I’m sorry, but it’s time to take off the gloves. Something has got to be done.
Already this year, 700 Americans have been killed by police, and the number is going up every day. In 2014, the number was 1,106. Since May 2013, the number is 2,565.
It’s not just a problem of police brutality and racism against blacks and latinos (although that is a huge part of the problem); citizens of all races are encountering angry, corrupt, dangerous, and even deadly police.
On February 28, 2015, 17-year-old Deven Guilford was murdered in a traffic stop in Michigan by sheriff Sgt. Jonathon Frost. Deven was pulled over because he flashed his high beams at an approaching vehicle which turned out to be Frost’s new police car (which had headlamps which were improperly adjusted and gave the appearance of being brights).
Within four minutes, Frost had escalated the stop into an incident in which he Tasered the youth and shot him in the head.
Eaton County MI prosecutor Doug Lloyd revealed there will be no charges against Sgt. Frost, apparently thinking that anyone would believe the officer’s absurd claim that he felt threatened. The following video reveals just how ridiculous this decision is and reinforces the fact that the criminal justice system will almost never hold an offending police officer responsible, no matter how egregious the act.
On July 26, 2015, 19-year-old Zachary Hammond was on a date when he was fatally shot twice by a police officer while at the back parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Seneca SC, a city 40 miles from Greenville, near the North Carolina border, according to Eric Bland, the attorney representing the teen’s family.
The Seneca Police Department said the officer was conducting a drug investigation and shot Hammond in self-defense.
“He was a uniformed officer, he was in a marked vehicle, was out of his vehicle on foot approaching the suspect vehicle—weapon drawn given it was a narcotics type violation,” Seneca Police Chief John Covington said.
A small amount of marijuana was found in the front passenger’s compartment in Hammond’s car. “He was a 19-year-old, 121-pound kid killed basically for a joint,” Bland said.
Tori Morton, who was on the date with Hammond, was arrested on charges of simple possession of marijuana. It was an amount, Bland said, that did not warrant such excessive police force. “This is about the use of overreaching deadly force in situations where it is not required,” Bland said.
Covington said the officer was attempting to arrest Hammond when the teen accelerated the car and drove toward the officer, prompting the officer to shoot in self-defense.
The Oconee County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy on Tuesday and confirmed that Hammond was shot twice and had wounds consistent with a .45 caliber handgun that was used by the Seneca Police. Hammond suffered one gunshot wound to the collar bone-shoulder region and one wound to the chest, which was fatal, according to the report. The autopsy ruled that Hammond’s death was a homicide.
The report did not state if Hammond’s gunshot wounds were consistent with his vehicle moving at the time of the shooting. But Bland said Hammond’s wounds indicate the vehicle was not moving, and the teen was shot on the rear of his shoulder and on the side of his chest. The Hammond family commissioned an independent autopsy, which found the teen’s gunshot wounds indicated he was shot from behind and at close range.
The officer involved in the shooting, who has worked at the Seneca Police Department for more than five years, is on administrative leave. The police department did not release the name of the officer until three days ago, citing “safety concerns.”
Oooh, I’m sooo worried for the safety of such an upstanding officer!
His name is now revealed to be Lt. Mark Tiller, a 10-year law enforcement veteran who has been employed with the Seneca Police Department since January 2010.
One of the most absurd examples of how the system protects dirty cops arises from a May 27, 2015 police raid on a lawful medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Ana CA, the Sky High Collective. The video shows a sizable number of police raiding the dispensary with guns drawn and forcing everyone to the floor. Police officers were caught on camera wolfing down pot products in the raid and disparaging a disabled woman. An officer apparently disabled all but one of the security cameras. The police union is now arguing that the police rights were violated by being videotaped without their consent.
Three Santa Ana police officers have sued to quash a surveillance video in a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court to prevent Santa Ana Police Department internal affairs investigators from using the video. They have been allowed to conceal their identities. Of course, police routinely used such videotapes against others for alleging crimes. It is also unclear why a public servant should have his or her name protected in such a case. While some officers may be undercover and have a good claim, most of these officers are in uniform.
Attorney Corey W. Glave representing the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and the three officers insists that the video was taken without the officers’ knowledge and that the videotape was handled by various people before being turned over to the police. He has suggested that the videotape may have been altered. Glave has gone as far as to accuse his opposing counsel of misconduct: “The attorney representing the drug dispensary intentionally has misrepresented what happened.”
Matthew Pappas is the lawyer for Sky High identified in articles. Pappas has said that he gave the Santa Ana police two versions of the raid footage, a highlight reel with subtitles and unedited video clips.
Why do the Santa Ana police routinely dismantle such cameras to prevent a videotape record of arrests or searches? One argument may be that undercover officers were involved and should not be videotaped for their own protection.
What the remaining camera did catch as a male officer asking a female colleague about a woman with an amputated left leg: “Did you punch that one-legged old Benita?” he asks. The female officer responds “I was about to kick her in her (expletive) nub.”
The police union lawsuit depicts the officers as the victims: “All police personnel present had a reasonable expectation that their conversations were no longer being recorded and the undercover officers, feeling that they were safe to do so, removed their masks.” The lawsuit further notes that “Without the illegal recordings, there would have been no internal investigation of any officer.”
No officers have been terminated in connection with the ongoing internal affairs investigation.
Now it appears that the raid may have been initiated by Santa Ana mayor Miguel Pulido, who allegedly solicited $25,000 bribes from dispensaries to guarantee licenses to distribute marijuana. Police were said to be used to shut down operations that did not pay up.
According to the CATO Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, in 2010 there were 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct involving 6,613 sworn officers and 6,826 alleged victims. Most of those allegations of police brutality involved officers who punched or hit victims with batons, but about one-quarter of the reported cases involved firearms or stun guns.
Dissatisfied with police departments’ internal review policies, some citizens have formed volunteer police watch groups to prevent the so-called “Blue Code of Silence” effect and encourage police officers to speak out against misconduct occurring within their department. Some departments have begun banning equipment such as Tasers, but those decisions were likely more about protecting the individual departments from lawsuits than ensuring that officers are not equipped with weapons that cause serious and sometimes fatal injuries when used.
However, it is a different story in most police departments. In order to help local police officers protect themselves while fighting the largely unsuccessful War on Drugs, the federal government passed legislation in 1994 allowing the Pentagon to donate surplus military equipment from the Cold War to local police departments. Meaning that “weaponry designed for use on a foreign battlefield has been handed over for use on American streets … against American citizens.” So while the US military fights the War on Terror abroad, local police departments are fighting another war at home with some of the same equipment as US troops, and protocol that largely favors officers in such tactics as no-knock raids.
Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the US, at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier.
“Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the US scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”
But many police are apparently unprepared for such power. The problems with criminal and inadequately-trained cops are so serious and widespread, it is inevitable that some private citizens will strike back, even lethally. Unless the police themselves do something to correct their problem (and it is their problem, which hiding behind their unions does nothing to solve), expect to see more examples of angry citizens retaliating.
Admittedly, the vast majority of police officers are decent, courageous, hard-working people in a difficult and even dangerous profession. But police culture as a whole has been corrupted—largely by the War on Drugs—and needs to be reformed now. On the first-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, up to six people opened fire on police in Ferguson MO just last night. If the profession doesn’t take this need for reform seriously, you will be hearing a lot more bagpipe music.
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