Friday, July 24, 2009

Justice At the Barrel of a Gun

The Smoking Gun has the story and police report here.

This story illustrates why a large segment of the population (and I do not simply mean a large percentage of black men) do not like cops. And this is partly because of the laws we have passed, (especially regarding victimless, non-violent drug "crimes"), but also because cops in this country find it all too easy to arrest or to use deadly force at the first opportunity.

Here is a man, Professor Henry Gates, who is accosted in his own house and is understandably upset, and who undoubtedly is old enough to have experienced not only the current unofficial racism of profiling, but the official and overt racism of the past. He is upset. He feels he has been falsely accused. He follows the police officer outside and continues to insult him. At this point, Sgt. Crowley can take the high road and ignore it. He can get in his car and drive away. There will be no community harm. Mr. Gates does not pose a danger to himself or to the community. In fact, to whatever degree Prof. Gates is upset, it is as a result, rightly or wrongly, of this investigation. When the investigation ends, Prof. Gates will go back inside and contemplate his next move. Peace will be restored.

But no. This is not good enough for Sgt. Crowley. His feelings are hurt. Maybe he remembers what it was like when he was a kid, and the bullies picked on him. It was terrible. He felt helpless. But not today. He is grown up now. He has a gun and a badge. He doesn't have to take this. He knows that this is close enough to the technical description of disorderly conduct for him to make an arrest. Let this guy go to jail. Let him pay for a lawyer to defend himself from these charges. Let's make an example of him, because he dared to fucking question a police officer, and police officers, as we all know, are heroes.

And should anyone question his motives, he can just say that it's the law. Never mind that he's ignored a thousand cases like it without making an arrest. He's just doing his job. It can't be helped. No, Professor, of course this isn't personal. We arrest everyone that yells or causes a commotion.

This is the state of law-enforcement in our country today.

UPDATE: What exactly did Sgt. Crowley think that Gates was going to do that was going to render himself a danger to himself or the community? Was there some infinitesimally small chance that he would go crazy and shoot up the block? I suppose.

But this is another rationale that police use all the time. If there is any, ANY chance that something bad could happen, they feel justified using ANY level of response. Especially if there is ANY chance that a police officer could be hurt.

My idea of a police officer who is a true hero is one who, when he encounters a psychologically impaired man with an 11 inch household hammer, does everything he can to subdue the man without injuring him, even at risk of bodily harm to himself. That is a hero. I want to buy that cop a beer and a burger.

Unfortunately, the general mindset among police is perhaps best illustrated by this AP report on the killing of Gideon Busch in New York in 1999:

"At least five officers arrived and found Gideon Busch, 31, in the basement of his house, wearing a prayer shawl and leather pouches used to hold pieces of scripture, police said. The officers retreated onto the street and Busch followed them, carrying the hammer, said Detective Robert Samuel. Tear gas failed to subdue the man. One police sergeant stumbled to the ground and Busch struck him several times with the hammer, officers said. After Busch ignored several orders to drop the hammer, officers fired at least 12 shots, striking him in the torso at least seven times, police said."

Five officers. At least. And their response is to order him to drop the hammer. Why not tackle him? Don't want to get your hands dirty? Note that he did not begin to use the hammer as a weapon until AFTER they tear-gassed him. The police found a relatively harmless man in a non-violent situation, escalated it into a violent situation, and then shot the man to death. How is this different from surrounding a drunk guy, baiting him into swinging, and then killing him? Fundamentally, it really isn't.

I have personally subdued a violent drunk with a hammer in the course of my job. It's not so hard. But if you're itching for some action, or believe that your job entitles you to absolute safety from ANY bodily harm, no matter how this is achieved (and, by extension, from mental anguish brought on by perceived disrespect), then I suppose you should empty your guns into the suspect. Why not? You're a cop. These are just people. Crazy people, at that.

12 shots? Seven torso shots? What was this guy doing after the third or fourth round hit him in the chest? Bleeding in a disorderly manner? Insulting the cop heart by not dying fast enough?

These cops are not heroes. These cops are assholes whose primary concern is with their own well-being.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck tha police coming straight from the underground!