Friday, December 5, 2014

Garner Case Shows Aggressive Cops Need Attitude Adjustment

The segment on 'Morning Joe' several days ago was noteworthy in singling out the Michael Brown incident  as a case where a hyper-aggressive cop (Darren Wilson) could have backed off or called for backup  - but didn't. He chose instead to be the "macho man" and confront an unarmed Michael Brown for swiping a whole pack of cigarillos, then shooting him eight times at near point blank range in the process. The point of the legal guests on 'Morning Joe' is that such an incident called for "talking down" and not "taking down". If one on one talking down was too much for Wilson (or he was too terrified of a guy he described as "bigger than Hulk Hogan" while he was "like a 5 year old"), he needed to get other cops who could.

The problem is that today, too many hyper-militarized cops only want to take down, not talk down. Also exemplified with the Eric Garner case, where Daniel Pantaleo jumped in to confront and wrestle down Garner with a choke hold - rather than use a talk down. After all, big as he was, Garner was still unarmed. In the best case of all, of course, the aggressive Pantaleo and his 'crew' could have left it alone. I mean, for chrissakes, bringing a guy down for selling loose cigarettes? (About which I will do a later post regarding too many damned laws, which provide too many excuses for violent police action. Reduce the number of laws and reduce the incidents!)

But the Garner case also brings up the issue of police power trips, especially by the most aggressive cops. If these guys are then already of a mindset to take down, they will not display the patience and communication skills to talk down. (Note 'talk down' is most often used with persons attempting suicide - but needs to be generalized for all lesser crimes!)    After all, to a Neanderthal or militarist macho authoritarian,  it's easier to tase, shoot or choke than to talk. They want only instant resolution without taking time or trouble  - a recipe for disaster in our ever more complex social world.

The problem is that projection of ego and absolute power is what demands the slave posture. But no citizen, who is unarmed and basically minding his or her own business, should be subjected to this over the top public humiliation - even if he gives a cop some backtalk. And it certainly shouldn't be met with lethal force! Writer Kimberle Crenshaw, in a interview, puts the power dynamic exposed by these aggressive cops in perspective:

"We look at that video [of Eric Garner] and we can look at what’s happening in Ferguson and see that what was going on was not about policing against particular harms or injuries, it was policing against certain bodies and attitudes that those bodies have. It was about Eric talking back, and not throwing himself, basically, on the ground in a “yes master” kind of position."

Get that? A "yes massah" position, like a slave! In other words, the only way poor Garner could have spared himself was to immediately drop to the ground, and adopt a submissive slave position to the 'massah' cop, Pantaleo (who let us be reminded - as Chris Hayes noted this evening - has already faced 3 lawsuits for use of excessive force.)

 This hearkens back also to the patriarchal, prejudiced attitudes of the southern cops in MS and AL during the era of Bull Connor and the civil rights marchers. When Connor and his imps turned their fire hoses on the mostly black crowd and yelled at specific stubborn marchers,  "Git down on yorn knees, boy!"

Subservience and slavery! The only postures that would be acceptable, to a power drunk, aggressive cop-  if one was not to be construed as "resisting arrest". Hence, the only available postures that could have spared Garner's life. 

Ms. Crenshaw goes on:

"It’s about the imposition of authority and control. And that is the highway through which racial power is colliding with these bodies. So when I think of a dam, I think about shutting down that highway altogether and redirecting that energy.

The idea of all power and control [in policing] is the same as the underlying way the military thinks of itself —  we shock and awe with our power and control. In community policing, that means an officer tackles people, puts a chokehold on someone or shoots someone during an encounter about selling loose cigarettes or walking in the middle of the street."

Again, a spot on observation, especially invoking the military analogy. The same way we as a nation, subjugate lesser nations with our power trips of shock and awe - so also power driven cops subjugate "suspects" with power moves like choke holds for a petty offense like selling "loose cigarettes".

This is power gone mad, as well as authority, in both cases.

Crenshaw's last point is most apt:

"When I think about training, I think about the people who can model police and community interaction outside the need to create total control and domination."

This again is relevant. It was also Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts who wrote ('Does It Matter?') that one is least served in gaining compliance by the use of outright force. Even if the subject is perceived to "resist" - force is absolutely the wrong way to go. One instead empathizes and puts himself in the subject's mind and position and then there can be a "talking down" instead of a taking down. The issue inheres in seeing the humanity in the person, as opposed to seeing him as a "beast" or "wild ape". Therein the problem resides!

As long as aggressive cops are on the loose, alas, the take down reaction won't cease and meanwhile the outcry and public protests and civil disturbances will grow - until they reach a level such as we beheld in the Ukraine in the spring.

It redounds to the benefit of police departments around the country to train their personnel to deal with unarmed citizens without using force as a first resort, or even last. Talking down should be the priority, and if a cop fails at this, he needs to be removed from the force as unstable and incompetent in complex social dynamics.

Brute force in dealing with people will no longer be tolerated by the rank and file of citizens, as the current wave of protests show. The sooner police get that into their noggins, the better off we all will be.

See also:


Tyrannical cops wear their entitlement disorder on their sleeves thus:

When I am on the job it's your responsibility to make my life as easy as possible and don't do anything that might get me angry or otherwise set me off:  Just do exactly what I tell you, precisely and without delay, no matter how unreasonable.  If I decide I want to frisk you, let me.  If I decide I want to arrest you, let me.  If this is the fifth time I've hassled you this month, let me.  My whim counts for more than your dignity.

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