Archive for the ‘Police’ Category

America’s Unfunniest Home Videos

June 7, 2010

Nothin’ to see here, move along now.

Anybody with the privilege of an Internet connection can do a search for “police brutality” on YouTube to see that there are tons of cops out there doing ruthless, illegal shit to innocent people all the time. I’m not talking about kicking a murderer while he’s handcuffed after a high speed chase. Cops are out there every day engaging in sociopath behavior that would make Joe Pesci’s character from Goodfellas proud: tazing little kids and old ladies, shooting people in the back, pushing women down stairs, yelling racist slurs while stomping on innocent bystanders, kicking people off their bikes, shooting people’s dogs, and pretty much everything short of water-boarding baby panda bears.

This is nothing new, of course – check the story of Jon Burge for a good example of how systemic this behavior is. Burge was a Chicago cop who used Viet Cong tactics to torture false confessions out of black men for decades and was promoted for his viciousness and even protected from prosecution by Chicago’s current Mayor, Richard Daley. Fortunately, the ubiquity of camera phones has finally given regular people a safety net against unchecked police brutality. I use the term “safety net” because catching cops in the act is really the only chance of protection against the wrath of police – it might not save you, but at least you have a chance.

Usually after the cops assault (or murder) an innocent person, they blame the victim. Good luck trying to win your case or pursue a civilian complaint against the police when it’s your word against theirs. Video evidence has been the smoking gun that’s saved an increasing number of people from false charges and in a few cases, the tables have even been turned when public outrage resulted in cops actually being charged with their crimes (gasp!).

Since cops only like rules when the rules are on their side, now they’re trying to destroy our only safety net. According to Wendy McElroy, “a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer. Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.”

What’s next – are they going to take a cue from Jennifer Lopez and pass a laws that makes it illegal to look a cop in the eye?

If the cops beat your ass, but no one was around to film it, did your ass ever really get beaten?

The “no filming cops” rule could dovetail interesting with another emerging trend in law enforcement: the Blackwaterization of police departments. The San Francisco Chronicle revealed this week that the relatively affluent town of San Carlos may deal with its budget crisis by “dissolving its Police Department and outsourcing the job of law enforcement.” The mayor of neighboring Google City – oops, I mean Redwood City – said “There’s no question in my mind that this is the wave of the future.” (Bummer. I was still hoping that hover-boards would be the wave of the future.)

Anyway, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to speculate on the disastrous confluence of these unconstitutional trends of not being able to record the police and outsourcing police departments.

Just remember: Power will always seek to turn the odds in its favor, justify even the most unjustifiable atrocities and humiliate anyone who dares oppose it.

Let’s check out a few stories from this week’s news to see this equation in action: Sarah Palin blamed environmentalists for the BP disaster; a Clear Channel radio station in Ohio sponsored a contest to send listeners to Arizona “to chase aliens and spend cash in the desert;” Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, wants to prosecute U.S. citizens aboard the ship that was attacked by Israeli commandos for supporting terrorism while the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer denies that there’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza…

As this never-ending list of laugh-until-you-cry hypocrisy, nihilistic celebration of misery and proud ignorance unspools like ticker-tape charting the crash of what Jeremy Rifkin called “the empathic civilization,” I get the feeling that humanity is not too big to fail.

And for better or worse, there won’t be any bailout when this market collapses.

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Instead of “Fatal Gunshot Wound,” Let’s Just Call it “an Ouchie”

May 1, 2010

A courtroom artist's depiction of Officer Johannes Mehserle

When is somebody who gets shot in the back while they’re lying face down on the ground not “a victim”?

On New Year’s Eve 2009, Johannes Mehserle, a white BART cop, killed Oscar Grant by shooting the young African American man while he was laying face-down on the ground. Following the release of a widely-viewed YouTube video and youth-led riots through the streets of Oakland, Mehserle was charged with murder. The trial was moved to Los Angeles because it was deemed that Mehserle “couldn’t get a fair trial” in Oakland.

Now Mehserle’s lawyers are trying to stack the rhetorical deck by convincing the judge that a guy who got shot to death by a cop should not be referred to as “the victim” – but “Mr. Grant,” instead.  That certainly sounds a lot more respectful “bitch-ass n*gger” – the term that BART cop Tony Pirone used to address Grant shortly before Mehserle shot him.

The lawyers also want Johannes to be called “Officer Mehserle” rather than “the defendant,” even though Mehserle quit the force six days after the shooting.

As long as they’re re-writing legal definitions, why stop there? If they really want to win over the jury why not really get creative?

Why not refer to Mehserle as “the hero” and Grant as “the thug”? Why not manipulate the YouTube video and sprinkle some digital PCP on Grant and put a gun in his hand?  In fact, instead of showing actual footage of the murder, why not just show the jury re-runs of the TV show “Cops” until they decide to acquit Mehserle so they can just go home?

A courtroom artist's depiction of Mr. Grant.

SF Cops Are Shutting Down Parties And It’s Not Just Because They Think Dubstep is Kinda Played Out

November 19, 2009

If the police are gonna bust DJs, can they at least go after on the ones that play really bad trance?

First, they came for your fajitas. Now, they want your J. Dilla records.

The SF Weekly just posted a story today about how cops are busting into parties and fundraisers and ganking people’s laptops and sound systems. When I first heard about this, I got really angry. Like how I get when I hear that someone was brutally murdered and it wasn’t Glenn Beck.

It just seemed so ridiculous and unjust that in a city plagued with dozens of unsolved murders every year the cops would focus on busting up little dance parties. Every night, the streets are crawling with junkies breaking into cars, bike thieves and much worse, yet the po-po’s decide to crack down  on consenting adults who want to have a few drinks and listen to loud music after the bars close (we’re not talking about epic raves filled with 14-year-old ecstasy fiends and Special K zombies here).

And this type of “enforcement” is obviously highly selective – you know they would never dream of busting into an “unpermitted” late night party in a Pacific Heights mansion and confiscate every laptop in the house.

But then, I saw this story about a cop tazing a 10-year-old girl in Arkansas – and his chief defending it. And then I saw this other story about Detoit cops stealing millions of dollars from innocent people. And then I saw this article in the Guardian about how SF’s new police chief is probably looking to reduce the power of the Office of Citizen Complaints… and I wasn’t so angry anymore. Just hungry…. Hungry for revenge!

Who wants to bust into a cop party with me and steal all their donuts?!

That’s not a noose, it’s a “friendship necklace”

July 31, 2009
"So then this black dude called me a racist, and I was like, 'what are you talkin' about, boy? I'm just expressin' myself. You're playing the race card. You're the real racist. That's what I told him."

"So then this black dude called me a racist, and I was like, 'What you talkin' about, boy? You're playing the race card. You're the real racist.' That's what I told him."

The Boston cop who was suspended for dropping the term “jungle monkey” into an email about Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. told a Boston TV station earlier today: “I am not a racist.”

Gotta wonder what this guy’s definition of “racism” is. Like, if referring to African-Americans with dehumanizing insults doesn’t qualify… what would it take? This cop’s racism bar is clearly set pretty damn high.

Maybe he’s one of those guys who doesn’t consider getting a blow job “cheating.”  Maybe he’s one of those guys who who thinks it’s OK to treat immigrants like crap because “they have it better here than in their own countries anyway.” Maybe he doesn’t take showers because he’s “just going to get dirty again, so what’s the point?”

These are all possibilities which may never be confirmed, but one thing is definitely for sure… this guy is a total douche.

"Ask my black friend, he'll tell you I'm totally cool."

"Ask my black friend, he'll tell you I'm cool."

You Have the Right to Remain Silent, So Shut Up

July 28, 2009
Prove it.

Prove it.

In the first days following the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr, before the story got put under an electron microscope and dissected from a million different angles, much of the debate was focused around interpreting the police report. As the initial headlines appeared, everyone from mainstream pundits to bloggers seemed to include some variation of the phrase “I read the police report” into their commentary. The tone of this phrase often seemed to imply that the police report could be taken at face value.

After President Obama learned the hard way that even mildly criticizing police is like wading into a pool of piranhas, much of the conversation has remained within the confines of discussing relevant and complex, but relatively predictable, issues such as racial profiling. Even among the pro-Gates crowd, most voices seem to be demanding more “sensitivity” from the police, instead of more accountability. Instead of using this as a “teaching moment,” as Gates has called for, to discuss racial dynamics around law enforcement, why can’t this be teaching moment to ask why so many cops lie in police reports and get away with it?

The woman who called 911 on Gates finally came out today and said, through a lawyer, that Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, completely fabricated a conversation that takes place in the official police report – so this incident would seem provide a good case study to examine this issue. I’m not saying at all that racial factors should be absent from this conversation or even that I necessarily believe this woman any more than Crowley or Gates. I’m just pointing out that police demand to be taken at their word – as their collective reaction to Obama’s common-sense remark that arresting an old man with a cane inside his own house after he’s show identification is stupid – proves.

But if the police are going to demand such unquestioning trust, they need to prove that violent psychos aren’t using the power of the badge to go around starting fights, beating the crap out of people in order to steal their fajitas, tasing kids, assaulting women… and getting away with it! Although a new, outrageous police brutality video seems to be popping up every few days now, the police still seem systematically determined to protect every brutal maniac with a badge instead of reforming their organizations. In this example, the cop who pushed the woman down the stairs and charged HER with felony assault was not fired or arrested – he was punished by losing 8 vacation hours and he continues to patrol Orlando with a gun and a badge:

Sometimes, as in the case of this video featuring a drunk off-duty Chicago cop whaling on a female bartender half his size, the lies in the police report are just too egregious to withstand the visual evidence, and the officer actually loses his job. However, even in these rare instances when cops get fired for their criminal behavior, the system still works to protect them from the laws that apply to everyday citizens. Despite the unprovoked ass-whooping he unleashes on this unfortunate woman, Anthony Abbate was sentenced to only two years of probation and anger management classes (mainstream media in Chicago defended this sentence as “fair”):

I could post dozens of other videos from the last year alone that are equally horrifying, and that fact alone should be enough to raise questions such as: Why is demanding police accountability seen as somehow subversive; Why is this systemic abuse of power generally tolerated in our society; and How can we be expected to trust the police when they have proven, as an institution, over and over and over again, that they seem more willing to cover up their own criminal behavior than eradicate this corruption?

Of course, there lots of people and organizations out there asking these questions and working to demand accountability, but if the Gates episode wasn’t enough to elevate these questions into mainstream debate, I wonder how many more Amadou Diallos, Sean Bells and Oscar Grants it’s going to take.

Considering the fact that some cops have actually weighed in on the Gates arrest to say that anyone who mouths off to a cop is lucky not to get shot and that Taser just unveiled their new model of souped-up stun guns (despite the fact that the regular old version has been involved in 351 deaths in the U.S., according to Amnesty International), it doesn’t seem likely that we’re about to see a new wave of “sensitivity” wash over the boys in blue any time soon (Yes, I know there are lots of female cops, but it almost always seem to be the bros who are causing problems).

Now, I’m not trying to say that there aren’t plenty of cops out there who are trying to be the good guys and provide a much-needed service, since there are obviously a lot of scum bags out there. But don’t expect me to take a cop’s word over anyone else’s until I see the police keeping themselves in line instead of just lashing out at everyone who tries to make them play by their own rules. For example, would you still have your job if you called someone a “bitch ass nigger” (just like Tony Pirone did as he was attacking Oscar Grant right before Grant was murdered)? Didn’t think so…

I'm not talking about you guys, you guys seem cool... I'm just going to walk away now.

I'm not talking about you guys, you guys seem cool... I'm just going to walk away now.

Drunk on Power… and Booze

April 17, 2009

drunk_cop

We’ve all had to deal with cops who are way too amped up on their own swagger. Maybe you rolled through a stop sign at a desolate intersection or maybe you were minding your business, just puffing a spliff in a park on beautiful day, and then all of the sudden you find yourself accosted by a po-po eager to remind you how much power he has. Staring into the reflective sunglasses of a guy with a gun, smiling at you with a grin that makes it clear that he’s fantasizing about doing something really, really bad to you is one of the scariest situations you can find yourself in. But you know what can make coming face to face with a pissed off cop even worse? When he’s drunker than Charles Bukowski at the racetrack.

According to the LA Times, “There has been a dramatic upswing in the number of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested for alcohol-related offenses in recent years, suggesting a growing drinking problem within the department.”

The article proceeds to reveal details of drunk cops puking all over the place and extremely creepy stories like this one: “In one case, a deputy followed a bar hostess to her car, flashed his badge, told her he’d ‘like to molest her’ and kissed her on the neck. He displayed his handgun before kissing her again, according to the report. The deputy pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace and was suspended for 15 days.”

Despite this flagrantly dangerous and increasingly problematic situation, the police unions have opposed attempts to crack down on this behavior, saying that it would “endanger deputies.” So let’s get this straight: the unions are saying that it will be better not to regulate drunk, armed, off-duty cops than to protect everyone else from some wasted officer who wants to, say, snatch your fajitas. That’s fuct.

In related news, police are now officially allowed to wield machetes on coke and throw darts at people while huffing nitrous balloons .