This place matters

This place matters

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Or does it explode?

I keep starting to write a post about Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, etc., and then not knowing what to say. Maybe it's overly fatalistic of me, but I feel like everyone's opinions on the matter are set in stone and there's not a word I can say or write that will change that. I feel like someone's thrown the cover off a new breed of racists... folks who have no idea that they're racist, but just happen to always side with the white guy. People who would never say the n-word out loud, but who find ways to make bigotry sound like civil discourse. 
In short, I feel helpless and a little hopeless. 
So I've been reading a lot, looking to people far wiser than me for guidance.
I think that former St. Louis police officer Redditt Hudson is right when he says this:
The problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity. They know there’s a different criminal justice system for civilians and police.
Even when officers get caught, they know they’ll be investigated by their friends, and put on paid leave. My colleagues would laughingly refer to this as a free vacation. It isn’t a punishment. And excessive force is almost always deemed acceptable in our courts and among our grand juries. Prosecutors are tight with law enforcement, and share the same values and ideas.
We could start to change that by mandating that a special prosecutor be appointed to try excessive force cases. And we need more independent oversight, with teeth. 
I agree with David Bales, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission commander when he says
“We are guided by the underlying goal of producing officers who are guardians as opposed to warriors. The most common corresponding emotion to fear is anger, and anger does not facilitate ongoing compliance... that when they mistreat people they actually may make that person more dangerous.”

If the above sounds naive, I can say that people who work with adults and teens with severe behaviors, know a dozen ways to take a man, every bit as big as Eric Garner, to the ground without causing injury. They do it every day. The officer in the Eric Garner case didn't even try other interventions before he throttled him.

And did you know that the Cleveland police didn't even bother to determine whether Timothy Loehmann, the officer who shot Tamir Rice, was remotely qualified to do his job... all they'd have had to do was ask his former employer, the Independence police department, to see their report on the officer, where they'd have read that Loehmann:
  Ptl. Loehrnann's inability to perform basic functions as instructed... leads one to believe that he would not be able to substantially cope, or make good decisions, during or resulting from any other stressful situation.
They'd have read the recommendation from Deputy Chief Tim Polak which said in part:
 Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not believe Ptl. Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment.Unfortunately in law enforcement there are times when instructions need be followed to the letter, and I am under the impression Ptl. Loehmann, under certain circumstances, will not react in the way instructed.
For these reasons, I am recommending he be released from the employment of the City of Independence. I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.
Regardless where we stand on individual cases, we should all be outraged that grossly incompetent police officers are running around with badges and guns. That officers are so poorly trained that the don't know how to subdue a subject without killing him.

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore-- 
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over-- 
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

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