Tag Archives: SWAT

The Militarization Of Barney Fife

Last week, John Wrana, a 95-year-old WWII veteran was shot to death with a beanbag round from a shotgun after being tased by by Park Forest, Illinois police decked out in full SWAT regalia for refusing medical care from his hospice.

Why the fuck does Park Forest, Illinois need a SWAT team? Obviously, fighting “Crime” in Park Forest is dull. The real crime—the rapes, murders, robberies, etc.—is North of Park Forest in Chicago. Why do Park Forest police need a SWAT team? Why does the Roanoke, Virginia police department need a SWAT team? Why does the Jonesboro, Arkansas police department need a SWAT team? Where are all these SWAT teams coming from?

The greatest money-maker in modern America is war. The military-industrial complex that Franklin D. Roosevelt warned us about is a meeting of three powers that make money from the destruction of other peoples: The government that declares the war and reaps the spoils, the military that fights the war and commits the war crimes, and the industry that manufactures and sells the tools of war. These three powers work with each other to maximize the earnings of everyone involved. This is why we now live in an era of undeclared, perpetual war: Because perpetual war means perpetual wealth for those who fund war. The industrial vertex of this triangle, however, is growing faster than the others. They now produce the same tools they produce for the military (submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, tasers, rubber/beanbag bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, areal drone surveillance, Long Range Acoustic Devices, and SEAL-grade armor) with a slightly different paint job for any police station in America that can afford them. The smallest, quaintest, most peaceful small towns in America can lobby to fund a SWAT team and train their “normal” police to handle Baghdad-level combat. And just like any massively expensive and unnecessary toy you might buy and stick in the closet, eventually you’ll find any reason to pull that toy out of the closet and play with it. Are there terrorists in Provo, Utah? Probably not, but let’s put on our riot shields, head down to the ghetto or the nearest student rally, and find out!

When you give someone unrelenting authority over everybody else, that authority will be abused. Whether it’s cops molesting women in traffic stops, turning tourists into terrorists to fulfill quotas, or throwing children into an uncaring and broken foster care system because the rightful parents use marijuana for personal reasons, the power of the police force will be used to harass, subdue, and abuse normal, peaceful civilians; to tear apart families; and to serve the established government by keeping the governed in a state of submission and fear.

And that brings me to my first major point:

There Are No Good Cops.

Not all cops are brutal pigs desperate to crush some skulls with their batons for a little action. Many of them are, and if you have any friends who are cops you should ask them who those cops are in their department. The less-bad cops will usually tell you who the bad-bad cops are. But all cops are bad, simply because they’re cops. They might be great people, but they’re cops and cops are bad.

A cop is a person (usually a heterosexual male) who has been given the authority to enforce any laws on the books at their own discretion. I hate cops, not because I hate the abuses of power by a large minority of cops or because I hate the apathy toward due process and assumed innocence held by the overwhelming majority of cops. I hate cops because I hate the laws they choose to enforce. I hate cops because they make kick-backs from keeping private prisons full of nonviolent civilians and then spend those kick-backs on escalation of facilities and weaponry. I hate cops because the system they are sworn to protect is corrupted all the way down to its core.

So what about the “Good” cops? What about the Boston cops who tracked down the Tsarnaev kid and brought him to justice? Well, first, I don’t think locking one million people in their homes to find one teenager is a wise or effective use of anyone’s time. I don’t think kicking down the doors of anyone refusing a search, simply because there’s a terrorist somewhere in the city is ethical or legal. I don’t think declaring a military emergency spanning an entire metropolis over the actions of two teenagers is ethical, efficient, or fair.

When you say, “Fuck cops,” people usually pose the smug question: Well, what are you going to do when someone robs your house? Me, personally, I’d ask the robber what he wants. Just because one of the humans in an interaction is desperate doesn’t mean that neither of them can speak to each other. If what he wants is something reasonable, I’ll offer it to him in exchange for leaving peacefully. If that doesn’t work, I’ll shoot him in the head with a .45 caliber round. If I called the police, I would be told to do nothing; to hide and let the robber sort through my belongings and leave. I would wait in a closet for five to fifteen minutes (depending on how many drug busts there are on campus that night) for the cops to arrive and the robber to be gone. I would then be told, “we’re working on it,” and never hear from them again. (Unless they noticed my bong collection… then they’d be at my door daily.) Even the stuff that “good cops” are supposed to do, they can’t do it well. They can interrupt protests, attack political enemies, and invade private homes with speed and precision to catch peaceful people unaware that they are being targeted, but how many stolen cars do they recover before the cars are found stripped and ruined on the side of the road? How many missing people do they ever find, even when the neighbors constantly report seeing women on leashes in the front yard? How many robberies do they stop before the robber gets away? (Trick question: Robbers who rob businesses almost always get caught. Robbers who rob homes almost always get away. And they say they work for us…)

And, so, with cops simply being an incompetent but over-militarized branch of individually-applied government force answering to a government that is undeniably corrupt and enforcing laws that are outdated and geared toward preserving the property rights of the “haves” over the liberties of the “have-nots”, even the smiling, helpful, happy cops, in principle, are bad. They’re bad people doing bad things for a bad job that they do badly. And they shouldn’t have the same tools the military uses against “insurgents” (i.e. people) to use against the public. Cops are people hunters given reign over the public. It’s like putting a hunter in charge of wildlife conservation or putting a pedophile in charge of a preschool.

There Have Never Been Good Cops.

The labor movement of the 30s, the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s, the Stonewall riots, the L.A. race riots, the anti-war movement of the 2000s: The cops were there for all of this, and they have always stood on the wrong side of history. When the people stand up against their government, the people they are literally standing against are the cops. The cops protect the government from the people, they do not protect the people and they most certainly do not protect the people from the government.

In the 1930s, industrialization of the cities led to workers being treated worse than the pigs they were slaughtering. Unsafe working conditions killed poor workers and immigrants on a daily basis. People who grew tired of working seven days a week for fourteen hours a day, only to go home and find they can’t feed their families, got fed up and rioted and marched and protested their way to labor reform. In every act of defiance that won them their right to be treated fairly, their opposition was the police.

1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
”Police took direct aim at the pickets and fired to kill. Physical safety of the police was at no time endangered. No weapons were in possession of the pickets.”

During the Civil Rights Movement, the Birmingham, Alabama police department attacked school children for attempting to forcibly integrate Birmingham public buildings. The cops attacked these kids with water canons, police dogs, and taunted them while the hoses sent them flying over cars and the dogs ripped at their flesh. The Birmingham cops were acting to protect the status quo of segregation and white supremacy.

1963 Birmingham Campaign
Police set vicious dogs on a high school student, Walter Gadsden. Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor said, “Why didn’t you bring a meaner dog; this one is not the vicious one.”

In the 1960s and 70s the youth of America, fuelled by relaxed social standards surrounding sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, turned their ire at the growing military-industrial complex and America’s war in Vietnam. Their protests were often quickly shut down by police receiving military help from the National Guard.

1970 Kent State Shootings
The Ohio National Guard fires tear gas into a crowd of unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War. Four students were shot to death.

Following decades of their establishments being raided or shut down for the “crime” of homosexuality, the people of Greenwich Village in New York City fought back. After police raided the Stonewall Inn, a reputable gay bar in the Village, and lined the patrons against the wall for “processing” a crowd began to form around the bar and pelted the police with rocks and anything else heavy they could find. This act of active resistance began the gay rights movement we know today, and without it we would be nowhere near where we are today.

1969 The Stonewall Riot
Four cops restrain a young queer person while another cop prepares to punch him in the stomach. (Note: In spite of the moustaches, the cops in this picture were not patrons of the gay bar.)

In modern times, the protestors in social reform movements are no more armed or organized than they have been in the past, but the police now have access to military armor and weaponry that puts the 1970 Ohio National Guard to shame. (It would be illegal for the protesters to match the firepower of the cops.) This has led to countless protest-busting with violent and often lethal intent. At the Pittsburg G20 Summit in 2009, cops sprayed tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets into crowds of University of Pittsburgh students who refused to stop protesting. The Occupy protests of 2011 were met with violence, destruction of protester property, incarceration, and FBI/DHS “joint terrorism task force” intimidation and harassment.

Every time mass amounts of police show up in history, they’re on the wrong side. And I’m supposed to assume they were just “maintaining the peace”? They’re the ones who keep showing up with guns.

There Will Never Be Good Cops.

The entire notion of a police force—a force-applying arm of the government to keep the people secured under the policies and will of the government that was originally supposed to answer to those same people—is bad. It assumes that the people of this country are untrustworthy and unable to make their own life choices. It assumes that morality comes from above and without and that the government is what determines if an action is moral or not, instead of acknowledging that morality comes from within ourselves. It assumes that our communities are unable to secure their own safety without help from a centralized authority. But, worse, it seeks to homogenize the entire nation under the same moral code, the same type of living, the same financial system, and the same American ideology. People with alternate philosophies on life and governance are labeled as threats and targeted for use of militarized police force. Cops are nothing more than the tools our government uses to ensure no one disagrees with them too loudly or suggests alternatives to their existence. Sure, they run into collapsing buildings and pull kittens out of storm drains when the cameras are on and the sun is out, but the true purposes of the police are those most exercised: To increase revenue to their own department; to enforce submission to the local, state, and federal governments; and to protect the property “rights” of businesses and corporations.

Let the communities protect themselves. The money we spend on militarized police forces would be better spent on quality education, public libraries, public welfare, and drug rehabilitation. And those, rather than militarizing the problem, might actually help decrease crime.

Fuck the police.

Other people’s experiences and other insights:

The Amazing Atheist:

Redditor vaguelyhuman on “Why, ‘Fuck the Police’”:

Because marginalized people can’t afford to trust them.

To use an example, I’m autistic. Pretty much every day autistic people are killed by the police for not reacting in neurotypical ways when the cops pursue them. If you don’t look them in the eye (which many autistic people simply don’t have the instinct to to do), that’s seen as disrespecting an officer. If you have an anxiety attack (an involuntary response), you’re resisting arrest. In any case, if you act “defiant”, you can get beaten down or shot – all for involuntary psychological reflexes. No one talks about this issue. No one who supports the cops has proposed a solution.

In other words, fuck the police.

Austin White on CopBlock.org:

Imagine if a normal citizen started going around acting like a typical cop.  Imagine a normal-looking guy in regular clothes handcuffing people, throwing them in the back of his vehicle, and then locking them up in his dungeon because he doesn’t approve of them consuming marijuana, carrying a handgun on their person for self-defense without government permission, or even fishing without a license.  Imagine if this guy was demanding that people who don’t wear their seatbelts give him money.  Imagine if this person was claiming the right to use violent force against anyone who didn’t comply and the right to kill anyone who physically fought back.

Regardless of whether or not he believed he was doing a good deed, such an individual would rightly be seen as crazed and criminal.  But this is exactly what typical police do on a daily basis.

Angela Davis:

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