Officer Justin Barrett. Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Police Commissioner recently suspended and moved to fire Boston patrol cop Officer Justin Barrett, after being forwarded a racist-ass e-mail that Barret wrote in response to Yvonne Abraham’s Boston Globe column criticizing Sergeant James Crowley for his stupid arrest of Henry Louis Gates. All the news stories have mentioned how Barrett stated
I am not a racist, but I am [prejudiced] towards people who are stupidand repeatedly described Gates as a
banana-eating jungle monkey.Some also mentioned active patrol cop Barret’s statement that, had he been in Crowley’s place, he not only would have arrested Gates but would have pepper-sprayed him
in the face.None of the mainstream media articles I’ve read so far have mentioned that active patrol cop Officer Justin Barrett also complains that
Your defense [4th paragraph] of Gates while he is on the phone while being confronted [INDEED] with a police officer is assuming he has rights when considered a suspect. He is a suspect and will always be a suspect.(Brackets in original; emphasis mine.) Or that, alongside the violent racism and explicit totalitarianism, he adds some crude misogyny, writing to the immediate target of his letter, Yvonne Abraham, that
You are a hot little bird with minimal experiences in a harsh field. … You have no business writing for a US newspaper nevermind detailing and analyzing half truths. You should serve me coffee and donuts on Sunday morning.He later repeats the joke about coffee and says that
you just need to get slapped.Officer Justin Barrett, when not a racist, sexist, police-statist patrol cop, is also a veteran of the United States government’s Army; he felt comfortable forwarding his racist, sexist, police-statist e-mail to a few of his buddies in the Boston police force and several of his buddies in the Army National Guard. Since the story hit, Barrett has complained to the media that in the uproar over his repeated use of the phrase
banana-eating jungle monkey,
People are making it about race. It is not about race,and that, although he made a
poor choice of words,
I didn’t mean it in a racist way. I treat everyone with dignity and respect.His lawyer says that he plans to fight to hold onto his cop job at the upcoming hearing.
Disorderly conduct. Patrolman Robert Lang, Patrolman Jared Bock, and Patrolman Shawn Panchick. Brackenridge, Pennsylvania. Three white patrol cops in Pennsylvania are being investigated by another local government’s cops in response to allegations that they beat and robbed a three black teenagers who they arbitrarily commanded (why?) to clear off of a friend’s front porch where they were hanging out late at night. I don’t know whether or not the allegations of robbery are true — one of the victims, Kyle Dudley, claims that he was beat down and robbed of his watch and money by a group of cops possibly different from the three who originally responded to the call, which makes it hard to compare stories — but I do know that, whether or not those allegations are true, the story that the cops all agreed on for their report is more than enough reason to call their conduct belligerent, violent and stupid. Cops have exactly no business singling out black teenagers to be hassled, or for forcing them down and arresting them on a
disorderly conductbeef simply for refusing to obey arbitrary bellowed commands that they leave a private residence where they have been invited to hang out with their friends, or a neighborhood where they are hanging out on public property. And once again, it is clear that
disorderly conductcharges are the
sheepdogs’favorite threat for making that the
sheepstay just where they’ve been herded, regardless of whether or not anyone is actually doing anything that would threaten anyone’s rights even in the slightest.
Cops are here to keep us safe. (Cont’d.) By sideswiping our cars while they tear down the road at 20 mph over the posted speed limit with no lights and no sirens on. Then by concealing information or flat-out lying in the accident report and to the media about how fast they were going, until they finally reveal, a couple days later, that the accident was, after all, clearly the fault of the cop’s speeding. Where have I seen that before…? I guess his victim is lucky that he wasn’t doing 100; if he had gotten himself hurt or killed in the crash he caused, she probably would have been arrested for
reckless drivingand smeared as a cop-killer all over the local papers.
Fun for ages 7 to 70. Unnamed patrol officer, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Deputy Chris Beize. Austin, Texas. In Knoxville, a government cop, who had important business to do Investigating reports of some neighbor kids getting into a fight, has been accused of trying to coerce a 7 year old boy into talking more candidly by handcuffing the child and cussing him out, while the boy was crying and asking for his mother. The 7-year-old was not involved in the fighting and was never suspected of, or charged with, any crime.
Officialsrefuse to so much as disclose this dedicated public servant’s name, but they promise that the matter is being Internally Investigated.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Deputy Chris Beize tasered Kathryn Winkfein, a 72-year-old great-grandmother, twice during a routine traffic stop, after she refused to sign a ticket and he decided to escalate the situation by ordering her out of her car, instead of just mailing the damn thing to her home address. Beize claims that she swore at him (which is not a crime) and that she
pushed him into oncoming traffic(no she didn’t; the dashcam video clearly shows that he lunged over and grabbed her and shoved her back several feet, when she tried to de-escalate the situation by sidestepping him to get back to her truck). Then he blasted her with a 50,000-volt electric shock from the taser, and then tasered her again while she was lying on the ground. Then he arrested her for resisting arrest. His superior officers in the paramilitary chain of command have defended Beize’s hollering belligerence, physical assault, and torture by repeated electrical shocks, against an unarmed, 4′11″, 72-year-old great-grandmother who never threatened any physical harm and was guilty of nothing more than a moving violation and
contempt of cop,as an appropriate reaction to a
dangerous situation.By the by, when Beize is not busy shocking the hell out of elderly women, he is a taser instructor for the local police.
Officer Morris Taylor. Springfield, Missouri. Officer Morris Taylor, a cop formerly on the Springfield, Missouri city government’s police force, is facing misdemeanor assault charges for beating John Sedersten, a prisoner under his authority, after Sedersten had been restrained and booked in the Greene County Jail. The story’s in the news because Sedersten, the victim of the beating, recently decided not to testify against Taylor in the criminal case, on advice from his attorneys, because of the danger that his testimony will open him up to lines of questioning that the government can use against him in his pending criminal cases. Sedersten is pursuing a separate civil lawsuit against Officer Morris Taylor for the beating; apparently he’s just not particularly interested in working closely with the same government office that is trying to lock him up in other cases, particularly not for so minor a vindication as a misdemeanor assault conviction. Even without his testimony, apparently
portionsof the assault are recorded on video.
Besides having spent 11 years in local government police
forces,Officer Morris Taylor also has experience in dealing with prisoners from working as a government soldier in the U.S. government’s war and occupation in Iraq.
Deputy Marcus Smith. San Joaquin County, California. San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a car on a routine traffic stop near Manteca; Charles Inderbitzen was riding in the car. Inderbitzen was ex-con out on parole, and believed that he had a warrant out on him, so he got nervous around the cops. He tried to leave the scene without the cops’ permission; even though the police had no reason whatever, at this point, to suspect that he had committed any crime, or even (since he was not the one driving the car) of even the most minor civil infraction. But government cops in America aren’t actually interested in dealing with crimes; they are interested in targeting suspects, and are more than willing to summarily declare you a
suspectsort of guy based solely on your failure to follow their arbitrary bellowed commands, or your decision to try to leave the scene when they are present. So a gang of police chased Inderbitzen down, cornered him in a back yard, drew their guns on him, and ordered him to get on his knees and put his hands on his head. After Inderbitzen complied with their orders, with several cops pointing guns at him and while physically at their mercy, Deputy Marcus Smith hopped the fence, kicked Charles Inderbitzen in the gut, punched him in the back of the head, kicked him two more times in the stomach, and then punched him about 5 or 10 more times until Inderbitzen was beaten unconscious. I guess he’s lucky they didn’t taser him to death instead.
Oops. Our bad.Deputy Matthew Paul. Seattle, Washington. Christopher Harris was trying to get away from a group of King’s County police (or rather, a gang of beefy, heavily armed strangers, dressed all in black, who didn’t bother to identify themselves before they started hollering and chasing after him late at night). Turns out he didn’t actually do anything wrong (they were chasing him because a witness fingered him as having been involved in a bar fight; the witness was wrong). But rather than risking the possibility that someone possibly might get away from the cops (even when he had no way of knowing they were cops, who had every right to leave the scene, who posed no physical threat to anybody, and who, at the very worst, was
suspectedof some minor-league drunken fighting), Deputy Matthew Paul, who outweighed his victim by about 100 pounds, decided to put an end to things by waiting until Christopher Harris slowed down to a walk, and then body-tackling him so hard that he knocked him eight feet into a wall, slamming Harris’s head into the concrete so hard it put him into a coma. The story’s in the news because Deputy Matthew Paul’s coworkers in the King County government’s prosecutor’s office have announced that, as far as they’re concerned, Deputy Matthew Paul did not violate Christopher Harris’s rights and the only personal consequence that Deputy Matthew Paul will face, for putting his falsely accused, completely unarmed and physically harmless victim on life-support, is having been given a paid vacation from his job for a while during the investigation. According to the county government,
It’s a tragic incident.Well, oops. I guess he’s lucky they didn’t just shoot him in the back instead.
Non-Lethal Force (Cont’d.) Unnamed officer, Officer Debra Lynn Indovina-Akerly and Officer Charles Watson. Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Last summer, a 37 year old unarmed black man named Andre DeMon Thomas was extrajudicially electrocuted by a gang of three Swissvale cops, who tortured him with three 50,000-volt electric shocks, handcuffed him, and, after he was handcuffed, kicked him, punched him, and crushed him until he vomited, passed out, and died. They were electrocuting him, incidentally, For His Own Good, after he begged neighbors to call the cops to help him out. He was unarmed; he wasn’t acting aggressively; none of the neighbors felt threatened by him; he was never at any point charged with any crime at all by anyone; he seemed disoriented and terrified, and he wanted the cops there to keep him safe. But in cop-think, being terrified and disoriented means acting
erraticin the judgment of a cop, even if you pose no threat to anyone and even if you have not been so much as accused of committing a crime and even if you are yourself seeking help, is reason enough for you to get Served and Protected good and hard until you are physically
subdued.Or dead, whichever comes first. [And]((http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/06/22/the-police-beat-3/) yet again, it became necessary to kill Dre Thomas in order to save him. The case is in the news again because the family has filed a lawsuit and the coroner’s autopsy report, which revealed deep and widespread bruising all over Thomas’s body, contradicts the Medical Examiner’s initial report absolving the cops and claiming that Thomas died from a mythical made-up condition called
Gang cops (Cont’d.).
Gang Strike Force,Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Seven victims of racist shakedowns by a multi-agency paramilitary
Gang Strike Forcein the Twin Cities have filed suit against the members of the
Strike Force,the city governments that put it together, and the boss cops who commanded it. The
Strike Forcewas permanently shut down earlier this month after repeated complaints about the cops on it making
improper seizures,which is to say armed robberies under color of law, of money and property from innocent people with no connection to gang activity, but who happened to be immigrants (hence easy targets). If only we had some warning, had some way of knowing, that an
elitegang police unit with an unlimited mandate, overwhelming force, and extremely broad legal powers to roust people and take their property with minimal legal accountability, might end up just acting like the baddest gangsters on the block. But who could possibly have foreseen that? It’s not like anything like this has ever happened before.
Detective Keith Alfaro. San Antonio, Texas. A couple years ago Detective Keith Alfaro of the San Antonio police department got himself involved in what the media at the time dignified as a
poolside scuffle with a teenager. By which they meant that he punched an 18 year old girl in the face, then, after he knocked her down, got on top of her, put her in a chokehold, and, according to an unrelated witness,
pummeledher black and blue while she was on the ground. After Alfaro ran away from the Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to a call, Vaughn had to be taken to the hospital; she still couldn’t open her jaw for weeks after the attack. The reason he did this was that she told him to put out a cigar he was smoking; the community pool had a no-smoking rule. Tamara Vaughn claims she asked him politely; Alfaro claims she copped an
attitude, got up in his face, dared to say some vulgar words in his hearing, and tried to swipe the cigar out of his mouth. Apparently, even if we grant his story to be true, Detective Keith Alfaro believes that that’s good enough reason for a grown-ass man to throw the first punch, then beat the living hell out of an 18 year old girl while she’s lying on the ground, and that doing so
was totally defensive … It was her own actions that forced me to take those measures.Perhaps that’s also what forced him to answer her request that he not smoke a cigar at a non-smoking pool by telling her to
take that East Side attitude back over there;maybe that’s also what forced him to call her a
half-breedwhile he was beating the hell out of her, or to tell Vaughn, who is a lesbian, that
You wanna look like a man, I’m gonna treat you like a man.. Detective Keith Alfaro testified that his problem was not with her race but with her
attitude(you know, the East Side kind), and that
She though she was talking to a child, … She thought she was talking to someone she could bully — not an adult family man.Apparently Detective Keith Alfaro believes that
an adult family mandeals with tense social situations by punching 18 year old girls in the face and dislocating their jaws. In any case, this
adult family manbragged in an online profile for an Ultimate Fighting website about his
countless street KO’s.
The story is in the news again because Keith Alfaro finally ended up going to trial this year on a misdemeanor assault rap, along with some resisting and evading arrest for having run away from the Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies. And just today, after the judge refused to allow Bexar County prosecutors to tell the jury about the online bragging about street fights, or about the numerous existing complaints against Alfaro in his internal affairs file (complaints which, of course, never endangered his position with the San Antonio Police Department, until he got into a fight on another police agency’s turf), the jury voted to acquit Alfaro on the assault beef. They convicted him on the misdemeanor evading and resisting arrest charges, because apparently busting up an 18 year old girl’s jaw is OK, but they’ll be damned if they’ll let anyone get away from the po-po.
Rapists on patrol. Officer Feliciano Sanchez, Los Angeles, California. (Possible trigger warning.)
Officer Feliciano Sanchez, formerly hired muscle for Los Angeles County’s Bell Police Department, recently plead guilty to using his police powers to abduct a woman he had detained on a traffic stop, drive her to an isolated location, and then flashed his gun and coerced sex from her before he would let her free. Bell Police Department Captain Anthony Miranda says he is
shockedto hear that a male cop might use his government-granted legal powers and his arsenal of deadly weapons to intimidate and violently coerce sex from women who come under his power. He says that he’s in
disbeliefbecause he’s never heard of such a thing before. Well, I’m not. I have.
18 shots for running a stop-sign. Officer James Arnold. Fort Wayne, Indiana. The city government in Fort Wayne, Indiana just spent $335,000 of other people’s money in order to cover Office James Arnold’s ass after he shot an unarmed immigrant named José Baudilio Lemus-Rodriguez 18 times, after Lemus-Rodriguez refused to pull over for a routine traffic stop for running a stop sign.
Fort Wayne Police Officer James Arnold, by the way, was just four months on the
forcewhen he lit up Lemus-Rodriguez’s car; before that, he had years of combat experience as a United States government Marine fighting for the U.S. government’s occupation and counter-insurgency operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards refused to file any criminal charges; the city hired on a PR flack to declare Arnold’s actions
objectively reasonable.The city’s main concern in settling the family’s lawsuit, besides using taxpayer money to cover Officer James Arnold from any personal legal liability for his lethal actions, is apparently as a bribe to ensure that the objective video record of the
objectively reasonableshooting remains permanently concealed from the public.
Henry Louis Gates
Here’s a snippet from a recent New York Times profile on Henry Louis Gates, the renowned Harvard professor of African-American studies, and Sergeant James Crowley, the stupid, belligerent, and violent Cambridge cop who stupidly arrested Gates on his own front porch, allegedly for committing
disorderly conduct in the foyer and front porch of his own home.
From 2 Cambridge Worlds Collide in Unlikely Meeting, in the New York Times, 26 July 2009:
Friends say he has a large circle of friends in Natick and in Cambridge, where he grew up. Sergeant Crowley plays on a men’s softball team and coaches his daughters’ softball and basketball teams.
I have always thought of him as the most noncop person that I know,said Andy Meyer, a friend who plays softball with him on a team named the Black Mariahs. Mr. Meyer’s wife, Betsy Rigby, said:When he has the uniform on, Jim has an expectation of deference. But when he’s not in uniform, he’s just a regular guy.
Yes. Exactly. And therein lies the problem.
Sergeant James Crowley believes that putting on a uniform and a badge puts him above just-folks like you and me and Henry Louis Gates, and so that it entitles him to special treatment — to
deference, that is, willing subordination — that he would never think of demanding from his friends, his neighbors, or any other of his equals when he’s living life out of uniform, like any other just-a-regular-guy.
And that’s why, when he is in uniform, he’s willing to bully, browbeat, and physically coerce you into handcuffs and jail, just to violently punish you if you should dare to tell him off in your own foyer — because he stupidly believes that his work clothes entitle him to command, and to expect obedience from, people he doesn’t even know. That’s stupid. But typical: stupidity, violence and petty tyranny are in fact his line of work as he has been led to understand it. And when he showed up at Ware St., he was indeed just doing his job.
Sergeant James Crowley (Cambridge, MA)
Stupid, belligerent, violent
One of the advantages of not being even remotely connected with electoral politics is the fact that, unlike, say, Barack Obama, I have no votes that I need to collect from timid white
moderates, and also no sniffy self-important special interests or political respectability rackets that I need to appease. I don’t need to care what professional blowhards or doughfaces think of me, or whether or not a white police sergeant in Massachusetts, and all his buddies in the Brotherhood, are
disappointed in me. So while Obama may feel compelled to re-calibrate, I have no reason to back off out of concern for sensitivities of conventional-delusional political thinking. So if he won’t stand by his own perfectly reasonable comments, I at least am free to say, without qualification or calibration, that when Sergeant James Crowley cuffed, arrested, and imprisoned Henry Louis Gates on his front porch, for daring to holler at a cop inside his own house, Sergeant James Crowley was damn well acting
stupidly. As a matter of fact, he was being stupid, belligerent, and violent towards an innocent man who he had absolutely no right to arrest.
Of course he was. He putatively showed up to investigate a possible burglary (in the middle of the day?) when a neighbor called in a report that two black men were forcing open the door to the house. (Gates had just gotten back from a long trip to China and found that the door was jammed, so he asked the man who drove him home — who was also black — to help him shoulder it open.) The cop showed up, demanded that Gates step outside, entered the house without a warrant and without permission when Gates refused to step outside, demanded identification while refusing to give his badge number, and when it was conclusively demonstrated to him that Gates lived there and was, in fact,
breaking in to his own damn house, he and his gang brothers ambushed Gates on his front porch and arrested him for being
loud and tumultuous in his own house where he had a right to be. Quite in spite of the fact that, even if you grant for the sake of argument every single detail of the cop’s own version of events, once it was clear that Gates lived in the house he had supposedly been burglarizing, Sergeant James Crowley had absolutely no moral or legal basis whatsoever for remaining one second longer, or for arresting and imprisoning Henry Louis Gates, since raising your voice to a police officer is not a crime, and neither is calling him names (whether those names are fair or unfair), and neither is hollering loudly and tumultuously inside your own home. Shoving your way into a man’s house to hassle him, and then arresting him for these non-crimes when he gets upset, is a stupid way to handle a situation when you’re not sure what’s going on; the cuffing, arrest, and jailing were also an act of physical force carried out against an innocent man by an entitled bully who had no right to be there but who has no problem with using intimidation and violence to get his way.
And, as it happens, in this case, his stupidity, intimidation and violence took the specific form of stupid, belligerent, violent racism. As they so often do when government police (especially, but not only, white government police) interact with black men and women, even black scholars in their late 50s who rent their houses from Harvard University and walk with a cane.
And the opinions of the usual bellowing blowhard brigade to one side, it actually doesn’t matter one bit whether or not Henry Louis Gates could or should have been more calm or cool or collected under the circumstances; whether or not he actually should have been
grateful for being hassled in his own house by a sworn officer of the law in the name of Service and Protection; whether or not the names that he called this stupid, belligerent, violent cop were in fact fair or unfair given the situation; or whether he ought to have changed his behavior or his attitude in the least. Henry Louis Gates’s behavior and attitude aren’t in question; whether or not he was acting as he ought, Sergeant James Crowley had no reason to be there and no justification and no excuse for arresting him or hauling him off to jail. Nothing that Gates could possibly have said, under the circumstances, would have made the arrest and imprisonment justifiable or even excusable; and when legally-privileged agents of the state go around attacking innocent men, I’m a hell of a lot more worried about that than I am about policing the conduct of the victims of their aggression and coercion.
All this should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever dealt with government police, or knows much of anything about the world around them. Of course, that rules out politicians, media commentators, and other professional blowhards, who rarely talk to anyone but each other and have very little experience of being on the business end of government policing, or much of anything other than their own self-important power games. But the rest of us know perfectly well that cops often act with tremendous arrogance and entitlement, especially when they feel uncertain or threatened by the situation that they are in (that they have, in fact, been trained very explicitly to stay
in control of the situation by any means necessary); that they also tend to view men and women of color, regardless of class, and poor white men and women, too, as more disruptive or more threatening than affluent white men and women; and that either conscious or subconscious racial profiling is the order of the day in virtually all street-level urban policing. It is also both obvious and widely known that cops routinely use incredibly vague chickenshit charges like
disorderly conduct, even when it is absolutely obvious that none of even those incredibly vague criteria actually apply, in order to shove people around, intimidate them into complying with arbitrary orders, or to humiliate and punish those who do not comply. Even when the charges are sure to be dismissed,
you can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride, and all that. Anyone whose understanding of policework is not basically mythological in nature, or is not constrained by non-rational political imperatives, knows these things, and should be outraged, but not even remotely surprised, that all this went down.
And the fact that a bunch of cops get indignant about the offense to their honor by being called out, for once in their professional lives, on their stupid, belligerent, violent behavior doesn’t change the fact one bit. What happened is typical, damned typical; the only thing atypical is the political and media connections of the victim. And Sergeant James Crowley, as a sworn police officer, was just living up to the standards of stupidity, belligerence, violence and racism that his gang brothers have set. You might be tempted call stupidity, belligerence, violence, and racism the occupational disease of government police in America. If not for the fact that it is their occupation.
- Brian Palmer, Slate (2009-07-22): Do Police Officers Have To Identify Themselves? And other Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest questions, answered by the Explainer.
- Lawrence Bobo, The Root (2009-07-21): What Do You Call a Black Man with a Ph.D.? The Skip Gates arrest shows how little some features of the national racial landscape have changed over time.
- Leonard Pitts, Jr. Seattle Times (2009-07-24): The Henry Louis Gates Jr. incident: Sometimes, they just don’t see you
- Macon D., stuff white people do (2009-07-21): think they can put themselves in the shoes of black people
- Randall McElroy, The Distributed Republic (2009-07-21): Henry Louis Gates, Jr. vs. the Cambridge PD
- Lila Ravija, The Mind-Body Politic (2009-07-21): Police Arrest Harvard Scholar In House
- Sheldon Richman, Free Association (2009-07-24): For Gates and Against the Police
- Gary Chartier, LiberaLaw (2009-07-24): Show Some Respect