Saturday, June 6, 2020

Police Brutality: Are There Any Solutions?

On May 25 George Floyd died in Minneapolis. Three police officers held down the handcuffed Black man while one police officer, Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes. Chauvin didn't care that Floyd said he couldn't breathe.

On  March 13, Breonna Taylor, a Black female Louisville EMT was murdered by police executing a no-knock warrant in her home. They claimed to be looking for someone who was already in police custody or for drugs. No drugs were found. And the post office said that no suspicious packages were delivered to Taylor's apartment.

According to her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, the police did not identify themselves as police officers, were in plainclothes and opened fire first. Walker shot back. Walker was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder. 

The charges against Walker were  reluctantly dropped after Walker's 911 calls were released. The officers involved have not been arrested or charged. They had no body cameras. Strangely enough, none of the usual right wing "Stand your ground a (wo)man's home is her/his castle!" people have shown up so far to loudly praise Kenneth Walker and hold him up as an example of a lawful gun owner trying to defend his woman against government assault. Also oddly enough, none of the "Black men ain't s***" " feminists have applauded Kenneth Walker as a Black man who tried to protect Black women. I'm sure it's just an oversight by both groups. Yeah, that must be it.

Earlier this year in March (?) Sacramento Sheriff Deputies claimed that a Black man (not identified) had a warrant for his arrest. They surrounded him with weapons drawn. The man put his hands on his head. Apparently still hungry for violence the deputies launched a flying kick into the man's spine, grabbed him by the neck and wrestled him to the ground. As it turned out though, the man had no warrant for his arrest. He didn't have a criminal record. 

The police still charged him with resisting arrest. On May 30, a group of mostly Black Atlanta police officers decided that two Black college students leaving a protest weren't leaving fast enough. The cops didn't care that the students were stuck in traffic.

They broke the couple's  car windows, beat them and tased them.

On March 23, in Missouri a 68 year old Black Missouri grandmother named Marvia Gray and her son Derek Gray tried to return a TV to Sam's Club. Police officers accused them of stealing the television and swarmed them to beat and arrest them. The elderly woman and her son both suffered severe injuries, including concussion, shattered teeth and damaged rotator cuff. Well. 

One might think that these victims of police violence were unlucky enough to be Black. Police have always had a very low threshold for using violence against Black people. Surely police wouldn't use such brutality against white people, particularly white women, white children, or frail elderly white people.

Well while it's true that police have traditionally gone out of their way to employ violence against Blacks, it's also true that a lot of the supposed taboos against using state violence against fellow whites have started falling away or were never that strong in the first place.

During the protests we've seen Seattle police mace a nine year old white girl, New York City police violently shove Dounya Zayer to the ground, giving her seizures and concussion, National Guard and Minneapolis police shoot at a white woman sitting on her own porch, and Buffalo police shove 75 year old Martin Gugino to the ground so violently that he cracked his head open and bled. Gugino is in the hospital in serious condition. Police didn't even bother to give him assistance. They lied on their report, saying Gugino tripped and fell. That's like saying JFK had a sudden brain hemorrhage and died, leaving out the tiny details about the bullets. The two officers who pushed Gugino were suspended. 

In response all fifty seven officers who were part of that unit resigned from the unit. Think about that. Police officers, men and women, decided it was more important to stick together than see two of their own mildly punished.

Police have routinely used violence against journalists trying to document events. Rubber bullets, tear gas, night sticks, tasers and more are all in use. Against everyone. This is not a problem limited by geography or city size. 

So although the primary issue is that police are racist and violent against Black people, the underlying problem is that police have no fear of bad consequences for their actions. I don't care for some of the employees at my local post office. They can be rude, condescending, dismissive and sarcastic. And that's on a good day. 

But post office employees have no arrest powers. They're not armed. They can't physically abuse or kill me as part of their job description. Politicians don't routinely kiss their a$$ or cower in fear of their union. Much the opposite actually. So when a post office employee is in a bad mood usually the worst that will happen is a snarky remark or eyeroll. With police officers, someone can die. 

So what are the solutions to these problems?

Usually people talk about anti-bias and de-escalation training. Those things are important, don't get me wrong but I think we're going to need some stronger stuff. I've written before about how many of the same types of people salivating about kicking or beating unarmed protesters stood down and were quiet as church mice when Cliven Bundy and friends pointed guns at them and invited them to come get some.

This is a street thing. Rights only matter to the extent that you can enforce them and that someone believes that you can hurt them at least as much if not more than they can hurt you. 

Unfortunately many people on the left and Black people in particular don't like hearing that. Many people have raised non-violence to the HIGHEST moral imperative. It's not. Securing your rights and your safety are more important goals than non-violence.

The Right has always understood that. That is why although many right wing whites are mocking the deaths of George Floyd and others, they bring guns to protests about shut down orders and promise to kill any police officer ever tasked with violating their sacrosanct (for white people only) Second Amendment rights. 

They aren't trying to hear about "Blue Lives Matter". Police are cool as long as they're messing with Black people but try to take a white man's gun and it's suddenly "From my cold hands, you jack booted thug!!" 

I think that people are going to have to show police that either police cut back the BS or more police start winding up six feet under. Obviously, many police are bullies. As long as they are correct in believing they can kill or brutalize without immediately receiving similar treatment, they will continue to do so. Black people will need to start embracing the Second Amendment and the concept of self-defense.

As a rule police do not understand the language of love, peace, forgiveness, or patience. And if citizens are not willing to kill and die to prevent police abuse, police will not stop. I wish it weren't that way. But in my opinion it is. Revolutions have started over just this issue.

So that is one part of a solution. What are some others?

Have stricter standards for hiring. Reduce interactions with police. In certain situations or areas, do not allow police to make arrests for non-violent crimes. 

End the use of no-knock warrants. Take brutality or wrongful arrest settlements out of police pension funds. Defund police as much as possible. Smash police unions. Make it easier to fire police accused of deviant behavior. Start charging police officers who don't interfere with brutality or murder with the same crime as the officers who did it. Eliminate qualified immunity.

Get rid of military equipment. Get rid of the military mindset. Instead of having police receive training from an oppressive state like Israel, ensure that police are sent for special training to countries where police officers do not kill hundreds of people every year. 

Fire any police officer who has turned off his or her body camera when he or she wasn't in the bathroom. Vote for prosecutors who will promise to prosecute officers who brutalize or murder. 

Support content creators who do not produce cop shows that are deep French kisses to the police establishment. Those shows are propaganda. And they're effective.

But I really don't have much hope that much of that will occur. 

Currently too many Black politicians and their constituents believe that guns are irredeemably bad and/or that there is more moral value in suffering and even dying nobly than there is in resisting. And politicians in general don't like confronting police unions. 

A sizable portion of our population gets off on Black subordination, death and humiliation. Even police who have figured out the correct words to say in public often drop their masks in private or when they believe they are anonymous. Therefore, as I said no police officer is ever too worried about consequences for bad behavior. And that must change. 

Everyone in society must understand that there are limits. And if you violate those limits you're either going to get hurt, imprisoned or killed. No exceptions. Police have become overly militarized. They think they're above the law. They think they can and should use massive violence any time they feel like it.

It's important to point out, that just as with the civil rights movements of the sixties, police brutality is a bipartisan problem. It occurs in cities run by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. It's not something that's going to go away because of who is elected President. And the changes that have occurred over the past few weeks have taken place not because of elections but because of street protests.

Lastly police and their enablers should remember that they only have power because society gave it to them. The consent of the governed can (and in this case should) be taken back.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them."
-Frederick Douglass
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