The Difference Between a Victim and a Villain

Tamir Rice: Armed and dangerous playing with a toy gun. Had to die.

I read a lot of stuff online.  Some of it is smart and most of it is not.  I read something on a website after last week’s FBI shooting of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, one of the militia militants who have taken over and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, now dragging into 33 days with no end in sight.

Finicum’s death has given his fellow extremists the martyr for their anti-government rebellion and one of Finicum’s fellow fanatics, Jason Patrick made a totally insane comparison when he likened Finicum’s death to the killing of Tamir Rice, an unarmed 12-year-old African American boy fatally shot by police outside a Cleveland recreation center in 2014.

“The government can kill who they want for whatever reason they want with impunity,” Patrick said.

An anti-government, gun-toting, wannabee revolutionary crazy man is comparable to what happened to Rice? BULLSHIT!  Finicum was armed with a rife with real shells. Rice had a toy pistol. Rice was blown away by the Cleveland cops within three seconds. Finicum wandered around federal property for 27 days before he was shot while toting a weapon.

I forgot how much Americans love their outlaws and there will always be those who take the side of the outlaws even when they bring their fate down on their own head as one poster did in a forum post.

“And now one of them’s dead. Poor dumb bastard. I get the impression he didn’t want to live, and I wonder how his life went so wrong. Was he reaching for a gun? Damned if I know. I’ve watched the slowed-down aerial shots, and maybe he was just flapping his arms around trying to keep his balance in deep snow. People do that. I’ve done that within the last week, my muscles still remember what it feels like. Maybe at that moment he didn’t mean any more harm than Tamir Rice did. Or maybe he did. But he’d created a situation, blustering and posing, where the guy who shot him had no other choice. I hope the guy who shot him comes to understand that.”

It shouldn’t be necessary to explain Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was a 55-year-old White man armed with a rifle who declared he would rather die than surrender who illegally occupied the refuge for nearly a month while Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old Black boy armed with a toy gun who never had a chance to surrender as he died on a Cleveland playground with three seconds of the police arriving.

Like flies to cow pies, this sort of lawlessness contempt and disdain for any authority whatsoever only encourages more contempt and disdain for the law and authority. Wannabees have been emboldened by the Oregon stand-off and some of them are ready to kill for their twisted beliefs.

The cops and the FBI didn’t start this, but they have guns too and if these snack-swallowing “patriots” want to go out in a blaze of glory, that’s their call.

Finicum abandoned his home and family to sit in the snow and give bullshit press conferences railing against the government. Rice was being a boy doing what boys do in playing with a toy gun. Finicum was an armed militia extremist. Rice was a kid. Finicum proclaimed he was a law-abiding citizen who loved, God, family, and freedom. Rice didn’t hold any press conferences to proclaim what he loved. Pizza, maybe?

Rice was a boy who never had a chance to grow any older. Finicum was a grown man who threw away his chance and there’s one less gun-toting nut in the world.

If someone wanted to compare the fate of Mr. Finicum with that of other anti-government radicals like Gordon Kahl, Randy Weaver, and Timothy McVeigh, that would be a valid comparison. Tamir Rice’s killing has nothing to do with what happened to Finicum. One was murdered where he stood while the other reportedly yelled, “Just shoot me!” and the authorities complied.

Agitating to die is not the same thing as being gunned down without so much as a warning.

No matter how many how many of his fellow armed militia extremists or simple-minded sympathizers try to dig up and co-opt Rice’s corpse and try to compare the death of an innocent boy with the death of a radical extremist, there is zero truth to it. It only cheaply devalues the life of an innocent who was murdered before he ever had a chance to live to make a misanthropic hater who chose suicide-by-cop look a little less crazy.

There’s a world of difference between a victim and a villain. Robert Finicum thought he was a hero. Thought he was a patriot. Thought he could overthrow a government with a rifle. He thought wrong and now he’s dead.

Robert Finicum. Sedition. Armed with a rifle. Giving press conferences for nearly a month.

Robert Finicum. Sedition. Armed with a rifle. Giving press conferences for nearly a month.

Tamir was just a kid in the park who crossed the path of a trigger-happy killer cop who had no business whatsoever with a gun and a badge. They aren’t remotely the same sort of death. They aren’t even remotely on the same planet.

It shouldn’t be necessary to explain this but I’m not surprised it is.

Too Young To Live, Too Black to Live.

Does Tamir Rice’s Black Life Matter? Cleveland says “no.”

“There can be no doubt that Rice’s death was tragic and, indeed, when one considers his age, heartbreaking.   However … I conclude that Officer Loehmann’s belief that Rice posed a threat of serious physical harm or death was objectively reasonable as was his response to that perceived threat.”
~ S. Lamar Sims, a prosecutor from Colorado, in his report to the grand jury

“Tamir Rice is in the wrong  He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.”
~ Steve Loomis, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association

It only took a year, but today Cuyahoga County District Attorney Timothy McGinty told the world something everyone already knew:  he would not indict the two cops who blew away Tamir Rice in 2014.

Just like they didn’t indict Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner.

Just like they didn’t indict  Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.

Just like they didn’t indict the two cops for killing John Crawford III.

Just like they didn’t indict Dante Servin for killing Rekia Boyd.

Just like they didn’t indict the two LAPD cops for killing Ezell Ford.

Just like they didn’t indict anyone for killing Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

Just like they didn’t indict anyone for Sandra Bland’s death.

Same as it ever was.

This outcome was so obvious–so painfully obvious–even Ray Charles could have seen it coming and he’s both blind and dead.

Nobody will ever convince me if Tamir Rice had been a 12-year-old White kid named Todd Rice and everything else remains equal that the grand jury wouldn’t have brought an indictment against Timothy Loehmann.   But Rice had the bad luck to be born Black and his life doesn’t matter. Certainly not to McGinty and his handpicked grand jury and pro-cop experts who were never interested in justice, only giving the appearance they were.

A few years ago, I did a two-week stint on a grand jury.  An interesting experience.  The prosecutors come in and run their rap about why we should indict some no-good son of a bitch who’s up for everything from domestic abuse to dealing drugs to murder.   I can’t recall how many indictments we rubber-stamped, but it had to be at least 90 percent.    A grand jury will pretty much give a prosecutor any result they want.

police-brutality02

Same as it ever was.

What does a Black parent tell their son or daughter what the legal stamp of approval of Tamir Rice’s murder by the Cleveland Police means? Lie to them that they are valued and protected members of society or tell them the truth their lives have no meaning and they have no rights, not even the right to live because a cop can take that away from them at any time for any reason and walk.

Sandra Bland last week and Tamir Rice this week. Wanna take bets on the cop who blew away Walter Scott taking a walk? Cops don’t go to jail for killing Black men, Black women or Black children. It’s like looking for hen’s teeth or whiskey in a wine glass. It doesn’t happen.

Ohio is an open carry state but the cops still executed Tamir Rice within two seconds.  You won’t hear the NRA screaming about his 2nd Amendment rights.

Tamir’s murder isn’t a Black Lives Matter problem or a Black people problem. It’s an American problem and not until America realizes the lives of your Black children are every bit as important as your White children’s lives, will there ever be an end to this madness.

America has a legal system. It does not have a justice system and it never has. As if anyone really needed yet another reminder.

Black lives matter.  But to whom?   Tamir Rice’s Black Life Matters.   But not to Timothy McGinty.   His blood is on your hands just as much as Timothy Loehmann.

Same as it always is.

Survived Car Crash. Killed By Cop. (UPDATED)

We know who killed Jon Ferrell, but the legal system seems to be confused.

In the aftermath of the mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of Randall Kerrick, the former Charlotte-Meckenberg police officer who shot and killed 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell in September 2013, you will inevitably hear law enforcement experts providing explanations about why the jury did not vote to convict Kerrick and possibly send him to prison for 11 years.  Many of these experts will be current and former police officers. This is what you need to know about these “experts.”

Everyone has an opinion. Some even have informed opinions. But sometimes what seems to be an informed opinion it is only impersonating one. What you’re actually hearing is a highly biased opinion designed only to defend bad policing by bad cops.

The excuses are the usual ones. The apologists say Kerrick deserved to lose his job. Kerrick should never be a cop again. But it’s not Kerrick himself, but the police department which hired him that should be punished for his bad policing. Kerrick should go free for his bad policing but it is the taxpayers who should be on the hook for Kerrick’s bad policing. Kerrick shouldn’t be punished for pumping 10 bullets into Jonathan Ferrell, even though the two other officers, both more experienced than Kerrick didn’t fire their guns at all.

While for some it may be plausibly asserted the past experience of someone in the same profession has to make them the go-to experts on how ALL police departments work and how ALL police officers respond to situations as an uncooperative suspect, that is a baseless assertion of authority that defies logic, reality and common sense. Nobody is an expert on everything facet and every situation others in that profession may meet.

The opinion which should carry the most weight isn’t of somebody who doesn’t know Kerrick, doesn’t know what sort of cop he was, doesn’t know how the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department trains its officers, and doesn’t know what their policies and rules are. The opinion which matters most is someone who does.

Randall “Wes” Kerrick used excessive force when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell two years ago, a training expert testified Tuesday.


CMPD Capt. Mike Campagna told jurors that given the circumstances – from what Kerrick knew from dispatchers to how events quickly happened – the 29-year-old officer violated police policies by opening fire on Ferrell as the former college football player ran toward him on a Sept. 14, 2013.

jonathan-ferrell car 2

All that’s left of Ferrell’s car. He survived the crash but not the police.

Ferrell, who was unarmed, was hit by 10 gunshots. Most came when Ferrell and Kerrick were a few feet apart or on top of each other.

Campagna said Kerrick was justified in pulling his gun but not in using it. Instead, Kerrick should have holstered his Smith & Wesson 40-caliber pistol and used other options to restrain Ferrell – from firing his Taser, to using his baton or pepper spray, to even kicking or punching the approaching man.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers are taught to respond to a threat with only the force needed to subdue a subject, Campagna testified.

What was the highest response Kerrick should have used, prosecutor Teresa Postell asked?

“Non-deadly force,” Campagna said.

“Was shooting Jonathan consistent with CMPD policy and training?” Postell asked.

“No, it was not,” Campagna said.

Some of these experts will express how concerned they are about bad cops and how they must be weeded out.    Do not believe them.  If their lips are moving, they’re lying.

Anybody who continually manufactures excuses for bad policing and then turns around to make noises about “reforming” the police to get rid of the bad apples in the bunch does not sincerely mean it. Reform is what they say. What they do is repeatedly shrug off every incident of inept, incompetent and illegal policing as isolated events which cop-haters will exaggerate only to tear down the police. How many isolated cases does it take before it is obvious there’s nothing isolated about police violence against people of color?

Kerrick didn’t get desk duty or a suspension for shooting Jonathan Ferrell. He got fired and arrested for murder.   There were troubling signs Kerrick might not be found guilty when a grand jury failed to indict him and it took a second to do so.

How might things play out differently if Timothy Loehmann is indicted and tried for killing Tamir Rice or when Michael Slager is indicted and tried for killing Walter Scott or when the cops in Baltimore are tried for killing Freddie Gray?

It won’t play out any differently. Cops and their lawyers know they if they say the Five Magic Words it will be their guaranteed Get Out of Jail Free Card: “I feared for my life” and some sap on a jury or a limp-dick judge or a prosecutor afraid of pissing off the police will swallow this line whole and without question. We saw it with Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond and on and on into infinity and beyond.
Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis because he feared for his life. Theodore Wafer killed Renisha McBride because he feared for his life. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life. The Fear is the same but civilians, unlike cops, are less likely to have that reasonable doubt granted to them. Zimmerman was an exception and everything he’s been involved in since escaping punishment for Martin’s murder has brought clearly into focus between the two which one was the “thug.”

Cops get that benefit of the doubt. The Fear they claim led them to kill an unarmed man, woman or child is not measurable, but the cop apologists will tell you its real and its significant. In Kerrick’s case, he wasn’t facing Jonathan Ferrell alone. There were two other officers with him and neither one of them fired a shot. Does that mean they were the cowards here and Kerrick, the former animal control officer, was the real courageous one?

If a cop is so afraid for his life the default setting is to kill whomever is making them afraid, why the fuck are they a cop in the first place?

Calling Kerrick a coward is a completely proper term. He panicked and overreacted. He violated his training. He acted recklessly. He used lethal force in a situation where in the judgment of two other police officers it wasn’t necessary to stop Ferrell.

Those are the actions of a coward. A gutless, worthless, murderous COWARD who never should have been a cop. Kerrick should still be taking on angry Chihuahuas and poodles, not blowing away disoriented, injured Black men who had crawled from the wreckage of his totaled vehicle.

Make no mistake of it. What Kerrick did when he squeezed that trigger and pumped bullet after bullet after bullet after bullet into Ferrell until he had no more bullets to pump wasn’t about Kerrick being afraid for his life. It was about Kerrick wanting nothing more than to kill Ferrell and take away his life.

Contrary to the cop show hype crime does pay and criminals do get away with murder.  Especially when the criminal is a cop.

The dog catcher turned killer cop testifies in court.

Fake Gun. Real Dead. Not His Fault.

Created by God. Killed by cop.

The city of Cleveland believes it has determined who is responsible for the death of Tamir Rice.  Tamir Rice did it!

The city of Cleveland’s response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice says the 12-year-old boy is to blame for his own death by police.

The young boy seen milling about his neighborhood park had less than two seconds to react to two Cleveland police officers who drove right up to the gazebo and shot Tamir, mistaking his pellet gun as a real and dangerous weapon.

Rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir dead just steps away from the park’s gazebo on Nov. 22, reportedly never knowing dispatchers had believed the firearm to be “probably fake.”

The majority of the city’s response lacked elaborate detail into their claims by leaning on Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office’s incomplete investigation for the inability to comment on Tamir’s death.

The case has not been completed by the Sheriff’s Office and no timeline exists for its hand off to prosecutors, Cleveland.com reported.

Despite the city’s recent hire of Loehmann, the city said it had no knowledge of the cop’s alleged applications to Akron, Euclid and Parma Heights Police and even failing the Cuyahoga County’s written examination.

The suit makes no mention of Loehmann’s brief ties to Independence Police where he was described as “distracted” and “weepy” during a firearms qualifications training before being fired in 2012.

“Nothing wrong with shooting people as long as the right people get shot.”

Blaming Rice for his own death is cruel to the dead boy and his family, but Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association Steve Loomis ups the ante to insanity as he calls Rice as “menacing” and “a 12-year-old in an adult body.”

Nothing gets Steve Loomis churning faster than questions about what happened on the day that Tamir Rice was shot.

His constant refrain: The police are heroes misunderstood by a public being fed a steady, media-generated, activist-fueled diet of false information about how they do their jobs.

“Tamir Rice is an absolute example of that,” Loomis said. “There’s this perception that police just slid up in the car and shot him. That’s not reality from the officers’ perception. They acted based on what they knew at the time.”

“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body. Tamir looks to his left and sees a police car. He puts his gun in his waistband. Those people—99 percent of the time those people run away from us. We don’t want him running into the rec center. That could be a whole other set of really bad events. They’re trying to flush him into the field. Frank [the driver] is expecting the kid to run. The circumstances are so fluid and unique. …

“The guy with the gun is not running. He’s walking toward us. He’s squaring off with Cleveland police and he has a gun. Loehmann is thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s pulling it out of his waistband.’”

Oh my God. Those poor officers! What else could they do? They had to kill that menacing 12-year-old kid in an adult body.

Shame on Tamir Rice for scaring those poor officers. And shame on Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, Jordan Davis for scaring their killers.

So many scary Black guys. So many cops and vigilantes to make them dead and less scary Black guys.

There are times when I have no words. Mostly because those words would be unbelievably angry and profanely foul. All I have is cold, burning rage and the fire that burns would very much like to come down like God’s own wrath on someone like Steve Loomis who embodies everything Black Panther founder Huey P. Newton thought a “pig” was.

“We felt that the police needed a label other that fear image that they carried in the community. So we use the pig as the rather low-lifed animal in order to identify the police. And it worked.”

I never liked calling cops “pigs”. It was too extreme and I believed  it to be too debasing, disrespectful and dehumanized all police officers for the actions of the bad ones.  Yet the more I hear guys like Loomis in Cleveland or Patrick Lynch in New York and all these other leaders of police unions who debase young Black men like Tamir , disrespect young Black men like Tamir, and dehumanize young Black men like Tamir, the less resistant I become to calling cops “pigs.”

If the police do not respect us we should not respect them and where there is no respect, the response will be resistance.

This will not help Tamir Rice, but it might make a few killer cops take an extra second to consider the consequences before they pull the trigger. If justice can’t be found in the courtrooms,  people will go looking for it in the streets.

…And Justice For All?

cop car on fire

These are my last words for the foreseeable future on the series of shooting by the police of Black men and it’s not because I don’t have more to say.   Actually it’s more that this is a topic that first fills me with blind, irrational anger, followed by nauseated disgust and finally fatalistic pessimism.    It’s unhealthy to allow any one subject become so pervasive it becomes all-encompassing, so I have to let this go and move on.

This is going to be long, but I hope it makes sense.

There’s a degree of certain cognitive dissonance associated with the killings of Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford II among the other recent examples of cop-vs-civilian citizens.

Only the most angry of anarchists could boldly state there is no need for the police. Time and again it has been demonstrated the police are the only organization between order and chaos. Whether it’s some thoughtless neighbors blasting their music too loud in the wee hours or an old woman who’s fallen down and can’t get up or a child doesn’t arrive home after school or some guy has just rear-ended your brand new Chevy, there needs to be the person who comes along and makes a crazy world sane again for a while.

Most of us were brought up to respect police as figures of authority worthy of respect equal to that of doctors, lawyers, clergy and politicians. They were the Good Guys protecting us all from the Bad Guys.

Of course, the reality is never that black and white and the cracks in the facade become even more acute when the reality is Black and White.

Akai Gurley: Protected and Served to Death.

Akai Gurley: Protected and Served to Death.

I don’t know if Akai Gurley was a good man who didn’t deserve to die in a darkened staircase or a bad man who would have likely met with a bad end sooner or later. But what I do know is when something happens and keeps happening and it’s always reasoned away and waved off as merely “an accident” that isn’t an explanation as much as it is denial.

It didn’t surprise me when Darren Wilson walked. Mike Brown was viewed as a threat. It didn’t surprise me when Daniel Pantaleo walked. Eric Garner was a physically unhealthy man who refused to be taken into custody without resisting. It didn’t surprise me when the cops who blew away John Crawford II in a Wal-Mart walked because he had no business walking around with a realistic looking BB gun.

Neither did Tamir Rice so it won’t surprise me if Officer Timothy Loehmann walks despite being judged unfit for duty by a small town police force but apparently OK for the Cleveland cop shop.

That same dysfunctional Cleveland cop shop following a U.S. Justice Department investigation into acts of excessive force recently agreed to a consent decree which will doubtlessly lead to possibly hundreds of officers fired and forced into retirement. Getting bad cops off the street is a help to good cops, but you’ll rarely hear them say it out loud.

I have communicated with several ex-cops and those who aspired to be cops and they comment regularly on  a discussion board I patronize on several officer related shooting threads as well as high-profile non-police involved deaths such as the Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride cases. They offer insights and perspectives on police procedure, protocol and perspectives civilians are on the outside of peering in. They offer a valuable contribution in the ongoing process of building bridges and not walls between the police and the community.

However, when it comes to matters of police misconduct, corruption and brutality, their default setting seems to be to close ranks with their brethren in blue and fall back to the now familiar stance of “us vs them” and if you aren’t one of us, you must be one of them.

Frank Serpico was one of “us” until he broke the cop code of silence and testified about corruption in the NYPD. Hollywood made Serpico the flawed hero in a movie starring Al Pacino, but the NYPD still regards him as a snitch, a rat, and a villain.

Want to see a hero cop? Frank Serpico qualifies.

Serpico says police brutality now is as bad as police corruption was back in his day and for many of the same reasons: a permissive culture that looks the other way, closes ranks, protects bad cops and persecutes good cops trying to do their jobs the right way.

And today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined.

Things might have improved in some areas. The days when I served and you could get away with anything, when cops were better at accounting than at law enforcement — keeping meticulous records of the people they were shaking down, stealing drugs and money from dealers on a regular basis — all that no longer exists as systematically as it once did, though it certainly does in some places. Times have changed. It’s harder to be a venal cop these days.

But an even more serious problem — police violence — has probably grown worse, and it’s out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability.
I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But as I found out the hard way, police departments are useless at investigating themselves—and that’s exactly the problem facing ordinary people across the country —including perhaps, Ferguson, Missouri, which has been a lightning rod for discontent even though the circumstances under which an African-American youth, Michael Brown, was shot remain unclear.

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

It wasn’t any surprise to me that, after Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, officers instinctively lined up behind Darren Wilson, the cop who allegedly killed Brown. Officer Wilson may well have had cause to fire if Brown was attacking him, as some reports suggest, but it is also possible we will never know the full truth—whether, for example, it was really necessary for Wilson to shoot Brown at least six times, killing rather than just wounding him. As they always do, the police unions closed ranks also behind the officer in question. And the district attorney (who is often totally in bed with the police and needs their votes) and city power structure can almost always be counted on to stand behind the unions.

In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider. Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.

Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

At 77, Frank Serpico is an old man and old men are susceptible to being scoffed at as behind the times and out of the loop. Even the film was made over four decades ago. Yet, Serpico says he loved being a cop. He just wishes he could have been allowed to be the honest cop he wanted to be and not the threat he became because he refused to be a dishonest one.

I honestly do not believe most cops are racist, but in all honesty, there are racists who are cops.  Their default setting is to side with the cops because they were cops that is no less understandable than mine is to side with a Brown, Garner, Gurley, Rice, Martin, Ferrell, Grant, Bell or Diallo because I look like them.

I’ve said before nobody needs the protection of the police more than the Black community. If Black people are disproportionately killed by the police, and more specifically, by White police officers that is in no small part due to the disproportionate numbers of Blacks committing crimes and incarcerated for those crimes. But that’s a much more complicated problem than finger-pointing idiots like Rudy Giuliani or Charles Barkley can resolve with their simplistic solutions.

Serpico doesn’t have all the answers to society’s ills either, but he does have some suggestions deserving of being included in any discussion of the bloody schism between cops and communities of color.

1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits. Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals;
2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations. Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical;
3. Require community involvement from police officers so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding;
4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;
5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;
6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

If Number One of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in Cleveland, Timothy Loehmann might have remained a washed-out small-town cop and never moved on to become a big-city cop and Tamir Rice might still be alive instead of shot down in less than three seconds when Loehmann encountered him.

police-brutality

If Number Two of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in New York, Peter Liang might have been paired off with a more experienced veteran officer instead of another rookie like himself.

If Number Six of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, the grand jury decisions not to indict Pantaleno and Wilson might be less subject to suspicions of prosecutors manipulating the results.

There will never be a solution to the problem of police brutality and community hostility until all sides involved own up to their own vested interests, sacred cows and protected turf. Any meaningful progress means giving up, compromising, hammering out and forging a new deal between polarized enemies.

I don’t want to view the police as an occupying force. I need them to tell my noisy neighbors to turn that racket down as much as anyone else does. At the current state of things, I’m far less concerned about ISIS or Ebola taking me out than I am Officer Friendly doing me in because he didn’t like a gesture I made during a traffic stop.

Don’t tell me being a cop is a tough, thankless gig. Who doesn’t know that? Any cop who was expecting applause should have never cut their hair, formed a rock band and learned how to play Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Most cops never pull their guns to shoot anybody. When they do most times they’re justified and every time they have to kill someone they don’t have to be probed like a visit to the proctologist.

That doesn’t give cops a license to kill and a badge does not bestow extra rights the rest of us don’t get.

It is not playing the Race Card to wonder why there are so many encounters between unarmed Black men and armed White cops end up fatal for the Black men. If the shoe were on the other foot and White cops were being mowed down by Black assailants would there any puzzlement of what the hell is going on?

The agitation of a New Black Panthers plotting acts of murder and revenge against persons and property deserves condemnation by any responsible citizen, but so does Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association when he calls Pantaleo “a model police officer.”

The demagoguery has to end. The distrust has to end. The polarization and politicking has to end. I want to say it can end if all sides resolve to find a way to come together and force it to end. Yet while I try to be hopeful because it doesn’t make much sense to be anything else or you might as well not get up out of bed, I can’t say I’m optimistic.

Reconciliation is possible but not if our differences remain irreconcilable. We can wait for the next Akai Gurley or Eric Garner or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice to come along and do this now familiar dance over again; five steps back and no steps forward, but if police reform is impossible a  revolution against the police is inevitable.

The odds are excellent we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

oscar wilde