The Police State – Are We There Yet?

I used to like cops. I thought there were just a few bad ones, and that most of them performed a vital service.

Some of that opinion was the result of conversations with them on GEnie, a pre-internet dial up service similar to CompuServe and Prodigy. People paid six bucks an hour for a 1200 baud connection (and eighteen bucks an hour for a 2400 baud connection) to use the chat rooms and forums and play online games. The forums were called Round Tables. I was the Sysop for the Enable Software Round Table, so I got to wander around for free.

One of the places I wandered was ALERT, which stood for A Law Enforcement Round Table, populated by police officers and people who wanted to chat with them. I was surprised to learn that most cops went their entire careers without ever drawing their weapon. Drawing their gun was considered the last resort because it meant they had lost control of the situation. Getting through a twenty year career without doing it was a source of pride.

That was 20+ years ago, before tazers and the militarization of the police force. Oh how times have changed, along with my opinion of law enforcement officers.

One of the first things that changed my mind was the murder of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant who was standing in his doorway, minding his own business, when he was gunned down by four trigger-happy NYC cops. The trial was moved to Albany NY, my back yard, and I got to witness to circus that surrounded it. I wrote about it extensively in The Hittman Chronicle.

The fact that the cops were let off, completely let off, was undeniable evidence that something was seriously wrong with the system.

My opinion continued to change as the internet became accessible, and then ubiquitous. I read more and more and more and more stories of police hurting and often killing citizens with no fear of being punished, and also saw how the mass media completely ignored such stories. I can’t be certain if the police have become more thuggish over the years, or it’s just being documented more thoroughly by citizens, but I strongly suspect it’s a combination of both.

When police in Georgia broke into the home of Kathryn Johnson and murdered her, I once again visited a couple of police forums to see the general reaction of the cops. They were laughing about it. They thought it was funny. This poor 92-year-old woman was minding her own business in her own home, in a crime infested neighborhood, and tried to defend herself against three strangers who broke down her door. The thugs gunned her down, and the prevailing response from the brothers in blue was “Damn, that’s some funny joke.”

(It should be noted that the police were convicted of manslaughter, which is very, very rare. Most cops get away with murder. Literally.)

Does that make us a police state? Are we there yet?

Earlier this year cops broke down the door to the home of Jose Guerena, a veteran of two tours in Iraq, and gunned him down. They were all exonerated. The mainstream media completely ignored the story.

Are we there yet?

Those of us who point out we’re becoming a police state get slammed with dictionary arguments (as well as being sidetracked by statists who still love their boys in blue.) Typically we’re told to visit this rat-hole country or that rat-hole country to see what a real police state is. These black and white thinkers are incapable of realizing that the slide into a police state is not something that happens over night. It is a gradual thing. A police murder here. Another one over there. One we kinda sorta heard about but shrugged off.

Just for the record, here’s my non-dictionary definition of a police state: A state where the police can do whatever they damn well please with no fear of repercussion. A state where police routently torture and murder citizens for non-violent “crimes.” A state where few things are as frightening as seeing a police car in your rear view mirror.

There are three hundred million of us, and most of us haven’t directly been attacked by the cops. Nor we do know anyone who has been. Murderous early morning raids, Tazer attacks on senior citizens and the disabled and pepper spraying of protesters is all something that happens to other people, in other towns. Many people are so desperate to cling to the fiction we’re living in a free country they write off these incidents as anomalies and/or craft excuses for the brutality.

The mass media helps keep the fiction going by simply ignoring these incidents. Fortunately, now that video cameras are cheap and readily available anyone who is paying attention, even slightly, is starting to realize the media is lying to them (if only by a sin of omission) and that something is seriously wrong.

By now you’ve seen the video of a cop spraying peaceful protesters with pepper spray as casually as if he were spraying azeleas for bugs.

Are we there yet?

The officer committing this violence against the protesters is:

Lieutenant John Pike
Records Unit Manager
Phone: 530-752-3989
Cell: 530-979-0184
Address: 4005 Cowell Blvd, Apt 616.
Davis, CA 95618-6017
Skype: japike3

When asked to comment on the incident, former cop Charles J. Kelly watched the video. According to CBS news:

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of “active resistance” from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

That right folks, not only is pulling your arm away from a cop who is attacking you a trigger for their thuggery, so is curling up into a ball. It justifies “baton strikes,” a more pleasant way of saying “beating the shit out of someone with a night stick.”

Are we there yet? Yes, absolutely.

7 Comment(s)

  1. While I absolutely do NOT disagree with you, I believe that you are seeing the past through rose colored glasses. You had some good experiences with the police in ALERT, but I have my doubts that looking more broadly things were better then than they are now. A while back I have read a lot by Radly Balko, former police abuse writer for Reason Magazine, and I’m certain you are familiar with him. According to him, even though things appear worse now, they are actually slowly getting better. In the past before video cameras on cell phones and easy avenues of publishing information online, things were just covered up much more effectively. You hear about abuses more now (and every one of them abhorrent, I’m not making excuses for anyone), but they are most likely becoming less frequent.

    John | Nov 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. Dave,
    One of the shows I like to watch on MeTV is an old show from I believe the 60’s called Combat!. Last fridays show was about an american officer who escaped after being captured and, dressed in an Albanian uniform, was waiting for a train in Germany, when a German officer with two soldiers carrying sub machine guns entered and EVERYONE got up and stood in a line. This included other German Officers. They were all asked for their “papers please” and when one citizen’s papers were not good enough, he was lightly beaten and dragged away. That, to me, is a Police State. Are we there yet? Not quite, but we are close. However, there is some evidence we are not getting closer with recent court cases where the judge ruled that recording the Police is not a crime, since they do not have the reasonable expectation of privacy. Add to that the fact that more Police are using Dash cams and in more cases cameras on their uniforms, the abuses will be given more light and hopefully more scrutiny. The known corruption of Police in some cities combined with Union thuggery make the Police more likely to be thugs than other professions. After all, if a cop is killed the other cops will drop everything else to find the perpetrator, and make sure the perp doesn’t make it to trial, not because they are a greater threat to the public, but because they killed “one of our brothers”. When I see the motto on the side of a Police cruiser I fill in the blanks “To Protect (the Police) and to Serve (Police interests)” The formation of the Swat teams, also known as the militarization of the police, has put us closer to a police state, but their “tactics” are getting more scrutiny. I believe we are seeing a phenomenon similar to other forms of crime where it seems like there has been a large increase in abuse, but it is really just that we are more aware of it happening.

    Brian Riley
    Assistant Sysop
    Unix Round Table

    Brian | Nov 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. John, I think you’re right. Police abuse is nothing new, it’s just that it took me a while (too long, I think) to become aware of it.

    And just before I checked this blog for comments, I was reading The Agitator, which has been a regular stop for me for years. Balco does an amazing job.

    Brian, while it’s great that some of the courts are standing up for the freedom to record cops, I’m not convinced that it’s getting better. The very fact that police have fought, and continue to fight, the right to record them, tells us all we need to know. They’re the ones who justify unconstitutional searches with the phrase “you have nothing to worry about unless you have something to hide.” Their reaction to being photographed tells us all we need to know about how much they have to hide.

    Hittman | Nov 21, 2011 | Reply

  4. Dave,
    while i can’t say i agree 100% with you, I’m probably about 90%. I’ve been lucky enough not to be on the wrong end of a cop who abuses his power to do what they want, but have a close friend who has. The first time my friend told me that the local city police were harassing him and stopping him without cause, i shrugged it off. About a month later when my friend was arrested for trespassing and criminal mischief, I was stunned by how inept the police write-ups for the incident were. no where in their write up did it state the fact that he was arrested on a public sidewalk near a local school and was not actually on the property. i then attended the hearing at the local courthouse to the see my friend pinned with 4 to 5 other charges from the arresting officers logbook (none were on the incident write up) though luckily the judge dismissed
    nearly all of the charges and reduced the jail term and fine of the trespassing to a few months probation. now even a year after the incident my friend has been routinely pulled over and stopped on the street for sobriety or vehicle compliance checks nearly twice a month. I’ve even been in the vehicle during two pull overs. I know a few police officers and can say that their are some great people that work in law enforcement, but the number of decent officers to abusive officers has been steadily moving towards the abusive side.

    A note from rural Oregon
    Brandon F.

    Brandon | Nov 30, 2011 | Reply

  5. Hi Dave

    I’m happy to announce that in my tiny country 219 cops were fired and 101 quit because of bad behavior. Here is a lousy translation:

    Eur van Andel | Dec 25, 2011 | Reply

  6. Seriously, Eur, that is something to be proud about. I doubt that we fired that many in the entire US in the same time period.

    Hittman | Dec 26, 2011 | Reply

  7. A little cop story from my corner of the midwest: A friend and I were out on a weekend having a good time drinking and such as young chaps tend to do. We met some girls at a bar. We got along rather well. The girls came with us back to a friends house we were staying at. He wasn’t home and we were locked out. The girls called a cab and left rather than wait. Bummer. My friend and I slept in the car in our friends driveway.

    I am rudely awakened to a loud insistent knocking on the window. It was a cop with his flashlight in my eyes. There was another cop on the driver side where my buddy was. the demanded we get out. We comply. They start grilling us about how much we’ve had to drink. At our peak it wasn’t that much, and that was several hours earlier. We tell them we had a couple beers hours earlier.

    One of the cops in particular is being verbally aggressive and demanding to search the car. We flatly refuse. He gets out his pepper spray. We stand our ground and demand his name and badge number as well as his partners. His partner gets nervous. He ushers the abusive cop away to their car.

    The other officer comes back and apologizes to us for his partners behavior. Turns out the abusive cop recently had his wife leave him. You guessed it his wife was one of the ladies we befriended that night. Seems we were being stalked all evening while we were with the girls. That sent chills up my spine.

    The biggest problem is that law enforcement jobs seem to attract people who really get off on having authority over others. These aren’t men who naturally garner respect and admiration in their normal lives, so they obtain jobs that will make sure they get it by law.

    We the citizenry need to remember there are more of us than there are of them. At any time we can collectively call “bullshit” and send them packing…. never mind… dancing with the stars is on and im too fat and lazy to do anything about it anyway.

    millstone | Sep 26, 2012 | Reply

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