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Posts tagged Marian Douglas

Bolts from the Blue

(Links thanks to Marian Douglas [2005-06-07], Lew Rockwell [2005-06-06], and Edmund Burke [1757].)

Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies, and they routinely hurt people who are not posing any serious threat to anyone, in order to make sure that they stay in control of the situation. You already knew that they electrified children and suspected salad-bar thieves; you can also add to the list women who have committed the horrible crimes of driving on a suspended license and going 12 miles an hour over the speed limit, provided that they are (1) Black and (2) talk back to the cops, especially on points of legality. Note that being completely unarmed and doing nothing more dangerous than not getting out of the vehicle promptly on command will not stop them from using a 50,000 volt electric blast to immobilize you with pain two or three times in quick succession. Neither, incidentally, will being eight months pregnant.

This is getting repetitive, so let’s just review:

We already knew that Florida cops were willing to electrify a 6 year old boy and a 12 year old girl with a 50,000 volt blast from a taser. The 6 year old was distraught and threatening to hurt himself (after all, why hurt yourself when you can have a cop immobilize you with pain?); the 12 year old’s crime was playing hooky and maybe being a little tipsy, and the incredibly dangerous imminent threat she posed was that she ran away from the cop and so might have been able to skip school. Back when it happened, I mentioned that the main reaction from the police brass was to review the decision to equip cops with tasers–as if the equipment were the primary problem here. I also mentioned that we might be better served by scrutinizing the paramilitary police culture that we have, in which peace officers are trained to take control of every situation at all times, by any means necessary, and where any notion of proportionality between the possible harm and the violence used to maintain control is routinely chucked out the window in the name of law and order and winning the war on crime.

The cops, of course, continue to treat these cases as a P.R. management problem, not a public safety problem created by out-of-control cops. That’s because the cops aren’t out of control; they are doing what cops normally do in our society; we only know about it here because the victims were vulnerable enough that their caretakers were able to get the attention of the newsmedia and the civil courts. We are not talking about a few bad apples here; we are talking about a systematic feature of policing in our society.

— Geekery Today 2005-04-26: Peace Officers

Meanwhile. in Seattle:

Law enforcement officers have said they see Tasers as a tool that can benefit the public by reducing injuries to police and the citizens they arrest.

Seattle police officials declined to comment on this case, citing concerns that Brooks might file a civil lawsuit.

But King County sheriff’s Sgt. Donald Davis, who works on the county’s Taser policy, said the use of force is a balancing act for law enforcement.

It just doesn’t look good to the public, he said.

— Marian Douglas 2005-06-07: Police Taser pregnant woman 3 Times, Just happens to be Black

I’ve been at this for a while with more or less the same analysis applid in each of several different cases (1, 2, 3), so by now I probably ought to at least add a bit by way of a reply to Martin Striz’s complaints. In that direction, let me just say that my main concern here is the paramilitary stance that police forces take toward you and I, and the routine use of extreme violence that that fosters; and that my main difference from Martin has a lot to do with a difference over whether the institutional framework that cops work in is essentially or just accidentally connected with the abuses of power that rampaging cops display every day.

But there’s no need for me to dwell on this point about the hangman State when Edmund Burke already explained it better than I could, back in 1757:

These Evils are not accidental. Whoever will take the pains to consider the Nature of Society, will find they result directly from its Constitution. For as Subordination, or in other Words, the Reciprocation of Tyranny, and Slavery, is requisite to support these Societies, the Interest, the Ambition, the Malice, or the Revenge, nay even the Whim and Caprice of one ruling Man among them, is enough to arm all the rest, without any private Views of their own, to the worst and blackest Purposes; and what is at once lamentable and ridiculous, these Wretches engage under those Banners with a Fury greater than if they were animated by Revenge for their own proper Wrongs. …

To prove, that these Sort of policed Societies are a Violation offered to Nature, and a Constraint upon the human Mind, it needs only to look upon the sanguinary Measures, and Instruments of Violence which are every where used to support them. Let us take a Review of the Dungeons, Whips, Chains, Racks, Gibbets, with which every Society is abundantly stored, by which hundreds of Victims are annually offered up to support a dozen or two in Pride and Madness, and Millions in an abject Servitude, and Dependence. There was a Time, when I looked with a reverential Awe on these Mysteries of Policy; but Age, Experience, and Philosophy have rent the Veil; and I view this Sanctum Sanctorum, at least, without any enthusiastick Admiration. I acknowledge indeed, the Necessity of such a Proceeding in such Institutions; but I must have a very mean Opinion of Institutions where such Proceedings are necessary. …

I now plead for Natural Society against Politicians, and for Natural Reason against all three. When the World is in a fitter Temper than it is at present to hear Truth, or when I shall be more indifferent about its Temper; my Thoughts may become more publick. In the mean time, let them repose in my own Bosom, and in the Bosoms of such Men as are fit to be initiated in the sober Mysteries of Truth and Reason. My Antagonists have already done as much as I could desire. Parties in Religion and Politics make sufficient Discoveries concerning each other, to give a sober Man a proper Caution against them all. The Monarchic, Aristocratical, and Popular Partizans have been jointly laying their Axes to the Root of all Government, and have in their Turns proved each other absurd and inconvenient. In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!

— Edmund Burke (1757): A Vindication of Natural Society

Peace Officers

(Thanks to Marian Douglas for shining light on this.)

We already knew that Florida cops were willing to electrify a 6 year old boy and a 12 year old girl with a 50,000 volt blast from a taser. The 6 year old was distraught and threatening to hurt himself (after all, why hurt yourself when you can have a cop immobilize you with pain?); the 12 year old’s crime was playing hooky and maybe being a little tipsy, and the incredibly dangerous imminent threat she posed was that she ran away from the cop and so might have been able to skip school. Back when it happened, I mentioned that the main reaction from the police brass was to review the decision to equip cops with tasers–as if the equipment were the primary problem here. I also mentioned that we might be better served by scrutinizing the paramilitary police culture that we have, in which peace officers are trained to take control of every situation at all times, by any means necessary, and where any notion of proportionality between the possible harm and the violence used to maintain control is routinely chucked out the window in the name of law and order and winning the war on crime.

I hate being proven right.

It doesn’t take fancy electric tasers for Florida cops to be overbearing, brutal assholes. They can do it the old-fashioned way: for example, by sending three adult officers to pin a five year old girl’s arms behind her back and handcuff her.

A lawyer has threatened to sue police officers who handcuffed an allegedly uncontrollable five-year-old after she acted up at a Florida kindergarten.

The officers were called by the school after a teacher and assistant principal failed to calm down the little girl.

The incident was caught on a video camera which was rolling in the classroom as part of a self-improvement exercise at the St Petersburg school.

A lawyer for the girl’s mother said the episode was ncomprehensible.

The video, made public by the lawyer this week, shows the unfolding of the violent tantrum, which started when the little girl refused to take part in a maths lesson.

She then ripped some papers off a bulletin board and lashed out at staff trying to calm her down.

After calling her mother and learning she would not be able to pick up the child for at least one more hour, the teachers resorted to calling the police.

Three officers rushed to the scene and handcuffed the girl, by that time apparently calm, after pinning her arms behind her back.

The footage showed her in distress after being handcuffed.

— BBC 2005-04-23: U.S. police handcuff five-year-old

One of the minor consolations of subjecting schoolchildren to a school police state is that the surveillance has left a video record of the handcuffing.

So a kindergardner is uncontrollable and this justifies calling the cops, and then (even though she wasn’t doing anything anymore, just in case she got any ideas) hand-cuffing her as she screams.

By the way, this is not the first time that this has happened

Trayvon McRae is 6 years old.

After throwing a tantrum in music class, and kicking and hitting a St. Petersburg police officer who was taking him home, this kindergartener was handcuffed and arrested on a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer. Both of his wrists fit neatly into a single cuff.

Mikey Rao was 8 when he got arrested.

He didn’t want to go to the principal’s office, so he ran out of his class and kicked and scratched a teacher’s aide. He spent several hours in the Citrus County Jail.

Demetri Starks turned 9 last week.

One day this summer, when he was still 8, he swiped a neighbor’s jar of change. Police stopped the 60-pound St. Petersburg boy wearing a T-shirt covered with monsters from the cartoon Digimon. They handcuffed him and sent him to a detention center where he stayed locked up for nine days.

— St. Petersburg Times 2000-12-17: Under 12, Under Arrest

Hell, it’s not even the only time that it’s happened recently.

Two boys, aged 9 and 10, were charged with second-degree felonies and taken away in handcuffs by the police because they drew stick figures depicting violence against a third student.

There was no act of violence, no weaponry. According to news reports, the arrested children had no prior history of threatening the student depicted in the drawing. The parents were not advised or consulted. The school’s immediate response was to call the police and level charges “of making a written threat to kill or harm another person.”

The incident was not an aberration but one of three similar occurrences in the Florida school system during the same week. In another case, a 6-year-old was led away in handcuffs by police. And those three incidents are only the ones that managed to attract media attention.

— Wendy McElroy 2005-02-10: On Handcuffed and Felonious Children

(Just in case you Blue Staters were thinking about getting smug about those barbarians down yonder in Florida, you might also be interested to know about the California cops who beat the shit out of a non-verbal autistic teenager who didn’t follow their orders–using bludgeons, a taser, and pepper spray.)

photo: Two cops hunker down with tactical gear and assault rifles

Hello, we’re the cops, and we’re here to keep you safe!

The cops, of course, continue to treat these cases as a P.R. management problem, not a public safety problem created by out-of-control cops. That’s because the cops aren’t out of control; they are doing what cops normally do in our society; we only know about it here because the victims were vulnerable enough that their caretakers were able to get the attention of the newsmedia and the civil courts. We are not talking about a few bad apples here; we are talking about a systematic feature of policing in our society. We’re not talking about something that a bit of administrative hand-wringing and P.R. management and tinkering with equipment will solve. Police brutality, especially police brutality against unruly Black people, ain’t exactly new. This is what happens when the means of defense are almost entirely in the hands of a professionalized paramilitary force. You get an institutional culture of command-and-control. You get unaccountable peace officers who go on a rampage when their orders are questioned, and who apparently don’t have any principled inhibitions about using force on people that is wildly out of proportion to any possible threat. (Restraint can especially go out the window if they are Black. Or if they are otherwise thought to be unlikely to get sympathetic attention from the courts.)

So just remember, Johnny: the cops are here to keep you safe. By hurting you for no reason when you pose absolutely no threat to anyone.

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