Tired of the shooting…

Really tired...
Really tired…

I was going to write this morning about Bobby Jindal. That was the plan, take the day off of work and just kind of fuck around with a silly idea I had that I found amusing, but as I read the news with my coffee I didn’t really feel like it anymore:

Drive-by shooting in Lower 9th Ward leaves 2 dead, 5 wounded, including 2 toddler boys

Clean up, calm Monday morning after violent night in Ferguson

Weekend shooting toll: 1 dead, at least 26 wounded across city

Three cities: New Orleans, Ferguson and Chicago. Just shooting and death, death and more death. Cops, gangs, cop-gangs and it just keeps going on and on and on and on…and too many people caught in all the crossfire.

And all the frustration with all this death and the feelings of powerlessness it gives suddenly made me think of an exchange I had on Saturday night in a bar here in San Francisco. I was shooting pool with a friend and having a beer or several when the friend I was with started talking about people in the neighborhood and just so casually, he says, “Well, that’s what happens around here with all the (n-bomb).”

I practically spit out my beer, “The fuck you say?”

He started turning red, “What?”

“I can’t believe you just said that,” I said, shaking my head.

Long silence…

“So, you hate me now?”

“No man,” I responded, “I don’t hate you, but if you want to have those kind of idiot thoughts in your head, that’s your business. Just don’t be saying that shit around me.”

And we finished the game of pool, any remaining conversation kind of ended and I made my excuses and went home, turning down his offer of a ride back to my apartment. This is a guy I’ve known for two plus years now, who I met at work, at a social work gig in the oh-so-supposedly-liberal city of San Francisco and even sitting here now I wonder about what he said and I ask myself, is there something about me that made him think that was okay to say? Maybe he’s become more relaxed as we’ve hung out here and there and that’s a previously hidden, but normal part of his vocabulary, and it just came out?

I don’t know for sure, and I don’t know if we’ll ever hang out again for me to ask him.

But I do know all of this got me thinking about a few other things…about the guy the NYPD killed a couple of weeks back with a choke-hold or about all the black men the police have killed nationwide. I think about gang violence in Chicago and New Orleans. I think about Paul Ryan doing a “poverty tour” where at one point he blamed poverty on “inner-city” culture. I think a lot about loaded language, both coded and not used to describe Barack Obama. I think about all the pundits on national news programs, both broadcast and cable who make the rounds making outrageous statements about race, violence, poverty, “real” Americans, statements that would cause an eye-roll from any semi-skilled fact-checker. I think about this violence in our cities, about the dismissal of those less fortunate, the brutality of the police and how all of this links up to the words from your Ann Coulters and Sarah Palins, your Rushes and Seans and Bills and Mitt Romney percentages.

I think back to an interview where Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel tried laying the blame for all the shootings in Chicago at the feet of families and the community while ignoring and thus absolving himself of the fact that he closed schools, mental health clinics and disproportionately laid off city workers all over the West and South side (read largely African American and Hispanic) while at the same time, doing very, very little to get jobs into these neighborhoods that might instill more hope of finding a better way of making it for the largely unemployed youth in the city.

I think of the coming budget to the city of New Orleans and how Mayor Mitch Landrieu is already sounding the typical warning bells of austerity and what that might mean to those being left behind by the new New Orleans. I think of the arguments about Orleans Parish Prison, about how many people it will jail there and what messages the potential size of this place sends to anyone who has to live in it’s shadow.

I think about the murder of Michael Brown and the riots in Ferguson, the drive by shooting in the 9th Ward or the 19 shot on Mother’s Day or the weekend body counts in Chicago and way too many other murders and riots and frustrations and angers and loss…always loss, no matter who shoots or who dies.

I think a lot, maybe too much…but I do believe there’s a direct link between the words we use and the world we see. As coded racial statements or even not so coded racial statements again become increasingly normalized in mainstream media outlets, spoken by supposedly mainstream pundits, politicians or just your average asshole, a climate is perpetuated and this climate is having definite affects…dehumanizing affects to race, to economic class, to anyone else who’s living on the margins:

Maybe these words make it a little bit easier for a mayor to ignore the needs of whole sections of his city.

Maybe it makes it a little easier for a governor to refuse an expansion of health care.

Maybe it makes a police officer just a bit more at ease in pulling his gun.

Maybe it makes that drive by shooter a bit more ready to get into the car.

And yes, I understand this is a simplistic way of explaining a complex argument, but nevertheless, dismissive words entering the popular consciousness on a regular basis will, over time, dehumanize people and cultures, both internally and externally and the results of this are never good. The results of this can contribute to the deadliest of scenarios. And all of this bullshit has to stop, the words, the violence, the perception of the communities that make up our cities as separate and distinct. They’re not. They’re as connected as words and actions.

I remember going to a conference a few months back on race where an attendee asked the speaker, an expert on gang violence, why gang members were so willing to kill each other over such small slights. The speaker responded that when you’ve grown up never getting afforded any respect by those around you, when you do finally get it, you’ll be damned if you let anyone take it away again.

Yeah…it’s all connected.

And I certainly don’t have all the answers.

But I can start with simple respect, and include in this the respect the demand that elected politicians not just serve a portion of the community. And I can also start with language and send a message to those with the mouthpieces that though they may enjoy using racial and otherwise volatile words with an angry sneer or a knowing wink, these words have social consequences, and perhaps a consequence should be a timeline on how long they get to hold that fucking microphone…or stay in elected office. And no, this isn’t any sort of attack on free speech. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to say whatever they like without the government imprisoning them for doing so…but a social cost? Well, of course, that’s what makes us a society. If I go into work tomorrow at my housing non-profit and start talking to clients about how poor people are leeches on the system, I’d probably get fired. As I should be. Prison? No. The unemployment line? Uh-huh, that’s a social cost.

And in my opinion, too many police, politicians and pundits no longer pay a social cost for expressing ignorance and this leads to a domino affect of dehumanization over time and the costs of this, they’re huge. They can even contribute to the death in our streets.

Just a thought, nothing groundbreaking, but it’s what’s on my mind today…

Also, I think I need to call my friend from Saturday night, maybe invite him to lunch over the coming weekend so I can really talk to him about why what he said is not okay with me, and why I think he should stop saying that kind of shit for good.

Have a nice day.

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ACLU Suit Wants Chicago Police Department to Follow the Law

The person recording this, not the CPD officer assaulting a bus passenger, is engaged in criminal behavior

On August 18th, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago to challenge the Illinois Eavesdropping Act.  The Act, created in 1994, was put on the books to criminalize both private and public recordings made without the consent of all parties involved. Once on the books, the law was largely ignored by the police until the advent of cellphones turned the majority of Americans into amateur filmmakers and more specifically, made it rather simple for citizens to begin filming and recording the police while they were performing arrests and other official duties.

Once this occurred, the Act began to make a lot more sense to law enforcement officials.

The ACLU’s lawsuit mentions several Illinois residents who have faced felony eavesdropping charges because of the statute. They include an artist who felt it necessary to record his arrest as a form of protest, and a Northern Illinois University Student who filmed an encounter between the CPD and his brother at a drive thru. He felt it necessary to record the arrest because past experience taught him to be suspicious of the officers’ motives.

Unfortunately, many residents in the city of Chicago share this suspicion.

In 96, while an activist engaged in protests at the Democratic National Convention, I can recall an incident where a large gathering at Grant Park in downtown Chicago took place. A band was onstage performing an admittedly incendiary song directed at the Chicago Police Department while I, and many others watched with growing concern as several white vans pulled up on Michigan Avenue. The vans soon discharged several dozen police officers in riot gear. While they were assembling into formation, a CNN news truck also pulled up to the scene and as their cameras began to roll, the police officers climbed back into their vans and drove away. This was only my experience, but the newspapers of Chicago run rampant with stories of police abuse and scandal, similar to many other large cities.

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, said he believes the state’s eavesdropping law is a good one. Allowing people to make audio recordings of arrests “could potentially inhibit an officer from proactively doing his job,” Donahue said.

I would simply ask how this might be so, assuming the officers are doing their jobs correctly without any abuse of authority. In fact, it could be argued that if the police are doing their job as it is meant to be done, following the same laws they are sworn to protect, video and audiotape of an arrest could only be used to exonerate false accusations made against officers.

Mr. Donahue, at least in the article, did not expand on how officers might be inhibited, “proactively.”

The lawsuit, directed at Cook County State Attorney, Anita Alvarez said it received a copy, but had not had a chance to review it.

Whatever side of the debate one falls on, I do suspect CNN saved my ass fourteen years ago.

And in my opinion, police officers should have very little expectation of privacy these days, especially if the audio recordings aren’t enhanced to pick up voices below normal speaking levels, and especially as they are public servants performing public services.

If you’re just doing your job, what’s the problem?

Read the article:

ACLU challenges Illinois eavesdropping act

Have a nice day.

Prosecutors try to make videotaping the police a crime

The Danziger Bridge: would video tape have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not.

Before I begin, if you are one of the few people left in this country who believe the police never commit a crime, never abuse their authority or inflict brutality on the citizens they are sworn to protect, you should probably stop reading now. Go on, click on outta here. I respect your opinion, I just think you’re absolutely wrong.

Okay, still with me?

Good.

Yes, prosecutors across the country are trying to charge citizens for the crime of publicly videotaping police officers while doing their job. It would appear that a few too many officers have been embarrassed by the fact that most people now walk around with digital video equipment on their phones.

From an article on Time Magazine’s blog:

Anthony Graber, a Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant, faces up to 16 years in prison. His crime? He videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Then Graber put the video — which could put the officer in a bad light — up on YouTube…(In the video), the trooper can be seen cutting Graber off in an unmarked vehicle, then he approached Graber in plain clothes and yelled while brandishing a gun before identifying himself as a trooper.

Oops.

The legal argument the prosecutors are using in court is dependent upon the audio aspect of the videos. They claim this violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. Course there is a question when it comes to the word, “private,” as it seems difficult to believe that police making traffic stops, walking city streets, arresting people on the sidewalk or in the front yards of homes can consider what they are doing is being done in private, but this would be precisely what they appear to claim.

Last I checked, public streets were not private. If they indeed are, then there should be no reason to arrest me for standing on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building naked, drinking a beer. My guess is however, the police in my town might take issue of I engaged in such activities so it would seem this is another example of the police trying to have it both ways, of being above the law, their law.

Now, let it be said that I don’t necessarily have anything against law enforcement. In my job as a social worker, I have regular interactions with the police. I’ve seen officers in my town be the stereotypical power happy prick who got beat up a lot in high school, and I’ve seen officers engage people with a compassion and sensitivity that was impressive, especially considering the circumstances. That being said, it would seem the best way to keep videotaping of officers as a non-issue would be for the police officers to do their job both ethically and legally. If they aren’t doing anything wrong, the only thing a video could do is exonerate them, so pardon my skepticism when it comes to prosecutors trying to criminalize the only way these days to hold officers accountable. Citizen review boards don’t cut it, are often laughable in fact, and civil trials typically go in the officer’s favor when it is a citizen’s word against an officers so yes, videotape, record away everybody.

I’m of the opinion every officer, especially uniformed officers should be videotaped every minute they’re on duty.

Think of the problems we might have avoided had this been the case:

The Jon Burge trials in Chicago. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles. The Danziger Bridge Shootings in New Orleans and these are only the headliners. Thousands of other examples exist both small and large, and more importantly reported and not reported. I personally have seen the arrival of television cameras prevent what looked to be a certain beating by the Chicago Police Department. I have also seen a beating end when cellphones came from several pockets in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.

A crime to videotape police officers?

A few statistics from from Injustice Everywhere:

Between the months of April to September, 2009, 1 out of every 116.4 officers allegedly engaged in misconduct. 207 police chiefs and sheriffs were cited for misconduct. 215 fatalities were reported in connection with alleged misconduct. 2,854 total officers allegedly engaged in misconduct

In the case of Graber — a young husband and father who had never been arrested — the police searched his residence and seized computers. Graber spent 26 hours in jail even before facing the wiretapping charges that could conceivably put him away for 16 years. Even if this case and others like it do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. “We see a fair amount of intimidation — police saying, ‘You can’t do that. It’s illegal,'” says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU’s Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film.

The crime is not citizens videotaping police officers, the crime could very well be whatever it is the police officer might have done to get the cameras rolling. The perspective of film can be everything, it can even be an equalizer.

Read the article…

Should Videotaping the Police Really Be a Crime?

Have a nice day