My family is a diverse and divided one, and I love it. Not just racially, but politically and on all those “controversial” issues which you aren’t supposed to bring up at the dinner table at family parties. Well I’m a true rebel and I bring up that crap anyway. So I somewhat… started up a huge debate on gun control with my family. (My aunt for a while was of the opinion that we didn’t need guns because the cops would always be there in time to protect people. Note I live about 50 minutes from Chicago.)
It ended up in everyone shouting, my Uncle putting my Aunt in an armlock, my Uncle yelling at my Grandpa for bailing him out of jail – I didn’t even know that happened – my Dad yelling about my Aunt being a cop and it distorting her perspective. It literally looked like something out of a movie. Wait. Right there, that magic word – Perspective.
Me and my Dad both hold rather “anti-cop” views – according to cops that is on PoliceOne – the site where if a cop blows up kittens on public television – the use of that force must somehow be justified. My aunt is a cop and tends to view things from their point-of-view, even if the video evidence is pretty damning. She points out that there are always two sides to the story. I’m not sure what other “sides” to the story there can be in some of the headlines over the years that I have seen – and the one’s I’ll list are just three out of the hundreds. So just for background:
1. The Kelly Thomas beatdown – that homeless man in Seattle who they literally beat to death as he called for his dad for over 10 minutes. Seriously, watch the video. It’s sickening and disturbing. I’m EXTREMELY manly, but it made me cry.
2. A “no knock” recent swat raid on a house in Georgia where they “suspected” drugs were located. It’s “unclear” whether they found drugs or not – That means they did not – but they did throw a flashbang in the house that melted off part of the face of a two year old toddler, burned a hole in his chest, and now has him in a coma. It reads like something out of a movie where everything goes wrong for a family, but the video of the kid really shows how – fucked up – this really is.
3. An 80 year-old man killed in his own bed in a swat raid where the police were looking for Meth. They didn’t find any and were forced to change their story after bloodstains in the man’s bed indicated that he had been sleeping. “Put the gun down!” apparently was shouted after the six shots were fired… not before. What side could the deputy who pulled the trigger have to justify his actions?
Sidenote: Below, courtesy of Cato is a map of many botched Swat Raids. It should trouble you. Their site has the “interactive” map for you to scour through.
I list those three examples specifically because of the perspective on the other end toward what happened. The perspective of the district attorney and the GBI (George Bureau of Investigation) emphasized by the County Sheriff (Terrell) on the injured Toddler story mentioned above blew my mind.
“I’ve talked to the D.A., I’ve talked to the GBI,” Terrell said. “I’ve given them the whole information and they say there’s nothing else we can do. There’s nothing to investigate, there’s nothing to look at. Given the information given, GBI’s SWAT team would have done the exact same thing – they’d have used the exact same scenario to enter the house.”
As Radley Balko points out in his article on the Washington Post about this story and the SWAT policy for raids:
If your drug cops conduct a raid that ends up putting a child in the hospital with critical burns, and they did nothing that violates your department’s policy, then there’s something wrong with your policy.
However, I’ve seen cops defend this burned toddler pointing to the perspective of the SWAT team, notably at the fore-mentioned PoliceOne facebook page where what I assume is mostly officers exchange stories of “winning”. Note some of these perspectives:
- “As sad as this is this is not the fault of the Police. The scum bag mother is to blame here.”
- “WOW, REALLY? I CAN’T BELIEVE THE NUMBER OF “SO CALLED” OFFICERS ON THIS THREAD THAT ARE BLAMING THE POLICE ON THIS ISSUE! DID YOU READ THE ARTICLE? THIS WAS NOT THE INJURED CHILD’S HOME. THE FAMILY WAS VISITING FROM OUT OF TOWN. THE PROBLEM IS THEY WERE SLEEPING IN A DRUG PUSHER’S HOME!!!!SAD, YES, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. THE CHILD SUFFERED FOR HIS PARENTS STUPIDITY. DON’T BLAME THE OFFICERS WHEN THE RESPONSIBILITY LIES WITH THE ADULT PARENTS IN THIS SITUATION!” – (What is this Tumblr with the all caps?)
- “They did nothing wrong. Don’t take a infant to a drug house and this would not happen.”
- ” Here’s an idea. Don’t sell drugs and cops won’t throw flashbangs into your house.”
- “Dont commit crimes and things like this wont happen…..yeah blame the police for doing their jobs arresting POS criminals. This is the families fault this baby is injured. NOT the police.”
- “Meanwhile, keeping a toddler in the home of violent felons, meth labs, dangerous criminals walking in and out on a daily basis high on dope, and complete disregsrd for any care for a toddler is ignored. Charge the parents an extra felony for the innocent childs suffering.”
The Facebook posts to the article go on and on. What’s fascinating is that the drug fiend they were looking for was the husband’s brother who didn’t even live there, nor was there at the time when the raid occurred. Essentially, we all better hope that none of our friends or family does, partakes, deals, ect – with or without your knowledge – and come’s back home for Thanksgiving because a SWAT team could bust through the door and toss military grade hardware your way.
What this all boils down to is that no matter who gets hurt, the cops they will justify whatever happens because from their perspective, it appears to be us vs. them; they are first and we are a distant second. I love my Aunt dearly, but she said something that has disturbed me in conversations over things of this nature, “I will do whatever I need to do get back home safe to my family.” I understand that, but imagine all the other cops who think like this. I hope I’m not deemed an obstacle to said safety from their perspective.
I don’t have a particular vendetta, even though my aunt believes I do. I have no criminal record, though I am still perturbed at some of the bullshit traffic tickets I’ve gotten. I won’t pretend to say I don’t have a bias, but when I see injustice like this excused it angers me. When a toddler has part of his face burnt off, a hole in his chest, and is in a coma in what is essentially an appeal to “safety” for the SWAT team by flashbanging without knocking or investigating to see if children were present, we have a deep problem.
Seriously. Justify it. I dare you. Look at it from “their perspective” and justify the botched raids and what happened to people like Kelly Thomas. Even if “use of force” is/was justified, their deaths certainly were not.
We need to be deeply worried about the prevalence of this assumption among Law Enforcement that “resisting” arrest automatically means it’s acceptable to use lethal force to subdue a “suspect.” I seriously don’t give a fuck if the suspect is resisting or not. It doesn’t mean you need to kill them or use excessive force.
I strongly suggest LEO’s would be less likely to endorse excessive force of they or their families were subjected to their all too common playbook.
Everyday there is a story of excessive force by the police, brutality, mistaken shootings. We need to address this growing epidemic of state sponsored brutality before we, our families, and are friends become suspects and subject to this treatment.