Wednesday, November 28, 2012

State, Police

The title of this post comes from the excessive number of horrible stories regarding law enforcement recently. The recent declining by the Supreme Court to hear a case intended to prevent civilians from filming police atrocities only reinforces our civic duty to call out monstrous action.

Once, long ago, police brutality was only prevalent in horrible neighborhoods and was evidence of social decline. Such stories were an outcry for societal change and the improvement of quality-of-life. Today, however, there is no longer such division. It matters not what your race, gender or political affiliation may be; if you're even perceived as stepping out of line you can be killed and your murderer will skate by with a slap on the wrist.

Case in point: A mentally handicapped janitor was beaten to death while performing his nightly routine at the local convenience store. He would always grab a soda and a Snickers bar. Officer Karl F. Thompson, Jr. had heard that a man fitting Otto Zehm's description had stolen money from an ATM. When he saw Zehm in the convenience store he charged in and savagely beat the man, hogtied him, fitted him with a rubber mask to gag him, and then had fellow officers sit on him. Zehm fell into a coma and died two days later from pulverized organs, internal hemorrhaging, and other critical injuries from his beyond brutal treatment. Zehm's last words were, "All I wanted was a Snickers bar..."
After six years, Officer Thompson was sentenced to a minimum of four years in prison. Four years for murdering a man. Thompson had not read Zehm his Miranda rights, nor had he charged him with a crime. The prosecutors of Spokane, WA, declined to bring any charges against Thompson until public outcry reached a fever pitch, and even then they only charged him with violation of civil rights, not cold-blooded murder.
Any ordinary person who brutally beat a fellow human being to death, tied him up and dehumanized him would be sentenced to life imprisonment nine times out of ten. But because Thompson had a badge, even though he did not make an arrest, his act of murder only warrants the duration of a college education.

Not convinced that police are going insane yet? Okay, let's serve up another one: Gilberto Valle, an NYPD cop, had stolen information on over 100 women from police databases. Creepy yet? Oh, it gets worse. He planned to kidnap, cook and eat these women. Valle kept a journal of how he would fit women into ovens or slow-roast them over flames, determined to keep them alive for as long as possible while he watched them suffer and die. He had blueprints for his first abduction and had even met with one of his targets, noting in his journal how "tasty" she looked.
Valle pled not guilty on charges of conspiracy to abduct and murder these women. His defense attorney argued that these plots were pure fantasy, despite the overwhelming evidence in his possession that he had the means to perform these kidnappings and was only stopped before he could carry them out. Because Valle is a police officer, he may very well get off with a minimum sentence. The jury will almost assuredly find him guilty, but the judge will likely prevent him from receiving the same treatment that anyone else would.

And the litany of madness continues. To further inundate the reader with disturbing news stories, let's get back to good old-fashioned police brutality: At Philadelphia's Puerto Rico Day parade, a police officer had a plastic bottle thrown at him. He selected a woman who was in the direction from which the bottle had been thrown (and who had not thrown the bottle, as the video attests), stalked calmly toward her and savagely punched her over and over again. When video surfaced, the cop claimed self-defense. Yeah, right. She was about as much of a threat as our next story: In case the headline on that page is too obtuse, an officer shot and killed a double-amputee in a wheelchair. It's not like he could just step around the wheelchair, move back, or knock over the wheelchair. He had to shoot the man who was waving a terrifying metal object, a metal object that turned out to be a pen. The officer was placed on "administrative leave." To the best of my knowledge, the murderer has not been charged.

Not insane enough for you? I have more! Yes, the title is pretty clear: a group of six police officers played the part of firing squad and turned a man into Swiss cheese, shooting him forty-six times in five seconds. The shredded victim (calling him murdered seems so passé for what happened to him) was simply standing in front of a shut-down restaurant while holding a knife. There were no bystanders within range of attack and he was not acting threatening. Police claimed that the man was "assaultive" and was threatening police, but they had time to line up and gun him down. Witnesses saw no proof that the victim was planning to attack; he was simply arguing with police. Why they thought forty-six shots was a better alternative than a taser is anyone's guess.

Before I conclude this little foray into state-sanctioned cruelty, let's go all the way to the top. Or, rather, that's where this next guy wanted to point his gun: Yes, you read that right: a police officer in Jacksonville, Florida stated that he would enjoy killing President Obama. When questioned further, he said he'd also like the entire Northeastern US to be obliterated with nukes because they voted for Obama. The officer since quit, but I hope the Secret Service are keeping tabs on him.

So, what has caused this sudden surge in abuse of power and police brutality? It's not that hard to figure out. Look at the sanctions after September 11th, 2001. Suddenly the government claimed to have seen the enemy, and they were us. The "we are all Americans" sentiment lasted for less than a month before we were all told to fear our neighbors. State and government lawmakers capitalized on this fear by expanding their power base. Anyone attacked or arrested was assumed to be a terrorist sneaking around. We may be moving past this paranoia with a more level-headed man in the Oval Office, but Congress is still filled with deranged conspiracy theorists and state governments are still capitalizing on such insanity. Just look at Arizona, where you can be arrested for simply "not looking right."

When our protectors turn their sights and their guns on those they are supposed to defend, that is when we have truly lost. Our only hope now is to reclaim sanity for our nation and restore the balance between power and responsibility. Goodnight, and stay safe.

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