Saturday, June 27, 2020

The thick blue line (of horses***)

by Emma Goldman
Community Affairs Corespondent

It was almost lost in the torrent of death, catastrophe, insanity, and treason that constitutes our daily news diet, but a recent two-minutes hate from the Oval Office was adorned, if that is the word, by a collection of brass that would have blinded the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

At first we thought we were watching an F Troop reunion (was that Jane at right?), but then we recognized one of the uniformed brass trying to stifle a yawn.  The bald guy is no soldier; he's Sheriff Tom Hodgson of Fall River.  And despite the fancy title he's barely a police officer; he's the keeper of the keys to the Bristol County lockup (In Massachusetts, the sheriffs run the jails.  They also will serve court papers for you.  And that's it).

And he's there not because he's good at his job – he's not.  He provoked a riot among the helpless immigration detainees he is paid $95 per diem to lock up in a bunkroom that these days constitutes a Super Spreader event.  Previously he was known as a camera-ready goon whose fealty to extremist white man politics was previously demonstrated by his offer to send chain gangs of his prisoners to the U.S. border to help with President U Bum's vanity wall.

So why was he flouncing around the White House in a uniform with four stars on each shoulder, like he's General f***in' Eisenhower?  Nor is he the only one.  In fact every chief screw in America believes himself entitled to wear a rank reserved for full Generals.   Here's another example of an unqualified lunatic with a big set of keys and more stars than you'll find on a Subaru:

This is the clown who resigned in disgrace because while he was running around from live shot to live shot spouting hate, the inmates in his care were dying of thirst or raped by guards back at this jail.  He was also known for wearing more flair than a TGIF Friday's server, but let's just focus on the four stars.

In fairness to these thirsty jailers, the four star insignia is also sported by every police chief in America as an earnest of his (usually) command authority.  But that got us to thinking: why do cops run around in uniforms and ranks as if they're soldiers?

They're not.  They both carry guns (again, why?), but the job of the military is to defend America with lethal force against armed foreign adversaries.  The idea of force is baked into the cake.  You want your troops armed because they need the boom-boom to do whatever it is they are sent to do, even if it is as stupid and pointless as invading countries to satisfy George W. Bush's thirst for cheap glory.

Is that true of the police?  Why do they need military ranks, military outfits, and a parody of military discipline (which breaks down the first time a 18-yeare-old girl or a 75-year-old man dares to challenge their authority armed with a cutting remark or an open cell phone)?  Do you need all that to do your job?  Does the head of Mass. General Hospital walk around with four stars on his white coat (he walks around with $4 million in his pocket, but that's a shondeh for another day)?

We can think of lots of people charged with running large organizations with a common missions, but outside of the 5-0 (and the fire department), our schools, nursing homes, civic institutions, and even great corporations manage to get along without the military cosplay.

Why should the cops be different?  Here's one answer: they shouldn't.

If you run your public safety agencies as parodies of armed forces, the grunts will undoubtedly get the message that they should act like an army of occupation surrounded by enemies, whose safety depends on immediate resort to deadly force.  And that's what we've got.

Every person of color murdered by the police in this country, with Floyd George and Breonna Taylor (shot by Louisville Police in the course of a wrong and unnecessary no-knock home invasion) being only the latest examples, not to mention every man shoved to the ground and bleeding out his ears, and every young protester pepper-sprayed, gassed, beaten, mowed down or pushed by panicked police who have been told to occupy the battle space is testimony to the clear and present danger to human life of treating police as a military force.

The training given to the police emphasizes this point.  Before being issued the military-style (from 1914, that is) Smokey the Bear hats and tall leather jackboots (perfect for no legitimate police function we can think of), the new members of the Mass. State Police, an agency known for its imperviousness to civilian oversight and its aversion to doing an honest day's work), are trained by group drill in the hot sun.  Most of the time, no one drops dead.

Why?  Military drill is part of boot camp at least allegedly to build esprit de corps, break down individuality, and accustom the grunts to working as part of a team.  But the 5-0 don't work as part of large teams.  They work individually, or in pairs.  Like social workers, which is what they are or should be.  There is zero value in drilling them until the drop, except again to instill the myth that they are a military force.

And what of the warrior training that taxpayers around the country have been shelling out for?  The link between it and the deaths of innocents like George Floyd couldn't be clearer, at least to the Mayor of Minneapolis:

Floyd’s death has refocused attention on “warrior-style” police training, which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey banned last year, and which may help explain how yet another unarmed African-American suspect was killed after being detained.

Citing the 2016 death of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop with his girlfriend and her daughter in the car with him, Frey banned police from using “fear-based training” in April 2019.

“Fear-based trainings violate the values at the very heart of community policing,” Frey said. “When you’re conditioned to believe that every person encountered poses a threat to your existence, you simply cannot be expected to build out meaningful relationships with those same people.”

If only the police were as well trained as F Troop
Frey specifically mentioned the classes taught to police in Minnesota and the rest of the country by Dave Grossman, a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. Grossman is the author of “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” a book that promotes the training of a theory he calls “killology” that promotes the mindset needed to take human life. 


What the f**k is that?  And why do police need taxpayer-paid immersion in it, whatever it is?

Who thinks that the problem with the police in this country is that they are too reluctant to kill people?  And what does parachuting into Normandy with John Wayne and holding St. Mere Eglise against German counterattacks (a bright moment in the past of the 82nd Airborne) have to do with solving the myriad problems plaguing Americans (in addition to, of course, the plague)?

We think that if the police want to flounce around as pretend soldiers, they shouldn't be taking their cues from ex-paratroopers and their lust for killing.  We think they should model themselves on the fine troops of U.S. Army F Troop, who kept the peace out west without firing a shot in anger.  Maybe the police in America, as part of their reconstruction, need to understand what Captain Parmenter knew: their fellow citizens whom they vow to protect and serve, aren't fighters.  Like the Hakawi, they're lovers.

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