Cops are here to protect you. (#2)

(This story via Hear Me Roar 2008-02-20 and a private correspondent.)

Trigger warning: The police surveillance video, news story, photos, and text comments from freelance thugs, which this story reports on, may be triggering for past experiences of violence. (Note added 2008-03-18.)

Here is something that I wrote a couple years ago about the State and its efforts to protect the hell out of us all whether we want it to or not:

The State is, as Catharine MacKinnon says, male in the political sense. But not only because the law views women’s civil status through the lens of male supremacy (although it certainly does). It is also because the male-dominated State relates to all of its subjects like a battering husband relates to the household of which he has proclaimed himself the head: by laying a claim to protect those who did not ask for it, and using whatever violence and intimidation may be necessary to terrorize them into submitting to his protection. The State, as the abusive head of the whole nation, assaults the innocent, and turns a blind eye to assaults of the innocent, when it suits political interest — renamed national interest by the self-proclaimed representatives of the nation. It does so not because of the venality or incompetance of a particular ruler, but rather because that is what State power means, and that is what the job of a ruler is: to maintain a monopoly of coercion over its territorial area, as a good German might tell you, and to beat, chain, burn, or kill anyone within or without who might endanger that, whether by defying State rule, or by simply ignoring it and asking to be left alone.

— GT 2006-05-11: Quidditative essence

I didn’t mean the analogy between government protection and domestic violence quite this literally, but, well, here we are.

This is how government cops protect you: by beating the shit out of a suspect woman after she’s already been handcuffed, turning off the camera so that they won’t be caught on tape doing it, and then claiming that the reason she ended up lying a pool of her own blood in the middle of the room, with two black eyes, a broken nose, and missing teeth, was that she tried to leave the room and fell and hurt herself in the process. He didn’t do it, and besides, even if he did, she was belligerent (which, since there’s no evidence of her trying to use physical force against the cop at any point, is cop-speak for mouthing off).

Here is a photo of the injuries to Angela Garbarino's face, including a broken nose, cuts on her cheek, two huge black eyes, and bruises around her mouth.

She fell.

Please note that the explicit reason for this violent creep handcuffing her, slamming her up against the wall, and then beating the hell out of her was that there are rules you have to follow (where there are is cop-speak for I make, and you have to means or else), which rules absolutely require that you keep her in a tiny room no matter what, by any means necessary, and don’t set aside your paperwork for even a moment so that she can call somebody to let them know where she is. No matter how easy it would be for you to do so, and no matter how quickly that would de-escalate an extremely stressful situation.

Please also note that, because Wiley Willis is a cop and his victim, Angela Garbarino, is not, so far the only consequences that this violent sociopath — who had already been named in at least two unrelated brutality complaints in the past two years — is that he was given a paid vacation for three months, and then finally lost his job after an administrative hearing. But in the view of other Shreveport cops, Willis deserves this proverbial walk around the block because After reviewing the evidence, we decided it was something that needed to be handled internally and that it was not enough to pursue criminal charges. Nowadays, thanks to the concerted struggle of our feminist foremothers to reform the police and courts’ handling of violence against women, if any man who didn’t sport a badge and a uniform had been alone in a closed room with a woman who ended up getting hurt so bad she needed to be hospitalized, with a video clearly showing him shoving her around, handcuffing her, slamming her against the wall, and then deliberately turning the tape off up until she ended up bruised and bleeding, that man would be in jail right now on charge of assault and battery. Even without such comprehensive evidence almost any court would long ago have issued a restraining order against the violent pig. I’ll bet that there are a lot of people in Shreveport who wish they could get one of those against Wiley Willis and the paramilitary force that employed him.

Meanwhile, the mainstream news media, while Very Disturbed, are still willing to call this videotaped brutality a classic case of he-said / she-said, and the Fraternal Order of Pigs and Willis’s lawyer are trying to get him put back on the force.

In the YouTube comments thread, you can find the usual sado-fascist bully brigade of police enablers, one of whom summarizes the situation as follows:

She was very cooperative when the officer was polite to her and did not yell or demand anything…Yah right! Saying the word Miss and Mam didnt do any good. She decided to get drunk and stupid, not follow directions, would jerk away,and thought she was in charge. When she got arrested she needed to shut her cock-holster! The officer cant make her take the test. All he had to do was state she refused to take the test and be done with it. She got the best of him because now she will get paid.

Another adds:

she’s a woman. act like a lady or get treated like a man. she got much better treatment than a man would even after she kept disobeying

His conclusion (and I am quoting): the b(((* was asking for it.

Back in Ohio, here’s how newspaper epistolator William McClelland, of Lake Township, responded to Bonnie Yagiela’s letter on the police’s beating and gang-rape of Hope Steffey, in which Yagiela stated that I was disgusted and appalled but not surprised. The behavior they displayed is typical of humans placed in a position of power and authority over others. McClelland replies:

I wasn’t there, nor have I ever been to Abu Ghraib; therefore, I am not qualified to offer expert analysis as to the events that occurred at either. However, I do know that making generalizations about humans placed in a position of power and authority over others is grossly unfair to the many who serve our nation.

… Maybe the handling of Ms. Steffey was not properly conducted; maybe it was. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I do know that Sheriff Swanson has requested outside assistance from the Ohio attorney general’s office in investigating the incident, and I am willing to await its findings before I make judgment.

Should the investigation prove that the deputies involved did abuse their authority, I will then consider them responsible individually. I will not hold every human being in a position of authority, or every deputy in the sheriff’s office, accountable for the actions of a few.

McClelland’s position on the particular case — which he fraudulently passes off as a critical suspension of judgment, when in fact it is nothing more than overt denialism toward obvious abuse captured on film — is objectionable enough by itself. But what’s even more foolish, and extremely dangerous in the long run, is the notion that a tightly-organized class of people, who exercise such a tremendous advantage over the rest of us in both physical force and legal power, ought to be given every benefit of the doubt when they’re accused of hurting people that they willingly chose to put under their legally-backed and heavily-armed power, and that the basic institutional structures which back up their power cannot be called into question without unfair generalization or stereotyping. When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police department almost invariably doing everything in its power to conceal, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be, it defies reason to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here. What you have is one of two things: either a professionalized system of control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant abuse against powerless people, or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

Further reading:

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21 replies to Cops are here to protect you. (#2) Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. John T. Kennedy

    The State is, as Catharine MacKinnon says, male in the political sense. But not only because the law views women’s civil status through the lens of male supremacy (although it certainly does). It is also because the male-dominated State relates to all of its subjects like a battering husband relates to the household of which he has proclaimed himself the head: by laying a claim to protect those who did not ask for it, and using whatever violence and intimidation may be necessary to terrorize them into submitting to his protection. The State, as the abusive head of the whole nation, assaults the innocent, and turns a blind eye to assaults of the innocent, when it suits political interest — renamed national interest by the self-proclaimed representatives of the nation. It does so not because of the venality or incompetance of a particular ruler, but rather because that is what State power means, and that is what the job of a ruler is: to maintain a monopoly of coercion over its territorial area, as a good German might tell you, and to beat, chain, burn, or kill anyone within or without who might endanger that, whether by defying State rule, or by simply ignoring it and asking to be left alone.

    That’s male? Male sounds pretty bad.

    I have not been following the news. What does Garbarino say happened to her?

  2. Rad Geek

    Kennedy,

    It’s part and parcel of a certain style of masculinity, which was once sanctioned by both Church and State, and almost universally popular among men. It still remains so in certain circles. Maybe that’s changing; I hope so. There are certainly a lot of other ways for male human beings to inhabit the world, and I hope that increasing numbers of men will make the changes in values and priorities that are necessary to bring some of those other ways about.

    According to the story from the local news, Garbarino says that after he turned the camera off, Officer Wiley Willis “roughed her up” (reporter’s words, not hers), shoved her against a door, slapped her against a file locker, and then slammed her down on the floor. She says she got a big gash on her head from the file locker, which I expect is probably where most of the blood came from.

  3. smally

    The “she fell” lie reminds me of a news story from a couple of years back reported under the headline Man headbutts road after arrest. Cops don’t even need a half-way plausible excuse to be believed.

    “The man was taken to Fremantle Hospital for treatment to facial injuries after he headbutted the bitumen of the road several times,” police said.

    [If this is a double-post I apologize.]

  4. Anon73

    Your analysis is excellent as usual Radgeek, but perhaps you shouldn’t get your hopes too high. The “professionalized system” you refer to is quite real and perpetuated through custom, the public school system, brute force, and intimidation. The situation is reminiscent of that in 1984 - the thoughts you’re trying to convey are literally unthinkable for 99% of people. Since this is unlikely to change anytime soon, you sort of get numb to the outrage after the umpteenth event like this…

  5. John T. Kennedy

    Rad,

    “Male” is not a style, nor is it something I can, or desire to, avoid being. So to identify evil as male is naturally apt to be somewhat offensive to males who don’t participate in such evil. It also strongly implies permanent evil since maleness seems a permanent facet of humanity. There can only be a remedy for the evils you cite if evil and male are independent categories.

    Is there evil you identify as female? Do you suppose men are naturally more evil than women?

    Thanks for the link.

  6. Chad_Underdonk

    I have to agree with Mr. Kennedy above me. It is power that corrupts, and not ones sex. To imply that past cultural norms concerning male domination encompassed everyone, and that those norms are still prevalent today is disingenous. A converse of that statement might be that many women only felt themselves fit for child rearing, and obviously still follow those instincts today. Is it now obvious how insulting making that link is?

    Unchecked power is the problem here. The Standford prison experiment clearly showed that people take on roles that they might not otherwise countenance when THEY are in power. If memory serves there was also a woman involved in the Abu Ghraive case. And if that is still not enough for you then you might consult any woman who has spent time in prison what their opinion is of whether women guards are prone to abuse. I personally would be willing to bet that physical abusiveness is more prevalent among men, but degradation and psychological abuses are more prevalent among women. Either way abuse of power over the weak is completely, immorally, wrong.

    The problem is that we need to start training Peace Officers (i.e. Andy Griffiths) rather than Law Enforcers. Unfortunately too few citizens realize that any use of government power can be directly related to the initiation of force against individuals by the group.

  7. Rad Geek

    Anon73,

    I agree that the problem is not just localized in the police, and that it’s reflected throughout policed society, government education, culture, etc. I know that those attitudes are deeply entrenched and well-protected, and I don’t imagine that my next story about Yet Another Isolated Incident from a Few More Bad Apples is about to ignite a prairie fire against police brutality, even on a very personalized and concrete level, let alone at the level of institutional challenges. My aims have more to do with getting news out to a narrower and somewhat self-selected audience, who I know to be more receptive, including at least some people that I think might be encouraged to adopt or defend a more anti-statist or more radical positions or priorities than those they had heretofore adopted or defended. Also, occasionally, to point interested readers in the direction of good countervailing projects, like Radley Balko’s reporting and analysis, or CopWatch.

    JTK and Chad,

    When Catharine MacKinnon writes about the State being male in the political sense, she’s not referring to anatomy. She’s referring to positions within a historical system of social and political power based on gender. (Hence in the political sense rather than in the biological sense.)

    So it seems to me that the kind of behavior that many men have engaged in, and encouraged other men to engage in (through persuasion, intimidation, or law), and which they have considered as defining features of masculinity as they see it, is relevant to the discussion. The fact that you, personally, are biologically male, and that you, personally, deplore some or even all of the aspects of that kind of masculinity speaks very well of you, but I don’t think it changes the social and political ramifications of being male in a society where (for example) the law explicitly allowed for husbands to rape their wives with complete impunity as recently as 15-30 years ago (depending on state).

    Nobody demands or even wants you to stop being biologically male; the issue is not ending maleness in the biological sense, but rather ending the connection between biological maleness and political power. Similarly, I think it’s relevant to discuss the kind of power that most cops, as cops, have historically enjoyed over the rest of us, and what many cops have done with that power, even if it is true — as in fact it is — that not every cop acts that way, and even if it is true — as it occasionally is — that very few cops personally engage in the specific form of abuse that I’m discussing. Professional police and evil are conceptually independent categories, too, but it’s not a big accident that certain kinds of evil are so often perpetrated by professional police.

    One day, I hope, being male will be so completely uncoupled from contemporary and historical systems of social power and political violence that a sentence like The State is male in the political sense really won’t make any sense. But, while things have changed quite a bit in the wake of feminist activism against rape, battery, etc., I don’t think we’re anywhere near there yet. Maybe MacKinnon could have chosen other words to make her point, which would have made the distinction between biological maleness and political male supremacy more evident. But she was writing to a particular audience with whom she shares a certain theoretical background, and I think that her choice of words makes her point very well and puts it in a very pithy way, if you understand the background.

    Chad,

    The woman you’re thinking of is Lyndie England. I don’t mean to suggest, and I don’t think I ever claimed, that women aren’t capable of hurting or torturing people that they have power over. In fact I’ve run more than one story on this website about, for example, brutality by female cops and prison guards (cf. 1, 2, 3, etc.). But, empirically, men are more likely to do that than women are (partly because they are much more likely to have those positions of power in the first place), and I don’t think it’s crazy or especially speculative to claim that certain kinds of power and certain kinds of abuse are closely linked with the way that certain men think about themselves and what defines them as masculine.

    I agree with you that the institutional culture and the training of police officers is a big part of the problem, and much of that problem has to do with their carefully cultivated self-image as Law Enforcers engaged in a war against the bad guys. (I’d add only that I think the domineering, hypermasculine bad-ass attitude that the training and self-image tend to encourage would seem to rather support the other points I’m trying to make.)

    But I think the old-timey myth of the Mayberry PD hurts more than it helps (it promotes a counter-historical narrative that gives undue credit to government cops; actual rural Southern police forces were not quite so benign). And I also don’t hold out much hope for purely internal changes within police training or culture. As things stand government cops and their employers have no reason at all to care what the rest of us think, because they are legally and socially insulated from any kind of accountability or even serious sustained criticism. So naturally they will tend to run their paramilitary forces in ways that protect and benefit them. If there is any hope of changing things, it must almost certainly come through external pressures rather than reform from within police departments, which means either political reform to the legal monopoly and privileges that cops currently enjoy, or else countervailing pressure against cops from individuals or groups in civil society that make it more possible for ordinary people to expose, evade, and/or effectively resist police violence. For various reasons, I think that electoral reform efforts are usually hopeless quagmires, and especially so on issues (like this one) where there is no real disagreement within the ruling parties, and so no real wedge to open up the regime political consensus. So that’s part of the reason I’m much more interested in cultural projects and countervailing grassroots groups (like CopWatch). For more on a similar theme, cf. for example GT 2008-01-26.

  8. phiogistic

    This site http://www.cato.org/raidmap/ made me think of this post. An Epidemic of “Isolated Incidents”

    An interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids,” by Radley Balko.

· March 2008 ·

  1. Discussed at brownfemipower.com

    La Chola » police brutality against women:

    […] via radgeek (if you go over to the link, please be forewarned, there is a lot of triggering stuff over there, including videos of the beating–which I was unable to watch.) This is how government cops protect you: by beating the shit out of a suspect woman after she’s already been handcuffed, turning off the camera so that they won’t be caught on tape doing it, and then claiming that the reason she ended up lying a pool of her own blood in the middle of the room, with two black eyes, a broken nose, and missing teeth, was that she tried to leave the room and fell and hurt herself in the process. He didn’t do it, and besides, even if he did, she was belligerent (which, since there’s no evidence of her trying to use physical force against the cop at any point, is cop-speak for mouthing off). […]

  2. soledad

    I just wanted to say that it’s good feminist practice to put a warning before video material like this that it might be triggering for some women.

    People - the State is literally quite male, with males being disproportionately represented in government, law, and policing. And it’s also structured after a stereotypically masculine psychosocial dynamic. That doesn’t mean that having a dick makes you evil. Duh. “Male” in this case isn’t referring to biological sex. It’s referring to masculinity, which is societial notions of the personal attributes that men have. Obviously that’s a social construct. But real things are based on that silly social construct, just as they are for femininity too. Don’t assume that feminists are really that stupid…

  3. Rad Geek

    soledad,

    Concerning trigger warnings, you’re right, of course. I normally add those before material like this. I messed up on this one. I’m sorry. In any case, I’ve added one now.

· April 2008 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-04-16 – Professional courtesy:

    […] To be sure, letting a traffic ticket slide is, in the grand scheme of things, a pretty small thing. But it’s a small thing that is intimately connected with bigger things—with a pervasive, institutionalized system with consequences that are as terrible as they are inevitable and predictable. […]

· May 2008 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-10 – Cops are here to protect you. (#3):

    […] may have been guilty of using the computer lab without proper papers on hand. They are willing to beat a handcuffed woman bloody for demanding to use the phone, to slam a 13-year-old boy to the ground and choke him in order to […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-20 – Cops are here to protect you. (#5):

    […] expected to see another excuse from a violent cop that’s as contemptible and ridiculous as She fell. But honestly, there is no excuse so contemptible and ridiculous that I would be surprised, at this […]

· June 2008 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-06-09 – 10,000 ways to lose your freedom:

    […] and this. And that from there it doesn’t take a very slippery slope to get down to this and this and […]

  2. Rae

    Jesus Christ, when the camera was uncovered and revealed her lying on the floor in a puddle of blood, I literally jumped.

    This is the second scariest thing I have ever seen.

    The first are the comments on youtube mostly supporting the cop.

    I weep for those willing subjugated people…and will beat their face in if I ever meet one in person.

— 2009 —

  1. Stacey

    Please update this story if you have any further info. I am just appalled and beside myself w/this and Hope Steffey’s rape. WHY ARE THESE EVIL, CRUEL AND CRIMINAL MEN AND WOMEN NOT BEING CHARGED FOR THEIR FILMED ABUSE/TORTURE/CRUELTY??? No one is supposed to be above the law.

  2. Discussed at waronyou.com

    The Police Beat | War On You: Breaking Alternative News:

    […] injuries, suffered at the hands of a male police officer.] In which the male State once again once again assumes the role of a stereotypical abusive husband. A 44 year old woman named Irma Marquez tries to get a look to see if her niece, who was injured in […]

  3. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-06-22 – The Police Beat:

    […] GT 2008-02-26: Cops are here to protect you. (#2) […]

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