Wednesday, October 26

To Preserve Disorder

IT'S 2011. Nobody's ever said there aren't corrupt police officers, even corrupt forces in some places, but I believe that over the last twenty-five years or so I've been justified in thinking, along with much of America that has a functioning sense of history, that "law enforcement officer" was now a profession, not a polite term for thugs to hide behind, the way it too often has been in the past. I expected that the men who run police departments in major cities were, though admittedly selected from the ranks of human beings, a fault we cannot fix, serious men dedicated to the difficult, and sometimes impossible, task of law enforcement. Men who, unlike their predecessors, understood, accepted, and worked within a system which grants certain rights to the lawless, the accused, and even to the convicted it doesn't always provide the innocent, and who worked within that system whole-heartedly.

Any large department is going to have bad actors, but their careers ought to stop there. * A cop who slams into three motorcyclists stopped at a traffic light, killing one and critically injuring the other two, and blows a .19 BAC two hours later is a reprehensible policeman and a contemptible human being; if his cohort, including top officials, manage to ignore protocol and get the blood evidence excluded as a result--whether intentionally or through a negligence of the first order--other careers should end as well, and a lot of soul-searching should follow, from top to bottom.

That didn't happen in Indianapolis; the matter was turned, as every serious matter seems to be these days, into a PR maintenance and mop-up operation. And that's not acceptable.

I have no idea if the Oakland cops were justified in using gas and percussion bombs on Occupiers last night; I don't know whether the Atlanta arrests were called for. But it sure doesn't look like it, and it sure looks like you have people at the top who don't care what it looks like.

The police should not be there to take sides in the age-old debate between personal and property rights. (Yeah, I know: it's Tradition.) And those who supervise the police should think long and hard before showing contempt for American citizens peaceably assembling, even quasi-illegally. It's disturbing. The goddam history of this sort of behavior, from the Haymarket Riots, through forty years of John Edgar Crossdressing Dwarf Motherfucker Hoover, to the Let's Fake An Assassination And Blame It On Protesting Wisconsin Union Workers tells us that we're a finger-width, if that, away from instigation, deceit, and malfeasance. And if that history isn't enough to shame people into thinking twice, the ubiquitous phone camera should be.

The policeman is extraordinarily vulnerable. It's not a good idea to give the appearance of his taking sides--whatever the reality--and, frankly, we now have to make this determination each and every time it comes up. There are no longer any small examples of our legal machinery favoring the wealthy. Not when the wealthy violate the law with impunity.


* void in Arizona.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It's 2011, and only protests for lower taxes and deregulation are approved by the powers that be.

The revolution might not be televised, but it's going to be on youtube.

Fiddlin Bill said...

There was a time when police thuggery was viewed by most Americans as cause for indignation--at least when it was framed in certain ways. Examples of these would include the Birmingham police dogs and firehoses, and Kent State, the latter of which might have been the turning point in American disgust with Vietnam. I'm concerned that this part of the "American character" if you will is no longer true. Counterexamples such as the acceptance of tasers in obviously unappropriate circumstances abound. I'm concerned that we are going to see some serious carnage somewhere in these OWS rallies, and that it will be simply accepted by most Americans. The real question of the day is, is the American public too numb to bother any more. The Republican Presidential Field says, yes.

Fiddlin Bill said...

Then there's this:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Fiddlin' Bill, a substantial portion of the American population viewed the Kent State protesters in the same way that our corporate media is typecasting OWS now.

That morning, Ohio Governor James Rhodes, who was running for US Senate, arrived in Kent and along with city officials, held a news conference. Rhodes, running on a "law and order" platform, attempted to use this opportunity to garner votes in the primary election, which was only two days away.

In a highly inflammatory speech, Rhodes claimed that the demonstrations at Kent were the handiwork of a highly organized band of revolutionaries who were out to "destroy higher education in Ohio." These protesters, Rhodes declared, were "the worst type of people we harbor in America, worse than the brown shirts and the communist element...we will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent!"

Later that evening, a National Guard commander would tell his troops that Ohio law gave them the right to shoot if necessary. This merely served to heighten guardsmen's hostility toward students.

(Rhodes narrowly lost that Senate election, but became Ohio Governor again in 1974.)

fred c said...

Police thuggery is such a relative, multi-leveled concept. For me, growing up in New York, the cops were okay. They might bust a head every now and then, but only if we asked for it. At an anti-war rally, we would be in much more danger. If we were Black, the danger was constant and much more severe.

Maybe it comes down to the old standby: whose name is on the check? Police are human, they know who's the boss. The bosses are the problem, not the cops.

Brian M said...

yet those New York cops who were all OK are now turning into hooting gangs of thugs who show up at court trials of their "fellow men in blue" charged with serious corruption and other crimes (beyond fixing tickets)

I can't see these union cops as all that different than a bunch of Crips and Bloods staring down witnesses.