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?
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.