This 2018 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America takes a comprehensive look at the impacts of militarized police, and shows just how factually counterproductive it is for literally everyone (except for maybe the Defense Contractors who walk with cash between their tented fingers). From the abstract of the article:
The increasingly visible presence of heavily armed police units in American communities has stoked widespread concern over the militarization of local law enforcement. Advocates claim militarized policing protects officers and deters violent crime, while critics allege these tactics are targeted at racial minorities and erode trust in law enforcement. Using a rare geocoded census of SWAT team deployments from Maryland, I show that militarized police units are more often deployed in communities with large shares of African American residents, even after controlling for local crime rates. Further, using nationwide panel data on local police militarization, I demonstrate that militarized policing fails to enhance officer safety or reduce local crime. Finally, using survey experiments—one of which includes a large oversample of African American respondents—I show that seeing militarized police in news reports may diminish police reputation in the mass public. In the case of militarized policing, the results suggest that the often-cited trade-off between public safety and civil liberties is a false choice.
Jonathan Mummolo, the author of the article, goes on to say that, "Taken together, these findings suggest that curtailing militarized policing may be in the interest of both police and citizens." Read the rest
An anonymous writer on Medium — identifying themself only as Officer A. Cab — has written an impassioned but scathing piece about the complicity of modern policing. This writer, claiming to be an ex-cop, shares his own shameful experiences being silenced for speaking against the "bad apple" officers, and eventually just going along with things he knew were inherently problematic. "American policing is a thick blue tumor strangling the life from our communities," he writes, "and if you don’t believe it when the poor and the marginalized say it, if you don’t believe it when you see cops across the country shooting journalists with less-lethal bullets and caustic chemicals, maybe you’ll believe it when you hear it straight from the pig’s mouth."
That's just in the intro. It gets way more in-depth, with numerous moments of quotable perfection (and a particularly disgraceful anecdote about some pay-to-play homeless abuse). I'll leave you with this passage, which has really sat with me:
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Your community was not made safer by police violence; a sick member of your community was killed because it was cheaper than treating them. Are you extremely confident you’ll never get sick one day too?
Wrestle with this for a minute: if all of someone’s material needs were met and all the members of their community were fed, clothed, housed, and dignified, why would they need to join a gang? Why would they need to risk their lives selling drugs or breaking into buildings? If mental healthcare was free and was not stigmatized, how many lives would that save?
Writer Gerry Conway has been vocal for years about the misappropriation of the Punisher, a vigilante murderer superhero he created in 1974 when he wrote Amazing Spider-Man #129:
It's disturbing whenever I see authority figures embracing Punisher iconography because the Punisher represents a failure of the Justice system. He's supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can't depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way. […] Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
Unfortunately, Conway's insistence on what's plainly obvious for anyone who's actually familiar with the Punisher has not stopped the character from becoming a symbol of fascism, proudly worn by law enforcement agents who probably shouldn't be boasting about their love of fascism.
Now, with protests against police brutality raging across the country, Conway is taking another approach:
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A 46-year old black man named George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25, 2020. A police officer named Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck, after vaguely accusing him of forgery and/or public intoxication. He pressed his knee down so hard — and kept it there — that it cut off the air to Floyd's lungs, suffocating him. Three police officers stood around and watched as Floyd used his last breaths to cry for help; several bystanders filmed the scene, and tried to get the cops to stop, but to no avail.
Those 4 police officers were fired shortly after the video was released (by their official account, Floyd had been "resisting arrest," something which is a physically impossible to do while also dying under restraint). That sounds like good news on the surface — but thanks to Police Union rules, bad cops who get fired for misconduct usually just get re-hired in a nearby precinct. Their past behavior — even repeated, established patterns of violent misconduct — are left off their permanent record, or otherwise ignored.
And that's exactly how the police officer who killed George Floyd was in the position to do so in the first place. As Insider reports, Derek Chauvin had a long and ugly history of police brutality, long before he killed George Floyd:
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[Chauvin] was involved in violent incidents before, including three police shootings. And he has been the subject of 10 complaints filed to the city's Civilian Review Authority and the Office of Police Conduct.
Tales of piss-headed police officers dominated the news in the week before New Years (at least, in my social circles, if we discount everything related to Star Wars). In West Virginia, the governor has finally recommended the firing of the full Hitler Heil-ing cadet class. In Kansas, another cop was (allegedly) terminated after writing "Fucking Pig" on his own McDonald's coffee cup and trying to blame it on the hard-working, underpaid workers whom he should be theoretically serving and protecting. (Some cops in Alabama also made a mocking "homeless quilt" that the department later apologized for, though the officers weren't actually reprimanded as far as I can tell.)
On the surface, this is largely a good thing. Although these are somewhat-minor acts in the grand scheme of police behaviors, the fact that there are actually repercussions for police misconduct already represents a sea change from the way things have been. Police departments across the country have kept secret lists of criminal crops who remain in their employ; typically, when cops are caught lying about things (even as dumb and small as a McDonald's coffee cup), the rest of their testimony is still given weight. Hell, the National Center for Women and Policing found that at least 40% of police officers self-reported domestic violence in the home … and still keep their jobs.
But these guys in West Virginia and Kansas? They might actually lose their jobs over a couple of pictures.
The public outrage towards unfair and overly aggressive policing has noticeably swelled alongside the raise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and particularly in the aftermath of that obscene military occupation in Ferguson. Read the rest
An off-duty cop got into a fight with a group of children who walked on his lawn, dragged a 13-year-old unarmed boy into his yard, pulled his firearm, then fired a shot. Thankfully, he missed. The incident in Anaheim, California, was captured on camera and has already led to protests.
Christian alleged in the video that the off-duty cop called a girl a "cunt" when telling her to get off his property, and then tackled him first when he stood up for her.
The verbal exchanges led to the off-duty cop dragging the kid towards some bushes. It's unclear from the tape if he ever identified himself as a police officer. "I'd understand if you were a cop, but you're not a cop," Christian told the off-duty officer at one point during the video. One teen came in to shove the man over the bushes after the impasse. Another took a swing but missed. That's when the off-duty cop reached into his waistband and pulled out a gun. The surrounding youth started backing off—and then a shot rang out.
The kid was charged with battery on an officer. KTLA has other footage.
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The officer responds that the teen had said he was going to shoot him, and the teen denies that, saying, “I didn’t say that. Why you lying? I said, 'I’m going to sue you.'”
Then the pair tell each other to “get your hands off me.”
“I’m only like 13,” the teen says.
Mattthew Luckhurst, a 5-year veteran of San Antionio Police Department, was fired after feeding shit to a homeless person. Josh Baugh reports that he "placed fecal matter between two pieces of bread" and placed it in a styrofoam container next to his victim. It's not clear if they ate it.
“This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of ‘treating all with integrity, compassion, fairness and respect,’ Chief William McManus said in a prepared statement. “The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated. The action of this one former officer in no way reflects the actions of all the other good men and women who respectfully serve this community.”
Even the police union has ditched him: “He’s on his own right now,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Read the rest
Take care when asking provocative questions at Kansas City's library events: you might end up in jail.
The executive director of Kansas City Libraries says he's outraged by the charges against Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, a Jewish man grabbed by private security after asking the event's speaker, former diplomat Dennis Ross, uninvited follow-up questions. Off-duty cops moved in to arrest Rothe-Kushel when he objected to the hands-on treatment—as well as a library staffer who had moved to intervene.
The Associated Press reports Kansas City police spokeswoman Capt. Stacey Graves as saying officers "acted properly in helping private security stop an audience member from asking follow-up questions."
Issues arose after Ross finished speaking and took a question from Jeremy Rothe-Kushel concerning whether Jewish Americans like Rothe-Kushel should be concerned about actions by the U.S. and Israel that amount to "state-sponsored terrorism."
"When are we going to stand up and be ethical Jews and Americans?" Rothe-Kushel asked.
When Rothe-Kushel tried to ask another question, a private security guard grasped his arm, followed by an off-duty police officer, both employed by the Jewish Community Foundation. Rothe-Kushel then shouted, "Get your hands off of me right now!"
Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, tried to intervene. Both men were arrested by off-duty officers.
On-duty officers posted to the event apparently did not get involved until later: he was arrested by a man out of uniform and paid by the event's organizers.
Rothe-Kushel was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest. Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, was charged with interfering with an arrest. Read the rest
Alfred Okwera Olango, who was black, was fatally shot by police in El Cajon, California on Tuesday. Police in the San Diego suburb city say the 38 year old Ugandan immigrant pointed a vape pen or e-cigarette device at them, before police shot the man to death.
Officers were responding to a call of a man behaving erratically, and walking in traffic. Olango's friends and supporters say court records show that he suffered from mental illness, and may have been experiencing a seizure before his death. An El Cajon police officer is believed to have shot Olango within as little as one or two minutes after arriving at the scene. Read the rest
Rakeyia Scott, the wife of recent police shooting victim Keith L. Scott, recorded a video on her cell phone just before and after the fatal shooting of her husband by police in Charlotte, N.C. The New York Times obtained the video from attorneys for the Scott family. It includes graphic violence of a man being killed by police, and strong language. Read the rest
WARNING: The video in this post is graphic and documents a violent death.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, police have released video that shows a white police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man. In the video, Terence Crutcher can be seen raising his hands above his head. Read the rest
A report out this week from Bloomberg says that since January, 2016, people in the city of Baltimore, Maryland have secretly and periodically been spied on by police using cameras in the sky. Authorities today effectively admitted that the report is accurate. Read the rest
Two of the most prominent makers of body-worn cameras for cops and first responders are fightin' it out over patents.
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A New York man who spent a month in jail after Pennsylvania state police mistook homemade soap he was traveling with for cocaine has filed a lawsuit. Read the rest
I loved watching the 1986 comedy TV series "Sledge Hammer!" as a kid. David Rasche's portrayal of San Francisco's most aggressive, least sensitive, and completely absurd police detective, the titular Sledge, is fantastic. Read the rest
Spoiler: Native Americans. Read the rest
A police officer in the Northern California city of Rohnert Park was caught on video pulling his gun on a resident who was recording the cop on his cellphone. Read the rest