Okay, I can’t stand it any more.  I HAVE to say something about Ferguson and the cop shootings that America is now FINALLY paying attention to.  The tipping point came for me yesterday when I finally watched the video of the Tamir Rice shooting and read an article on the audio evidence that proves Officer Darren Wilson was not telling the truth in his accounts of the Michael Brown shooting.

The U.S. is like a drug addict that refuses to acknowledge they have a problem.  All the signs are there.  The data is VERY clear.    Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about.

Some thoughts that are just pinging around in my brain that I have to get out.  Keep in mind, I’m not some uninformed liberal spouting off–I have a Masters in Criminal Justice and I’ve worked in the system.

  • The Prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, in the Brown shooting did not WANT an indictment therefore there wasn’t one.  A typical prosecutor could indict a comatose 90-year old grandmother if he/she wanted to.
    • He dumped a ton of data on the jury without providing any guidance into what was exculpatory, degree of trustworthiness, interpreting (because the forensic stuff can be really tough to understand), etc.  To expect a lay person to be able to sort through, prioritize and understand all of that data is absurd and no real prosecutor would do that.
    • He engaged in victim blaming by telling them that Brown was on drugs when there was no evidence of that
    • He improperly instructed the jury on the law — this is HUGE and if this had been a trial, it would have been excellent grounds for an appeal
    • He should have recused himself.  His father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty by, you guessed it, a black man.
    • He failed to perform his duty as a Prosecutor–they are supposed to advocate for indictment. In fact the vast majority of grand juries in this country return with an indictment.

    According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. 

  • The audio from the Brown shooting proves that Wilson did not tell the truth.
  • White people riot all the fucking time for the stupidest shit and no one blames it on their “culture of lawlessness”.  But let some black people riot and the media and the majority of white people will shake their heads and question why.  Why would they riot when there’s no history of racial discrimination in policing in the U.S. (ht to Bob Cesca)? Why would they riot when they only have themselves to blame?  All of the Fox News coverage has been in this vein, but the best examples are interviews with Rudy Giulani.
  • The Tamir Rice video is horrifying.  The video shows the police lied about many crucial issues.  If you only listen to the police version (as is too often the case), then it sounds like Tamir was a serious threat .  If you watch the video you will be stunned.
    • They said there were multiple people in the park.  The video shows the 12 year old boy was alone.
    • They said they told him to  put his hands up three times.  The video shows less than 2 seconds passed between the car pulling up, the officers got out of the vehicle and when the shots occurred.  So either the officer gave the fastest and clearest commands in the history of human language (award that man a Guinness World Record!) or he didn’t give them at all.
    • Tamir was already down on the ground when they shot him…he reacted immediately to their presence by making himself non-threatening.
    • After they shot him and the boy was clearly no longer a threat they watched him suffer and provided no first aid until a detective and FBI agent showed up.   Although they’re under no obligation to provide first aid IF they felt the situation is unsafe.  But the boy was no longer a threat.  Actually he wasn’t even a threat when they shot him, but why quibble, amiright?  Ironic that the failure to render aid, made sure their version will be the only one we hear (other than the pure luck of the surveillance video from across the street which can’t really tell us the whole story).
  •  The Rice shooting is very scary to me personally.  My stepson is 12 years old, loves guns, and is very familiar with them.   He is also brown–decidedly not white.   We’ve taught him to be safe with them.  He knows not to handle real guns without an adult being present.  BUT he doesn’t know that it’s probably not a good idea to handle fake one’s either.    I am going to make damn sure he never has a fake gun in any public place and when his family is not with him.
  • There was a shooting just reported in AZ of a black man by a white cop.  I’m still waiting for more details to come in.  Cop thought the guy had a gun in his pocket–it was a bottle of pills.

If you listen to what is being said in the media (not just on Fox but on CNN and local stations too), there is a lot of victim blaming and officer excuse making.  White America’s attitude is coming across like this.

‘Don’t black folk know they should never ever carry anything in their pockets AND should always keep their hands in the air AND always have a pleasant or at least non-demonic look on their face.  AND they can’t be too large or physically intimidating because a big black many is very scary, even to really big white men, even when they’re 25+ feet away**.  So if you’re a big black guy, hunch your shoulders.  And whatever you do, don’t be sullen or angry.’

In other words, don’t give the white cops an excuse to kill you and this message is loud and clear to the black community.  Most of their parents have already told them not to do such things.  Not that doing any of that will actually keep black men safe in this country.  When an entire race of people in our society have to raise their sons to live in fear and act more passive and non-threatening with the police than white people do, then something is terribly, terribly wrong.  The sooner white people acknowledge this, the sooner we can address the problem.  But I don’t think white people in general are capable of acknowledging our complicity in this problem because that would mean acknowledging that we’re wrong about something.  As we’ve seen time and time again, too many Americans think that if we’re not exceptional and right all the time, we’re nothing at all.

Notes:

*I totally understand why the police want bigger and better guns.  When I was a probation officer I always felt like I was outgunned.  I had a Speed 6 Ruger, a “brick” cell phone with a dead battery, no partner or back-up and my crappy little car (VW Fox).  I would go into the field armed with these items.  Here are just some examples of what I faced with those “weapons:

  • walking into crack houses where I was surrounded by dozens of male drug addicts and/or dealers
  • interviewing a probationers with serious anger control issues (child abuser/molester/wife beater) in their dark and dingy homes
  • explaining to VERY angry probationers and their family members why I had to talk to their boss at work about his/her probation and why they lost their job and would soon probably be homeless.  (I took no joy in this task.  I was legally obligated to verify employment with a supervisor a few times a year.  Talk about the system shooting itself in the foot.  The minute they lost their job their risk of recidivism would skyrocket)  

I guess if I couldn’t draw my weapon in time or if I lost it, I could have used the cell phone to brain them.

**Brown was 6 ft 5 in and 290 lbs and Wilson was 6 ft 4 in and 210 lbs.  Wilson isn’t small by any means.  He also had at least two deadly weapons–his pistol and his police car.  Who knows what he had in the trunk–one can safely assume a shotgun.  Plus he had a radio so he could call in reinforcements.  In regards to the distance, the audio article clearly proves Wilson was either lying about the distance or lying about Brown charging him or both.

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Comments
  1. I don’t know what I could say that isn’t better than what you already said. My son is half-white, his son looks even darker than he does despite being 3/4 white. I don’t think it matters that my son is a lawyer and very lanky – if a cop takes issue with him, he’s screwed.

  2. Rats, I can’t Test Myself – I use Mac. No Flash allowed!

  3. alopecia says:

    In the killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, police officers behaved utterly stupidly. They acted aggressively and made a situation far worse, and people died at their hands.

    A serious question: is police training really so poor that the actions (I refuse to call them tactics, because that word implies some meaningful purpose) taken are considered acceptable, even the norm?

    This is nothing new and at one level has nothing to do with race. One Christmas Eve many years ago, probably in the 1960s or ’70s, my father was talking with a family friend who was an officer—I don’t think he’d yet made sergeant when this conversation took place—and asked what the police in our (overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly middle-class, overwhelmingly safe) city called non-police. The response: “Assholes.” When Dad told that story a few months ago (I don’t remember hearing it before), I felt a chill run down my spine. I have no doubt that’s still the prevailing attitude in our (increasingly brown, still middle-class, still safe) city, and now our police have an APC and an MRAP to play with, along with lots of other ouchy toys; to make it worse, the local PD hires rather dumb people.

    I dread to think what one of the local yokels would do if one of us “assholes” were to be less-than-deferential.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know the answer is going to be complicated. Better recruitment and training of police officers. More diversity on police forces. Actual disciplinary action taken for misconduct. A recognition by society at large that things have gone badly wrong and need to be changed.

    And, most importantly, clownshoes like Rudy Giuliani, Bill O’Reilly and long-time supporter of terrorism—let us never forget, he was a bagman for the Provos—Peter King (to name but three) will need to STFU.

    I won’t hold my breath until any of those things happen.

    • DRangedinaz says:

      Is police training that poor? It depends. What most people don’t understand (and Hollywood perpetuates this misunderstanding by showing law enforcement as some monolithic government threat with a token bit of friction between the FBI and locals–as unsubtle as a train wreck) is that law enforcement (and all the other parts of the Criminal Justice system) is incredibly fractured. And while they all have to follow the same Federal laws, the majority of the laws differ state by state, city by city. And so does financing for the police. And that causes quite a mess in regards to training, policies and procedures, etc, etc.

      There are professional standards. HOWEVER PD only follow that voluntarily IF they belong to the professional orgs that set them. And you mentioned the quality of recruits–this is a HUGE problem. There are only three types of people who are attracted to law enforcement: 1) People who really want to help the community and make a difference (they burn out quick and they’re the smallest group) 2) People who want the paycheck and bennies–it’s a step up from burgers and fries and they’re not going to do much better (i.e., the football players in my college who took those Crim Just classes with me 20+ years ago) and think they might actually be able to do some good –this is the largest group 3) People who get off on the authority–obviously the most problematic of the groups and the smallest group bu the ones that makes every other cop look bad. Assholes are attracted to positions where they have power over others. Just like molesters want to be priests, youth pastors and teachers, insecure men with tiny dicks want to be cops. Again, it’s the smallest group but the most seen and despised.

      With this group, no amount of training is going to fix their problem, but proper training can greatly affect the other two groups. What does affect the “authoritay” group is punishment and removal. Also, knowing that they are being watched. In those depts where they’ve used cameras, constantly turning it off or never turning it off and frequent complaints corresponding to such times is becoming a grounds for discipline if not outright dismissal. This is very good news. But we need MUCH MUCH more than just cameras and discipline. We need a societal shift. We need the country to recognize that we have a major problem and that we treat blacks as less than human.

      There’s also the “blue wall” problem. Officers must be taught to think that the well being of their profession is best served by the use of correct tactics and transparency and not the lies they tell or their silence that protects bad cops.

      Also meant to say, it’s not a true profession for many reasons–one of the reasons is that there is no such thing is lateral entry. If I had 5 years experience in one city and went to another, I would have to start at the bottom rung like everyone else. Also the system is partially based on seniority–which we all know doesn’t lead to good outcomes. Someone could be there for 100 years and still be the laziest jerk God ever created. And to top it off, the pay sucks and does not attract our best and brightest. Why would a smart kid become a cop when they can become a lawyer or doctor?

      As for the story about the cop calling non-cops assholes, doesn’t surprise me in the least. And in their defense it’s incredibly fucking hard not start to feeling that way after a while. If all you ever saw was the worst in humans, you’d have a tough time not getting cynical like that too. I mean think about it, when do cops get to see people polite, not drunk, not violent, not drugged up, not crazy. It’s incredibly stressful and depressing. It’s one of the reasons I left. I made $23,000 a year before taxes, risked my life frequently and couldn’t pay my student loans. And for that I got cussed at, spit at, disrespected, sexually harassed, etc, etc, etc. I started to become horribly cynical and felt like nothing I did made any positive difference in anyone’s life.

      So for that we need to invest heavily in wellness programs and making the use of EAP more acceptable within the PD culture. Also let cops engage in more positive public interaction…don’t have them rounding up violent drunks ALL the time. Also, more community oriented policing–walking beats, smaller areas, more direct contact with civilian leaders in community, etc, etc, etc This not only improves their perceptions and mental health, it reduces over use of force incidents and helps the community trust them more as well.

      None of it’s easy, none of it’s cheap and none of it will be done except in small pockets, sporadically.

      • DRangedinaz says:

        oops meant to say “or never turning it on”

        • alopecia says:

          Four quick (for me) points:

          1) When Bernard Parks became Chief of the LAPD, he put great emphasis on community policing. The officers almost instantly dubbed community policing “the rubber-gun squad” and just as quickly did everything they could do to undermine the program and the underlying concept.

          2) I don’t remember where I read it, but a commenter on another website (may have been Sadly, No!, but I honestly can’t recall) happened to be at a community event where three officers, two male and one female, were manning a booth along with a police dog (a pit bull mix, but it doesn’t much matter). The dog, apparently one of the friendliest canines ever born, was a huge draw and the female officer spent her time talking with the public and making sure kids didn’t pet the dog’s fur off. The two male officers stood at the back of the booth, arms folded across their chests (we’ve all seen that posture, yes?), and chatted, pointedly ignoring the mere mortals.

          3) Some fifteen years ago, the South African journalist and author Rian Malan was being interviewed on radio about his book My Traitor’s Heart. His family was one of the leading exponents of apartheid and, indeed, a Malan was the first apartheid-era PM. During the interview, he spoke about policing in apartheid South Africa, and mentioned the Voice of Command, a technique the (white) police had developed to intimidate and control the lesser races; he went on to say he had never heard the Voice of Command anywhere but South Africa until he moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s.

          4) I’m not quite to the point that I say there’s no such thing as a good cop, but I’m getting close. A cop who sees his/her colleagues abuse those they are sworn to protect and doesn’t report the abuse (the “blue wall”) is at least as much a part of the problem as the ‘roided-up bullies and sociopaths.

          Until cop culture changes (and we as a society explicitly reject William Parker’s paramilitary approach to policing), we can expect more Tamir Rices. And Eric Garners. And Michael Browns. And Rodney Kings. And, and, and …

          • DRangedinaz says:

            I agree, and the training is part of the cultural change. But cultural change takes a looooong time and a long term commitment from society to make it happen. And since our the majority in our society can’t even admit that racism still exists, I don’t see us doing a damn thing about policing. I know what needs to be done but I also know there’s no will in the white power structure to make it happen. Ipso facto….

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