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Friday, July 31, 2015

Changing Judicial Attitudes Will Catch Up To Bad Cops

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.
Police violence seems to have spiked in recent months and there is no clear reason why. As usual, when there is an observation of a change in the frequency and severity of events, one must try to determine whether the frequency and severity is actually increasing or is it just that we are now hearing/seeing the reports more often and paying attention when we formerly did not. The media coverage of events may itself shape our perceptions of the events and what they mean.

To substantiate this statement, consider the following statistical representation from the Washington Post. By the end of July 2015, a total of 559 people were shot and killed by police. About two dozen of these have been addressed by the national news media. They were the sensational events. They were the ones of suspicious character. They were the ones that seemed to be the most unjust. Following the reports that rose above the clatter and din, one might think that police were on a rampage killing minority people for no justifiable reason. While some officers certainly are out of control as seen in the few video clips that accompany the reports, most are not being thugs and criminals themselves. The number of white people shot by police this year is 278 while 140 were black and 86 were Hispanic.

The number of males was 535 with 24 females. The highest number by age was 301 in the age bracket 25 to 44. Those who were older outnumber those who were younger than this middle age group. Apparent mental illness was suspected in only 26% of the incidents. Only 83.5% were armed but 3.5% more possessed toy weapons that looked like a threat.

Police shooting statistics do not tell the story that is playing out in this country right now. The bigger issue is the number of brutal treatments of otherwise docile citizens who for reasons only known to the offending officers got a beatdown that was not warranted. Even when there clearly will be video evidence to substantiate one claim or the other, police officers seem to not be concerned about that. With body cameras and dash cameras on record they engage and beat and/or kill citizens anyway. Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy in Cuyahoga County, Ohio where an officer killed him 2 seconds after arriving in a show of shock and awe when he sped up on him in a public park.

Other videos show officers barking commands then immediately unleashing brutal punishment before the person has a chance to respond to the officer of for officer to ascertain that the command was heard, understood and that compliance was not forthcoming.

In a couple of video clips recorded by passersby have shown huge muscular officers mercilessly beating a citizen who is already on the ground, restrained with handcuffs and still being punched, kicked and beaten with batons. The problem with these officers is THEY CAN'T STOP themselves. They are like pitbull dogs that have chomped on a victim and will not let go all the while mauling and sometimes killing their victim. Just when additional officers arrive on the scene and a silly spectator thinks they will stop the savagery, they don't. They join in the fray and further injure the victim.

With the appearances of some of these officers one would have an easy time believing that they have been heavy users of steroids. The wrestling entertainers were well noted for their steroid use and the "roid rage" that can accompany their overuse. These officers also have easy access to confiscated cocaine and other drugs that influence behavior in a negative manner.

They are quick to act. They are quick to react. They are quick to escalate an event to violence by their actions.

"I watched a citizen produced phone video (in HD no less) of two St. Louis police officers arrive on the scene of a black man with a knife and within 4 seconds had fired 6 bullets killing him. This is not an acceptable behavior. The officers will probably not be indicted for any crimes even in the light of the Michael Brown killing only a week earlier in a town nearby. These two offices jumped from contact to completion in 4 seconds. There was no attempt to resolve the armed-suspect event without bullets."

Then they all stick together and pretend that nothing is wrong.

"The Brother-in-Blue will all stand in silence on whether these two officers were known to be racist, abusive, suffering PTSD, are trigger-happy, hotheaded, on steroids, coked up, or under the influence of alcohol; or other controlled substance.  There will be no post incident drug tests as would be in the event that a bus driver hit a pedestrian or damaged a parked car. There will be no psychological evaluation because the results all would be admissible in a criminal or civil court case where the men, the department and the jurisdiction might be held liable for a wrongful death. While we are not in a position to be definitive about cause and effect, we do see that the violence has gotten worse with no end in sight."

The impacts of PTSD on police officers is unmistakable. Even as the frequency of police officers being killed in the line of duty steadily going down since the 1970s, the frequency of officer suicides has climbed to the point where self-inflicted death is the second most common cause second to vehicle accidents.

Even though a suicide only kills one officer, it has a serious impact on all the Brothers who served with him. As with most suicides the survivors have to deal with grief, stress, anger and violent outbursts about an event that cannot be rationalized. Where do these officers vent their frustrations? On the victims they brutalize.

PTSD doesn't just come from being a soldier in a war zone. The physical stressed are soon healed even if there are residual conditions like missing limbs, paralysis and massive burns. The psychological trauma is the bigger factor in PTSD. This even includes psychological traumas that did not accompany physical injury. It can arise from doing the acts one did and seeing the results of those actions.
During the Occupy movement we witnessed and participated in police officers were ordered to line up and mistreat the protestors at a level that was orders of magnitude greater than the civil disobedience. They pepper sprayed, beat and ziptied men and women of all ages and dragged them away. The corralled the protestors and trapped them in a pinch point where they could be managed like cattle going to slaughter. It was in those days that I prognosticated that we were going to see a massive uptick in PTSD in police officers.

They were taking actions and performing tasks that could not be justified by the civil resistance that was mounted in protest of the policies and behaviors of Wall Street that would be impacting the police departments too. It appears that we have that kind of bad behavior in all sections of the country.

Just in this map of police shooting we can see that shooting are not isolated in any one part of the nation although low population states have far fewer shootings. And of course a shooting and a beating or a police station incident are completely different things. There typically are far more assaults in America by perpetrators at all socio-economic levels than there are killings. Police involved assaults and killing would not be expectedly different. They are men and women who come to work with unresolved personal issues and who take work issues back home and inflict of family and the "proverbial dog" who gets kicked.

Citizen mental illness and social stresses including drug use contribute to the resistance a person exhibits in the face of violent authority. This certainly has an association with the numbers of people who murder another or kill themselves with guns. Add to this mix the anger of being treated poorly, being reprimanded for doing what you believe is "your duty" or "just my job" and you get a lethal and violent combination.

Police officer mental illness and social stresses including drug use, and seeing criminals "get away with it" all to often leads to a feeling of entitlement to right those wrongs. There is no reason that anyone should end up dead in a jail cell (by suicide or any other inflicted means) for failure to use a turn signal. #SandraBland. The reason she was arrested at all was that the arresting office decided that he had had enough lip from a black woman. He was going to show her. He did not like her attitude.

All too often the citizen who takes the beating was just being defiant. He (typically) was not committing a crime worthy of a beating or death. In a recent surveillance video in a police station a skinny black man is hurled to the floor by a burley white officer then kicked, punched and struck with a baton so many times that I lost count. I lost count after two more officers joined in the fray and beat on his too. Then two more officers got into the game. A dozen or more officers emerged from a back room and stepped over and around the men on the floor as they pretended that it was none of their business.

Posted by Chil-p on Thursday, April 10, 2014

If they wanted to move him to a holding cell or interrogation room, they could have just pushed him there step by step. He was no match of even one officer. It appears that this episode was part of the ordinary daily routine for these men. How many other "suspects" have met this type of "welcome" and we never see it on a tape? Until and unless they do, we will be left speculating.

As Bill Cosby discovered, when there is an Undiscovered Lie and the evidence and incidents continue to mount, eventually the truth comes out. Judicial attitude will change and old police crimes will be prosecuted.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

DC Commuting

I should have known. Or at least suspected it. I hit the off-button of the alarm clock instead of the Snooze and woke up 20 minutes later than planned. I had to hurry up and get ready for the commute.

I dashed to the car and to the train station only to find that the train was going to be about 30 minutes late. It was. At least I got the extra sleep. The platform was already hot with the morning humidity and there were dozens of extra people there because the next train is usually only 20 minutes later than the one I take. So we had two trains worth of commuters to stand in the aisles and block up the path.

By the time we arrived at Union Station, I was half-way between two local bus arrivals and waited along with a dozen people who would be wanting to board the bus also. It arrived and we all piled in.

By the time we reached 9th Street, the Police had the block over to 10th cordoned off for some unspecified reason. The bus deviated with a left turn in what was supposed to be a "uni-block detour" that turned out to be much more. By the time we moved one block south we were met by another police vehicle making us turn left again. While two wrongs don't make a right, three lefts do.

We were headed back toward Union Station until we made the third left and were headed North. By then there were a series of No Left Turns including the useless left on at E Street from where we originally diverted. K Street provided the first opportunity for a left turn, the fourth one that put us back on a Westward path.

It was about then that I thought about the possibility of the driver's name being Moses. He did an admirable job of navigating the city streets during morning DC rush hour, but we did seem lost in the desert there for a time.

Employing 20-20 hindsight this day would have been a good one to telework. Then the realization hit me. When you get to work, your commute is only half over. The day was only cranking up to its maximum temperature at that early hour. AMTRAK and MARC still had to contend with warped rails, switch and signal malfunctions, and overheated locomotives. Sometime over the past 21 years of commuting into DC the commute has become an adventure. THAT was never supposed to be.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Red Line Today

During my MARC ride into Union Station, I received an email from a colleague that said the Red Line was in Major Delay Mode. It was several months ago that I gave up on the Red Line due the many elevator and escalator outages at Union Station and Metro Center. Not withstanding the actual train delays, the the ancillary vertical and diagonal "rail" services had become quite a problem.

For a person who relies on those vertical transports (aka elevators) the amount of extra time in the system exceeded the rail benefits over the surface bus service.
I arrived a minute too late at the bus stop and could see the extra multitude of "breakdown" riders already waiting to board that bus. I was nowhere near the stop to even try to get aboard using a wheelchair. While waiting for the next bus, I was able to compare rider notes with a few women who likewise are MARC commuters and who normally ride the Red Line trains. Their comments paralleled mine.

While riding along E Street, one could tell that there was something afoot with the Metro due to the abundance of middle aged white men wearing blue and white stripped shirts seeking to board the bus along the way and needing to ask what the fare would be. I was glad that I chose a shirt other than my blue and white stripped one.

The ride was a bit slower than normal but it did manage to be far faster than the rails. Another colleague passed me in the office and said that he decided to take my advice and try the bus this morning. He said it was a good alternative but... but he got on going the wrong direction. By the time he was well into NE rather than NW, he figured that he better ask. He was still here before me. Therefore even with starting out in the wrong direction and getting turned around, the bus was still better today.

We keep hearing that "they are working on it" and that services will be getting better. Apparently they had a long way to go just to get to "square one." I still suspect that services will get worse before it gets better at the rate maintenance and repairs are going.

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