There is a trend that is very troubling happening in our country; the police are increasingly violent and in many cases, seemingly out of control.
In New Mexico a Federal investigation is ongoing into a flurry of police shootings of unarmed people by policemen. One YouTube sequence shows a New Mexico cop shooting an unarmed, tee-shirted homeless man — in the back with an assault rifle.
One hundred ten people are arrested by a riot squad of helmeted, baton-weilding cops at McDonalds’ headquarters in St. Louis, MO, yesterday because they are complaining about low wages. (Follow this link for graphic photographs of the demonstrator/police confrontation.)
Each week another story breaks about some unarmed person being shot by police officers who seem to be on edge and nervous enough to shoot first and ask questions later.
And yet there are no Congressional hearings on the trend, no politicians shouting for changes, no mayors threatening police chiefs jobs.
Somehow we need to cause a change, or the people will rebel against not just the obvious oligarchy, but also the police forces that do their bidding.
The feeling that the police forces in the USA are more dedicated to protecting the investor class than it is dedicated to protecting the average citizen is increasing.
Several phenomenon lead to that impression:
1. Police are always on the side of business whenever there is a labor strike or a demonstration that complains about big business. One never sees them protecting demonstrators against the business interests. Never.
Even politicians get into the act when campaigning. During G.W Bush campaign for President, he had local police cordon off demonstrators in “free speech zones” fenced off and far from the venue in which he was speaking. No one charged his campaign with the obvious violations of the First Amendment clause guaranteeing freedom of the people to assemble along with a prohibition on government impinging on citizen’s freedom of political speech.
2. All policemen are armed with lethal weapons, whether they have need for being armed or not.
The tendency when frustrated is to pull that weapon out and threaten anyone with it that is making them uncomfortable. The distance between pulling the weapon and pulling the trigger is less than one-eighth of an inch.
3. Citizens are armed themselves these days with cameras in cel phones, on dashboards and ubiquitous security cameras, so that police violence incidents are much more often recorded and displayed on publicly viewed web sites. Being under the microscope, with his actions recorded so often can make a cop more nervous and insecure.
It can also hold policemen to the standard they profess, “Protect and Serve.” It can give them the cover to be prudent and disciplined in their actions.
4. Police unions always protect the policemen. So do Internal Affairs departments. Coverups are, if not prevalent, hidden away from public view so there is no way to judge their frequency, nor the unit’s efficiency and efficacy. Do Internal Affairs units do their job? There is no way for us to tell, is there? Their reports are all ‘internal,’ and are not made public.
Mayors and police chiefs worry way too much about police morale and the reputation of the force as a whole and lean over backward to protect violators from any accountability. Policemen who shoot unarmed people for non-violent acts or by mistake are rarely punished nor even prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Police Favoring Business Over Citizens
The first problem of police bias against citizenry acting in masses over any social, economic or legal situation is largely caused by the nature of police forces. They are formed by governments and bureaucrats, largely without citizen input. They may answer to politicians elected by the people, but are not directly answerable to the people in any way. They are under the power of the political powers that run the county, town or city.
Some Sheriff’s are elected, sure, but then you rarely see sheriff deputies harassing demonstrators.
Politicians are elected by voters, but they are made eligible for election by the moneyed interests within the jurisdiction. Political campaigns cost big money, and that money comes from those with money to spare for obtaining such power. That means the big businesses in that jurisdiction have more voice in how the police department is run than you and I have.
So if a crowd of citizens forms outside of McDonald’s headquarters in St. Louis, embarrassing the company and threatening to give it bad publicity, you can bet the police department will respond to the McDonald’s CEO asking for the cops to disperse the crowd and arrest the leaders of the demonstration.
And you can bet the judges hearing the charges against those citizens who were demonstrating for a fair wage will also answer to the McDonald’s CEO before considering what you or I think about the issue.
The second problem, that of policemen always being armed, is tricky. Some nations do not traditionally and constantly arm their police forces, though they have weapons handy if needed. Britain, among other European countries, comes to mind. Shootings by the police of civilians is much, much less in Britain than in the USA, when balanced for population.
In addition, the police have a societal expectation in the USA that they shall be armed. Since the days of Wyatt Earp, lawmen have always been armed here. In addition, the populace is armed here, a rarity among civilized nations. Only in the USA do citizens believe they have a right to carry a gun. And citizens argue vociferously over the issue, so we cannot deign to solve it here.
Suffice it to say that policemen are always armed, and that makes it difficult for them not to use deadly force when they feel vulnerable.
Citizens Recording Police Actions
The third issue, that police violence is being revealed more often today than ever before, is a real issue. It brings to mind whether police violence is indeed increasing, or whether we just see more evidence of a traditional trend because of the proliferation of recording devises.
Most certainly the ubiquitous cameras and recording devices help bring these issues to the public’s eye.
But now that we know the extent of the problem, what are we going to do about it?
The fourth problem of policemen policing policemen is caused by the silly idea that the police can police themselves without bias or favoritism, an idea that has not worked for the AMA, the ADA, the ABA, the SEC, the CIA, the FBI nor any other self-policing profession or association.
And it does not work at all for police forces. The old rule of conflict of interest rules supreme in police forces. People cannot be depended upon to be honestly critical of their brethren within a profession, association or organization. It is too much to ask and too much to expect.
Investigations of an organization must always be performed by an independent and uninvolved organization completely outside of that organization that is dedicated only to strictly enforcing the law. Internal investigations must, by definition, always be tainted by being inside of that organization.
The solution is to provide the funds to form an independent agency tasked with investigating police effectiveness, malfeasance, bias, corruption and violence. Since that is a bit much to ask of most towns and small cities, it should be at least a state level agency, fully staffed and equipped for the task.
It also should have a strong citizen reporting mechanism, where citizens can post recorded evidence and testimony without being censored or stifled by the local police force.
At present the only really effective mechanism for exposing police malfeasance is the social media, (Facebook, YouTube, among others), primarily on the internet.
Those sites could easily be modified to include sites for a state-wide investigative agency dedicated to keeping local police forces honest, effective and citizen-friendly.