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The Police Beat

I recently mentioned a story that POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine ran a couple weeks ago, in which Dean Scoville was outraged by the outrage over an El Monte police kicking a prone Suspect Individual in the head after he’d already surrendered to police. (Scoville also openly praises extrajudicial punitive police beat-downs as an institutional practice, longing for a time when post pursuit ass-kickings were obligatory.)

Anyway, the week after they ran Scoville’s ill-tempered tirade in praise of police brutality, the POLICE magazine website decided to run this funny little web poll:

WEB POLL: Have you ever wanted to kick a suspect who was surrendering for endangering the public and being a total dirtbag?

a. Yes

b. No

c. To hell with kick, I wanted to shoot him

Here are the final results as of Monday:

“Yes” received 45.4% of the votes. “No” reeived 22.7% of the votes. “To hell with kick, I wanted to shoot him” received 31.9%.

You can see the results for yourself here. 45.4% of POLICE readers responding to the poll said that they have at some point wanted to kick suspect people after they’ve already surrendered to police. The cop editors of POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine thought they’d add a funny little joke option for their cop readers, To hell with kick, I wanted to shoot him. 31.9% of POLICE readers responding to the poll went with that one.

Ho, ho, ho.

Speaking of which, in Oakland, Officer Johannes Mehserle is now on trial for murder in the execution-style shooting of Oscar Grant. Here’s some recent testimony from the trial:

(05-27) 17:00 PDT OAKLAND — A colleague of the former BART police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man early New Year’s Day testified Wednesday that the victim would still be alive if he and his friends had cooperated with police.

If they would have followed orders, this wouldn’t have happened, said Officer Marysol Domenici at a preliminary hearing in Oakland for former Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is charged with murder.

— Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle (2009-05-28): Cop: Had Grant cooperated, he would be alive

According to Officer Marysol Domenici, ordinary civilians like you and me are always under the command of the police, so that when a cop gives an order you’d damn well better follow, and if you don’t, well then, you’re resisting, and you have nobody to blame but yourself when they slam you into the wall, throw you to the ground and shoot you in the back while you’re prone and physically restrained.

Also:

Domenici said she did not see Mehserle shoot Grant because she had been facing the other direction. Immediately after the shot was fired, she said, some train riders were so angry that she started thinking about using her gun.

**I said to myself, Oh, Jesus Christ, if I have to, I’m going to have to kill somebody, Domenici said.

— Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle (2009-05-28): Cop: Had Grant cooperated, he would be alive

Note that when her buddy-cop shot a man who was prone on the ground and physically restrained by the police, her first thought was not that she might have to defend the public from this killer cop; it was that she might have to open fire on the crowd of bystanders.

In Metro Detroit, the Warren city government’s police chased down Robert Mitchell — an unarmed, 16 year old black boy, weighing in at about 110 pounds — and killed him with non-lethal force in an abandoned house of Eight Mile. This extrajudicial electrocution of an unarmed young man was carried out in the attempt to arrest him; the reason the cops were chasing him down and trying to force him to surrender himself to them is that he jumped out of the passenger side of his cousin’s car during a traffic stop for an expired license plate. For, that is, trying to leave the scene in a situation where he himself was not suspected of any crime. Boss cop William Dwyer believes that his forces had no alternative to blasting an unarmed 16 year old with a 50,000-volt electric shock in order to force him to surrender to arrest. Of course they did have an alternative; they could have let him leave, since they had no probable cause to suspect him of any particular crime. But government cops in America aren’t actually interested in dealing with crimes; they are interested in targeting suspects, and are willing to summarily declare you a suspect sort 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. They are quite willing to say that running away from cops, just as such, without any evidence of any specific crime, is considered good enough grounds for chasing you down, beating, shooting, or electrocuting you first and asking questions later, and arresting you on suspicion of resisting arrest. Presumably because the sheep are supposed to stay where they’ve been herded.

The commissioner called Mitchell’s death a tragedy, but said police who watch someone run from them can only assume he committed a crime or is wanted for a crime.

— Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein, CNN.com (2009-05-28): ‘No excuse’ for teen’s Taser death, mother says

Boss cop William Dwyer adds that, since the cops have been trained by a bunch of other cops to use 50,000-volt electric shocks to torture anyone resisting arrest until they surrender, regardless of the risks involved and even if their chosen target is unarmed and poses no physical threat to anyone present, as a form of pain compliance, well, that makes it O.K. for them to do so. Just following orders, you know:

The officers had been trained to use Tasers on people resisting arrest, so there was nothing wrong with using that Taser, Dwyer said.

— Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein, CNN.com (2009-05-28): ‘No excuse’ for teen’s Taser death, mother says

Renea Mitchell, the mother of the victim, says They are here to protect us. There’s no reason for what they’ve done…. There’s no reason, no excuse. She also calls what happened to her son a murder at the hands of police. And that’s about the size of it. Her son was not suspected of any crime; he was not even on the scene for anything more serious than an expired license plate. He tried to leave because he doesn’t feel safe around cops — and, given that cops are the ones who eventually killed him, why should he have? — and the cops took this as good enough reason to treat him as presumptively criminal, and therefore to use any level of violence necessary to stop him from leaving — whether or not they have any knowledge of his having been involved in any specific crime, or even whether or not any specific crime has been committed, and regardless of the fact that he was completely unarmed and posed no threat to absolutely anyone’s person or property. They had no reason to use force at all, let alone the potentially lethal force of a taser.

Meanwhile, back over at POLICE magazine, editor David Griffith believes that political correctness is killing a lot of Americans because cops in some major cities can’t use suspicion of immigration violation as [Probable Cause] to roust any gang member. Apparently suspicion of immigration violation means looking Latino. Griffith asks and answers a few clarifying questions: Would that be profiling? Absolutely. Would some American citizens get hassled? Surely. Would there be a lot less violent crime in our cities if we deported many gang members who are probably illegal aliens [sic]? You tell me.

In other words, in the name of controlling crime by controlling entire populations, Griffith wants for cops to have unilateral authority to roust absolutely anyone based solely on their ethnic status, without any evidence of having committed any crime whatsoever, and so to bring them under the control of the police unless and until they can prove, to the police’s own satisfaction, that they have a permission slip from the government for existing in this country. Griffith asks, rhetorically, What is our priority? Do we want to make Americans safer? But which Americans does he have in mind, and what does he hope to make them safer from? Apparently not the Americans he explicitly expects to be hassled, that is, terrorized, manhandled or, if necessary, killed in order to put them under, and to keep them under, the physical control of those cops who Griffith would like to grant unlimited discretionary authority to detain anybody that they want, for absolutely any reason or for no reason at all, based solely on their ethnic status, and without any connection to any known crime.

In the same article, Griffith mentions an Atlanta cop, Scott Kreher of the local Fraternal Order of Pigs, who is pissed off about inadequate bennies for Atlanta city cops; so he told the city council that the situation made him want to beat Mayor Shirley Franklin in the head with a baseball bat. (Griffith doesn’t have anything worse to say about this than a weak joke about how he hopes that Kreher does not command the APD’s crisis negotiation team.)

Does a police state, staffed by men who deal with stress like Sergeant Scott Kreher does, with the powers that David Griffith wants to give them, make you feel safer? Probably depends on what side of the taser, or the baseball bat, you expect to end up on.

See also:

Who’s up for ALLiance in the U.K., SoCal, the midwest, or down in the Dirty South?

Alliance of the Libertarian Left Ad Hoc Global Organizing Committee

ALLies,

Are you yourself, or do you know anybody who is, an individualist anarchist, agorist, mutualist, left-Rothbardian, or otherwise on the libertarian left, who happens to live in or nearby any of the following metropolitan areas?

Are you yourself, or is the ALLy that you know, interested in meeting like-minded people and getting (more) involved in local activism and organizing? If so, please drop me a line with your or their contact information. I have some requests from prospective local organizers who are looking for people to start locals for the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. I would love to be able to put interested ALLies in contact with each other.

See also:

Stop the State-mandated murder of Troy Davis

Please write or FAX the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to urge clemency for Troy Davis.

If you are in or near Atlanta, there is a rally this Thursday at the Georgia state house:

Justice Matters: Rally to Save Troy Davis
Thursday, September 11, 2008 , 6 – 8 p.m.
Georgia State Capitol (front steps on Washington St.)
Atlanta, GA troy@aiusa.org / 404-876-5661 ext. 13
(There will also be a Prayer Vigil on Friday, September 12, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. More information here.)

Please come to support the rally if you can.

From Amensty International USA: Urge Clemency for Troy Davis

Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution in July, 2007 before receiving a temporary stay of execution. But the Georgia Supreme Court denied Mr. Davis’ motion for a new trial and now he faces execution on September 23. Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in Georgia. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s nine non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

From Amnesty International USA: Troy Davis: Finality Over Fairness

On Monday, March 17, 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 4-3 to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. This stunning decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to let Mr. Davis’ death sentence stand means that the state of Georgia might soon execute a man who may well be innocent.

Background

Restrictions on Federal appeals have prevented Troy Anthony Davis from having a hearing in federal court on the reliability of the witness testimony used against him, despite the fact that most of the witnesses have since recanted, many alleging they were pressured or coerced by police. Troy Davis remains on Georgia death row, and may be scheduled for execution in the near future.

Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia; a murder he maintains he did not commit. There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester Red Coles — the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

I have a couple of things to add.

First, I should say that, as a matter of fact, it does not matter to me — and it should not matter to you — one bit whether or not Troy Davis really is responsible for the killing he’s alleged to have committed, or, if he is responsible, whether or not the prosecution legitimate proved their case in the midst of what appears to have been a very dirty bit of business by the Gangsters in Blue. There seems to be good evidence for massive police misconduct, and for the likelihood of Davis’s innocence. This evidence is important, and let’s go ahead and scream about it as much as possible to the men and women sitting in the court and corrections system, if it will save Troy Davis from the gallows.

But, just between us, we need to remember that even if he were obviously guilty as hell, the State has no right to commit premeditated murder in order to make him pay for it. The penalty of death is the ultimate, definitive expression of the State’s cold and sadistic violence, exercised with no defensive purpose and against women and men who no longer pose any threat to any living soul, on the theory that in the end your body and your life belong to the State, and can be mutilated and destroyed by it, at its pleasure, for its own special purposes — whether to exact blood vengeance, or to send a message to unrelated third parties, cut into your body by the Harrow of the criminal justice system. It is nothing more and nothing less than State-sanctioned murder, and it ought to be abolished immediately, completely, and forever.

Second, you should also note, from this story, that in the view of the Georgia Supreme Court, final arbiter that it is, getting all the paperwork settled once and for all is apparently more important than whether or not an innocent man will be slaughtered on the basis of lying testimony extracted by intimidation and coercion at the hands of an overzealous police department, desperately seeking a black cop-killer to lynch. You may find this appalling; but it should not be surprising. This approach to The Law is essential to the very nature of the State and its legal system. Authority is held to take precedence over fact and evidence; imposed finality is held to take precedence over justice, even when it comes to punishments that are utterly irreversible, destroying forever any hope of appeal. Otherwise, anyone might just go around any old time and prove somebody’s innocence and spring them from the prisons or the gallows, a judge’s say-so notwithstanding; a journalist’s expose or an ad hoc committee’s discoveries and reasoned decisions might be just as good as that the Nine. Without sovereign authority to stand between the people and justice, doing justice would be nothing a mere human institution, open to anybody who can do some research and submit facts to a candid world. Why, it’d be Anarchy! So instead, paying due deference and having the right stamp on the right papers and uttering the right ritual incantations is held to be more important than somehing so paltry as a man’s life. That is the Majesty of the Law; that is its morality; that is its justice.

Here is an early modern engraving of a ghastly skeleton, robed and crowned, holds a sceptre and a polished glass with the words, THE MIRROR THAT FLATTERS NOT.

The Final Arbiter

O.K. Now please write or FAX the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to urge clemency for Troy Davis.

See also:

How Intellectual Protectionism promotes the progress of science and the useful arts

… by using the force of law to try to prevent Georgia State University students from accessing works of science and the useful arts unless they pay $50–$100 a pop to go through an academic publishing racket for obscure books with little resale value.

(Via Roderick Long @ Austro-Athenian Empire 2008-05-21.)

Please note that in the real world, outside the fever-dreams of academic publishers, sharing books and articles is an essential part of the life of a research university. Besides lending the book itself, every department has a copy machine, and every professor uses it, quite often, to run off paper copies of articles or chapters that they give away to their students. I have a file box with easily several thousand pages worth of xeroxed articles that I accumulated over the course of my college career. Or, if the professor doesn’t have the book herself, or doesn’t want to put the xeroxes on her tab with the department, every University library has self-serve xerox machines and a book-reserve system, where the professor can ensure that a copy of the book is always available for students to share with each other, and to xerox the relevant sections out of if they want to take it back to read on their own time. And all this is available even though professors could have forced each and every student to go down and pay for the $50-$100 anthology at the University bookstore.

Are these godless commies and lying, thieving mutualists that infest the Academy stealing from poor, innocent academic publishers by passing around xeroxes? No; all it is is that they aren’t insane, and they are aware that supporting some particular academic publisher’s business model is not their students’ responsibility.

Yet as soon as the University eliminates the paper medium, and facilitates exactly the same thing through an non-commercial, internal University course pack website — which does nothing at all more than what the xerox packets did, except that it delivers the information to pixels on a monitor instead of toner on a page — the publishers’ racket can run to court, throw up its arms, and start hollering Computers! Internet!, send their lawyers to try to shake down have a discussion with the University administration for new tribute to their monopoly business model, and then, failing that, utterly uncontroversial decades-old practices of sharing knowledge among colleagues and students suddenly become a legal case raising core issues like the future of the business model for academic publishers, while even the most absurd protectionist arguments are dutifully repeated by legal flacks on behalf of sustaining the racket. (Thus: It’s difficult to argue that this is a truly noncommercial use [even though Georgia State receives no money from students for the course packs]. Georgia State may be a nonprofit institution, but its students pay a lot of money for course materials, and would presumably pay money for the materials being provided to them by the university.)

A few years ago, when I was living in Ypsilanti, I sat in on a seminar over at the University of Michigan on Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein. There were a few textbooks to buy at the University bookstore (most of which I already owned), but a lot of the reading consisted of articles collected into a xeroxed course pack of anthologized articles. To get the course pack you went down to this copy shop in downtown Ann Arbor where the professor had left the master copy for the course pack. You paid Excel a fixed fee for the course pack; they took down the folder with the masters from the shelf, and then escorted you to a self-service copy machine where you had to mash the Copy button in order to make the copies yourself. Then you gave the copied sheets back to them at the counter, where they would take the copies you made back and bind them for you.

The reason that you, personally, had to push the copy button is because xeroxing articles out of books for the purposes of a class is legally speaking, completely non-controversial, but if you paid exactly the same amount of money, and the copy shop did exactly the same thing, except that an employee mashed that Copy button at your behest instead of making you do it yourself, the elimination of that minor inconvenience to the student would instantly convert the transaction from non-commercial to commercial copying, and thus expose the copy shop to a crippling lawsuit, as actually happened to Michigan Document Services in Ann Arbor back in 1992.

So, to be fair, I suppose you can credit the Intellectual Protectionists with fostering knowledge and innovation in one respect: by relentlessly attacking any sharing practice that they can get away with attacking, and exploiting any technological change in order to chip away and obliterate as much of traditional fair use protections as they can manage, have produced an absurd dynamic in which basically identical transactions are treated as radically different from one another, in courts of law, such that, in order to avoid lawsuits, academics, libraries, and copy shops have been forced to invent all kinds of creative new ways of splitting hairs and engaging in the most ridiculous sorts of casuistry just to keep on doing what teachers normally do, while covering themselves from the threat of a ruinous lawsuit.

Thanks, Intellectual Protectionism!

Oh, and by the way.

Incidentally, in case you are interested, the academic publishers currently suing Georgia State University to try and force their students back into the academic publishing racket are Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications. The publisher that went after Michigan Document Services in 1992 was Princeton University Press. Wouldn’t it be interesting–a funny sort of coincidence, you know, one of those weird things that just happens in life when you were least expecting it–if bloggers committed to free minds and free culture just happened to start posting large quotes (of about 10-15 pages) from Cambridge, OUP, Princeton, and Sage books on their public, Google-searchable websites, under principles of fair use? All strictly for the non-commercial purpose of educating interested readers, of course. Wouldn’t it be interesting if it turned out that there was so much interest in talking about the topics covered in one of Cambridge’s, OUP’s, Princeton’s or Sage’s books that the whole book ended up getting posted, by a crazy series of coincidences, in protected bits and pieces on different websites, at the same time that those publishers are trying salvage their broken business model by mounting this massive screwjob on identifiable targets like innocent students at Georgia State?

The funny thing is, I was just thinking the other day that my readers here might enjoy learning some ordinary language philosophy, which might be illuminated by appropriate fair-use quotations from Stanley Cavell’s Must we mean what we say? (Cambridge University Press, 1976/2002), and some ancient moral philosophy, for which an absolutely essential source of appropriate fair-use quotations is Terence Irwin’s masterful study on Plato’s Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1995), and also some feminist political theory, which obviously demands taking a look at some key passages from Susan Moller Okin’s Women in Western Political Thought (Princeton, 1979). If you have a blog yourself, maybe you might find that your readers would be interested in discussing other key passages from those same books. Who knows? Or perhaps they’d be interested in discussions that other fine books from Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton and Sage happen to touch on.

I’m just sayin’.

Feel free to let me know what books you’re talking about with your readers about in the comments.

Well thank God #7: Sagging and the new sumptuary laws

A couple years ago, the Virginia state legislature took bold action against a grave and gathering threat to democracy, freedom, and our way of life:

The House of Delegates voted 60 to 34 Tuesday to impose a $50 fine on anyone found wearing pants low enough that a substantial portion of undergarments is showing. Note the vote: It wasn’t even close.

About those pants: Lots of kids these days are conducting a large-scale experiment to see if trousers can defy gravity. This results in the widespread public exposure of underpants.

This greatly offends Del. Algie Howell Jr., a Democrat from Norfolk and author of the no-low-pants bill, which still faces a vote in the generally more skeptical Senate. People that live in my neighborhood don’t want to have to see undergarments, Howell told me. It’s not about individual rights; it’s about values. I own a group home; we take in kids who’ve been in trouble. Most of the men who come in in shackles and handcuffs are trying to hold up their pants. The way you dress does have something to do with how you behave.

Since the state has an interest in fighting unemployment and crime, Howell figures the state is right to ban a practice that he says makes young people less attractive as employees and more likely to turn to crime.

— Marc Fisher, Washington Post (2005-02-10): Droopy Drawers Drive Va. House To Distraction

Now here’s the latest from Delcambre, Louisiana:

The Delcambre Board of Aldermen outlawed indecent exposure in the form of sagging pants Monday, but not before several residents voiced their objections.

The board voted unanimously to make it illegal for anyone to wear clothing that exposes them or reveals their underwear in public.

The ordinance states, It shall be unlawful for any person in any public place or in view of the public to be found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity, or in dress not becoming to his or her sex, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments, or be guilty of any indecent or lewd behavior.

It is punishable by up to a $500 fine or up to six months in jail, or both.

Delcambre Police Chief James Broussard said violators can be arrested if officers spot them while on patrol, or if another resident files a complaint.

— Jeff Moore, The Daily Iberian (2007-06-12): Sagging bagged by town

Radley Balko informs us that there is a movement afoot amongst the Real Americans, in both Red states and Blue:

Moreover, civic organizers in Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., are planning antisagging rallies, says Pastor Dianne Robinson of Jacksonville, Fla., who last week handed out 78 donated belts at a belt rally. This sagging of the pants is to me a defiant act, and it has all kinds of implications, says Ms. Robinson, who is black. If you can’t get up in the morning and pull your pants up, that says a lot about you, even if I don’t know anything about you.

–quoted by Radley Balko, The Agitator (2007-07-20): Droopy Drawers Banners See Cracks in Opposition

Now that we already have a professional cadre of bureaucrats running behind us all, yelling You’ll put an eye out with that! and Don’t drink that, it’ll stunt your growth!, how could our statesmen and civic organizers possibly refuse their duty to set the Law running around after people wearing dress not becoming to his or her sex [sic!] and black kids committing defiant acts, screaming You’re not going out like that, are you?! and Don’t you take that attitude with me, young man!

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