Well, it’s finally here — the police state.
We have become comfortable with police molesting our family members for trite potential offenses, burning the faces of our small children, and shooting the media to prevent them from streaming. While some demographics (specifically poor and/or black) have it decidedly worse, it crosses all lines now. It is open season on the public and has been for a while, some people are just starting to notice it. Combine this with our lack of civil liberties and increasing surveillance, and no one can say we’re still a free people with a straight face. Now, in this article I want to talk about how the police state got here and what we can do about it. But, to be clear — when I talk about the police state, I am specifically talking about rampant law-enforcement use of force. While important, the decline in civil liberties and diminishing privacy I leave for a separate discussion.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
I propose we take a moment to trace this back. Once we see how we got here, this becomes less an unstoppable, ominous force in our minds and more a simple clusterfuck that just needs a remedy. Internally, this is similar to the moment when Beowulf realises Grendel can bleed. This, like so many of our modern problems, is simply a chain of cause and effect that arrives in the present day with a boot pressed against the back of our neck. And, much like Grendel, this problem is mortal. It can be killed. Now, I’m going to trace this forward, but make no mistake — blame for this rests with no single political party in particular. On this, there has been a continuity of agenda that transcends party lines. The whole system is holding this giant bag of homeless beat down:
Law Enforcement Paradigm Shift: SWAT is Born
Based on my site demographics, sadly, most of my readers are too young to remember when things were different. There was, in a Democratic Republic long ago in a voting district far, far away, a magical time and place. In this world, the police carried simple service revolvers and pump-action shotguns. Their uniforms were blue, not borderline-black for the sake of intimidation. In most cases, their hands were tied until a crime was comitted. Most importantly, the perspective was “citizens policing citizens” and “police-community partnerships”. While the blue line clearly existed — cops on one side and citizens on the other — it was thin, not boldly drawn with a fat permanent marker, circled with red ink, and equipped with dogs on the other side waiting to snarf a protestor.
But then, everything began to change.
There is some debate on where the first SWAT team originated and which incidents drove its formation. But, the accuracy of this historical point is somewhat irrelevant. All that matters is what drove the shift in mind-set. And, in that case, there is one clear winner that emerges: LAPD SWAT. At that time, Los Angeles was (factually or not) viewed as the most violent city in the country. Ironically, it was also the most likely to have race-riots, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with public perception. No, I am sure the Watts riots had nothing to do with public outcry here. In any case, after a series of sniper-shootings and bank robberies left many officers dead — so goes the formal statement of intent — internally, police departments began to talk amongst themselves about the simple truth that criminals were now out-classing them on a tactical level (gear and strategies). These law-breakers were using military-grade weaponry and body armor. Your average patrolman at that time was getting their ass handed to them in the street. As this was preventing said officers from collecting their pensions and spending their twilight spanking it to classic porn, you bet something had to change.
Enter LAPD Officer John Nelson, who served as a USMC Force Recon during WWII — who, of course, due to his personal history would have no reason to believe that the best defense is a good offense. He forms the idea that a small team of well-equipped and well-trained personell can be more effective in a riot, well, er, I mean, high-stakes situation than an overwhelming police response. The police chief at that time is Daryl Gates, who adores the idea so much he damn near drops his doughnut. He signs off and assembles a small team of trained killers, er, I mean, volunteers with military experience.
Not shockingly, the weapon was first used to aggresively suppress Filippino workers who wanted better wages for grape picking. Oh wait, I mean the team was deployed to monitor and control the protests being held by the United Farm Worker’s Union in Delano, California, in the name of public safety and preserving the peace. Further emboldened their success, the unit went on to stomp the radical right out of the Black Panthers. Finally, came their hat-trick of stormtrooper when the Symbionese Liberation Army (left-wing guerillas notorious for use of serious weaponry) barricade themselves inside a residence. Media descended on the place like Robin Williams had just comitted suicide inside the building. End result: 6 SLA killed, house burned to the ground, zero officers or civilians injured. This was heralded as the solution to the problem (note, nobody had to create assinine phrases like “new normal” at this point), and from here, SWAT caught like wildfire and was exported to major cities around the country. Importantly, that’s just major cities, not rural towns and suburbia.
Ironically, from its inception to its tipping point as a clear success, bank-robberies and hostage situations have little to do with why the team is considered successful. In his later book, Chief: My Life in the LAPD, (I refuse to link this) Gates would allude to being uncomfotable with how SWAT would go on to be utilized in the public sphere, and this book was written before our present-day insanity. Surely, not being a racist or advocate of a police state, with the terrorists at our door, I’m sure he has completely revised his stance. Which, I am sure, somewhere in there, he does indeed have regrets. But, this is why we don’t let certain genies out of the bottle, not even once. They cannot be contained.
Thanks for the ass-kicking, Mr. Gates!
Reagan: The War on Drugs
Of course, we are not quite done with California in this story. For, on the horizon comes an actor who would be our President. And, he has some nifty ideas that people buy into — one of which is that drugs are destroying our country. Specifically, crack. People need a new demon and he serves it in spades. Now, it is important to note that he inherited this war from Nixon, who expanded federal enforcement and started the erosion of civil liberties (no-knock warrants, for example). However, it is so very important to realise Nixon’s target was drug-suppliers, with most activites taking place extra-nationally. Reagan took that political hose and turned it right down on the american public.
It now becomes a domestic issue.
In an epic fuck-up that will become critical in the creation of the police state, Reagan creates federal drug bounties, per drug arrest and confiscation, to incentivize the fight at the local level. This means that police departments around the country are now falling all over themselves to bust people for minor drug use infractions. What was viewed as a chemical dependency problem is now a criminal issue.
This is important, because swaths of citizens who were never before targets of the police now become their favorite meal. This is where the blue line starts to become the blue canyon. Especially in major cities, the partnership with police disintegrates and it becomes us-against-them. And, all this crackdown means the price of drugs skyrocket. Supply expands dramatically. Not having a court to settle their disputes, they turn to force. With all that cash, they get the good weaponry. This mandates the use of SWAT teams for even the casual user. And, it forces an erosion of civil liberties, as the police are chomping at the bit to get those federal dollars.
So, when people bitch and tell cops that they pay their salary, I just laugh. The truth is, you probably don’t. Remember, they ultimately don’t answer to you, not to your voice or to your wallet.
Thanks for hi-jacking our police and turning them against us, Reagan!
Bush Sr.: Just Say Yes!
Having been passed the baton, our next President could have toned things down. After all, it was already showing that we were losing the war, great time to back things off a bit. Nope, not in the slightest. George Bush senior takes the stance that we haven’t been hard enough on this problem, and doubles down. He increases the federal funding for enforcement, and does something else important: Builds more jails. Gotta have somewhere to put all these people, right? He increases sentencing times for minor drug use (fuck interdiction or treatment), to make damn sure they stay where they belong.
Also, he cracks down on the individual States — some of whom are taking too long to get with the program. Move it, profile. In this, he mandates suspension of driver’s licenses and student loads for offenders. Of course, one can point out that with no way to get to work or an education, a drug offender is more likely to re-offend. But, if you do that, you’re missing the point entirely, my friend, that is the point. And, to make this happen he starts the trend of Presidents threatening and/or simply revoking federal funds across the board if States refuse to comply with federal mandates. This is important because this is where the SWAT teams start to get picked up in every metropolitan center, big-city or not. After all, if we must comply as a State, why miss out on those bounties everywhere we can get them?
His second important contribution to our shit-basket has a bow on top, it’s mostly a debate-tactic, but a critical one. Basically, he starts the trend of the “…if it saves just one” line of argumentation. So, if it saves just one officer’s life, child’s life, american’s future. With his predecessor making large cuts to education, this is an easy sell to the public. While anyone who knows anything about debate understands that you reject this tactic the instant you see it, the country buys it hook-line-and-sinker. The seeds planted with this one don’t fully sprout their crap-blooms until later in the story, but they were embedded in our mental soil, nonetheless.
Thanks for bringing a shit-storm to our well manicured lawns, Bush Sr.!
Clinton: Monetizing Crime
Ah, the southern master. He plays sax, gets blowjobs in his office, and eats McDonald’s. Who can’t love this guy? Well, I will tell you what, the private-prison-industry worships this guy. First thing this he does is pass the Omnibus crime bill. Right out of the gate mano, like he was dreaming about it as a little boy and his time had finally come. This bill does many things — but it triples spending on the construction of federal prisons, creates the “three-strikes” policy to guarantee lots of long-term inmates, and so on.
The key question is, why? That’s an agenda at work, which requires fore-thought. Well, here’s the thing: Clinton’s victory, people forget, was an upset. He won in large part because he was backed by big finance (same with Obama). His campaign, via the wizardry of George Stephanopoulos, invented all those media-blitz tactics people bitch about nowadays. Of course, they needed whoploads of money to do that. Now, why the hell would big finance even care about prison spending? Small potatoes to them. Well, that misses the big encheladas that are tied to the whole shebang. In the greatest irony ever, the reality is, this whole war on drugs has created micro-governments in the places where the drugs are manufactured, known as the drug cartels. They are awash in cash and need a place to launder it. Enter the big banks to service those trillions of dollars. Big money. Liam Neeson cock big. Thus, big finance has every interest in keeping drugs illegal and making sure those boys-in-black are knocking at your door.
And, in this country, big finance gets what big finance wants. Ever wonder why overwhelming public support for drug decriminalization gets ignored so hard?
And, Clinton expands the whole shebang. He leads the charge on privatization of prisons, federal or local. He is Wackenhut’s BFF. To make this new industry happy, he broadens the scope of the whole thing, again. Now, it’s not just drugs, it is a war on crime itself. Our streets is too dirtay. It doesn’t matter what you smoke, if he can get you on something, that’s just another cash-cow for Wackenhut. Boom. Insta-profit. Now, our cops aren’t just something to be avoided, if you’re anything but upper-middle-class, they’re our natural predators.
Thanks for the profit-motive on our incarceration, Clinton!
Bush Jr.: 9-11 Paranoia
Now, into this environment comes the “Decider”. It’s the big Dub-yah. His part of this story is nearly self-explanatory: Right into his term, terrorists knock down the Twin Towers and other structures, the 9-11 attacks. And, in response, our country loses its goddamn mind. Sure, we declare war on Saddam — unrelated, but only an idiot didn’t see that coming. No, we go further than all that nonsense, our war on crime expands to become a war on ourselves. Everyone now becomes a potential terrorist, a potential threat.
It is important to note that we already have a militarized, antagonistic police structure in place when this all goes down.
And, we need to remember that our brains are ripe for this mental shift, precisely because we have been repeatedly softened with the logic of “…if it saves just one.”
Of course, police had always been trained in a “para-military” fashion since the War on Drugs was first opened up under Nixon — but now the “para” gets completely dropped. And, importantly, this happens universally. In the name of protecting against an unknown threat that could happen anywhere, police are de facto turned into soldiers. Even in rural areas — police are trained to deal with terrorist attacks. Dollars pour in. Every department in America either has or has access to a SWAT team. More and more officers are being trained as SWAT reservists.
Here we are, the threat is total and the police are taught that they are the first and last line of defense. The hunt, has been expanded to include everyone. Combined with the subsequent erosion of civil liberties, failing to predict this outcome of the police state is willful denial. The public goes from target, to enemy.
Thanks for the clockwork orange, Bush Jr.!
Obama: The Fire Sale of Liberty
Change! Here we go! The Mandingo Prince is going to set things straight!
There is his legacy to consider, being the first and all…
Not only does Obama do nothing to reverse all these trends, he continues them. Across the board, the federal programs are still in place and spending is increased. Public surveillance programs, increase. Civil liberties, decrease. Protestors, suppressed. The agenda continues, unabated, on so many things. Change? No, apparently, we can’t.
Oh, except for one thing — he’s got all this surplus equipment. Ramping down from two wars, the military has a conicopia of death-toys and nothing to do with them. So, not only do they give all those toys to local police departments, they do it with the stipulation that they have to use them, repeatedly, or lose them. You might as well give a child an uzi and tell them if you don’t hear gunshots once a day, you’re taking it back. What would we expect there? Needless carnage. Which is precisely what we have gotten.
We are bombarded with raids, brutality, and seizures on a daily basis. Well, duh.
Finally, though, Feruson MO happened. This could be a turning point, because it finally cracked through everyone’s paranoia. See, this special kind of mass social delusion sucks us down like a spinning dream, and it takes something to wake us up. For some people, it was because they seemed to be jackbooting them because they were black. For others, it was the fact that they opened fire on civilians. Either way, a lot of people got started out of sleep.
Which is funny, because they’re crying out to Obama and the Federal government to fix it. Folks, first, Obama is sitting on the mid-term election horizon. Party-wise, he ain’t gonna do a damn thing, those swing votes are more valuable than the life of a teenager in po-dunk. It wouldn’t suprise me if they held off on trials and findings and as much as they can until post-elections. Big finance wants divided government, because divided government does what they tell it and nothing else gets done. If Obama had a democrat congress handed to him, he’d be expected to rock the boat and actually do things. Can’t have that. Jerrymandering, FTW. Secondly, it is also funny because he is the one who gave them all the equipment they’re using to whomp-ass. The military can’t transfer equipment outside itself without authorization from POTUS.
Cracks me up.
That, Darkworkers, is how we got here, with the Police who beat us down just for being concerned about our families. First, we allowed the police to militarize under a dubious guise. Then, with the war on drugs, we allowed the sphere of where those militarized forces should be used to slowly expand. Next, we allowed incarceration to have a profit motive, locking all that in place under an Oligopoly. Finally, we gave in and surrendered to paranoia. All on us.
Now, how do we stop it?
Allright, so even amongst people who know this whole history and can trace it back — they’re going about it all wrong. The problem is they see the tapestry and want to unravel each thread at a time: End the War on Drugs, Repeal the Patriot Act, End Private Prisons, and yadda yadda yadda. It won’t work. Primarily, it won’t work because we live in a corrupt system. All these efforts would require the public to overwhelmingly focus on one issue and demand change, refuse to move until the issue is resolved, and go onto the next one. Meanwhile, the superbowl and professional lobbyists will kick your ass six ways to sunday. In the face of an ADD public, your solution has to put money on your side in an Oligopoly to get anything done.
Also, its a question of priorities. All that is fine and good, but speaking of football, you don’t worry about that guy guarding your reciever who is going deep when the defensive center is fractions of a second away from sacking your quarterback. In other words, erosion of civil liberties, government corruption, and public surveilance mean jack shit when a sniper rifle is pointed in your face. We have to turn the tide on that problem now, or we lose the ability to turn the tide on anything else. The system isn’t going to collapse, people, it’s just going to tighten around your head like a vice.
Now, repealing all these things is a common-sense approach, but even if it would work it would take forever. We don’t have that kind of time. There’s a much quicker way to reverse all this domestic ass-whipping in one fell swoop — that might actually work. A federal law that has lobbies on its side can stop this shit in its tracks real good.
But, what should it include to rapidly get the job done? A bill containing all this would do it.
Over and over again, we have seen that police don’t like cameras they don’t control. Reports show a dramatic drop in complaints when the police are outfitted with cameras. This isn’t a new idea, it’s already floating out there. But, on its own, it will do precisely dick. Prisons, for example, have cameras and what goes on inside them is rediculous. The guards learn where the cameras are and how to avoid them, or they simply turn them off. Eventually, bad cops would do the same thing. Ultimately, we have to give police incentives, both positive and negative, to keep those puppies rolling. And, we’re gonna need money on our side. To solve the problem, we have to go a step further than just requiring cameras…and in the below, “department or officer” refers to local and federal personell:
- Require each department to log all footage of cameras and that all police-actions must be recorded.
- Award a private contract to the right kind of firm to keep a high-security backlog of this footage. Personally, I prefer firms who have an opposite incentive, who are likely to profit from police de-escalation and the end of the war on drugs. Thus, I recommend all those firms doing security for legalized marijuana in Colorado. Get some servers, hire up some tech-people, and you’re good to go.
- If footage is requested by a judge or relevant attourney, and is found to be missing — wether due to malfunction or any other kind of error — that produces federal charges against the officer, their immediate supervisor, and the head of their agency. Bam. Bet everyone double-checks their battery now.
- This is important because the private industry granted these contracts will form a lobby not only for the bill, but to protect the bill. And, they stand with portions of big pharma to profit off the end of the war on drugs and drug treatment programs. Win for the future.
For those who don’t know, police receive qualified immunity in civil suits when acting in a law-enforcement capacity. First, this means you basically can’t sue them, you’re suing the department. First off, why should I as the taxpayer foot the bill because Sergeant Billy-Bob decided to beat a guy in a wal-mart? More importantly, aside from losing their jobs in some cases, they are by and large, untouchable. And, we wonder why we have a problem. We need to end this protection, but do so in a fair and balanced way…
- Mandate that boards made up of elected citizens and police officers (civilian majority) determines proper use of force protocols for a department, I don’t care how small the department. Officers need to have a say, but ultimately, we as the people need to have a say as well.
- Mandate that this same board also signs off on hiring decisions and internal diciplinary action.
- Mandate that when protocol is not followed, an officer’s qualified immunity drops away.
- Mandate that when a jury finds that the officers actions were “grossly negligent” (beyond a simple mistake), these awards become immune to a judge’s ability to overturn them.
- Mandate that officer’s carry personal “malpractice insurance” as protection against these suits, just like doctors, or they drop their star/shield. Bad cops get rising premiums, at-risk personalities won’t be insured and can’t do the job. This is important — creates a new industry for insurance and brings a powerful lobby to your table.
- Mandate that when “gross negligence” is found against an officer, if no criminal charges are currently filed, then federal charges are automatically filed.
- This is important because one of the most powerful lobbies is the one working for trial-lawyers. They will be falling all over themselves to get this approved. For them, it is a potential gold rush. You also need these people to be sure there aren’t any slick loopholes in the bill.
- To those who say fewer people will apply to be police officers or many will jump ship: Good. It will break up the nepotism, police pay will rise, and we’ll get a higer quality of applicant. In every other field where professional decisions can easily kill people, the hoops for entry are massive. Yet, with police, we don’t even require 12 college credit hours. Blows my mind. With proper use of technology that respects civil liberties, updated police departments shouldn’t need as many officers anyway.
Passing the above would change the game, entirely. With those lobbies and public support, that is a fight that can be won. The government can surveillance me all it likes, but if no one will come enforce things, it gives us a shift in momentum on the fight. Likewise, it is likely to end the war on drugs in a functional way, so we can fight this as a social issue: the bars-and-chains approach is making people rich but not solving the problem. If we can’t get the federal government to listen to the people and end the damn thing, due to money, we can hamper their ability to fight it. When individual officers are more relunctant to go after anyone but big-fish, due to use-of-force settlements, everything starts to sway, including for-profit prisons. This will piss of finance, but you’ve got big lobbies on your side, meaning, finance will have to start fighting finance.
Welcome to an actual win that starts to shift the game. Coyote-option, amigos.
To those who say this isn’t a problem, you’re out of your damn minds. First of all, don’t you think it isn’t just a matter of time before unemployment riots come to your section of comfortable america? Do you think jackboots care about color or social status, because they definitely don’t. Ignore this problem now, and pay later, when it is too late.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Think my idea is fucking stupid? Let me know in the comments, below.