Tuesday, November 14, 2006
The "New Police Professionalism," or Support Your Local Gang-Banger
Most American men older than, say, fourteen years of age have had the following experience:
During a pick-up basketball game at the YMCA or the local health club, you find yourself paired off defending a guy who's taking things just a little too seriously.
Bumps escalate into undisguised shoves; hand-checks become elbow thrusts; tripping suddenly becomes the defensive tactic of first resort. Up the escalation ladder you climb until eventually you find yourself squaring off with the jerk while other players try to maintain the polite fiction that this is a casual basketball game, rather than an Alpha Male territory-marking ritual.
To his dog, every man is Napoleon, noted Aldous Huxley; this explains the constant popularity of dogs. In similar fashion, it could be said that for a certain personality type, every pickup b-ball game at the Y is Game Seven of the NBA Finals.
I offer that observation as someone who has the dubious distinction of being banned for life from Church League play when I was 18 as a consequence of my threat to “eviscerate” the referee; he wasn't so much intimidated by my threat as he was humiliated when I had to tell him what the word meant, and infuriated when I observed (correctly) that he obviously wasn't the owner of a library card.
Ah, Church Basketball: The Brawl That Begins With Prayer.®
At a Gold's Gym in Salt Lake City one night last August, a 21-year-old Balkan refugee named Agim found himself caught in the tightening coils of an on-court conflict with a 24-year-old named Marcus Barrett. At some point, Agim became weary of Marcus's “rough play” and responded in kind. This reportedly continued until Marcus threw a punch, the two players hit the floor, and two of Marcus's buddies jumped into the fray. While the friends pinned Agim's arms to his sides, Marcus slugged him in the stomach and chest.
Agim as a High School student in Salt Lake city
Quite sensibly, Agim decided to leave – but Marcus and his Homies trailed him to the parking lot. When Agim tried to drive away, he found the exit blocked by Marcus's vehicle; Marcus grabbed a shotgun and threated Agim's life. By this time, Agim had dialed 911, and the police were on the way. For several minutes – as recorded by the 911 dispatcher – Marcus and his buddies swarmed Agim's car, while the young refugee from Kosovo, displaying remarkable composure, waited for the police to arrive.
Oh, did I mention that Marcus, the aggressor in this incident, was an off-duty police officer?
“Get out here [Oedipal epithet deleted],” Marcus can be heard yelling at Agim on the 911 recording, as he and his friends pound on Agim's car. “You're f*****g with the wrong people.... You know what I am?... I will put you under arrest! Get out of the car right now. If you don't get out of the car I will place you under arrest for resisting arrest. Get out of the car right now!”
Agim, who was well acquainted with potentially lethal abuse by police authorities (likely from both Serbian irregulars and the “police” forces of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, the latter being much worse than the former), remained calm and resolute in waiting for other police to arrive, placidly telling Marcus “I don't trust you.”
Earlier in the confrontation, Marcus and his friends had attempted to drag Agim from his car.
“You want to start something [Oedipal epithet deleted once again]?” taunted the hero, who at the time was toting a shotgun with two fellow gang-bangers at his back. “What you pulled in there is called an assault... You want to start sh*t right now?”
According to Agim's side of the story – which seems plausible, given Marcus's behavior as recorded in the 911 tape – it was Marcus who began the “rough play” during the basketball game; apparently, Agim had “assaulted” Marcus by presuming to retaliate, thereby laying his profane hands on the sanctified person of an agent of the Almighty State.
His work shift may have ended, but Marcus proved through his behavior that a rectal orifice is never off-duty.
(Here's a link to the 911 recording, courtesy of Radley Balko.)
This episode brought to my mind a similar incident decades ago – which I have described elsewhere – involving an off-duty Deputy Sheriff who threatened to arrest my American Legion coach for “verbal assault” on a clearly partisan home plate umpire: As the visiting team, we had discovered that our strike zone had expanded to include most of the county, while the home team's had contracted to roughly the circumference of a pea.
As I pointed out earlier in describing that episode: “The umpire, however inept or partial he might have been, exercised authority rooted in an implied private contract. Deputy Buttinski, on the other hand, deployed intimidation backed by the implicit threat of lethal violence, tangible evidence of which was provided by the firearm he carried while off-duty.” His attitude appeared to be, “Hey – I've got a badge and a gun; why not put them to use?”
That was apparently the same notion that took hold of Marcus, who had been a cop for about a year at the time of his altercation with Agim.
Happily, Marcus has been charged with two counts of assault and one charge of unlawful detention, both of which are misdemeanors. For threatening Agim with a gun, Marcus should confront felony assault charges, at least.
In a development as predictable as it is unfortunate, Agim has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Salt Lake City. A better remedy would be to use the leverage of the lawsuit (if this is possible) to bring felony charges against Marcus, and to bring about his removal from the police force.
As a recent enlistee in the "Thin Blue Line," Officer Marcus could be considered an example of what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his opinion from the Hudson vs. Michigan case (.pdf), calls the "new police professionalism."
Here's Scalia's panglossian perspective on contemporary policing:
"Even as long ago as 1989, we felt it proper to `assume' that unlawful police behavior `would be dealt with appropriately' by the authorities, but we now have increasing evidence that police forces across the United States take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously. There have been `wide ranging reforms in the education, training, and supervision' of police officers.... Moreover, modern police forces are staffed with professionals; it is not credible to assert that internal discipline, which can limit successful careers, will not have a deterrent effect. There is also evidence that the increasing use of various forms of citizen review can enhance police accountability."
For all of these reasons, contends Scalia, police can be entrusted with much broader discretionary powers involving potentially lethal use of force, such as no-knock raids.
"Police are certainly more highly trained than they once were, but they aren’t better trained at observing civil liberties. They’re better trained at paramilitary tactics. They’re now trained by former Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. They’re better trained at treating civilians like enemy combatants, at taking over and `clearing' rooms in private homes, not at treating the people inside as citizens with rights."
Just as importantly, modern police frequently display the same propensity toward tribalistic violence that typifies any other armed gang. Too often, rather than regarding themselves as part of, and responsible to, the communities in which they're deployed, police perceive themselves as a caste apart from, and superior to, civilians.
As Officer Marcus put it, while he and his buddies threatened Agim's life: "You see that f****g car right there? What does that make me? You know what I am?"
To which the proper answer is: You're a squalid punk and a feculent bully who richly deserves a major beating -- and that's true despite your pimped-out ride, and the gang colors you wear.
Since 1994, police departments across the nation have received federal aid to enlist tens of thousands of guys like Marcus, give them guns and badges, and invest them with something perilously close to a license to kill.
And we're supposed to be worried about al-Qaeda.
Agim, as mentioned above, is a Kosovar Albanian, and he helped resettle others from that Serbian province in Utah. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army is a nasty terrorist network that has tendrils in every significant Albanian community in the U.S. and Europe. But it doesn't follow that Agim is an "Islamo-Fascist" -- unless, perhaps, he's a sleeper agent given the vital mission of disrupting pick-up basketball games in Salt Lake City (also known as the "strategic linchpin of the Rocky Mountain West").
The Fascisti over at Freerepublic.com would have us believe that Agim, for committing the crime of being born an Albanian Muslim, is a menace to the Homeland. Note particularly this outpouring from a typically low-capacity Freeper brain-pan:
“I'll have sympathy for an Albanian islamofacist who helps settle other islamofacists on our soil when hell freezes over. I will tell you, Albanians aren't innocent wusses like the article would have it appear, they will stab your 'infidel' back as soon as look at you.”
There are indeed plenty of very nasty specimens among the Albanians; as one of the first American journalists to write about the KLA-bin Laden connection, I've heard from a few of them. I'll leave it to rational people -- a cohort that obviously excludes pretty much the entire Freeper population -- to decide if Agim's conduct is that of a Jihadi.
at 8:54 AM