Police Militarization Escalates Even As Violence Declines — And There’s A Good Chance It’s Going To Get Worse
We’ve been writing about the militarization of police, and why it’s problematic, for years — but the events of the last week in Ferguson, Missouri, have really shone a (rather bright) light on what happens when you militarize the police. Annie Lowrey, over at New York Magazine, highlights what may be most disturbing about all of it: all of this has happened while violence has been on a rapid decline, and, no it’s not because your local suburban police force now has a SWAT team and decommissioned military equipment from the Defense Department:
Since 1990, according to Department of Justice statistics, the United States has become a vastly safer place, at least in terms of violent crime. (Drug crime follows somewhat different trends, though drug use has been dropping over the same time period.) The number of murders dropped to 14,827 in 2012 from 23,438 in 1990. The number of rapes has plummeted to 84,376 from 102,555. The number of robberies, motor-vehicle thefts, assaults — all have seen similarly large declines. And the number of incidents has dropped even though the country has grown. [....]
And there’s no evidence that giving police officers the weapons of war has had anything to do with that decline in crime, either, with researchers pegging it to a combination of factors, among them the removal of lead from paint and gasoline, an increase in abortion rates, and improved policing methods.
So, instead, we get a very militarized police — and tons of cases where it is being used in cases that absolutely don’t warrant it. At all.
And here’s the really disturbing thing. It may get a lot worse. As Vanity Fair notes, on June 19th, Rep. Alan Grayson had offered up an amendment on the Defense Appropriations bill, which would have limited the militarization of police. And it failed by a wide margin. Included in those voting against it? The guy who represents Ferguson.
The amendment attracted the support of only 62 members, while 355 voted against it (14 didn’t vote). Included among those voting against it was Rep. William Lacy Clay (D), who represents Ferguson. Clay was joined by every senior member of the Democratic Party leadership team, including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (CA), Steny Hoyer (MD), and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC). Democrats did form the bulk of support for the amendment (with 43 votes in favor), with 19 Republicans supporting as well—led by libertarian-conservative Rep. Justin Amash (MI), who lamented that “military-grade equipment . . . shouldn’t be used on the street by state and local police” on his Facebook page.
Apparently, arming the police with military equipment has powerful lobbying support. Because why expect people to think about what actually makes sense when there’s money and FUD on the line:
Why was there such tremendous opposition to the Grayson-Amash effort? Two very powerful constituencies in Congress may be to blame: the defense industry, and the police lobby.
Take Rep. Clay. He has been all over the news media calling for justice in his district, and demanding an investigation of Brown’s death. Yet like every House member, he is up for re-election every two years, and his fourth-largest donor is the political action committee of the weapons maker Boeing.
So there’s that. And then, let’s take things up a notch. Scott Greenfield alerts us to the news that a judge over in Colorado has determined that the Cinemark Theater where James Holmes opened fired on the opening night of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” may have some responsibility because it should have known that such an attack might happen. Despite the fact that there has never been such a shooting in a theater, the judge says that the theater should have been prepared for such a possibility:
Noting “the grim history of mass shootings and mass killings that have occurred in more recent times,” U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled that Cinemark — owner of the Century Aurora 16 theater — could have predicted that movie patrons might be targeted for an attack. Jackson’s ruling allows 20 lawsuits filed by survivors of the attack or relatives of those killed to proceed toward trial.
“Although theaters had theretofore been spared a mass shooting incident, the patrons of a movie theater are, perhaps even more than students in a school or shoppers in a mall, ‘sitting ducks,’ ” Jackson wrote.
That makes absolutely no sense. But the inevitable result, as Greenfield notes, seems to be a lot more militarized police — and now, private security guards… everywhere. Just in case.
Consider, if what happened in Aurora, the duty of businesses to be prepared for the act of a one-in-a-million crazy. The biggest growth job in America will be armed guard. Every theater will require its own SWAT team, perhaps a MRAP or Bearcat. Office buildings, parks, skating rinks, pretty much anywhere more than three people gather, could be the next target of a madman. They will all need security, armed with the weapons needed to take out any crazy.
Don’t blame the businesses. They’re just trying to cover their foreseeable obligations. Sure, there is almost no chance, almost no possibility whatsoever, that they will be the target of the next insane shooter, but Judge Jackson says it’s still foreseeable. In fact, that no one has ever shot up a skating rink makes it even more foreseeable, by his rationale.
It is difficult to comprehend how profoundly screwed up all of this is.
Officials in Georgia’s Habersham County are refusing to pay for the mounting medical expenses of a toddler seriously injured by a flash grenade after a failed SWAT team raid earlier this year.
Bounkham ‘Bou Bou’ Phonesavanh was just 19 months old when a Habersham SWAT team initiated a no-knock warrant at his family’s home at around 3 a.m. on May 28. Bou Bou was asleep in his crib at the time, surrounded by his family and three sisters. The toddler was severely injured when SWAT team officers broke through the house’s door and threw a flashbang grenade that ultimately landed in the Bou Bou’s crib.
When the stun grenade went off, it caused severe burns on the child and opened a gash in his chest. As a result, Bou Bou lost the ability to breathe on his own and was left in a medically induced coma for days after the incident. His extensive recovery necessitated stays in two hospitals before he finally went home in July.
Now, Habersham County officials are sticking by their decision to ignore the family’s plight, the family’s attorney, Muwali Davis, told WSB-TV.
Habersham County’s attorney responded with a statement saying that the Board of County Commissioners will not pay given it is supposedly illegal to do so.
“The question before the board was whether it is legally permitted to pay these expenses. After consideration of this question following advice of counsel, the board of commissioners has concluded that it would be in violation of the law for it to do so.”
The family now says an independent investigation showed law enforcement used suspect information to attain a search warrant.
As RT reported previously, the SWAT conducted the raid as part of an effort to apprehend Wanis Thometheva, believed to be selling methamphetamine. Police said that their records indicated the suspect could be armed, and that a confidential informant had successfully purchased drugs from him earlier in the day. At the time of the raid, however, Thometheva was not at the home, and was eventually arrested elsewhere.
Additionally, an unnamed public official told the Washington Post that the reported drug deal was worth only $50.
Habersham County’s sheriff previously said the confidential informant who bought drugs at the home told police that he did not believe any children lived at the house.
Bou Bou’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, said that was unlikely if they had valid information on their suspect.
“If they had an informant in that house, they knew there were kids,” Phonesavanh told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the incident. “They say there were no toys. There is plenty of stuff. Their shoes were laying all over.”
In June, the family called for a federal investigation into the conduct of the SWAT team.
The Phonesavanh family said it was not involved with drugs at all, and was only staying with Thometheva, the homeowner’s son, because their Wisconsin home was damaged in a fire. They moved back to Wisconsin once Bou Bou’s health improved. Supporters have planned a fundraiser this month for the family.
An official investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to WSB-TV.
On the night of the July 27, the first day of the Muslim Eid-Al-Fitr festival following the fasting month of Ramadan, the Israeli air force dropped three bombs on Al-Hurani’s carpentry workshop. Each of the three bombs had an explosive force of 250 pounds.
Al-Hurani pointed towards the charred left overs of the tables, armchairs and beds, “all designed according to the desires of each individual customer, processed with the best woods and decorated with passion, as our customers expect from us,” he told Ma’an.
The carpentry of the Al-Hurani family is well-known across the northern Gaza Strip city of Jabaliya, and is respected throughout the Gaza Strip for its precise designs. In addition to family members, Al-Hurani employed 25 workers in his workshop before the Israeli assault.
“Due to the total destruction of our plant everyone had to be dismissed immediately and I do not know how to feed my family anymore. We don’t know how to move on from here,” he said.
The family possesses no savings for the construction of a new workshop and they believe there is no hope for obtaining any kind of compensation for the estimated $450,000 in damages they have suffered.
Abu Eida, one of the largest construction companies in the Gaza Strip, is headquartered in the industrial area east of Jabaliya that the air force also dropped several 250 pound bombs on Aug. 2.
Abed Rabou Abu Eida, CEO of the construction company, told Ma’an he was not aware of the exact number of bombs being dropped.
An on-site inspection of the premises, however, revealed the extent of the destruction: Three large buildings, which had all been reinforced by concrete, the warehouse containing cement and bricks, as well as the construction machinery have all been flattened.
Abu Eida estimates the cost of the total damage to be around $7.5 million. As a result of the attack, he had to dismiss all of his 70 permanent workers because the company could no longer operate. Hundreds of part-time workers that deal with Abu-Eida on a sporadic basis are also out of work.
“In 2008 and 2012 the factory premises were already completely destroyed by the Israeli air force and our company has not received any kind of compensation, due to the law passed in 2007,” Abu Eida said, referring to an Israeli law that defined Gaza as enemy territory and thus its residents ineligible for compensation through civil suits.
“This time we have no more money to rebuild our company a third time.”
At the end of Abu Khayr street in the Jabaliya industrial area sits the Al-Fayoumi family farm. The farm once owned 150 cows and sold milk twice a day to dairy factories.
130 of the cows were killed in their stables during the Israeli bombing on Aug. 2, according to workers on the farm.
During a visit to the ruined courtyard on August 13, workers were still trying to collect and burn the remaining corpses. The terrible smell of the semi-decomposed carcasses of cattle lay side by side with charred hens when Ma’an visited.
A swarm of flies covered the corpses, trying to get its share.
“Where can the Al-Fayoumis get new cows from?” asked a worker who did not want to give his name. “The borders to Gaza are closed and the smuggling tunnels destroyed.”
Wael Al-Wadia, owner of the Saraio candy factory in the same area, showed Ma’an the remains of his completely ruined factory buildings, where ice cream, biscuits, and cakes were once made.
“I had 100 workers on permanent contracts. 100 workers who have fed 100 families and now have no income,” al-Wadia said. The factory produced five tons of sweets on a daily basis, he said. Now, everything is gone.
Al-Qadia estimated that it would cost him $7 million to purchase the same equipment again, which he had initially brought to Gaza from Italy.
“We have made the best biscuits in the Gaza Strip. Every market in Gaza sold our products. Our biscuits were as good as the Biscotti’s from Italy,” he told Ma’an.
But it was not only factories, hospitals, schools, farms, agricultural land, and the famous orange groves of Beit Hanoun that were bombed during the worst of the Israeli assault between July 6 and Aug. 3.
Gaza’s sole power station, its largest mosques, and the building of the popular TV station Al-Quds were also hit, while tens of thousands of private homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
Muhsen Abu Ramadan, Director of the Arab Center for Agricultural Economic Development in Gaza, told Ma’an that the damage to the besieged coastal enclave’s economy, however, predates the recent Israeli assault.
“The economic crisis began long before the aggression, and is a result of the eight years lasting blockade of Gaza,” he said.
Abu Ramadan estimates that even before the beginning of the Israeli attacks in July, 40 percent of the labor force was unemployed, 30 percent lived below the poverty line, 57 percent were at risk of malnutrition, and 70 percent received food parcels from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East or other organizations.
“These numbers have increased dramatically since the bombings,” said Abu Ramadan.
He also said that Israeli army completely destroyed 220 factories in the campaign, while hundreds more suffered partial damage.
Abu Ramadan estimates the cost of destruction of agricultural land at around $200 million and the amount of the total costs to the economy at several billion dollars.
“Gaza would need five years to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure,” he said.
But given the current economic conditions caused by the occupation and the blockade of Gaza, he estimated that reconstruction will take at least ten years.
“We have the right to import building materials and this right must be given to us immediately, especially with the help of the international community. Otherwise, we will not be able to rebuild our destroyed houses and factories,” Abu Ramadan added.
Tens of thousands have joined the ranks of the unemployed since the imposition of the harsh Israeli blockade in 2007, and given the scale of the damage suffered during the massive Israeli assault, of those who were still employed in industry and agriculture in July it is unlikely that more than a few thousand are still working in either sector. A few thousand out of 1.8 million people.
“Israel is not only attacking civilians and their homes, but also systematically destroyed the economy of the Gaza Strip in order to make people dependent on emergency aid,” Abu Ramadan argued.
“Now that almost the entire economy is destroyed, people can no longer work, thus cutting their purchasing power dramatically. Now youth want to emigrate at even younger ages than before. Due to the emigration of young skilled workers the economy is becoming even weaker.”
“Israel has managed to transform a functioning economy into a third world country through eight years of embargo and three assaults in five years. Without ending the embargo, it is impossible to break out of this vicious cycle ourselves,” Abu Ramadan added.
Martin Lejeune is a German journalist based in Gaza. Follow him on twitter
Occupied Palestine – Yesterday at approximately 5:30 PM in the old city in al-Khalil (Hebron) settlers from the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah threw rocks and water at Palestinians living on Shalala Street. This is a regular occurrence for Palestinian families living close to illegal settlements in al-Khalil. The majority of the time the Israeli military watches from a distance and does not do anything to intervene in the violence and property damage.
One Palestinian, a 35-year old man, documented the stone throwing only to be detained and then arrested by the Israeli military. The man was taken through a yellow gate to an area from which Palestinians are restricted, where the soldiers pushed him around.
The soldiers threw several stun grenades at Palestinians and internationals standing behind the yellow gate who were trying to document what was happening through holes of the gate.
Two internationals walked through the checkpoint at the Ibrahimi mosque and down Shuhada street in attempt to find the Palestinian. A group of ten soldiers and an army jeep stood with two Palestinian men, the man who had been arrested was in handcuffs. A nearby soldier told the internationals that neither of the men was arrested but they were only bringing the handcuffed man in for questioning, to gather evidence about the settlers who threw stones. After approximately five minutes the solders blindfolded the Palestinian and started walking with him to a nearby army base, Beit Romano. When internationals asked why the man was being blindfolded an Israeli soldier stated, “Because I want to.”
The man was released earlier this morning.
A New Orleans police officer turned off her body cam before opening fire on a man who had escaped from her a week earlier.
Lisa Lewis shot the man in the forehead during a traffic stop, then shot at him again as he ran away, according to the lawyer of the man who remains hospitalized. He was wanted on warrants.
Not only did she turn off the camera, the department tried its best to downplay Monday’s incident, which they initially reported to the media as posted below:
According to a preliminary report from the New Orleans Police Department, an officer was in the area and heard gunshots and then had an altercation with a person and suffered a minor injury to the officer’s right hand.
The officer was taken to Tulane Hospital, police said.
No further information about the incident was made available in the preliminary report.
When the media found out about it anyway, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas shrugged it off as a blunder.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said his public information officer was supposed to issue a news release on Monday, but failed to do so — an action Serpas took responsibility for.
Serpas said NOPD Officer Lisa Lewis was conducting a traffic stop was injured and shot 26-year-old Armand Bennett.
Bennett was booked on five outstanding warrants, which included possession of a weapon, resisting an officer (Gretna), resisting an officer (New Orleans), possession of marijuana and criminal damage to property.
Bennett was listed in stable condition at a local hospital.
The department issued cameras to officers in January with Serpas proclaiming “this is the future of policing in America.”
Which is pretty much like the past in that they still control the message.
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be funded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League. His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson.
The officer-involved shooting death of teenager Michael Brown this week and the subsequent protests across the United States have rekindled interest in another case of alleged excessive force blamed on the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.
Nearly four years to the day before Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson opened fire and killed Brown, 18, a complaint filed in federal court accused the same law enforcement agency of violating the civil rights of a man who says he was badly beaten after being wrongly arrested, then later charged with “destruction of property” for bleeding on the uniforms of the cops alleged to have injured him.
On Friday, Michael Daly of The Daily Beast recounted the case of Henry Davis, an African-American welder who tried to sue the City of Ferguson after an autumn 2009 altercation with the same police department currently making headlines for the high-profile killing of Brown.
Davis, Daly recalled, was arrested on September 20, 2009 when a Ferguson cop mistook him for a man with the same first and last name wanted on an outstanding warrant. Davis was brought to the Police Department headquarters and told to spend the night in the same one-bed cell occupied by another individual. When he objected and asked for a sleeping mat of his own, his attorneys wrote, the officers got violent.
Officer John Beaird, the complaint reads, “called other officers to the area outside the cell and told the other officers that Plaintiff was being belligerent and failing to comply with his orders.” Five cops were soon in the area and, according to the suit, Officer Michael White charged Davis, grabbed him and then slammed him into a wall.
“A female police officer got on Plaintiff’s back and handcuffed Plaintiff with Plaintiff’s arms behind his back and lying on his stomach,” the complaint continues. “Just before Plaintiff was picked up to his feet, Defendant White rushed in the cell a second time and kicked Plaintiff in the head while Plaintiff was lying on the floor and handcuffed with his arms behind his back.”
“He ran in and kicked me in the head,” Davis recalled, according to The Daily Beast. “I almost passed out at that point… Paramedics came… They said it was too much blood, I had to go to the hospital.”
The detainee didn’t get help there, however, because he refused treatment unless the hospital staff would first photograph his injuries.
“I wanted a witness and proof of what they done to me,” Davis said, according to the website.
Instead, he was taken back to the jail, where he remained for several days until he could post $1,500 bond related to four counts of “property damage.” In a signed complaint, Daly wrote, Officer Beaird said David bled on his own uniform and those of three others officers.
When the issue was ultimately brought up during legal proceedings pertaining to the civil suit filed by Davis, Officers Christopher Pillarick, Beaird and White all denied getting blood on their outfits, the Beast reported.
“The contradictions between the complaint and the depositions apparently are what prompted the prosecutor to drop the ‘property damage’ allegation,” Daly wrote this week. “The prosecutor also dropped a felony charge of assault on an officer that had been lodged more than a year after the incident and shortly after Davis filed his civil suit.”
That same suit compelled the Ferguson Police Department to produce surveillance camera footage from the alleged altercation, but the cops failed to properly save the clip, James Schottel, the plaintiff’s lawyer, told Daly this week. Furthermore, the attorney explained that his efforts to obtain the use-of-force history for the officers involved proved futile when he became aware that reports involving non-fatal altercations were absent from all officers’ personnel files, per departmental policy.
“On Friday, police finally identified the officer as Darren Wilson, who is said to have no disciplinary record, as such records are kept in Ferguson,” Daly wrote this week. “We already know that he started out at a time when it was accepted for a Ferguson cop to charge somebody with property damage for bleeding on his uniform and later saying there was no blood on him at all.”
According to court papers obtained by RT, Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker ruled late last year in favor the city, halting Davis’ efforts to sue the city for multiple alleged violations of his civil rights. His attorneys filed a notice of appeal in March, and the case is currently slated to be considered later this year by the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Appellant presented a submissible case of excessive force and Missouri state law assault and battery and respectfully requests this Honorable Court to reverse the district court’s judgment of dismissal of Appellant’s excessive force and Missouri state law assault and battery claims against Appellees Michael White, John Beaird and Kim Tihen,” the appeal reads in part. “Appellant presented a submissible case of municipal liability and requests this Honorable Court to reverse the district court’s judgment of dismissal of Appellant’s municipal liability claim against Appellee City of Ferguson, Missouri.”
When The Daily Beast caught up this week with Schottel, Davis’ attorney, he told them that rumors of the Ferguson Police Department firing multiple shots at Brown last week didn’t surprise him.
“I said I already know about Ferguson, nothing new can faze me about Ferguson,” he told the website.
A white police officer in the United States killed a black person on average of twice per week from 2005 to 2012, according to homicide reports offered to the FBI. But this data is limited, as only about 4 percent of law enforcement agencies contributed.
There was an average of 96 such incidents out of at least 400 police killings each year that local police departments reported to the FBI, according to analysis conducted by USA Today.
The analysis comes in the wake of the fatal police shooting by a white officer of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri that has set off national outrage over US law enforcement’s aggressive use of deadly force, incongruent targeting of minorities, and a militarized posture that treats citizens as the enemy.
The FBI report shows that 18 percent of African-Americans killed during those seven years were under the age of 21. Whites killed that were under the age of 21 came out to 8.7 percent.
As USA Today noted, only around 750 agencies – out of the 17,000 law enforcement entities across the United States – offered such data to the FBI.
On top of the limited participation, the self-reported contents of the database are considered incomplete. The data are not audited after submission to the FBI, and information on “justifiable” homicides has often been at odds with independent statistics gathered on police fatalities.
”There is no national database for this type of information, and that is so crazy,” said Geoff Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina. “We’ve been trying for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability. They don’t want to bother with it.”
Alpert added that the limited FBI data – the most complete record of people killed by US police – can show that a death had occurred, but it is reliable for little else.
“I’ve looked at records in hundreds of departments, and it is very rare that you find someone saying, ‘Oh, gosh, we used excessive force.’ In 98.9 percent of the cases, they are stamped as justified and sent along,” Alpert told USA Today.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police, on the other hand, said police use of force is blown out of proportion. Based on data from the Bureau of Justices Statistics in 2008, the group said less than 2 percent of 40 million people who had contact with police passed along complaints that officers used or threatened force.
“In large part, the public perception of police use of force is framed and influenced by the media depictions which present unrealistic and often outlandish representations of law enforcement and the policing profession,” the group said in a 2012 report.
Nevertheless, many independent studies of police shootings in major US cities have come to the conclusion that minorities are disproportionately targeted for police violence.
“We need not look for individual racists to say that we have a culture of policing that is really rubbing salt into longstanding racial wounds,” NAACP president Cornell Williams Brooks told Mother Jones.
Brooks added that in the US, many people suspected of minor crimes are confronted with “overwhelmingly major, often lethal, use of force.”
Meanwhile, officers are rarely convicted or sentenced for killing a suspect.
“Unfortunately, the patterns that we’ve been seeing recently are consistent: The police don’t show as much care when they are handling incidents that involve young black men and women, and so they do shoot and kill,” said Delores Jones-Brown, law professor and director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Statistics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, according to Mother Jones.
“And then for whatever reason, juries and prosecutor’s offices are much less likely to indict or convict.”
The US Justice Department is investigating at least 15 police agencies in the US for systemic abuse, including allegations of excessive force, racial profiling or false arrest.
As we’ve covered in two previous stories here at Techdirt, Ferguson, Missouri is a mess. The events, which now include three days of cops vs. citizens, were set off by the shooting of an unarmed black man, Mike Brown.
The story behind the shooting is still clouded by contradictory accounts. Police say there was a “scuffle” and that Brown tried to grab the unnamed officer’s gun. The police chief points to the officer’s “facial swelling” as definitive proof of this narrative. The other story is that Brown was gunned down by a pissed off cop who didn’t like the fact that Brown didn’t immediately comply with his “get the fuck onto the sidewalk” request.
Here are two facts: Brown’s body was 35 feet away from the vehicle where the scuffle supposedly took place. Brown’s body was left unattended for hours before being removed by a police.
Here’s one more, not that it should matter, but it does: Mike Brown had no criminal record.
Even if he was a criminal, his killing wouldn’t be justified. But even the most die hard cop supporter has to wonder why a person with no criminal record would suddenly escalate a jaywalking beef to the point of trying to take an officer’s gun. That doesn’t add up. Nothing does, not when filtered through the source delivering its top down narrative.
Local law enforcement has gone into complete lock-down mode. It has detained journalists without explanation. It has fired tear gas at an Al Jazeera America camera crew. It has filled the streets with armored vehicles, police officers in combat fatigues and has done nothing to defuse the situation.
Beyond that, local law enforcement has done the following:
Enacted a no-fly zone over the town.
Told people they can’t protest after dark.
Refused to release the name of the officer who shot Mike Brown.
Refused to release Mike Brown’s autopsy results.
Instructed people to return to their homes to “avoid tear gas” and then fired tear gas into people’s yards.
It’s ugly all over and it’s a prime example of the “what could go wrong” with the steady militarization of the police. Law enforcement has rolled in like an invading force, with gunners peeking out of the top of armored cars and citizens confronted by multiple gun barrels everywhere they look.
The police department demands patience and understanding as it investigates the shooting. But it deserves none of that. For one, it’s handling of the situation has gone from bad to horrific and it shows little desire to scale back its aggression. Anil Dash at Medium points out that none of this needed to be handled this way.
It’s plain as day that the cops have no strategy, no end goal in Ferguson. There’s no leadership. They don’t even understand the situation that they’ve found themselves in.
Basic crowd management for a group that will not, or can not, disperse is to de-escalate. The rent-a-cops at a hippie music festival know exactly what to do when the sound cuts out, but somehow the heavily militarized police force in Ferguson missed the lesson. It’s a hot summer day? Well, then you hand out some water to folks. You even smile while you do it. No, the water shouldn’t be coming out of fire-hoses while you hold back your German Shepherds.
For that matter, take off the helmets, and holster your weapons. This is basic shit for police! Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. Don’t point an assault rifle at someone unless you intend to kill them. These are fundamentals of firearms safety that every 8-year-old who’s ever gone on a hunting trip learned.
Instead of being cops, they’re now an occupying force, setting new rules for public interaction, intimidating journalists and doing everything but ousting the population and taking over their dwellings.
This is the byproduct of militarization. No longer are they peace officers. They are now soldiers, fighting a war against their fellow citizens. Billions of dollars have been funneled into local law enforcement agencies by the DHS, giving them military tools, tactics and vehicles. And in Ferguson, we now see that every dollar of it was misspent. The local cops are geared up for a war, but they’re missing one piece of technology that could likely have cleared up the mystery surrounding Mike Brown’s shooting almost immediately.
The police department doesn’t have a single dashboard camera in operation. It owns both dash cams and body cams, but not a single one is in use.
What it does have in full working condition (along with its war toys) is a handful of rights that only law enforcement officers possess. These rights aren’t found in the Constitution and the only way to access them is to be a cop. Citizens don’t have this extra layer of protection. Ken White at Popehat :
If you are arrested for shooting someone, the police will use everything in their power — lies, false friendship, fear, coercion — to get you to make a statement immediately. That’s because they know that the statement is likely to be useful to the prosecution: either it will incriminate you, or it will lock you into one version of events before you’ve had an opportunity to speak with an adviser or see the evidence against you. You won’t have time to make up a story or conform it to the evidence or get your head straight.
But what if a police officer shoots someone? Oh, that’s different. Then police unions and officials push for delays and opportunities to review evidence before any interview of the officer. Last December, after a video showed that a cop lied about his shooting of a suspect, the Dallas Police issued a new policy requiring a 72-hour delay after a shooting before an officer can be interviewed, and an opportunity for the officer to review the videos or witness statements about the incident. Has Dallas changed its policy to offer such courtesies to citizens arrested for crimes? Don’t be ridiculous. If you or I shoot someone, the police will not delay our interrogation until it is personally convenient…
The police department has not released the name of the shooter. Because he’s one of the insiders. As has been pointed out by several people, we know the names of everyone charged with looting-related felonies in Ferguson. But we still don’t know who shot Mike Brown. The police chief wants to protect the officer and his family, but law enforcement agencies will not return that favor should a citizen kill someone. And they will unleash entire police departments to destroy you if you shoot a cop. If you’re still alive enough to give a statement, your name will be prominently displayed everywhere. Your family will be harassed by cops and citizens. Death threats will make their way through phone lines and into the mailbox. But only cops are immunized against this by policies backed by police unions and government officials.
If anyone is still wondering what happens when you increase police power (with protective policies and secondhand war machines) while decreasing accountability, Ferguson is your answer. And it’s only the most visible indicator. Around the nation, it’s more of the same — but seething under the surface.
The arming of US police agencies with military-grade weaponry and tactics can be traced back, at the very least, to the creation of the paramilitary “Special Weapons and Tactics” Unit (SWAT) in 1967. In Overkill: Rise of Paramilitary Policing journalist Radley Balko notes that what inspired the heavily militarized SWAT team of today was “a specialized force in Delano, California, made up of crowd control officers, riot police, and snipers, assembled to counter the farm worker uprisings led by Cesar Chavez.” Balko writes in August 2013 for The Wall Street Journal that by 1975 from this first experimental SWAT unit grew to “approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13 percent of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80 percent.”
In War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, published in June 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), it is reported that federal programs “are arming state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war with almost no public discussion or oversight.” One such policy is the Department of Defense (DoD) Excess Property Program, or the 1033 Program, which “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.” Items provided by the DoD include, but are not limited to, mine-resistant ambush protected armored vehicles, aircrafts, grenade launchers, countless machine guns, magazines, bomb suits, forced entry tools and units of surveillance.
In the small city of Ferguson, Missouri, an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, was shot multiple times by a police officer on August 9. Witnesses say that the police officer had initiated a confrontation with Brown, and then physically assaulted him, as reported by Margaret Hartmann for New York Magazine :
“Brown’s friend, Dorin Johnson, says they were walking in the street when the officer pulled up and told them to “get the eff onto the sidewalk.” Johnson says the officer then reached “his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around the neck.” Witness Piaget Crenshaw said he saw the officer chasing Brown. “They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died.”
After the murder of Michael Brown, protests began to quickly take shape in Ferguson in response, not only at the scene of the crime but in front of the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. The police response to these protesters, many of whom literally had their hands raised above their heads while shouting “don’t shoot!”, was alarming – dogs were called, and heavily armed police officers lined up, intimidating the men, women and children of Ferguson. At least one police officer was recorded shouting, “Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!” Extremely troubling was the implementation of a no-fly zone over Ferguson, meant “to stop media from flying over the area to film.”
The targeting of Black communities by law enforcement is historic and ubiquitous; it has long colored every aspect of life for even those indirectly impacted by police actions – when systematic racism meets a militarized police force the outcome is continued dehumanization of Black bodies, societal acceptance of black deaths at the hands of the police and a disastrous escalation, oftentimes with public approval, of violent tactics against the Black people and communities of color. Modern US police departments share a colonial history that gives context to police violence of today – recognizing this framework is essential when examining how police brutality has developed historically. From constables in the 1600s who made up a sort of “neighborhood watch,” wherein they would capture slaves and prevent them from organizing for payment, the slave patrols of the early 1700s, the brazen appointment of police officers by way of their political affiliations in the 1880’s and stop-and-frisk, adopted from English common law, we learn that not only is violence an inherent part of the institution itself but it is a necessary component which allows for the state to control its citizens, and it has emerged and developed in the most destructive of ways. Police officers are trained to use force and are given the most lethal of weapons in order for them to do so and, according to data presented in the June 2014 report by the ACLU, this violence is overwhelmingly directed towards people of color. “Sixty-one percent of all the people impacted by SWAT raids in drug cases were minorities” and a majority are Black:
“[W]hen the data was examined by agency (and with local population taken into consideration), racial disparities in SWAT deployments were extreme. As shown in the table and graph below, in every agency, Blacks were disproportionately more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites, sometimes substantially so. For example, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Blacks were nearly 24 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites were, and in Huntington, West Virginia, Blacks were 37 times more likely. Further, in Ogden, Utah, Blacks were 40 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites were.”
Despite this, the focus on the actions of individual officers, while warranted, should not overwhelm the discourse – the data presented by the ACLU is not only an indictment of police officers alone but of the police institution itself. Police agencies have created an environment which not only employs violence against minorities but encourages violence against them.
Present-day US law enforcement as an institution has cooperated with a long list of state agencies which are integral components of the larger machinery of government as well as international police forces. The joint training between the United States and Israel is one such example. In May 2010, 50 retired US admirals and generals vigorously argued that Israel is a security asset in a letter to President Obama, that “American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks,” they wrote in part. In 2010, the Anti-Defamation League publicized that it had sponsored 15 senior law enforcement officials – including from the FBI, NYPD and Boston Police – to take part in an intensive “counter-terrorism training mission” in Israel so that they could share “information, strategies and tactics,” then again in 2011 and 2013. This program, which was first established in 2003, has sent over 115 state, federal and local law enforcement executives to Israel. In 2013, members of a US bomb squad from Arizona, including a US deputy, traveled to Israel for training which included “going to a West Bank outpost with the Israeli National Police bomb squad… learning about port inspections as they relate to counter explosives and counter IED operations.”
One of the reasons for this training? “To improve techniques and tactics they use along the US-Mexico border.”
The ADL is not the only organization boasting of this militarized US-Israel partnership. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has an entire publication dedicated to this “strategic partnership,” noting that “Israel has worked with multiple American agencies, including the FBI, NYPD, LAPD, and the Washington, D.C. Police Department.” According to the pamphlet not only have the U.S. Capitol Police undergone training in “Israeli counterterrorism techniques” but the partnership between these two colonial entities is far reaching, even beyond the scope of traditional law enforcement, with FEMA and the National Guard “often [traveling] to Israel to participate in Israeli homeland security drills.” The United States is not only learning from the brutality of the Israeli occupation forces but sharing their knowledge with other nations. The Middle Eastern Law Enforcement Training Center, which is co-sponsored by the FBI and the U.A.E. at the Dubai Police Academy, where FBI agents offer special training courses that “[involve] many aspects of law enforcement, including ways to combat white-collar crime, violent crime, forensics and counter-terrorism.” The United States also conducts military exchange programs in places like Egypt where US forces and Egyptian forces take part in joint military exercises, and offers FBI training to Egypt’s secret police who “routinely tortured detainees and suppressed political opposition” according to victim testimony.
Police institutions, which continue to work and expand under the guise of law while merging with the most prominent characters behind war-making, including the arms industry, lobbyists, and politicians, demand that communities, most often those of color, surrender what little autonomy they have so that they may receive “protection.” That they are ever permitted to collect on this guardianship is of no consequence because these institutions define protection and determine, for everyone, what is a most satisfactory response to any and all actions on the part of the community members.
Black men and women have long fought, with their blood, for the decentralization and democratization of the police and the right of their communities to determine their future without threat of police brutality – the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program, written in 1966, is a clear-cut example. “We Want An Immediate End To Police Brutality And Murder Of Black People,” the program reads in part. “We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality.” An article in the Palm Beach Post, published in 1969, reads “Decentralized Police Sought By Black Panthers”:
“Six intense Black Panthers have come in out of the West as advance men for a national conference which will drumbeat a simplistic theme – decentralize the police systems of big cities, place the cops under neighborhood control and give each community its own police commissioner.”
US police forces uphold white supremacy with their racist implementation of violence, where in places like Ogden, Utah, Black people “were 40 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid than whites were,” according to the ACLU. These forces work towards the preservation of capitalism, and the police, as an institution, use elitism, violence and authoritarianism in order to preserve the state.
Decentralization is not only possible but proving to be a necessary process in order to dismantle the structuralized and militarized brutality that communities of color face at the hands of racist paramilitary police forces. The police have proven that they are not accountable to the communities they allegedly “serve and protect,” and so in order to implement restorative justice the institution itself should be dismantled and replaced with an organization that is transparent, represents the diversity of these communities and which, most importantly, is limited in regards to the scope of the organization’s power.
GAZA CITY – Egyptian authorities denied entry to a Kuwaiti delegation bringing aid to the Gaza Strip on Thursday as it opened the Rafah crossing for humanitarian cases.
Palestinian crossing officials said that injured Palestinians, medical patients and foreign nationals were allowed to use the crossing and Gaza residents in Egypt were allowed to return.
Egyptian security prevented a four-man Kuwaiti delegation carrying medical aid from entering Gaza.
No reason was given for the refusal.
Egyptian authorities have largely kept the Rafah crossing closed since the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
The terminal is the only border crossing that most of Gaza’s 1.8 million people can use to leave the enclave.