Showing posts tagged police brutality
For years, I have declared a preference for taking my chances with criminals rather than with the police.
Criminals usually want my property, not to control my life or to cage me like an animal. With criminals, I can pull a gun in self-defense. Until lately, however, the average person has scowled my way whenever I voiced that preference.
The situation is changing. A tipping point in the public attitude toward law enforcement is under way… finally! A significant number of people have realized that America is either currently a police state or it is teetering on the crumbling edge to one.
Part of the sea change comes from the deliberate militarization of police departments, where tanks, drones, and SWAT teams have become standard. A military-style training, in which civilians are viewed as combatants, has deepened the antagonism of the police toward the public so that violent incidents are commonplace. Many police officers no longer bother to disguise their savagery.
Police at the University of California, Davis who pepper-sprayed peaceful, seated Occupy protesters a year ago come to mind. Why should they be subtle? Their anti-terrorism mandate has erased the restraints of civil liberties.
Meanwhile, there is no oversight. The police define their own rules of conduct, police departments investigate their own misdeeds behind closed doors, and district attorneys and police unions aggressively shield the criminal acts of cops. Victims who complain are often charged with elastic crimes, such as “obstructing law enforcement,” which are later dropped in exchange for their silence.
Part of the sea change also comes from the increased use of law enforcement against children in public schools. Last May, New Mexico police officer Chris Webb was visiting a school for career day when he asked a group of young boys to wash his police car. A 10-year-old refused. According to an ensuing lawsuit against Webb and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, the officer told the youngster, “Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police.” Webb then used a Taser on him, sending 50,000 volts of electricity into the 100-pound boy’s chest. He lost consciousness. Instead of seeking medical care, however, Webb merely carried him into the principal’s office. The officer claims it was all an accident and points to his punishment — a three-day suspension — as proof the police department believes him.
The incident is not isolated. Last month, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against a Mississippi school district that arrests students, handcuffs them, and ships them off to youth court for minor infractions like breaking the dress code.
Among the defendants are judges of the county’s youth court and the Mississippi Division of Youth Services. They are accused of violating the children’s constitutional rights through such practices as incarcerating them for days without a probable cause hearing.
The backlash goes on and on. The raw money grabs being made by police in the name of civil forfeiture have also sparked fury. Under civil forfeiture, property that was involved in a crime can be confiscated and sold by police departments. It doesn’t matter if the victims of the forfeiture have committed no crime or have never been charged with one.
On Nov. 5, for example, a pivotal civil forfeiture case commenced in Boston. Over a 20-year period, a handful of drug crimes were committed in a motel owned by Russ Caswell and his wife; the “crime scenes” represented about 0.05% of their total rentals. Nevertheless, the federal government and the local police department are attempting to take the Caswells’ $1 million motel and split the proceeds. Ironically, the money grab arose because the Caswells themselves reported suspicious activity.
These and other factors, including the rise of YouTube videos that capture police brutality, contribute to the discomfort with which average people are beginning to view the police.
The importance of this change cannot be overstated.
Years ago, I interviewed several dozen sex workers and surveyed about 200 more for the purpose of writing a book about the realities of the “profession.” The women expressed one political attitude over and over: They did not trust the police, the courts, or any aspect of law enforcement. They recognized the legal system for what it is — an enemy. From visceral experience, the women knew law enforcement as a corrupt system that brutalizes harmless people and criminalizes peaceful acts.
Their attitude was refreshing. The single greatest obstacle over which I used to stumble in arguing for fundamental legal change was the inculcated belief that the police were there “to serve and protect.”
I argued in vain that the police have no duty whatsoever to protect people from criminals; that’s not their job description. The courts have been clear on this point for over a century. In 1856, the U.S. Supreme Court (South v. Maryland) found that law enforcement officers had no responsibility to protect anyone. Their duty was to enforce the law in general. More recently, in 1982 (Bowers v. DeVito), the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals held that “there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.” Later court decisions concur.
Police vehicles often sport slogans like “Proud to serve!” If they aren’t there to protect you, the question becomes who are they serving? The courts have answered: Police departments exist to enforce the law. The police serve the government, not the people. They uphold the law with total disregard for whether their actions create or prevent violence. If government decides that certain forms of consent between adults must not be tolerated, then the police will draw their guns and barge into otherwise peaceful situations. To uphold an unjust law, they will create violence and victims.
To understand the reality that the police are not there for you is an extremely valuable piece of information. If you are depending on them to protect you, to guard you against real crime, to stop intruders or muggers and to prosecute after the fact, you have been sorely misled.
Every citizen who wants to be free must prepare for his or her own defense against violence. The market is there to assist with security services, alarm systems, property monitoring devices, ever more sophisticated locks, and, of course, guns of all sorts. In the end, we are responsible for our own security. The state will not come to your rescue. On the contrary, it is the market that provides the means by which we are rescued from the state.
Wendy McElroy is Author, lecturer, and freelance writer, and a senior associate of the Laissez Faire Club.
It’s a shame it tooks the recent bouts of violence from cops to bring attention to an issue blacks have been struggling with for decades
The parents of a suicidal 16-year-old boy who was shot to death by a SWAT team sniper in suburban Atlanta have spoken out for the first time against the unjustified actions of the police.
Andrew Messina had threatened to kill himself after getting a bad grade in school last May. He took his father’s .357 Magnum, took swigs of alcohol from a bottle of Martini, and phoned his father to relay his suicidal thoughts – all while recording himself with a video camera.
“I do know personally I really don’t want to live,” Andrew told his father on the phone. “So you should just let this happen if you really love me.”
While he was on the phone, Lisa Messina, the boy’s mother, called the police and told the 911 operator that they should send “just one” police car to make sure her son wouldn’t panic.
“It just happened so fast, and then he went upstairs,” Lisa Messina told CBS Atlanta. “He had a gun in his hand, and he had bullets in the other hand.”
But instead of sending a police officer, the SWAT team showed up at the suburban Atlanta home, together with an armored tank and a sniper. Law enforcement officers cut off the telephone lines and put negotiators on the line to talk to the distraught teen while the house was surrounded.
On the line with negotiators, the boy angrily demanded to continue speaking with his father. Shortly thereafter, a sniper set up across the street, about 65 yards from the boy, who was on the phone near the glass door to the house.
“A minute later we heard this horrendous cannon shot and he was dead,” said Nick Messina, the boy’s father.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s office said the shooting came in response to Andrew breaking a pane of a glass door with his gun and refusing to put it down, thereby putting the officers around the house at risk. But the family claims Andrew never pointed the gun at an officer and was therefore killed without a valid reason.
“They brought an army to take out a 16-year-old-boy. To kill a 16-year-old boy,” said Nick in the interview.
“We thought that they would (be) experts in being able to diffuse the situation. And that was not what happened. Instead of the fire being put out, they brought gasoline,” he added.
The family’s attorney, Chuck Pekor, believes that even the glass door was not broken by the teen’s gun, thereby giving the sniper no reason to shoot.
“Not a single officer out there, not a one, ever saw a gun come through the hole where the break was,” he said.
Additionally, the lawyer believes the positioning of his gunshot wounds proves that Andrew was not a threat. Since the bullet entered the right side of his body, it means he must have been facing the opposite direction of the police team when he was shot, thereby not being a threat.
CBS Atlanta attempted to interview the sniper and the commander of the scene, but the sheriff’s office refused, telling reporters that “the case is closed.”
The Messina family is currently working on a lawsuit against the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
I don’t understand your country. At all.
Cop Who Beat Special Needs Student Accused of Rape
The notorious Dolton cop who ended up on the front pages for beating up a 15-year-old special ed student and being involved in a shady self-defense shooting has hit the headlines once more, this time being accused of rape and facing jail time.
The 38-year-old Christopher Lloyd is known for the May 2009 incident when he was caught on the school surveillance cam video breaking the nose of a special needs student because his shirt wasn’t tucked in. After the video leaked online, Dolton Police Department refused to disclose the name of the officer responsible for violently throwing the boy into the lockers, then smashing his face to the floor while hitting him repeatedly, which left the special ed student Marshawn Pitts with a broken nose, busted lip and cuts all over his face. The incident was covered up and justified by both Dolton officials and Academy of Learning High School Pitts was attending.
This isn’t the first time Lloyd was involved in a police brutality incident. In February 2008, his ex-wife filed a wrongful death suit against him after he shot her new husband Cornell McKinney 24 times in front of their children. Chicago police accepted his claims of acting in self-defense and he got away with only a short-time suspension.
Lloyd finally ended up behind bars after an Indiana woman accused him threatening her with a knife at her home in Hammond and raping her with a pillow over her head. He is now facing up to 20 years in prison for rape, criminal deviate conduct, criminal confinement and sexual battery. He’s being held on a $110,000 bail in an Indiana jail while awaiting trial.