Posts Tagged ‘police brutality’

gun

I have no real aversion to firearms.  I might be getting more libertarian in my old age, where privacy and individual rights are taking on a position of more and more importance. What bothers me about the gun debate is how passionate and emotional people get about guns, on both sides of the issues, without truly emphasizing the facts we know.

It has been said that statistics can lie, be cherrypicked to support whatever position you’re going to stand behind.  I have researched guns and gun violence extensively, and while there are many pro-gun websites and information hubs full of useful and appropriate positions, I double-checked sources and had difficulty verifying many claims.  Below are  studies and statistics verified through multiple sources.

While I don’t have an aversion to guns, I believe all of us need a good understanding of how guns are more than just tools.  Because they are more that just tools.  It is objectively true that a gun has a different effect on our thoughts and behavior than a hammer, or a screwdriver, or a stapler.  Whether or not you believe you should have an unadulterated right to own a gun, you must acknowledge facts and reality.  So here are some facts!  Read them and make your own decisions.

 

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Under Siege

Posted: October 20, 2015 in Police State
Tags: , , ,

My colleague who shares my office is black.  Most of my co-workers are black.  Detroit is a black majority city (almost 83% at last check).

This morning, my colleague told me about getting pulled over, twice, the day before.  Her son attends a private school in a suburb of Detroit, and each day she provides him transportation.  On the way to the school in the afternoon, she was pulled over for speeding next to a college (where the speed limit inexplicably drops to 20 from a 55).  Fair enough.

Later that day, she was driving home with her son and infant daughter.  She was on the freeway, in the right lane, driving slowly because of the earlier ticket.  She was pulled over, and the police behind her turned on their spotlights and loudspeakers, ordering her to roll down her windows and put her hands outside the vehicle.  Two more state police vehicles pulled up within seconds, and four policemen approached her car with guns drawn; after berating her for not lowering her windows fully (on a 40 degree day with a 10-month old baby in the car), they issued a ticket and told her to come to court for it to be thrown out.

Her crime?  Tinted windows.  Which are completely see-through.  Which were put in by her father, when he owned the vehicle.

Did I mention her father is a police officer?

Police no doubt have an image of who is driving a red Impala with tinted windows.  They have thoughts about who drives from Warren to Detroit, and why that trip is made.

Traffic stops are scary for cops.  There is always the chance someone can be dangerous.  However, most fatalities from traffic stops are from other vehicles on the road; of the 149 officers who died in the line of duty in 2014, 57 were traffic stop related, but only eight were killed by firearms during a traffic stop.*

In 2014, about 1,100 civilians were killed by police.  Most civilian contact with police starts with a traffic stop.

Terror connects police and civilians.  Police worry they will be killed by a dangerous civilian, but know if someone kills a police offer, the full weight of law enforcement will be upon them.  Civilians worry if they put a finger wrong, they will be killed without compunction or punishment.

Police may feel they are under siege, against a groundswell of public opposition.  People of color, in the wrong neighborhoods, driving the wrong cars, have felt under siege for decades.

Civilians are killed at about 21.5% the rate of police.  So far this year, about 922 civilians were killed by the police.  About 100 police officers were killed in the same period.  You’re almost 10 times a likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than vice versa.

And it’s likely the numbers are far greater; statistics about police violence are notoriously unreliable.

Any number of deaths is likely too many.  I’m sure some of these deaths are justifiable homicide.  And it’s horrendous that people die in the line of duty, many of whom are likely good cops doing the right things.

But the numbers don’t lie.  Police approaching normal, routine events as if they are life-or-death situations leads to unnecessary killing, increases civilian anger with law enforcement, and actually makes cops less safe; as people get angrier, the violence against the police will grow.

Both sides need to stand down.  But the ones with the legally sanctioned right to kill need to start.

*(In 2012, over 4,000 officers were wounded/assaulted during traffic stops)

Ever since Ferguson, I’ve been hopeful that we’re living in a historical turning point.  I keep thinking and hoping the greater culture is finally going to open up a bit, to acknowledge systemic oppression.  Hell, just to acknowledge basic inequality here in the states.  And maybe to look at the function police serve.

Probably a lot of this hope comes from my online reading and research.  Sometimes, I think we lose sight of how insular online communities, forums and opinions can be; it’s very difficult to judge how well a viewpoint translates to the wider world if we’re constantly surrounded by agreement and similarities.  Even when we think our views are the best and clear and should be obvious to anyone with a brain.

My parents and I have been growing steadily different, like two paths branching out from a fork in the woods.  Sometimes it feels like miles of darkness between us, with no clear path to connect.  Neither of us is bad or stupid, and we still function and love each other (which is often a rarity in families, I’m very lucky).  And because we still love each other, it’s sometimes difficult to even attempt the long slog through the woods towards each other – what if we end up with only hate and vitriol that will forever stain our relationship?  A film of anger over our love for each other?

Today I figured out what’s been bothering me, niggling away in the back of my brain, about Darren Wilson and Michael Brown.

Someone close to me characterized Brown as a “thug.”  This is a person whose father was a (white) Detroit police officer in the 1960s, and left a few years after the rage and destruction of the 1968 riots.  He was by all accounts a good man and a good cop, although I doubt we ever truly know a person after the fact, or know everything about them from one role they play in their life.  Lineage informs our development and views, and it makes sense to me to support police if your experience was with a family member on the force who was good and decent.  Even if we don’t agree, we can understand why this person might not want to look at bad police behavior.

Now, my favorite documentary is American Hardcore, the movie about the hardcore punk scene in the late 1970s and 1980s; love it or hate it, it’s a nice little slice of the music and attitudes from that period.  In it, there’s a moving scene of Mike Watt and Henry Rollins (separately) talking about police beating up kids at shows.  I can’t describe it, it must be seen.  (watch it here, at 1:19:23, I could not find a youtube of the right part).

Rollins talking is what reminded me of Ferguson.  He looks at the camera incredulously, saying “The police always started it.  It’s not like we go up to uniformed, armed men and say ‘come on’!”

If nothing else, talk with your parents about this.  In my experience of white, middle class, suburban people, which is admittedly not a random sample nor representative of all families, older folks identify with the police.  They understand the fear, the need for protection, the concern that our world is falling apart with violence at every corner and beneath the skin of every person, and feel the police are doing well, acting ethically.

Your job is to bring up the other side.

Without empathy we cannot move forward.  If our job as white people to get our own people; if they cannot hear the words of people of color, they should be able to hear us.  I don’t know if they’ve never known fear of authority (because it looks like them) or if they’ve simply forgotten what it’s like to move in a hostile world.  It really doesn’t matter; people can remember, they can see. they can learn.

If we can get them to feel just a fraction of the fear our communities of color experience, we’ll have gotten somewhere.

A kid doesn’t charge a uniformed, armed officer in a vehicle.

And working to change (or better yet, abolish) a system must be understood as a movement because it’s not working.  It is not working to have 70% of our population constantly living in fear.  It is not working to incarcerate 2/3 of young men of color.  It is not working to act surprised when police act how they are taught to act, and acknowledging this does not condemn the good people who are attempting to function in a broken system.  It’s not working to blame songs like “Fuck Da Police” when police make you feel scared rather than safe.

An act by one person of is enough to condemn the group, then why isn’t an act by one cop enough to condemn the system?

Not all cops, sure.  But then you HAVE to understand – not all [black, brown, young, poor, angry, female] people.

(image via)