Friday, September 18, 2015

Lying In Your Own Bed

The rhetoric emanating from police chiefs near and far is heating up of late and comes across as something of a knee-jerk reaction to the Black Lives Matter campaign. It is a classic case of "pound the table" because your argument is so full of holes you cannot "pound the case." And if people were not actually dying out there the back and forth would almost seem like a school yard argument. "Cops are out there shooting people!" "Oh, yeah, well cops are getting shot too!" Tragic. Cops are in the line of danger and they do get killed. But the inconvenient truth is the number of cops killed on the job has declined, precipitously of late, whilst the other side is seemingly unbounded.  Facts have a way of deflating rhetoric.

We are also hearing from these top cops how "good officers are leaving the profession." Initially this comes as a thinly veiled threat. "You think it is bad now, if you don't shut up it is only going to get worse." But underpinning this statement is the fact that police chiefs know they have good cops and by implication are knowingly retaining not-so-good cops else they'd just have a smaller force.

At the same time we seem to have a never ending stream of folks shot by cops in circumstances that simply cannot pass the reasonable man test. Even in the wild west shooting someone in the back was pretty much a slam dunk hanging offense. Until video surfaced that was not so much the case in North Charleston. Nowadays when it is a service weapon that is fired the blue wall comes up and it is a clean kill. Some will even brag about their marksmanship after killing a woman they've pinned down in a car as if they were some dentist taking a wild beast. Sadly some seem more outraged at the latter than the former.

And we've yet to hear a coherent explanation of officer shootings of drivers. How does it make sense to draw your weapon, drop the safety, take aim and fire at and kill an oncoming driver only to have to jump out of the path of what is now a completely uncontrolled vehicle? Wouldn't it make more sense to cut to the chase and get out of the SUV's path rather than subject bystanders and other occupants of the vehicle to your marksmanship? Deemed a clean kill nonetheless.

Normally the Defense Of All Things Police Contingency would trot out the "bad actor" explanation. But they can't. At least not in the Dunwoody case as we would certainly get rid of a bad actor wouldn't we? And beyond Dunwoody there have been too many incidents over too great a span of time and geography to blame this on a few bad apples or a couple of mismanaged departments. This is systemic. It is nationwide.

And it has been coming for some time.

It started when police departments became profit centers. Wielding firearms for pay is the very essence of mercenary and has no place in a civil society. Some would argue it has no place at all. They started with excessive ticketing then added fine increases and were emboldened by the lack of pushback from our elected officials, their bosses. A system of property confiscation without due process before and damn little after blew the lid off any concept of revenue caps. If it was out there it was theirs for the taking with no one to stop them. It is no wonder some officers think the badge places them above laws that bind the general public because apparently it does.

Should there ever be a slip-up, say getting caught on camera whilst planting evidence, we see police and prosecutors circling the wagons to protect their own, until irrefutable evidence surfaces that exposes the now-standard-procedure police-prosecutorial conspiracy. No matter how blatant or egregious the offense they see only a "thin blue line" separating police from increasingly uncivil civilians.

And then there's that.

Just when did we, the protected and served, become "civilians" and if we're civilians, then what are they? Make no mistake, that rhetoric drives a wedge between the public and the armed forces patrolling our streets. This is no thin blue line.

It seems like we became civilians around the time they armored up. First they started, in all their regalia and assault weapons, to SWAT at us. They continued their paramilitary expansion with tank-like armored vehicles. No doubt drones are next.

Then, police chiefs, at least in this area, decided a special kind of training was needed for their departments. The kind of training that is best found in a place like Israel which is under constant siege by governments and militants sworn to wiping them and their country from the face of the earth. Pretty much sounds like Dunwoody Village, don'tchathink? What could possibly be wrong with training a metro Atlanta suburban force how to treat the general public like they are Hezbollah? Given this, how can any police chief be so removed from reality as to think this would NOT engender public suspicion?

It would be easy to say "They made their beds. Now they have to lie in them." It would also be dismissive and deflective. We have allowed our politicians, police chiefs and their high ranking police staff to create an explosive situation just one spark away from blowing up our lives. The have hollowed out our forces with poorly trained and improperly deployed SWAT ninjas at the bottom and pumped up police potentates at the top. They have been left to their own devices, which has proven dangerous and when supervised by our current crop of elected officials they have been misguided and misdirected.

This fish has rotted at the head. It is time to remove many top ranking police officials and replace the rest. We need aggressive de-militarization. Where there are bad actors they must go. We need community integrated policing with more indians and fewer chiefs. And we need to be prepared to pay for it because the average officer out there doing the right job the right way is disgracefully under-compensated.