In Democratic Individuality, I argued that at a high level of abstraction, modern conservatives, liberals and radicals believe that the best economic, social and political institutions foster each person’s individuality. Their differences are largely empirical or social theoretical. All clash with modern authoritarians. I will take up practical issues such as torture and the lineage of the neocons and link them to larger issues in how we conceive a decent regime, locally and internationally.
Why American cops – in contrast to others – claim a license to kill
In response to the very instructive letter from Andy Reid on the shelding of cops from danger here, including their lower risk of on the job death than lumberjacks and garbage workers, a former police officer and peace activist in Minnesota (one who lets people know his past) sent the following, striking thoughts. He underlines that “clothes” – the gun and taser – “make the man,” that an officer feels dangerous and in danger (a potential target). Despite the statistics, this point is, I think, right, and helps explain the isolation and clannishness of cops. The first point about how the police protect the murderers among them by blackmailis also really striking, evoking what J. Edgar Hoover notoriously had on Presidents, Congresspeople and even Martin Luther King (the film “Selma” gets this, as many other matters, right – see here). Every police department, as the letter suggests, lives off, tries to achieve this.This point underscores Andy’s general argument, as does the letter in general.
I think there is something missing in the answers to why the police are protected by the establishment.
Surveillance of politicians, court personnel and attorneys in general has been going on in some areas for decades. It is likely that a dossier on most potential “friends and enemies” is maintained by many police agencies and certainly state police agencies. That dossier comes in handy when negotiating contracts and influencing decisions. The nastier the scene videoed or audio-ed the more value it has in influencing behavior.
For example; want the bishop to make a statement about something? check the files, ask the bishop and make a reference to his latest dalliance. Need a vote in a legislative matter, check the files and see who is sexually involved with who…usually all that is required is a snippet of information on past indiscretions and people will behave.
I think most of what Reid states is accurate. As an ex-cop I disagree with the “significance” of the following paragraph; “All of this is, of course, justified to the public with the argument that police officers are faced daily with extremely high risk to life and limb and need to be protected by their military /assault style weaponry, by their job security, and by the courts and doctrines of law. Bullshit. It’s an absolute myth that they “put their lives on the line” for the public. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, fishermen, loggers, aircraft pilots, trash collectors, roofers, iron workers, construction workers, farmers, ranchers, truck drivers, miners, and taxi drivers are more likely to die on the job than cops. To put it in perspective, fishermen and loggers who make half what cops do are 10 times more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer – a garbage man is 3 times more likely to die while working than a cop. The annual death rate for cops is around 12.6 per 100,000. For loggers, it’s 127.8 per 100,000. And, as anyone who is familiar with the operation of police departments is well aware, most police officers die on the job from traffic accidents, not from anyone shooting them. Of the 76 cops who died in the line of duty in 2013, 18 of them were from gunfire and the rest were from traffic fatalities or slips and falls. The murder rate of police officers is about 3 per 100,000 while that of the general population is 5.6 per 100,000. In other words, you or I as ordinary citizens are more likely to be murdered than a police officer. When a cop is killed “in the line of duty” it is sensationalized and published widely and nationally. When a farmer, logger, construction worker, taxi driver, etc. is killed, much more frequently, we hear very little about it.”
If you are on the street and see the blood and injuries to other officers and the public, and the mythology is that you could be killed or crippled, then fear becomes a factor and the goal is to get home alive and live to enjoy your pension (in MN it is 95% of your high five after 30 years). People who work in other occupations don’t wear a gun and tazer to work and the old adage “clothes make the man applies”…try wearing an exposed weapon around for eight hours and see if you don’t feel different…people will definitely.
The only answer is total community control and that isn’t likely to happen for the above reason(s).”
Total community control probably will not happen, at least under capitalism, but as Black Lives Matter shows, much can be achieved by scrutiny and democratic protest from below, even some prosecutions (the same is true for the anti-war movement).
Catherine MacArthur corrects my claim about zero police murders in England in 2015; there was one racist police killing in London (and possibly several).Still, the startling general contrast with the US holds, down to the marksman’s arrest…
There was at least one shooting by a police marksman last month in Wood Green, which is just 1 mile from to Tottenham.
Scotland Yard was rocked on Thursday by the arrest of a police marksman who shot a suspect dead near a London court.
Jermaine Baker, 28, died last Friday morning after a single bullet struck him in the neck as he sat in a car 100 yards from Wood Green crown court in north London.
The Guardian has learned that Baker, claimed by some media reports to have been a gangster, did not feature on the Metropolitan police’s databases of gang members.
It was revealed on Thursday that a homicide investigation, which is focusing on the armed officer, is looking at how far Baker was from a weapon allegedly found inside the car.
Two other men in the car have been charged with plotting to help release two prisoners from a van as they were being brought to Wood Green crown court that day for sentencing.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating Baker’s death and the actions of officers in a criminal homicide investigation, which saw the armed officer suspended from duty on Wednesday.
IPCC commissioner Cindy Butts told a public meeting on Thursday that the officer who shot the suspect had been arrested and interviewed under criminal caution on Thursday afternoon. The IPCC declined to say what the officer had been arrested for.
Butts stressed the arrest did not mean the officer would be charged.
Baker was in a black Audi at the scene and the IPCC said its investigators had discovered a “non-police issue firearm” in the car. The other men in the car face charges over an imitation weapon, according to the Met.
IPCC commissioner Cindy Butts speaks at a meeting about the shooting of Jermaine Baker by armed police. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters
Baker had been shot while in the vehicle and Butts declined to say where investigators suspect either the firearm or Baker were as those issues are “the focus of our investigation”.
Butts told the meeting that no relevant CCTV footage had been identified. Officers were not wearing body cameras, which drew repeated criticism from the meeting and shouts of “Why?”
Butts told the meeting, which was attended by more than 200 people, of the events leading up to the decision to arrest the officer.
On Friday, police started forensic examination at the scene, which was completed 24 hours later. Independent witnesses were located and the car sent away for forensic examination.
On Saturday, officers involved in the intelligence-led operation gave their initial accounts of what happened and Butts said “the officers were warned about conferring with each other”.
By Sunday, barely 48 hours after the shooting, Butts said investigators from the IPCC made a key decision. “On Sunday there was evidence to indicate that a potential criminal offence may have been committed by the officer in his use of lethal force. We therefore made the decision to begin a criminal homicide investigation,” she said.
Chief superintendent Victor Olisa, borough commander for Haringey, confirmed Met databases hold no information Baker had gang affiliations, saying: “They don’t indicate Jermaine was a gang member.”
Baker’s family have been dismayed by claims in some media reports and the meeting was told Baker had been linked to gangs which do not exist.
Floral tributes remained at the scene of the shooting. One card contained a tribute and then a reference to “NPK boys”, a gang called Northumberland Park Killers, named after an area of Tottenham.
The public meeting was sometimes raucous and tense, with Met assistant commissioner Helen King shouted down.
Met assistant commissioner Helen King and chief superintendent Victor Olisa close their eyes during a prayer at the meeting regarding the shooting of Jermaine Baker by an armed police officer. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters
She was reprimanded by Pastor Nims Obunge from the Peace Alliance, co-chairing the meeting, after she suggested a friend of Baker’s come in and witness police firearms training.
The man, called Josh, told the meeting: “Jermaine was shot while sleeping in the car.” Butts said she did not know if this was the case.
The meeting showed a chasm between the police and sections of the community. But they, the armed officer and the police face months of waiting until answers emerge.
In a statement, Met police deputy assistant commissioner, Peter Terry, said: “In these difficult circumstances we continue to offer every possible support to the officer, and their family, and to the officer’s colleagues.
‘All of the officers who took part in the operation on Friday 11 December were doing a job, one that we as senior officers in the MPS asked of them.’
Terry stressed that his officers had a difficult job to do. After last month’s Paris terror attacks police chiefs believe they need more firearms officers, which require officers to volunteer to carry a gun: ‘Now, more than ever before, our armed officers provide an invaluable service in keeping Londoners and their own unarmed colleagues safe. We rely upon on them to provide this, quite frankly unique, policing role.’
Police chiefs will fear officers will refuse to volunteer to carry a gun to express their disagreement at the treatment of the armed officer.”
Note that most police in London are not armed – again, a big contrast with the U.S.; individuals have to volunteer to go to armed.
Andy Reid offered some additional insights, including one about how eugenics/IQ testing is used against poor whites – eugenics is, it must be emphasized, an ideology of divide and rule – as well as a startling observation from criminal attorney Gary Spence:
“Hi Alan –
Don’t know if you caught the Netflix series titled “Making a Murderer” about the Steve Avery fiasco, police misconduct and the failure of the criminal justice system in Wisconsin, particularly when directed at those who are poor… You might want to check it out – it’s absolutely shocking [see the fine article by Kate Tuttle on eugenics as applied to poor whites, the Kallikaks and now the Averys “Whiteness and “Making a Murderer”: Manitowoc, the “one-branch family tree” and the sinister race science of “degenerate whites”: The Avery clan’s reputation as “trouble” echoes myths planted by inane, racist eugenicists in the early 1900s”here ].
Also, here’s a recent book on the topic that might interest you. (In)famous criminal lawyer Gerry Spence makes some pretty strong observations about the criminal just-us system.
The one I found most interesting was this one from one of the most if not the most prominent criminal lawyer in the country after 50+ years of practice and hundreds of clients:
“I realized I’d never represented a person charged with a crime in either a state or federal court, in which the police, including the FBI, hadn’t themselves, violated the law—and on more than one occasion, even committed the crime of murder.”