, and they led to various degrees of punishment—or not—for the police involved. But the Walter Scott video is the most overwhelmingly convincing of them all.

While it’s always possible for video to be misleading or confusing, Santana’s isn’t. We don’t have to wonder what’s not in the picture.

First of all, it’s long. It’s true, the video doesn’t show the very beginning, when Slager stops Scott for a broken tail-light and Scott reportedly runs into a nearby grassy field. That’s where Slager used a taser on Scott and claims that the motorist tried to wrestle it from him; the officer told authorities he “feared for his life.”

It’s at that point that Feidin Santana, a young man walking his regular route to his job at a barbershop, began recording the incident on his cell phone. As Scott runs away from him, Slager is seen firing at Scott’s back eight times until he falls to the ground. After cuffing Scott, who is possibly dead at this point, Slager goes back to pick up what appears to be the stun gun and drops it near Scott’s body, as if to frame Scott as a very dangerous man. (The video also appears to show that none of the police who soon arrived administered any life-saving measures.)

Secondly, the video is shot in the middle distance—not so far that people look like blurry dots, nor so close or narrowly framed that vital information is missing. (The too-close classic: footage of people tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad after the American invasion. They looked like a passionate, American-welcoming mob—until later footage zoomed out to reveal they were a small group of people who needed help from an American military vehicle to actually take the statue down.)

Santana’s video is choppy and shaky, surely because he was nervous, but also because he was moving with the action. “I witnessed it with my eyes and let the video do the recording,” he said in one of his several MSNBC and NBC interviews. Toward the end of the video, Santana still more bravely walks closer to the officer and Scott’s body. Widely called a hero, Santana said that early on he considered erasing the video because he feared for his life. But after reading the police report that made it seem that Scott was the aggressor, Santana gave the video to the Scott family.

The worst thing about the video is that it surfaced by pure chance. “A gift from god,” the Scott family lawyer, Chris Stewart, told MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “A person happened to be in the right spot at the right time to see this incident, and be quick enough to pull out that phone and record it. And not only that, that probably happens all the time. Right now somebody is probably filming an incident that if they stepped forward it would help that person, but they’re going to keep driving or keep walking or say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get involved,’ or feel threatened or scared.”

Walter Scott’s younger brother, Anthony, put it best. “I hate that it had to be a video to prove to take it to this level. Because we have fallen brothers all the time, and they just fall for different reasons in different parts of the country, and they’re just not investigated or taken to this level. And I think it should be looked in deeper.” He’s hoping for justice, he said, but “I won’t be satisfied till I hear a guilty verdict.”

Indeed, this video might be Fox-proof but it’s not foolproof. Nor are the increasing number of body cams and dashboard cams used by police departments throughout the country. They can absolutely help—North Charleston has them on order, and if Slager had been using one, it’s reasonable to wager that Scott would still be alive.

Cameras, however, whether wielded by bystanders or police (or with the help of apps that film and upload to YouTube with one push of a button), don’t get to the root of police corruption and systemic racism.

But video is now a matter of life and death, crime and punishment, and all too often it’s the only way that white people and white media will believe what black people have to say.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, April 10, 2015

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Fox News, Police Violence, Walter Scott | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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