Tag Archives: police shootings

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops

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            In the latest shooting of an innocent civilian by a trigger-happy police officer, a white Fort Worth cop blew away a 28-year-old African-American woman through her bedroom window as she played a video game with her eight-year-old nephew. Atatiana Jefferson’s neighbor had called a nonemergency police number to request that they check on her because her doors were wide open.

            “The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting,” a spokesman said. Instead, he shouted through the window before killing Jefferson: “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”

            This atrocity followed the recent conviction of a white officer in Dallas who claimed that she had entered the wrong apartment in her building before mistakenly shooting an African-American man. Botham Jean, 26, was eating ice cream in his own home, clearly not hers, when he was killed.

            Police shot and killed 689 people so far this year in the U.S. Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be shot to death by police officers than whites. Many victims were unarmed.

            Is it any surprise that only half of the public has confidence in Officer Not So Friendly? Public perception is worse among minorities and young people.

            It’s not a major political campaign issue but it ought to be: domestic policing in the United States needs to be reinvented from the ground up.

            “From their earliest days in the [police] academy, would-be officers are told that their prime objective, the proverbial ‘first rule of law enforcement,’ is to go home at the end of every shift,” Seth Stoughton noted in the Harvard Law Review. Policing experts call this me-first approach the Warrior mentality. “Officers learn to treat every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

            In the real world, America’s streets are not a war zone. 95% of police officers go through their entire career without ever having to fire their weapon. But many cops are military veterans—and vets are 23% more likely than non-vets to draw and shoot.

            Increasingly concerned about police shootings and the eroding of trust between cops and the people, some leaders are trying to promote a Guardian mentality instead. “The Guardian mindset prioritizes service over crime-fighting, and it values the dynamics of short-term encounters as a way to create long-term relationships,” writes Stoughton. “As a result, it instructs officers that their interactions with community members must be more than legally justified, they must also be empowering, fair, respectful, and considerate. The Guardian mindset emphasizes communication over commands, cooperation over compliance, and legitimacy over authority.”

            The priority for cops shouldn’t be that they get to go home at the end of every shift. They should make sure that the people they interact with are safe.

            This is common sense. It’s also an uphill battle.

            The militarization of domestic civilian policing is no longer a concern about a phenomenon in development. It is here. Police departments throughout the United States have acquired tanks, armored personnel carriers, automatic weapons and other military hardware transferred from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. SWAT teams, which originated in the military-style LAPD, are everywhere. Even little towns like Mt. Orab, Ohio (pop. 2,701) and Middleburg, Pennsylvania (pop. 1,363) have a SWAT outfit ready to take on bands of heavily-armed goons in case a 1980s action movie inexplicably comes to life there.

            For Americans of a certain age, cops no longer dress or look like cops. The police carry stun grenades and semiautomatic pistols and rifles and wear Kevlar vests. They’re bulked up, obviously on steroids and certainly no stranger to the weight room. Their hair is cropped short, military style. They’re scary and they mean to be.

            There’s a reason they look like that. One out of five police officers is a military veteran. Police brass love vets. So even cops recruited from the civilian population learn to emulate that military look and swagger.

            Federal programs encourage and even mandate preferential treatment of vets by police departments when looking for recruits. But this is exactly the wrong direction. Trained to have an authoritarian approach to interactions with civilians and frequently the victims of PTSD, veterans who become policemen are more likely to resort to force, less interested in deescalation and more likely to mentally deteriorate and even to commit suicide while on duty.

            As of this writing this story is still developing, but I would not be surprised to learn that the 35-year-old officer involved in the Fort Worth shooting was a vet.

            Police officers have the power of life and death over us. They have discretion to harm us through less dramatic interactions like issuing us traffic infractions that can cost us thousands of dollars. The potential for abuse or poor judgment requires that police officers be selected from among those members of our society who are least interested in pushing around their fellow citizens. Aggressiveness should be considered a negative quality in police recruiting.

            As with any position in which the holder is vested with power, the paradox is that those who most want the job are those who should least be permitted to hold it. It should almost be a reverse draft: the less you want to be a cop, the better qualified you are for the job.

            I would fire every single police officer in the United States and suggest that if they want to come back they reapply for their positions under completely different guidelines. I would take away guns from most policemen – they simply don’t need them – and replace semiautomatic pistols with traditional revolvers as the standard sidearm. No more military gear, no more bulletproof vests. Return the tanks to the Pentagon. And I would put an end to recruiting from the military.

            Warrior cops don’t make us safer. They’re loose cannons who need psychiatric counseling, not guns.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

California Cops Can Kill You Simply Because They “Feel” Like It

California has just passed a law that was originally intended to reduce the likelihood of police shootings of civilians. But it still allows policemen to assess whether or not to kill you based on their “feelings,” whatever that means.

Victims Must Unite With Their Oppressors

A spate of shootings of innocent black men by white police was followed by a mass shooting of 12 policemen in Dallas. Afterwards, Very Reasonable People assured us that it was up to “both sides” – blacks and the police who oppress, abuse and kill them – to put their differences aside and compromise to achieve peace. Actually, it’s always up to the oppressors to stop oppressing.

Dispatched

Outside investigators (all from law enforcement) hired by prosecutors in Cleveland recommend that the police officer who shot Tamar Rice, 12, to death in under two seconds despite posing no threat ought to be left alone, uncharged, because he was misled by a police dispatcher.

GOP Attacks the Idea That Black Lives Matter

Republican presidential candidates attacking Black Lives Matter appear not to understand the optics of attacking a group whose message is, you know, that Black Lives Matter. Or maybe they do understand the optics…

Guy Who Shot Walter Scott Video Is Selling It for 10K. And Good for Him

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

The guy who took the video that caught a South Carolina cop shooting Walter Scott in the back is telling news outlets that they’ll have to cough up $10,000 to post or broadcast it.

Good. Good for him.

For the record: Passerby Feidin Santana, who took the cell phone video that shocked the nation and landed the police officer in jail awaiting a murder trial, gave it away for free to the family so they could pursue legal remedies, and to media organizations in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

“Now they will have to pay,” Max Markson, the publicist, said.

Let’s get one thing straight: News is big business. The CEO of NBCUniversal makes $31 million a year. Last year – which relatively sucked – brought in $91 million in operating profits to The New York Times. So it’s not like major news outlets can’t afford to shell out a few bucks.

As long as I can remember – in other words, too long – American news organizations have raked in handsome profits and paid exorbitant salaries to their executives, while monetizing video footage and other news assets created by ordinary citizens who gave them away for free. They claim that their refusal to “pay for news” is motivated by the purely noble desire not to allow money to corrupt the process.

The truth is, they’re just cheap. Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets all around the world routinely pay for interviews, photos and videos; there’s no evidence that the ABC in which the A stands for Australia is any less trustworthy than ours. I have some experience with this: When I agree to an interview with a non-American news organization, it is not rare for me to receive an honorarium to compensate me for my time. Believe me, those foreigners aren’t getting anything different from me than the outfits based here in the good old U.S. of A.

In 2002, two French brothers sold the rights to their exclusive footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 to CBS for $1 million. They caught a lot of flak for profiting from tragedy, but CBS got 35 million viewers to tune in to their riveting documentary of the attack on New York City. You can be damned sure that CBS made a handsome profit on that.

To reiterate, I would come down on the other side of the argument if we didn’t live in a world of corporatized mass media that keeps thousands of fat white guys, and a few fat white women, in penthouse apartments and Hamptons vacation homes. As long as they’re making money from news, why can’t the rest of us?

Back to Normal

Pundits and politicians are looking forward to the “recovery” following race riots in Ferguson, Missouri. What will “back to normal” look like? Police randomly stopping young black men in the streets just because, checkpoints by heavily armed uniformed goons, police shootings of unarmed men, high unemployment and underemployment.