They Want You to Be Afraid: Fight Against the Emerging Police State

Alex Jacobs

Is this country headed toward becoming a police state? Some will tell you we’ve been on that road since 9/11, and maybe since the imperial presidencies of Nixon and Reagan. The most important reason that people are protesting is because if you wait, then it will be too late for protests or marches; also things called Free Speech, Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution. Now that police officers have been targeted, the protestors, the media, even the President are being accused of having blood on their hands. But no one brings up the right wingnuts who blew up the Federal Building in OKC, or the abortion clinic bombings and shootings, or the Cliven Bundy stand-off that encouraged more right wing agitation. Where do you think any future gunplay and targeting of law enforcement will most likely be coming from but these extremists? And we can thank Fox News and the Tea Party for most of this agitation, as they have become the American Taliban. And what agitates these folks more than anything is President Barack Obama. PUSA has been consistently profiled and vilified and dehumanized as a person of color in authority.

Studies done by social psychologists from Stanford, Yale and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004 gave us: Seeing Black: Race, Crime and Visual Processing, which shows an implicit racial bias in the American psyche that connects black maleness with crime. NYPD Police misconduct claims, including excessive force lawsuits, have risen over 200% since 2000, while the amount the city paid out has risen 75 percent in the same period, to $64.4 million in fiscal year 2012. Then there’s the August report from the CDC that gave us 4,531 citizen/civilian deaths by police from 1999 to 2011. It also states that Native American men are more likely to be killed (pro rata) by police, as less than 1 percent of population but 2 percent of deaths and Blacks who represent 13 percent of population are 26 percent of the victims killed by police. The report goes on to say that such deaths have actually gone down since the late 60s.

During this time, off duty Black cops have been harassed, beaten and arrested by white cops; on duty Black cops are more likely to be shot and killed by white cops during incidents. One Black cop is suing his Philadelphia department for brutality, misrepresenting facts for probable cause, false arrests, malicious prosecution. Look up Harold Thomas, the 30 year NYPD just retired Black cop who is suing the city after he was beaten and arrested by fellow white officers in 2012.

Look up the numbers if you can because they hard to find but over the last 15 years the number of citizens killed by law enforcement is growing every year, and not all are criminals and it doesn’t take into account routine beatings and SWAT mistakes. Now we are told it’s over 500 citizens killed every year by police, and over 400 are termed justifiable homicides. It’s easier to find the number of police killed per year and line-of-duty deaths rose from 105 to 121 last year, and of those 50 were killed by gun or assault, but they also sometimes shoot each other. Not so many years ago it was police car chases and that number was in the thousands, of citizens every year who were hurt or killed in car crashes when police were chasing suspected criminals. That number got so high, departments changed tactics. Now with the militarization of the police with see the results and the protests, so we hope it is inevitable there will be changes.

The protests have spurred Congress in December to re-authorize the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which will compile these numbers and circumstances and also withhold funding to any agencies who don’t report. Sites such as Fatal Encounters and Deadspin will continue to compile these numbers.

If you haven’t heard of it by now, start with Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, and we find this us-against-them mentality, the military training over community based training, the fear of the populace as if the police are occupiers facing an insurgency. What else can we expect to happen now that we are recording deaths on the battlefield and in the line of duty? Now that the militarization metaphor is made real by these deaths and protests, aren’t the military, by law, allegedly regulated by civilian authority? Police that register internal complaints say there’s really no place to go and they are targeted when their identities are leaked. Civilian oversight has been a joke and it’s only with recent behaviors and national protest that some civilian oversight boards have charged officers.

Yes, we all know that law enforcement is dangerous work, it’s the first thing said every time we have to go through these events. Then we get these Police Organizations, coming out and attacking those they perceive to be lacking in support of the police. They talk in the same outraged tones you hear in Egypt or Turkey or Indonesia or countries where it’s a crime to criticize the Police, the Judges or other ornamental agencies who work for the upper classes and not the middle and lower classes. The next grouping would be Russia and China, where everyone knows the score and they all pretend the system works but people have to be careful and hope that bribery works for them or they’ll be headed for show trials. Now we must deal with Mexico, our neighbor who we share a failed War on Drugs with and we see what that’s done to that potentially failing Narco State.

I sincerely wish this country would pay teachers and police better; maybe this would make a difference in society. It would head off the bribery system that we see all over the world, but many of us think it already exists at high levels in this country because we see it playing out. It’s not just accusations against police, but those who write the laws, lawyers, judges, businessmen, professionals and politicians. Aren’t the police just enforcing laws written by bribed politicians who work for moneyed interests that keep the rich rich and the poor poor? There’s money to militarize the police but none for community based training? Whose fault is that and why does it continue?

With so many negative police stories on the internet, this was a Good One. During last month’s national protests, Richmond CA Police Chief, Chris Magnus, participated with Community members in a small protest and it was reported that his Department has not lost a Police Officer or citizen since 2007 when he took over and instituted a community based style of policing. Of course the Police Union came out against him as he was wearing his uniform, the mayor supported Magnus and said the union was being hypocritical, and then there was a fatal shooting of a citizen in September, the first since 2007, to stir things up. Still, people have come out to support the Police Chief for doing his duty, to protect and serve. Tens of thousands of people continue to march all over this country, demanding actions but in a peaceful manner, one of the best things I heard was from people that “don’t usually participate in protests but… changes in action, changes in belief, happen in numbers."

These police associations who say “How dare you not support us… then you are supporting thugs and criminals”, sound the same as George Bush’s, “If you are with the terrorists then you are against us.” We are now in a dangerous loop now with George Orwell’s never ending war, which is a war on citizens by Big Brother (NSA?) to maintain the status quo by keeping the populace in fear; and now we have the Islamic State declaring “a war on democracy.” Somehow they are all tied together, maybe the NSA can find out why. These are just my opinions, but prove me wrong, my God I hope you can.

Alex Jacobs, Mohawk, is a visual artist and poet living in Santa Fe.

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PigStateNews's picture
At least 31 people have been killed by U.S. police since January 1, 2015. At least 1,100 were killed in 2014. At least 1,894 have been killed since May 1, 2013. http://www.killedbypolice.net/
alexjacobs's picture
Albuquerque DA charges 2 APD officers w open count murder for killing homeless man James Boyd last March, but a Grand Jury Judge must decide to go to trial, if so expect the lowest charge, involuntary manslaughter. It is a dangerous job: 2 NM State Policed got into off-duty drunken argument, one shoots the other dead, is now charged w murder; and this just happened an APD undercover shot by a back-up undercover cop over a $40 meth deal, in critical condition. All these men were shot in the back.
NDNWoman's picture
Excellent article! As for what King George Bush II, what he actually declared was, "If you're not for us, then you're for the terrorists." For whom? For the creators of real-life horror fiction, who are guilty of war crimes: Bush, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rove... and the list goes on, and on. Theirs was, and is, a mindset imported 523 years ago. Great work, Mr. Jacobs.
Sammy7's picture
Alex, the eagle teaches us to be far sighted. You have seen well. Now where do we go from here? Each person will answer differently. I answer as follows: Although I know we are all connected, and I do what I can to help by attending an occasional march or writing an email to authorities, I have learned to take a dispassionate look. I stand back and watch the yonega failing belief system form a circular firing squad and shoot each other. Theirs is the way and the culture of death. The path of death is a dead end. After just 237 years the culture of the colonizer is dying. It is infested with corruption, dishonesty, lies, deceit, and packaged like a hot dog for easy consumption. Death incorporated sews the seeds of it's own destruction with a brand of happy blind ignorance. Greed is blind and greed kills it's own. It is with regret that we Native Peoples look upon this self destruction. I celebrate the forty thousand years that our Peoples have lived on Turtle Island. I celebrate the wisdom of our ancestors, a balance of life and living in right relationship with our relatives. I celebrate the guidance of the Great Spirit and the learned ways of wisdom and life. I celebrate our Traditional lifeways and the cooperative and reciprocal communities they engender. I celebrate the gift of each day and the opportunity to grow my love and to perfect my soul and to help others in my community as I am given talents to do by The Great Spirit. I try to be as our ancestors taught us to be, to exist as a living prayer. I find balance and harmonious contentment in this gifted path as I watch the yonega with pity as they suffer the consequences of their self sewn seeds of death.
andre's picture
The author has done an incredible job of connecting the dots here. I actually read it twice it was so compelling.. Good job articulating the facts Alex Jacobs.