Not Serving, Not Protecting

« April 2015 »

Memo to the police: THIS IS WHY WE DON'T TRUST YOU.

One of the maddening things about the current debate over modern policing is that police supporters are arguing each incident based on specific details about that incident that they think helps their case, while on the side of goodness and light, what we're talking about is a mentality that affects everything in modern policing.

And that mentality is in and of itself a mix of things - it's part racism, it's part authoritarianism, it's part ass-covering and wagon-circling, and it's part bullying. It's a toxic soup of Us Vs. Them, and it informs every single one of these incidents, no matter how many cigars the victims stole or how many child support payments they were behind on.

The South Carolina shooting of Walter Scott by Michael Slager has resulted in a dismissal and murder charges for the officer involved, as it should be. But it almost didn't.

Because up until a private citizen's cell-phone video surfaced, Slager's story was one we've heard, and many have believed, hundreds of times in the past. Scuffle for the weapon. Feared for his life. Had no choice. And who was going to argue with him? Who would distrust the word of a noble policeman against a middle-aged black man with a warrant out for missed child support payments?

Of course, we now know from the video that Slager shot Scott eight times in the back, then moved what's believed to be the Taser to make it look like the shooting was justified. But again, note the mentality. Self-protection. Authoritarian. Say your actions were justified and millions will flock to your side.

In the Oklahoma "accidental" killing of Eric Harris by a 73-year-old volunteer deputy and police buddy who may or may not have even been qualified to carry the gun he claims he mistook for his Taser in the heat of the moment, none of the horrifying details I've mentioned so far are relevant to my point.

No, what's relevant is the reaction to the incident by the rest of the cops on the scene, who ignored the pleas of the man who'd been shot, handcuffed him, and informed him that he could fuck his breath. That's the mentality. That's neither protecting nor serving. I mean, obviously, really old guys shouldn't be handed guns and allowed to ride shotgun, or handgun in this case, and help chase down suspects.

But more importantly, cops who ignore and belittle a man dying in their custody? Those are the kind of cops we have way too many of in this country.

And the stories multiply. Police in Maryland harassing advocates of "free range parenting" and locking their kids in a cruiser for hours because they were walking home from a park by themselves. Tasering children and seniors for non-compliance. Just now, in Baltimore, a man died in police custody with a broken back and nobody can say how he was injured, why he wasn't treated, or even what they arrested him for. And if you think there's nothing fishy about that, you're due on the Fox News set in an hour, so you'd better get moving.