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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Who is in danger?

We hear police officers and their apologists wailing about their dangerous work, pleading with legislatures to add police to the ranks of those protected by Hate Crimes laws, pretending that the Obama administration (which continues its predecessor’s reign of terror around the world — torturing, assassinating, imprisoning young children, deporting our fellow workers, bombing hospitals and schools, etc.) is behind some mythical war on police.

So who’s really in danger?

According to FBI statistics, the number of police “feloniously killed” each year (so this does not include those who die in traffic accidents or from self-administered drug overdoses or in collapsing buildings) has been gradually declining for years, even as the total number of cops has skyrocketed. For the last ten years, an average of 50 cops a year have been killed. That’s a tragedy for those killed and their families, of course, but it’s quite rare — which is why they can lower the flags to half-mast whenever it happens.

The flags don’t come down when police murder civilians — there’s no good way even to keep track of how often it happens. The FBI director says “We can’t have an informed discussion (about police murders), because we don’t have data.” Why don’t we have data? Because the police and FBI choose not to collect it.

Fortunately, the Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post have stepped up to report the data as best they can. And it’s pretty clear why the police apparatus isn’t interested in documenting the grisly toll. According to the Washington Post, police killed 990 civilians across the United States last year. So far this year, the Post counts 533 people shot and killed by police (the count went up by four in the short time I was working on this post). The Guardian’s count is higher: 598 killed so far this year, and 1,134 for 2015. The actual death toll is probably higher, as both newspapers rely heavily on media and witness reports, given that the government is doing its best to conceal the truth.

And the police murder us with impunity. Criminal charges against killer cops are extremely rare. When public pressure or a particularly outrageous set of facts leads to internal disciplinary proceedings, they are usually overturned once public attention has shifted. In Philadelphia, for example, police officers caught on video robbing a corner grocery store (one of a string of such thefts, but in the others they were successful in their efforts to cut surveillance camera cables) were reinstated with back pay by an arbitrator. There’s even a book about Philly’s criminal cops, Busted, though the title suggests an outcome (criminal convictions) that didn’t actually happen. Instead, the police threatened violence against the reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize for the expose, planted stories in another newspaper attacking them, and the like. Some of the victims won modest settlements, but the police still walk the streets, terrorizing citizens at will.

Fred Woodworth, in the latest issue of The Match! (there’s no web site, but you can request a copy from Post Office Box 3012, Tucson, Ariz. 85702) offers 12 suggestions for mitigating this reign of police terror as part of his long-running column, “Who the Police Beat,” though insisting that the only real answer is to do away with the police apparatus altogether:

  1. Police should be deprived of all military-type, fully automatic-firing weapons and ammunition… Weapons designed to inflict massive, repeated wounds on untried, unconvicted civilian persons should be considered as having no place in a society that aspires to ideals of freedom, decency, and official respect for the governed.
  2. Storm-trooper-type massive raids on homes by hordes of officers … should be banned…
  3.  Persons should be employed as police for periods not longer than five years in any individual lifetime. Career police are a recipe for development of moral corruption and disdain for non-police persons and animals.
  4. Police salaries should be reduced, and the practice of augmenting income by “overtime” should be completely halted. Officers who genuinely want to help people during such a period of employment should require no extraordinary payments in return…
  5. Police unionization should be forbidden, and existing unions banned… Future police efforts to unionize or form any sort of pressure group or gang should be treated as a criminal offense.
  6. Police officers and members of their families should be prohibited from speaking or otherwise advocating AS POLICE on any political or social issues. They should be free to say anything they want when out of uniform and minus any possibly coercive identifiers as police.
  7. Police officers should be personally liable for any and all financial or human damages that result from their own misconduct. …
  8. No police officer who is the subject of five written and attested civilian complaints within a one-year period should continue employment as an officer or administrator … in any law-enforcement agency…
  9. The names and residence addresses of all police officers, administrators, and agents of any kind should be matters of easily available public record.
  10. Uniforms of police officers should exhibit officers’ real names in easily readable block letters…
  11. In ALL cases wherein a person is charged wth having committed an offense against a police officer or officers … independent investigation of the incident should be performed…
  12. In cases where cash money, bank accounts, cars or other private property are seized during investigation of crimes, NO portion of such assets should ever become the property of law enforcement officers individually or collectively…