Monday, April 4, 2016

South Carolina Cops Strip Search and Sexually Assault Black Couple

Usually I defer, however reluctantly or conditionally, to the received wisdom that the best way to proceed with police officers who are behaving unlawfully or unfairly towards you or yours is to comply with directions, keep your mouth shut and live to fight another day. They have weapons and you likely don't. Your goal should be to stay alive. But as the saying goes, a nation of sheep begets a government of wolves. So there must be limits to the tolerance we grant police. Police are not gods. They are not above the law. They only deserve deference or respect to the extent that they follow the law. When police obliterate the line between criminal and cop, they're just another thug. If someone who wasn't a police officer came up to you and demanded that you remove your clothing and underwear so that they could stick something inside of you or ordered you to strip in front of their leering sarcastic friends, I'm betting that you would reject that order. You would likely immediately remove yourself from the location, were you able to do so. And if push came to shove you would defend yourself from this pervert's demented desires. You have a right to defend yourself from illegal behavior. You have a right to self-defense. The only reason that we don't normally behave that way with police is because we have agreed to give some extreme powers to police in order to detect and apprehend criminals while keeping the rest of society safe. But when police become evil for lack of a better word that consent can and should be revoked. A horrifying example of how evil some police officers can be recently came to light in Aiken, South Carolina.  A white police officer unlawfully stopped a car driven by a black woman with a black man passenger. He and his cohorts then proceeded to unlawfully search the car and to strip search the man and woman, including the man's rectum. Most of this was on video. 
Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon were in Hicks’s car just a couple of blocks from downtown Aiken when they were pulled over by Officer Chris Medlin of the Aiken Department of Public Safety. Hicks was driving. She had recently purchased the car, so it still had temporary tags.
In the video, Medlin asks Hicks to get out, then tells her that he stopped her because of the “paper tag” on her car. This already is a problem. There’s no law against temporary tags in South Carolina, so long as they haven’t expired.
Medlin then asks Pontoon for identification. Since he was in the passenger seat, Pontoon wouldn’t have been required to provide ID even if the stop had been legitimate. Still, he provides his driver’s license to Medlin. A couple of minutes later, Medlin tells Hicks that her license and tags check out. (You can see the time stamp in the lower left corner of the video.) This should be the end of the stop — which, again, should never have happened in the first place.
Instead, Medlin orders Pontoon out of the vehicle and handcuffs him. He also orders Hicks out of the car. Pontoon then asks Medlin what’s happening. Medlin ignores him. Pontoon asks again. Medlin responds that he’ll “explain it all in a minute.” Several minutes later, a female officers appears. Medlin then tells Pontoon, “Because of your history, I’ve got a dog coming in here. Gonna walk a dog around the car.” About 30 seconds later, he adds, “You gonna pay for this one, boy.

This abuse won't change until someone (i.e. a bullying cop) gets put six feet under. I just don't see other ways. Marching and protesting and boycotting and avoidance and pleading and appealing to morality haven't worked. Cops who use their badge to insult, intimidate, harass and in this case sexually assault people just aren't bothered by the threat of legal consequences because everyone knows such consequences are very rare. Federal prosecutors just don't bring charges against local law enforcement personnel. In most cases like this there won't be a state criminal trial either. And if there is, usually prosecutors and judges do their absolute bare minimum. Juries are often reluctant to convict. This is especially the case since the system will do everything in its power to prevent people like Hicks or Pontoon from sitting on juries. Even when a police officer is charged and a diverse jury could be selected the cop can always just opt for a judge to decide the case. Many judges are former prosecutors. So legal penalties don't deter these cops. There's only a slim chance that they will lose their job. Apparently the endless diversity classes, Officer Friendly school visits and internal legal training haven't made a dent in the behavior depicted. From what I can tell, as far as the average police officer is concerned, the law on the street is whatever he or she says it is. Other people more qualified than I can argue all the legal whys and wherefores but according to the legal experts quoted in the Post story, everything that happened was illegal. The police had no reason other than bias and personal dislike (and sexual sadism?) to pull over the black couple. This policing is descended directly from slave patrols of antebellum America. Poor whites, who often didn't own kidnapped Africans, were able to vent their class and racial hatred and jealousy on slaves travelling between plantations or free blacks travelling to their home or business. It's also part of the War on Drugs and the resulting normalization of prison procedures (extreme immediate compliance, strip searches, aggressive interrogations) that have spread throughout society.

This sort of government overreach should be something that conservatives and liberals agree needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, with a few noted and honorable exceptions, the sort of conservatives who love to wave their Gasden flag, cite Thomas Jefferson quotes about the tree of liberty requiring blood, and yell about oppressive big government, don't seem to get that infuriated about examples of oppressive government physically violating citizens like Hicks and Pontoon. I wonder why that might be. This is the duality of America. A black man can be elected President twice. And yet a black man and woman can be treated by their own government as if it's 1816 and not 2016. How do we resolve that? I really don't know. Violence is a bad thing. I try to avoid it. But I can't let another man violate me or mine in such a manner. Somebody would have to go.
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