Posts tagged Missouri

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

Monday Lazy Linking

Friendship en masse

From a recent Duelling Experts Trend Story in the New York Times:

Today, Ms. Shreeves, of suburban Philadelphia, is the mother of two boys. Her 10-year-old has a best friend. In fact, he is the son of Ms. Shreeves’s own friend, Penny. But Ms. Shreeves’s younger son, 8, does not. His favorite playmate is a boy who was in his preschool class, but Ms. Shreeves says that the two don’t get together very often because scheduling play dates can be complicated; they usually have to be planned a week or more in advance. He’ll say, I wish I had someone I can always call, Ms. Shreeves said.

One might be tempted to feel some sympathy for the younger son. After all, from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the childhood “best friend” has long been romanticized in literature and pop culture — not to mention in the sentimental memories of countless adults.

But increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?

Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that, said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.

Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend, she continued. We say he doesn’t need a best friend.

— Hilary Stout, The New York Times (2010-06-16): A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding>

Later in the article, we call up another set of experts — in this case some psychologists (or, perhaps, many psychologists) who worry about this, and think that children ought to be raised so that they get the strong emotional support and security that comes with intimate friendships.

Meanwhile, nobody stops to ask a child what she wants or needs by way of friendship, or to consider what children might think or feel or want while caught in the crossfire of these duelling Experts. (The only time we hear from any children at all are when two hand-picked twins are pulled aside in the midst of a crowded, noisy, hyperathletic, parentally-supervised suburban mass play-date — the sort of thing I would have considered utter hell if I had been subjected to it at age 12 — and given the chance to utter a couple of brief sentences about whether or not they currently have best friends.) Or stops to consider whether different children might need different things, and that, since a given youngun knows something about her own daily social and emotional life, and the credentialed Professional Who Work With Children knows somewhere between little and nothing about it, she might actually have a better idea of who she likes, what she enjoys, what she needs, and what she benefits from better than an actual or effective stranger holding a degree or some bureaucratic power does.

Once again, a putative attempt to deal with very real social problems — the prison-yard social atmosphere in many government schools; the pervasiveness and cruelty of repeated bullying — is promptly run aground, because the real causes of the problem (the legal imprisonment of children in government schools, through compulsory attendance laws; the cultivation of violent masculinity; the refusal of educrats to give children any effective say over something as basic as who they are sitting next to from day to day, which classes they spend their time in, etc.) are all things that you can’t challenge without challenging institutional schooling itself or other, equally fundamental organizing principles of the system of power that we live under. So, instead, an alleged effort to deal with bullying becomes an institutional campaign to eradicate any form of social division or exclusivity — thus, any form of emotional intimacy — whatever, in favor of a well-regulated mass relationship. Of course, those who are the most likely to picked out and victimized by freelance bullying — introverted kids, who don’t open up easily to people they hardly know, and who prefer intense connections with a very small circle of close friends — rather than big, noisy social events sharing casual activities with dozens of acquaintances — are exactly those who are most likely to be targeted and treated as pathological, in need of getting adjusted good and hard, through the blandly smiling institutional bullying inflicted on them by entitled know-it-alls acting As adults — teachers and counselors.

Bullying is an awful thing, and I’m glad that lots of people associated with schools are finally coming around to recognizing that they have to do something about it. But trying to deal with it by shoving kids around to try and make them adopt friendship en masse — whether they want it or not — is going to turn out to be little more than punishing the victims, and extending government schooling’s war against introverts, making kids’ lives miserable in the name of their notion of Emotional Health.

Lethal force

(Via Tennessee Guerrilla Women 2010-05-17 and @InjusticeNews.)

By now you’ve probably seen the video of the SWAT stormtrooper raid in Columbia, Missouri, during which a gang of heavily-armed cops violently stormed a house in order to serve a search warrant on a suspected possible nonviolent marijuana user. Turned out that his partner and 7 year old child were also there at the time; so were their two dogs, which the cops went ahead to shoot and kill. After murdering pets, they repeatedly lied about their actions to neighbors and the press, and the story has only come out because the video has been released on the Internet. In any case, if you haven’t read it, Radley Balko’s commentary on the story is mostly right on.

In Tulsa County, Oklahoma, a government police SWAT team on another hyperviolent warrant-serving drug-search shot an nearly deaf biker named Russell Doza at least seven times in the back while he awoke from sleeping in a bed in the clubhouse. They were supposedly storming the clubhouse early in the morning in order to serve a warrant for the victimless crime of selling marijuana and methamphetamines. They didn’t actually find any drugs in the clubhouse, and they didn’t find any of the suspects named in the warrant, but they did find Russell Doza, so three cops — Deputy Lance Ramsey, Corporal Tom Helm, and Sergeant Shane Rhames — shot him in the back, in one arm, and at least twice, point blank, in the back of his head. The cops claim he reached for a gun and just somehow got shot in the back of the head at close range. Even if he did reach for a gun, the cops created the violent confrontation in the first place by storming a private club for no just reason at all, in a failed attempt to discover evidence of a crime that never had any victims to begin with. I have no particular reason to believe that the Deppities are telling the truth, but even if they are, they murdered Russell Doza.

Aiyana Jones

In Detroit, a government police SWAT team on another hyperviolent warrant-serving raid killed a 7 year old girl named Aiyana Jones by shooting her in the neck while she slept on the sofa, in her family’s living room, in their hosue on Lillibridge St. on the east side of Detroit. The SWAT team tstormed the house in the middle of the night in order to serve a warrant for a murder suspect. Who, in press releases after the storming of the house and the killing of Aiyana Jones, was indeed found in the location, within the scope of our search warrant. Except the problem is that the house is a duplex and they got a warrant for the home of a completely innocent family, without bothering to figure out where the fugitive was, and even though they had every reason to be aware that there were children living in the house that they planned to mount a high-risk hyperviolent raid on. They neglected to mention that the house they killed Aiyana Jones in was not the house where they arrested their Suspect Individual; when they got there, the door wasn’t even locked. But the cops were on film, being followed around by a camera crew for A&E’s murder-cop reality action show, The First 48. So what better opportunity to show their stuff? They swarmed the front porch, hurled a flash-bang grenade through the plate-glass window into the living room, and then Officer Joe Weekley, a frequent guest star on several A&E cop shows, shot off his gun and put a bullet into Aiyana Jones’s neck.[1] According to the initial excuses from the police, there was a tussle — no, strike that, there was some sort of contact [sic] between Officer Joe Weekley, and Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones. According to the current police story, while the heavily-armed, professional police Officer Joe Weekley was courageously contacting a 46 year old woman who was confused and upset by a bunch of heavily armed strangers blowing up a grenade in her living room in the middle of the night right next to her sleeping granddaughter and storming into her house, somehow, in a Terrible Tragedy, the gun just discharged, somehow or another, in the midst of all the contact. After shooting her granddaughter to death, police wouldn’t say whether or not Mertilla Jones would be charged with assaulting a police officer.

According to the family, the cops are lying. Geoffrey Fieger, a well-known civil rights lawyer in Detroit, has taken on the family’s case, and says that he has a tape which clearly shows the cops shooting blindly into the house from out on the porch, moments after the grenade blew up. I don’t know which is telling the truth, although I will say that the cops have obfuscated, revised, evaded and lied from the start in this case, in a consistent attempt to deny responsibility and create a false appearance of urgency. I have no particular reason to believe that they are telling the truth about this, either, whereas I do have some reason to believe that Fieger probably has the video he says that he has. All that said, it really doesn’t matter what the video shows, or doesn’t. If the cops burned a little girl to hell with an incendiary grenade and then shot her in the neck, accidentally, while storming into a house they had no reason and no right to be in, in order to serve a warrant for a man who wasn’t there, because they couldn’t be bothered to exercise the caution necessary to pick the right unit of the duplex, or to work out some way of catching a suspect whose location they already knew other than a hyperviolent middle-of-the-night paramilitary raid, then they still fucking murdered that little girl. They introduced violence into the situation; they chose a hyperviolent confrontational method which they knew would be endangering the lives of a house full of completely innocent people; if you or I stormed two different apartments on the theory that a dangerous man might be in one of them, hurled explosives, ran around with guns drawn, and we accidentally killed a child in the process, then you or I would be locked up immediately, indicted shortly thereafter, and thrown in prison for years. Because the unhinged maniac who shot a little girl happens to have a badge and a uniform, the shooter has been given a paid vacation from their job. Boss Cop Detroit Police Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee gave a press conference in which he solemnly announced how Very Sorry he was that police just had to gun down a 7-year-old girl in her own home, because of the risk to their sacred hides when Entering a Potentially Dangerous Situation. He wants you to know that this is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude, and that This is every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s also every police officer’s nightmare. I can’t tell you what I think of that, because there aren’t any words that are dirty enough.

In a follow-up post on the Columbia, Missouri raid, Radley Balko posted a letter from a government soldier who took umbrade at his watch-word of police militarization, because the rules of engagement SWAT teams operate under are, in some ways, even looser than those used by counterinsurgency soldiers trying to kill enemy guerrillas in Afghanistan. Balko seriously wonders whether SWAT teams are now more militarized than the military. I’m not convinced, unless the in some ways is doing so much work as to make the statement meaningless. [2] But the mere fact that the comparison might seem plausible is telling. And outrageous. But not at all surprising. How could it be, when every week brings Yet Another Isolated Incident, and when Terrible Tragedy after Terrible Tragedy shows SWAT teams once again storming houses and clubs for no reason other than to protect the investigation of the most utterly trivial and nonviolent offenses, when they consistently use maximal force and freely open fire, even when they know that they may well be in completely the wrong house, even when they have every reason to know that they’re putting children’s lives in danger, and when they brutalize, beat and murder innocent people, over and over again, all with more or less explicit legal guarantees of complete impunity, and the lockstep backing of their departments and their colleagues throughout the government’s criminal system?

Do you feel safer now?

  1. [1] When he’s not shooting 7 year old girls and showing off SWAT tactics on live victims for television audiences, Officer Joe Weekley also drives a tank (Armored Personnel Carrier, sorry) for the Detroit SWAT team.
  2. [2] The process of storming a house in a war zone may offer more opportunities to surrender before escalating the situation to violence; but SWAT teams aren’t firing missiles into apartment complexes from robot aircraft… yet.