Posts Tagged ‘Police’

Patrisse Cullors’ Black Lives Matter memoir

October 14, 2018

Patrisse Khan-Cullors, an artist and activist from Los Angeles, was one of three black women who started the Black Lives Matter movement.   She co-wrote WHEN THEY CALL YOU A TERRORIST: a Black Lives Matter Memoir (2017) to tell what it’s like to grow up and live in a world in which black lives don’t seem to matter.

She wrote about her childhood and coming of age, about her mother struggling in multiple low-age jobs to allow her four children to survive, about her vocations as an activist and a performance artist, and about finding love as a Queer person who doesn’t recognize gender boundaries.

The over-riding theme of the book is surviving as a poor black person in an unforgiving society, in which employers, governmental institutions and especially the police were indifferent or hostile.

When she was nine, she saw her older brothers, Paul, 13, and Monte, 11 (her third sibling is baby sister Jasmine), set upon and humiliated by police for no reason.  All they were doing was hanging out with other boys, none over 14, in an alley because they had no playground or vacant lot or any place else to so.  Police screamed at them, forced them up against a wall and half-stripped them in public—just for being boys with nothing to do.

The same thing happened to her when she was 12 years old.  Police entered her classroom, handcuffed her, took her to the dean’s office and had her searched, just like her brothers, because somebody had reported she’d smoked marijuana.

Later she visited a rich white friend, whose brother was a drug dealer was a high school student who kept marijuana in garbage bags.  He said he never was stopped by police, and never feared police.

The main thing she had going for her were sympathetic and supportive teachers, in elementary school and in a social justice-oriented charter high school she was able to attend.

Every time she writes about something awful that happened to herself, her family or her friends, she refers to some news article or academic study that indicates it was not an isolated event, but part of a pattern.

Her older brother Monte, was actually called a terrorist.


What #BlackLivesMatter is asking for

August 25, 2015


A section of #BlackLivesMatter called Campaign Zero has come up with a 10-point program to improve policing, following criticisms that #BlackLivesMatter was merely a protest movement that lacked a positive program.

Campaign Zero translated its 10 general principles into detailed policy demands on local, state and federal governments.  BLM members should not longer be at a loss for words when asked what they really want.

Most of these principles should be self-explanatory.  You can get details by clicking on the icons on the Campaign Zero site.

“Broken windows” policing is based on the theory that minor crime and disorder should not be tolerated because it creates an atmosphere in which major crime seems more normal.

“Policing for profit” refers to practice of local governments using fines, fees and asset forfeitures as a source of revenue.

“Fair union contracts” refers to provisions in police union contracts which give police officers extra-Constitutional protections when accused of misconduct, such as cooling-off periods before being asked to testify.

Campaign Zero also has tracked the positions of the presidential candidates relevant to these issues.

The three major Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have all taken positions relevant to most of these 10 points.  Interestingly, the one point on which all three have been silent so far is the police union contracts.

Among Republicans, the only candidate who has taken a relevant position is Rand Paul, who opposes asset foreiture.

I think the Campaign Zero platform is a practical program for protecting the civil liberties not just of African-Americans, but, as a collateral benefit, the civil liberties of all Americans.


The passing scene – August 8, 2015

August 8, 2015

Republican Assault on Trump May Only Make Him Stronger by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Trump’s Triumph: Billionaire Bloward Exposes Fake Political System by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

How Pathetic: Why Donald Trump May Be the Best Thing Going by Andrew Levine for Counterpunch.

The Republican Candidates Agree that the System Is Rigged for the Rich by William K. Black for New Economic Perspectives.

720x405-GettyImages-483208910I still can’t take Donald Trump seriously as a Presidential candidate, but he has said things that need to be said, especially about how he and other billionaires have the power to buy politicians.

Other Republican candidates also point out that the political system is rigged in favor of Wall Street and the large corporations.

Their answer appears to be lower taxes, less regulation and a minimal role for government, on the theory that the less government does, the less it matters whether corporations and wealthy individuals can manipulate government.

My problem with this is that some large corporations have grown so large and powerful that they are the next thing to governments themselves.

Hillary’s Libyan Torturers by Daniel McAdams for The Ron Paul Institute.

hillary-tortureThe achievement of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in foreign affairs was to find a way to find a way to continue the policies of George W. Bush without large numbers of American casualties.

The attack on Libya is an example of this.  The U.S. government supported an attack on a country that did not threaten the United States, based on lies, and reduced it to bloody chaos in which terrorists such as ISIS flourish.

The problem with Bernie Sanders by Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire.

Bernie Sanders is like many democratic socialists of the 1950s and 1960s—a defender of the interests of working people, a defender of civil rights, but also a cold warrior.

He thinks the United States should support Saudi Arabia and Turkey against ISIS, when these two governments are interested only in fighting the enemies of ISIS—Syria for Saudi Arabia and the Kurds for Turkey.   Likewise he favors confrontation of Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, which puts the United States at risk of nuclear war.


New York City’s police and their hurt feelings

January 7, 2015

The big complaint of New York City’s police seems to be that they don’t get enough respect.

They feel they can’t win.  They’re damned if they do enforce the law strictly, and damned if they don’t.

I completely understand that feeling.  It’s how I often felt during my 40 years working for newspapers – 36 as a reporter and four as a copy editor.

New York City PoliceI was often told that my writing was distorted by my left-wing bias, and just as often, sometimes in the same day, that I was a tool of my city’s wealthy business establishment.

Sometimes I was introduced to someone who thought it normal behavior to tell me to my face that they thought all journalists were liars and fools, and my newspaper was a piece of trash whose only usefulness was in the bathroom.

This of course hurt my feelings.  I would have wanted to be liked and respected by everybody at all times.

But it never occurred to me, or to any other newspaper person I knew, to intentionally do a bad job because there were people who didn’t appreciate us.  Nor did I or anybody I knew rally behind someone who was caught faking facts or plagiarizing others’ work.

School teaching is another maligned profession.  School teachers are scapegoated for all of America’s ills.  Yet all the teachers I know show up for class every day, and do the best job they can.

There have been teacher strikes, just as there have been newspaper strikes, but refusing to work is a different thing from intentionally doing bad work.

I learned from my father that respect is never given automatically, but must be earned.  If I wanted to be respected, he said, I should live and work in a way worthy of being respected.  And the starting point for being respected was to live and work in a way worthy of my own self-respect.

There is an alternative philosophy, which is that respect is earned by the power to punish disrespect.   This was the code of pre-19th century European aristocrats and of 20th century American street gangs.  And it is the code of those police officers who regard “contempt of cop” an a punishable offense.

What will be the code of 21st century American police?  A code of earned respect or a code of enforced respect?


Police Now Citing ‘Feelings’ as Reason for Slowdown by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

More police union job actions like this, please

December 31, 2014

Police in New York City are conducting a job action by only enforcing the law when strictly necessary.  They’ll ignore minor traffic violations, public drinking and drug possession by people not bothering anybody else.   That is to say, they’ll do exactly what their critics want them to do.

MADIronically, if they had been conducting such an action several months ago, Eric Garner would still be alive and there would be no showdown between the Police Benevolent Association and Mayor De Blasio.

A labor union job action, for those who’ve never been a union member, consists of “working to rule”—doing exactly what the job requires, no more and no less, without exercise of any judgment.

Years ago police job actions consisted of enforcing every law, no matter how trivial, without exercising any discretion.  But what once was a form of harassment is now standard procedure in the poor neighborhoods of New York and many other cities.

I think New York City’s current police job action is a worthwhile, even if unintentional, social experiment.  It will be interesting to see the results of minimum rather than maximum policing.


Hat tip to The Banality of Blue by B Psycho on Psychopolitik.


Two profiles in courage

December 30, 2014
A black police officer in 2014 who did not turn his back.

A black police officer in 2014 who did not turn his back.

A German in 1936 who did not raise his hand.

A German civilian in 1936 who did not raise his hand.

Source: Moon of Alabama and Billmon.

I do not of course say that New York City in 2014 is equivalent to Hamburg in 1936, but I do say these pictures show two examples of the same kind of courage, the willingness to stand alone for what is right and face the consequences.

Fox affiliate faked ‘kill a cop’ video

December 25, 2014

I think Fox News over the year has done more to stir up racial conflict than peaceful protesters ever have.

Why whites and blacks see things differently

November 26, 2014

howtobesafeVia Matt Bors

Each time an unarmed black person is killed by a police officer, most of us white Americans see it as an isolated incident while most black Americans see it as part of a pattern.

Why would they see it as part of a pattern?  Robin D.G. Kelley, a writer and college teacher in California, listed some  things that happened while the Ferguson Grand Jury deliberated on whether to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.

As we waited for the grand jury’s decision, a twelve-year-old Black boy named Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police in Cleveland because the officer mistook his toy gun for a real one.  Tamir was playing outside of Cleveland’s Cudell Recreation Center, one of the few public facilities left that provide safe space for children.

As we waited, Cleveland cops took the life of Tanisha Anderson, a 37-year-old Black woman suffering from bipolar disorder. Police arrived at her home after family members called 911 to help her through a difficult crisis, but rather than treat her empathetically they did what they were trained to do when confronted with Black bodies in Black neighborhoods—they treated her like an enemy combatant.  When she became agitated, one officer wrestled her to the ground and cuffed her while a second officer pinned her “face down on the ground with his knee pressed down heavily into the back for 6 to 7 minutes, until her body went completely limp.”  She stopped breathing.  They made no effort to administer CPR, telling the family and witnesses that she was sleeping.  When the ambulance finally arrived twenty minutes later, she was dead.

As we waited, police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, killed a forty-year-old Black woman named Aura Rain Rosser.  She was reportedly brandishing a kitchen knife when the cops showed up on a domestic violence call, although her boyfriend who made the initial report insisted that she was no threat to the officers.  No matter; they opened fire anyway.

As we waited, a Chicago police officer fatally shot 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh.  Despite the officer’s claims, several eyewitnesses reported that McIntosh was unarmed, on his knees with his hands up, begging the officer to hold his fire.


The passing scene: Links & comments 10/13/14

October 13, 2014

White poverty exists, ignored by Leonard Pitts Jr. for the Miami Herald.

There are more poor, unemployed white people in the USA than there are poor, unemployed black people, and poor whites, too, are targets of prejudice.

I remember being told as a boy that “white trash” were a lower class than “Negroes”.

But the basic cause of poverty is the same in the slums of Detroit or small towns in Kentucky: Employers shutting down and moving out.

Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes by Michael Samish, Robert O’Harrow Jr. or Steve Rich for the Washington Post.

Since 9/11, police have seized more than $2.5 billion from 61,998 motorists without search warrants or indictments.  At what point to the police stop being protectors and start being predators?

Tom Cotton and the era of post-truth politics by Steve Benen for MSNBC.

The GOP candidate for Senate for Arkansas tells blatant lies and gets away with it.

The postmodernist philosophy is that there is no such thing as objective truth, only different ways of looking at things.  This philosophy seems to have taken hold in American politics.

Andrew Cuomo Is a Very Flawed Concept by Charles P. Pierce for Esquire.

Given a choice between a right-wing Democratic candidate and an extreme right-wing Republican candidate, This is why I plan to vote for the Green Party candidate for governor of New York.


The passing scene: Links & comments 10/1/14

October 1, 2014

Why I Hope to Die at Age 75 by Ezekiel Emanuel for The Atlantic.

Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel, who’s now 57, wrote that he won’t undergo any medical treatment for the purpose of prolonging life after age 75.  He added that this is a personal decision, and not a recommendation.  But he sees the years after 75 as a period of decline that will add nothing to his life.

I am impressed that someone would be so satisfied with their life that they would be willing to wind it up at age 75.  I’m 78, going on 79, and I have unfinished business.

But it is true that, if I live long enough into years of decline, I will find life no longer worth living.  One disappointment is that I probably won’t be around to see if Emanuel carries through on his resolution.

[Added 10/2/14]  I note that Emanuel is a bio-ethicist.  In my opinion, the job of bio-ethicists is to rationalize doing things that physicians and others intuitively feel is wrong.

Another subtext to Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75”: Hillary’s Too Old by Steve Sailer for The Unz Review.

If elected President in 2016 and 2020, Hillary Clinton would be 77 when she stepped down on Jan. 19, 2015.  Joe Biden would be 82; Jerry Brown, 86; Elizabeth Warren, 75 1/2; and Bernie Sanders, 83.  But Ezekiel’s brother Rahm, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, would be a vibrant 65.

ISIS at the Gates of Baghdad: Why Airstrikes Are Failing by Patrick Cockburn for Counterpunch.

Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote that the only forces in Iraq capable of fighting ISIS are the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias.  But they terrorize Sunni Muslims, who look to ISIS for protection.  Cockburn doesn’t see any good way out of this dilemma for the United States.

World should not be oblivious to Russia’s calculated shift toward China by Hisayoshi Ina for Nikkei Asian Review.

Russia, China court India for regional bloc by Takayuki Tanaka for Nikkei Asian Review.

The world balance of power is changing, as the Russian government responds to pressures in Europe by strengthening its ties with Asia.

Andreatta: Cops and Manners on Short Street by David Andreatta for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY.

I think that if I was a policeman, I would find that every prejudice I had concerning any group of people would be confirmed by my experience, because the police see the worst of any group of people and see people at their worst.

This column by David Andreatta shows just how difficult it is to overcome such attitudes.

Black Panthers and the Second Amendment

August 25, 2014

Back in 1967, members of the Black Panther Party in California decided to exercise their right to carry loaded weapons in public.  California at the time had an open-carry law.  You can probably guess what happened.

Who goes to jail? America’s injustice gap

April 17, 2014

In an interview with Democracy Now, Matt Taibbi talked about the contrast between the refusal of the federal government to investigate and prosecute corporate crime with the increasingly arbitrary and brutal treatment of ordinary citizens by police and prosecutors.   This is the topic of his new book, The Divide.

How can it be, he asked, that somebody can go to prison for having half a marijuana cigarette in his pocket, yet no executive of HSBC has been indicted for laundering billions of dollars for the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels?

Or that a black man can be charged with obstructing pedestrian traffic, just for standing in front of his home at 1 a.m. when nobody is on the street, yet the federal government lets Wall Street bankers off the hook for the financial fraud that led to the 2008 market crash?

Good questions, and I think we all know the answers.

For a transcript of the interview, click on the following link.

For more about Taibbi’s book, click on the following links:  [added 4/19/14]

[Added 8/28/14]

Here are some of my later posts of Matt Taibbi’s The Divide

Above the law and below it in the USA

Matt Taibbi on impunity for rich criminals

The incentives to ignore due process of law

A predatory business model based on lawbreaking

Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop

July 23, 2013


Radley Balko has good web log, The Agitator, about the abuse of police power.  Now Balko has written a book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop: the Militarization of America’s Police Forces, which was published his month.  Salon ran some excerpts.  They’re worth reading.

‘Why did you shoot me?  I was reading a book’

‘Oh, God, I thought they were going to shoot me next’

‘There’s always a good time to use a Taser’

Life lessons by working as a cop

September 2, 2012

Tim Dees, a retired police officer who now teaches criminal justice, was asked what he had learned by being a policeman that most people don’t know or underestimate.  Here are highlights of his answer.

  • One of the things my upbringing did not prepare me for was the complete lack of civility that some people have.  I didn’t think of myself as having been sheltered from evil as a child, but I did not learn that some people have absolutely no regard for the welfare of anyone but themselves, and lash out at anyone who tries to make them aware they are not the only people on the planet.
  • Everyone has a “hot button.”  Calm and even-tempered as you might be, there is some topic that will set you off, especially if it’s referenced to you personally.  It might be your height, your weight, your sexuality, your education, how much money you have, your mom, whatever.  Rational people can become maniacs if someone pushes their buttons.
*** ***
  • Tim Dees

    No matter how bizarre you find other folks’ sexual preferences, you have to be at peace with knowing that what consenting adults do in private is their business alone.  If they decide to take it public or engage people who either don’t consent or are too young to do so, you can get involved.

  • Law enforcement is a very stressful occupation, but most of the stress comes from the political interactions and power games within each law enforcement agency.  The stuff on the street can be stressful, but you learn to deal with that quickly or you get out.  About half of the people who become law enforcement officers leave before they have five years on the job.  Some get fired for unsuitability, incompetence, or misconduct, but others find out it’s just not for them.
  • High-speed chases look like fun because they are.
  • Once you become a cop, very few of your non-cop friends will ever again treat you the same way.  You will be introduced by your profession for the rest of your life.  People are never going to be comfortable with the group charged with detecting and making them accountable for their bad conduct.
  • Many criminals can be reformed, and eventually do come to the point in their lives that a criminal lifestyle is more trouble than it’s worth to them.  Unfortunately, by the time some of them do that, they have incurred a prison sentence that will keep them behind bars until they die.
  • Criminals who do not fit into the above category are mostly predators, and should be locked up permanently.
  • Never say, “Now I’ve seen it all.”  There will always be innovators.
  • Take away alcohol and stupid, and the world would require about 90 percent fewer cops

Click on Tim Dees – Answers for his full original post and reactions of other police officers.

Click on Tim Dees – Quora for his answers to other questions.

Hat tip to Rod Dreher.

Doing what they were trained to do?

November 21, 2011

Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore City policeman who now teaches criminal justice at John Jay College in New York City, wrote that police are now told in training to use pepper spray and Tasers not just to protect themselves, but to enforce compliance with orders.

In the police academy, I was taught to pepper-spray people for non-compliance.  I.e.: “Put your hands behind your back or I’ll… Mace you.” It’s crazy.  Of course we didn’t do it this way, the way we were taught. Baltimore police officers are too smart to start urban race riots based on some dumb-ass training.  So what did we do to gain compliance?  We grabbed people.  Hands on.  Like real police.  And we were good at it.

Some people, perhaps those who design training programs, think policing should be a hands-off job.  It can’t be and shouldn’t be.  And trying to make policing too hands-off means people get Tased and Maced for non-compliance.  It’s not right.  But this is the way many police are trained.  That’s a shame.  (Mind you, I have no problem using such less-lethal weapons on actual physical threats, but peaceful non-compliance is different.)

Source: The Washington Monthly – Ten Miles Square.  (Hat tip to Ta-Nehesi Coates.)

Is this true?  Is this what police are told to do in training?  If that’s so, the policeman who sprayed the peaceful demonstrators was just doing what he was trained to do.  And it becomes easier to understand the numerous incidents of senior citizens, physically handicapped people and mentally retarded people being Tasered, sometimes fatally, when they pose no threat.


“We, too, are the 99 percent”

November 5, 2011

The Oakland, Calif., police union sent an open letter to the mayor of Oakland on Tuesday, saying “we are confused” by the mayor’s decision to beef up the police presence in the Occupy Oakland demonstrations while giving other city employees permission to use sick leave time to participate in the protests.  Here is how the letter began.

We represent the 645 police officers who work hard every day to protect the citizens of Oakland.  We, too, are the 99% fighting for better working conditions, fair treatment and the ability to provide a living for our children and families

Click on  Open Letter from Oakland Police Union to read the whole thing.

The police as a group, unlike hedge fund managers as a group, perform a necessary function.  The campaign for  decent wages, health insurance and working conditions benefits them, the same as everybody else.  What gave the Wisconsin union protests so much power is the open sympathy for the Madison, Wis., police for the goals of the protesters.  Acts of violence against the police, whatever the provocation, are not only harmful to the goals of the movement, but to democracy itself.

Click on What the NYPD Really Thinks of Occupy Wall Street for a Mother Jones article on the situation in Manhattan.

I don’t claim to know what the majority of police officers in different cities think of the protests.  I do know that police officers are all individuals, and they all don’t necessarily think the same thing.