The following incidents are cautionary tales for anyone who still thinks that they can defy police officers, even if it’s simply to disagree about a speeding ticket, challenge a search warrant or defend oneself against an unreasonable or unjust charge, without deadly repercussions. The message they send is that “we the people” have very little protection from the standing army that is law enforcement.
For example, Seattle police repeatedly tasered seven-months pregnant Malaika Brooks for refusing to sign a speeding ticket. While Brooks bears permanent burn scars on her body from the encounter, police were cleared of any wrongdoing on the grounds that they didn’t know that tasering a pregnant woman was wrong.
Eight Los Angeles police officers fired 103 bullets at two women in a newspaper delivery truck they mistook for a getaway car during a heated manhunt. The older woman was shot twice in the back and the other was wounded by broken glass. The women were offered a $4.2 million settlement for their injuries, while the officers were reprimanded for acting inappropriately, “retrained” and put back on the streets.
During the course of a routine investigation, a group of Los Angeles police officers beat, punched, and tasered Kelly Thomas, schizophrenic, homeless and suspected of vandalizing cars, until he was brain dead. The two officers charged for their role in the beating were acquitted and will face no time in prison. A third officer who was supposed to be charged will also walk free.
New York City police, pursuing a man who had reportedly been weaving among cars in Times Square, fired into a crowd, shooting a 54-year-old woman in the knee and another woman in the buttocks. Although the officers faced no repercussions for their reckless behavior, prosecutors charged the suspect with felony assault on the grounds that he was responsible for the injuries caused by the police.
Chicago police arrested, beat, and sodomized with a gun Angel Perez, pushing in his eye sockets, driving his elbows back into his head, and sticking a gun into his rectum, all in an effort to “persuade” him to be a drug informant. All of the officers remain in active duty, patrolling the streets.
Houston police shot and killed Brian Claunch, a mentally ill double amputee, who had refused to drop a ballpoint pen. The police officer was cleared of any misconduct and remains on the force. Curiously, in the last six years, the Houston Police Department has yet to find a single police shooting unjustified. Between 2007 and 2012, the HPD officers injured 111 civilians while fatally shooting 109 people.
There can no longer be any doubt that armed police officers, the end product of the government — federal, local and state — and law enforcement agencies having merged, have become a “standing” or permanent army, composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband. Yet these permanent armies are exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights feared as tools used by despotic governments to wage war against its citizens.
That is exactly what we are witnessing today: a war against the American citizenry.
Let that sink in a moment, and then consider that not a day goes by without reports of police officers overstepping the bounds of the Constitution and brutalizing, terrorizing and killing the citizenry. Indeed, the list of incidents in which unaccountable police abuse their power, betray their oath of office and leave taxpayers bruised, broken and/or killed grows longer and more tragic by the day to such an extent that Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.
Making matters worse, when these so-called “peace” officers violate their oaths by bullying, beating, tasering, shooting and killing, they are rarely given more than a slap on the hands before resuming their patrols. Ironically, even when their victims are awarded multi-million dollar settlements, it’s the taxpayers who must sacrifice, scrimp and save in order to pay for their transgressions, all the while, the officers continue to collect regular paychecks, benefits and pensions.
Before I am drowned out by howls of outrage from those who consider all individuals in uniform blameless and noble to a fault, let me acknowledge that there are undeniably many honorable law enforcement officials (some of whom are among my closest friends) who strive to abide by their oath to uphold the Constitution and serve and protect the citizens of their communities. However, they are fast becoming a minority in a sea of police officers who take advantage of their broad discretion and repeatedly step beyond the bounds of the law, ignoring their responsibility to respect the Bill of Rights. These latter individuals are little more than vigilantes — albeit vigilantes with a badge — and our communities are presently being overrun by individuals entrusted with enforcing the law who are allowed to operate above the law and break the laws with impunity.
As I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, for real change to occur, it will take Americans getting outraged enough to speak up and speak out. It will take them showing up at City Council meetings, picketing in front of police stations, and demanding that their concerns, complaints and fears about police brutality — not only for themselves but for their fellow citizens of lesser incomes, darker skin tones and questionable lifestyles — be acknowledged and acted upon.
To put it another way, there can be no hope for freedom unless “we the people” recognize that every time the police shoot an unarmed citizen, taser an elderly person, or beat someone senseless or crash through a homeowner’s door, they are really shooting me, tasering you, and beating senseless your children, your neighbors and your loved ones.
Follow John W. Whitehead on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rutherford_in
Categories: Police State/Civil Liberties