Jolly Coppers on Parade
The headlines are endless: “Michigan Man Dies in Police Custody Over Traffic Tickets,” “Baltimore Police Shoot Dog During Call,” “Major Police Activity Over Teenager Jaywalking,” “Pensioner Gunned Down as Police Officer Pulls Trigger Instead of Turning on Flashlight,” “Graphic Video Released of Naked Mentally Ill Woman Who Died in Police Custody,” “Georgia Police Shoot Man and Kill His Dog After Responding to Wrong House,” “Caught on Tape: Police Kill Unarmed Texas Man,” “SWAT Team Raids Home, Kills Man Over $2 Worth of Pot,” “South Texas Resident Shot by Police While at a Houston Hospital,” “Cop Claims Other Police ‘High-Fived’ Hand of Dead Teenager Shot in SC While Driving Away From Weed Sting,” “Cops Pull Guns on Couple Driving to Hospital to Give Birth.”
The mostly anonymous voices on internet forums are fond of advising the public not to call the police, ever, for any reason. There are countless recent examples that indicate this is sound advice. Elderly Elbert Breshears called the police, concerned about his wife, who suffered from dementia. The police unfortunately arrived before the ambulance, and in the words of Breshears, “police car drove up, he bailed out ran over and knocked me down. He told me to get up, I told him I couldn’t.” The police then roughed the harmless old man up, pinning him down on the gravel, while one officer sat on his back and another on his head. In another case, parents in North Carolina, concerned that their 90 pound teenage son might harm himself, called the police. The heroic officers did prevent a suicide, but they shot the boy seven times and killed him.
A September 17, 2015 Washington Post story informed their readers, “On-Duty Police Officers Have Shot and Killed More Than 700 People This Year.” Despite a glaring lack of reprisals from those “investigating” these continuous tragedies, more police officers were prosecuted over civilian killings in 2015 than at any other time in our history. While the majority of those killed by police are white, the mainstream media constantly stresses the racial angle, when it bothers to focus on the issue at all.
While we have heard much about racial profiling, little attention was paid to an incredible decision by a federal appeals court in 2014, which actually ruled that having acne scars and driving with an upright posture constitute reasonable grounds for an officer to pull one over. In another equally absurd, unjust decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that such things as hanging air fresheners, rosaries, and pro-police bumper stickers, and driving two miles above the speed limit, meet the criteria for suspicious behavior. In other words, anything can warrant a traffic stop, much as a police officer can claim to be “threatened” by anything or anyone, in order to justify his or her actions.
While police routinely bust into the wrong homes, wreak havoc, causing massive property damage and sometimes shooting the innocent residents, without facing any repercussions; when their homes are broken into, the legal response is quite different. For instance, when typically aggressive bounty hunter Brent Farley and his team surrounded Phoenix, Arizona police chief Joseph Yahner’s home in August 2015, he was summarily arrested. It was laughable to read the police comments about Farley being told multiple times that he had the wrong address. When mere citizens protest to the SWAT teams barging mistakenly into their homes, they are ignored as well. However, the officers who terrorized them face no consequences.
Police officers seem to have an increasing lack of empathy and common sense, almost an inability to grasp the situation and react reasonably. For example, Tennessee deputy Micah McNinch pulled over a man in the middle of the night, as he was rushing his sick mother to the hospital. The man’s crime? Expired tags. Instead of immediately rushing the son and his mother to the hospital, as society should expect their police to do, the officer continued to write the ticket and the woman died. His punishment? One day suspension without pay. Even pro athletes, normally given preferential treatment by law enforcement, have been victims. Then NFL player Ryan Moats was held outside a Dallas hospital in 2009, as he attempted to get inside and say goodbye to his dying mother-in-law. Even when hospital security guards and a more rational police officer explained that it was indeed a matter of life and death, the cop held him and his wife outside long enough for his mother-in-law to pass away.
The incidents are never-ending, and it is impossible to gauge their relative outrageousness. The cops who raided a pot shop, and were recorded afterward eating edible marijuana products and joking about a handicapped customer until angrily breaking the cameras? The officer who violently assaulted a woman who stepped in front of him when he was about to shoot her dog? The cop who felt “threatened” by a naked eleven year old autistic girl and tasered her? The cop who shot unarmed Walter Scott, as he ran away from an encounter over a broken taillight? The officer who shot unarmed Levar Jones, stopped for a seat belt violation as he attempted to show his license? The cop who shot 70 year old Bobby Canipe over an expired registration, as he reached into the back of his truck for his cane? The cop who shot unarmed Dontrell Stevens because he was “not bicycling properly?” The police detective caught on camera extorting $5000 from a rape victim?
On the rare occasions when police are held accountable for their behavior, it is the taxpayers who foot the bill, not the guilty officers. The city of Gardena in California had to pay $4.7 million to the family of Ricardo Diaz- Zeferino, after video of the encounter, which police had doggedly attempted to suppress, revealed that he’d provided no threat to the officers who gunned him down following a mistaken report of a bicycle theft in June, 2013. Gardena officials, in conjunction with police chiefs and law enforcement groups all over the state, had argued that release of such videos could dissuade police departments from providing their officers with cameras.
Sandra Bland died earlier this year, supposedly committing suicide in her Texas jail cell three days after a routine traffic stop. The video of the encounter went viral on the internet. Bland was pulled over because she failed to signal a lane change. Bland attempted to explain that she was actually just trying to allow the officer to pass her, but the incident escalated as Bland understandably objected to the cop’s ridiculous demand that she put out her cigarette and then later, to put down her cell phone. Among the disturbing questions raised by this incident is just why someone pulled over for not signaling a lane change was in a jail cell three days later. Bland seems anxious in the video to make the police pay for harassing her. There is nothing in her demeanor, nor in her personal life according to friends and family, to indicate that she would take her own life.
While Sandra Bland’s case received a good deal of publicity primarily because of her race, non-blacks die far too often in police custody as well. Take the case of white 30 year old chemical engineer Troy Goode of Memphis. A typical busy-body called the Police when the intoxicated Goode, who had been drinking after attending a concert with his wife (and was not driving the car), exited the couple’s vehicle at a shopping center. The cops inexplicably hogtied Goode, who suffered from asthma, and forced him face-down onto a stretcher. The family was notified two hours later that Goode had died. Southaven Police Chief Tom Long helpfully suggested that the death was the result of an LSD overdose. The local D.A. theorized that Goode died from heart or lung related issues. Regardless how it happened, a normally law-abiding citizen died in police custody, after celebrating a night out with his wife.
What about the death of teenager Jesus Huerta, whom police claimed shot himself in the head while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a Durham, North Carolina police cruiser? As typically happens in these cases, the District Attorney, following an “investigation,” determined there was no evidence to file criminal charges. Or the mauling of motorist Johnnie Williams, when dashcam video showed a North Carolina police officer shoving a police dog into his car, while his hands are raised in a gesture of surrender. And again, a grand jury declined to indict the officer. I guess those jokes about indicting a ham sandwich don’t apply in these cases. Or the cops who tasered Missouri’s Ryan Miller, as he attempted to enter his burning home, to save his three year old stepson, who subsequently died. The question of why the officers didn’t try to save the boy was only asked by grieving aunt Emily Miller, who told a local TV station, “And while they all just stood around and waited for the fire department, what kind of police officer wouldn’t try and save a 3-year-old burning in a house?”
Georgia police officer Beth Gatny shot and killed seventeen year old Christopher Roupe in February 2014, when she mistook a Nintendo WII video game controller for a weapon. The boy had tried to get the person knocking on his door to identify themselves, but Gatny failed to declare it was the police. When the boy opened the door, remote in hand, she shot him. Gatny had been fired from a previous job as a police officer in another part of Georgia, where among other things, she shot and killed someone who was merely trying to remove his backpack. Talk about itchy trigger fingers. But Gatny wasn’t fired for shooting someone, she was fired for exhausting her medical leave. Predictably, a grand jury failed to find enough evidence to indict her.
We know from statistics that only 2 percent of cops in New York City were even indicted for the murder of civilians over a fifteen year period. The murder of homeless man Rodney Thomas, after which those cops who beat him to death actually went to trial, was an extreme rarity. Of course, when the shameful jury found these officers not guilty, despite the fact the entire event was captured on videotape, and the non-resisting Thomas could be heard pleading for his life over and over again, it sent a clear message to everyone that the police are utterly and completely above the law. There was more evidence to convict those officers than there is in virtually any murder case. If those cops weren’t guilty, then everyone on death row has a legitimate cause for appeal.
On the other hand, a central California cop was put on leave for not using excessive force on a suicidal college student. An Atlanta police detective reported that she was retaliated against for exposing other officers stealing during a crime bust, but a Fulton County judge ruled that she’d failed to establish her claims. Police have been caught all over the country selling drugs, stealing drugs, planting drugs, and in one notorious case in Detroit, actually committing crimes while in uniform. Other officers have killed a man with Down’s syndrome, and beaten a handcuffed woman without facing charges.
Where was the outrage from Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, over the revelations that Chicago police had detained thousands of mostly black citizens at a police warehouse? Mainstream newspapers like The Guardian published reports about detainees being shackled and held sometimes for days, over the most minor of alleged offenses. This certainly seemed more egregious than the widely viewed video of an encounter between black teenagers and Texas police at a pool party, but only Alex Jones and a handful of newspapers gave it the coverage it warranted. Where were they when an irate white Oklahoma state trooper, his pride stung because an ambulance rushing a patient to the hospital had failed to yield to him, pulled the emergency vehicle over? In the ensuing encounter, the trooper attempted to strangle a black paramedic, on video. This wasn’t a case of a “lone nut” cop. Another trooper arrived, providing the backup all these officers seem to require for even the most innocuous encounters, and banged angrily on the window of the ambulance, telling the paramedic that he was under arrest for assault. The state trooper was suspended five days for the “scuffle.”
USA Today reported that more than 5000 innocent bystanders and passengers were killed from 1979-2013, during high-speed police chases. Tens of thousands more were injured. The chases, as might be expected, are often over trivial offenses. A twenty five year old man, for instance, was killed in New Jersey by a driver being pursued by police for running a red light. Another driver, being chased by police in Indianapolis for shoplifting, struck and killed an 83 year old grandmother. A 60 year old was killed in Washington, D.C. by a driver trying to elude police because his headlights were off. Is this what we want from law enforcement? Should innocent bystanders have to fear for their lives, because our police forces are anxious to rid the streets of jaywalkers and motorists making illegal u-turns?
Police are not only out of control, they fail miserably at stopping or solving actual crimes. Sharpstown, Texas became fed up with their police department in 2012, and instead hired private citizens for security. The result was a 61 percent drop in crime over the first 20 months alone. Despite the glowing portrayal of cops on television shows and in films, in real life they are not only corrupt, they are unable to distinguish between a happy drunk staggering on the sidewalk and a mass murderer. During the 2002 DC Sniper attacks, law enforcement kept searching for a nonexistent white van, had to be notified by the snipers themselves about a note they’d tacked to a tree in the middle of a crime scene which had somehow gone undetected, and would never have caught the actual perpetrators except for some alert truck drivers blocking their car in until police officers finally, at long last arrived.
Americans in general are in denial about the disgraceful conduct of far too many police officers, and the even more reprehensible lack of punishment meted out to them by police departments. In fact, both businesses and individuals are far too willing to call the police about matters that have nothing to do with law enforcement. McDonald’s, for example, has instituted a policy of calling the police on senior citizens who eat too slowly. St. Louis police were recently awarded $1.87 million in a Justice Department grant, to fund additional officers. Liberals as well as conservatives sing the praises of law enforcement. The only real criticism they receive, outside of the alternative media, is when selected cases are turned into predictable racial battles.
The instinct for injustice is so strong, and the unwillingness to admit wrongdoing so ingrained, that police who usually face no repercussions from their superiors also often refuse to even apologize. For instance, Enc English offered to drop his lawsuit against the City of Gainesville, Florida for false arrest in a November 2013 incident, if either the police chief or the arresting officer filmed a video apology. This offer was refused, and English wound up receiving a larger settlement. But no apology. Can’t have those heroes of law enforcement admit their mistakes.
Law enforcement has turned into a revenue-producing business, wherein the vast majority of resources are devoted to nabbing harmless motorists who have allegedly violated one of the mostly meaningless number of traffic laws. Quotas are routinely required, giving officers every incentive to pull drivers over early and often, even if it means hiding in the bushes or using unmarked vehicles. Most people don’t understand the lunacy of civil forfeiture laws. The owner, for instance, does not have to be convicted, or even arrested, for law enforcement to legally take their property. When such property is sold, federal law and most state laws permit 50 percent or more of the proceeds to go to law enforcement agencies. Not that long ago, a woman whose husband was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in her car appealed to the Supreme Court, logically arguing that her car should not have been subject to seizure for her husband’s “crime.” Unbelievably, the Supreme Court ruled against her.
As the exiled Edward Snowden, whom “liberal” Hillary Clinton recently decried for his failure to come home and “face the music,” expressed things well when he said, “Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism.” Americans should not have to fear those tasked (and paid by them) to “protect and serve.” Instead of protecting average citizens, our police officers are more likely to harass and intimidate those who are usually just trying to drive from point A to point B.
Until the sheeple awake to the problem at hand-which is rampant police brutality and abuse of authority- nothing will change. I often hear how “most cops are good people, you find a few bad apples in every profession.” That may be true, but why is it none of those “good” cops seem to be running the “investigations” after even the most outrageous police conduct, which inevitably result in little or no real punishment for the officer? Why don’t they seem to want to get rid of these “bad apples?” Or are these out of control cops indicative of a corrupt system, which encourages and perhaps even demands such behavior?
If we had an honest Congress, they would have held open hearings on the subject of police brutality a long time ago. Instead, we get a group of “representatives” giving a standing ovation to the officers who shot and killed Miriam Carey, a young mother who was lost in Washington, D.C.’s confusing labyrinth of roads, in front of her baby, who was strapped into the rear car seat. And again, there was silence from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as Carey happened to be black. Was not this just a bit more extreme than the incident in Ferguson, for instance? Did it not receive much mainstream media coverage because no reasonable person could possibly have sided with the police?
I would never want to be a cop. The pay isn’t great, and the job can obviously be quite dangerous. But the public has a right to expect better than this. A lot better. I could have listed dozens and dozens of similar horror stories, of innocent people caught in an encounter with the police, in which the supposed “good guys” acted as much like “bad guys” as any genuine criminal. Every time a cop smashes an 80 pound skateboard kid to the sidewalk, or throws an elderly person out of a wheelchair, or claims they were “threatened” by children building a tree house, and we remain silent, we give our tacit approval.
The one thing you will never see, on all those videos available on you tube and elsewhere, is a police officer using excessive force on a real “bad guy.” A Blood, or a Crip, or a member of Hell’s Angels. Or a real life “Goodfella.” The conclusion is inescapable that these often soft officers would be frightened to death of encountering such actual criminals. Instead, their wrath is directed at the most nonthreatening targets imaginable. And even then, they often demand backup and act as if they truly accomplished something. As the “conspiracy theorists” say, the important thing is that the heroic officers get home safe to their families.
It’s impossible to keep current with these instances of police misconduct, as they are continuous. In recent weeks, a cop responded to a call for a medical emergency, and somehow feeling “threatened” by the family dog, fired shots at it, hitting the homeowner’s four year old daughter in the leg instead. This is something else we see again and again; the tremendous ineptitude of police marksmanship. In another recent case, a “no-knock” raid, conducted as happens so often on the wrong address, resulted in police busting windows in the house, and when they couldn’t find any drugs, calling a building inspector who charged the hapless residents with broken windows. It’s hard to write fiction that is less believable.
To quote the great Randy Newman, Jolly Coppers on Parade.