Sunday, December 7, 2014

Police Violence Goes Beyond Black And White

A news story on my local news channel in November 2014 reported how a man faced charges stemming from Halloween party. It told how Fort Wayne, Indiana prosecutors have charged a white  20-year-old man after police say he threatened them when they broke up a party on IPFW’s campus on Halloween night. According to court documents, police responded to a call about a loud party at IPFW’s student housing. While speaking with party-goers, officers noticed a half-empty vodka bottle on the floor. Alcohol is banned at the student housing. Police said when they went into the apartment, Theodore Tamm was loud and refused to cooperate. After putting him in handcuffs and leading him out of the building via an elevator, Tamm reportedly threatened the officer by saying he would beat and kill him. A struggle ensued and the officer used a Taser to subdue Tamm who is now facing charges of resisting resisting law enforcement, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct.

Mug shot of Tamm, provided by the Allen Co. Sheriff's Dept.
The issue concerning police using unnecessary force and their attitude towards the public they are paid to serve is not black and while. Following the shooting death of  Brown in Ferguson and a much more controversial use of force on a black man in New York where choking contributed to his death we should note abuses are being fostered upon people of every race and gender. Rather than an issue of racism I contend this has more to do with the way the role of the police in society has changed over the last decade. As the world has moved in the direction of becoming overly "politically correct" the police many times have moved in the direction of flexing their muscle in a tight "boys club" where the first code is to protect your brother and ignore his transgressions.

Abuse, violence, and unnecessary force is not used only on blacks and other minorities but is also employed on whites, or as I like to call them "people of non-color." In response to the incident above, I was not there and I do not know this young man, so I reserve the right to be wrong, but most likely more than one officer was in the elevator and escorting him from the building. Even if I were alone with this handcuffed young man I would like to think that I could of brought him to the floor and held him down until another officer could arrive to help me. To taser him I consider stepping over the line. It should be noted many of these problems occur away from witnesses and cameras. If police wearing body cameras will help to protect the rights of Americans I think we best get on with equipping them with such. While I'm not a religious man I say, "God bless the good old days when the police might have scolded this young man and told him to go to bed."

We should not be mislead by how media is trying to spin the protest sprouting up across America into just being about blacks being abused. The issue spills over into the general demeanor of police and how they interact with society. This is why so many young people and white faces are often seen in the protests voicing both anger and resentment. They understand at any time they might see their lives turned upside down by an officer with an attitude. The expansion of the NSA and the militarization of police forces across America reeks of a growing Orwellian police state that should concern us all. The feeling that many of these officers have they should be held to a different standard and are above the law has become an ugly reality across America. This is especially a problem in conservative or unenlightened areas where special economic incentives are often paid to police as a way to generate income for local government or the police department through fines, confiscation of money or property, and other fees. Enforcement of drunken driving laws and the war against drugs where even the most minor offense results in draconian and harsh penalties highlights just how skewed and warped enforcement has become.

The President can moan all he wants about police being too heavy handed towards blacks and minorities, but he shares a great deal of the responsibility for their misconduct.  Over the last six years while Obama has been in office the unrelentless trend to add a military component to police forces across the nation has continued to ramp up. Many people see this as the governments way to extend control and power over the masses in case of a civil uprising in the future. More and more we see those paid with our tax dollars driving aggressive macho vehicles and strutting around in black uniforms with a swagger of intimidation. Letting your eyes move around the world you will see similarities in today's images of armor covered police in America with shields lined up in front of military vehicles facing protesters. This is something we thought only happened in fascist or repressive countries. To make matters worse it seems this aggression is spilling over into the personal lives of the police. A September 19th article in the Atlantic reports that studies suggest that domestic abuse and family violence is about three times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population. So where's the public outrage?

A country shocked by actions of NFL's Ray Rice's actions ought to be even more horrified by studies that say at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. It found cops "typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report, and that this 'informal' method is often in direct contradiction to legislative mandates and departmental policies. A white paper in 2003 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police on the subject highlights the law enforcement community's failure to track these cases consistently or rigorously. Several studies dating back into the 1990s or even before confirm this and while all partner abuse is unacceptable, it is especially problematic when domestic abusers are literally the people that society is supposed to call for help. Being a police officer is a job that anyone involved in domestic abuse should be disqualify from because it gives them a lethal weapon, trains them to stalk people without their noticing, and relies on their judgment and discretion to protect the abused against domestic abusers.

A few weeks ago I received a phone call in the middle of the night from the alarm company that one of the buildings I own had been broken into. My encounter with the police as the building owner was not good and still haunts me so I can only imagine the amount of disrespect a non building owner might have to endure. Believe it or not I was not one time addressed as sir, or asked for any information as to what areas the alarm system covered, but twice one of the officers referred to me as slick, as in "Well, slick, I think they were after was the hard drive from the computer in the law office." This must have been an attempt to bond with me in some condescending way. What really scared me was he boasted about how he was slated for military training later in the day while lacking to comprehend the so called "crime scene" he was viewing was not the work of a sophisticated criminal, but created by kids who were so inept they had also broken into an office at the far end of the building that was totally empty. A young woman of non-color at another property I own who had a encounter about a week late with the police described them as "idiots with guns." 

The police mission in America seems to have morphed from "serve and protect" to "fighting a war on crime" to one mixing in elements of maintaining order and searching for a terrorist under every bed. Many child psychologists and about every mother will tell you if you want to make a child more aggressive give them some toy weapons. In the case of adults you will find if they have the toys they will want to use them. When the police allow this same attitude to become mentally entrenched in their mind we are all vulnerable to them overstepping the line while they play out some kind of power game. Most people understand police officers have a tough and difficult job, but while this may be distasteful to some police officers to hear this, "you are being paid by the citizens to do a job." Fear for your safety is not a defense for not doing that job in an irresponsible way, if you find you are afraid to do this job another endeavor would be in order. Bottom-line is that Americans should not have to be afraid of those we pay to protect us.

  Footnote; As always comments are welcome and I urge you to glance at the blog archives for other post you might find interesting. The following posts are concerning the question of whether we are creating an Orwellian society, the other delves into the NSA and current trends,

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on the issue of the police becoming more and more Orwellian, but I have to point out that they were never here to "serve and protect" you and me. That is a myth, and the Supreme Court has ruled so, on more than one occasion. It would be more accurate to say they serve and protect the government, or society as a whole, not the citizens.