Excessive Force

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I took this picture in Beverly Hills, CA two weekends ago, while protests were breaking out around the United States over the issue of the disproportionate use of excessive force by police departments against African Americans. I don’t know what the quite apparently homeless woman had done but she was in obvious distress at this moment and loudly vocalizing her displeasure with the actions being taken against her.

I have nothing else to say, really, about this conveniently relevant photo that fell into my lap because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Well, other than the fact that my heart goes out to the woman, and also to the cop.

Back before there was such a thing as a blog, when Macromedia Dreamweaver was the coolest thing on the planet, I used it to make and publish a handful of websites. One of them was an anonymous rant against the police. I made it to publicize and characterize for the world-wide-web the never ending cycle of unjustified police shootings here in Southern California.

I had on it the story of the black girl sleeping in her car in the rain at night who police shot while she was unconscious and possibly even overcome by carbon monoxide by her car’s running engine. There was the story of the unstable 130 lb 16-year-old whose family called 911 because they were worried about his erratic behavior and who, when surrounded by police, was whirling in a circle keeping the cops at bay with a broom stick. He was shot 9 times. There was the infamous story of the homeless 90 lb woman in her 60s who was shot for pulling out a screwdriver when stopped by police for having a shopping cart back when the police were instructed to arrest homeless people for shopping cart theft.

Let me repeat. I made a website about a dozen years ago (or more) to publicize questionable killings of black and hispanic people in California. That’s ALL the website was about. The police shooting and killing blacks and hispanics.

Details are very very important. Details are why a progressive leftist person who started a website decrying police violence, along with millions of others, find themselves unable to get behind a protest movement based on an incident that doesn’t have the right set of circumstances and facts to build the kind of systemic change that is needed upon.

That is Ferguson, in my eyes.

The Staten Island tragedy, however, and the I Can’t Breath movement and protests that have been growing out of it, represent, in my opinion, a truly valid protest movement that was born by a clearly indefensible example of unreasonable force by the police resulting in the death of a citizen.

I am deeply disturbed by the death at the hands of the police of Eric Garner in New York.

More power to this movement and to these protests.

I’m putting what I’m about to say out there because I don’t see it on protest signs, I don’t hear it coming from the talking heads on television and I certainly don’t envision the police opening up on this point. So here it is.

Policies and Procedures

Police policies and procedures are largely written by the police with a big assist from police unions. They are the instructions the police write for themselves as to how they are to go about every aspect of their jobs.

In all the years that these shooting have been happening in Southern California, through multiple federal investigations and consent decrees imposed on multiple law enforcement agencies… the one thing that has remained almost untouchable by civilian oversight or the government is police policies and procedures. They’ve changed very little. The police continue to get away with discharging their service weapons into human beings who did not need to be shot to death.

If you want to fight the police the way to do it is find a way to impose civilian oversight over the re-writing of THEIR OWN POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.

Policies and procedures. It’s all right there in those two words. The police write their own. As long as the police make the rules for their encounters with the public, of how and when to use force, they are are going to continue to escalate situations, in the tragic case of Eric Garner, INTRODUCE violence, in that case, DEADLY violence, over minor non-violent and even, I believe, non-criminal violations.

Who gets this? Southern Californian activists. This region of the country is Ground Zero for questionable police shootings of unarmed, mostly (but not always) minority, citizens.

So it would be fitting that right now, as I write this, at this very hour, the LA County Board of Supervisors, with protestors raging outside, is taking up the issue of a civilian oversight board for the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

This was voted down last year but with two new members on the board supporting it there is hope that it may pass this time. It’s important that there is civilian oversight and that it not be simply the brand that rubber stamps whatever the police departments decide.

“We are encouraged that this new board is moving forward and has the political will to shift the course where the previous board fell short.” – Jaz Wade “Dignity & Power Now”

I’m not so encouraged, honestly, or nearly as optimistic as Ms. Wade but I am hopeful. If you’re in LA please keep an eye on the news as this story is being covered by all the local television channels.

7 comments

  1. I believe that this is only one step in the process. The other side of it is that many police officer are killed during routine traffic stops and so many are taunted, hit, maimed and killed in the attempt to protect people’s rights to live free from violence. People must stop resisting arrest and respect the law enforcement officers when they begin an arrest. People do not respect the law and are actually taught by some not to obey the law but to fight or run from them. Ferguson case…this guy just committed a crime and then tried to get the gun from the cop that responded. He was a big dude and I probably would have done the same if he was after me. He didn’t stop what he was doing and obey the cop. He kept coming. All the witnesses said that is what happened which is why he wasn’t charged. Truth prevailed but people are attempting to twist it into something it is not. It’s not about race. It’s about right and wrong. The New York case had the man resisting arrrest again. No one talks about that and says the man was wrong for resisting. What would have happened if he would have said ok, you got me and put his hands out to be cuffed and taken down town. The answer is he would be alive today. Where is the responsibility? It ultimately on our society…if we don’t learn to govern ourselves and be responsible for our actions, then someone else will govern us. Respect for authority? Oh, yeah, I remember, it vital to a society to live in peace on both sides of the law.

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