April 26, 1992. There was a riot on the street, tell me, where were you?
I get the feeling the majority of you rioting right now were either too young or not even born yet when that song made its rounds. Didn’t quite have the ability for those events to make their mark on your worldview.
Something tells me this event ends the same as that event.
I’m curious to see the ways in which this year gets neatly packaged and scripted into an overlooked little chapter to be taught to schoolchildren in 2050. I wonder, what will be the foundation of the narrative? What lessons will the government run public school systems be conveying when they discuss 2020 and the relationship a government holds with its constituency?
With any luck I’ll still be around to witness that. Why do I get the sense that it will be something that supports acquiescence to authority?
This is a bad time to write this piece. Perhaps the worst times to write something are the most effective? I don’t know.
I’ve been speaking out against and writing about police violence for many, many years. It’s on record. I supported Colin because he spoke out against the violence of the state, period. I supported BLM because they spoke out against the violence of the state. I may not agree with their interpretations of root cause, but regardless, a voice against the state is appreciated either way.
That is why I’m writing today.
The State’s violent enforcement of policies have claimed many, many lives. It always has. It hasn’t been until recently, 2013 I believe, that online resources began popping up to make an effort to officially track and tally these instances of violence. Before that, there was no reliable source of data whatsoever.
If you listen to the news. Most of those victims are black. They aren’t. Not even close. From Duncan Lemp sleeping peacefully in his bed to Kelly Thomas who apologized to officers 15 times while they literally beat him to death, there are heart breaking tales from all ethnicities, including 6 year old autistic boy Jeremy Mardis whose father was unarmed in the front seat of the car and even babies during SWAT raids. Derek Hale in 2007 sitting on his friend’s front porch getting up to help his friend’s girlfriend with her two kids. Stephan Cook forcibly raped by police in 2012. Nick Christie, whose wife mistakenly called police to inform them her husband had traveled to FL and forgotten his medicine, was accosted, hooded and pepper sprayed……to death. James Ahern who was unarmed and shot in the back in 2010. His assailant was promoted to Chief. David Eckert in New Mexico who was forcibly raped for having the nerve to ask if he was free to go.
I can keep going, there’s a never ending supply of these kinds of stories. The abuse is color blind, I promise you.
In the interest of time I decided to look back at the last 3 ½ years solely to see how many unarmed civilians were killed during an interaction with police. Only unarmed. That’s not to say that everyone who was armed deserved to be killed. Not at all. Some did, certainly. If you physically threaten another’s life, any individual has every right to defend themselves. Whether or not they are an officer is irrelevant.
In the interest of consistency, civilians have that exact same right and if a group of humans bust down someone’s door at 2 AM that person has every right to defend themselves as well and has every right to pick up their gun to do so. They don’t know those are police officers busting down their door.
In the last three and a half years I was curious in comparing deaths of unarmed civilians across White, Black and Hispanic lines. This count is not complete. There were quite a few victims who were never identified, and their race not confirmed. I left all those out of the count. I also left out Asians in my tally though there were a handful. Three or Four I believe.
The final count since 2017 of unarmed civilians: 24 Black : 25 Hispanic : 61 White
Now I know, the natural argument is to draw attention to the disparity in relation to population. That’s fair. Black Americans make up 14% of the US population and yet are 22% of unarmed victims. White Americans make up 60% of the US population and are only 55% of unarmed victims. You can make an almost identical observation if tallying all deaths due to police interaction and you can make a similar observation with respect to arrests as well I would bet. I’ve studied crime data extensively but haven’t seen a dataset that simply outlined arrest records by demographic.
That said, are we really stating that disparity is the cause of our pain? Really?
Do you mean to tell me that over the next 3 ½ years if the police have killed 110 unarmed civilians and 15 of them are black, 18 are Hispanic and 66 are White then there will be no riots in the street and you will interpret the world in which you live as just?
We don’t have a race problem in American policing. We have a prohibition problem in American policing.
You want to riot? You want justice? You want change?
We need coordinated action and goals. If this keeps up much longer here’s what’s going to happen.
You’re going to get tired of protesting. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get incarcerated. You’re going to lose your momentum. Your anger is going to subside. George Flynn’s murderer is going to be indicted and that’s going to tell you that some kind of justice was eventually served and you’re going to get back to living your life.
Then, we can do this all over again in another 28 years when nothing of substance changed.
How do we not let that happen?
We need to reorient our law enforcement from the profitable and predatory practice of fighting the war on drugs at the behest of federal policies and back toward the actual practice of ensuring the safety of our citizens.
We need to know that the officers in our communities’ employ are dependable and respectable. The types of human beings that we could trust to ensure a safe community.
How do we do all this?
Well, as far as accountability goes, I would say let’s make police officers accountable. Seems easy right? I’m not talking about being charged with a crime after they do something horrendous. Though should they do something horrendous then that is obviously a crime, so please, charge them with one.
No, I’m talking about something much more basic. Personal liability.
If a plumber comes over and floods your entire house due to negligence or incompetence you have the just right to pursue compensation and damages. The plumber is required to carry insurance to cover their work.
If a surgeon paralyzes you due to negligence or malpractice you have the just right to sue for damages. Doctors carry enormous malpractice policies for just this reason.
Why not make police officers carry malpractice insurance? Personally. Fine, go to the academy, get all your training, accept your new role, oh, but before you are able to start on day one, you have to apply for and get approved for malpractice insurance. The monthly rate gets automatically drafted out of your paycheck.
Hell, police departments would even end up subsidizing the cost I’m sure.
But do you know what would happen? Insurance companies would police themselves. Just as they do with doctors and service providers. If an officer does something wretched and gets sued, then just like with your car insurance, their rate goes up. If it goes up high enough, eventually that officer prices themselves out of employment. Bad cops, gone.
This seems pretty obvious and I’m not the only one making the argument. I saw a fantastic article on this site two days ago promoting the same premise.
I’m willing to bet there are quite a few attorneys that are part of this movement no? Did you know the Supreme Court has historically overturned 236 of it’s rulings?
Create class action lawsuits against the United States. Sue against Qualified Immunity. A 1983 Supreme Court ruling that arbitrarily creates impunity for all government employees acting within the official capacity of their role. It’s the same doctrine that allows the people who poisoned me and so many other Vets to walk free.
Stand outside the Supreme Court the day of the ruling on that lawsuit ready to riot.
Create class action suits against the Civil Asset Forfeiture program that began in 1970. Wait outside the Supreme Court.
Create class action suits against the 1033 Program that funnels retired military equipment to local police departments.
Create class actions suits that challenge the legal capacity for police departments to continue with their practice of conducting over 50,000 SWAT raids per year. You read that correctly.
Create class action against Federal drug policies.
As far as the drug war goes, which was initiated around a foundation of systemic and institutional racism, make no mistake, is a little more complex and tricky.
There exists no one size fits all solution for this issue. Other than one aspect; Nullification.
States need to nullify federal mandates and create their own policies surrounding drugs and enforcement that are individually aligned with the communities they police. Beyond that, local cities need to nullify state mandates should they want to try something different as well. This is already happening with marijuana.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know if 100 people try 100 different things then we’ll learn something as a society. And maybe even make progress.
This issue has always been vastly more socio-economic than it has been about race. I know for a fact that in the poor white neighborhoods where drug use is prevalent those communities are badgered by police to the same degree as poor black neighborhoods.
It’s time to change our relationship with the State and to the degree that law enforcement continues to exist, change our relationship with officers as well.
It is, after all, a decision that is ours to make. You’re the boss. Remind them of that.
Let’s create a new song this year. One that ends in change.