The changing culture of law enforcement

It grieves me to write this, as I have great respect for police officers. It seems, for the most part, a thankless, dangerous job. Nevertheless, something is changing and it doesn’t look good for the rest of us.

I’ve previously written about this:

Were these authoritarian responses necessary?

and

Over 50,000 SWAT raids a year!

In that post, I quoted a salon.com interview with Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop. Balko stated:

…you have a military or soldier mind-set, and that, I think, goes beyond the SWAT team. They’ve been telling police officers for a generation now that they’re fighting various wars, but it’s also because the patrol car has isolated police officers from the communities that they serve. Police officers who live in the communities they serve is also less and less common.

So when you arm a cop like a soldier, when you dress ‘em like a soldier, when you tell ‘em to fight in a war and then send ‘em out into a neighborhood that he has no stake in and doesn’t consider himself a part of, you get a very antagonistic, us-versus-them relationship between the officer and that community.

The shift to “us against them” has occurred in most areas of our society. It’s particularly apparent in the way our government treats us as criminals. Not only do they relentlessly spy on us, but they have perpetrated the same culture of suspicion within law enforcement, including local agencies. What happened to “innocent until proven guilty” and “to serve and protect”?

Here are a few stories. The first is from early 2012 and it’s quite interesting.

Cop Brutally Murders Sunday School Teacher In Front Of Church

In Culpeper, Virginia, a Sunday School teacher was shot and killed by a policeman in front of church…

The incident happened while the teacher was sitting in her car. The officer, 33-year-old Daniel Harmon-Wright, approached her vehicle. He  claims that after he tried to talk to the woman, she rolled the window up on his arm and proceeded to drag his body across the parking lot. It was then that he pulled the trigger — six times…

He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 36 months.

The shooting happened at 10 am. According to a local news outlet:

State Police identified the woman as Patricia A. Cook, 54, of Culpeper. Her body remained in the vehicle until late afternoon while the Virginia State Police, which is investigating, processed the scene. The body was then taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Manassas…

Police did not say what “suspicious activity” prompted the call or whether the woman had a weapon of some kind.

But that’s not all:

Husband of woman killed by Culpeper officer found dead

The Virginia State Police said in a news release Tuesday that the body of 62-year-old Gary D. Cook was found by a maintenance worker in an apartment that morning…

WVIR-TV in Charlottesville reports that Cook had brought a multimillion-dollar wrongful death suit after his wife, 54-year-old Patricia A. Cook, was fatally shot on Feb. 9.

Sounds suspicious. Then there’s this recent article:

5 Shocking Stories of Police Taking Cash, Cars, Even Infants from People Never Accused of a Crime

As law enforcement officers continue to ramp up use of a controversial practice known as civil forfeiture, police are seizing cash, cars, houses, and other assets in the name of drug enforcement without ever having arrested or charged their owners with a crime. Funds collected from these seizures frequently go directly back into law enforcement, creating a dangerous profit incentive for police and other law enforcers.

And this:

Disturbing Eyewitness Video Captures Calif. Officer Fatally Shooting Unarmed Homeless Man ‘About a Second’ After He Called Her a ‘B**ch’

“She exited her patrol car, gun drawn, and asked the gentlemen to get on the ground. The gentlemen didn’t get on the ground, he was still inside the restaurant. She asked again. The man then exited the restaurant, and as he was exiting the restaurant, he said, ‘What are you gonna do, b—-?’ About a second later, she shot him in the chest.”

This officer found out how thankless the job can be. However, we expect those entrusted to “serve and protect” us to show more restraint. The problem is that some are not, as the following article points out.

Are police too quick on the draw against dogs?

Police shootings of people have long been a major concern, with many incidents prompting extensive investigations and major controversies. Officers’ shootings of dogs, while a lesser concern to many, have become increasingly visible on YouTube and other social media, raising awareness in recent years. Dog advocates say they don’t know whether the number of dogs shot by police has increased…

[Pat Camden, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police] said, “A lot of police officers own and love dogs and don’t want to harm animals. “They just want to go home at the end of the day with their body and uniform intact.”

Since when is a piece of clothing more important than the life of a living creature? This person’s statement reveals the arrogance that seems to be developing within law enforcement. A search for stories on police shooting dogs will bring up many disturbing incidents.

Then, there’s this:

Autopsy: Bean bag rounds fired by police killed Park Forest man, 95

Police say John Wrana was threatening staff and paramedics with a metal cane and a 2-foot metal shoehorn when they arrived at the Victory Centre around 8:40 p.m. Friday.

Officers ordered him to drop the cane and shoehorn, but Wrana then picked up a “12-inch butcher-type kitchen knife,” police said in a statement.

Obviously, the officers did not want to hurt the old man. Nevertheless, he was 95 years old. Couldn’t they have waited a few minutes, until he got tired? I really don’t understand why they had to taser and then shoot him with beanbags. People who work with young, potentially dangerous, able-bodied adults are trained to take control of situations like this without the use of weapons. Are police officers only trained to use force? Again, I don’t understand why this happened, just as I don’t understand why anyone would taser a child or shoot a dog.

The government is militarizing local law enforcement while pushing to take away our guns. It seems a dangerous combination for private citizens, as our lives, children, property, and even pets are so vulnerable in an “us against them” culture in which force is an acceptable initial response for law enforcement.

For a more detailed and in depth view of the problem, see the Pakalert Press article: Why Have Police In America Turned Into Such Ruthless Thugs?

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