This is one topic I’d really like to be able to retire: police brutality, racism and the viciousness of the system against the downtrodden. Here’s a selection of some of my “favorite” cartoons over the years about the po-po.
Racism is complicated. When America’s most brilliant thinkers set out to explain its nature in terms as clear as the English language allows, as Michael Eric Dyson did in his searing July 7th essay “Death in Black and White,” even the relatively sophisticated readers of the New York Times didn’t get it. Commenters didn’t understand that Dyson wasn’t criticizing every white person, but “white America” — shorthand for a dominant power structure that is fundamentally racist while (of course) not every white person is.
If anti-racist white people take writing as straightforward as Dyson’s personally, if they take offense at his passion and so miss his message, is there any hope of “black America” and “white America” just getting along?
It’s been a hell of a week. Two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were gunned down by the police under the usual incomprehensible circumstances — events the media, and thus the government, are paying attention to only because someone invented the smartphone. Then a 25-year-old sniper, a veteran of America’s brutal war against Afghanistan, shot 12 police officers at a march in Dallas protesting the deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Five died.
Needless to say, the Dallas cops didn’t have it coming. They didn’t have anything to do with what happened in entirely different states.
Well, it shouldn’t need to be said. But it does. Because, no matter how many times we hear public officials tell us that the police protect and serve us, it doesn’t ring true. Three out of four African-Americans tell pollsters they don’t think police are held accountable for their actions. So do 40% of whites.
The truth is, Americans don’t like cops.
Let’s be honest. If we think about them at all, we don’t mourn the slain Dallas police officers as deeply as we did the children who died in the day care center blown up in Oklahoma City, or the nightclubbers murdered in Orlando.
We need to talk about why that is.
We have been hearing more about racial profiling, how blacks are targeted by police officers more than whites, how they are physically assaulted more often, how they are charged with more serious crimes for the same offenses, how they get longer prison sentences and harsher fines. Good. This discussion is long overdue. Way too many people still don’t get it.
It is right and proper to focus on Black Lives Matter. To say it. To believe it. A retort that All Lives Matter is far worse than pabulum. Because it distracts from a point that still hasn’t received proper consideration in the media or in electoral politics, All Lives Matter is racist. Even the first black president has addressed the racism behind police violence only in “it sure is sad, we should do better” niceties rather than meaningful, sweeping policy changes. (He could start with blanket presidential pardons of black inmates serving ridiculously long prison sentences.) Black Lives Matter. That’s what we need to talk about now. For a good long time, too.
One possible place to start is the reaction of many people to the Dallas sniper attack. Like 9/11, it was shocking. Like 9/11, it also wasn’t surprising. You can’t go on acting like a bully forever. The powers that be can’t pressure their victims forever. Eventually the prey strike back. No, it isn’t justified. Nor is it right. But it is chickens coming home to roost.
Like the Bush Administration after 9/11 (“Why? Why do they hate us?”), the police and the political elites the police actually protects and serves look silly when they pretend that they can’t possibly imagine why anyone might dislike them. “There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” President Obama said after Dallas. No justification? Sure.
No possible justification? Before they blew him up with a robot bomb in an extrajudicial assassination (there weren’t any hostages), suspect Micah Johnson told police negotiators that he was “upset about the recent police shootings…[that] he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” You’d have to be especially thick, or really really white, not to see why a black guy might snap after watching the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile snuff videos.
Obama continued: “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.” Naturally, Obama was referring only to justice for the murdered police officers. There’s never any justice for those murdered by police officers (c.f., Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, etc.).
There’s a lot to worry about in all this. As for me, I’m concerned that the true nature of the police, the roots of its brutality in its role as the armed guards of the ruling classes, has been obscured by the racial divide. Racism is real. It’s complicated.
So is class warfare.
Even if you are privileged as I am – white, male, able-bodied, Ivy League-educated – odds are that your interactions, like mine, with the police are generally unpleasant. Mostly, I run into them when they pull me over to give me a ticket. If I’m lucky, they are merely rude, overbearing, aggressive and condescending. Once in a blue moon, a cop manages to be merely gruff. And I’m lucky. I’ve seen the way cops act in black neighborhoods. It’s much, much worse. They’re disgusting.
I had a bad experience with a Los Angeles police officer in 2001. He arrested me for jaywalking — falsely. He roughed me up and handcuffed me. This being America, I couldn’t help wonder whether he might have targeted me because he was black and I was white. But he never said anything that indicated that. Maybe he had a quota to fill.
Black or white, the police are paid to oppress, not protect. Black or white, citizens have good cause to be afraid of them. That’s the nature of the system. It’s another reason the system has got to go.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)
A woman walking down the street in West Hollywood saw a police officer roughing up and handcuffing a man, whom he accused of jaywalking. Appalled, she challenged the officer. “Take off his handcuffs!” she demanded.
Noticing the commotion, more passersby approached. Soon a small crowd of people had gathered around. Some people shouted at the officer to stop. Others mocked his aggressiveness, sarcastically suggesting that his unfulfilled sexual desires explained his behavior. Surrounded by pissed-off citizens, the cop replied with a smirk: “I’m SO scared.” Others stood and watched, witnessing.
This happened 14 years ago. The man was me.
None of us knew that the cop, Officer Will Durr, was secretly capturing the audio of my arrest on a tape recorder — some of it, anyway.
Last week, a LAPD dub of Durr’s tape savaged my career in journalism, which can never be the same. But then that woman’s angry voice — “Take off his handcuffs!” — vindicated me. It was a kind of time travel. This woman, yelling on Melrose Boulevard on October 3, 2001, changed my life on July 30, 2015.
I wish I could go back in time so I could kiss her.
Or do her laundry. Whatever she wants.
About two weeks ago, someone at the LAPD and/or LAPPL (the LAPD police union) gave the dub of Durr’s tape to some unknown person at The Los Angeles Times. Despite obvious gaps in their credibility and logic, the Times used the tape as its justification, not to merely fire me, but to internationally shame me with a “Note to Readers,” signed by editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, that accused me of having lied about the cop’s actions during my 2001 jaywalking bust. In journalism, that’s a career death sentence, and Goldberg knew it.
What Goldberg didn’t know was that the real liars were the LAPD. And what Goldberg didn’t learn was one of the first rules of journalism: check it out.
If I brought a tape to any editor worth a damn, she’d say: have it analyzed and checked for signs of tampering. Not Goldberg, or Times reporter Paul Pringle, who was assigned to investigate me. They “authenticated” the tape by — get this — asking the cops whether their own tape was legit.
The answer to that question turned out to be: Not so much.
Thank god for technology. Despite Officer Durr’s apparent attempts to cover up those unpleasant remarks from the angry crowd by whistling into his mic, and covering it up, audio technicians were able to clean it up enough to reveal the truth.
“Take off his handcuffs!” That line, and many others, proved that I’d been cuffed, and that there had been an angry crowd — two crucial bones of contention. In the court of public opinion, I’d been vindicated.
The truth: which I’d been telling. The truth: which the cops did not. The truth: which the LA Times doesn’t care about — I’m still fired. The now-discredited “Note to Readers” is still up, with no mention of the secrets revealed by the enhanced audio tape.
But the truth is out. I have a fight ahead of me, sure. But I couldn’t defend myself without it.
There’s no way that woman could have known, or knows now, that her declarative statement — “Take off his handcuffs!” — was or ever would do any good. She, and the other witnesses, probably felt angry and impotent and helpless in the face of obvious injustice by an agent of the state.
If the woman on Melrose, whom I would kiss if I could, remembers this incident, it’s likely as just another time where she got involved but accomplished nothing.
But she’d be wrong.
My case serves as yet another example of the importance of stepping forward to witness, document and interfere with unfairness and state violence whenever you can. If, for example, you see a cop hassling someone, document the stop with your cellphone camera (don’t comment or talk because it blocks other sounds). If you dare, speak truth to power by demanding the officer’s badge information and name, and asking that he stop what he’s doing. Even if you just stand and watch, you greatly reduce the chances of another brutal police killing or maiming.
As a white man, I’m lucky. I suffer only a small fraction of the disgusting greed and brutality of corrupt police officers experienced by black and other people of color every day. I’m grateful.
One small way I can show my appreciation for my privileged status in American society is to speak out, like here, about my own experiences with bad cops. Because if it’s happening to white guys like me, you know it’s even worse for people of color.
In this case, however, I couldn’t have done it without that voice from the past, that beautiful angry ghost from 2001. So: witness. Document. Fight back.
It really does count.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
The city of New York has paid $5.9 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who was choked to death by New York police on Staten Island and whose dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became an iconic symbol of police brutality. But no cops have been charged and the city hasn’t formally accepted responsibility. Isn’t it absurd to pay for a death for which you refuse to acknowledge responsibility?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Attempting to explain how Freddie Gray’s spine was broken in police custody, Baltimore police authorities release a report that implies that he may have suicidally attempted to beat himself to death in the paddy wagon. Uh-huh.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Fellow political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow deploys a character, Officer Friendly. The always-smiling 1950s-style cop is a clever meme because it reminds us of what has been lost to the militarization of local policing: the fictions that their job is to keep us safe and that they work for us.
In case you harbor any lingering doubts about the true nature of the relationship between us ordinary serfs and the constabulary, the Guardian reports that the Missouri National Guard “used highly militarized language such as ‘enemy forces’ and ‘adversaries’ to refer to citizen demonstrators” in Ferguson during the protests following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man:
Documents detailing the military mission divided the crowds that national guards would be likely to encounter into “friendly forces” and “enemy forces” – the latter apparently including “general protesters.”
A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities,” which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.
And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”
Isn’t that sweet.
Naturally National Guard officials are backtracking.
Captain John Quinn says that ‘enemy forces’ really means “potential threats” like — as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up — “inclement weather, heat, failing levees, etc.”
Incoming. Failing levees?
“It’s disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy,” said Antonio French, local alderman and captain of the obvious.
Except, it ain’t “somehow.”
In many American cities, particularly those with majority white police forces in minority neighborhoods, the police are an occupying army. They view the locals not as citizens whose taxes pay their salaries, who are in fact their bosses, but as dangerous, troublesome rabble to be contained, controlled and suppressed. The militarization of domestic policing, which dates back to the 1950s and the establishment of the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, further separates gendarmes from civilians via training derived from warfare, heavy body armor and wildly excessive firearms.
Trust in the cops is at a record low, thanks in part to ubiquitous cell phone and security camera videos that document police abuse so meticulously that it’s no longer possible even for white law-and-order types to deny accusations by blacks that the cops are treating them like dirt. Look for the cop-citizen gap to widen further as the police increasingly treat whites — for example, during the crackdown against the Occupy movement — badly as well.
The cops have met their enemy, and he is us.
And now there’s no denying it.
Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck “wants to swarm high-crime neighborhoods with more than 200 highly trained officers from the elite Metropolitan Division without undermining years of progress the department has made in building better relationships with those communities,” report Kate Mather, Richard Winton and Cindy Chang in The Times.
Metro Division cops are the best of the best — the department’s elite. So what could go wrong?
“Parachuting reinforcements into unfamiliar territory on this scale marks a change from the LAPD’s longtime community policing tactic of using beat cops to patrol neighborhoods. Metro officers are known more for their specialized tactical and weapons training than for their skills in building relationships with residents,” their report says.
Civil rights lawyer Connie Rice told The Times that she’s concerned the Metro Division deployment may make things worse. “The Metro officers are a super paramilitary version of policing,” she said. “They are not the cops who have relationships and know the communities. They tend to be very aggressive, historically. They don’t get to know a community…. They don’t get to know the people they police or, for that matter, the local officers.”
Today’s cartoon is centered around a rather hilarious quote by Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff: Metro Division police “are not Ferguson-like. They are not South Carolina-like. Our training — sensitivity training, use of force training — is off the charts.”
Really, truly … do these people ever stop and listen to themselves?
Given the state of police-community relations in Los Angeles and across the United States — and I mean “community” in the broad, dictionary sense, not the euphemistic stand-in for “black neighborhood” — the burden of proof is on the cops. Asking us to “just trust them” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Of course, there are establishment types who do still trust the police. Last week, for example, New York Times columnist David Brooks argued that police body cameras violate privacy rights — not for you and me, but for the cops. “Cop-cams…undermine communal bonds,” Brooks wrote. “Putting a camera on someone is a sign that you don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust you. When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional.”
I got a ticket a few days ago (for talking on my cellphone while driving). You know what?
It wasn’t an “intimate friendship.”
Although that would certainly be a nice standard to which the Metropolitan Division should aspire.