By RA Monaco
Emerging is a consensus that law-enforcement practices need to be revised. Apparently, police departments are grappling with how to prevent encounters between police and citizens from escalating into deadly incidents, especially with minorities.
Police departments around the country are in the process of developing new training rules on their use of force against the public. A collective maneuver that purportedly has gained urgency amid increasing discontent and published reports of scrutiny from the Justice Department focused on encounters between police and citizens.
One other positive growing out of the two deaths that have sparked nationwide civil-rights protests is the public’s jaundice awareness of public perception and that more platitudes helped by the DOJ won’t be enough—real change demands more than mere appearances that have served to protect only the Establishment.
Predictably, protests continued Thursday night on the momentum of Eric Garner last words, “I can’t breathe.” In Times Square, protesters holding signs with those words chanted, “Shame, shame, shame.” While NYPD officers pushed protestors onto the sidewalks and violent arrests went down—they mace old women too.
On the heels of grand jury decisions not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner or Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, the St. Louis Police Department antagonized protestors across the nation tweeting comments related to the tragic shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann.
Under the circumstances, “Kids will be Kids?” was such a reckless comment that it’s timing exposes an absence of responsible leadership in the St. Louis Police Department—it rises to a public taunting. Worse, it portrays a brazen, irresponsible and flippant disregard for the life of a 12-year-old child—far viler than mere insensitivity. Is it acceptable for a police department to cultivate public rage in another city, really?
In another police killing, we watched St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson offer up an on-camera story that claimed Kajieme Powell had charged at officers with a knife only to have a citizen-video surface that exposed him to be a chief-fabricator—now this too?
Police Tweet is worse than Bureaucratic Bumbledom
Tweeting “Kids will be Kids?” projects condescending arrogance. It further undermines public trust in law enforcement generally. The department’s insensitive comments are worse than bureaucratic bumbledom, they’re intentional disrespect under color of law. They fuel public resentment with no regard for the fall-out that will follow.
In Chicago, “I can’t breathe” solidarity protestors shut down Lake Shore Drive in both directions and then blocked the intersection of Michigan and Monroe. In Boston, huge crowds gathered to declare “This Stops Today” at the steps of the State House. The discontent is growing.
The St. Louis Police tweet—“Kids will be Kids?”—also reveals a confidence that the Establishment is willing to accept police taunting. It’s hard evidence of a pervasive law enforcement culture that confirms an “us against them” world view. It reflects a trend that’s gone beyond race. A violent militarized approach to domestic policing that’s growing into authoritarian repression of the 99%—brutal realities that people of color have known for far too long.
Slowly Americans Are Beginning To Open Their Eyes
The role of modern policing in America has been re-molded into a militarized force that’s being maintained to protect the interests of the Establishment—not to serve and protect the people. Exposed is a systemically brutal approach to policing that apparently the Establishment is willing to accept—slowly Americans are beginning to open their eyes.
Has the land of the free come to accept a pervasive police culture that recruits bullies with small shoe sizes and itchy-trigger-finger cowboys like Darren Wilson and now Timothy Loehmann? Has the home of the brave been programmed by the endless loop of televised police hero worship to succumb to repression? What else explains the overdue public outrage?
It’s an Issue of Oppression
According to the Washington Post, Officer Timothy Loehmann was tired of the sleepy policing of the suburbs. Retired NYPD Officer Fred Loehmann—father of Cleveland police Officer Timothy Loehmann—told local news organizations that, “He loved the action.” Apparently, in the mind of Timothy Loehmann, the move to the Cleveland Police Department “was the big league,” his father said during an interview.
Officer Loehmann exiting a still-moving patrol car shot Tamir Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene. The released surveillance footage leaves viewers at a loss to reconcile the need to discharge his weapon. Is just seeing a gun—in this case a replica—enough to kill now?
Writing for The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith keenly observed, “We keep applying the language and framework of accountability, diversity and sensitivity to an issue of oppression.” The words are beginning to resonate—slowly.
Platitudes may no longer be enough to diffuse the public’s festering discontent. Calls for peaceful protest at this point seem like code to maintain the status quo when change is needed and long overdue.
America is waking up to the Establishment creating the mere appearance of process. The public is beginning to realize that social justice won’t be found within a system that protects the system first—not people. The mere appearance of due process isn’t going to be enough now that the public has awakened to the realization that the fix was on from the beginning.