By Joe Maestas
During the past few years, our news media has been full of reports of incidents where citizens are being subjected to beatings, assaults, and shootings by a new class of criminals. What is the most disturbing aspect of these crimes is that the perpetrators get away with no punishment and their actions are explained away as actions required by these new criminals in the line of duty. And, their brutality is justified under the guise of protecting the very persons they are assaulting. Explain to me how several armed and uniformed large criminals in Los Angeles are protecting and serving when they shoot at close range an old demented woman armed with a screw driver? Or how are they protecting the public when several of these uniformed and armed criminals pile on and choke to death a non-resisting person on the streets of New York?
The litany of these cases goes on and on. Tomorrows papers and news reports on radio and television will have new incidents of this mayhem. The similarities will be predictable. The criminals will wear uniforms, carry guns, and for their actions will be rewarded with a few days off with pay and perhaps a return to an easier and lighter work load. The other similarity will be that the persons and community on which they unleashed their criminal activity will most likely be African American or Latino. Every so often, a poor white is murdered like Kelly Thomas was at the hands of the Fullerton Police Department in California in 2011. The other similarity will be that their bosses (Chiefs) will defend their actions and their brother criminals (officers) will form a line of defense for the perpetrators. Rarely is this line of defense challenged by the courts or any other responsible official.
The legal system will not charge them or bring them to trial. Politicians will give them a pass because they are afraid to be seen as soft on crime. Politicians and responsible citizens who speak out against police brutality are not soft on crime; they are simply asking that the police be held to the same laws that others are expected to obey. A crime is a crime, is a crime, whether performed by a person with a checkered past or a person with a uniform and badge.
Our police forces have become fortresses occupied by bullies and thugs. More is being written about the police culture where seemingly good young men and women enter with lofty ideals to serve and protect society. But once exposed to the police/criminal culture, in order to survive they begin to adopt and display the attitudes, temperaments and disdain for the very citizens they are supposed to be serving and protecting. When was the last time you saw a police officer walking a beat and actually meeting the people they are sworn to serve and protect?
Many citizens are risking and taking their chances with the criminal element. In an encounter with a villain on the street, you may be assaulted, robbed, or killed. People are choosing not to report crimes because they fear the police more than the supposed criminals. Data shows that it is extremely rare for police officers to be arrested for on-duty homicide.
Let me be clear. This is pervasive in all uniformed and agencies sworn to protect and serve. In recent weeks, there have been stories of Secret Service, Border Patrol, DEA, and TSA agents perpetrating some assault on society. Our system has failed us when so many criminal minds pass scrutiny into these formerly revered services. Can it be that those entrusted to vet and screen out these unreliable elements are themselves unreliable? From where I sit, it appears that police agencies are attracting a large number of mentally ill persons. People who are so paranoid that they see all of the citizenry as the enemy. Are these new criminals so stupid as to not realize that in today’s world someone is going to record their actions? Or, do they not care, so convinced that there will be no consequences to their behavior.
I also fault the training that these persons receive. Does police training include sessions on rude and assaultive behavior? What happened to training on use of other then lethal force to apprehend an alleged criminal? I would like to observe the training where 5 or 6 officers are taught to pile on, kick, punch and beat senseless with a wooden stick, or a flashlight a defenseless, mentally incompetent person. Who trained that thug on the freeway to knock down and repeatedly punch a 60+ year old mentally disturbed woman? I am also tired of the “he went to his waistband” excuse of murder. Every time I stand from a chair or get out of my car, I instinctively adjust my waist band. Am I in danger of being shot for such a simple and natural act? Are police not taught the difference between a person adjusting his waist band and one pulling out a Glock? Do they care? I am by no means a weapons guy, but I can still tell the difference between a cell phone and a gun at 20 yards, shouldn’t the police be able to do the same?
Athletes are taught to control their emotions during an adrenaline rush of a sports challenge, yet the people we entrust to protect us cannot control their emotions and rage due to the adrenaline in their system. Shouldn’t they be trained to control themselves? That is expected of us, why not them? It appears that the most effective training that these officers receive is in the preparing excuses, they pull out to fault the citizens they just accosted as justification for their mayhem. Those include: he/she reached for his/her waistband, I saw a weapon (when none existed), I felt my life was in danger (from an elderly woman holding a screwdriver, a person running away with their back turned to the officers, an unarmed black teenager), or the suspect didn’t comply with a lawful order. Law enforcement officials tell us if we are stopped in a dark place by the police to continue to drive to a lighted area. That could be an invitation to get shot by the officer who views this action as non-compliance with a lawful order.
In a recent column, Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times asked why police who commit crimes are not held to the same standards as non-police members of society who commit a crime. I will add my voice and demand that this new class of criminals, if they are so brazen as to break the law and commit these assaults on society, be subjected to the same treatment as all law breakers. Let us begin to treat this new class of criminals to the same justice as all the others and strip away this “super presumption of innocence.”