Tag Archives: Police Brutality

Black Man. White Cop. You Know The Rest.

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Back in high school I wrote this thing about racism. It was a bit of a disaster. Since then, as a white heterosexual male, I have decided to specifically NOT write about racism if at all possible because the last time I did, things went badly. But I kind of feel the need to break that rule.

His name was Alton Sterling. And if I tell you he was a black man who encountered a police officer you already know the rest of the story. You know the story because it’s the story of Dontre Hamilton. It’s the story of Eric Garner. It’s the story of John Crawford III. It’s the story of Michael Brown Jr. It’s the story of Ezell Ford. It’s the story of Tanisha Anderson. It’s the story of Akai Gurley. It’s the story of Tamir Rice. It’s the story of Rumain Brisbon. It’s the story of Jerame Reid. It’s the story of Tony Robinson. It’s the story of Phillip White. It’s the story of Freddie Gray. It’s the story of Sandra Bland. It’s the story of being black and unlucky in America.

We hear these stories of police shooting black men and women almost as often as we hear about white men committing mass shootings. And each time much like mass shootings we are outraged and paralyzed. Our outrage is understandable. How can these terrible atrocities happen in broad daylight on the streets of the greatest country in the world? Our being paralyzed takes a bit more explaining.

Part of it is the uncomfortable truth that racism is alive and well in America. We did not kill it with Civil Rights. We did not kill it by electing Obama. And if we did not kill it, then we have to admit it’s still out there. We have to admit that some of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and maybe even ourselves are racist or have racist tendencies. And that is really hard to do. It’s so hard to do that it would be much easier to simply deny it and pretend that racism is over. But it’s not. And what are we to do with that?

Another easy option is to simply vilify the police. This is unfair. The vast majority of police officers will go their entire career never firing a shot at anyone. And not every police officer is racist. But the terrible actions of a few make the police an easy target for blame. If we can blame it all on the police then maybe, we do not have to confront any racism closer to home. But this does not work because police officers come from the community. Despite their militarized appearance, these men and women are members of your community whether they act like it or not. They did not arrive at the police academy with no racist thoughts in their heads and suddenly become racist. They were racist before they were cops and the modern police environment nurtures that racism.

There are good reasons for this. Even a fully trained and ethical police officer will still sometimes have to physically put handcuffs on another human being and then put that human being in a cage. For most people, this requires a bit of a disconnect. I have gone on ride alongs with police officers and watched it happen. I have seen the moment when the person a cop is talking to stops being a person to him and starts being a thing. A good cop will tell you that you have the right to remain silent. What they are actually saying is, “Nothing you say will help you because you are no longer a person to me.” Unfortunately this depersonalization does not just make it easy to put someone in a cage. It also makes it easy to put them in a grave.

We’re paralyzed because even if we confront these truths we still don’t know what to do about them. I know that I have biases. I am aware of them and I do my best to combat them, but it is not always easy or obvious. And even being successful does not change what’s happening in this country.

I have given this a lot of thought. These are my suggestions based on what I know. I am interested in what you think of these suggestions. I am interested in other suggestions. I am interested in finding things we can actively do to stop this.

Keep Racists Afraid

One of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is that racists think he has legitimized racism. When the Republican Presidential Nominee is saying things like “Look at my African American.” and calling Mexicans rapists bigots everywhere think that maybe it is okay to spout racist crap publicly. It is not. Fellow white people, any time we hear some blowhard saying racist crap whether it’s a stranger or your best friend, you need to call them on that shit. If we are going to ask our police departments to stop their systemic racism, we need to do the same.

Lethal Force

America has a love affair with guns. As a result we lose 30,000 men, women, and children every year due to gun violence. That’s ten 9/11s every year. Of those 30,000 about 1,000 are police involved killings. It is important to note that not all of these killings were unjustified, unwarranted, or unnecessary. It is equally important to note that far too many of them involved white cops shooting unarmed black people. In a time when we have Tasers, beanbag rounds, and verified de-escalation techniques using lethal force should be the cop equivalent of the nuclear option. It should never be used unless it’s the only thing you can use.

Federal Prosecutor

One of the biggest problems with police involved shootings is that the prosecutor who brings charges against the police is usually the same prosecutor who spends every other day of his life working closely with that same police department. Imagine this. You are a local prosecutor investigating a police involved shooting. If you charge the cop with murder, right or wrong, you are going to upset the rest of the police force which is going to make your job on every other case very difficult. Such a prosecutor is not likely to get endorsed by the police union during the next election. There is a clear conflict of interest in these situations. The way around this is to make every single police involved shooting a federal case with federal investigators and a federal prosecutor. Until this step is taken, I do not expect we will ever see a significant number of these cases actually get any justice.

Community Policing

One of the worst things to happen to modern police forces in this country was the use of surplus military hardware on the streets of America. Giving military weapons and vehicles to a systemically racist police department that already dehumanizes much of the population of a city is a recipe for slaughter. And that is exactly what we have seen again and again. If you give men weapons of war, they’re more likely to fight one. It should be noted that the blame cannot be placed on the police department or the military alone. The blame also falls on city councils and voters who do not approve adequate funding for police departments almost giving them no choice but to accept military handouts because they’re better than nothing.

This is not how the police force always worked. There was a time when a uniformed police officer walked a beat. The police officer knew everyone on that beat and more importantly everyone knew the cop. If a cop had a problem on his beat more often than not he knew the perpetrator. It’s more difficult to use lethal force on someone when you know them. It’s also harder to vilify a police officer when they’re someone you actually know and who has demonstrated that they are simply there to keep the peace. This is what was known as community policing. It’s something that is lacking in most police departments. If you wonder if your neighborhood has community policing ask yourself if you know the cop that patrols your area.

Raise Non-Racists

One of the things you can do is raise your children to be tolerant. Raise them to celebrate diversity rather than be afraid of it. Tell them that we are strong because of our differences and that no human being is superior to another and all life is equally precious. Show them movies with leads who aren’t white. Have them read Between The World and Me when they’re a teenager. Do not tolerate hate speak from children. If we can all commit to this, we can ensure that in the future bigots are the only minority who are afraid.

These are the ideas I have. I do not know what else to do. While I was writing this a 32-year-old man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officers who pulled him over for a busted tail light in Minneapolis.

I am not okay with this being normal in the United States of America. I do not have all the answers. But I think it starts with talking. It starts by speaking up. It starts by giving a damn and saying, “Black Lives Matter.”

– Jack Cameron

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Dealing With The Police

I was pulled over by the State Patrol last week. I was driving on a two lane road at around 40mph in my 1965 Galaxie. I was about to turn left. I noticed the police car going the opposite direction just as a BMW passed me in the outside lane doing about 80mph. I turned left and went up the hill and soon found the blue and red police lights behind my car. I pulled over, turned off my car and rolled down my window. The officer asked if I was racing the BMW. I told him I wasn’t and that I thought the BMW was going much faster than me. He said “You were going pretty fast too. At least sixty and it’s forty through there.”

“I don’t think I was going that fast officer. I think the BMW was the one that was speeding.”

“Well, he was gone by the time I turned around.”

“That’s because he was speeding.”

“License, insurance and registration.”

I already  had my license and insurance card pulled from my wallet. Before reaching in the glove box for my registration, I said, “I’m going to take my right hand and grab my registration out of the glove box.” And then I slowly did exactly that.

He walked back to his car with the information and came back with a ticket for $154 for going 15 over the speed limit. He handed me my registration and insurance card back. It would be a few days before I noticed he did not hand my license back.

There was a time in my life where I was dealing with police officers on a weekly basis. There was also a time in my life when I worked for them in police records. I have had friends who are cops and former cops. So I know a few things about how to deal with the police. I even wrote a chapter about it in my book, Ruin Your Life. But there are some new rules since then and there are situations I didn’t cover.

DON’T POKE BEARS WITH STICKS

This is something my grandfather used to say. It can easily be applied to dealing with cops as well. Here’s the thing. A few years ago, it seemed like it was open season on police officers. Locally, a couple of cops were shot and killed. And then the four Lakewood police officers were gunned down while drinking coffee before a shift. The result of these killings has been that police officers are taking their chances with a shooting investigation rather than waiting to see if a suspect is definitely a deadly threat.

Some people think this is wrong. And make no mistake, there have been unnecessary tragedies due to this increase in police violence. But if you’re paying attention at all, you can at least understand why. I’m getting a bit off topic here though. The point here is that police are now more than ever willing to use deadly force if they feel it is necessary. You’re not going to fix that social problem in a confrontation with a cop.

So the thing to do is make yourself as little of a threat as possible. If you have anything in your hand, drop it.  Don’t wait to be asked. If you need to grab something, tell them what you’re going to do before you do it. Do not let them have a chance to guess wrong what you’re doing. Move slowly at all times. And do what they tell you to do.

You may not like what they’re telling you to do. They may not be following the rule of the law. They may be complete dicks about it. They may be absolutely wrong on all levels, but you are dealing with someone who will very likely not see any prison time if they kill you. So it’s best not to do anything that can be construed in any way as threatening. Do not think about what you’re doing. Think about what someone could say you were trying to do.

PEACEFUL PROTESTS

The Occupy Wall Street movement is the latest but far from the only protest that has been forcibly broken up by the police in recent weeks. When this happens, the police tend to not be nice about it. There are reasons for this.

One is that there are members of every police department who joined the police department simply so they could hurt people and get away with it. Believe it or not, they are in the minority. Most cops, believe it or not, simply want to do their jobs and go home at the end of their shift. However, if you happen to run into one of those dicks who just wants to hurt people, you should know that the second you retaliate violently towards one of those dicks, every good and bad cop will be more than happy to beat the living shit out of you.

Another reason is that ‘shock and awe’ tactics tend to scare the shit out of people and when you’re outnumbered, that’s usually the best route to go. It’s not pleasant, but the cops are like any other authority figure. They have bosses and the bosses give them orders. Their job is to follow their orders the best way they can.

Understand this. You will never beat the police on the street. They are going to do what they’re going to do. You can witness it. You can document it with pictures and video. You can post it up on the web for the world to see. And none of it will matter the second you are violent.

The police know how to deal with violent people. They are very good at it. Non-violent people are very difficult to deal with and control. Especially in this age of youtube.

REVOLUTION

The police are there to enforce the law. They aren’t in charge of what the law is. They don’t have to agree with the law. They don’t even have to follow the law themselves. But they aren’t going to change the law or how they enforce it to accommodate you.

If you’re looking to change things. Whether it’s a traffic law or the way the world works, you don’t start with the cops. You can’t. You save them for last. If you eventually find a way to change things, then the cops will be on your side.

Now don’t get me wrong, if a cop is wrong, you should fight the cop, but don’t be so silly as to play his game. A cop will beat you on the street every time because that’s his home. You beat the police in court. You beat them online.

Just understand that regardless of the situation, the second you are violent towards the authorities, they have won.

I didn’t argue too much with the cop that pulled me over. I disagreed with him politely and took the ticket that he gave me. I didn’t admit to any wrongdoing and mailed the ticket in so I can have my day in court.

–          Jack Cameron