Monday, October 20, 2014

Either Praise the Police, or Shut Up

"Don't just touch your chin -- bang it, man, bang it!"

Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia, members of the Persian elite were required to prostrate themselves before their new ruler. Polyperchon, one of Alexander’s generals, sternly rebuked one of the Persians whose self-abasement was seen as inadequate.

“Come on, don’t just touch the floor with your chin,” demanded Alexander’s arrogant underling. “Bang it, man! Bang it!”

Police union commissar Patrick J. Lynch displays more than a hint of that attitude in dealing with a public that at long last has become disgusted with routine and impenitent criminal corruption on the part of the state’s consecrated dispensers of violence.  

For Lynch – whose views are very commonplace in law enforcement – any attitude toward police other than abject, servile gratitude is unacceptable, and perhaps even criminal. This is true even of those who preface modulated discussion of unambiguous criminal misconduct with the familiar disclaimer: “Not all cops are bad.”

“Proclaiming that `not all cops are bad’ implies that rational people might somehow believe the opposite,” Lynch whined in a recent column for the New York Post. “It lends cop-haters a credibility they don’t deserve. And it minimizes the dedication and professionalism that police officers display, day in and day out, by implying that it’s the exception rather than the rule.” 
Tax-feeders' mouthpiece: Lynch.

From Lynch’s perspective, sycophancy toward the licensed purveyors of violence is a civic obligation, and the public has a duty to sustain the pretense that every single police officer is a divinely commissioned instrument of justice and the distillate of valor.

Lynch demands that the public accept the proposition that “all cops put their lives on the line to protect all New Yorkers.” The NYPD formally repudiated that claim in its official reply to a lawsuit filed by the heroic Joseph Lozito, who was cut to ribbons while taking down crazed serial killer Maksim Gelman in a subway car as Officer Terrance Howell cowered behind a glass partition. 

Howell was hailed as a “hero,” and the NYPD deflected Lozito’s lawsuit by insisting that “under well-established law, the police … have no special duty” to protect an individual citizen. 

For cops, “officer safety” is always the prime directive. Lynch would contend that the public must embrace Howell as a hero because of his occupation – or, failing that, stifle any criticism of his behavior. Extolling him as a heroic exemplar is acceptable; describing him as an anomalous “bad apple” is not.

According to Lynch, police are victimized by an invidious double standard. After all, “when a patient dies on the operating table under dubious circumstances, elected officials don’t rush to reassure the public that not all surgeons are incompetent. If an airline pilot is caught drinking before take-off, TV talking heads don’t remind us that the majority of pilots are sober.”

Leaving aside the fact that the mechanisms of professional accountability for surgeons and pilots are much more demanding than those that exist in law enforcement, the most obvious problem with Lynch’s desperate analogy is that people in those professions are actually rendering a service to the public. Police have no enforceable duty to do likewise.

Doctors help their patients; pilots safely convey passengers to their chosen destinations. Private security personnel defend persons and property. For people in those professions, success is measured in terms of positive outcomes for paying customers, and failure is recognized as either unavoidable misfortune or culpable incompetence.

For police officers, by way of contrast, “success” results when those targeted in displays of government-sanctioned violence either submit or are subdued, often with lethal consequences – even when the recipient of that violence did nothing to warrant such treatment.

According to Lynch, the death of Eric Garner – who was suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes -- at the hands of an NYPD thugscrum was a “success.” Once the officers had decided to abduct Garner, “failure” – meaning successful resistance by their victim – was no longer an option.

What should police do, Lynch complained in a recent press conference, “when we’re faced with a situation where the person being placed under arrest says, `I’m not going. I’m not being placed under arrest.’ What is it we should do? Walk away?”

If the arrestee wasn’t involved in an actual crime – and there’s no evidence that Garner had done anything other than embarrass plainclothes officers by breaking up a fight – then the inescapable answer is: Yes, the police should walk away.

“We don’t have that option,” Lynch asserts – which means that officers are entitled to “use necessary force to make that arrest.” In the case of Eric Garner, this included the use of an illegal chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, which resulted in a criminal homicide.
“There is an attitude on our streets today that it is acceptable to resist arrest,” grouses Lynch. “That attitude is a direct result of a lack of respect for law enforcement.”

Actually, that attitude is in large measure a reflection of the ever-escalating lawlessness of the government employees represented by Lynch and his comrades. It may also reflect a growing appreciation for the fact that resisting unlawful arrest — while considered a crime, and prosecuted as if it were — is an ancient, venerable, and indispensable right of free people. Under the still-valid Supreme Court precedent John Black Elk v. U.S. (1900), a citizen has a legally recognized right to use lethal force to prevent the consummation of an unlawful arrest, and bystanders likewise have a right (and perhaps a moral duty) to intervene on behalf of the victim.

Like other agencies of its kind, the NYPD is well-stocked with the kind of privileged bullies who have mastered the art of simultaneously swaggering and simpering. Thus anonymous NYPD sources described anti-police graffiti to the New York Post as “a disturbing hate crime.”

Through video surveillance, the NYPD identified  36-year-old Rosella Best as the culprit. Best tagged police vehicles and a public school with graffiti expressing such eminently defensible (if grammatically awkward) sentiments as “NYPD pick on the harmless,” “NYPD pick on the innocent,” and — in a display of familiar but increasingly justified hyperbole — “NAZIS=NYPD.” (Assuming that Ms. Best used only “public” property as her canvas, it’s difficult to identify an actual victim in this case.)

 Best was charged with “criminal mischief as a hate crime.”  Under Article 485 of New York Penal Law, a “hate crime” must involve “violence, intimidation [or] destruction of property” inspired by animus toward people on the basis of “race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.” 

Absent from that inventory is any mention of occupation as a “protected category,” which means that the NYPD must consider itself to be either a tribe, a cult, or perhaps even a sexual orientation, most likely one that fetishizes sadistic mistreatment of the helpless.

The statute also specifies that the offending act must be intended to “inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage” and be intended to “intimidate and disrupt entire communities….” By filing a hate crimes charge against Ms. Best, the NYPD is certifying that its rank and file consists of people who are wounded and intimidated by public criticism. If the bold and valiant badasses of the NYPD must be protected from hurtful words, they’re obviously not the kind of people who “put their lives on the line to protect all New Yorkers,” as Patrick Lynch would have us pretend.

All police officers embody “selflessness and courage,” Lynch maintains – but there is one “nightmare” that burdens their waking thoughts and holds sleep in abeyance: Accountability.

“We have watched in disbelief as the worst nightmare a police officer can have comes true,” wailed retired Jersey City Police Officer Robert Cubby in a post at, referring to the prospect of criminal charges against Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner.  “An NYPD officer applied what was falsely called a choke hold. Moments later, the perpetrator gasped for air and died in the hospital.”

These two developments, Cubby would have us pretend, were not necessarily related. It’s not that Garner’s government-employed assailants killed him; he just chose that particular moment to die.

Now that the death of Garner — who was not a “perpetrator” of any sort, once again, but rather a man who had just broken up a fight — has been ruled a homicide, the “career of those involved from the NYPD dangles from a thread,” moans Cubby. “The officers face the worst possible nightmare; loss of their career and being thrown in jail for a good portion of the rest of their lives.”

The same would be true of anybody else who fatally assaulted another human being without cause. Cubby and people of his ilk assume that police officers must be beyond accountability for such actions, and that the loss of their exalted station as dispensers of lethal force is a fate worse than death.

“While these officers now become defendants and have to, somehow, gather enough emotional strength to get through this horrible accusation [and] gather all their financial resources to defend themselves, stay out of jail and retain their jobs, it is time for the LEO family to support our NYPD brothers and sisters,” insists Cubby. He suggested that members of the state’s armed enforcement class display their solidarity with Garner’s killers through a “United We Stand with NYPD” social media campaign: Law enforcement officers and their friends were urged to change their Facebook profile picture to an upside-down NYPD flag. That green, white, and blue banner, which was adopted by the department in 1919, is draped over the coffins of officers who are killed in the line of duty.

After all, if a costumed tax-feeder can’t kill without consequence, what’s the point of living?

Cubby’s suggestion, it should be pointed out, was made before the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri last August – which led to protests, riots, and a Fallujah-grade crack-down by fully militarized “local” police. The well-publicized conduct of the police in Ferguson finally forced the public to confront what the police have become. This, in turn, helped propagate an epidemic of institutional self-pity within law enforcement, and Lt. Daniel Furseth of Wisconsin’s DeForest PD came down with a particularly severe case.

“Today, I stopped caring about my fellow man,” begins Furseth’s October 14 essay in American Police Beat Magazine. “I stopped caring about my community, my neighbors, and those I serve. I stopped caring today because a once noble profession has become despised, hated, distrusted, and mostly unwanted.”

Furseth, like Lynch, is disillusioned not because of what their profession has become, but because of how it is perceived by an ungrateful public that is proving itself unworthy of their sanctified overseers. Furseth also seems deaf to the implications of his own overwrought, self-fixated rhetoric: If he stopped “caring” about the people he “serves,” shouldn’t he resign? Or is he admitting to being a state-licensed sociopath with permission to inflict violence on a public he now views with unfiltered scorn and unalloyed resentment?

“I stopped caring today because parents tell their little kids to be good or `the police will take you away,’ embedding a fear from year one,” complains Furseth, offering a variation on Lynch’s complaint that even people who respect the police understand that they are agents of violence. He likewise condemns those who quite correctly describe the police as “just another tool used by government to generate `revenue.’”

In offering that particular complaint, Furseth reveals himself to be either incurably disingenuous, or a stranger to the concept of irony.

DeForest, Wisconsin is a town of about 9,000 people located not far from Madison, the state capital. It is roughly 91 percent white and has a crime rate less than one-third the national average – and a violent crime rate so low it doesn’t make the needle twitch. Revenue collection through traffic enforcement and OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) “saturation patrols” are the chief functions of that police department.

A "friendly show of force."

Furseth proudly describes himself as the creator of the Capital Area OWI Task Force, which regularly conducts patrols for the purpose of “pulling over drivers as often as possible in a friendly show of force,” in the oxymoron-infused language of a local news account.

The DeForest PD’s 2013 Annual Report smugly observes: “One individual stated the following on a social media site: `Dude, I refuse to drive into DeFo with anything remotely illegal in my car, it seems like there’s a cop on every street.’”

That’s a sensible precaution, given that the “friendly” people responsible for that state of affairs are not only doing everything possible to wring revenue from visitors, but are also obsessively monitoring social media.

“We represent a `Police State’ where `Jackbooted badge-wearing thugs’ randomly attack innocent people without cause or concern for constitutional rights,” laments Furseth. “We are Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Rodney King all rolled into one….”

Notably absent from his jeremiad is any acknowledgement, however qualified or tentative, that the perception he laments could possibly be justified. If he possesses so much as a particle of principled concern for the rights of innocent people, Furseth will reach beyond his privileged peer group and offer support to a local family who suffered horribly  “without cause or concern for constitutional rights” in a 3:00 a.m. no-knock SWAT assault.  

DeForest is about a half-hour from Madison, which is where the family of Bounkham Phonesavanh – more commonly known as “Baby Bou-Bou” --resides.  The 20-month-old child was nearly murdered by police in Georgia last May 28th during a 3:00 no-knock SWAT raid. Acting on the basis of purchased intelligence from a petty criminal, the raiders attacked the home without warning, hurling a flash-bang grenade into the living room. The infernal device exploded in Bou-Bou’s crib, blowing off his nose and ripping open his chest.

The Phonesavanh family was residing temporarily with an aunt in Georgia. The parents weren’t suspected of any criminal conduct – but this didn’t prevent the invaders from assaulting the father, leaving him with a permanent shoulder injury. No drugs or other evidence was found at the home, nor was the relative suspected of drug dealing. 

Just move on: Sheriff Terrell.

The tiny victim was still in a medically induced coma when Habersham County Sheriff Jerry Terrell officially exonerated the officers who had nearly murdered him: “I stand behind what our team did. There’s nothing to investigate, there’s nothing to look at.” Public outrage eventually led to a Grand Jury inquest, which did little more than ratify the sheriff’s claims
Following a six-day investigation, the Grand Jury declined to indict the law enforcement officers who participated in that atrocity.

The prologue to the grand jury’s “Presentment” is five pages of frothy self-justification and pious persiflage emphasizing the public-spiritedness of the panel and extending sympathy to both the victims and perpetrators of this atrocity.

“Nothing can be more difficult and heart-wrenching than injuries to one’s child,” the document asserts, before suggesting that inflicting such injuries can be just as traumatic to the exalted instruments of state coercion who nearly killed Bou-Bou: “[W]e wish to extend our sympathy also to the law enforcement officers involved… [W]hat has not been seen before by others and talked or written about, is that these individuals are suffering as well.”

That “suffering,” like the nearly fatal injuries to Bou-Bou, came after an investigation that was “hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and procedures.” This wasn’t “criminal negligence,” mind you, but simply the regrettable result of “well-intentioned people getting in too big a hurry, and not slowing down and taking enough time to consider the possible consequences of their actions.”

This assessment might be appropriate in describing the distracted and inattentive cook who sets fire to a stove. Applying it to people who carried out an unjustified 3:00 a.m. military assault that left an infant fighting for his life is an obscenity.

The most abhorrent passage in this document comes on page 13, where “the parents and extended family” of the victim are cut in for a share of the blame, because they supposedly “had some degree of knowledge concerning family members involved in criminal activity that came in and out of the residence.” Bou-Bou’s parents had taken refuge with relatives in Georgia after their home in Wisconsin was burned down. They weren’t implicated in the alleged wrongdoing of their relative; they were simply desperate for a place to live.

Bou-Bou’s parents, who moved back to Wisconsin in July, have been saddled with more than $1 million in medical bills. After initially promising to help defray those expenses, Habersham County officials — displaying the selective, self-serving fastidiousness for “law” that is so typical of  tyrants and bureaucrats — now insist that it would be “illegal” to do so.

Daniel Furseth is a neighbor to the Phonesevanh family. He ends his essay with a self-dramatizing flourish: “Yes, I stopped caring today. But tomorrow, I will put my uniform back on and I will care again.”

If the compass of his caring extends beyond his comrades in the coercive caste -- and there is videotaped evidence that he has a soft spot for small children -- Furseth really should extend his sympathies to the Phonesevanhs – perhaps by organizing a fundraising effort to help those innocent people pay the costs of restoring their mangled baby to health. 

By doing so, however, Furseth would acknowledge that decent people have abundant reason to look upon the police with fear and suspicion – and this is a concession he probably cannot bring himself to make.

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 Dum spiro, pugno!


JdL said...

There's no one who can form a sentence like you, Will! This is my favorite: "... which means that the NYPD must consider itself to be either a tribe, a cult, or perhaps even a sexual orientation, most likely one that fetishizes sadistic mistreatment of the helpless." Har!

Of course, even as I laugh at your expert verbal slicing and dicing, I know that the terrible reality remains after the laughter stops. Thanks, as always, for bringing it into view. Just linked to this from the latest column at Carlos Miller's PINAC; hope you'll get some hits!

Unknown said...

Ditto JdL,
If you're impressed with Will's writing (as i have been for some time), you'll be awe stricken by his rhetorical acuity - i often catch him been interviewed by the great Scott Horton (radio guy not the other great Scott Horton the lawyer).

schoolofhardknocks said...

Exquisitely written! Just the right amount of everything! I only hope these blind jack boots have a chance to read this wonderful work! The only answer is to END the socialized delivery of protection services and move to a free market subscription based system of policing and protection, one where the paying customer is in control!

kirk said...

i absolutely agree with 'school...' with respect to market based policing. it is beyond time that such a move be completed.

the 'kill/maim/hurt/bully' caste will see things differently, of course, since the vast majority of them will no longer have a job under such a system given their 'capo' (as used by jews in concentration camps to refer to 'one of their own' who betrayed them daily) mindset.

i will not hold my breath for such a change in the near future, though. the authoritarians and their bleating sheep supporters are far too numerous at present for any meaningful change to take place now. on the other hand, given all that is transpiring with the rising groundswell of anger, the days of policing in the present form are definitely limited. this is a good thing...a
very good thing.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is a damn well written and thoughtfully composed treatise on a subject that disturbs me more and more each day. This country is becoming a police state and the 'sheeple' continue to elect those who support the horrendous acts described in your article and more. I'm a middle aged middle class white guy; the type who is constantly purported to support 'law and order' but my peers better wake up and realize that the things the cops are doing to 'those people' will eventually be the things they are doing to YOU, skin color is not the issue; the sanctioned use of excessive force and government imposition under the guise of 'public welfare' is the goal. When white soccer moms start getting killed (and it's very assuredly coming) then an outcry will occur. Sad but true. Don't hate cops (mostly), hate lawmakers.

rkshanny said...

To Anon 9:09PM
"Hate lawmakers" . . . yes, assuredly. They legislate into existence bad law (mala prohibita) and empower the uniformed apes to ram it down your throat. "Don't hate cops" . . . couldn't disagree more! As Gore Vidal said in "Death In The Fifth Position": "There is something about The State putting the power to bully into the hands of subnormal, sadistic apes that makes my blood boil." Or as Bill Buppert writes at "In the end, the police are THE existential threat to human liberty; no political actor could deny a single human being liberty or freedom if the enforcer class didn’t exist. None.” The suit-and-tie "lawmaker" enables the ugly process, but it is the traitorous, badged, typically low-moderate IQ official hoodlum that enforces it against his neighbors. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said in "The Gulag Archipelago", indicting not so much the butcher Stalin ("lawmaker") but rather his goon squad security operatives/organs ("cops"): “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.” It won't be the "lawmaker" that breaks your door in, it will be his hired meathead muscle, the praetorian hog.

Nick/ said...

Someone has to do the job, and since the majority doesn't want to adhere to the rule of law as it is clearly stated at Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 of the Constitution, ("execute the Laws of the Union"), this is what we get for our ambivalence, and disrespect for the sacrifices that were made by our Forefathers.
I have petitioned my governor to enforce the law as it was established, and asked for support from the community. I've been ridiculed and condemned. So when we complain about the conduct of unlawful agencies, whether or not there are "good" people there or not, we have only ourselves to blame.
Learn the law. Speak of the law. Tell your elected representatives that their job is to protect rights not infringe upon them. There is no original tenor, other than judicial fiat, for the fraudulent power of the police.
So let's start the conversation that we need. Read Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 of the Constitution, and the corresponding states constitutional authority. Demand that your state reps or governor enforce that law. In this nation it is the People who are the sovereigns with certain sovereign powers granted to the government. The Authors of the Constitution made that perfectly clear when they created the branch that is the only recognized authority to "execute the Laws of the Union". It cannot be changed by an act, or judicial edict. It can only be changed by the amendment process and our willingness to abdicate our sovereign powers.
I believe, with all my heart that Mr. Grigg needs to add that clearly enumerated law to all his articles, as does every other so-called patriot.


All it will take anyone to learn to hate the cops is to simply call them when you are having a problem.
You will quickly learn what their 'real' job is.

Ed said...

Nick, you need this: American Policing and the Coming Civil War by Bill Buppert

rdhardesty said...

Read your analysis of policing in Yakima. We helped organize a DoJ investigation into Portland, Oregon police; and the City now moves forward under a Settlement Agreement. We anticipate hosting a regional convening on civilian authority and police accountability that will include Seattle and Spokane. Was wondering whether you had relationships in Yakima we might network among. Best way to contact us is through the response form at our blog:

William N. Grigg said...

Mr. Hardesty -- I appreciate your work, and I'll be in touch. Thank you.

Anon said...

All who hate cops and law makers should shut the hell up up and shove their bigotry up their asses. We have laws and police for good reason. Without them, crime would run amok. Besides, I'm tired of troublemakers running in the world. And so, I wish that everyone would follow good rules without question forever.

William N. Grigg said...

At what point was it established that criticizing people who are supposedly our servants is a form of bigotry?

It's probably gratuitous to point this out, but in the early 1970s, the Police Foundation funded a detailed study in Kansas City to examine the impact of police patrol on the rate of violent and property-related crime. That study determined that there is no measurable benefit. Similarly, there is a long string of court cases establishing the legal principle that the police have no enforceable duty to protect individual citizens from criminal violence.

As an institution, law enforcement exists to protect those who prey on our property rights -- namely, the political class. In that capacity they are owed neither respect nor gratitude.