On July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner (43) was choked to death in Staten Island for selling untaxed cigarettes outside of a convenience store. (2)
Michael Brown (18) was shot multiple times from a police car for jaywalking in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th 2014. The authorities say he had stolen some cigars in a robbery earlier; however, the arresting officer had no idea of the allegation. The question: Even if he had stolen something, is shooting a kid with no prior criminal record for a minor theft really justice? (3)
The ACLU has reports of U.S. police tazering a supposedly suicidal 8-year-old girl. (4)
The Numbers Game
Police in the United States kill an estimated 1,000 people a year. However, it is extremely difficult to get the figures from official sources.
Now, there is no doubt some police deaths can be justified. Nevertheless, the FBI apparently has a dossier they keep on 400 or so justifiable police actions a year. Okay, but what about the other 600 incidents? Is it possible that unjustifiable deaths in the U.S. outnumber justifiable deaths by a whopping 200 more victims? (5)
In an effort to track and note every police fatality, journalists D.Brian Burghart and Kyle Wagner have started databases for updates. These will become important databases in years to come, and have sorely been needed.
The old cliché that the United States is engaging in a war with its citizens has been around for decades. Is it possible that this underlying war is so commonplace that we have forgotten how truthful the adage is? Could it also be the reason that support for U.S. authorities is at an all-time low?
You May as Well Look the Part
Part of the reason has been the military’s keenness to offload all manner of the surplus to local law enforcement groups. John Oliver did a fantastic presentation the other night criticizing the arming of police. His thoughts echoed my last article on this subject and those of many other writers. One big problem is if you give a group of macho wannabe marine clowns combat weapons, chances are they will want to use them.
Thus, the most shocking thing about Ferguson is one would think these cops were in Baghdad, Fallujah, or Tijuana. These are places where law enforcement officers are in genuine danger of being killed. As Oliver so hilariously pointed out, police in small North American towns with wealthy white majorities are being armed to the teeth.
It’s obvious to me that the threat of terrorism is being used to justify brute force.
The most unforgettable image of the Ferguson incident has achieved iconic status. In the CNN image, a young dreadlocked black male is holding up his hands while a group of a dozen marine like cops are pointing semi-automatic rifles at him.
It’s not only overkill, it’s indicative of the madness we face when arms profiteering meets law enforcement. As John Oliver pointed out to the right of the picture, someone has scrawled “#### the police” on the letterbox.
There are good, compassionate, professional, non-racist law enforcement officers out there. However, their image is being besmirched by the thugs, idiots, and profiteers. Things won’t change until these men and women speak out. (8)