Sunday, 12 February 2012

Fighting back against Police Brutality

Before I begin this blog I want say that there are many police out there who do a great job under difficult circumstances. I also believe that a man can be a hero and a villain at any given time depending on the circumstances. I'm not a police hater, although I don't believe policing really works, but I am totally against inequality, brutality and violence. I have recently been trawling through some of the OWS (Occupy movement) videos and watching how the police have responded to the protests. At first I was watching the illegal use of pepper spray on non-threatening protesters. This led me onto other videos of general police brutality, threatening behaviour, excessive force and intimidation. It really isn't nice to watch some of this stuff and does show how similar 'force' is around the world. Beyond these tactics and acts of aggression are the occasions when police are taken to court and charged. Again there are many examples over the years where policemen have literally got away with murder. Often their punishment does not reflect their crimes. Having video evidence these days is vital for justice to be served and we have the technology at our fingertips. It is a must and can be a valuable weapon against aggressive police action. Without it justice is rarely carried out.

Two police officers including John Pike were suspended over the use of pepper spray on students at a peaceful protest in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The problem with police crimes and punishment is that they often receive a milder version of justice. To my mind a policeman or woman who breaks the law should feel the full 'force' of justice particularly because of the position they hold. The police are supposed to uphold the law, not join in with criminal behaviour. When the people condone excessive force and the powers over the police condone it too (or at least excuse it), then we are all in danger. Police action at any moment should be professional and show a duty of care to all. This means they should protect the public including the criminals as best they can. 'Force' should only be necessary where there is a threat to life or harm being caused. Even in those cases it should be restrained. Police should not baton unarmed protestors or attack someone who is drunk. The police need to be respected and trusted. They are largely not because of their attitude and aggression and because they are often allowed to get away with taking these liberties even when they do not need to.

There are too many bullying cops, too many examples of intimidation and too much excessive force over non-threatening crimes as well as non-crimes. These are police who have been given to much authority to do what they feel and not even for the purpose of getting results. Too often the police put themselves in difficult positions by taking a stance that involves bullying, intimidation, pride and ego. Positions that they find hard to back down from or how to handle. Often they do not even know the law correctly. Until their masters and the courts stop allowing them to get away with their own crimes how can they be held in high esteem? How can ordinary members of the public feel safe with a police department excusing excessive force, when it can quite easily be them or their family members next. Maybe you have questioned being pulled over or been rounded up in a public place like a bar or at a football match or a train station, or perhaps you had too much to drink on a night out and were vocal. It doesn't take a lot to become a criminal these days with so many controlling policies and found yourself abused for no good reason.

For me, policing just does not work anyway. I have no real solution to offer up aside from retraining to improve relations including counselling techniques, improved selection process, increased pay and a complete overhaul of the existing culture and environment from the top-down. This problem is not something that can be fixed alone though as it is inherent to the justice system, education, media and welfare. Solve these problems and the quality of life expectation rises everywhere, and therefore, in theory, crime recedes. I can remember when I was around 5 years old and on seeing graffiti on a wall asking my mum what 'ACAB' meant. That was around 1972, and reading an article earlier tonight, about police brutality, I saw a comment using this same acronym, 40 years later. That's the general feeling spanning many years and it has grown with the growing policies infringing our liberty. I honestly respected the police as a child and even compiled a respectful 'History of the Police' project for my History examination, but when I got older my life experiences and understanding changed all that. Along with the government control policies and education, policing really doesn't work to enhance society or to make us feel safe. If it did crime would decrease year on year and civilisation would have advanced more peacefully. Instead we just go round in ever-decreasing circles watching our freedom, dignity and decency being eroded.

After lodging a not guilty plea, on 1 November 2007 the service was found guilty and was fined, although the jury added that the operational commander on the day, Cressida Dick, bore "no personal culpability". On 22 September 2008 an inquest was opened. The coroner, Sir Michael Wright, told the jury that they could not return a verdict of unlawful killing based on the evidence, and on 12th December 2008, they returned an open verdict.

Policing in the manner it is carried out in the world, doesn't solve anything, it doesn't improve anything, it only adds to the general problem. It doesn't quell crime and it doesn't stop it. In fact a lot of the time policemen being human, cause the provocation and incitement. They inflame situations or aggravate resistance to them. People will always resist oppression no matter how forceful it gets. Resistance actually grows from oppression. This is because it is unnatural to any person, to be controlled physically and mentally in such an inhumane, suppressive manner.

Harwood was charged with the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson. He entered a plea of not guilty in October 2011; his trial is set to open at the Old Bailey in June 2012

When you look further at policing through military orders and government policies to control and diminish civil unrest through acts of war, either within their own countries or another's, it has the reverse effect every time.The US at this time is very much a police state and laws are beginning to be dictated beyond justice. This is apparent through policies like NDAA and the Patriots Act, where persons can be locked away indefinitely or even assassinated without trial. This can be ordered directly by the president at anytime without fear of reprisal. Scary times. 'The fearmongers' in the US who for so long held their people down with the 'Communism threat' card are now doing the same with the 'Terrorism threat' card. This gives out a message from top-down of control which is reflected in the militaristic weaponry, uniforms and tactics used and by the heightened aggression by police.

On July 8, 2010, the jury returned its verdict: Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Initial protests against the ruling were peacefully organized; looting, arson, destruction of property, and small riots broke out after dark. Nearly 80 people were eventually arrested.

I know, I know. The police have a tough job. They are put in the line of danger and are supposedly protecting our liberty. Their hands are tied and they are frustrated that the courts don't do more. They are only human after all. Well, this is not good enough and does not excuse excessive force or brutality. Professional people need to protect us and if you have the wrong temperament and attitude then you should resign and do something else. The fact is this, the chiefs in charge are permitting bad behaviour by excusing it and advocating it and one day, through circumstance or timing it's me or you getting your face slammed into a wall or getting a good kicking. Punishment without trial. Excessive physical punishment is  a violation and criminal behaviour in itself. If you hate something then don't you do it too. If we protect all, to the best of our ability, including criminals, wherever possible, then you and your children will be safe from circumstance, protest or misunderstanding.

Elizabeth Ritter shot twice with rubber bullets and Officer Michael Kallman, displays the culture within the Miami Police Department.

I am an ex-soldier. I've worked in security and I've worked in airline security. Later I went into health care and nursing. I have often worked with mental illness, drugs and alcoholism not to mention, depression, elderly care, Alzheimers, dementia and even urine infections that make people behave unusually. From my experience, most people who are not thinking clearly are uncooperative and non-compliant to requests. I've sat with patients who have required 4-1 assistance and even restraint. I have worked nights where I have been totally abused, attacked and/or threatened. I have nursed men under armed guard. And yet I can safely say during all my experiences working in aggressive or potentially volatile circumstances, I have never allowed my emotion get the better of my duty of care. More often than not usually coherent people have found themselves in a temporary state or circumstantial situation. During the times where it does begin to get too much you seek assistance, take a break or swap with staff. Whenever it requires restraint or a physical presence, less has always been more. It is simply not necessary or required to 'lose your temper', to swing someone into a wall or into danger and certainly never a need to incite or provoke people further to 'show them who's boss'.

Hate is a powerful force. If you accept this rough justice, then on any given day either you or your loved ones may be next. Amusing ourselves over another person's misfortune is equally as dangerous. When people trivialize this behaviour they are basically advocating it. Only a foolish person would condone police violence, but people do because hate has consumed most of us and has become an epidemic.

No charges brought against Officer Dick Lowry who beat Kenneth Dixon after he had just lost his son in a suicide and was distraught. No video evidence was available.

These videos are not entertainment. They are people's lives. They are to be cringed at and the actions carried out in them are to be demonized and addressed. Using these crimes for entertainment (for example, how TV companies compile clips for light entertainment purposes) is a reflection of our culture who seek instant gratification and a society that is regressive and sick. We lack sensitivity when it isn't happening to us and this primitive behaviour reminds me of how we have failed as humans to grow intellectually and humanely.

South Carolina police spoiling for a reaction until they taser this guy and pepper spray his mother. Notice the clip is put out for 'our entertainment'.

Our lack of compassion and apathy in the acceptance of what goes on, is reflected in the wars and regimes, the police states and the continual waste of life the world over. To be honest I could have easily added much worse videos than the ones I selected for this blog, which involved the unjust deaths of countless people, men, women and children.

Marshawn Pitts a 15 year old special education student is beaten to the floor breaking his nose as he lands. His crime? Not tucking in his shirt. The officer resigned his post.

Finally, my advice is this, if you see something, video it. If you feel you are in danger do not overly advertise or bring attention to your action. Make copies of your recording and then either post them online into the public domain and/or seek legal advice. Do this even if you are a law enforcer yourself and sick of the culture and of colleagues overstepping their remit. The police don't like cameras when they have much to hide about themselves as individuals. Using a video camera may prevent someone being fatally wounded and if not will provide the evidence to prosecute wrongdoing on either side of the law. Cameras can make an emotionally charged policeman check his action. However there is always the exception. Stay safe!

Mitchell Crooks beaten for video recording Officer Derek Colling. In less than 5 years as a police office Colling had killed two, including one 15 year old boy. He was fired following the beating 8 months later.