Monday, June 1, 2020

It's Groundhog Day with Cops

I’m really growing to hate writing about this subject. Here we are again, with cities across the country on high-alert, crowds gathering to protest, police gathering to break them up, all because yet another cop killed another unarmed African-American over something trivial.

Nothing ever changes. There was déjà vu all over this when wrote about it back in 2015:

Earlier this month, the Walter Scott case, (police shoot guy who’s running away, 8 times in the back, after being stopped for a broken tail light), was the candidate to become the next Ferguson.  But it didn’t because this time almost the entire incident was caught on video, which showed the shooting and subsequent planting of evidence to bolster the cop’s initial story. (I guess getting the killing on video is no longer novel.)

Because of the video, the cop was arrested, which pretty much stemmed any violent public demonstrations.  But without the video, it would have been just one more uncorroborated cop story where the black guy gets killed.

So with yet another such story dominating the news cycles, you would think that police forces would start to get the message, that they can’t use citizens (even our possible criminal citizens) as target practice.

But still, the stories keep rolling out.  Right here in Baltimore, a guy died after having his spine 80% severed at the neck after he was taken into custody.  (The charge: running away upon seeing some cops, and having a knife clipped to his belt.)

Taken all together, this tells me just how deeply ingrained it is with our police forces, to view black men as criminals; judged as sub-human for no other reason than that they’re black.  Even with all the heat; all the publicity going on over these incidents, they keep happening over and over again.

And now we’re waist-deep in protests, the appearance of which was inevitable but still rather useless. The cop has already been arrested. Trials take time so this won’t be wrapped up for a while. We had the same problem with Ferguson in 2014, and I wrote:

And the sad thing is that no one knows what really happened.  For all the coverage and attention, I don’t know what happened. You don’t know what happened.  And neither do any of these “expert” commentators and opinionators.

There are three people who know what happened: the cop who shot the kid, and the two witnesses.  Do cops ever lie to cover their asses?  Absolutely.  Do witnesses ever lie to cover for somebody else?  Absolutely.  Which leaves us in exactly the same place.  We don’t know what happened.

So how do you get justice when no one knows what happened?  That’s what everyone is talking about, right?  Justice?

Sure, everyone wants justice.  But what no one wants is to wait for it.  We’re an immediate gratification country.  We want the case wrapped up and the killer brought to justice in an hour, just like we see on Law and Order.”

I used to think that police body-cams would help this issue a great deal, but then learned differently when I saw the lengths people would go to discount what can be seen on video. So in 2014 I opined about how else we may solve the long term problem of racially-inspired cop shootings:

Here, we have a cop using a banned chokehold on an unarmed guy who was just standing there, for the crime of selling single smokes, which is barely a notch above jaywalking, ignoring his pleas that he couldn’t breathe until the guy dies right there on the sidewalk, and the whole thing is on video.  And they STILL didn’t indict the cop.

I just don’t see how that’s possible.  What is it that has to happen, before it’s the cop’s fault?  Kill a dog, while he’s at it?

So no, it’s not like putting body cams on cops is going to solve everything.  To even make a dent in the mistrust between the police and minority citizens, it’s going to take far more complicated solutions to address the root of the problem.  It all comes down to poverty.  Here’s why…

We’ll never solve the mutual mistrust problem when with an overwhelmingly white police force policing an overwhelmingly black (or Hispanic) population.  And dropping a few more token minorities onto the force is not going to cut it.  There has to be a significant, visible difference.

But it’s not like even if they wanted to, all the dudes from the neighborhood can just go sign up and be issued a badge.  They have to meet physical requirements, take an entrance exam which may or may not be biased towards white applicants, go through training, and pass another test.

I’m betting a significant percentage of the candidate pool hasn’t had the best education, which might have helped in passing a test.  A lot of these city schools aren’t exactly shining jewels of educational excellence.  It’s all teachers can do to keep kids’ butts in their seats, sometimes.

And why is that?  Maybe because the kids haven’t been eating well, or maybe they’ve been out all night on the street, or maybe they’re afraid of enjoying the act of learning and getting labeled as “not keeping it real.”

And where does all that come from?  Poverty.  No money, no food, no toys or books or laptops.  No kid is going to thrive under that kind of stress.  Meanwhile, the older poor kids are pressuring them to come out and hustle, to make a few bucks... just watch out for the Po-Po.  Thus begins the mistrust, if it hasn’t already been handed down from preceding generations.

Now, I’m not trying to generalize, and there are obviously exceptions everywhere, but this is a problem that will not be solved by exceptions.  It requires institutional change, not Band-Aids or body cams.

How is that going to happen?  A good start would entail the creation of some real jobs, paying a realistic wage.

A jobs bill could set aside funds for all kinds of highway projects, but not only that, how about setting up an apprenticeship program, to learn the applicable skills?  Start at one wage, during a fixed apprenticeship, then add a few more bucks upon completion. [Snip]

The thing is, these can’t be McJobs; they have to pay off better than dealing or hustling, or else they’re doomed to fail.  There has to be a viable alternative to a life of rotating between crime and jail time.

We do this, and it’s a win/win.  People who need jobs can get them and make a living, and our roads and bridges are brought out of “death trap” status.

That’s one idea, and I’m sure there are more to be had.  So why hasn’t anything like this been done yet?  You might ask the GOP, who has blocked every jobs bill in the last 6 years.  You see, their clientele isn’t interested in jobs bills, they’re interested in tax cuts for businesses.  Construction workers aren’t giving millions of dollars to their re-election campaigns, the Koch Brothers are.

As far as they’re concerned, the solution to police versus citizens issue is to build more prisons.  Now that’s a jobs bill they’ll support.”

So that’s it… all we have to do to solve white cops killing black people is solve poverty. No sweat!

In the near term, nothing changes without wholesale changes of attitude and culture with the nation’s police forces. Despite the increased national attention on these kinds of brutal overreactions, the police continue to shoot, beat, and kill African-Americans, even while they know they’re being filmed. It shows you just how ingrained this behavior is. They just can’t seem to conceive that they’re in the wrong.

This cop knew he was being filmed, he knew it could end up on every news feed in the country, but he just stayed there, disregarding calls to get off the guy’s neck, so he could show everyone who the boss is.

If these actions are only carried out by a few “bad apples,” I want to know where they grew. There’s a big-ass bad apple tree out there somewhere that’s spewing these bad apples into police forces everywhere.

It. Just. Keeps. Happening.

I don’t know what’s going on in Minnesota. I thought they were supposed to be so polite up there. Remember back in 2017 the Minneapolis cops accidentally shot a blonde? That’s the modern equivalent of a Man-Bites-Dog story.

Yep, there was another unjustified police shooting this weekend, one which may finally make police forces around the country take a good look at their occupational culture.  This time they really screwed up… they shot a blonde.

An Australian woman who had placed a 911 call to report a sound in the alley behind her home was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Oof-dah.

We know that after the repeated police shootings of black men and black women and white guys who dress like black men, nothing has changed.  The body cameras the cops were wearing, as mandated by all these prior killings, were not turned on, according to the initial police report.  We’ll see what they say in the later police reports.  These things have a way of evolving over time.

Meanwhile, I can just see President 45’s briefing on the matter:

Advisor: Mr. President, we just had another fatal police shooting.  This time it was an immigrant.

Trump: That’s what they get for coming here.  See, I told you we need a wall.

Advisor: No, Mr. President, the immigrant wasn’t Mexican.

Trump: So we lost another raghead who’s just going to radicalize here and blow something up.  No big deal.

Advisor: No, it wasn’t a Muslim man, it was an Australian woman.

Trump:  Good God, man!  Was she hot?

Advisor: As a matter of fact, she was a very attractive blonde.

Trump: Dammit, I could have married her!  Tell all my people… We have to do something about this.  We have to act fast.  The American people will never stand for this senseless slaughter of hot blondes.

Advisor: What do you want us to do, sir?

Trump: Figure out how to blame it on Obama.”

So now we’re awash in protests again, which immediately commands all the attention from the police fetishists and apologists. The only thing that matters to them is that some windows got broke and poor people stole some shoes or TVs. Republicans are very much against the looting of big retail stores like Target, by the common folk. That's the job for the executives.

In other words, “Stop crying or we’ll give you something to cry about.”

How nice to be immune from criticism from anyone who isn’t doing the job themselves.

I understand that it’s a dirty and dangerous job, and we owe a lot to our police officers. But is it too much to ask that they do their jobs without arresting innocent bystanders or beating the shit out of people in handcuffs? Or shooting people who are running away from traffic stops? Or rolling anyone who looks like they have money?

It’s not like we’re just being picky here.

The funny thing is, right after I saw the meme, I read an article in the Baltimore Sun about how the Baltimore City police are now afraid to make arrests because they’ll get in trouble.

So many things set me off.

“Many Baltimore Police officers say making an arrest can be nerve-wracking because they feel overburdened by documenting even necessary force, they worry they will be harshly punished for their actions and they don’t feel supported by commanders.”

If you can take the time to night-stick someone, I think you can take the time to justify it in writing. Next time, maybe they’ll think before they clobber.

"You know, I’d really like to knock the crap out of that guy, but I just don’t wanna do the paperwork.”"


RO said...

As long as it keeps happening, you and lots of other people in the world will still keep bringing this up, and rightfully so. Shooting someone in their own bed 8 times while sleeping, then realizing you were at the wrong house; chasing after someone you 'believed' was breaking into people's cars and homes, and then calling him the n word once he was shot and putting a knee in someone's neck who's telling you he can't breathe while you hold your hands in your pocket are just some examples. Even though police officers are knocking over 75 year old men and lying about it, or attacking peaceful protesters with tear gas for no reason, I feel like there's some minute headway being made this time. I'm seeing commercials, messages from Amazon, meetings being held with police officers, and the chokehold being stopped in Minneapolis. I'm seeing football stars who were previously silent, speaking out publicly. Racism is not something we're born with, it's clearly learned, and realistically it's going to take time to 'unlearn' it. Some people may rise to that occasion and others may never do so. On the news today a man on a bicycle attacked some young people and tried to go after the person filming him because of the signs they were carrying. That phone camera got a really good view of his face, and they're looking for him. Air Hugs, RO

bluzdude said...

Preach it, sister.
This will never stop until the power structure at the top of every police department decides to make it stop. And that means prosecuting cops who kill unarmed detainees, push down senior citizens, or otherwise endanger citizens with their total disregard of human rights. It also means getting rid of cops who have the wrong disposition for the "new" job, of which there appears to be many.

RO said...

Truth, and I raise up a virtual glass of champagne to you and Sweet Pea this Friday morning. It's 5 o'clock somewhere.(lol)

bluzdude said...

My parents, retired to Florida, have a large clock on their porch, and every number is the number 5.