So I’m watching one of my favorite shows on late night tv which is the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and there was a segment done about the civil forfeiture abuse in America. That I’ll explain later in this blog, I also, seen a segment on a segment on Real Time with Bill Maher about the military issuing surplus weapons and tanks to the police in small towns. I thought holy shit!! America is getting scary, when we live in a society that our police need tanks and military weaponry. It wasn’t until I heard about this rampant wave of police brutality that is caught on video. It seems every week a new video goes viral showing someone of color being beaten and even killed.
So let’s talk numbers first before I make my case here. The Huffington Post posted an article at the beginning of the year that indicated only 1% of police brutality reports undergo an investigation in central jersey. Between 2008 and 2012, citizens “filed hundreds of complaints alleging brutality, bias and civil rights violations by officers in more than seven dozen police departments in Central Jersey,” the report reads. Sou… What happens to the other 99 % of the reports? Glad you ask they either exonerated the officers involved, dismiss the complaints as frivolous, determine they need more evidence to help or just leave the cases open until….
That’s only one section of NJ, what about on a national level? The latest stat according to The National Police Misconduct Statistics date back to 2010 which to me are just anachronous and needs to be updated. Out of 4,861 reported police misconduct that implicated 6,613 sworn law enforcement officers and 6,826 alleged victims according to the website. The cases have either been brushed off the Captain’s desk or underreported. So what to the cops have to say about other cops you ask? Again, glad you ask 61% of serious criminal violations that involve abuse of authority by fellow officers are not reported. Probably, because out of the officers that do report these crimes are given the “cold shoulder” 67% of the time. 52% turn the other way when improper police conduct is happening. Last, 25% have witnessed police harassing individuals on race based scenarios.
It’s been no secret that in the African-American community nationwide, there is a distrust towards law enforcement that is taught and passed down through the generations. From a little kid, I was taught to obey the law and comply, comply, comply. Any resistance toward the police results in savage beatings such as Rodney King or worse death. Cases like Sean Bell and Eric Garner among many others are examples of the abuse of power the police wields over minority groups. According to alternet.org a black man is killed every 28 hours or another way to look at is in the year 2012, 313 black men were killed alone. Another scary stat is that within the last ten years 5,000 US citizens have been killed. This trumps the amount of soldiers killed on the field during the Iraq war.
What laws are enabling the police to act so tyrannically? One law in particular that sanction the search and seizure of belongings and cash without just cause or due process is the civil forfeiture laws. Throughout the country abuse of these laws have led to complaints in several states from citizens who have had their money, possessions taken and property destroyed. The law is trivial, because it places the blame and the burden of proof on the victim instead of the officer with little retribution. Even though the law has been ruled unconstitutional, it hasn’t stopped NYPD from waking up victims like Gerald Bryan in his Bronx home and seizing $4,800 dollars in cash. Oh yeah…They also tore out light fixtures, punched holes in walls, marauded through his belongings. In most cases, those on the lower socioeconomic rarely finds justice because they can’t afford a lawyer for the civil case and it is the police officer’s word against their own. Even though both in 1972, and 2002 a judge ruled this law unconstitutional, the fear of appearing soft on crime has postponed any measure to revamp the laws.
One cause of police officers becoming overwhelmingly forceful may lay in the recruitment process. It seems more and more ex-military who, not been able to make the transition from the uniform to civilian have found solace and jobs and solace in the increasing need law enforcement. On the surface who could argue that this seems like a natural fit. The brave men and women who served our country should have a role protecting our citizens. The security is only peripherally deep and may have far more underlining issues than results. Some military come home with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder or brain injuries. Also, there is an issue of handle the use of a firearm. On the battlefield a soldier can shoot their enemy with little hesitation or backlash, we understand it’s war people die in war I get it. In society, though, officers have to show restrain and can’t reach for their gun for every posed threat in front of them. I’m not opposed to the idea,but I don’t want my home a war zone with navy seals patrolling schoo,l parks with hair triggers and self-righteous sense of fortitude that justifies reprehensible acts of malfeasance.
In addition to gaining military philosophy, police departments are given military issued weaponry and vehicles such as the Lenco Bearcat G3. So what happens when congress orders more weapons and tanks than they need? Well, that surplus of ammunition goes to the police of course. At least some of it does, by the way, did you know that the US spends over three times more on the military arms than China our closest second place. Among the artillery that is dispersed are M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers, over 200,000 magazine ammunition, camouflage gear, night-vision equipment and armored cars and aircraft. See how this can turn into a big quagmire and that’s putting it lightly.
The other problem is the increasing number of times a year that police SWAT teams are sent for routine jobs such as inspection of a liquor license in a nightclub in Louisiana back in 2006. In 2010, the SWAT raided barber shops that led to only minor offenses. In Neenah, Wisconsin a town that has a violent crime rate below the national average and a non-existent homicide since 2009 seems to be a new home for SWAT tactical police. Why? In a town less than 25,000 people and a town where you can leave the front door open without fear, so why are these militant type of factions standing guard over them.This is happening in small towns all across the nation.
Wel,l some methods of how crime is detected is under fire as well. Blue CRUSH( Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) is a system use to reduce crime in Memphis,Tennessee by using data collected from cameras throughout the city and compiles and compares data against the maps of the area. Then, officers are assigned to the areas that show the most crime activity in a certain locality. The results have been exceedingly pleasing, murders and robberies both have gone down 36% and vehicle thefts have gone down 55%. In a town where police funding has been cut and splintered, this seems to be the most effective way to distribute officers when and where crime is auguring to be. So why then, if this program seems to be working has funding has been cut from 60 -70% from the 2011-2012 budget. One argument suggests that even, though the budget cuts took away the overtime from these officers the results still show strong numbers. In 2010 43,300 arrests were made, then the funding was reduced and 2011 47,411 arrests were made and the following year 47,700 arrests were made. This has not gone over well with the public as support for the program was fairly high and sweeping it out from under them did not go well.
While programs like Blue Crush seem to be ideal for the dispersion of the police it still doesn’t treat the heart of the police brutality totalitarian regimes that our government is producing and facilitating. Besides public awareness and the power of the video upload what can be done besides viral videos and new media coverage? While it informs the masses, it doesn’t seem to be too preventive or evenprovide protection since Eric Garner died on camera with no help or aid to stop police?
One idea suggested is to have a choice one which police department, we have access to. If you live in an area with several small towns you can call any one of them. If you live in a big city the idea is to break up the department into smaller groups. Other resolutions against police brutality consist of protests, video record them, vote against politicians who tolerate police brutality, work with intermediary groups who are combatants against brutality and legal action. Besides becoming one of the gun-toting vigilantes there really doesn’t seem an approachable solution that seems reasonable.
Until more is done in Washington, we are all potential victims. I’m not disillusioned about what life would be like without the police, nor am I trying to attack those police who are the majority that do their job and chose to face certain death in order to protect those who can’t protect themselves. The dauntlessness of the brave individuals who put on their badge have to face dangers everywhere they go and put themselves and their families at risk of retaliation. For that my gratitude is extended to you. There is no greater service to your country than to protect it and the populace in it. Life without ,police only leads to complete anarchy and the worst parts of Sharia Law enforced. I know this thread of society would unwind fast and completely become the pre Mad Max cataclysm that leads into the barren wastelands and pockets of lawless mutinous folks who govern themselves with little concern of life outside of their circle. My only question is are we heading down this path anyway?
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