Police


Iraq war veteran speaks out against the blatant lies being told in the local police academy An Iraq war veteran just published a guest editorial for The Daily Beast under an assumed name. It's a powerful, must-read piece.

Having served as a military police officer in Iraq and elsewhere, the veteran, writing as "Clayton Jenkins," is currently enrolled in a rural red state police academy. It was there that he immediately experienced the barrage of lies about the fictional war on police taking place in the United States. Clayton writes:

"The War on Cops is a grossly inaccurate response to recent police killings which are on track for another year that will rival the safest on record. Gunfire deaths by police officers are down 27 percent this year, according to the Officer Down memorial page, and police killings in general are at a 20-year low, given current numbers for 2015. Police deaths in Barack Obama’s presidency are lower than the past four administrations, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency."

It's deeply troubling when police ignore facts and present propaganda as truth. If they will do it here, what's to stop them from ignoring facts and presenting false evidence elsewhere?

Every police killing, like all violence, is unfortunate. It doesn't make it a war, or new, or part of some dramatic uptick. The number of police officers shot and killed on the job is now down 87 percent from its all-time high.

Clayton went on to ask:

"What are they telling us in a post-Michael Brown academy? The culture of police brutality is infrequently addressed, but what is continually mentioned is the notion that there is a War on Police."

We must investigate and ask ourselves: Why are police spreading this misinformation? What are they getting out of doing this? Who does it benefit, and how?

The Making Of The American Police State By Christian Parenti, July 30th, 2015. The numbers are chilling: 2.2 million people behind bars, another 4.7 million on parole or probation. Even small-town cops are armed like soldiers, with a thoroughly militarized southern border.

The common leftist explanation for this is “the prison-industrial complex,” suggesting that the buildup is largely privatized and has been driven by parasitic corporate lobbying. But the facts don’t support an economistic explanation. Private prisons only control 8 percent of prison beds. Nor do for-profit corporations use much prison labor. Nor even are guards’ unions, though strong in a few important states, driving the buildup.

The vast majority of the American police state remains firmly within the public sector. But this does not mean the criminal justice buildup has nothing to do with capitalism. At its heart, the new American repression is very much about the restoration and maintenance of ruling class power.

American society and economy have from the start evolved through forms of racialized violence, but criminal justice was not always so politically central. For the better part of a century after the end ofReconstruction in the 1870s, the national incarceration rate hovered at around 100 to 110 per 100,000. But then, in the early 1970s, the incarceration rate began a precipitous and continual climb upward.

The great criminal justice expansion began as a federal government reaction to the society-wide rebellion of the late 1960s. It was a crucible in which white supremacy, corporate power, capitalism, and the legitimacy of the US government, at home and abroad, all faced profound crisis. The Civil Rights Movement had transmogrified into the Black Power movement.

“Third World” Marxist and nationalist groups like the Black Panthers and the Young Lords began arming. During riots in Newark, Watts, and Chicago, black people shot back at cops and the National Guard; in Detroit, urban “hillbillies” — poor white Southerners who had also been displaced by the mechanization of agriculture — fought alongside their black neighbors. Transwomen, drag queens, and gay men fought the cops who came to raid the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Women organized, filed successful lawsuits, and staged large protests against discrimination.

Even the US Army was in rebellion. In Vietnam draftee insubordination took the form of increasing drug use, combat refusals, and even “fragging” — the murder of overly gung-ho officers.

Importantly, these domestic social explosions hurt US imperialism abroad. In the context of the Cold War, burning cities put the lie to official American mythologies. If capitalism and liberal democracy were so much better than socialism, why were black people in America so furious?

In 1967 the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission,found that in every single case the precipitating cause of the riots was police brutality. Furthermore, the commission found that police tactical incompetence usually made things worse.

It was in response to this panorama of formal and informal rebellion — and law enforcement’s apparent inability to stop it — that the massive criminal justice crackdown began. The opening move was President Johnson’s Omnibus Crime and Safe Streets Act of 1968.

Congress passed the bill literally in the shadow of smoke from yet another riot — this one in outrage at the murder of Dr Martin Luther King. From the passage of the Omnibus Crime and Safe Streets Act of 1968 emerged a new super agency, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), which over the next ten years spent a billion dollars annually rationalizing and retooling state and local law enforcement.

It was thanks to the LEAA that American police forces first obtained computers, helicopters, body armor, military-grade weapons, SWAT teams, shoulder radios, and paramilitary training, and started new militaristic forms of interagency cooperation. The LEAA also pushed literacy requirements and basic competency tests for police officers. In other words, the LEAA was simultaneously an attempt to modernize American policing and to intensify and expand it.

Here were the old demonizing tropes of white racism. Black people were cast as dangerous, ignorant, unworthy of full citizenship, and thus in need of state repression. As Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, put it in his diary: “[The President] emphasized that you have to face that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.” A federal war on heroin followed and with it came new laws like the RICO Act that empowered prosecutors. At the same time Nixon began his appeal to “the silent majority,” a group not named as white but understood as such.

Meanwhile, as part of police modernization, counterinsurgency became the framework. One law enforcement journal, describing what would become the locked-down ghetto of the near future, advised: “Techniques to control the people include individual and family identification, curfews, travel permits, static and mobile checkpoint operations, and the prevention of assemblies or rallies.”...

The Reagan Revolution’s radical economic restructuring had, however, created new problems to which criminal justice offered solutions. Reagan’s massive upward redistribution of wealth had created vast swaths of impoverishment and dramatic new levels of inequality. In this context the reinvigorated war on crime served to physically contain and ideologically explain away, via racist victim-blaming, the massive social dislocations of neoliberal, free-market economic restructuring.

This transformation, the beginning of neoliberalism, begins with the crucially important collapse of profit rates in the early 1970s. After twenty years of continual expansion during the long postwar recovery, profits began to sag in 1966 and continued to decline steadily until 1974, when they reached an average of around 4.5 percent. The same pattern of a 20 to 30 percent plunge in profits was true across all advanced capitalist countries.

This was, ultimately, a crisis of over-accumulation rooted in the end of the postwar boom. By the late sixties, the long wave of post–World War II growth had created a global glut. There was finally too much capital, too much stuff, and not enough profitable outlets for investment, not enough consumption to keep the colossus moving.

While the cause of the crisis was overproduction at a global scale, the solution, in the eyes of the ruling class, was cost-cutting in the form of deregulation, tax cuts, and reduced wages.

How was this new social landscape of deindustrialization and increased poverty next to new extremes of wealth to be managed and explained away? Reengaging the criminal justice buildup provided the answer.

Launching the Drug War

Reagan’s criminal justice offensive began quietly at first. His administration doubled FBI funding, loosened wiretap laws, gave more money to the US Bureau of Prisons, appointed a generation of new right-wing federal judges, and urged changes in the criminal code that increased the power of prosecutors. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court handed down decisions that rolled back defendant rights.Gates v. Illinois made it easier for police to obtain search warrants based on anonymous tips; United States v. Leon allowed police to use defective and partially false warrants.

Then came the Federal Crime Bill of 1984, which created the assets forfeiture laws enabling police to keep as much as 90 percent of any “drug-tainted” property seized. This massively incentivized state and local officials to get on board with the drug war.

The escalating repression hit poor people of color hardest, and black people hardest of all. In 1980, African Americans made up 12 percent of the nation’s population and over 23 percent of all those arrested on drug charges. Ten years later, African Americans were still 12 percent of the population, but made up more than 40 percent of all those arrested on narcotics charges. Still more remarkable, over 60 percent of all narcotics convictions were of African Americans.

Overall, drug arrests almost doubled in the late eighties: 1985 saw roughly 800,000 people taken down on drug charges; by 1989 that number had shot up to almost 1.4 million.

Regulate, Absorb, Terrorize, Disorganize

Looking back we can see clearly the effects of this generalized project of repression: mask the real causes of poverty with racist fearmongering and victim-blaming. Keep once-rebellious communities in America’s cities fragmented and tied up in the criminal justice system. Secure central cities for gentrification and redevelopment. Keep labor cheap by hounding immigrants. And, in a pork-barrel strategy, build new local support via publicly funded prison construction, service contracts, and employment as guards.

In other words, among the important things criminal justice does is regulate, absorb, terrorize, and disorganize the poor. At the same time it promulgates politically useful racism. Criminal justice discourse is the racism circus; from courts to reality TV it is the primary ideological site for producing the false consciousness that is American racism.

Why is racism false consciousness? Because it divides the working class and causes people of all races to misunderstand their real material conditions. It creates, via racialized scapegoats, pseudo-explanations for poverty and exploitation, deluding and frightening downwardly mobile voters.

Most important, the criminal justice crackdown and overuse of incarceration allows capitalism to have the positive effects of mass unemployment (lower wages due to an economically frightened workforce) without the political destabilization that mass poverty can bring.Today, the poor are thoroughly locked down, as is our political imagination about what poverty means. Law enforcement has moved to the center of domestic politics; state violence is perhaps more than ever a constant, regular, and normal feature of poor people’s lives.

Simply stated, capitalism needs poverty and creates poverty, but is simultaneously always threatened by poverty. The poor keep wages down, but they also create trouble in three ways.

First, their presence calls into question capitalism’s moral claims (the system can’t work for “everyone” when beggars are in the street). Second, the poor threaten and menace the moneyed classes aesthetically and personally simply by being in the wrong spaces. Gourmet dining isn’t quite the same when done in the presence of mendicant paupers. And finally, the poor threaten to rebel in organized and unorganized ways.

Iceland's Police Are Not Our Police How do we love Iceland? Let us count the ways: It's been cited as the most peaceful country in the world the last three years running. It has no army or air force. It has very little economic disparity, with most people belonging to a vast middle class.

It has free health care and education, strict gun control, uses mostly geothermal energy, was one of the first countries to legalize gay marriage, and has been a key supporter of Wikileaks. It averages fewer than two murders a year, and in 2013 saw - and grieved - its first police killing of a civilian, ever. People trust its Coast Guard and police more than any other public body...

They illustrate that our species - minus racism, poverty, rage-inducing disparities and a pathological, ill-educated, war-honed, guns-r-us-culture - can do so much better.

The True History of the Origins of Police -- Protecting and Serving the Masters of Society The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid- to late-19th century from the threat posed by that system’s offspring, the working class.

The Militarization of U.S. Police: Finally Dragged Into the Light by the Horrors of FergusonBy Glenn Greenwald 14 Aug 2014, "The best and most comprehensive account of the dangers of police militarization is the 2013 book by the libertarian Washington Post journalist Radley Balko, entitled “Rise of the Warrior Cops: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.” Balko, who has devoted his career to documenting and battling the worst abuses of the U.S. criminal justice system, traces the history and underlying mentality that has given rise to all of this: the “law-and-order” obsessions that grew out of the social instability of the 1960s, the War on Drugs that has made law enforcement agencies view Americans as an enemy population, the Reagan-era “War on Poverty” (which was more aptly described as a war on America’s poor), the aggressive Clinton-era expansions of domestic policing, all topped off by the massively funded, rights-destroying, post-9/11 security state of the Bush and Obama years. All of this, he documents, has infused America’s police forces with “a creeping battlefield mentality.”"

Police Can Just Take Your Money, Car and Other Property — and Good Luck Getting It Back Asset forfeiture provides insidious incentives for police to apprehend people. Here are 4 states with some of the greediest police forces. by Asron Cantu. Alternet. 6/18/14.

Texas

Total assets seized in 2013: $106,927,691

The Lone Star state, that free-market paradise where government is anathema to basic civic values, actually shakes down average people of millions of dollars in assets with relative impunity and ease.

The Institute for Justice found that the ten Texas agencies that used civil asset forfeiture the most “take in about 37 percent of their budgets in forfeiture funds.” Their report also found that rural (read: poor) agencies were some of the most brazen looters, even as the state claimed the large number of seizures was due to urban agencies apprehending large-scale drug traffickers.


""On the eve of mass protests, police tell tales that turn out not to be true..

"It is a little-known fact that no one at an anti-globalization protest in the United States has ever thrown a Molotov cocktail. Nor is there reason to believe global justice activists have planted bombs, pelted cops with bags of excrement or ripped up sidewalks to pummel them with chunks of concrete, thrown acid in policemen's face or shot at them with wrist-rockets or water pistols full of urine or bleach. Certainly none have ever been arrested for doing so. Yet somehow, every time there is a major mobilization, police and government officials begin warning the public that this is exactly what they should expect... used to justify extreme police tactics...

"April 2000, Washington, DC. Hours before the protests against the IMF and World Bank are to begin, police seize the activists' Convergence Center. Chief Charles Ramsey loudly claims to have discovered a workshop there for manufacturing Molotov cocktails and homemade pepper spray. DC police later admit no such workshop existed...

"July 2000, Minneapolis. Days before a scheduled protest.. police claim that activists detonated a cyanide bomb.. and might have their hands on stolen explosives. The next day the Drug Enforcement Administration raids a house used by organizers, drags off the bloodied inhabitants... Police later admit there never was a cyanide bomb...

August 2000, Philadelphia. Hours before protests against the Republican convention are to begin, police, claiming to be acting on a tip... arresting the seventy activists.. Chief John Timoney announces the discovery of C4 explosives and water balloons full of hydrochloric acid. Police later admit that no explosives or acid were found...

"..the police strategy consisted almost entirely of pre-emtive strikes against activists... The press, meanwhile, has been airing increasingly outlandish accounts... Some police officials have become notorious amoung activists for their Gothic imaginations...

"Such charges invariably make splashy headlines at the time, only to be later exposed as false or fade away for lack of evidence. Timoney has also become notorious for brutal tactics: In Miami his men opened fire on activists with an array of wooden, rubber and plastic bullets, tazer guns, concussion grenades and a variety of chemical weapons...

".. it rarely occurs to most Americans that so many of the officials charged with protecting them could be intentionally, systematically lying" (David Graeber. "Lying in Wait." The Nation, Apr. 19, 2004, 18-20).


"Overnight, a sheriff can stack a department with second-rate cronies and arm them with high-powered guns...

"...Hardy [the sheriff] raised his badge in the air and told everyone [the officers] in the room, "This give you the right to do anything you want. This makes you like God"" (Felix Gillette. "Sheriff, Interrupted." Texas Observer, 5/7/04: 5, 16).


"I point out police collusion with gamblers, drug dealers, prostitutes and, indeed, anyone whose sexual activities have been proscribed by a series of state legal codes that were -- are -- the scandal of what we like to call a free society. These codes are often defended because they are very old. For instance, the laws against sodomy go back 1,400 years to the Emperor Justinian, who felt that there should be such laws because, "as everyone knows," he declared, "sodomy is a principal cause of earthquake"...

"The period of Prohibition called the "Noble Experiement" brought on the greatest breakdown of law and order that we have ever endured -- until today, of course. Lesson? Do not regulate the private lives of people, because if you do they will become angry and antisocial, and they will get what they want from criminals, who work in perfect freedom because they know how to pay off the police...

"...we are afflicted with all sorts of secret police, busily spying on us. The FBI, since it founding, has generally steered clear of major crime like the Mafia. In fact, much of its time and energies have been devoted to syping on those Americans whose political beliefs did not please the late J. Edgar Hoover, a man who hated commies, blacks and women in, more or less, that order... The bureau also has had a nasty talent for amusing Presidents with lurid dossiers on their political enemies. Now in the year 2004... Homeland Security appears to be uniting our secret police into a single sort of Gestapo with dossiers on everyone" (Gore Vidal. "State of the Union, 2004." The Nation, Sep. 13, 2004: 23-29).


"...our government and law enforcement officials, including local cops, are doing some extraordinary things these days.

"In Missouri, they beat and mace peace protesters; they go undercover in Colorado to spy on and monitor law-abiding peace activists; campus police spy on students and their professors for the FBI in Massachusetts; cops fire on marchers in California; in Iowa prosecutors empanel a grand jury and issue subpoenas all around to find out what peace activists are doing; and New York City cops interrogate peace activists about their political affiliations, then enter their information into a database...

"A favorite tactic of the Bush administration is to herd out of view of his motorcade, and into "designated protest zones," people protesting this president's many controversial policies and actions. Those who refuse to go into protest zones are then arrested. In contrast, avowed Bush supporters are allowed to remain alongside the presidential motorcade and within his earshot.

"This tactic is being used nationwide to suppress dissent and undermine the essential First Amendment right to express disagreement in a public forum with the policies of governmental officials...

"...the administration has a clear "pattern and practice" of discrimination against those who disagree with its policies...

"They are not only denying people the right of dissent against their government, but also intimidating them from exercising their freedom of speech.

"Beside insulating government officials from seeing or hearing the protestors and vice-versa, this practice gives to the American public -- through the media -- the appearance that there exists less dissent from the government official or their policies than there really is" (Nadine Strossen. "We Can Be Safe, Secure and Free -- To Dissent." ACLU Civil Liberties, Spring 2004: 2-3).


"High-powered tasers are the new fad in law enforcement. They are becoming ever more prevalent even as their safety is increasingly in question. The proliferation of tasers in police departments across the country has led to unconventional uses. Among those hit by tasers are elderly people, children as young as one year old, people apparently suffering diabetic shock and epileptic seizures, people already bound in restraints, and hospital mental patients. Police used tasers against protesters at the 2003 Miami Free Trade Area of the Americas demonstration and against rowdy fans at the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. School systems are employing the weapons, with some officers carrying tasers even in elementary schools.

"But doctors, reporters, and human rights groups have raised questions about the safety of the devices, which shoot two barbs designed to pierce the skin. The barbs are at the end of electrical wires carrying 50,000 volts. Last summer, The New York Times reported that at least fifty people have died within a short time after being hit with a taser. By November, when Amnesty International releasted its report, that number had risen to more than seventy...

"Police like tasers, sometimes for good reason... says the taser "is a tool that is effective in ending what could otherwise be a violent conflict without injuries. We're finding that time and again"...

"In Portland, Oregon, police used a taser to shock a seventy-one-year-old blind woman four times on her back and once on the right breast. They also pepper-sprayed her and beat her...

"Amnesty International... warns it is "not advisable" to use its high-power devices on someone who is pregnant or elderly...

"Many police departments say that use of tasers has reduced injuries and fatalities. The city of Phoenix saw a 54 percent drop in police shootings the year it began to use tasers. In 2003, Seattle, which also uses tasers, for the first time in fifteen years had no shootings that involved officers. That correlation has made tasers popular...

"But Amnesty International says the tasers are making it too easy for the police to use excessive force... "In contrast, taser usage has increased dramatically, becoming the most prevalent force option in some department...

"A number of the stories in the Amnesty report involve police use of tasers on people who were already restrained, including two who were strapped to gurneys and on their way to, or already inside, hospitals...

"Amnesty International wants the devices temporarily banned "pending a rigorous, independent, and impartial inquiry into their use and effects"...

"On December 10, 2004, police in Pembroke Pines, Florida, used a taser on a twelve-year-old boy who tried to stab another child with a pencil and then became combative with police...

"Back in May, a nine-year-old run-away girl in Tucson, who was already handcuffed by police and sitting in a police vehicle, was shocked with a taser when she began to kick at the car and bang her head...

"Even one-year-olds have been shocked, according to records... The company also told the San Jose Mercury News that its taser can be used safely on toddlers...

"A scientist who tested some of the early tasers for the Canadian government recommended that the government ban the devices... his tests showed the devices could cause death...

"...a trend: the increasingly common use of tasers against students. Taser International says that 32 percent of the police departments it interviewed include tasers in local school systems...

"Taser International, which features the slogan "Saving Lives Every Day" on its website, is also hawking tasers directly to consumers... calling them "home self-defense systems"" (Ann-Marie Cusac. "The Trouble With Tasers." The Progressive, April, 2005: 22-27).


"Why is police accountability so important?.... There's a long history of police brutality and lack of accountability in the state of Texas. It's almost to mythical proportions. Think about it: According to the Washington Post, the number one most violent police department is the Harris County Sheriff's Department. Number two is the Houston Police Department. What does that say? We've got serious police accountability issues in Texas... a repressive regime like Texas..." (Jake Bernstein. "Spokesmodel Makes Good." Texas Observer, April 15, 2005: 10-14, 28).


Colby Glass, MLIS