A Word on Police Militarization

By BitcoDavid

On May 18th, President Obama signed an Executive Order, effectively banning the transfer of military equipment by the Federal government, to community police departments.

This is a step in the right direction, and will help to end what has become nothing short of a war between the police, and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.

But during the past week, I have learned something. I know that police militarization is a problem – and it’s one we’ve discussed before on DeafInPrison.com. I also know that the number of shooting incidents involving police on citizens – and police on dogs – has increased exponentially over the past 40 years. Furthermore, these incidents are overwhelmingly racially skewed. Of the total number of civilians shot by police since the year 2000, 75% have been Black.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

None of this is news. Simply open a browser, and you’ll be treated to a smorgasbord of carnage and death – almost entirely White police officers on Black civilians.

In many cases, the officers are justified. In others they’re not. But what stands out – regardless of color or race – is the huge number of violent attacks and counterattacks on mentally ill citizens. And this is where I had my epiphany.

The root of the problem is far simpler than the media, or law enforcement itself, would lead us to believe. In the 1980s, President Reagan closed all the federal and state funded mental hospitals. This caused a river of drug addicts, abuse victims, disabled vets, homeless and other mentally ill – with no place to go but the streets. The burden of their care – or at the very least, handling – was shifted from Social Services, to the police.

But police are not trained, or even capable of handling this new responsibility. In the eyes of a cop, you’re either an innocent or a perpetrator. There’s no middle ground, and there are no policies in place for how to deal with any of the other possibilities. Police have one basic skill, and it’s a difficult skill to master – and one that deserves respect. They know how to arrest people. They don’t know how to counsel people. They don’t know how to determine if someone is mentally ill. They don’t know what to do with someone who is. In my years interacting with cops, I’ve seen them do things I never thought possible. I’ve seen a single cop insert himself into a gang rivalry, and prevent a war. I’ve seen cops rescue children from abusive parents. I’ve seen cops rescue animals from abusive owners. But I’ve never seen a cop help a bag lady get her stolen shopping cart back.

In our rush to austerity, we’ve tasked our police forces with the job of handling every social disorder and societal problem, that we’re too cheap to pay for, and they’ve responded the only way they know how – with nightsticks and bullets. Then, we armed them like the Green Berets.

Always refreshing to see cops who don't look like this! Image: Asmag.com

Always refreshing to see cops who don’t look like this! Image: Asmag.com

So the fix? Well, it ain’t gonna come cheap. We need to allocate sufficient funds to rebuild the Social Services department, and we need to make a commitment to helping our weakest and most infirm citizens. We need to start taking conditions like PTSD seriously, and make treatment – and even hospitalization – free and readily available. We need to find ways to get our homeless off the streets. We need to end the useless War on Drugs, and develop policies that will help addicts get treatment – not jail.

And, while we obviously can’t disarm our police forces, we need to stop arming them like they’re going to war in Afghanistan – and above all, let them get back to the job they’re supposed to be doing. Protecting us from those who would knowingly violate the social contract. A job they do with handcuffs – not machine guns and street-tanks.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

When Officer Friendly Becomes Delta Force

By BitcoDavid

I find myself bombarded by images and news stories of police committing what can only be called atrocities on American citizens. I’ve struggled with this for the past few weeks, because we’ve talked before – on this site – about the dangers of militarization of the police. Recently, our publisher asked me to do a research piece based on a simple question. Are police abuses of power actually increasing, or are we seeing them more, because people are recording them on cell-phone cameras?

The ’50s and ’60s were rife with cases of police brutality. Prior to Miranda in 1966, interrogations were commonly brutal, and in many cases actual torture. It wasn’t uncommon in those days, for police with no warrant to enter one’s home and search. Traffic stops – same thing. And of course, any of us who were involved in the counterculture movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s remember well, being stopped and carded on the streets. It actually became habit to reach for one’s wallet, upon seeing a cop.

But I never felt the animosity, the vitriol, the general ill will, that I’m feeling today. And that, on both sides of the equation. Growing up, we certainly were no fans of the police, but there was a tenuous mutual respect – not for each other, so much as for the game. We were the gazelles. Minding our own business, eating our leaves in peace. They were the cougars, slavering and slobbering to rend our flesh from our bones. But gazelles and cougars both, know the rules of engagement – the law of nature. They understand the life they have chosen, or should I say the hand they’ve been dealt. And if nothing else, we both understood the hands we’d been dealt.

I even developed strong and lasting friendships with many cops, during those tumultuous years. On duty, these men and women had a job to do. Off duty, they were just people – no different from you and me.

The difference, nowadays, is that cops are being armed like soldiers and trained to fight citizens – even perhaps, criminal citizens but citizens nonetheless – as insurrectionists. I hold two important milestones in our history, as responsible for this paradigm shift. September 11th, and a program that began in 1997, known as the 1033 Program. Section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1990 allowed transfer of military hardware from the Department of Defense to law enforcement agencies, as an aid in prosecuting the War on Drugs. By ’97, the law had undergone a retrofit and became the 1033 program. Under this program, law enforcement agencies, regardless of size or jurisdiction, can obtain full scale military hardware. Everything from fighter jets to tanks to flack jackets.

What they aren’t getting however, is training. In the old days, cops were judiciously issued a .38, and taught to rarely – if ever – use it. Nowadays they’re handed an AR-15, and told that everybody out there is either a dope dealer or a terrorist. They used to get a Plymouth Fury with a Slant-6, now they get a Halftrack with a Gatling Cannon.

Retired cops have told me that in 20 years on the force, they never once drew their guns. Today, you can’t open a paper or log-on to a Web site, without reading about another shooting of an innocent civilian. Add to that the beatings, the wrongful enforcement of warrants, the over use of  SWAT teams – and the staggering number of dogs shot by officers, and you have a climate of outright warfare.

Some statistics:

Number of SWAT deployments nationwide in 1974 – 300. In 2014 – 50,000 (and the year isn’t over yet.) There are currently over 100 SWAT Team raids, in America, every day.

5000 individuals have been killed by law enforcement officers since 9/11.

--Adama - Battlestar Galactica. Image: Utah Politico Hub

–Adama – Battlestar Galactica. Image: Utah Politico Hub

Between 2005 and 2012, a White officer used deadly force against a Black person 1.85 times per week. 20% of those cases involve juveniles. White juveniles killed by police, amount to 0.125% of the total number of interactions.

Number of justified police killing (not just shooting, but killing) of civilians in the U.S. in 2012 – 409.
Number of justified police killing of civilians in Britain in 2012 – 1.

The above are just some of the many facts I have discovered, researching this post. I have become convinced that I can answer our venerable publisher’s query, with an undeniable and unconditional yes. Absolutely. And staggeringly, mind-bogglingly so. It hasn’t been an increase, it’s been an exponential increase. An increase by orders of magnitude. In fact, it’s fair to say that the whole science of policing has undergone an evolutionary change. What was once a job done by members of your community – your neighbors and friends –  have morphed into the forces of Xerxes writ with modern death-dealing technology. Welcome to the new Thermopylae. The new Gallipoli.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

By BitcoDavid

Here’s a joke.

The President decides to stage a contest to determine which among the FBI, the CIA and the LAPD is the best law enforcement organization. He informs the three, that their challenge is to find a rabbit in the woods. A month goes by, and the President calls representatives from each of the law enforcement groups to the White House to present their findings.

The rep for the FBI produces a 356 page document proving that no rabbits exist, or have ever existed, in the woods. The gentleman from the CIA informs the President that the Company has spent 11 million dollars destabilizing the economy of the woods, and getting all the woodland creatures hooked on cocaine.

But the guy from the LAPD shows up with a badly beaten bear. The bear – with broken paws, black eyes and swathed in bandages – yells, “OK! I’m a rabbit!”

In Murder by Cop: a growing crisis in ‘Murica, my good friends at Prisonmovement’s Weblog document the story of a man who was tasered and shot to death by a California sheriff’s deputy, after the family had called 911. They were seeking help with the man’s depression. It looks like they got it.

Police brutality and overuse of lethal force is nothing new. In fact, nowadays people react via the press, lawsuits and other methods of combating police overreach, whereas in the past, it was simply accepted as a fact of life. In the 1930s, police forces all across this country were used against the labor movement, for strike breaking and scab recruiting. In the deep South – well into the late ’80s – it was not at all uncommon for the local sheriff to run his community like a fiefdom. Cases of wrongful arrest to generate revenue from fines, or to provide a labor pool, are well documented.

And of course, I shouldn’t have to remind you of the case of 16 year-old Lucia Roberts, gang raped and murdered by Boston police in 1982. Her parents led the charge that resulted in the 2nd largest case of police corruption and misconduct in American history. Yes, I too, remember the Silver Shield.

No, this is nothing new. What is new however, is the use of para-militarized police forces across the country. What started as an outgrowth of the failed War on Drugs, has become commonplace. Swat teams armed with military weaponry and body armor are carrying out even the simplest arrests, utilizing smoke grenades, battering rams, robots and even small tanks. These hyper-charged armies of law enforcement approach every scenario as a violent and potentially deadly conflict.

This becomes a recipe for disaster. People armed for war, and kept on a hair trigger, are bound to overreact and a mouthy kid, a deaf woman or a depressed old man can easily end up becoming just one more statistic.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

First Video Installment – Brookline PD

By BitcoDavid

In order to maintain some continuity, I opted to make the first available video installment, the 1st section of the presentation by the Brookline Police, so as to fit in with the previous post. The video isn’t captioned, but there is a live interpreter in frame. If you need more help understanding it, let me know and I’ll caption a version for you – but the manual captioning method that I use is very time consuming and labor intensive – so if you can possibly live with this, I’d be grateful.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Symposium on the Deaf and the Justice System – Part 1

By BitcoDavid

It’s going to take me several days to relay the vast amount of information that was shared at yesterday’s symposium, so please be patient while I get it all assimilated and posted. Essentially, we have a total of about 5 hours of video – between two sources, a half dozen different PowerPoint files that I am in the process of acquiring for you, and numerous reports on all I learned while attending this wonderful and highly informative meeting.

The 4 members of Brookline P.D.'s special populations partnering program. Image: BitcoDavid

The members of Brookline P.D.’s community Service Division. Image: BitcoDavid

I’ll start today, with the Brookline Police Department’s pilot program where police and volunteer citizens partner to aid the Deaf, and other people with disabilities, during emergencies.

The 2 Sergeants and 1 officer did a great job of presenting, especially when you consider that cops and show-biz are a heterogeneous mixture. I even heard a joke or two.

Pictured are the 3 members of this unique task force – not in order – Officer Casey Hatchett, Sergeant Chris Malinn and Sergeant Jennifer Paster.

Always refreshing to see cops who don't look like this! Image: Asmag.com

Always refreshing to see cops who don’t look like this! Image: Asmag.com

Sergeant Paster spoke of her first encounter with a Deaf offender. She said that the woman was severely intoxicated – so much so that she had vomited on herself – but that more significantly, the woman was following none of Paster’s commands. It occurred to Paster, during this encounter, that the woman was Deaf. Upon bringing in the woman, Paster received rebuke from her superior. He said, “What am I going to do with ‘er?” The young officer had been told that she would have done better by leaving this impaired woman on the street where she could have gone on to harm herself or others. This incident inspired Paster to seek out better ways of dealing with both disabled perpetrators and the special needs population overall.

Charles "King" Solomon funeral at Fu...

Jewish racketeer, Charles “King” Solomon funeral at Fuller St., Brookline – 1933 (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

Sergeant Malinn has worked with the mentally ill, Autistic individuals, has trained officers on Police Professionalism issues –  including racial profiling, and is currently involved in working with youth in crisis.

Sergeant Hatchett currently works with domestic preparedness for emergency situations, child safety issues and coordinates the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). She works with volunteers to insure that the town of Brookline can meet the needs of citizens in crisis. She mentioned – yesterday – about an elderly Deaf woman who was without power for several days following a recent storm. The woman was OK, but quite concerned that nobody had come to check on her, in her apartment. Sergeant Hatchett pointed out, that this is exactly the kind of thing a volunteer group could handle, when the traditional police force is really unequipped for it.

I generally eschew anonymity, but it was nice to be able to talk to cops without the usual cotton-mouth. This Citizen thing ain’t all bad.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

When Will They Ever Learn…

By Jean F. Andrews

In their popular 1960’s folk song, Peter, Paul and Mary sing the ballad, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” In the ballad, is the echoing refrain, “When Will They Ever Learn,” that points a firm finger at a society engaged in the Viet Nam War, wondering sadly, Where have all the flowers, soldiers and graveyards gone?  This sweet refrain, can also be applied to the many police departments across the country in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado who repeatedly refuse to give deaf suspects and inmates sign language interpreters during questioning as well as during important events during the arrest and jail intake, processing, orientation and during needed educational and rehabilitation services. Consequently, across the country, police departments have repeated lost legal cases and have had to pay hefty settlements costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mary Travers' obituary page. Examiner.com

Mary Travers’ obituary page. Examiner.com

There is an easy solution.

Simply make it the police department policy to do the following as recommended by the Department of Justice.

A police officer, upon discovering an individual is deaf, by law, must offer the individual an opportunity to request a sign language interpreter. One way the officer may do so is by providing the deaf individual with a visual representation (illustrated below) allowing the deaf individual to make a choice. It depicts the ADA recognized symbol for sign language and includes two hands signing “yes” and “no”. The deaf individual can select “yes” or “no” by pointing to, circling, or signing the choice.

Picture in when Will They Ever Learn.doc

Deaf individuals too would be wise to copy this visual and keep in their wallet in the event they are stopped by a policeman.

 

 

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

Police Leaders – Speak Out! Reblogged from Improving Police

By BitcoDavid

Improving Police is a Blog site we follow. It is the creation of retired Chief David Couper. As well as the site, he has written several books on the subject of making the job of law enforcement more beneficial to the community.

Lest we forget, in 1972 we had fewer than 350,000 inmates held in our nation’s prisons and jails. Today. we have more than 2 million – a quadrupling. In Europe, many countries have rates of crimes no better than ours, yet they significantly imprison fewer of their citizens.

  1. The Drug War is aimed at the kingpins — big dealers. Not true. Four out of five drug arrests are for possession, not sales. And few of those arrested for drug possession have histories of violent behavior.
  1. The Drug War is aimed at dangerous drugs. Not true. Arrests (90% of them) are for possession of marijuana.
  1. The Drug War is aimed rehabilitating addicts. Not true. The percentage of drug arrests that result in prison (versus probation, community service, or addiction treatment) has caused the great increase in our prison population and also resulted in an explosion of prison construction.

 

I would add that the above has also added to our prison addiction problem, as well as to the prevalence of drugs as currency in our prisons.

To read more of this insightful article, go here:

http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/police-leaders-speak-out/

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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