Police Brutality in The US: Is There a Method to the Madness?

The City of Cleveland, Ohio, just agreed to pay $6 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy (shown in the photo), who was shot to death for playing with a toy gun in a park, by a police officer who drove to the site and immediately shot him dead, without hesitation or questioning, despite having been warned by the police dispatcher that he may be holding a toy gun. The City, as is the normal practice in such cases, denied any “wrongdoing”! 

The practice of paying the victims’ family who bring a lawsuit as a result of damages, injuries or deaths caused by wrongdoing, without admitting any wrongdoing, is also common among corporations. It’s a blatant example of corporate hypocrisy and double talk. “We did nothing wrong, but to get you to be quiet about what we did, we’ll give you money”. 

The City of Chicago paid $5 million last year to one of the victims of its own police department, 17-year old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke, last October. The officer continued to shoot even after the unarmed suspect was already on the ground and motionless and stopped only when his magazine was empty and he went for a second round when his partner told him to stop. It reminds me of how American troops kill their “enemies” who dare to resist when they invade their countries. Such brutality and incensed killings cannot be without racism and the authorities know that. In fact, racism is part of the training for US troops. It’s what they’re trained to feel and act on when invading foreign countries. It makes killing easier. 

The assassination style murder of Laquan McDonald was so egregious that it didn’t even take a lawsuit or even the threat of a lawsuit for the City officials to offer the $5 million to his family to keep them quiet. They offered it as soon as they saw the dash cam showing the blatant murder and long before they allowed the video to became public. Officials from the Office of the Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, to the District Attorney to the Police Chief, all conspired to hide the video from the public, until they were ordered by a judge to release it, after a journalist went to court to have it released. Nevertheless, the City of Chicago, too, denied their officer did anything wrong, as expected.

Not only such murders of unarmed and, in many cases, innocent people of minority background occur in just about every city in the nation, they occur regularly and routinely. Just to use Chicago as an example (which is certainly not alone), Chicago Tribune reported on March 11 that the city will pay “$830,000 to settle 2 police misconduct lawsuits”. AP reported on January 19 that “Court records say the city of East Chicago has settled a lawsuit with the family of a now-deceased man who alleged a police officer used excessive force against him in 2012.” According to reports, Chicago has settled seven lawsuits in seven years, on behalf of just one police officer, who still remains on the force (Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2016). Just this month (April 4), the Tribune reported a $4.9 million settlement to settle a lawsuit brought for the brutality of a cop against a man in police custody, which happened to be caught on camera. And the list goes on. 

Such brutality and murders happen in every city and on a daily basis and only when there is a video or when they are forced to release the dash cam video, do such cases go to court and are settled by paying taxpayer money to protect killer cops who get away with murder and in most cases remain on the force. What this means is that city governments would rather spend millions of dollars of tax payer money to settle lawsuits than to admit the obvious, which is the national epidemic of police killing members of the poor and minorities, in cold blood, because admitting that there is a systemic and national problem would require doing something to fix it, which is clearly not something they’re interested in doing. That’s the only logical conclusion of the practice of keeping violent, racist and murderous cops on the streets and defending them vigorously and even paying millions on their behalf, rather than charging them with murder or, at the very least, removing them from the force. That’s because doing that would send the “wrong” message to cops, that they’re not free to beat and kill, as they please. It would go against the whole strategy adopted by the ruling class in dealing with the “dangerous” minorities and the poor. Doing that would remove the element of fear and intimidation and “tie” the hands of the police when it comes to showing the lower classes who the boss is. Obedience of the masses is achieved through fear and intimidation and police brutality and shootings is a big part of that psychological warfare. One of the attractions to becoming a police officer in the US is the sense of power that they get as police officers. At times, this power elevates to the level of not just being above the law – that’s a given – but even the level of “God”. Lest you think that’s my word, it’s not. It’s what, Mark Fuhrman, the lead officer involved in the 1992 beating of Rodney King that resulted in the largest LA riots said: that he felt like God on the streets. That’s how much unrestrained and unaccounted-for power American cops are afforded when dealing with the lowest classes of the American society, who have no way of defending themselves.

The strategy of using violence to create fear and intimidation follows from the fact that more and more are falling into poverty and from the widening gap between the rich and poor. A brief look at how members of the working class are treated by the mercenaries of the wealthy as opposed to how the members of the latter class are treated by their own “criminal justice system” reveals a tremendous disparity. One stark contrast emerged in 2008, when heads of major multinational US banks clearly and evidently defrauded millions of homeowners and investors, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, including city and county governments, municipalities, retirement funds and even foreign governments. Not only no charges were brought against any of them by District Attorneys who eagerly and routinely overcharge members of the poor for the pettiest of crimes, but those same CEO’s received big bonuses right after the surfacing of their crimes and with, get this: money that was given to the banks from the Treasury as part of the $750 Billion bailout program. 

But, that’s not all there is to this comparison. Even if they were to be arrested and charged, can you imagine any police officer in the nation driving up to any of those bankers and shooting at them? How about any officer jumping on them and tackling then to the ground with others joining in to beat them before an arrest is made and then adding the charge of resisting arrest to other charges? How about emptying 16 bullets into them and claiming that they were afraid the suspect might have had a gun? And how would District Attorneys treat such a case? Would they keep the video from the public for two years until forced to release it? Would they defend the cop and pay off millions on his behalf and keep him on the force?

The strategy of fear and intimidation when dealing with the poor and disenfranchised also overlaps with the approach of “better safe than sorry” and the strategy of “better do overkill than take any chances”. In the view of the billionaire class – the 1% or rather the 0.1% – the poor and especially the minorities, pose the biggest domestic threat to the status quo and must be kept down and under tight control, by all means necessary. 

When presidential candidates say they will reform the system, they either are lying and have no intention to change the systemic and systematic police brutality and murders, or are naive enough to think that they can. The practice is deeply entrenched, systemic, national and encouraged and directed from the highest levels, and is deliberate. Any so-called reforms that do not speak to the root of the problem is tantamount to deception, diversion and distraction, meant to continue the status quo. Real reform can only come from a grassroots, militant and nationwide people’s movement. Such a movement will also have to ultimately tie the issue of police brutality in the US that’s at an epidemic level with economic injustice that goes hand in hand with police brutality and oppression. Until then, many more innocent lives will be picked up and taken from the streets in this ongoing unannounced, but full fledged and all faceted war on the poor and the minorities.


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