Peace Officers

(Thanks to Marian Douglas for shining light on this.)

We already knew that Florida cops were willing to electrify a 6 year old boy and a 12 year old girl with a 50,000 volt blast from a taser. The 6 year old was distraught and threatening to hurt himself (after all, why hurt yourself when you can have a cop immobilize you with pain?); the 12 year old’s crime was playing hooky and maybe being a little tipsy, and the incredibly dangerous imminent threat she posed was that she ran away from the cop and so might have been able to skip school. Back when it happened, I mentioned that the main reaction from the police brass was to review the decision to equip cops with tasers—as if the equipment were the primary problem here. I also mentioned that we might be better served by scrutinizing the paramilitary police culture that we have, in which peace officers are trained to take control of every situation at all times, by any means necessary, and where any notion of proportionality between the possible harm and the violence used to maintain control is routinely chucked out the window in the name of law and order and winning the war on crime.

I hate being proven right.

It doesn’t take fancy electric tasers for Florida cops to be overbearing, brutal assholes. They can do it the old-fashioned way: for example, by sending three adult officers to pin a five year old girl’s arms behind her back and handcuff her.

A lawyer has threatened to sue police officers who handcuffed an allegedly uncontrollable five-year-old after she acted up at a Florida kindergarten.

The officers were called by the school after a teacher and assistant principal failed to calm down the little girl.

The incident was caught on a video camera which was rolling in the classroom as part of a self-improvement exercise at the St Petersburg school.

A lawyer for the girl’s mother said the episode was ncomprehensible.

The video, made public by the lawyer this week, shows the unfolding of the violent tantrum, which started when the little girl refused to take part in a maths lesson.

She then ripped some papers off a bulletin board and lashed out at staff trying to calm her down.

After calling her mother and learning she would not be able to pick up the child for at least one more hour, the teachers resorted to calling the police.

Three officers rushed to the scene and handcuffed the girl, by that time apparently calm, after pinning her arms behind her back.

The footage showed her in distress after being handcuffed.

— BBC 2005-04-23: U.S. police handcuff five-year-old

One of the minor consolations of subjecting schoolchildren to a school police state is that the surveillance has left a video record of the handcuffing.

So a kindergardner is uncontrollable and this justifies calling the cops, and then (even though she wasn’t doing anything anymore, just in case she got any ideas) hand-cuffing her as she screams.

By the way, this is not the first time that this has happened

Trayvon McRae is 6 years old.

After throwing a tantrum in music class, and kicking and hitting a St. Petersburg police officer who was taking him home, this kindergartener was handcuffed and arrested on a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer. Both of his wrists fit neatly into a single cuff.

Mikey Rao was 8 when he got arrested.

He didn’t want to go to the principal’s office, so he ran out of his class and kicked and scratched a teacher’s aide. He spent several hours in the Citrus County Jail.

Demetri Starks turned 9 last week.

One day this summer, when he was still 8, he swiped a neighbor’s jar of change. Police stopped the 60-pound St. Petersburg boy wearing a T-shirt covered with monsters from the cartoon Digimon. They handcuffed him and sent him to a detention center where he stayed locked up for nine days.

— St. Petersburg Times 2000-12-17: Under 12, Under Arrest

Hell, it’s not even the only time that it’s happened recently.

Two boys, aged 9 and 10, were charged with second-degree felonies and taken away in handcuffs by the police because they drew stick figures depicting violence against a third student.

There was no act of violence, no weaponry. According to news reports, the arrested children had no prior history of threatening the student depicted in the drawing. The parents were not advised or consulted. The school’s immediate response was to call the police and level charges “of making a written threat to kill or harm another person.”

The incident was not an aberration but one of three similar occurrences in the Florida school system during the same week. In another case, a 6-year-old was led away in handcuffs by police. And those three incidents are only the ones that managed to attract media attention.

— Wendy McElroy 2005-02-10: On Handcuffed and Felonious Children

(Just in case you Blue Staters were thinking about getting smug about those barbarians down yonder in Florida, you might also be interested to know about the California cops who beat the shit out of a non-verbal autistic teenager who didn’t follow their orders—using bludgeons, a taser, and pepper spray.)

photo: Two cops hunker down with tactical gear and assault rifles

Hello, we’re the cops, and we’re here to keep you safe!

The cops, of course, continue to treat these cases as a P.R. management problem, not a public safety problem created by out-of-control cops. That’s because the cops aren’t out of control; they are doing what cops normally do in our society; we only know about it here because the victims were vulnerable enough that their caretakers were able to get the attention of the newsmedia and the civil courts. We are not talking about a few bad apples here; we are talking about a systematic feature of policing in our society. We’re not talking about something that a bit of administrative hand-wringing and P.R. management and tinkering with equipment will solve. Police brutality, especially police brutality against unruly Black people, ain’t exactly new. This is what happens when the means of defense are almost entirely in the hands of a professionalized paramilitary force. You get an institutional culture of command-and-control. You get unaccountable peace officers who go on a rampage when their orders are questioned, and who apparently don’t have any principled inhibitions about using force on people that is wildly out of proportion to any possible threat. (Restraint can especially go out the window if they are Black. Or if they are otherwise thought to be unlikely to get sympathetic attention from the courts.)

So just remember, Johnny: the cops are here to keep you safe. By hurting you for no reason when you pose absolutely no threat to anyone.

Further reading

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12 replies to Peace Officers Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Labyrus

    Cops don’t do anyone any good, I’ve seen enough of them harassing and attacking homeless people in my town to know that. A good way to help deal with the problem is to get involved with a copwatch type organisation, or more informally, to simply make a point of observing when you see police activity in your town. If they act innapropriately, try to get pictures, or at least Badge numbers, and let the victim know you witnessed the incident.

    If police know they can’t get away with this sort of crap, they won’t do it. It’s also a good idea to be aware of the laws surrounding arrests in your area, Police are pretty intimidated by people who know their rights.

· May 2005 ·

  1. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    Peace Officers, redux

    (Link thanks to Lew Rockwell [2005-03-02].) I’ve commented on the obliteration of any notion of proportionality in modern police forces before (in GT 2005-04-26: Peace…

· June 2005 ·

  1. Discussed at www.radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    Bolts from the Blue

    (Links thanks to Marian Douglas [2005-06-07], Lew Rockwell [2005-06-06], and Edmund Burke [1757].) Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies, and…

— 2006 —

  1. jk

    all police are not bad. Do you know all the information? Have you been in their shoes? I guess not. im not justifying all the actions. I am justifying most of them. so before you speak next time. know what its like on the other side.

— 2007 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2006-11-16 – Law and Orders: UCLA campus police “found it necessary” to repeatedly taser an Iranian student already lying helpless on the ground:

    […] and then do nothing at all, except perhaps question the decision to arm the pigs with tasers (as if the equipment were the issue here). This is a cellphone video of what happened to UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad when he refused […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-12-07 – Law and Orders #4: Wichita cops take control by shocking a deaf man for not following orders he couldn’t hear:

    […] start shocking in order to coerce compliance, has led to predictable results over and over again. In California, a gang of three cops pepper-sprayed, and tasered, and beat the hell out of a 17-year-… for failing to obey commands that he didn’t have the linguistic capacity to understand. In […]

— 2008 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2005-12-15 – Bill of Rights Day festivities:

    […] the FBI spying on us in secret, increasingly arrogant and militant paramilitary police ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]) occupying our cities, a rampaging global war machine, deliberate and systematic gutting […]

— 2009 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-03-28 – It doesn’t take much imagination.:

    […] on bad information and accidentally killed or terrorized innocent Americans, including women and children, most of the time with little to no repercussions or consequences. Imagine that they set up […]

  2. travis

    I was on a litle raft with my sister when I was 10. The police were there e and put me in Fken handcuffs.They had no FKEN to do that. They are bad son of a B**CH.

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