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Matt Wuerker, 6/10/20



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Police release partial body-cam footage from aftermath of Black man’s fatal shooting by off-duty White officer. WP By Lateshia Beachum 1/15/22

North Carolina officials on Friday released part of the body-camera video recorded after the shooting death of a Black man who was killed by a White off-duty sheriff’s deputy.

John Darkow 5/5/21

Good riddance to all the anti-vax police officers. Opinion by Catherine Rampell 8/12/21

Around the country, police officers are threatening to quit if subject to a coronavirus vaccine mandate. And you know what? Good riddance.

This is a useful opportunity to clear law enforcement ranks of their worst, most selfish and least-public-spirit-minded officers.

After a year of protests over racial justice and police brutality, defenders of law enforcement have argued that police writ large are not the problem; only the few "bad apples" within police ranks are. This makes sense, up to a point. Most people go into law enforcement to serve and protect the public. These noble officers want to keep their communities safe, put bad guys away, be role models for kids.

But some are attracted to the work because it lets them brandish a weapon and bully the vulnerable, have swashbuckling shootouts or break traffic laws with impunity. Maybe even flip the occasional pregnant woman’s car, or threaten a Black military officer.

David G Brown 042421

'I did nothing, and you just grabbed me': Black activist demonstrates race problem city hopes to fix

Portland police

John Darkow 5/5/21

‘Defund the police’? Let’s start with ‘demilitarize D.C.’ By Petula Dvorak Columnist March 15, 2021

Another disturbing shooting of a Black man shows how desperately police need reform, 10/28/20

7-21-20

Trump’s secret police in Portland are part of a larger trend

email from Robert Reich

Americans were given $1,200 to live on for five months. Meanwhile, our military spends more than $2,000,000,000 a day.

American taxpayers spend $107,575,000,000 more on police than on public housing.

And 15 states now spend $27,000 more per person in prison than they do per student.

At a time when public services are needed more than ever, Trump unleashed federal agents in Portland, against the wishes of local officials, to violently crack down on protesters. His latest tactics are part of the United States' swing towards social control instead of social investment.

Social control societies put substantial resources into police, prisons, surveillance, immigration enforcement, and the military. Their purpose is to utilize fear, punishment, and violence to divide people and keep the status quo in place — perpetuating the systemic oppression of Black and brown people, and benefiting no one but wealthy elites.

Social investment societies put more resources into healthcare, education, affordable housing, jobless benefits, and children. Their purpose is to free people from the risks and anxieties of daily life and give everyone a fair shot at making it.

Trump is the culmination of forty years of increasing social control in the United States and decreasing social investment – a trend which, given the deep-seated history of racism in the United States, falls disproportionately on Black people, indigeneous people, and people of color.

Our latest video breaks down the United States’ long history of social control, and why we must demand a shift towards social investment.

Video: Defund? Reimagining Public Safety | Robert Reich

The last months of protests and demonstrations have exposed what’s always been true: social controls are both deadly and unsustainable.

They require more and more oppressive means of terrorizing communities and they drain resources that would ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.

This moment calls on us to relinquish social control and ramp up our commitment to social investment.

It’s time we invest in affordable housing and education, not tear gas, batons, and state-sanctioned murder. It’s time we invest in keeping children fed and out of poverty, not putting their parents behind bars.

It’s time to defund the police, and invest in communities.

We have no time to waste.

Thanks for watching,
Robert Reich
Inequality Media Civic Action

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Hier Rachel Maddow Last Week with John Oliver

Newly released video shows N.J. trooper fatally shooting unarmed black man during traffic stop tussle, 6/9/20

New Jersey’s attorney general released police dash-camera footage Monday that captured the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old unarmed black man by a white state trooper last month.

‘Friendliest,’ not fittest, is key to evolutionary survival, scientists argue in book, By Marlene Cimons July 20, 2020

Masisi, an orphan bonobo at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in Congo, holds the ear of Mistique, the village dog. (Vanessa Woods)


British naturalist Charles Darwin got it right, but maybe we got Darwin wrong.

Most people assume that Darwin was talking about physical strength when referring to "survival of the fittest," meaning that a tougher, more resilient species always will win out over its weaker counterparts. But what if he didn't mean that at all?

Scientists Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, both researchers at Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, believe something else has been at work among species that have thrived throughout history, successfully reproducing to sustain themselves, and it has nothing to do with beating up the competition.

Their new book, "Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity," posits that friendly partnerships among species and shared humanity have worked throughout centuries to ensure successful evolution. Species endure — humans, other animals and plants — they write, based on friendliness, partnership and communication. And they point to many life examples of cooperation and sociability to prove it.

"Survival of fittest, which is what everyone has in mind as evolution and natural selection, has done the most harm of any folk theory that has penetrated society," Hare says. "People think of it as strong alpha males who deserve to win. That's not what Darwin suggested, or what has been demonstrated. The most successful strategy in life is friendliness and cooperation, and we see it again and again."

"Dogs are exhibit A," he says. "They are the extremely friendly descendants of wolves. They were attracted to humans and became friendly to humans, and changed their behavior, appearance and developmental makeup. Sadly, their close relative, the wolf, is threatened and endangered in the few places where they live, whereas there are hundreds of millions of dogs. Dogs were the population of wolves that decided to rely on humans - rather than hunting - and that population won big."

In nature, for example, flowering plants attract animals to spread their pollen, forming a partnership that benefits both. "The plants provide food and energy, while the animals provide transportation for the pollen," Hare says.

Before focusing on dog studies - Hare founded the Duke Canine Cognition Center — Hare and Woods studied bonobos, apes that are often confused with chimpanzees. But bonobos actually are quite different from chimps.

Chimps make war - males take charge - and can be quite violent, even killing one another. Bonobos, on the other hand, are governed by females, don’t kill one another and engage in sex to maintain a peaceful collective temperament. Bonobos also are natural sharers. They enjoy sharing food with other bonobos, and never outgrow their willingness to do so, unlike chimpanzees, who become more selfish in adulthood.

"The friendliest male bonobo is more successful than the unfriendliest chimpanzee," Hare says, referring to reproduction. "The most successful bonobo males have more offspring than the most successful alpha male chimpanzees"

For humans to continue to evolve successfully, he says, "friendliness is the winning strategy. Social problems require social solutions. The secret to our species' success is the same as it is with dogs and bonobos. We are the friendliest human species that ever evolved, which has allowed us to outcompete other human species that are now extinct. When that mechanism is turned off, we can become unbelievably cruel. When it is turned on, it allows us to win. We win by cooperation and teamwork. Our uniquely human skills for cooperative communication can be used to solve the hardest social problems."

Trump sides with deranged conspiracy theories over Black Lives Matter protesters, 6/9/20

The White House communications team has gone to great lengths to present President Trump’s position on the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests as evenhanded and sympathetic. He has twice offered scripted responses to the protests that approximate the expected tone of a president faced with roiling unrest, including his comments from the White House Rose Garden on June 1 when he declared that he was "an ally of all peaceful protesters."

That federal officials were simultaneously using tear gas, batons and explosive devices to clear a nearby park of peaceful protesters was simply a coincidence.

Efforts to present Trump as understanding of the protests, though, conflict with the president's obvious and visceral dislike of what is happening and his determined effort to cast the protests as an extension of violent far-left opposition to American ideals. Trump keeps insisting that the worst effects of the early demonstrations were a function of “antifa,” a loosely knit movement that opposes fascism and racism. Antifa is a useful enemy for Trump in the moment, allowing him to avoid criticizing black protesters and to identify the opposing wing of American politics as dangerous. That the role of antifa has been limited has not prevented Trump from blaming it broadly.

[Antifa means antifascist. Trump is obviously a fascist and takes offense. -CG]

It wasnt clear how much of Trump's focus on antifa was opportunistic and how much actually derived from a belief that antifa is a frightening force jeopardizing the union. In a single, bizarre tweet on Tuesday morning, we got our answer.

Trump tweet:

Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?

Last Thursday, 75-year-old Martin Gugino, a longtime activist in Buffalo, approached an advancing line of police officers in that city. It’s not clear why; video captured by a reporter for a local radio station doesn’t include any audio. Shortly after Gugino approached, holding his phone in his hand, a police officer pushed him, causing Gugino to stumble backward, fall and hit his head on the pavement. Police walk by as Gugino bleeds on the sidewalk. Two officers were suspended after the video emerged, prompting more than 50 others to resign their positions with a special group within the Buffalo Police Department in protest.

[Police resigned in sympathy with police wrong-doing.]

That was the story, until the unfailingly pro-Trump network One America News ran a segment elevating ridiculous accusations about Gugino from a right-wing website called Conservative Treehouse. It’s not the first time that One America News has pushed out obviously nonsensical conspiracy theories. Earlier this year, reporter Chanel Rion reported that the coronavirus originated in North Carolina — because some random unidentified guy on Twitter said it had. Rion is OAN’s White House reporter, who attends White House press briefings at the invitation of the administration after the White House press corps barred her for violating social distancing efforts.

Trump loves OAN because of its loyalty to his presidency and his politics. He has often used it as a foil to Fox News when he feels that Fox has strayed too far from him, as when it interviews Democratic legislators. It’s not surprising, then, that he saw OAN’s most recent conspiratorial report. It is still somehow surprising, though, that he decided it was worth sharing with the American public.

If you'd like to see the report on Gugino to which Trump's refers, it's here. It's so obviously false and so impressively sloppy that it's not worth sharing directly. But we should nonetheless parse its contents.

The report is from OAN's Kristian Rouz, whose prior media employment was with Sputnik News — an outlet funded by the Kremlin. (A Daily Beast report from last year indicated that Rouz was working for both outlets simultaneously.) Rouz is no stranger to antifa conspiracy theories, having “reported” in 2017 that Hillary Clinton's political action committee provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to antifa.

The evidence that Gugino is antifa? That he was holding his phone in his hand.

Trump knows that terrorizing black people is about soothing white anxieties - It’s a kind of security theater, 6/8/20

Paul Butler is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. A former trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice, he is the author of "Chokehold: Policing Black Men."

Looking back, the days before the spectacle in Lafayette Square — the days before the coronavirus pandemic, especially — seem impossibly sunny, idyllic even, a dream in primary colors. You could walk on the street without a mask or a curfew, and there were jobs you could go to and restaurants where you could eat. Crime was near record lows, and the economy was booming. Children went to school.

But the 45th commander in chief of the United States knew better: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” President Trump proclaimed in his inaugural address. If you were one of the white people he was talking to, maybe you didn’t know whether to be afraid — What carnage? How did I miss it? — or relieved. In any event, the new president planned to stop it “right here” and “right now.” Trump was at once the oncologist who diagnosed the cancer and the surgeon who cut it out.

Those of us who carry the scars of American history in our DNA, though, we knew. Trump meant that he was coming for black and brown people, and he was going to make a performance of it. We were responsible for the “crime and gangs and drugs that have … robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” We were not the people who “will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement.” We were, instead, their targets.

This part was not so new. For U.S. presidents, toughness has almost always meant that you get tough on black people, as if centuries of slavery and segregation were insufficient. What Trump brought to that familiar formulation was a sense of false bravado, the bullying of a billionaire who took out ads calling for black teenagers to be put to death and who referred to majority-black nations as “shithole countries.”

The rap group Public Enemy named its second album “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and damned if Trump, as the leader of that nation, wasn’t going to pretend like he was the man for the job.

But the blustery weak bully behind the curtain got exposed last week. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” is what he said, and it seemed like just another one of his threats, except with an unusually overt nod to white supremacy. Like the “American carnage” that “stops right now,” the threat both warned of danger and promised retribution.

Except that when the looting started — even though it was dwarfed by peaceful protest and didn’t happen near the White House, in any case — what Trump actually did was run. Protesters breached a barrier near the White House, and the Secret Service rushed the president to a secure bunker.

It seems like a reasonable precaution for the most powerful person in the world, but when word got out, Trump sought to reassure his audience. He tweeted that he “couldn’t have felt more safe.”

The president wanted the world to know his security detail handled protesters who “got too frisky or out of line” by coming “down on them, hard — didn’t know what hit them.” There was the glory — “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and … good practice” — and the blood: If the invaders had gotten any closer, they “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons.”

What came next was straight-up violent. One of my students had asked, with the future lawyer’s uneasy mix of wokeness and professional ambition, if she should go to the protest in Lafayette Square. She’d be fine, I told her, as long as she followed the rules and left before the curfew. Rubber bullets, flash grenades, charging horses and tear gas told me how naive I was, as though I’d slept through the previous three years.

The uniforms — the Secret Service, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Military Police and D.C. National Guard, among others — fired away, before the curfew, to clear the park so the president could bravely walk through it, on his way to the outside of a church, to hold up a Bible. The president’s men extinguished any possible source of fear so that he could act out the part of a man who is not, and never will be, afraid.

Security theater, according to Bruce Schneier, who coined the term, consists of “measures that make us feel safer without improving security.” When we feel threatened, we’re happy to take the most unlikely precautions to assure ourselves that we’re safe, even if those precautions are useless. As the president must have learned during his time in professional wrestling, you don’t have to believe something is real to find comfort in it. But I still want to know why he — and those who ally themselves with him — seems to need this comfort so badly. I am concerned that the answer might be because of me. Because of white anxiety about African American men.

Black men are the monsters of the American nightmare, and not just for Trump. People fear many things that they, as individuals, can do little to control — from the cratering economy to climate change — which makes it all the more pressing for our leaders to show us that they can keep us safe. The obligation to assuage and comfort white men has long been central to race relations in this country.

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case that made Jim Crow “separate but equal” segregation constitutional, one justice wrote, “Sixty millions of whites are in no danger from the presence here of eight millions of blacks. The destinies of the two races in this country are indissolubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all shall not permit the seeds of race hate to be planted under the sanction of law.” The author of that statement was John Marshall Harlan, the lone dissenter in the case. Even in arguing against segregation, he felt compelled to ensure white people of their safety.

This country punishes black people — people who never really threatened it except insofar as we came to represent the very idea of threat — not to reprove us for what we’ve done, but to assuage anxieties about what we might do. It punishes us so that white people can act as if they were never afraid in the first place, so that they can claim, as Trump did, that they were never hiding in the bunker, just inspecting it.

For the past 50 years, every man who has been elected president has taken steps during his campaign to send a message to voters that he will be tough on black men. Richard M. Nixon said, “It’s all about law and order and the damn Negro-Puerto Rican groups out there.” Ronald Reagan complained about crimes by “strapping young bucks.” Jimmy Carter spoke out against forced integration, saying, “What I say is the government ought not take as a major purpose the intrusion of alien groups into a neighborhood, simply to establish that intrusion.” George H.W. Bush ran a campaign commercial featuring a black man they called Willie Horton (he called himself “William”), who raped a white woman while on furlough from prison in Massachusetts.

Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a black man who was so intellectually disabled that when the prison guard came to take him to the death chamber, Rector set aside the pecan pie he had ordered for his last meal because he was “saving it for later.” George W. Bush solicited the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, promising he would stop the Justice Department from “constantly second guessing local law enforcement decisions.” During his first presidential campaign, even Barack Obama mocked “gangbangers,” saying they are so lazy they ask, “Why I gotta do it? Why can’t Pookie do it?” Obama went on, during his presidency, to champion more progressive polices than his predecessors but the bar was quite low.

The fear of black men is embedded in U.S. politics and law, especially in what is known, aspirationally, as “criminal justice.” If Trump is the inheritor of this tradition, he has also been, as usual, the most explicit recent manifestation of it. On the campaign trail in 2016, he said: “We have a situation where we have our inner cities — African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell because it’s so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot.” You don’t need a dog’s ears to hear whom he was speaking to there, who was supposed to have felt threatened. And whom he was threatening in return. It turned out to be a winning message for Trump, and his victory set the stage for the American carnage in Lafayette Square.

The Trump administration abandoned a proven way to reduce police violence - 'Pattern or practice' investigations are considered one of the best ways to rein in and reform dysfunctional departments, 6/9/20

Photo of Trump flunky...Attorney General William P. Barr has been reluctant so far to open a pattern or practice investigation into the killing of George Floyd. (Doug Mills/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

State and federal law enforcement agencies are engaged in an overlapping set of investigations into the killing of George Floyd. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took control of the murder prosecution from the local district attorney. And a federal criminal investigation will be conducted through the U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis and the Civil Rights Division in Washington, where both of us were once prosecutors.

Both investigations are important for delivering justice. But there is a third type of investigation that would help reform the Minneapolis Police Department overall, rather than only focusing on a few bad actors. This kind of investigation — called a “pattern or practice” investigation — has proved successful in police departments across the country. Unfortunately, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr refuses to open one in Minneapolis, and the Trump administration has all but abandoned them.

Congress created the authority for these federal investigations, formally known as 34 U.S.C. § 12601, in the aftermath of the vicious beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers. The four officers were tried and acquitted in 1992. The failed local prosecution led to riots — but it was followed by a successful federal prosecution, which convicted two of the officers of federal civil rights violations. But even that victory couldn’t fix a Los Angeles Police Department that had been exposed as racist, frequently trampling on the civil rights of black and brown Angelenos. So Congress enacted Section 12601 as part of the 1994 crime bill. Although that crime bill is rightly criticized for many things — expanding the death penalty and life sentences, curtailing parole and providing huge sums of money to build new prisons — the creation of “pattern or practice” authority is one of the things it did right.

Pattern or practice investigations are civil, not criminal, investigations, and they aim at systemic problems, not individual officers. They allow the federal government to sue any law enforcement entity that engages in “a pattern or practice of conduct … that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

The government cannot sue for money, but it can sue for what’s called equitable and declaratory relief, which is an order from a judge that police agencies have to enact specific reforms. Most cases don’t go to trial. Once the federal government has uncovered specific and multiple constitutional violations, the police department will often begin negotiating rather than defend its practices in court. These usually result in “consent decrees,” where the police departments agree to reform their practices. The LAPD was the subject of one of the first major consent decrees, which lasted from 2001 to 2013.

While public attention may be drawn to a police department because of a horrific event like the King beating, there’s no such thing as a consent decree for a single bad action. The federal government doesn’t seek a decree unless its investigation shows systemic misconduct.

A more recent example came in Chicago, after the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. In their initial police reports, officers falsely claimed that McDonald was lunging at them with a knife. After significant public agitation and investigative journalism, a video was later released that showed that McDonald was actually walking away when Van Dyke shot him, and that Van Dyke continued to shoot him as he was lying on the ground. Van Dyke was charged by the state and convicted of second-degree murder.

But that criminal prosecution did not address a culture that allowed numerous officers working alongside Van Dyke to cover for him. Nor did it address the years of excessive force in Chicago that preceded McDonald’s murder or the broken accountability systems that allowed police brutality to go unchecked. To get at those entrenched problems, the Justice Department opened an investigation under its “pattern or practice” authority.

In investigations like these, the federal government sends attorneys and investigators to the city to learn as much as it can about the areas of police conduct under scrutiny — such as the use of force, stops and searches, suppression of free speech or all of the above. The team interviews officers and reviews arrest reports, citizen complaints, department policies and training materials. They also hold community forums and interview residents about their interactions with police to gather evidence from across the community. With the help of data scientists and experts with law enforcement backgrounds, they assess whether there is a pattern of unconstitutional conduct and also identify the sources of the systemic misconduct, such as the failure of accountability systems or the adoption of harmful policing strategies like “broken windows” or “zero-tolerance” approaches.

The investigations are intensive and extensive: The one in Chicago took a year and involved interviews with 340 members of the police department. (One of us, Chiraag Bains, worked in the Civil Rights Division’s front office at the time and helped review the Chicago findings letter after the investigation was finished.)

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department routinely made its findings public in detailed reports. In Chicago, the department issued a report — called a findings letter — explaining that the police department had “engage[d] in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable,” and that it had “not provided officers with adequate guidance to understand how and when they may use force, or how to safely and effectively control and resolve encounters to reduce the need to use force.”

A findings letter like that, which showed a clear pattern of constitutional violations, would normally tee up a lawsuit where the federal government would seek structural reform.

The negotiation process is hard-fought, but it results in a set of reforms that both sides believe are feasible to implement and strong enough to correct the problems. The agreements typically include some common elements: stricter rules on when police can use force, policies to prevent discrimination, better training and data collection, fairer hiring and promotion processes, stronger accountability systems for misconduct and mechanisms for community influence over department policy.

Once the consent decree is agreed to, the court has the authority to monitor its implementation. If the city doesn’t comply, it can be held in contempt and sanctioned through fines or additional requirements.

There is strong evidence that consent decrees work. According to one study, departments that went through consent decrees saw an average of 25 percent fewer police shootings in the first year of implementation. In Detroit, police shootings dropped from 47 in the five years before the consent decree to 17 in the five years after. From 2011 to 2019, serious use of force declined 63 percent in Seattle, which entered a consent decree in 2012. Most decrees have data collection and analysis requirements, so the community can see whether force, misconduct and racial disparities are decreasing. They are not a complete solution, but they make a difference.

But in Chicago, the process froze right after the Justice Department issued its report. One of the most important aspects of that findings letter turned out to be its date: Jan. 13, 2017, one week before President Trump entered office.

Trump’s Justice Department not only refused to act on the report, but it actually weighed in against the Illinois attorney general when she sought a consent decree under state authority. Once Trump took office, his administration moved immediately to stifle the pattern or practice program, attempting to back out of an agreement in Baltimore and ordering a full review of all police reform cases. The day before Trump fired him, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued new guidance that severely restricted the use and duration of consent decrees. Trump’s Justice Department has opened just one narrow investigation focusing on a single unit of the Springfield Police Department in Massachusetts, compared with 25 under President Barack Obama.

The career employees who work on consent decrees remain as dedicated and professional as ever — we have worked alongside them and have seen it firsthand. But their unit has atrophied to half its size since Trump took office. And the big-picture decisions are not made by those attorneys; they are made by political appointees. Without their support, the investigations won’t happen, or they won’t have teeth if they do.

Even some Republican politicians are beginning to realize that this is a mistake. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said last week that he would ask Barr to bring “pattern or practice” investigations back.

With the federal government missing in action, Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights announced June 2 that it will investigate whether the Minneapolis Police Department has engaged in systemic discrimination over the past 10 years. And on Sunday, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council announced that it would “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department and creating a new transformative model for cultivating safety in our city.”

But for now, the Minneapolis Police Department exists and is badly in need of intervention, and the 17,000 law enforcement entities across the country need a watchdog. There is no replacement for a federal government with deep experience in police reform. The tools are there. We just need a Justice Department willing to use them.

Police think they can get away with anything. That’s because they usually do. - Only a tiny percentage of complaints against police are acted on, 6/8/20

Minneapolis citizens had already put the city’s police department on notice that Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, might be dangerous. Over his 18-year career, they lodged at least 17 complaints against him, but none resulted in meaningful discipline. Chauvin’s example mirrors a pattern seen in earlier prominent police killings — such as the murder by Jason Van Dyke of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, in Chicago — in which officers with a history of abusive behavior were nonetheless allowed to continue interacting with the public.

Why don’t police take complaints seriously? And what can be done to make complaint systems work better?

Research we conducted with the journalism organization the Invisible Institute suggests that ignoring complaints — even multiple complaints about one officer — is not the exception but the norm in police departments. To explore the question, our team assembled, analyzed and made freely available an interactive data tool on Chicago Police Department officers’ misconduct and use of force that draws upon nearly 250,000 individual complaints from 1988 to 2020. We found that only 3 percent of civilian complaints alleging improper use of force resulted in officer discipline.

The complaints against police were fairly concentrated — 10 percent of officers are responsible for roughly a third of complaints; two-thirds of complaints involved officers with at least 10 recorded complaints against them. One Chicago officer had a disciplinary record including 49 complaints of excessive use of force over a 20-year period, yet none led to any recorded disciplinary action.

Across this 33-year period, we found, only 647 officers were separated from the force after complaints, in a department that typically employs over 10,000 officers.

Even more troubling is the racial disparity in responses to complaints. Only 3 percent of complaints initiated by black citizens were “sustained” — meaning that a review board sided with the complainant and concluded that the officer acted improperly — compared with 21 percent when the complainants were white. (Not every “sustained” complaint leads to discipline.) Skeptics might suggest that this could indicate that minority citizens are more willing to file frivolous claims, but the data contradicts that view. As a rough proxy for how seriously Chicagoans thought their claims were, we looked at how much effort they exerted to file them. Black victims of misconduct, it turned out, were willing to spend, on average, twice as long traveling to a police station to file their claims; it is implausible that people would devote valuable time, and potentially lose income, to file trivial complaints.

These patterns demonstrate the larger truth that too often, instead of operating as an effective check on police abuses, complaint systems serve to further disempower poor, minority community members. The system offers the illusion that the police are listening to all residents, but they aren’t. Moreover, by repeatedly siding with officers, the systems encourage officers to adopt a mind-set that when black and brown citizens object to what they’re doing, they are almost always wrong; that reinforces officers’ sense of untouchability. It is not hard to imagine how an officer such as Chauvin might think, after 17 ineffectual complaints against him, that he could get away with excessive use of force.

How might we improve the situation? First, reduce deterrents to reporting. Requiring people to make complaints in person often demands that they travel long distances to police stations or other government offices, which is especially hard for working people. In addition to making complaints accessible to the public — as Chicago does but many departments do not — departments ought to offer Web portals, apps and other means to file complaints that don’t require in-person signatures. Americans are routinely asked for feedback after going to a restaurant or buying something on the Web. But for some reason the organizations whose customer service failures can cost us our very lives are allowed to invest little in collecting sufficiently robust data to know whether they are serving us well.

Of course, ease of reporting doesn’t matter if departments don’t listen. The Chicago Police Department, as well as others, only discipline officers involved in sustained complaints that meet two criteria: the review board thinks the complaint meets a sufficient burden of proof and the officer was acting improperly. Complaints are not sustained if the event occurred but the officer’s actions were technically within departmental policy — even if that policy is flawed, or if the citizen found the encounter abrasive or demeaning. The complaint process is too similar to a court of law, ignoring that the point of an oversight system is not just to punish bad behavior by officers, after a trial-like process, but to offer remedial action for a range of objectionable behavior of varying degrees of severity. That can help maintain community relations, which in turn helps protect civilians. Another improvement would be for review boards to look at an officer’s entire misconduct history, sustained or not, rather than at the isolated incident before them — because a pattern of unsustained complaints can itself be a red flag.

Numerous police chiefs have issued statements in support of Floyd and in favor of reform. If they intend these to be something more than empty words, our law enforcement leaders need to start taking citizen complaints a lot more seriously.

Police are reacting to protests against police violence with more violence - But while they attack nonviolent protesters, they’re failing to stop vandalism and looting. 6-5-20

Seattle police hold batons during a protest outside the department's headquarters Wednesday. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)


Cathy Lisa Schneider is the author of “Police Power and Race Riots: Urban Unrest in Paris and New York” and a professor in the School of International Studies at American University.

On Sunday night, Rayne Valentine finished his shift at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn around midnight. A 32-year-old black man, Valentine has worked there transporting patients and medicines and loading bodies of the deceased — many from covid-19 — onto refrigerator trucks since March, when he lost his position as a chef after the restaurant he worked at was forced to close. On his way to the subway, Valentine says he heard a scream and saw several police officers chasing and then piling onto a young man, with one officer smashing the kid with a baton. “Yo,” Valentine called out, then grabbed his phone and began filming. “Back up,” the officers shouted. “I am backing up,” Valentine said, but the police jumped him. “I’m just trying to get home from work.” “Well you picked the wrong time,” one laughed, as they continued to pound him with their batons.

By the time they left him, bleeding and bruised, his skull was cracked. Emergency room doctors at his hospital put seven staples in his head. (Rayne’s story was first reported by the Daily Beast; contacted by The Washington Post for comment, New York Police Department Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell said the case is under internal investigation.) Just a week ago, Valentine says, the police were applauding him for his contribution to fighting the pandemic.

“It is wild here,” Gina Arias, of the Justice Committee in New York, told me. “It has become a free-for-all.”

Police swung batons at protesters in the Bronx on Thursday night, enforcing the city’s curfew as soon as 8 p.m. arrived. It’s not just in New York. Los Angeles police beat protesters there Thursday night, too — as did officers in Philadelphia. In Buffalo, officers shoved a 75-year-old man to the ground Thursday while enforcing curfew, causing him to hit his head on the sidewalk. He was taken to a hospital with a serious head injury. In Huntsville, Ala., police fired so many rounds of rubber bullets and tear gas at chanting protesters that one reporter called it a war zone. In Louisville, police shot pepper balls at a journalist on live TV; in Washington, D.C., U.S. Park Police used their shields to beat journalists as officials cleared Lafayette Square before President Trump’s photo op there Monday.

And yet, at the same time police are attacking protesters and journalists, they’re failing to protect large parts of many cities from arson, looting and vandalism. High-end shopping districts in Manhattan suffered widespread damage and theft. In Chicago, marauding gangs terrorize neighborhoods at night, while police pepper-spray peaceful protesters in the face, such as Gianna Wheeler, one of my undergraduate students. In Minneapolis, families peaceably assembled on a closed highway were forced to flee a truck that drove into the area. As police headed to the scene, they pepper-sprayed protesters they passed.

For decades, police have drawn a sharp line between protest and criminal policing. Criminal police work happened largely in vulnerable black and Latino communities, where far more residents have been victims of crime than perpetrators. In these invisible edges of the city, however, police officers operate with impunity — and some, a small minority, are killers. They are protected by a blue wall of silence: district attorneys who rarely and only reluctantly indict officers and police unions that vigorously defend them. Police commanders often punish offenders by transferring them to even poorer, more defenseless communities. When riots happen, it’s usually in these neighborhoods, fueled by police killings of unarmed residents and the inability of families, friends and neighbors to find justice.

Protest policing, in contrast, usually occurs in city centers. Police there tend to be more restrained and professional. Few middle- and upper-class whites ever see the kind of policing poor people of color experience daily. In city centers, carefully choreographed interactions between protesters and police have become so routine that some activists worry that they have lost the capacity to surprise and disrupt.

The kind of policing the United States is seeing this week — riot policing — lies somewhere in the middle. As with protest policing, officers are usually outnumbered. As with criminal policing, engagement with the public happens mostly in disadvantaged neighborhoods among young people of color. The result has been a series of confrontations between police and protesters where the police have often escalated, rather than calmed, conflict — if not expressly started it. Night after night, marches against police impunity are being met by police who act with impunity.

That isn’t a new phenomenon. Pastor Cori Bush told me about a night shortly after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and the city erupted in protest: “What I saw was tanks. My god, I thought, a regular army. It was unbelievable to me that this was not only happening in America to American citizens, but that it was happening to supposedly save other American citizens, in light of a tragedy that should never have happened. The rights that are supposed to protect us were working against us. We said to the police ‘who do you protect, who do you serve?’ ”

The distinction between riot and protest is partly one of race and class. But it is also one of planning, legality and organization. Riots are spontaneous outbursts by young people who have reached their limit. As one organizer in a “hot” Paris suburb put it, it is how the youth “externalize their internal explosions. Some kids in pain cut themselves. These kids, instead of cutting themselves, set things on fire. It is like getting rid of all this pain inside and throwing it outside.” But not all assaults on property, whether arson, vandalism or looting, constitute riots. And there is reason to believe that rather than riots, what we are seeing today is a bifurcated response: nonviolent mass action on the one hand, and some opportunistic but sometimes organized attacks on property on the other.

This combination has made traditional policing strategies counterproductive, unable to preserve protesters’ First Amendment rights or to protect against other crimes.

Large numbers of Americans across the country are marching for civil rights, not rioting. They are calling for the equal administration of justice and the end of impunity for police. These demands have no connection to those engaged in arson, looting and property destruction. And as marches become more organized and disciplined, they are exerting increased control over vandals: Some black protesters have seized and passed white vandals to the police.

No feature of a racially divided society installs the message of subjugation more forcefully than police. Allene Person told me she became so depressed that her legs wouldn’t function after police killed her son in January 2007 in the Bronx. Nicholas Heyward was kept awake by guilt: If only he had taken his son with him, the police officer would not have shot the 13-year old, Nicholas Heyward Jr., while he was playing with his friends on the stairs of their apartment building in Brooklyn. Both parents died prematurely. A Boston University School of Health/University of Pennsylvania study found that in neighborhoods where there were higher rates of unarmed African Americans killed, residents had higher rates of depression and premature deaths.

We may yet see justice in Minnesota. The governor has asked Attorney General Keith Ellison to prosecute Floyd’s death as murder and demanded that the entire police department be investigated. More states should consider such measures, which can help: The relationships between police and the community has improved dramatically since the Camden, N.J., police chief rebuilt the department from the bottom up in 2013. And police killings of unarmed people have stopped almost entirely in New York State since Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (at the request of mothers of children killed by police) issued an executive order July 2015 making the state’s attorney general the special prosecutor for all cases where police kill an unarmed person.

When police believe that they will be held accountable for their actions, they hesitate before using lethal violence. Unfortunately, as the protests this week are revealing, they too often know they won’t be.

Changing hearts and minds won’t stop police violence - The way Americans have long discussed racism is a huge part of the problem. 6/5/20

Matthew F. Delmont is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished professor of history at Dartmouth College and author of the upcoming book "Half American: African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad."

As nationwide protests against police violence spread into their second week, thousands of companies, universities, professional sports teams and political leaders have issued statements voicing their concern for the lives of black Americans. Many of these statements have rung hollow. They resort to banalities about inclusivity, overcoming prejudice and striving for unity, without specifically naming the issues that are fueling the anger of so many Americans: anti-black racism, white supremacy and the recurring killing of black people by the police.

The history of these racial platitudes and how Americans talk about race without doing anything about racism, traces back to the World War II era. Then, as in the 1960s and today, racial violence made America a tinderbox during the war.

During the summer of 1943, race riots or rebellions raged across the country. There were more than 240 reports of organized racial violence in cities and at military bases, including battles in Los Angeles, Harlem and Mobile, Ala. Similar to today, most of these conflicts were sparked by police and deputized white civilians attacking black citizens. Violence flowed largely in one direction, with white mobs raging through black neighborhoods. In Detroit, angry whites dragged black passengers from streetcars and buses and beat them in the streets.

Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, led the NAACP’s investigation of the Detroit riot. Marshall’s report, titled “The Gestapo in Detroit,” castigated city officials for not addressing decades of police violence against blacks. “Much of the blood spilled,” Marshall wrote, “is on the hands of the Detroit police department.”

In Beaumont, Tex., a white gang went to the black business district and burned down a jewelry store, three funeral homes and a pharmacy owned by a black man who had supported the war effort by purchasing over $11,000 in war bonds. The summer of violence inspired Langston Hughes’s poem, “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943”: “Looky here America / What you done done / Let things drift / Until the riots come.” Hughes’s words would prove to be evergreen.

The racial violence that swept across the country raised questions about America’s commitment to democracy for all its citizens. “We cannot fight to crush Nazi brutality abroad and condone race riots at home,” Vice President Henry Wallace told a crowd in Detroit, criticizing white rioters. “Those who fan the fires of racial clashes for the purpose of making political capital here at home are taking the first step toward Nazism.”

While African Americans waged a Double Victory campaign against racism at home and fascism abroad, white politicians and social scientists turned their attention to what they came to call “race relations.” Gunnar Myrdal’s “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” (1944) received extensive national attention, and more than 100 local, state and national interracial commissions, human relations committees and fellowship groups formed to promote better race relations.

These committees debated race and published bookcases full of well-intentioned studies and educational materials. They emphasized a “hearts and minds” approach to the “race problem,” one that prioritized education and moral persuasion rather than specific policies or legislation to challenge racial structures. This way of discussing race was attractive to many white Americans because it allowed them to condemn individual prejudice without giving up their privileged access to better jobs, housing and schools.

But there was a fundamental flaw with this strategy and the studies and reports that underpinned it. Despite all of the words spilled, they had little to say about white supremacy. The race relations model obscured potential frameworks for understanding that it was pervasive structural racism — legal barriers that doomed African Americans to inferior housing and schools, less accumulated wealth, lower-paying jobs and more — and not individual prejudiced attitudes that “curdled the morale” of black Americans, as philosopher Alain Locke put it.

A more productive language for understanding racism also emerged during the World War II era. Unlike Myrdal’s “hearts and minds” approach to racial discrimination, historian and activist Rayford Logan framed racism in terms of power and the unequal allocation of resources and life chances. In 1944, he published an edited collection, titled “What the Negro Wants,” with other prominent African American writers.

Logan’s contribution, “The Negro Wants First-Class Citizenship,” outlined six fundamental civil rights demands: “Equality of opportunity; Equal pay for equal work; Equal protection of the laws; Equality of suffrage; Equal recognition of the dignity of the human being; and Abolition of public segregation.” The activists identified structural racism, before it was called by that name, and outlined specific actions needed to address the problem.

These two ways of understanding race and racism offered two very different paths in the decades after World War II. Civil rights activists demanded equal access to jobs, housing, quality schools and the ballot and they achieved substantive gains — most especially the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

At the same time, however, many white Americans focused on individual attitudes to avoid having to disrupt the status quo of racial hierarchies. This sensibility led to openly racist language largely becoming taboo and explains why the most cited part of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is the section that affirms that people should not judge others based on the color of their skin. Yet, it also explains why American society has never fully reckoned with the more challenging parts of the speech, such as when King said “we can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”

As the legislative victories of the civil rights era fade further into the past, the “hearts and minds” approach to race has only become more powerful, as white Americans often mistakenly believe that these laws were sufficient to sweep away all of the legal barriers constraining African Americans. This flawed framework continues to dominate and frame how race is discussed in mainstream media, political discourse and the public sphere, even as these gains are eroded, as when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

It was only in 2019 that the Associated Press updated its style guide to encourage journalists to stop using the euphemisms “racially motivated” or “racially charged” when “the terms racism and racist can be used . . . to describe the hatred of a race, or assertion of the superiority of one race over others.” Yet, much of the recent news coverage following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery by white assailants in South Georgia, as well as the police killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis, has continued to rely on racial euphemisms.

More than seven decades ago, African Americans newspapers were able to describe wartime killings of black Americans at the hands of police and white mobs as “racist.” Today, mainstream media call similar killings “racially tinged” or adopt the passive voice constructions preferred by law enforcement.

Words have consequences. When Americans shy away from identifying anti-black racism, white supremacy and state-sanctioned violence for what they are, it becomes nearly impossible to formulate responses that are anything more than band-aids.

Many of the recent corporate, institutional and political statements of concern have fallen flat because they say little more than white organizations and people were willing to say in the 1940s and 1950s. “We have had platitudinous expressions of good will through the years, and the leading people of the nation have periodically viewed the problem with alarm . . . but there has been no courageous facing of the issue,” the Pittsburgh Courier, a leading black newspaper, lamented in 1943.

Institutions with few or no black people in leadership positions and poor track records of treating well black employees and communities have little moral standing to offer yet another round of “platitudinous expressions of good will.” We should ponder the mistakes of the past and realize that instead of calls for inclusivity, overcoming prejudice and striving for unity, only action that confronts the horror of repeated police killings of black people will begin to generate change.

Matt Wuerker, 6/10/20

Police Use DHS Machines To Create Private DNA Databases Of “Suspicious People”

Four years ago, DHS created “Rapid DNA” whose sole mission was to create a database of everyone.

~~~
"There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other. When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave and seek prey only for himself." -- Dr. Samuel Johnson - (1709-1784)

~~~

email from Daily KOS, 1-25-19 at 15.13

Trump Caved on the Shutdown - Thank Nancy Pelosi

After the longest federal shutdown in U.S. History, Donald Trump has agreed to a tentative deal that will fund the government for another few weeks—without his racist wall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deserves enormous credit for holding her Democratic caucus in line, and refusing an inch. Her move to cancel the State of the Union Address was brilliant, and achieved the intended result of making Trump agree to end the shutdown (for now.)

The government will only remain open until February 15th, and so there could be another shutdown fight in a few weeks. Nancy Pelosi must know that we have her back, and are counting on her to lead the Democratic fight in Congress.

Dave Granlund, 6/10/20

The U.S.’s culture of violence is killing us all

By César Chelala, August 18, 2019 "Information Clearing House"

The two recent mass shooting incidents in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, are one more manifestation of a culture of violence that threatens not only people’s lives but also the United States’ future as a civilized society.

Although violent incidents occur in other countries, they are not as frequent — or as deadly — as in the United States. The United States has the highest homicide-by-firearms rate among the world’s most developed nations.

Civilians in the United States own over 300 million guns, making Americans the most heavily armed people in the world on a per capita basis. By comparison, the police own approximately one million guns.

The United States doesn’t just have the most guns per capita, but also the weakest gun control laws of any developed country. It is estimated that at least 30% of American adults own a gun, and an additional 11% lives with someone who does.

Nearly 48% of U.S. adults grew up in a household with guns. Nearly two-thirds of Americans who own guns own more than one.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been unrelenting in its efforts to influence lawmakers. Although the majority of Americans say that gun laws should be more restrictive than what they are today, lawmakers to a large extent are deaf to these demands.

The Supreme Court is complicit

To make matters even worse for gun control advocates, landmark Supreme Court rulings in 2008 and 2010 dramatically curtailed the authority of state and local governments to limit gun ownership.

In a banal act of macho posturing, almost half of the 50 states in the United States have adopted laws that allow gun owners to carry their guns openly in most public places.

Although self-defense is often cited to justify the people’s right to bear arms, research has shown that a gun kept in a home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household or a friend than an intruder.

The number of teenagers who die from gunshot wounds in the United States is greater than those who died from all other causes combined.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017 saw more gun deaths in the United States than in any previous year in decades. Nearly 40,000 Americans who died of gun-related injuries in 2017 represent a 19% increase from 2012 and the highest annual total since the mid-1990s.

The example of other countries

Although many Americans claim that guns are necessary for security, experiences such as in Japan and Australia show that this is not true.

In Japan, which has adopted very strict gun-control laws and where — unlike in the United States — people who purchase guns have several background checks that include mental health, drug use and a relative or a colleague’s perception of the applicant.

The net result of these strict policies is that there were 10 fatalities for a population of 128 million. Australia, which implemented a program against the use of firearms in 1996, saw the fatalities reduced by 40%.

Conditioned from childhood

Americans are exposed to violence since the time they are children. It is estimated that when a child becomes an adult they will have seen as many as 16,000 assassinations and 200,000 acts of violence on television.

Children tend to imitate what they see on television and in the movies, and see violence as the normal way of solving conflicts.

Andrew Exum, who was a soldier in Iraq and in Afghanistan, wrote about his dismay when, on returning to the United States, he noticed the number of billboards on the side of the highways, advertising guns.

And not just guns — these were not .30-06 hunting rifles or shotguns, but rather, the kind of tactical firearms, including assault rifles that I had carried in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why in the world, I thought then, would anyone have a need for such weapons?

Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist turned anti-hate activist, called on President Donald Trump to stop using fear to motivate people to commit violent acts.

He also said that the government needs to take ownership of guns more seriously, saying that there needs to be federal laws in place to “stop people who are unbalanced from obtaining assault rifles.”

Trump partly to blame

Michaelis also blames Trump for using a kind of rhetoric that increases the possibility for this kind of incidents to take place.

Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude goes one step further in its criticism of the situation. As he commented to a reporter on MSNBC:

America is not unique in its sins as a country. We are not unique in our evils, to be honest with you. I think where we may be singular is our refusal to acknowledge them –and the legends and myths we tell about our inherent goodness to hide and cover and conceal so we can maintain a kind of wilful ignorance that protects our innocence.

Galveston Police officer on horse pulls a black man on a leash, 8-5-19

The Trump Effect visits Galveston Texas. I got a Facebook message that said a kid took a picture of a black man that was being pulled by an officer on a horse with a leash.

It does not matter if the black man in the photograph is a criminal -- he was a trespasser. The depiction of his interface with police officers is unforgivable and deserving of much more than a simple reprimand. These officers should be fired.

Police killing black people is a pandemic, too - State violence is a public health crisis. Its cause? Bad laws.

Osagie K. Obasogie is Haas distinguished chair and professor of bioethics at the University of California at Berkeley in the joint medical program and school of public health. He is the author of “Blinded By Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind.”

Pandemics are often thought to be unforeseeable acts of God that emerge suddenly to wreak havoc on unsuspecting populations. But that’s not how public health practitioners think about them. More often than not, pandemics have a political economy behind them, in which substandard living and working conditions connected to social inequalities produce opportunities for disease to spread unchecked. That was true for the 1918 flu pandemic that started on farms in Haskell County, Kan., and it also appears to account for the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

Those social and political contexts also help explain another pandemic — one that, like the coronavirus that still rages, is also disproportionately killing black Americans. Make no mistake: Police violence is a public health problem.

Three months into the widespread outbreak in the United States, the data on racial disparities in coronavirus infections and deaths is staggering. Majority-black counties have three times the rate of infections and nearly six times the rate of deaths as their white counterparts, according to a Washington Post analysis from April. The racial disparity in police violence is nearly as stark. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was horrifically killed by law enforcement, police officers use force against blacks seven times more often than against whites. Studies show that black men in America are up to 3.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by law enforcement; 1 in every 1,000 black men will die at the hands of police.

Floyd’s autopsy revealed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, though he had no symptoms and it wasn’t a factor in his death. Perhaps the most tragic similarity between these twin pandemics is that the tepid response from the federal government can be largely attributed to the fact that the same populations — poor, dispossessed minorities — disproportionately make up the dead and suffering. The government’s reaction would be dramatically different if these plagues mostly affected white middle-class populations. Black lives seem not to matter, which reveals an underlying eugenic ideology in the United States of letting disease and violence thin the herds of undesirable groups.

By now, we have a good understanding of the environmental conditions that can allow viruses to spread uncontrollably. But what explains the police violence pandemic? Much of the debate boils down to whether it stems from officers’ implicit or explicit biases. Both of these arguments acknowledge the structural and institutional nature of racism. While explicit bias suggests that police have an active disdain and disregard for black lives, implicit-bias models emphasize the ways that police are trained to automatically associate blackness with danger or criminality, leading them to unconsciously use harsher force than they would in similar situations with white people.

But whether implicit or explicit bias provides the better explanation is a distinction without much difference. Combating police violence isn’t about figuring out the motivations of individual “bad apples.” It’s about understanding how a network of government-sponsored brutality across 18,000 local, state, county and federal law enforcement agencies can, in lockstep, without any central organization, create persistent terror in black communities. To understand the conditions that give rise to appalling behavior such as the killing of George Floyd over an allegedly fake $20 bill, we have to take a close look at the conditions that signal to all police officers that they can treat black people with utter disdain and brutality, with little consequence.

Taking a public health approach to the problem points squarely at one thing: the law.

The Reconstruction-era Congress understood that local and state officials were using their authority to terrorize black communities after the Civil War. It passed the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act) to, in part, allow individual plaintiffs to sue government officials who deprived them of constitutional rights. Later codified as a federal statute, this law creates accountability by exposing police officers to civil liability — money damages — when they, for example, unlawfully beat or kill community members.

The statute largely lay dormant until the 1961 case Monroe v. Pape, which re-energized efforts to use the law to deter police violence, protect communities and hold individual officers financially responsible when they violate rights. But not long after the Supreme Court opened this small window of justice, it essentially closed the door to using civil liability as a form of police accountability by making up a new rule in 1967: qualified immunity. In short, police officers are immune from civil liability unless a plaintiff can show that the officer violated a “clearly established” law — that is, a right acknowledged in a previous case with similar underlying facts where police conduct was deemed unlawful by a court in the same jurisdiction that would, in theory, put an officer on notice that such behavior is not allowed. For example, if an officer used force in a manner that may have been excessive — perhaps a baton strike to a protester’s knee that caused substantial damage — but that had not been already judged by a federal court in the relevant jurisdiction to be illegal under the same circumstances, the officer would be immune from civil suit. Since it is rare that any two cases in the same jurisdiction share the same facts, qualified immunity has become an impossibly narrow rule that creates insurmountable barriers to justice for victims of police violence.

That’s not the Supreme Court’s only contribution to the police violence plague.

In addition to limiting the mechanisms by which victims can bring civil cases against police officers, the court has gone out of its way not to make definitive statements on what counts as an unconstitutional use of force. The one exception is the 1985 Tennessee v. Garner decision. In this case, a Memphis police officer shot and killed Edward Garner, a black 15-year-old, whom the officer knew was unarmed as he ran away after allegedly burglarizing a home. A Tennessee statute at the time allowed the use of deadly force in such a situation, but the Supreme Court held that deadly force could not be used against fleeing suspects who posed no danger.

Outside of that decision, though, the Supreme Court has deftly avoided telling police officers what they can and cannot do when they use force. A few years later, in 1989, the court further ingrained this evasion into legal precedent in Graham v. Connor. In this case, Dethorne Graham, a black man with diabetes, was beat up by a group of police officers who mistook his symptoms of low blood sugar for drunkenness. The Supreme Court used Graham’s lawsuit as an opportunity to clarify the constitutional standard for reviewing police use of force. Until then, these cases could be decided under several different legal claims. But the court ruled that all excessive-force cases should be adjudicated under the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unlawful searches and seizures, using an “objective reasonableness” standard.

Graham and his lawyers initially thought this was a victory. The prevailing standard relied heavily on proving the subjective intent of police officers, which is difficult. Surely beating up a man just because police assumed that he was drunk would not meet this new objective standard. Yet when Graham’s case went back to the trial court under the new standard, the jury said that the officers’ treatment of Graham was “reasonable.”

That sums up the past three decades of excessive-force cases in federal courts. The Fourth Amendment standard has been used to justify even the most egregious uses of police force as “reasonable.” This is precisely because the Supreme Court has refused to define what “reasonable” means. In the midst of this ambiguity, lower federal courts often defer to local police departments’ own policies on use of force as the constitutional definition of what’s reasonable. This often means the courts let police use whatever force they say they can. When federal courts largely abdicate their responsibility to interpret the law and allow police departments to define constitutional standards, law has been turned upside down.

This is how the police violence pandemic has spread.

D.C. is the one city where Trump can indulge his police and military fantasies, 6/5/20

Painters work on a mural spelling out “Black Lives Matter” on 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C., just north of the White House. The city approved the mural as a rebuke to President Trump. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


All week, as protesters have poured into the streets to demand that police stop killing black people, President Trump has raged about the refusal of governors and mayors to order National Guard troops to quash the demonstrations.

In Washington, D.C., he’s actually done something about it.

A massive series of barricades has gone up around the White House. Guard troops from as far away as Utah are patrolling our streets, keeping peaceful protesters far from Trump. Military helicopters fly over the city round-the-clock. More than 1,000 federal police officers, many without badges or insignia to show what agency they work for, have been sent to the District from around the country. Active-duty Army soldiers were flown in and stand ready to help Trump disrespect a city that’s 46 percent black.

Trump has free rein in D.C. because of the city’s unique constitutional status. We only have “home rule,” granted by Congress, not sovereignty; we have no governor, so the D.C. National Guard answers to Trump, not to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. D.C. residents pay federal taxes, but we have only shadow senators and a nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House. We have the trappings of independence but none of the benefits of control: It’s a burlesque of government when federal authorities want to toy with us.

Many governors have made clear that they don’t want Trump sending the military to encroach on their states’ sovereignty, but the only thing the District can do about it is paint “Black Lives Matter” on city streets leading up to the federal forces and send angry letters to the White House. Even though D.C. is larger than many cities where people are protesting, only the District and her residents have been singled out for this abusive show of force. Though many think Trump is waffling about whether he will use the Insurrection Act to order the military to quash protests, District residents cannot afford to make that same calculation.

The world saw Monday what federal power let loose on this city can do, when Attorney General William P. Barr okayed an attack on protesters ahead of a 7 p.m. curfew so Trump could take some awkward pictures in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. This move was in direct contradiction to the directives set by Bowser.

Being a cop showed me just how racist and violent the police are. There’s only one fix. Dec. 6, 2014

As a kid, I got used to being stopped by the police. I grew up in an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis. It was the kind of place where officers routinely roughed up my friends and family for no good reason.

I hated the way cops treated me.

But I knew police weren’t all bad. One of my father’s closest friends was a cop. He became a mentor to me and encouraged me to join the force. He told me that I could use the police’s power and resources to help my community.

So in 1994, I joined the St. Louis Police Department. I quickly realized how naive I’d been. I was floored by the dysfunctional culture I encountered.

I won’t say all, but many of my peers were deeply racist.

One example: A couple of officers ran a Web site called St. Louis Coptalk, where officers could post about their experience and opinions. At some point during my career, it became so full of racist rants that the site administrator temporarily shut it down. Cops routinely called anyone of color a “thug,” whether they were the victim or just a bystander.

This attitude corrodes the way policing is done.

As a cop, it shouldn’t surprise you that people will curse at you, or be disappointed by your arrival. That’s part of the job. But too many times, officers saw young black and brown men as targets. They would respond with force to even minor offenses. And because cops are rarely held accountable for their actions, they didn’t think too hard about the consequences.

Once, I accompanied an officer on a call. At one home, a teenage boy answered the door. That officer accused him of harboring a robbery suspect, and demanded that he let her inside. When he refused, the officer yanked him onto the porch by his throat and began punching him.

Another officer met us and told the boy to stand. He replied that he couldn’t. So the officer slammed him against the house and cuffed him. When the boy again said he couldn’t walk, the officer grabbed him by his ankles and dragged him to the car. It turned out the boy had been on crutches when he answered the door, and couldn’t walk.

Back at the department, I complained to the sergeant. I wanted to report the misconduct. But my manager squashed the whole thing and told me to get back to work.

I, too, have faced mortal danger. I’ve been shot at and attacked. But I know it’s almost always possible to defuse a situation.

Once, a sergeant and I got a call about someone wielding a weapon in an apartment. When we showed up, we found someone sitting on the bed with a very large butcher knife. Rather than storming him and screaming “put the knife down” like my colleagues would have done, we kept our distance. We talked to him, tried to calm him down.

It became clear to us that he was dealing with mental illness. So eventually, we convinced him to come to the hospital with us.

I’m certain many other officers in the department would have escalated the situation fast. They would have screamed at him, gotten close to him, threatened him. And then, any movement from him, even an effort to drop the knife, would have been treated as an excuse to shoot until their clips were empty.

I liked my job, and I was good at it.

But more and more, I felt like I couldn’t do the work I set out to do. I was participating in a profoundly corrupt criminal justice system. I could not, in good conscience, participate in a system that was so intentionally unfair and racist. So after five years on the job, I quit.

Since I left, I’ve thought a lot about how to change the system. I’ve worked on police abuse, racial justice and criminal justice reform at the Missouri ACLU and other organizations.

Unfortunately, I don’t think better training alone will reduce police brutality. My fellow officers and I took plenty of classes on racial sensitivity and on limiting the use of force.

The problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police.

Even when officers get caught, they know they’ll be investigated by their friends, and put on paid leave. My colleagues would laughingly refer to this as a free vacation. It isn’t a punishment. And excessive force is almost always deemed acceptable in our courts and among our grand juries. Prosecutors are tight with law enforcement, and share the same values and ideas.

We could start to change that by mandating that a special prosecutor be appointed to try excessive force cases. And we need more independent oversight, with teeth. I have little confidence in internal investigations.

The number of people in uniform who will knowingly and maliciously violate your human rights is huge. At the Ferguson protests, people are chanting, “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.” I agree, and we have a lot of work to do.









Local Cops

Police shootings are a leading cause of death for young American men, new research shows, 8-8-19

Members of Black Lives Matter protested last month on the fifth anniversary of Eric Garner's death. The 43-year-old was killed as New York City police were attempting to arrest him on accusations of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. (Michael Mccoy/Reuters)

The phrase “leading causes of death” might bring to mind cancer, heart disease, suicide and drug overdose. But new research published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that young American men are at a surprisingly high risk of being killed by a police officer. Among men of all races, ages 25 to 29, police killings are the sixth-leading cause of death, according to a study led by Frank Edwards of Rutgers University, with a total annual mortality risk of 1.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Accidental death, a category that includes automotive accidents and drug overdoses, was the biggest cause at 76.6 deaths per 100,000, and followed by suicide (26.7), other homicides (22.0), heart disease (7.0), and cancer (6.3). The data used in this study do not differentiate between police killings that were later determined to be justified and those that were not. FBI data, which is widely acknowledged to be incomplete, shows that 400 to 500 homicides each year are determined to be justified, which is defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” Those deaths represent about half of the roughly 1,000 annual police killings that independent tallies, including those by The Washington Post and The Guardian, have found.

For a black man, the risk of being killed by a police officer is about 2.5 times higher than that of a white man. “Our models predict that about 1 in 1,000 black men and boys will be killed by police over the life course,” the authors write. Police killings account for 1.6 percent of all deaths of black men age 20 to 24, the study found. Among white men, police are responsible for 0.5 percent of all deaths in that age group. A 40-year-old black man has about the same risk of being killed by a police officer as a 20-year-old white man.

Fatal Force 544 people have been shot and killed by police in 2019

Because no reliable federal data exists for police killings, the authors turned to the data compiled by Fatal Encounters, a project that uses news reports, public records requests and crowdsourced information to tally officer-involved fatalities. The authors note that Fatal Encounters was “endorsed as a sound source of data” by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in a 2016 report, but they warn that the data likely undercounts the number of officer-involved killings: “If any death is not covered by news organizations or is not documented in searchable public records,” they note, “it will not appear in the data.”

The study excludes police-involved deaths determined to be a suicide, the result of a car accident or an accident, like an overdose or fall. Police killings are far more common in the United States than in other advanced democracies. That’s partly because the U.S. has a much higher homicide rate — “25.2 times higher” — than economically similar countries, according to a 2016 study. One of the prime drivers of that difference, research shows, is the nation’s high rate of gun ownership: Americans make up 4 percent of the global population but own nearly half the guns in the world. The nation’s high rates of violence and gun ownership make many police fearful for their lives, research shows. Data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund shows that, in recent years, 100 to 200 officers are killed annually in the line of duty. And other research shows that police are more likely to be killed in the line of duty in states with more permissive gun laws.

Officers can respond to the threat of violence by using lethal force of their own: More than half the 544 people shot and killed by police to date in 2019 were found to be carrying firearms, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. The authors of the PNAS report note another factor at play in the country’s high rate of police shootings: “Austerity in social welfare and public health programs has led to police and prisons becoming catchall responses to social problems,” they write. In his recent book, “The End of Policing,” sociologist Alex Vitale of Brooklyn College argues that police often end up being the de facto first responders for mental health issues because of “a decision that’s been made by political leaders not to fund adequate community-based mental health services.” At least 20 percent of people fatally shot by police so far this year had documented mental health issues, according to The Post’s data. The study’s authors say their findings reinforce calls “to treat police violence as a public health issue” with “profound consequences for public health, democracy, and racial stratification.”

The Police Don’t Deserve Your Trust Law enforcement keeps placing the blame for their violence on the communities they’re supposed to be serving


In a democracy, we expect that our public institutions will be accountable to us. Rarely are the implications of that trust as profound?—?or the results of its violation as devastating?—?as they are when it comes to the police.

As an institution, police are entrusted with the power to take away life and liberty in order to “protect and serve.” This system places an extraordinary level of trust in the people policing our communities. For many of us, however, that trust has been violated repeatedly with impunity.

Cops Thought Innocent Man Shoplifted a Shirt, So 50 SWAT Cops Tore Down His House A team of SWAT officers destroyed an innocent man's house during a 19-hour standoff—for the sake of arresting a man who was accused of shoplifting clothes.

By Rachel Blevins - November 21, 2017

Greenwood Village, CO – An innocent man’s home was destroyed by police after 50 SWAT officers responded to reports of a man shoplifting a shirt and two belts from a store. Even though the city declared the man’s house a complete loss, he was given just $5,000 in compensation, and he is now filing a lawsuit for “just compensation.”

Leo Lech lost his home in June 2015, after police launched a 19-hour standoff that included the use of armored vehicles, breaching rams, high-caliber rifles, chemical agents, flash-bang grenades and remote-controlled robots. While his home became “collateral damage,” neither Lech nor his family had any ties to the target the officers were pursuing.

Innocent Family Raided by SWAT, Held at Gunpoint After Cops Mistook Hibiscus for Weed

BREAKING: Video So ‘Gruesome’ Cop Sentenced to 5 Years For Shooting Into Car of Teens, 16 Times 11/20/17

WATCH: Innocent Man Attacked and Arrested for Saying Cops Abuse Their Power

20,000 DWI Cases May Be Thrown Out After Cop Arrested for Tampering With Breathalyzers

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 '’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 'e 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).










Justice Departmentt

What to do with an attorney general who disdains justice

Bill Barr AG total Trump flunky

Jennifer Rubin, WaPo, 12-5-19

You might recall that Attorney General William P. Barr, both in writing and at a news conference, gave a less-than-accurate account (to put it diplomatically) of the report conducted by Robert S. Mueller III. He suggested that the special counsel in the Russia probe refused to reach a conclusion on guilt (rather than being restrained by Justice Department policy against indictment of a sitting president) and worse, suggested that President Trump had been exonerated.

Time and again, the Justice Department under Barr has taken factually and legally suspect positions (e.g. defending a census question based on false representations to the courts, finding no basis for a criminal investigation against Trump for campaign violations in soliciting Ukraine’s help to announce an investigation into a political rival, blocking the inspector general from presenting the whistleblower complaint to Congress, asserting “absolute immunity” to prevent production of witnesses and documents). Now he seems to have assumed the thuggish approach of his boss.

In a speech this week announcing recipients of the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing, Barr declared that critics of policing in unspecified communities "have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves. And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they may find themselves without the police protection they need.” That seems like a threat — shut up or lose police protection. That’s the way it sounded to a slew of civil liberties groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement, which read in part: “Support and respect are earned, not given as the result of a demand from those who carry badges and guns. Attorney General Barr is telling communities across the country to bow their heads in respect to police even if those same police are violating their rights and killing people without justification.” Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund tweeted that the remarks were “an appalling, unacceptable statement & threat.”

The idea that any Justice Department lawyer, let alone the attorney general, would make such a remark tells you just how far removed Barr has become from equal justice under the law. Only police boosters, it seems, deserve police help. That preposterous notion is antithetical to the First Amendment and to the mission of the Justice Department.

Barr was only getting warmed up. The Post reports:

The prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize how U.S. agencies investigated President Trump’s 2016 campaign said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, people familiar with the matter said.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office contacted U.S. Attorney John Durham, the prosecutor Barr personally tapped to lead a separate review of the 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the people said. The inspector general also contacted several U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Post’s reporting indicates that Barr is preparing to disagree with the inspector general’s findings, which purportedly include a finding that senior intelligence agency figures were not biased against Trump. He might not be pleased that Durham and Horowitz are about to blow up several key right-wing conspiracy theories, but it would be stunning for Barr to appoint an investigator and then reject his work when it disproves his boss’s delusional accusations. “The prospect of the nation’s top law enforcement official suggesting the FBI may have wrongly opened an investigation into a presidential campaign, even after the inspector general announces the agency was justified in doing so, will probably generate more partisan battles over how the Justice Department and the FBI operate,” The Post notes. Indeed, it would confirm accusations that Barr is a political operative for Trump personally, not the chief prosecutor for the United States.

The Justice Department subsequently issued a statement dismissing such news accounts. ("Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters.”)

Former prosecutor Renato Mariotti tells me, “After spending our tax dollars on an investigation that looked like it was politically motivated, Barr will remove all doubt that its purpose was to push a political agenda if he ignores its findings and pushes his agenda anyway.”

It might take years to restore the Justice Department’s credibility. “It is difficult to overstate what an incredibly corrosive and bad actor Barr has turned out to be,” Susan Hennessey, executive editor of the Lawfare blog, tweeted. “He will leave the Department of Justice damaged and warped in ways that will take years and years to repair.”

An attorney general who thinks justice is provided only to a docile populace or that his role is to overlook both the law and the facts in service of the president has no right holding office. “Barr is doing one of the most dangerous things a prosecutor can do: He has a political narrative and is trying to investigate to get facts to fit that narrative,” observed former prosecutor Mimi Rocah. “Prosecutors should investigate and follow facts and be open to conclusions being different than what they thought or want. It’s a total failure of his oath of office.”

Barr’s conduct is both an abdication of his oath and a violation of his professional responsibilities, which demand that prosecutors “seek justice within the bounds of the law, not merely to convict.” The standard governing prosecutors continues:

The prosecutor serves the public interest and should act with integrity and balanced judgment to increase public safety both by pursuing appropriate criminal charges of appropriate severity, and by exercising discretion to not pursue criminal charges in appropriate circumstances. The prosecutor should seek to protect the innocent and convict the guilty, consider the interests of victims and witnesses, and respect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.

Barr’s conduct has been so egregious that in any normal administration he would have been forced to resign. Since neither that nor impeachment and removal will happen with the Trump crew, state bar authorities should examine Barr’s conduct. If nothing else, the legal profession should hold him accountable for his perversion of his office and rank dishonesty in continually spinning and misrepresenting the law and the facts in service of a corrupt president.

William Barr, Trump toady

Jennifer Rubin, 4-10-19

Did William Barr break any rules? Only the most important one.

Harry Litman, 10-1-19

Multiple news agencies reported Monday that Attorney General William P. Barr has had extensive personal involvement in the Justice Department’s investigations into the origins of the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

That involvement — including trips abroad for personal meetings with foreign officials — is certainly “fairly unorthodox,” in the words of a former Justice Department official. Is it also inappropriate?










Militarizing the Police










USA










Police Brutality

I Pledge Allegiance to the United States of Sociopathy

By Elizabeth Keyes, February 05, 2019 "Information Clearing House"

In Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller, Shadow of a Doubt, spunky, recent high school grad Teresa Wright discovers her beloved uncle is a serial killer.

Wright's subsequent efforts to protect herself and others from psychopathic Joseph Cotten are continually frustrated by the extraordinary denial of her family and her community lost in the "thrall" of the worldly, smooth-talking Uncle Charlie.

Heartbroken and distraught, she must contend with her uncle's violent agenda while being obstructed by a naive and vulnerable community of his enablers and/or soon to be victims.

Wright's horrifying predicament resonates as I witness my – our – psychopathic uncle – UNCLE SAM, the U.S. government – perpetrate violent crime upon crime against humanity enabled by a maddening, morally mute, over-trusting, under-informed and/or indifferent citizenry.

I don't think I'll ever be able to fully wrap my mind or heart around the profound lack of outrage and empathy among government leaders from both corporate parties, the corporate media, as well as the vast majority of my fellow citizens at the ongoing atrocities of the Global War on Terror (more accurately, the "US Global War of Terror") and the 'regime change' covert and/or overt operations initially and sinisterly described as "humanitarian interventions."

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 seemingly justified a "gloves off" bloodlust defiance by the political and military "guardians" of America of the legal and moral pillars of our democracy. All these years since, the mandates for constitutional and moral justice "for all" have gone unheeded.

The Iraq war was launched illegally and with manipulative lies. Bush's torture program was in total opposition to constitutional, international and moral law. Its perpetrators deserved serious prosecution.

The Geneva Conventions were ratified once upon a time by a U.S. Congress. Habeas corpus, in place since 1679, so cavalierly suspended with the GWOT's "anything goes" rationale.

When such gobsmacking evil manifests on such a collective and global level for such a sustained amount of time, it deserves a serious analysis by those of us still spiritually awake enough to protest it.

At this point in my concerned citizenship, I am moving beyond anger into an awe of the scope of the – well – I call it downright and seriously unchallenged EVIL. Looking for a more clinical term than that? How about patriarchal psychopathology?

In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter acknowledged the long trail of U.S. international war crimes as well as the lack of historical and current accountability by this government, corporate media and its citizenry for them.

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening . . . You have to hand it to America . . . masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

Speaking of bottom-line and minimized evil, the specter of torture has reared its ugly head once again with President Donald Trump, an unabashed torture enthusiast, and the confirmation of his choice for Director of the CIA, "Bloody Gina" Haspel, notorious overseer of a secret black prison in Thailand where brutal torture was conducted. She was readily confirmed by a combination of Democratic and Republican senators. Senators, no doubt, who after fearful years of being labeled "oo soft on terror" were not about to stick their necks out for decency and morality.

Too many of my fellow citizens, terminally influenced by an amoral corporate media, I am nonetheless at a loss for their easy acceptance of torture.

A Pew Research poll released in 2017 revealed that 48% of the US citizenry believed that some circumstances could justify the use of torture, and 49% maintained there were no circumstances that would ever justify it.

Every other US citizen is thumb's up for the use of torture!

How disturbing over the last decade for the use of torture to be normalized and decriminalized by the military, citizenry, politicians, media, and those government lawyers who early on cravenly defied the obvious spirit of basic "Golden Rule" morality, the Constitution, and international law, to minimize the savagery of torture with euphemistic labels still parroted by much of the corporate media and or applied as fig leaves over the reprehensible.

"Enhanced interrogation techniques." Thank you, New York Times. They are monstrous methods of inflicting debilitating psychological and physical anguish on victims even at times to the point of death. Techniques that, along with being illegal and immoral, are universally regarded as unreliable. They are reliable only in generating false confessions (which apparently was one of the goals of the original, craven perpetrators).

Torture is wrong. It is evil.

Reading Jacob Weisberg's book, The Bush Tragedy, I learned that the main ego-armature for George W. Bush during his Yale University years was his participation in the fraternity culture.

Weisberg discloses that when "W" finally became head of a fraternity, he "ruled" at one point that lowly pledges be branded with real, Texas branding irons as part of their hazing.

When the Yale Daily News got wind of Bush's sadistic and zealous intention, it disclosed it to the entire university community. The Yale administrative patriarchs immediately huddled together to deal with the negative P.R. (I'm guessing that far outweighed the actual physical or psychological welfare of the targeted pledges.)

The patriarchs solution? Rein in Mr. Bush, whose sociopathy they presumably minimized as an impish, "boys-will-be-boys"-ness. With the proverbial wink and nod, they insisted young Bush forego the branding irons and instead ONLY make use of scalding metal coat hangers or lit cigarettes to burn freshman flesh.

Say what?

Problem solved? This Yale incident foreshadowed and undoubtedly helped foster the ultimate creation of the craven and covert torture program by Bush and cabal, particularly with the ever-Satanic Dick Cheney.

The green-lighting of that more modest degree of torture speaks volumes of a troubling, profoundly unempathetic – sociopathic— macho-mindset within the deepest, most influential halls of America's supposed intellectual and ruling class elite and mentors of said elite. They enabled and abetted young, already morally-deranged Master Bush, instead of role modeling and enforcing boundaries of basic human decency.

Just another rite of male passage? No wonder our American culture is so violent.

Andy Worthington, a prime advocate for victimized prisoners of Gitmo once reminded his audience during a NYC anti-war forum that in 2007 it was Senator Obama who declared:

"In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power."

President Obama posed as a person of character most convincingly. It got him the White House. Twice.

Obama took no responsibility for his breathtaking, 180-degree reversals of golden promises of anti-Bush reform, pre-election.

The most obvious and necessarily immediate reforms that he failed to act on were the restoration of habeas corpus rights and the prosecution of the perpetrators of the clandestine Bush torture program, of those who had most reprehensibly exploited the post-9/11 fear, outrage and vengeance sensibility of much of the citizenry.

Obama's policy decisions instead included deadly drone warfare, assassination kill lists, unlimited due-process-less detentions, military tribunals, countless corporate wars and U.S. military (corporate-opportunistic) garrisoning; and the continuation of Gitmo and God only knows what other black sites.

Obama's posture was of an always rhetorically amiable and faux-reasonable Roman emperor with thumb's up or down power over life and death. Many of his "subjects" adored him.

"We tortured some folks," he finally admitted with a shrug at a press conference. As if it was not a colossally serious deal.

"Folks"? Now there's a friendly word.

This is heart-of-darkness territory. Obama chose to become an enabler of violators of human rights and then a violator of them himself. To add to the horror, Obama so readily was enabled by the media in this, the vast majority of Congress, and the vast majority of citizens.

Does the cult of celebrity in America overwhelm basic human decency? It seems so.

Do U.S. leaders as diverse (but all amoral) as Bush, Obama and Trump, along with callous political cronies, military leaders and media, only need to repeat the word "terror" enough times to have so much of America fall into a "do with us, our money, or anyone else whatever depraved, anti-humanity behavior you want" kind of swoon?

"To torture or not to torture" not only a hot news media topic, but fodder for jingoistic and sensationalized movies and TV shows (as the normalization of torture steamrolls on).

Loyalty and admiration for the troops (no matter what war crimes they may be committing) and/or blind trust in a national administrative and military authority should not override human decency. American "exceptionalism" should not override identifying and ending war criminality. It does.

The status quo establishment in America has us locked into perpetual war with untold mass global deaths and maiming and ever-increasing economic hardship for all humanity except for a tiny percentage of transnational elites.

A paradigm shift from a "profits over people" patriarchy to the humanism of partnership and cooperation is the answer, but that would require decisions based on a U.S. leadership, a U.S. media and a U.S. society that seriously honored empathy, justice and the law.

Ours do not.

Scott Peck asserts in his book, People of the Lie, that mental health is "dedication to reality at all costs." This healthy sense of reality includes an in-touchness with one's inner reality and a respect for the reality of others. It requires the capacity to fully think and FEEL.

This "feeling capacity" – including and especially EMPATHY — seems most vulnerable to dysfunction in our society and world, among both leaders and followers.

Feelings are profoundly under-valued in our U.S. society, and this feeling dysfunction is at the heart (or lack thereof) of the existing suffering and injustice.

Alice Miller, in her book For Your Own Good, refers to a "poisonous pedagogy" that can infect a society. She explains that that was what made the "good" (as in compliant) German population easy prey for the authoritarianism of Hitler.

Miller emphasizes that the capacity for empathy is not linked to one's intelligence. She points out that both Hitler and Stalin had enthusiastic, highly intellectual followers.

If one is not able to respond with authentic feelings and thoughtful consideration to real life situations involving oneself or others, one is susceptible to "enthrallment" to the will of a toxic and controlling leader, asserts Miller.

She also contends that unprocessed trauma in one's childhood, that is, when children are exposed to profound degrees of non-empathy from adult caretakers, will cause a crippling or shutting down of their feeling capacity later in adult life along with the potential of a sudden dismantling of their own will for the will of another. Miller explains that such trauma undoubtedly also happened to the original destructive caretakers during their childhoods in a continuing, generational cycle of dysfunction.

When trauma goes unprocessed by feelings, that is, it stays unfelt and un-grieved, it induces one to over-identify with an aggressor and enter his or her "thrall" later in adulthood. Also, such conditioning can induce one to project one's negative feelings about oneself onto others as scapegoats. People with a disordered feeling capacity cannot handle and take mature responsibility for whatever guilt, shame, anger, frustration gets triggered within them in the present and must deflect it.

In People of the Lie, Scott Peck discusses the experiments of Dr. Stanley Milgram at Yale in 1961 which revealed how people were so readily intimidated by an authority in a white coat that they willingly would inflict what they thought were disabling electric shocks on strangers without question. Six out of 10 of the tested humans were willing to inflict serious harm on strangers from their own over-conditioning to the will of authority figures.

Peck emphasizes how obedience is the foundation of military discipline. "A follower is never a WHOLE person," he maintains. Tragically, most people are far more comfortable in the "follower" role, leaving the responsibility and decision-making to those who step forward as leaders. When ruthless, reckless, immature, even sociopathic persons assume leadership positions, especially in an authoritarian system, the results can be tragic.

He also contends that a lack of conscience in human beings is partly due to "specialization", a detachment from responsibility. One regards oneself as simply playing a role in a group scenario and thus can easily pass the "moral buck" so-to-speak to another part of the group. Troops shooting foreign civilians with a kind of "video-game aloofness", for example will rationalize: "We don't kill the people. Our weapons do. Whoever gave us these weapons and instructions are really responsible for the killing. Not us."

Another example he cites is of how weapons manufacturers, sellers, lobbyists, etc. feel no personal responsibility for the consequences of violence from the weapons they distribute. The moral decision as to the use of the weapons is not part of their "pecialized" roles. (And the financial profits are just too damn juicy to consider otherwise.)

Peck also cites the regressive shutting down of authentic and appropriate feelings in people due to a phenomenon called "psychic numbing." The mind has the ability to anesthetize itself from feelings in the face of trauma. "The horrible becomes normal," he writes.

Finally, he explains that groups bond often within a collectively egotistical groupthink by circling the proverbial wagons against a common, demonized enemy. "The other." Scapegoating occurs when a group collectively projects the "badness" of themselves, too difficult to fathom, onto others.

James Lucas in an article for globalresearch.com back in 2015 declared that the United States has killed approximately 20 million people in 37 countries since the end of World War II.

How many of us can actually begin to feel and process the utter enormity of such a revelation? (One thinks of a quote attributed to the profoundly non-empathetic Joseph Stalin: "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.")

What say you to 20 million, America? Look what our UNCLE SAM has wrought.

Can we as a nation cultivate a collective capacity for "empathy"? A critical mass of us reached a breakthrough of collective conscience during the Vietnam era (though it took us long enough, admittedly).

Can each of us dedicate ourselves to a "reality at all costs" awareness for our individual as well as collective mental health?

The fast hardening of soft fascism seems to be happening with little conscious struggle among the masses who seem convinced we non-elites can get away with staying passive and will be supported by our corporate-captured politicians and media.

Can we face down and acknowledge the relentless criminality of our government and representatives (who are not really OUR representatives).

If such crimes are not acknowledged, called out and then accounted for they will continue and escalate in number and nature. Even more frightening, more and more and more "good" Americans will succumb to this "normalization" of evil.

Confronting evil is daunting. Confronting mass and institutionalized evil all the more so. Sickening. Spiritually exhausting. It even has been said to biologically weaken one's thymus gland that supports the body's immune system.

We must detach from seductive "cronyism" with authoritarians or authoritarian followers and encourage others to do so.

We must explore the details of what is going on in our citizen name, with our tax dollars and especially with our vulnerable, patriotic and earnest young who can become tragically confounded by and induced to perpetrate institutionalized evil policies.

We owe it to ourselves and our world to stay whole and awake as citizens. To speak truth to power. Once again, "a follower is not a whole person" as Scott Peck declared.

"This is why the individual is sacred. For it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost."

It has been said there are three types of people in this world. A smallish group of people who make things happen. A larger group of people who watch things happen. (I am thinking, of those "good people who do nothing.") And finally the third, excessively large and clueless group, exclaiming, "WHAT THE F*CK HAPPENED???"

Let's try to shrink the second and third groups and expand the first by getting up and exercising those consciences.

This article was originally published by "Counterpunch" -

Police fire tear gas at protesters demanding Puerto Rico governor's resignation

Protests demanding the immediate resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló erupted for a third day Monday night, with police in riot gear creating a human barricade outside of the governor’s mansion and launching tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd.

Demonstrations began after hundreds of pages from a private group chat between the 40-year-old governor and nine confidants leaked Saturday, exposing what news reports say was a profanity-riddled conversation.

The newest scandal — which has been called “Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks” — led several government officials to pull their support for Rosselló and comes days after the FBI arrested two former officials on corruption charges for the misuse of $15.5 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019.










Solutions

There’s little evidence showing which police reforms work - Rapid research is needed to find out what efforts are most effective, Science, 7/9/20

When criminologist Robin Engel suddenly found herself leading the effort to reform a police department under fire after a white police officer killed an unarmed Black man in July 2015, she looked for some kind of road map to follow. Instead, she found herself in poorly charted territory.

A professor at the University of Cincinnati, Engel had been called on frequently to help police departments around the country manage their response to acts of police violence. This time, the call came from close to home. Campus Officer Ray Tensing, 25, had shot and killed 43-year-old musician Samuel DuBose during an off-campus traffic stop.

Engel recommended that the university hire a high-ranking official to oversee the police department and its immediate response to the crisis, and initiate longer term, comprehensive reforms to prevent future incidents.

Within days, Engel had become that official, reporting directly to the university president and outranking the university’s police chief, despite lacking police experience herself.

She sought input from various community stakeholders, many of whom had been rankled by her appointment to lead the police division. She also turned to her best-known tool — research. She began probing for studies to guide her on the sorts of reforms she could institute, ones with proven track records of changing police behavior in the field. Her search was unfruitful.

“I thought most certainly we would have an evidence base that I could follow,” Engel says. “I was incredibly disappointed at the lack of evidence that was available. I was really disappointed in my own field.”

Evidence gap

Among her efforts, Engel scoured the literature for so-called de-escalation programs with a history of success at defusing violence. Her review of that body of work, appearing in January 2020 in Criminology & Public Policy, found 64 de-escalation programs in the United States and elsewhere — but mostly administered to nurses and psychologists. She found no programs that had been tested among police officers. Just three studies showed cause and effect and included randomized control groups, and those showed that such programs led to minimal individual and organizational improvements.

In a February 2020 review in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Engel and colleagues discuss de-escalation trainings and four other reforms that tend to capture the public’s attention following fatal police-civilian encounters: body-worn cameras, implicit bias training (meant to reduce decisions and actions that arise from unconscious stereotypes) (SN: 10/26/15), early intervention systems that identify problematic officers before a crisis and civilian oversight of the police.

Engel was unable to identify a single police reform with convincing evidence of resulting behavior change among officers. Even studies on body-worn cameras, which are numerous, had mixed results. Engel cites a March 2019 review of 70 studies in Criminology & Public Policy by a team of researchers led by Cynthia Lum of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., that gauged the link between camera use and a reduction in force. Just 16 of those studies looked directly at whether or not cameras reduced officers’ use of force; of that subset, some show that the cameras work as a deterrent to use of force whereas others reach the opposite conclusion.

Why no data?

The dearth of evidence stems from several factors, Engel says, but chief among them is the pressure for police departments to act fast when an instance of police violence captures national attention. Consider that less than two weeks following the death of George Floyd when white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes, the majority of city councilors pledged to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department in response to activists’ calls to “defund the police” (SN: 6/5/2020).

Other departments around the country are likewise looking at ways to defund some police services, or reallocate to other agencies functions such as responding to mental health calls or monitoring safety in schools. Previous police brutality incidents have prompted calls for other sorts of reforms. For instance, a 2019 CBS News Survey of 155 police agencies found that almost 70 percent had implicit bias training with over half of those implemented after a white policeman shot and killed Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. Some 60 percent of those agencies said they did not have a way to measure the success or failure of such programs.

“This year it’s defund; what is it going to be next year, five years from now?” says Renée Mitchell, a recently retired police sergeant with a Ph.D. in criminology. She’s also cofounder and president of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing. Police departments are “flinging out interventions and having no clue about the effects, positive or negative.”

Police research is complicated by the fact that researchers who conduct the sorts of studies needed to evaluate reforms and police officials often have different priorities. Why would a police chief work with an academic who is going to publish papers about the department’s problems that may also receive considerable press attention, asks Erin Kerrison, an empirical legal scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

What’s more, like some other areas of research related to violence (SN: 5/3/16), money for policing research is relatively limited. Consider that the National Institutes of Health invested about $39 billion for medical research in 2019, while the National Institute of Justice awarded far less than 1 percent of that amount — just under $214 million — for research that same year.

Yet researchers and police officials largely agree that rapid response is necessary to meet the demands of the moment. What research does emerge following George Floyd’s death won’t start coming out for two years, Kerrison says. “There will have been a thousand more George Floyds at that point.” Needing to act

Which is why, back at the University of Cincinnati Police Division, Engel needed to act, evidence or no evidence. So on the de-escalation front, she selected a program run by Washington, D.C.–based Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit police research and policy organization. She was familiar with the organization, and the content — which emphasized training officers to recognize and effectively communicate with civilians behaving erratically and either unarmed or armed with something other than a firearm — looked promising. Engel then used the program to begin building her own evidence to help fill gaps in the field.

Engel treated reforms at her small university police department of 74 sworn officers as pilot projects that she could then test at larger police departments around the country. In February 2019, she and a team of researchers were able to conduct a larger study of the de-escalation program, when the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky used it to train its 1,250 officers.

Engel randomized the order in which officers in the nine Louisville precincts were trained. That way, officers in each untrained precinct served as a control until they too underwent training. One benefit of this setup, called a “stepped wedge trial,” is that it doesn’t relegate one block of individuals into a control group that goes without training for the duration of the study. Stepped wedge trials have been used in other settings, such as health care and education. Officers were evaluated before and immediately after the training, and again, four to six months after training. Observations will continue for up to 12 months, with the team looking for changes in police behavior, and frequency and severity around the use of force.

Initial results will be out later this summer, says Engel, who is conducting an analogous study of an implicit bias training program. Also piloted at the University of Cincinnati, the program was rolled out at the NYPD, New York City’s police department.

Working together

Engel stepped down from her role overseeing the University of Cincinnati Police Division in January 2019, but the experience changed her thinking about criminology research. Academics tend to be interested in the philosophical, such as why officers use force, she says. But arguably more important are those nitty-gritty questions about how use of force can be mitigated in real life and in real time.

One challenge to understanding what reforms work is convincing police departments to collaborate with researchers, says Kerrison. She and colleagues outlined how academics can enter into ethical relationships with police departments in an August 2019 paper in Police Practice and Research. Crucial to such partnerships are clearly stated goals from the get-go, or airtight memoranda of understanding. That way, all parties agree in advance on the sorts of findings that will be communicated to the public and in what fashion, and everybody commits to helping police operations throughout the study process.

For instance, police departments can mandate that researchers anonymize their community’s identity in publications. Kerrison herself can’t talk about her relationships with police departments she’s working with due to such agreements. “Everybody has got to have skin in the game,” she says.

Given the challenges with funding and creating such academic-police partnerships, sometimes the clearest path forward may be to train the police officers in how to do science, Mitchell says. At the American Society for Evidence-Based Policing, she and colleagues are launching a four-week training course in 2021 for police officers similar to one already available in the United Kingdom. “Nowhere have our police leaders been taught how to interpret data and how to interpret statistics and how to interpret a research article,” she says. With such training, police departments will be better positioned to collect and evaluate data on their own.

Mitchell likens the model to medicine, where, for example, it would be a breach of ethics for doctors to advise patients with cancer without knowing about relevant evidence-based treatments. “[Policing] should be held to the same standard as the medical field,” she says.

However such research comes about, without it, police responses to crises will default to the quickest solutions, Engel says. “That is a very dangerous position to be in.”

As Camden’s police chief, I scrapped the force and started over. It worked. - The city needed guardians, not warriors. 6-18-20

J. Scott Thomson, the police chief in Camden, N.J., from 2008-2019, is executive director of global security for Holtec International.

I was the chief of police in Camden, N.J., when we concluded the most violent year in our history. In 2012, we tallied 67 homicides, 172 shooting victims and 175 open-air drug markets. Children couldn’t walk safely to school. Cops left crime scenes unattended to respond to the next shooting; it was nonstop. Camden was ranked the most dangerous city in the country, with a murder rate more than 18 times the national average. More people were killed in our town of 77,000 than were killed that year in Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Wyoming combined.

And police were not always helping. The city needed guardians, but officers often saw themselves as warriors seeking to dominate criminals through toughness. Citizens didn’t trust us, and efforts to arrest our way to law and order clearly weren’t working. As chief, I was handcuffed by legacy work rules and binding arbitrator decisions that made it difficult to hold officers accountable for misconduct or poor performance. I couldn’t even reassign officers on desk duty to the street to suppress spiking gun violence.

So we started from scratch. We let every city police officer go and created a new department with new rules in 2013. By agreement with Camden County, the city ceased to fund its department and instead paid the county to police the city of Camden. We required all officers to apply as new hires (most officers from the old force got jobs, but not all) and committed to a new relationship between Camden’s police and its citizens, around 95 percent of whom are minorities.

It worked. At the end of 2019, homicides in Camden were down 63 percent, and total crime is the lowest it has been in decades. Fewer mothers are burying children, and flagrant drug crime is radically reduced. Here’s how we did it.

Camden residents and their police officers had long eyed one another warily. Police violence and the failure to hold officers accountable sparked devastating riots in the ’60s and ’70s, and bad feelings lingered for decades. Then, a budget shortfall forced the city to lay off 46 percent of the city police department in 2011 — 168 officers — and demote the majority of the department’s command staff.

Over the next two years, in response to a combined fiscal and public safety crisis, the state, county and city agreed to disband the existing force and start a new one. They asked me to run it. Any officer who wanted to be considered for the new force, including me, had to fill out a 50-page application, take psychological and physical tests and pass an interview process that was specifically created from community focus-group surveys about what community residents wanted in their police officers. Base compensation remained comparable, but initially, salary enhancements like shift-differential and specialized unit pay were restructured and certain benefits were reduced. Although the police officer’s union has since returned, initially the new officers came on without a union contract.

Why do we need the police? Cops prevent violence. But they aren’t the only ones who can do it.

As chief, I was no longer bound by the old work rules. As a new department, our political support was unprecedented. When the union reappeared, I enjoyed a partnership with leaders there who cared about the community as much as the welfare of their member officers. We were building culture as opposed to changing it. Although it took us more than a year to return to our pre-2011 staffing levels, the initial increase of about 50 additional officers enabled us to instantly boost our presence in the community. I could now accomplish in a few days policy and operational changes — things like codifying the requirement that officers de-escalate encounters before using force — that would have taken years in the old department.

We knew that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results was insanity, so we tried new approaches: Commanders were forbidden from using the phrase “we’ve always done it this way,” because we now operated under the assumption that the old way was wrong. We deployed ice cream trucks and held block parties to build trust between officers and the residents of the neighborhoods they patrolled. The ideology that underpinned these strategies was to create safe environments by getting people to flood the streets they once abandoned. Residents became much more willing to share information that made us smarter in reducing crime. We enlisted former drug dealers returning home from prison to share with kids how to avoid some of the mistakes that they had made.

Instead of a patrol division solely focused on responding to calls, every cop became a community officer: It was understood that their job responsibilities also included building relationships. New officers were required to knock on doors and introduce themselves to residents. How could we address people’s concerns if we didn’t first know what they were? An officer who spent three to four hours at headquarters processing a meaningless offense wasn’t advancing safety or trust. But an officer who is visible and approachable — one who eschews polarizing tactics — significantly alters the chemistry of that environment for the better and creates the peace dividend police desperately need today.

Of course, we used the latest technology to ensure our officers were working efficiently and well — real-time data that I could remotely monitor 24/7 to track officers’ activity and location. We decided that deterring crime was more important than making arrests, and that is how we eliminated about 150 open-air drug markets: You can’t sell drugs with a uniformed cop standing on the same corner.

As we got to know our neighbors better, we shifted from enforcing the law upon them to upholding the law with them. Part of this was about eliminating counterproductive policing routines: I directed internal affairs to investigate the department’s top five ticket-writing cops each month, because handing a hefty traffic fine to someone who’s scraping by can be life-altering, and not in a way that protects the community. Our preference was to issue warnings. The state American Civil Liberties Union chapter and community residents explained that some of our low-level-offense enforcements were making things worse. We listened. Residents responded with even more communication and assisted us to increase gun seizures by 185 percent within the first few months. As citizens trusted us more, they shared more intelligence with us to make their streets safer. This helped us lift our murder-solve rate from a dismal 16 percent to 61 percent.

We developed de-escalation training based upon the Police Executive Research Forum’s ICAT principles for Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics. Sanctity of human life and the Hippocratic ethos of “first, do no harm” were guiding principles. We taught officers how to use restraint in incidents in which deadly force may have been legally justified but wasn’t generally necessary if they were smart. And when that last resort was essential, we rendered medical aid immediately after an officer-involved shooting and transported the wounded suspects to the trauma center to save their lives.

About ICAT

There’s a raging debate right now about “defunding” the police, but it’s missing the point. Communities need police. What they don’t need is a cop with a warrior’s psyche and an occupier’s mentality. Camden’s transformation wasn’t about getting rid of police or reducing their authority. It was about increasing our legitimacy by convincing citizens that we understood our role. We didn’t reinvent policing so much as reset it to what it always should have been.

Policing works in a democratic society only when it has the consent of the people. The old Camden city police department had forgotten that. Many departments in this country have long assumed that their legitimacy is automatic and that the problem is with the public, not us. But citizens’ disdain can change only if we change first.


Colby Glass, MLIS