Class Warfare Blog

June 2, 2020

I Repeat . . .

Filed under: Culture,Morality,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
Tags: , , ,

A simple rule change is all that is needed to proscribe the actions of police officers. As I have suggested before, the actions of police need to be limited to the penalty were one convicted of the crime alleged. So, if someone is accused of passing counterfeit money, the most that infraction of the law can impose is a short stay in prison. If a police officer uses lethal force, it should be clear to everyone that that is not allowed and must be prosecuted. If someone is being arrested for the crime of passing counterfeit currency and they resist arrest, what is the penalty for resisting arrest? A short stay in jail. Anything imposed by police in excess of the punishment were the person being arrested convicted of the crime, is a violation of the law and must be prosecuted.

Using lethal force to arrest someone for jaywalking, or an equipment violation on a car is ludicrous and needs to be addressed and this way makes the police and prosecutors accountable for their decisions.

That someone is killed because he was selling cigarettes one at a time illegally, is ludicrous and no prosecutor should be given the option to “file charges against the officers involved or not.”

This is simple, easy to learn. If an officer is ignorant of the law, a quick call to dispatch can inform them of the amount of force that can be applied. (Come on, they do not have to memorize all of the penalties of all of the crimes, they just need to know which qualify for the death penalty. Any other infractions are covered by excessive force regulations.) When someone is arrested for selling single cigarettes, a scratch on the wrist from when handcuffs were applied is an acceptable amount of force. Remember these are the people who protect a detainee’s head when getting into a patrol car to be taken in to be booked. When they show extreme neglect of such care must be prosecuted.

Okay, if someone holds up a gun and seems to be going to shoot, can cops shoot back? Considering the police’s track records at shooting kids with BB guns, even an adult in a store shopping for Christmas and holding a BB gun, I think the police need to be trained to take cover and be authorized to return fire, not shoot “because I was afraid.” Being afraid and doing a good job is part of the qualifications for the job. It should not include the current “if you feel fear, open fire” dictates so often employed.

Interestingly police in other countries, some of whom are not armed with firearms, seem to do a better job at this than our police, so we know it can be done.

And, yes, all of the other recommendations about psychological testing, more training, and a national registry of police officers fired for cause being kept are all good, but I think the limits of the behavior of our police are good ones. And hiring police departments should be required to search that database before hiring.

October 26, 2019

Over and Over and Over. . . .

In the news yesterday were a couple of stories showing that our “justice systems” are anything but. The first involves a trial concerning the actions of a group of Catholic peace activists, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7. In April 2018, they broke into the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia, where they carried out what they claimed was an act of symbolic disarmament in protest against the U.S. military’s continued possession of nuclear weapons. As Sam Husseini wrote in The Nation, “[they] brought hammers, small bottles of blood, spray paint, and crime scene tape, which they strung across the facility.” Charged with several federal crimes, they face more than twenty years in prison if convicted. (Source: Rewire News web site).

The second item, well the title tells it all “Video shows officer shooting fleeing Fresno teen in the back of the head.” (Go ahead, guess what color the teen was . . . I’ll wait.)

In the first case . . . twenty years in prison for vandalism? The focus of the piece was on whether a religious exception for their behavior should be allowed, but I say it should be on whether the possible sentences fit the crime. No real property damage, just a janitorial bill, and no people were hurt. What say we publicly shame them for their poor choice of actions and make them clean up the mess, while video taping it for public distribution? How about putting them in a situation where if they do it again, they will be automatically punished more severely. Twenty years of someone’s life for an act of vandalism is bizarre.

In the second case, police officers seem to be willing to employ lethal force at the drop of a hat. The oft-cited reason for this is that if an officer fears for his life, he may use lethal force justifiably. This, “fearing for one’s life,” is a bogus justification for anything as it cannot be verified by anyone outside of the officer him/herself. Plus this creates a legal standard based upon a fear level that cannot be quantified or even examined. Plus, isn’t the job basically to manage one’s own fears to keep society safer? In this case, the 16-year old victim was a member of a small group already in custody, so it should have been a priority of those officers to make sure they were unarmed, no? Then the kid bolts and runs away, only to have one officer calmly put a bullet in his head from 35 feet away, then walk up to his unmoving body and handcuff him.

There is a very short list of criminal offences for which the death penalty can be applied (after due process, of course). Why then do we allow police officers to mete out the death penalty for trivial offences? In this case the young man was wanted for “questioning.” We need to change that rule for justification of lethal force. Lethal force should only be available for crimes for which the death penalty is available. If that kid had pulled out a gun and shot at the officers, they would be justified in shooting back because he would have been attempting to kill an officer of the law, for which the death penalty is available in many states. Running away from the police should result in him being chased, not shot and killed.

How many of these cases showing our criminal justice systems are really quite broken must we see before we take reformation of these systems as a serious priority?

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