"You Snotty Little Bastard!… You Can't Handle The Truth!"
Is the tragedy of Ferguson serving as a national teaching moment? Maybe… at least for people open to learning. Nate Silver made a point the other day, for example, of how most police don't live in the cities they serve-- especially not white police serving in minority areas. In Ferguson, for example, "more than two-thirds of the civilian population is black. Only 11 percent of the police force is… Black and Hispanic officers are considerably more likely to reside in the cities they police than white ones." And Ferguson is anything but an outlier.
On average, among the 75 U.S. cities with the largest police forces, 60 percent of police officers reside outside the city limits. But the share varies radically from city to city… [O]nly 23 percent do so in Los Angeles. Just 12 percent of Washington police live in the District-- and only 7 percent of officers in Miami live within city limits.Maybe that accounts for why so many minority residents feel the police are a heavily armed foreign occupying force, less interested in serving and protecting and more interested in oppressing and threatening. Then there are the questions of empathy and of accountability. Yishai Schwartz, writing for the New Republic, pokes around something that has plagued people trying to exercise their rights to assemble and protest for-- at least-- my entire life: an overwhelmingly ill-trained police force convinced they are above the law… and lawmakers who back up that notion despite a Constitution that does not. Schwatz's point was that the murderer in the Ferguson police uniform will never be convicted of anything. "In this case," he writes, "a combination of entrenched racial and occupational biases, and most importantly the details of Missouri law, all but ensures that a conviction is off the table."
In general, we presume innocence. But when we know that a killing has occurred and can definitively identify who committed the act, traditional common law demanded that our presumptions shift. We are supposed to presume guilt, and it is the shooter who must prove that his actions were justified. Unless the shooter is a policeman. And unless the victim is a black male. And unless the shooting happens in a state with self-defense laws like Missouri.And these underlying attitudes that give individual police officers license to shoot first and think later? Look no further than the conservative ideology that has poisoned the American Dream from the very first day when conservatives stampeded to support the British against the American revolutionaries. The same third of Americans who are knee-jerk Republicans today, were knee-jerk royalists in the late 1700s. They hated everything America stood for-- and they still do. Look no further than Republican Party spokesmodel Steve King (R-IA), one of the House Members who sets the GOP's policy on racism and bigotry inside Congress. King is a tenacious hatemonger steeped in ugly 19th Century racism. Predictably, he's become Congress' cheerleader-in-chief for murderer Darren Wilson. But… some of his best friends are Negroes. Maybe one of them should tell him that the entire Republican House Conference is a "Congressional White Caucus."
In any clash of witness testimony, police officers begin at huge advantage. Although the courts insist that juries give policemen no extra credence because of their badges as an “essential demand of fairness,” that’s not how jurors actually think or behave. Large percentages of potential jurors readily admit to giving police testimony extra weight, and many more likely act on this implicit bias. And in this case, the favoring of police testimony is compounded by another more pernicious bias: racial prejudice. Extensive research shows that Americans are far more likely to believe that African Americans-- and especially young black men-- have committed crimes and display violent behavior. It therefore won’t take very much to convince a jury that Officer Wilson was acting out of self-defense.
But these cultural biases are only part of the story of why a conviction will be near-impossible. The central reason is a recent trend in many states' criminal laws. Throughout history, claims of self-defense and compelling police activity have served as justifications for the use of deadly force. Most people intuitively understand that self-preservation is a basic right and that police must sometimes use violence to protect society and apprehend criminals. But generally, we expect situations of justified violence and legal killing to be the rare exception, and most people would probably imagine that policemen and citizens raising claims of justifiable homicide must meet a substantive burden of proof. But today, in states like Missouri, these justifications barely require any evidence at all.
…Within reason, legal protections for, and presumptions in favor of, policemen acting in the line of duty make sense. Society has chosen to give these men and women guns, after all. And if we expect these officers to put their lives on the line, we owe them some measure of trust and due deference. But trust cannot become a license to kill. We have a word for a situation where killing is the default, where violence is so expected that the burden is no longer on a killer to prove his actions are justified. That word is war. It has no place in suburban St. Louis.
I've watched them pit us against each other for a long time. And by the way, it also should be said that someone like Lacy Clay, who's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus-- there is no 'Congressional White Caucus.' It is a self-segregated caucus and it is a caucus that they drive an agenda that's based on race. And they're always looking to place the race card. They're always looking to divide people down that line. And I have friends in that caucus. I get along with them personally, but their agenda is to play the race card. And we have a President who had a perfect opportunity to eliminate a lot of this friction in this country, and instead, he and his attorney general have been in a place where they've created friction rather than eliminated it.Not every policeman thinks he's above the law. But I bet most do. They're the thugs from high school who went the sanctioned uniform route. The story of Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw's series of on-duty sexual assaults isn't unrelated to the murderous police officer in Ferguson. The police chief there called his rampage "disturbing."
Daniel Ken Holtzclaw, 27, a three-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, was arrested about 3 p.m. Thursday outside Gold’s Gym, 2301 W Memorial Road, on complaints of rape, forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery and indecent exposure. He was being held in the Oklahoma County jail in lieu of $5 million bail.The pig mentality behind the Ferguson murder and the Oklahoma City rapes:
…Holtzclaw is accused of stopping women-- some as they walked through neighborhoods-- and threatening them with arrest, Citty said. Police said Holtzclaw forced women to expose themselves, fondled the women, and in at least one instance, had intercourse with a woman, Citty said.
Holtzclaw, an Enid native, worked the 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift at the Springlake Division, which predominately patrols the northeast part of Oklahoma City. Police said most incidents happened at the location of the stops, but some victims were taken to remote locations.
…Holtzclaw was one of four Oklahoma City police officers named in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in the May 1, 2013, death of Clifton Armstrong, 38. The lawsuit was filed in January.
Velencia Maiden alleges that officers used excessive force in arresting her son. She also contends the police department inadequately investigates such complaints, fails to adequately train its officers on the use of force and allows a permissive atmosphere in which illegal and unconstitutional behavior toward citizens is tolerated and accepted. Maiden is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.