Civil Service Disobedience, by J. Marcus
I recently took a trip to New York City for business and personal reasons. It had been about 7 years since my last trip there and, all I can remember is hurrying from place to place for work, unable to soak in all the energy that the city contains. This was of before the ‘The Great Recession,’ followed by the ‘Occupy Movement’ and now the well-established ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ law that has become common practice.
I had heard stories through social media, read articles from various sources on the web, and caught a few news pieces on television over time, which highlighted the potential risk of abuse by authority. All of this reminded of a time when my friends and I were driving in downtown Los Angeles, looking for an address of a business that happened to be near the infamous ‘Skid Row.’ There were three of us in the car, two white gentlemen in the front, and myself (black) in the back. The short version of the story has us being pulled over randomly by the police, who appeared out of nowhere, only to claim that we had ran a stop sign.
Except when we were pulled over, the police approached the car with weapons drawn, yelling at us to get our hands up, they pulled each one of us from the car followed by handcuffs, then placed in the backseat of the squad car. Without asking for permission, they rifled through the vehicle (trunk too), without ever explaining what we had done, or what they were looking for. When they had finished, and sat back in their vehicle, I repeatedly questioned the officers as to what they were doing, why they had not read us our rights, why they did not ask permission to search the vehicle, why they felt it necessary to draw their firearms in broad daylight on us? In the end, they gave my friend a ticket for running a stop sign and… wait for it… having tinted windows. They did not answer any of our questions, and drove off as if nothing had happened.
With that experience in my memory, and knowing how NYC can get down, I was aware that ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ could happen at some point during my trip. Thankfully it did not, but my purpose for visiting was to explore the city with a possible intention of moving there. Never one to be discouraged by such reports, I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me that would be constantly looking over my shoulder or wondering when my good fortune would run out, only to cross paths with another ill-mannered representation of the law. This is the plight of a minority in America. It is similar in nature to women who are victims of sexual assault and/or rape. The mere idea that your sex or race will increase your chances of misfortune is not the progressive world I strive for, nor is it most others.
I came across a link the other day about a young man who got audio evidence of the harassment NYC officers resort to while enforcing the initiative, and it was just another incident in an all too familiar ‘21stcentury’ America. With practices like this and court cases ending with ‘Not Guilty,’ I seriously began questioning whom Lady Justice symbolically represented? Maybe that blindfold cynically demonstrates her way of ignorantly selecting the guilty in favor of the powerful. If she is blind and carries a sword, then she doesn’t have a clue as to who the deserving criminals are, and in most cases involving police, is guilty of protecting the shield for the sake of maintaining the fallacy.
Take the case of Kelly Thomas out in Irvine, California, where two police officers felt threatened enough by an unarmed homeless man to the point that they beat his head in. The pathologist who was called on as a witness by the defense, Dr. Steven Karch, claimed Thomas had died due to heart problems related to his drug use, which seemed like a convenient cover up to the raw photos of Thomas’ bloodied, swollen face. The defense argued that the police were trying to subdue a hostile man, and reserve the right to use force. The prosecution had a difficult time proving ‘intent’ on the officer’s part to harm Thomas. The problem is, the video and audio evidence highlights the lack of control by police officers with anger management and self-esteem issues, who are unable & unwilling to defuse the situation without resorting to force. You would think that a case like this might dissuade officers from acting without thinking first but sure enough; it only reinforced this behavior as a woman with special needs is punched by a male police officer on a bus?
And there you have it, the security blanket that officers of the law can ultimately hide behind. The upheld belief that the men and women who ‘protect and serve’ are infallible from having bias, intent to harm, or flat out sinister like plots to due underhanded practices while out on patrol. Of course there are some who might argue that the victims in many of these cases are not the most upstanding citizens to begin with, and you may be right. But then how do you explain stories such as the one about a Milwaukee woman who called the police, and ended up being raped by one of the officers? This is not to say that all officers of the law are corrupt or bad, but raping someone who just called 911? At the end of the day you’re dealing with human beings, and for all the talk about how children are becoming desensitized to violence, maybe officers are becoming desensitized to human empathy? Whatever training they are currently receiving may be out-dated and frankly, due for abolishment.
But hey, if we’re going allow this charade to continue, I thought we might also want to initiate a new program as well. Considering that most officers who uphold the ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ law use racial profiling as their guide, let us use some of that tax money to create a new division of law enforcement that randomly checks the bank accounts of say those who make $150K or more a year. I mean, there has to be plenty of minorities to racially profile that will help officers locate white-collar criminals. But then again, if we looked at the staggering statistics of money launderers, embezzlers, insider trading, and so forth, who would we be left to profile? Ahh, that’s right, Caucasians. Some may argue that this is racist, but to those I say, “The majority of white-collar crime offenders are white males, except for those who commit embezzlement.” And besides, Caucasians are the new minority; because the growing trend in America is that we are becoming browner every year. And just like those who defend the N.S.A.’s practice of spying or surveillance, is it not fair to ask, “What do most people who make 150K have to hide?” While we’re at it, considering that most criminals booked for theft are commonly female, then it should be okay to randomly stop and question women who come out of department stores like Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, or the like.
In all seriousness, the more immune we become to the mounting incidents of officers overstepping their power, the more we become prisoners within a police state. Allowing laws like ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ to continue can become slippery pathways to other rights being disregarded. The gradual stripping of rights is less abrasive and more effective than a complete coup, whereby there is a declared line of confrontation. If we as adults expect that our children should respect authority and become contributing members of society, than we must hold ourselves as well as those who deviate from these held morals accountable. Without this, we are no better than Sodom and Gomorrah.