Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Lord Acton is famous for saying that power corrupts. Conservatives love the saying and with good reason. But they ignore it when it comes to the police. These are men who are given guns and immense powers to do nasty things to people. Of course such power is corrupting. Worse such power attracts people who are bullies, who are nasty and sometimes downright inhuman. Conservatives refuse to see it.

And the situation gets even worse when the police code of silence is put into effect. Cops will cover up for one another. That has been proven in case after case. The one group that can committ crimes against others, and get away with it, are the police. Their fellow "brothers" will not stop them. They will not testify against them. They will not investigate them unless forced to do so. If forced to investigate they will do a lousy job of it or neglect evidence. There are some good cops of course. But it seems that most are happy to cover up for the bad ones and that makes all of them bad cops. They don't understand a simple moral principle. As Gandhi put it: "Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good."

Let me give some examples of the corrupting influence of power over the police. Take two well known men: the Unser brothers. Bobby Unser and Al Unser, Sr are well known race car drivers. And together they own quite a bit of property in Albuequerque, New Mexico. One morning recently the brothers left their separate homes to drive to their property. Neither was aware the other was going at about the same time.

They found two unmarked cars askew across the road. First Al and then Bobby arrived and each thought there had been an accident involving these cars. So they attempted to drive around the cars by cutting through a piece of property they owned. In each case the local police began screaming at them and arrested them. Neither was told the unmarked cars were a roadblock because police said a man was shooting off a gun down the road. The brothers contend they would not willingly drive to where someone might shoot them and that when they asked the police what was the problem the police refused to answer. Sounds typical to me.

Bobby Unser says that when handcuffed they pulled the cuffs very tight pulling on a shoulder that had just been operated on. When he told the officer the reply was: "handcuffs are supposed to hurt." No, they aren't. They are supposed to restrain not inflict pain. Inflicting pain is what bullies like to do. To add a touch of the ironic the brothers were arrested at different times but both were on Unser Boulevard, a street named after them. To see the interview go here.

Here is more film showing a demonstration in Miami in 2003. This site totally disagrees with the anti-free trade protestors. But they have the right to demonstrate their opposition to a program that benefits the poor of the world even if they are wrong about their view. In this film you can see the demonstrators walking, peacefully, in front of the police in full riot gear. The protestors are carrying signs and not much else. Elizabeth Ritter, an attorney, is holding a sign in front of her as she walks with the police several meters behind her. As she is walking one of the officers for no apparent reasons shoots her with a rubber bullet.

The stunned woman turns and yells, "Did you shoot me? Why did you shoot me?" She turns to the media there and asks if they saw what just happened. Within a few seconds the entire line of officers begin firing rubber bullets into the peaceful crowd. Ritter crouches on the sidewalk trying holding her sign in front of her hoping to be protected. She is shot five times even though she has not acted violently in any manner. One bullet hits her in the face. A rubber bullet would blind someone if they are hit in the eye. This is all filmed.

To make matters worse the police had video of themselves having a good laugh about how they shot Ritter even though she was not a threat and was walking peacefully. The head of the terrorism unit (whether they protect from it or inflict it is unclear) was taped telling the officiers the next morning: "How about yesterday, huh? I would go to war with everyone here. I went home, I couldn't sleep. I was just so pumped up about how good you guys were...." "The good news about be able to watch you guys live (sic) on TV is that the lady with the red dress. (Ritter) I don't know who got her, but it went right through the sign nd hit smack dab in the middle of the head." Apparently he is proud of this. The officers applauded and laughed about shooting this woman and were dumb enough to film themselves doing it.

A police investigation said the comments might be inappropriate but that shooting peaceful protestors was not a violation of department policy. The police said they would apologize to Ritter for the comments but not for shooting her. She replied that they "committed battery on an unarmed citizen peaceably expressing an idea." She's right. No officer will be disciplined. As usual.

Or take a case involving a petty, authoritarian, sheriff named Joe Arpaio, a man who never met a constitution right he respected. One of Arpaio's SWAT tems raided a home outside Phoenix. The team attacked the home of a very dangerous criminal. They fired tear gas into the home. They managed to set the house alight. A small puppy tried to escape the fire and ran out and the sheriff's men chased the dog back into the house where it burned to death. A massive armoured vehicle was used in the raid. They left it parked without the brakes on. It rolled down the hill and hit a car that seconds before been occupied by a woman and small child, both escaped when they saw the vehicle coming toward them And the dangerous criminal? Oh, yes it was someone wanted for traffic tickets. The picture above shows the tank used to raided someone for taffic citations.

In another incident police were found illegally in the home of Wilfred Rousseau when he was at work. His 15-year-old daughter came home to find two officers going through her bedroom. The officers claimed to be looking for a runaway kid and said they entered because the door was open. In fact the Rousseau's cat was in heat that day and the door was quite clearly shut to keep the cat from running out. The officers then changed their story to say the door was closed but not locked so them entered. That is illegal. They had no warrnt, no permission to enter and were not in pursuit of a criminal at the time. Police refused to identify the officers involved to the media.

One man who discovered the problem of rampant police authority is Kenneth Jammar. Jammar was bed ridden with gout. The "war on drugs" terrorists, I mean the police, raided his home by mistake. They were looking for his nephew not for Jamar and the warrant was supposedly for a different address entirely. In fact the man they were looking for never stayed with his uncle according to family members. The raid was a joint project of about every power-hungry agency in the area: the SWAT team, the DEA, Immigration thugs, and the Alabam Bureau of Investigation. The local Shefiff however was not told about the raid.

Police of course have their own jargon to cover up the fact that they illegally raided a man's home. They also shot the bed-ridden man. He was referred to as an "armed suspect" though he was not a suspect. He was armed but the Constitution allows that just in case the government starts killing people. Of course they wouldn't do that. Because Jamar was armed the police say they "neutrlized the threat". In other words they shot Jamar four times in his own home, a man had not violated the law at all. Of course a police investigation said the officers acted within departmental policy.

The fact is that more and more police departments are being turned into militry style outfits armed for war not for policing. Exactly on whom will they be waging this new war? The Department of Homeland Security brownshirts are the ones financing this militarization of local police departments. Warning bells ought to be going off in your heads. But Bush has so played up the war on terror that Americans are handing away liberties they will never get back. Give these people the power and they will snatch away all your freedonm. Ignore it if you wish but the warning bells will keep ringing until the day that warnings are silenced. Until then do not ask for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.