Posts tagged Gangsters in Blue

We need government cops because private protection forces would be accountable to the powerful and well-connected instead of being accountable to the people.

A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown. The decision wasn’t a surprise — leaks from the grand jury had led most observers to conclude an indictment was unlikely — but it was unusual. Grand juries nearly always decide to indict.

Or at least, they nearly always do so in cases that don’t involve police officers.

Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

Wilson’s case was heard in state court, not federal, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable. Unlike in federal court, most states, including Missouri, allow prosecutors to bring charges via a preliminary hearing in front of a judge instead of through a grand jury indictment. That means many routine cases never go before a grand jury. Still, legal experts agree that, at any level, it is extremely rare for prosecutors to fail to win an indictment.

If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong, said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. It just doesn’t happen.

Cases involving police shootings, however, appear to be an exception. As my colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum has written, we don’t have good data on officer-involved killings. But newspaper accounts suggest, grand juries frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials. A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment… .

— Ben Casselman, It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did
FiveThirtyEight (November 24, 2014).

Protesters in Seattle, Washington react to the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson (November 24, 2014)

I’m not invested in indicting Darren Wilson though I understand its (symbolic) import to many people, most especially Mike Brown’s family and friends. Vincent Warren of the Center on Constitutional Rights speaks for many, I think, when he writes:

Without accountability, there can be no rule of law. If Wilson is not indicted, or is under-indicted, the clear message is that it is open season on people of color, that St. Louis has declared that Darren Wilson is not a criminal but that the people who live under the thumbs of the Darren Wilsons of this country are. It would say to the cry that “Black lives matter” that, no, in fact, they do not.

I understand the sentiment that Warren expresses. Yet I don’t believe that an indictment of Wilson would be evidence that black lives do in fact matter to anyone other than black people. Nor do I think his indictment would mean that it was no longer open season on people of color in this country. If we are to take seriously that oppressive policing is not a problem of individual “bad apple” cops then it must follow that a singular indictment will have little to no impact on ending police violence. As I type, I can already feel the impatience and frustration of some who will read these words.

? It feels blasphemous to suggest that one is disinvested from the outcome of the grand jury deliberations. “Don’t you care about accountability for harm caused?” some will ask. “What about justice?” others will accuse. My response is always the same: I am not against indicting killer cops. I just know that indictments won’t and can’t end oppressive policing which is rooted in anti-blackness, social control and containment. Policing is derivative of a broader social justice. It’s impossible for non-oppressive policing to exist in a fundamentally oppressive and unjust society. . . .

The pattern after police killings is all too familiar. Person X is shot & killed. Person X is usually black (or less frequently brown). Community members (sometimes) take to the streets in protest. They are (sometimes) brutally suppressed. The press calls for investigations. Advocates call for reforms suggesting that the current practices and systems are ‘broken’ and/or unjust. There is a (racist) backlash by people who “support” the police. A very few people whisper that the essential nature of policing is oppressive and is not susceptible to any reforms, thus only abolition is realistic. These people are considered heretic by most. I’ve spent years participating in one way or another in this cycle. . . .

— Mariame Kaba, Whether Darren Wilson Is Indicted or Not, the Entire System Is Guilty
In These Times (November 17, 2014).

So, to those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively. . . . Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there’s never an excuse for violence . . . .

— President Barack Obama Remarks by the President After Announcement of the Decision by the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri
November 24, 2014

Barack Obama, President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the largest and most heavily armed military force in the world, got onto the television to tell us that there’s never an excuse for violence just as heavily-armed police throughout Ferguson began launching teargas against everyone in sight on the streets. Of course, when he said violence he meant violence by protesters. It is eerily reminiscent of Lyndon Banes Johnson in July 1967, going on national television to announce that We will not endure violence. It matters not by whom it is done or under what slogan or banner, — saying this at the height of the Vietnam War, and on the specific occasion of his decision to send U.S. soldiers and tanks down Woodward Avenue.

The police are irresponsible and unaccountable. That is what makes them the police. Unless we hold them accountable. The law, for its part, will never curtail the racist violence of the law. Only social accountability for police officers, not legal processes, can do that.

The NAACP circulated this image on social media, reading “No more Michael Browns: I support an end to police brutality and militarization.”
You had me at I support an end to police.

Abolish the police.

Also.

“Hands Up!” Solidarity Event in Auburn Friday 8-15 12pm

If you’re in Auburn, and you’ve been watching the police-state horror-show unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, you may be interested to know about this. TOMORROW (Friday, August 15) at 12pm, on Samford Lawn, Auburn University campus.

Announcement forwarded from AU Black Student Union follows

Attention auburn friends and family:

“Hands Up!” event tomorrow organized by BSU at 12pm on samford lawn to honor Michael Brown + raise awareness about police brutality directed at people of color

LET’S SHOW UP ! ! !

more info below from email sent by BSU’s president

Due to the recent events emerging in Ferguson, Missouri, in relation to the death of Michael Brown, Black Student Union would like to show its support in the fight for equality by joining in the “Hands Up!” Movement. This movement has been spreading rapidly around the country and we should all raise our voices in the fight for justice. We should raise our voices for those who cannot any longer, for Sean Bell, for Oscar Grant, for Amadou Diallo, for Michael Brown and for countless others. Meet us on Samford Lawn tomorrow, Friday, August 15th at noon to take a picture and let’s show the people of Ferguson, Missouri, that they have our support.

Hope to see you tomorrow at noon on Samford with your hands up.

War Eagle!
Jasmine S. Pettaway
Your BSU President

State of Siege

By the book

In Escambia County, Florida, a gang of unnamed sheriff’s deputies shot an unarmed, 60-year-old black man 15 times while he was standing in his own front yard trying to get a cigarette from his aged mother’s car, sending him to the hospital with a gunshot wound in his leg. The police lit him up because they barged onto his property at a quarter till three in the morning, came up behind him, drew down on him and shouted at him out of nowhere to get his hands up. When he didn’t react the right way, quickly enough, to bellowed commands of these belligerent, heavily armed strangers, they opened fire on him.

[Roy] Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home.

A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call.

Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, Get your hands where I can see them.

He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway.

He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire.

It was like a firing squad, he said. Bullets were flying everywhere.

— Kevin Robinson, Deputies shoot man in his front yard
Pensacola News Journal (29 July 2013)

For shooting an unarmed man standing in his front lawn, who posed no threat to them, the unnamed police officers have been given a paid vacation from their government jobs.

Last Thursday, Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan gave an interview with CNN in which he defended the shooting and the deputies responsible for it, and that it is within standard protocols to open fire because Middleton did not comply with their commands.

According to Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan in a CNN interview Thursday, the police officers who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton in the driveway of his and his mother’s home acted entirely within their limits in response to a 911 call for a suspected car theft… . On Thursday, Morgan defended the officers’ actions as standard procedure because Middleton “did not comply.” Asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo how police could justify 15 shots at a 60-year-old man, Morgan said the officers saw a metallic object in Middleton’s hand as he made a “lunging movement” toward them. Middleton explained this in his account: He turned around because he thought the entire thing was a practical joke played by a neighbor.

“Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” Morgan said.

— Rebecca Leber, Florida Sheriff: Officers Who Shot Unarmed Black Man In His Driveway Followed ‘Standard Protocols’
ThinkProgress (August 1, 2013).

Let’s suppose that all that is true, for the moment. (There is actually no reason at all to take the police at their word on this, but let’s assume for the sake of argument.) If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was something that leaves the police comfortable from a training perspective, then what does that tell you about the training? If this overkill shooting of an unarmed man was strictly by the book, what does that tell you about the book?

Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d)

(Via Thaddeus Russell.)

An 18-year-old skater died yesterday after Miami Beach Police officers caught him tagging a building and then Tasered him.

Details about the death are still murky, but what is clear is that Israel Hernandez died before dawn Tuesday morning after cops caught him spray painting near 71st Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Police have yet to comment on the killing, but an officer near the scene confirmed that cops had fatally Tasered someone. Hernandez’s friends on the Miami Beach skate scene are devastated.

“I just cant believe it,” says best friend Rafael Lynch, on the verge of tears. “I still have his hat and his board. They still smell like him. It’s crazy.”

Update: MBPD has released a statement and incident report confirming that Hernandez died after being Tasered. Police chased Hernandez after catching him tagging a building and used the electronic weapon [sic —RG] when he refused to stop.

— Michael E. Miller, Teenager Israel Hernandez Dies After Miami Beach Cops Catch Him Tagging, Taser Him
Miami New Times (Aug 7, 2013).

From GT 2011-01-28: Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d):

As such, police in general, and police assault forces especially, are trained to enter every encounter with the goal of taking control of the situation, by means of setting up confrontations in situations (no-knock raids, late-night forced-entry raids, etc.) where their chosen targets are most likely to be disoriented and easily terrorized, and by responding with maximal force in the volatile, disorienting confrontations that they create. For the sake of this maximal-force approach, they are equipped with an arsenal of weapons ranging from tasers and clubs to handguns and assault rifles, up to, and including, military helicopters and tanks. Worse, with all these weapons, they have institutionalized a culture of fact-free assertion and lies about highly dangerous weapons that they consider to be categorically non-lethal — and thus to be used as a first resort, in virtually any situation, as long as it might give the cops a tactical advantage over people who they intend to bring under their control (whether or not these people have ever committed any crime at all). These weapons continue to be used with no hesitation and no restraint, and continue to be called non-lethal force, no matter how many people are killed by them. There are, for example, tasers, portable electric torture devices which were originally sold as a less-deadly alternative to using a hand-gun in potentially life-threatening confrontations, but which cops now freely use for as part of pain compliance techniques[1] in everyday confrontations with the public. This would be bad enough on its own, but part of the reason they are used so freely is because they take no real exertion for cops to use, and are consistently billed as non-lethal by police and media, even though there are hundreds of documented cases of people dying after being subjected to repeated taser shocks.

  1. [1] That is, torture.