Friday, August 7, 2009

More Tasering

Digby has a great post on this here.

Here's another example of why so many people dislike cops. These officers follow what has become the standard procedure. You find a person who is unpleasant, but not dangerous, and you confront him. The person gets angry, because (for good reason), he doesn't like cops. When he insults you, you shoot him, or, if you're at a baseball game in front of thousands of people and are afraid someone might notice him dying, you Taser him. Never mind that he has shown no sign of violence. Never mind that Tasering hurts like hell, or that he could go into cardiac arrest, or that it's likely that rendering a drunk person unconscious might result in him falling and seriously injuring himself. Let's not concern ourselves with the victim's (yes, victim is the word I wanted to use) civil rights, or his right to free speech or his right to hate cops. And it's obvious that we don't give a damn about the physical safety of these people.

After all, as the officer is clearly heard at the 3:30 mark or so in defending his action, this man was "belligerent".

Belligerent, of course, is a catch all term which means he offended the personal sensitivities of Mr. Hero Cop, who couldn't, with the help of 4 of his friends, deal with a drunk guy watching a baseball game. Belligerent is kind of like the word "tumultuous", which is how officer Crowley described Professor Gates behavior, and was his rationale for arresting him. Civilians should realize that the cop definition of those two words is "behavior that indicates that the subject does not respect my authority." In other words, if you don't sit there and say "Yes, Officer", no matter what injustice the officer is perpetrating upon you, then you are being unlawfully belligerent or tumultuous, and for that behavior, you can be subject to excessive force and unlawful arrest.

Why are we starting to see more and more of these bad cops? I, of course, have a theory.
I like to think that once upon a time people respected cops. Sure, they might pull you over and give you a speeding ticket, but speeding is one of those things we shouldn't do. It's harmful to society; it unfairly puts other people at risk. And the rest of the things that cops did were things that needed to get done, and people respected them for doing them.

And then we declared a war on drugs. Today, cops spend huge amounts of time trying to put people in jail for using drugs in what is often a safe and societally responsible way. The more that this is done, the more people dislike cops and what they do. And then at some point most people just decide that being a cop isn't cool anymore. The people that I know who would make great cops wouldn't never even consider it. And that is a direct result of the drug war.

This, I believe, is where we are today. Especially among young people. And young people are going to be the next generation of cops.

What kind of people, then, do you get applying for police jobs? You get people who believe in all of these policies, and who necessarily believe that they are qualified to decide what kinds of substances you should be allowed to ingest. In short, you get control freaks with a sense of superiority and the belief that they deserve to sit in judgement of other peoples' actions.

These are also the same kind of people who like to shoot people with 50,000 volts of electricity for daring to talk back to a cop.

It's just a theory.


  1. Thanks Pete- I think people have practically stopped talking about police brutallity because it seems like such a permanent part of our American system. But one of the most distinguishing characteristics between most other western countries and America is 1- the unbelievable # of cops we think we need here and 2- how afraid our citizens are of cops. Just over the border in Canada you rarely see cops and people our age definitely aren't afraid of them for no reason. Why on earth would and should we accept this? Another interesting note- after September 11th most local cops (at least in Wisconsin) received super duper military anti-terrorist training. I know for a fact this increased the incedence of police brutality in Madison, Wisconsin.
    So I guess my question is, with the federal government controlling our local forces through war on terror and war on drugs money, do you think there are things that we can do about it? (besides talking- thanks again for the post!)

  2. I think that we have a prison/law enforcement industrial complex that has become so powerful that it is extremely difficult to fight. They tend to control the direction and content of the debate, and they are still looked to as authorities by people who do not realize how the system has changed. And there is virtually no oversight; the court system, with the help of republican appointed judges, does little more than try to safeguard evidentiary processes; the cops have already done the damage by the time anything gets this far.

    But I do think there are things that can be done. And I think talking is at the top of the list. Refusing to accept pleas in misdemeanor drug cases, protests, and jury nullification in all non-violent drug cases.

    But I think that, more than anything, we have to stop being afraid. We cannot be afraid that fighting the good fight may affect our jobs. We cannot be afraid to speak out against cops, and the philosophy of incarceration.

    I also think that the best near term hope for reforming the "justice" system in America comes from the possibility of decriminalizing drugs. This is where all the money comes from. And an end to the "War on Terror" is a close second.

    I thought Obama represented the best chance we've had to do these things, and maybe he still is. But it's not looking too good.