“Protect and serve.” When reading those words everyone knows what they refer to. This is just one of the many little hyperbolic phrases we’re exposed to constantly throughout our lives. We become oblivious to its meaning from overexposure. It is plastered on police cars and billboards. It can be seen scrolling in cascading, multi-colored fonts in times sqaure. Right next to it may be the words, “For your protection.” Those may be boldly displayed next to security cameras or x-ray sensors. “Protect and serve.” “For your protection.” What do these words actually mean to our society? What do they mean to you and the people you love? Right now, perhaps more than any other period in our country’s history, it is important that we define these words with a collective, specific and focused attention. Why? The police in this country are out of control.
Police brutality and militarization in the United States is absolutely not a new phenomenon. Our country’s success was built by capitalizing on the unpaid production of goods and services by slaves. The Slave-Master mentality is engrained into our nation’s, as well as the world’s, psyche. For thousands of years before our nation had its genesis the notion of slavery was not debated. It simply was. It was part of the social contract. There were slaves. There were people who owned slaves. The two were not meant to intermingle. It kept things “pure.” Nietzche reminds us in his classic work “Beyond Good and Evil” that civilization was not created by civilized men. It was not created by humanitarian men. It was not created by selfless men. It was created by brutal conquerors who used any and all means at their disposal to create a society in their image. It should not be suprising, then, how pervasive violence is used as the means of “solving” societal imbalances.
During the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, our nation ran headlong into this realization. There was an outpouring of racist, unfettered violence against the black community. Decades of silent hatred became a cacophony of rage. Leaders and revolutionaries like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X became timeless symbols of both promising futures and the tragic realities that prevent those futures from coming into existence. Those once relegated to silent obediance rallied behind these men and others like them. Together, they all bore the brunt of the established aggression of the fire hoses, the pepper spray, the bullets, the batons and all the weapons of mass pacification that were available at the time. Many lives were lost. Many were forever altered. The message, however, was heard. Over the past 50-60 years we have seen social reform legislation take center stage. There is an underlying problem, however, that I feel has gone largely ignored in that time. That problem is the inherent tendency of history to repeat itself.
Late at night on March 3, 1991 George Holiday unwittingly made history when he captured home video footage of Rodney King, Bryant Allen, and Freddie Helms being savagely beaten by eight officers of the LAPD. Rodney King recieved the worst of the beating and his subsequent trial became a media circus in which subjects of race, drug use, police brutality etc… were the topics of discussion. Despite Rodney King being tazered, handcuffed and brutally struck 33 times by the police batons of eight men in uniform without any evidence of violence against officers, all officers being charged were eventually aquitted. In the wake of this brutal beating, riots began to break out all across L.A. The riot squads showed up in full black and blue kevlar attire. The tear gas was deployed. The rubber bullets were shot. These riots lasted nearly a week and went on to cause more than 50 reported deaths, over 2000 injuries and over 11000 arrests.
Following the shooting and subsequent aquittal, 41st U.S. president George H.W. Bush responded to the ensuing riots on television by saying, “It’s not a message of protest. It’s been the brutality of a mob, pure and simple. And let me tell you, I will use whatever force is necessary to restore order.” When first told of the officers’ aquittal, Bush mused, “The court system has worked. What’s needed now is calm respect of the law.” That’s right. Police will act invulnerably with precise, brutal force. Citizens must remain calm. Calmly respect the law as it is completely subverted and used to protect those that are spraying you and your family in the eyes with pepper spray. Why am I talking about a president’s response to a ruling in a police brutality case that happened nearly 25 years ago? Let us fast forward to 2014 to find out.
On August 9, 2014, in a small suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, Michael Brown, an 18 year old resident of Ferguson, MO, was shot 12 times by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. Michael Brown was black. Darren Wilson was white. Brown was fatally wounded. Wilson was not indicted. Riots broke out. Hundreds have been hurt and arrested; and the subjects of race and police brutality are, once again, topics of media fanfare and political discussion. For months, President Obama was reluctant to weigh in on the “Ferguson Unrest,” as many have taken to calling it. Less than one hour after the grand jury’s decision NOT to indict Darren Wilson, President Obama broke his silence, “We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” He declares it “an understandable reaction” to be angry at this decision. He urges “anyone who protests this decision to do it peacefully.”
Almost 25 years later and it is the same homogenized, press-packaged response we have grown accustomed to seeing from political leaders in our country. How is it logically possible that a black man from a lower-middle class upbringing becomes the first black president in United States history and has nothing else to say about white cops killing unarmed, black kids in the suburbs? Has he forgotten about the suffering of his ancestors? Has he forgotten about the men and women from HIS generation that fought so hard to eradicate this kind of thing from our society? Or, more likely, is he just keeping quiet to maintain his own political self-interest? What do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. would say about President Obama’s response? What happens when a nation’s police force has this kind of invulnerability?
Killedbypolice.net is a site created in response to the severely flawed method of maintaining police murder statistics used by the FBI. This site, unlike the information gathered by the FBI, lists every citizen, innocent or guilty of crime, murdered by police individually since 2013. It has a link to coverage about each incident. We are in the second month of 2015 and it lists 110 citizen casualties in 29 different states. That demands reiteration. 110 American citizens in 29 states have been murdered by American police officers in 38 days. How many officer casualties? The Officer Down Memorial Page (odmp.org) lists 15 officer casualties so far this year. 8 of them died in non-criminal related automobile accidents. 4 of them died from heart attack or illness. 2 of them were dogs. And one officer, John Ballard Gorman, was fatally shot accidentally while performing a gun safety training exercise. Inside the police station. By another police officer. 0 in the line of duty. 0 from (intentional) gunfire. The irony is paramount.
In case that somehow did not disturb you enough, allow me to illustrate more alarming statistics. Killed By Police also tells us that from May 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013 there were 748 citizens killed by police officers. In 2014, 1100 citizens were killed by police officers. In order for these numbers to take effect, comparison is necessary. Let us compare them to the American government’s often cited source of death, danger, and sensationalism. Terrorism.
Washingtonsblog.com compiled a list of data this year that explains, in explicit detail, how Americans die. In 2011, for example, 17 Americans are reported to have died from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all other American foriegn wars, worldwide. It also concluded that in 2011, you were 9 times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist. These numbers are astounding.
Many police murders are cited to have occurred in pursuit of the “war on drugs.” Narcosphere.com states that the U.S. drug-war has been responsible for approximately 5700 people being murdered on U.S. soil from 2006-2010. That is not including deaths in Mexico, the epicenter of drug-war deaths. Estimates of deaths in Mexico reach nearly 50000, according to narcosphere. It’s got to be drugs that are the cause of all this senseless death, right? Wrong.
In Portugal, the first country to decriminialize all drugs, crime rates and arrests have consistently dropped since 2001. The year in which all drugs were decriminalized. Based on survey collected data at nationmaster.com, Portugal had a global crime index of 30.77 in 2014. That is compared to the U.S.’s rating of 55.84. The numerical value of this data is reached by quantifying individual survey responses of perceived danger of gun violence. Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 say that the rate of gun violence in the U.S. is 6.6 times higher than in Portugal. It is important to single out the word “rate.” Since the U.S. has a very large population going simply by amount of gun murders can be misleading. Essentially, this data represents “murders per capita.” The rate of gun violence in the U.S. is 2.7 out of 100000 people. In Portugal that number is .44. What this data tells us is that a much higher percentage of Americans are in danger of violent crime than in Portugal. It tells us that a much higher percentage of people BELIEVE they are in danger of gun violence, as well. And the vast majority of “drug crime” is being committed by the multi-billion dollar anti-drug agencies that Portugal has proven are not only unnecesary, but belligerently counterproductive.
It is likely to assume that those who support the police would raise objections to these statistics. For example, “Those are just numbers. Not all of those people were unarmed black kids. Some of them were guilty of serious crimes.” That is true. However, we will never know what percentage of the 1100 citizens murdered last year were guilty of a crime because they are all DEAD. Each and every one of them were denied their most basic human right in our country. Due process. The right to a fair trial by a court of law. The same rights that president Obama made half-hearted, hyperbolic references to in his procedural response to the Ferguson situation. There were no trials. There was no law. There was immediate, fatal judgement by individuals with badges and guns.
Despite the President’s words urging Ferguson law enforcement to show “care and restraint” in their response to protestors, the response was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Lyle Jeremy Rubin, a former marine, of Thenation.com lists the military hardware used by our police in Ferguson. The list includes rubber bullets, stun grenades, pepper spray bullets, wooden bullets, bean bag bullets, swat vans built to withstand IEDs, helicopters, attack dogs, and hordes of police officers decked head to toe in automatic weapons and military grade camo and armor. Care and restraint, indeed.
In the last week of January of this year, Jessica Hernandez, 16, and Kristina Coignard, 17, were murdered by police. Jessica was murdered in Denver, CO. Kristina was murdered in Longview, TX. No evidence of violence has been produced. Charges have yet to be filed against anyone. In 2010, 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, of Detroit, MI, was murdered by officer Joseph Weekley while she slept in her home. Weekley was recently dismissed of all charges. Weekly was part of a SWAT team that claimed to be “looking for a murder suspect.” The families of these dead men, women, and children are looking for justice. The rest of the populace is looking for an explanation for this indiscriminate killing. The explanation, however, is one of grim significance.
The recent economic collapse gave a sudden, resounding shock to global power structures. Oxfam just released a report detailing how 80 individuals have as much wealth as 3.6 billion people on this planet. Pre-economic collapse, 388 individuals shared that deplorable distinction. What that means is all the wealth of those previous 388 has been consolidated to 80 people. 80 people. 35% of which live in the U.S. Out of 7 billion people on this planet, 80 individuals control the wealth of half its population. There is no longer a 1%. There is a .00000114%. This is the end result of capitalism. This is power.
This global shift in wealth and power is, I believe, directly responsible for the domestic military presence in our country. American Thinker outlined the mysterious deaths of 64 high level bankers and financial lawyers over the past several years, following the global recession. I will not attempt to speculate to the connection of each death to the next. However, the significance of these deaths cannot be ignored. There are shifts in power happening beyond plain sight. Domestic military presence is merely a symptom of that. It has been proven many times over in the last year alone that police officers can murder an innocent man, even when they’re doing it in plain sight of a dashboard camera, and not be prosecuted. It has been proven that rapists, pedophiles, murderers, drug dealers, and sadists comprise our police force. It has also been proven over and over that when supposed “good cops” attempt to expose corruption and abuse of power they are simultaneously fired and ignored. This issue goes far beyond race at this point. The financial elite in this country are using the Homeland Security funded domestic military to protect its interests. To them, the 3.6 billion people living in comparitive poverty are only statistical variables that need to be quantified and controlled.
A recent study done by thefreethoughtproject.com shows that if a police officer scores too high on the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, the intelligence aptitude test given by most police forces, he can be denied a position. If you are intelligent, the police do not want you. Moreover, the financial elite whose well-being you are hired to protect, who sign off on your budgets, who give you access in real life to all the equipment in your favorite Call of Duty game do not want you asking questions and getting in their way with things like “accountability.” Much like the way in which individuals with violent, abusive pasts were selected to be guards in the CIA’s torture prisons, well-adjusted, critical thinkers are often NOT wearing police uniforms.
Despite this torrential abuse of power and corrupted government institutions, we are a nation dependent on our captors. We are expected to humbly thank those in charge for providing basic human needs to only portions of its population and apologize for causing psychopaths with badges to trample upon our supposed civil rights while we’re blinded by tear gas and immobilized by handcuffs. We are a nation illegally spying on the entire planet. We are a nation that illegally kills its citizens with no legal discourse. We are a nation where healthcare is keeping people perpetually sick to maximize profits. We are a nation that is running out of contradictions. History tells us that when power shifts, empires collapse. The U.S. is an empire that has generated massive wealth, corruption, and societal dissonance. Civil unrest. Militaristic police. Global Instability. All of these things, historically speaking, are precursors to civil war. The last war fought on American soil was, in fact, the Civil War. What do we do now that armed paramilitary groups have begun to show up at protests around the country? How do we direct our nation down a sustainable path in this crucial point in world history?
The answer is extremely complex and hard to define. Strictly speaking, I cannot answer it with certainty. However, I believe the most important part of our country’s future is the education of its people. Not by the crumbling infrastructure of public education, but by the open-source sharing of ideas and information. When you arm yourself with information it becomes possible to defuse violence before it begins. When the bulk of this nation has access to the information that those who have usurped democracy in this country have tirelessly sought to suppress, the nation will be better suited for a promising future. The species is evolving at a rate faster than at any other time in the history of life. We have technology now that only 20 years ago was relegated to the far reaches of science fiction. However, the unique human factor in evolution is the element of personal, conscious choice. What will you choose? A life of distraction, abuse and obedience? Or one of truth, compassion, and pursuit of knowlege?