Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Police Brutality and the Dead Groom

Cross-posted from SizeQueen at LiveJournal.Com with Hat Tip to DoctorScience at Pam's House Blend, who says, "The economic angle is a good one because it gives us a common frame of reference." Plaudits to TheAgitator as well.

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While there are obviously individual officers who do their jobs and keep the peace, as a group, the police are out of control. They have too much power and we have too little.

The range of police problems includes —

1) Excessive use of deadly force.

2) Excessive use of physical force.

3) Discriminatory patterns of arrest.

4) Patterns of harassment of the homeless, youth, racial minorities and gays, including aggressive and discriminatory use of the "stop-and-frisk" and overly harsh enforcement of petty offenses.

5) The "code of silence" and retaliation against officers who report abuse and/or support reforms.

6) Overreaction to gang problems, which is driven by the assumption that those who associate with known gang members must be involved in criminal activity, even in the absence of concrete evidence that this is the case. This includes illegal mass stops and arrests, and demanding photo IDs from young men based on their race and dress instead of on their criminal conduct.

7) The "war on drugs," with its overbroad searches and other tactics that endanger innocent bystanders. This "war" wastes scarce resources on unproductive "buy and bust" operations to the neglect of more promising community-based approaches.

8) Lack of accountability, such as the failure to discipline or prosecute abusive officers, and the failure to deter abuse by denying promotions and/or particular assignments because of prior abusive behavior.

Frequently, I read about an instance of a police officer shooting or killing someone, and in nearly every instance, the violence was considered justified and the police were cleared of wrong doing. Between 2002 and 2004, for example, more than 10,000 complaints -- many of them involving brutality and assault -- were filed against Chicago police officers. Yet only 18 of them resulted in any meaningful disciplinary action. (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/27/police.complaints/) I’m no mathematician, but the ratio of complaints to disciplinary action is ridiculously lopsided. The police protect their own.

If I shot somebody in self-defense, there would be a rigorous investigation and it is likely that I'd spend time in jail before and during the trial if I couldn't afford bail. Do cops receive the same scrutiny? I seriously doubt that.

Nowadays, we hear about some person who has been tasered and been seriously injured. Years ago, I was in a grocery store, and a middle-aged woman was caught stealing. She was viciously tasered, even after she was down on the ground, by the police officer on duty for the crime of stealing meat.

I occasionally watch the reality show COPS. On several occasions, I've seen police officers on this reality show use their cars to hit and, thereby, take down a suspect running on foot. How is that acceptable?

And don’t call the police to solve a problem with someone who is mentally ill or mentally handicapped. That person is likely to get shot.

Police corruption, incompetence, and overreaction do not just affect minorities, though they are far more likely to be the victims of police brutality and misconduct. Here in Chicago, recent incidents in which off-duty officers have been caught on film beating Caucasian women, have stirred a firestorm of controversy. Everyone, but especially anyone who lacks power (uneducated/poor), needs to be concerned about the police.

We have an armed police force, which has little community oversight. Complaints about police misconduct are routinely dismissed. Almost any incident in which the police are accused of misconduct is dismissed, even if it was caught on tape. Why the hell shouldn’t the populace be scared of the police? They have too much power, and we have too little.

Under the cut, I have posted summaries of more incidents of police misconduct.

On-duty cops in Nevada show up at a pool hall to rough up a guy who was arguing with one of their buddies. Unfortunately (for them), he wasn’t your typical out-of-town schmoe. He was a federal agent. And now he’s suing.

Police chief in small Wisconsin town asks on-duty detectives to find out the identity of a local anonymous blogger who was criticizing him, the town, and the department.

What do you do when your star witness insists there was no crime? Apparently you harass the hell out of him. Even if he’s a 13-year-old boy with developmental problems. http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080316/COL04/803160557

A 92 year old woman was shot and killed by Atlanta Police officers. Kathryn Johnson was alone in her home waiting with her gun on Tuesday night when a group of plainclothes officers with a warrant knocked down her door searching for drugs, police said. The officers initially claimed that Johnson had a gun and shot all three of them, so they had to kill her in self-defense. It turns out that the police not only had the wrong house, but they actually shot each other in an instance of friendly fire. To cover up their misdeeds and incompetence, they planted marijuana in the house and then told their informant to lie and claim that he’d bought drugs at the house. Then they cooked up the story of Johnson shooing at them.


Another arrest of a man taking photos of a drug raid. If you’re wondering, yes, think citizens should be free to record and photograph undercover police, too. To give one example, if David Ruttenberg hadn’t recorded the multiple attempts to frame him by undercover Manassas Park police, they’d likely have framed him into several felonies by now.

Using the “obstruction” arrest to cover police misbehavior. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/353202_actmain29.asp

Deputy drifts over center line on a hilly road, wipes out a group of bicyclists, killing two and critically wounding another. It’s a terrible story, but note what happens next. Other police show up and tell the deputy to “stop talking” before he further implicates himself. They then escort him from the accident scene before investigators arrive. How many other people would get that kind of treatment?

A California jury awarded a 72-year-old man $90,000 after California Highway Patrol officers entered his house and roughed him up while looking for a stolen motorcycle. They had the wrong house. Which would probably explain why he was described in the police report as “agitated” after they improperly and forcibly entered his home. Here’s the infuriating part: After the jury award, the judge cut the award to around $13,000, just enough to cover medical expenses related to the incident, which included two surgeries. The judge tossed out all punitive damages.

Also, per the link above, note that the man was initially arrested for “obstruction,” even though police had the wrong house, and he wasn’t suspected of any crime.

Source: http://www.theagitator.com/2008/03/20/new-professionalism-roundup-5/