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Yes, People Hate Cops—but Aren’t Stooping to Their Level

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‘THERE’S A WAR GOIN’ ON’--A manhunt is still underway for suspects in the shooting death of a police officer in Chicago. Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was found shot after chasing three suspects: two white men and one black man. 

The news comes just days after a Houston officer named Darren Goforth was killed, apparently in an execution-style shooting. A black man named Shannon Miles has been arrested and charged with capital murder.

Referring to Goforth’s death, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman wildly speculated that the officer had been killed because of his uniform and blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for his death, saying, “We’ve heard black lives matter; all lives matter. Well, cops’ lives matter too. At any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated, cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen(s), this rhetoric has gotten out of control.”

The last time the nation was shocked at the killings of police officers was in December 2014, when New York Police Department Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed, allegedly by an African-American man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then fatally shot himself. Police union spokesman Patrick Lynch’s reaction was similar to Hickman’s. He said, “There’s blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what NYPD officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated.”  

But actions speak louder than words, and police have made clear just how fast they can turn any encounter into a deadly one, whether it is shooting an unarmed man in the back while he is trying to run away, as in the case of Walter Scott in South Carolina, or the gunning down of a 12-year-old child named Tamir Rice in Cleveland, who was shot “within two seconds of the police arriving.”

Statistics provide even more clarity. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which collects meticulous data on law enforcement fatalities, found a mere 3 percent increase in the number of police officers killed this year compared with the same time last year. That increase is well within the statistical noise, and in fact, overall police deaths are gradually decreasing, with 64 officers losing their lives in the course of their jobs in 2015 compared with 62 in the first half of 2014. The leading cause of police deaths was not violent encounters, but traffic accidents.

Data released earlier this year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 13 other jobs in the U.S. are far deadlier than being a police officer. Fishers and loggers are most likely to die on the job. Even when examining death by violent means, taxi drivers have jobs that are more dangerous than those of police officers.

So much for people killing police. What about police killing people? The Guardian newspaper has been keeping careful tabs on officer-involved deaths in the U.S. and found that this year alone, police have killed 779 people. While the numbers of people killed per month were initially decreasing this year, July 2015 ended up being the deadliest month of the year, with 118 people gunned down by police.

And annually, the rate of killings by police is rising, a trend opposite to that of officers dying on the job. In late 2014, the FBI reported a 20-year high in police killings of felony suspects.

So why is the Harris County Sheriff in Texas convinced that “out of control” rhetoric by Black Lives Matter led to the killing of an officer? If anything, “out of control” cops unleash their violence every day on a largely unarmed population. Hickman’s assessment that cops are the victims in a world where they are far better armed and trained to subdue, arrest or kill us, sounds absurd. But it stems from a serious superiority complex that is rife among police officers: that their lives are actually worth far more than ours.

Contributing heavily to this culture of police superiority is our criminal justice system’s reluctance to actually charge and convict police officers for killing unarmed citizens, even when evidence of wrongdoing abounds, as this former cop relates.

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Thanks to the growing universality of video recording devices embedded in our smartphones, even mainstream America is seeing clearly for the first time the injustice of police brutality. And yes, that is feeding a hatred of the police. At an anti-police brutality march in Minnesota over the weekend, activists chanted, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” Police have seized on what was apparently a 30-second rallying cry as evidence that Black Lives Matter is advocating the killing of police. Organizer Rashad Turner shot back, saying, “We’re not going to be distracted by their attempt to minimize our movement and focus on a chant that lasted 30 seconds.”

While I was driving to buy groceries recently with my 8-year-old son in the back seat of my car, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s car approached me from behind with his lights flashing. My heart began thumping fast as his siren started to wail. As I used my signal to pull over, several worst-case scenarios raced through my mind, most of them involving my child’s safety and my own (yes, I was thinking of Sandra Bland). A society in which a woman driving a car with her child instinctively feels deep-seated fear when a law enforcement officer is nearby is nothing short of barbaric. The sheriff’s car zoomed past me; he was chasing someone else. My relief was so palpable that my son asked me what was wrong.

Had I been a black woman, my fear of being pulled over would have been even more legitimate. Had I been a black man, almost certainly that siren would have been meant for me. Even black children are targeted by police. This week, police in my hometown of Pasadena, Calif., reportedly arrested a 10-year-old African-American boy named DeMarcus Fairley during a protest. Actions such as these feed directly into mass anger and resentment aimed at the people we pay with our tax dollars who are supposedly hired to protect us but who instead seem intent at every turn to attack us.  

That is why Black Lives Matter. And that is why police in the U.S. need to address the crisis of public distrust, disgust and even hatred aimed at them.

Rapper Jeezy just released a new single entitled “God,” alongside which he published a lengthy letter that reads in part:  

You have law enforcement officials gunning down unarmed black men. You have misinformed young men gunning down unarmed women, children and men in churches, movie theaters and public events. There’s a war going on, but you have to ask yourself, who is the enemy?

They ask why you black males are so militant? My answer to that would be because they are making us soldiers. Soldiers in a war on humanity. We have nothing to lose and everything to fight for. We are fighting for our people; we are fighting for our right to live.

Jeezy is expressing an urgency many Americans feel. His words are actually rational, based on statistical evidence of who is killing whom.

If police are convinced that ordinary Americans are out to kill them, they ought to consider the fact that people are actually holding back. Before the crisis in policing leads to a more dangerous situation where people physically fight back, cops needs to understand that they are the aggressors in a war they began—and that they have the power to end it.

 

(Sonali Kolhatkar is Co-Director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women's rights activists in Afghanistan. This commentary was posted first at TruthDig.com

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 73

Pub: Sep 8, 2015

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