The Thick Blue Line

Ferguson police after riotsNow we see riots and protests in cities across the US over police killings of Black men.

One view of the problem, the view stated by the protesters and most of the media is that police are routinely killing Black men either because the police target these men, or because of bad policies, bad attitudes and excessive use of force, which affects Blacks more than others due to prejudice.

Consequently, the call by protesters is for Black people and “people of color” to rise up and attack the oppressors (White people) and their institutions (police, government buildings, transportation and businesses). The call by most of the media is to grant that protesters are correct in saying there is enormous racial violence and oppression in the the US, and US society and institutions must change to address the problem. The problem is that this view and these solutions aren’t born out by the facts.

lootingIt is interesting to note that the Federal government has also spoken out early and often on this issue, and has also named it a racial issue, despite the lack of evidence that Black men are targeted above all others due to racism. In the case of the federal government, they call for the problem of police violence to be addressed by more training and Federal oversight of local police departments across the country: as if to say that many local police are brutal racists, and just need to be trained and managed more closely by the Federal government in order to fix that. Why would the president and the justice department put out that view and that proposed solution, when they’re illogical and almost contradictory?

Naming this problem a civil rights issue gives the government considerable power to control and regulate citizens and local agencies. This is very desirable to the current administration, and to administrations before it. On the other hand, if the Federal and local governments named it a problem of police violence and bad government policies and agendas, perhaps it would cripple those very policies and agendas. So the Obama administration puts itself on a tightrope of claiming there is a problem with racially motivated police violence, encouraging racial violence to prove its point, while implementing a cure which does not address either prejudice or violence, and does not dampen the calls for revolution based on ethnic hatred. However, the solutions do give the federal government much more control over local law enforcement agencies and courts.

Holder, Sharpton and JacksonIt would be easy to imagine the Obama adminstration encouraging and making use of the current uproar in order to control state and local law enforcement the way the civil rights movement was used to give the federal government leverage to control the voting, election, education and hiring practices in southern states and across the country.

The issue of police violence as reported by the news and worked on by the federal government has not been reported accurately by any means. The reporting is extremely skewed. If a Black male is killed by police under any circumstances it is covered widely and protests are arranged across the country. However, there have been many recent incidents of local police violence and misuse of force against non-Blacks across the country as well, often horrifying and clear-cut. These incidents will make local news and maybe conservative blogs, but won’t be reported nationally with the great vigor that a Black victim inspires, if at all.

Consequently the issue can be skewed to the general public as being an issue of race rather than the broader and less convenient issue of a massive government abuse of citizens by all levels of government. This skewing allows the federal government to mandate more of what is actually the problem: a top heavy, arrogant, corrupt and overly powerful government system that is predominantly concerned with making citizens obey government and law enforcement demands without question or resistance.

the cop of one cop townThe US has changed greatly since towns began electing sheriffs and hiring deputies to handle local criminal activity. For one thing, towns and their police departments are generally much larger than they were even a couple of generations ago. If 10% of the officers in an average police force were corrupt, unstable or otherwise unfit officers, you might have 10 problem police officers who can cause havoc in a city, even if there were no department corruption, institutional prejudice or political agendas at play. A police department will tend to take on a self-protective life of its own when it is large. In small towns where there are only a few officers, the chances of having a bad officer and the ability of the police department and a union to protect such officers is much less. In other words you can say that some of the problem is simply organic to the system and should be dealt with locally.

SWAT teamThe more serious issue is that the power of government at all levels in the US is very great now, and the number of laws that can turn an average citizen into a criminal, or allow an innocent citizen to be treated like a criminal, has increased exponentially. The purpose of law enforcement now is not simply to protect the community against violent criminals and thieves, but also to enforce each citizen’s compliance with any of many laws that may be deemed important to maintaining public safety and order (as determined by government officials) at a particular time in a particular location. This freedom, desire and official sanction to force immediate compliance to police demands is behind much of the excessive police force we see today. It isn’t written in the laws that the penalty for arguing, escaping or being a resident at a SWAT attack on a wrong address is a beating, property destruction, threats or death. However, it is written in the streets for any citizen, not just Blacks. That is the problem called growing tyranny, which all levels of government want to hide and are obscuring behind cries of racism.

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