Friday, August 8, 2008

Why I Hate the Police

I was raised in an ethnic Catholic household. Working-class, urban, and filled with several firefighters and at least two fire chiefs in my family background. In this environment, I was raised to believe that the police were basically the good guys, should be respected and honored.

Well, my adult experience has been quite an education process for me. For the record, in case you are one of those apologists for unfettered police state tactics, I have no criminal record, have never been arrested, and none of my friends are criminals or gangsters (contrary to popular belief of people who graduate from urban public school districts). Nevertheless, out of all the bureaucracies in the US most ridden with corruption, with the exception of elected officials, our local police departments are probably the worst. Not all of them, but certainly most of them.

In my large-sized hometown the local cops over the past two decades have been involved in several controversies. In the early to mid '90s, there was a spate of police beatings of suspects and in many cases regular citizens. It was so bad, one of them raped a woman during a domestic abuse call (in which the cop was, unbelievably, acquitted for his actions [claiming that the battered wife consensually had sex with him after he answered her call]). The vice squad resembled a band of deviants who should be on a sex offender registry. How bad? We had a police commander who was busted skimming money off a prostitution ring (run by the cops!), and his punishment was to receive a letter of caution (no suspension, firing, etc.). When it was later discovered that the commander was a personal friend of the city police chief and that his wife worked as the police chief's secretary, the response was to do absolutely nothing (when I last checked, both the police chief and commander are on my hometown city's payroll).

Then in the late '90s, the same vice squad, from the same city, were busted by local news cameras performing sex acts on hookers while they were supposed to be arresting them. The police department's explanation was classic (paraphrasing): "We had to have sex with them. Otherwise, they would've accused us of being police." Their punishment? The police chief praised the officers for their dedication.

And those are only some of the stories. Another nasty little secret is that the response time of my hometown's police department is unbelievably slow (usually the 2-4 hour range). There was a case back in the late '90s when a man was shot by a mentally ill neighbor, and while he lay in the street bleeding, neighborhood denizens called the city cops, begging for them to arrest the shooter and get help to the victim. They called so many times, after the police did not arrive, that they called 911, to which the operators threatened to have the callers arrested, if they did not stop calling and clogging up the lines. It took the authorities over an hour and half to arrive, by which time the victim was long dead and the shooter roaming the streets.

The same police took over two hours to respond to me a year and half after that incident, when I heard semiautomatic gunfire behind my residence. They treated my call like a waste of their evening. The next day a body was found a couple of blocks away (a young Latino immigrant). I called the homicide department to tell them that I think I heard the gunshots that killed the man (timing the shots from my alarm clock and the fact the shots came from the same area where the man's body was discovered). The police detective's response was as offensive as their vice squad's rationale for having sex with prostitutes. "Oh, those are just the Mexicans. They just go back there and sometimes will shoot their weapons." I could not believe what I was listening to. It was the last time I ever called the police, and I moved from my hometown soon after. Whatever trust I once had in law enforcement was lost with that case, and it has never returned (as far as I can tell the murder remains unsolved).

For these and many other crimes (all on the taxpayer's dime), the US federal government intervened in the '90s and early 2000s and put my hometown's police department under investigation and monitoring. Of course, nothing happened. That's because being in the police means never having to be held accountable, like people in the real world--just ask Sean Bell's family.

I am certain the police department from my birthplace is not the exception. From what I have read, there are many with worse records of corruption and abuse (New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington DC, just to name a few).

The smaller police departments, however, while less violent, are just as crooked. During my graduate school days, I lived in a university town (pop. of about 20,000). The university was the entire city, but the city had their own cops. All of them were basically traffic cops, never having been trained in police academies, and at least three had prior arrests for domestic abuse and DUIs, in spite of which they were allowed to carry weapons, while giving themselves carpel tunnel from their ticket pads. You could never find parking space at the university, and had to park at a two-hour meter (knowing your classes were three hours [meaning you had to play Russian roulette and park an hour over the meter and risk a ticket]). The city cops would just walk and hover around the meters throughout the day (and would even employ plain clothes to write tickets). If ever a police department could be called walking, rolling toll booths, these people were it. I even witnessed one of these "officers" speed up to a meter in his car, slam on his breaks (in the middle of the winter), get out of his car, take out his pad and quickly write a ticket on a car, run back to his car and speed away (well above the allotted speed limit that neither they nor most police obey anyway).

In my home state, one of the local villages was so corrupt, it had a dozen cops for a place with a population of maybe sixty. The entire area encapsulated one road, which had a speed limit of 25 mph (the same stretch of road before and after the village had a speed limit of 45 mph). The cops would just sit at both ends of their little road and pull people over. That was it. That is all they ever did (and the village mayor, city council, and police chief were unknown because the village refused to submit any paper work on their whereabouts, the village's finances, anything of note). There were no city services provided from the revenues, which went entirely into the coffers and accounts of the village government's employees' bank accounts. Unluckily for this village, the cops pulled over a state representative for speeding, as they had done thousands of times before, who immediately realized how thoroughly corrupt this village was, and took the case to the state house and ultimately gained the support of the governor to dissolve the village. There were so many people harassed by this department that the victims held a mass rally right before the state dissolved the department, to celebrate the village's demise.

The greatest pastime of local cops in this country, though, is targeting African Americans. For all of the complaints from the militia groups hiding in their huts in Montana, you will likely not see too many white people get 40-50 bullets unloaded into them for no good reason. You never hear about a person being pulled over by the cops for driving while white. Every African American male friend I have known throughout my life has at least one story (in many cases, multiple stories) of harassment by the local and state cops. One of my old colleagues, from many years ago, was actually pulled over by the police because he "fit the description" of a robber. My friend was wearing a tailor-made suit, driving in a $40,000 SUV (coming from a family of doctors). About the only thing he had in common with the real robber was his race, which almost certainly was the reason why he was pulled over. He almost missed one of my friend's weddings because of this.

This is not to say every case is racism, as they probably are not, but there is enough of them to explain why so many in the black community have a wariness of their local police.

Some of you might think I am being too harsh. To be sure, there are good cops out there (I only wish there were more and ones that I actually knew). It is unfair to judge everyone based on a few, or even a majority. I would even go so far to concede that the real culprit in this is likely the job itself, which encourages a culture of wantonness in behavior and endemic mistrust of the communities they police. Nevertheless, nothing rationalizes behavior like this. Here is the Chicago Police, the same people who gave us the Haymarket massacre.

Here is another story ready to lighten the day of any local fuzz. The cops in Ohio arrested a woman, but after taking her into custody at the station decided it was time for a sexual assault. Think of this the next time these folk come to you with their hands outstretched, looking for your tax dollars.

Here is a Hot Springs, Arkansas, cop choking and assaulting a 13 year old for committing the heinous crime of skateboarding.

Now you know what your city's 'bravest' mean by protect and serve.


Meghan said...

I come from Wyoming, where after getting shot at, you are not the victim unless you are a man.
They also will only pay medical bills for children who become injured and not counseling for their brother, who also was involved, but they will pay for mine????
I feel sorry for these people, I know how they feel. It is sad to know that my family and I are not the only ones who have been abused by the police.

TA said...

I am sorry to hear this, but it does not surprise me. Frankly, I am surprised they would even admit to anything.

Nader Enthusiast said...

Me too. I think the majority of the ones here in the midwest are corrupt. I always wondered who would be attracted to a job that consists of harassing people - bullies probably from the time they were kicking ass in the playground.

TA said...

I recall a couple of guys who I went to high school with that later on became cops. They were without exception losers as youth; losers academically, socially, and while I may be wrong to the extent that this probably does not apply to all of them I believe a majority of them use a career in law enforcement to exact out a revenge on a society that rejects them and their values of imprisoning every last black male they can fit into their prisons.

As aforementioned, every black male friend I've known throughout my life, every one of them, has been harassed by the police (sometimes, two or three times), and almost always under the most ridiculous of circumstances that would make the average Alaskan resident to start walking around with fully automatic weapons. When was the last time you've heard of the cops unloading 40-50 bullets into white people in some gated community for committing the crime of "fitting the description" of anyone else? There is no way that this is coincidental and to me it is the greatest beef I have with local law enforcement in this country. They're armed guards for their friends that live outside of the cities they terrorize. That's not to say I love the crooks. I don't. Sadly, it's just my experience with the police has been that there's little difference between them and the real criminals (next to themselves) that they're supposed to be arresting.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the article. Police are usually corrupt, uneducated brutes who have an associates degree, if that. They are given a license to kill. BS. They are mostly harrassing assholes who are stupid and ignorant, who love to act tough. Fuck them. I hate the fucking police. They can go to hell.

Anonymous said...

I respect authority, I am an honor student, dual club president, had the priveledge of a prestigous political internship, student body member at the time and ivy league bound. However, because I had a mental breakdown because I have suffered from depression, they handcuffed me, as policy procedures and put in the back of a car, and though I asked to be taken out in a manner where I won't be seen, they took me in a manner to their convenience and I waited 25 minutes of humiliation in the back of their police car and it was hot. They kept calling me buddy and told me to do procedures like standing like a criminal though they took me to a hospital. Then when I was thristy and asked for some water they said to wait until I was a "liability" of the hospital. Its ridiculous!!!! I can understand if it is some criminal, but if it is a kid who just had one mental breakdown and has an IQ over 150, its not!!!! But when they uncuffed me, I said "I understand you nazis, thank you, and p.s ill still make more money than both of you combined". My point is, they need to review their procedures in dealing with citizens with minor mental issues.

Anonymous said...

I will always hate the police. I think they are all degenerate troglodyte pieces of filth roaming the planet with blood thirst. They prey on the disadvantaged and weak like true cowards. They ARE NOT the first line of defense for anyone. Only you can protect yourself in a violent situation. The police just show up after words and fuck everything up. They NEVER protect anyone. They only protect themselves and their interest in continued wanton destruction of innocence. I will always hate every cop and anyone who likes cops. I will always hate their friends. I will always hate the air they breathe, and the feel sorry for the soil their poison feet stain with a footprint. I will hate their children that they bring up to admire and defend police. ALL cops, any race, any gender: YOU ALL SUCK.

Samantha said...

Police in Marlborough, MA have the ok to drive around in their own personal trucks, and follow you for miles after you blow your horn so that they won't back into you. When the cop catches up to you, he reads you the riot act for all kinds of stuff. Police in Marlborough, MA SUCK!

arthurstephens41 said...

In stories, children are made to believe that police officers are their friends. But in reality, police officers are just fictional that hide behind badges just to receive money.