Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/04/how-endless-war-contributes-police-brutality
Again look to Iceland. Population just a little smaller then Minneapolis. Ranks 15th in world guns per Capita.
They have not been in a war since Independence granted in 1944.
The Police do not carry guns on a regular basis.
Since independence 1 person has been killed by the police. This a mentally ill man who was barricaded in a building and was shooting a rifle at passerby.
After the man was killed the nation went into shock. There was a review held to see if the Police could have acted in a different manner.
Meanwhile the head of the Police union in Minneapolis indicated he himself has shot three people, that a good number of police officers in that city has shot people and that those shootings do not bother him in the least and he loses no sleep over it.
The USA has become ever more Militarized. This process took off in the 1960s and later with the war on drugs. The Police mentality is “if in doubt shoot to kill” . That Police union guy stated words to the effect of that the only thing that works to keep law and order is violence and brute force.
This is the same mentality of the US Military.
Both police and the military are agents of the state. They are just two sides of the same coin. It is not the militarization of the country that creates police brutality, they each are two brutal forces that collaboratively serve the interests of the ruling class. Programs like the 1033 or the fact that most police officers are ex-military, are just bridges between these two forces. But they are distinct. And equally dangerous.
Iceland is a civilized country. All of its indices for education, equality, criminality, artistry, etc. is at the top of the world. No embassy in Reykjavik has any police officer at it’s door. I remember, the Indian embassy even had a sign for free yoga classes.
The cops here have a culture of aggression, violence way above any usually required, and unions that keep the really bad ones circulating or on the job when they clearly have no business in law enforcement of any kind. Now they have been militarized by the feds and trained with Israeli type techniques used by soldiers. It’s now a police state par excellence. Deescalation isn’t in their playbooks. In fact it’s the opposite. They intentionally add fuel to a situation that requires finesse. So the wars abroad have come home to roost, so to speak. And I don’t see it changing anytime soon.
I remember my mother telling me that in the early 1950’s she was “horrified to learn that close to 250,000 people were behind bars in the U.S. She said to me… “That is about one out of every thousand people!”. Today it is much closer to one out of a hundred people with the current prison population quickly approaching 3,000,000 inmates. The sentences are longer, the prisons are bigger and the prison-industrial-complex has gone ‘private’. Recently at a “for-profit” shareholder’s meeting, an executive commented that the prison population could easily ‘double’ in the near future meaning extraordinary profits for shareholders. Also they pointed out the advantage U.S. corporations will have over Chinese wage earners won’t be able to compete with our inexhaustible supply of prison labour.
160 years a go a “slave” was someone who was captured, placed in chains and shackles, sent to some plantation or workhouse and forced to work surrounded by armed guards in case they failed to perform their assigned duties or in the unlikely case that they tried to escape. Today it is exactly the same. Americans, especially African Americans, are routinely thrown into prison with poor legal representation and given absurdly long prison sentences (despite the “cruel and unusual” punishment associated with such a sentence!) so that the wealthy can still enjoy the benefits of slave labour.
The 'financially secure” feel they’re removed from the risk of arbitrary arrest and are quite willing to lock up another two or three percent of the population as long as they believe that such cruel behaviour will allow them to live their privileged lives without interruption. How far can it go? At the outbreak of the civil war, 70% of all Americans in the slave States were slaves. It only took the remaining 30% to be heavily armed to maintain this strange imbalance.
The recent protests will be viewed by Wall Street sociopaths as an excellent opportunity to expand prison slavery at a breakneck pace. The vast majority of those who will be added to the prison rolls will be poor, but many middle class people will find themselves behind the eight ball as well. The rich will naturally be protected by their coterie of high priced lawyers and a sympathetic court system that shows preference to those of privilege and power. For corporate America, these riots represent a golden opportunity to enslave more Americans and increase their bottom line in the process. This is why it is essential to avoid looting, the burning of public structures and small businesses and of course avoiding violence in the process.
It would be in the best interests of the middle class to seek an alliance with the working class instead of the tiny cabal of billionaires who are pulling all the strings. While slavery used to require someone to have the wrong shade of skin to be shackled, our current slave patrols (those cops who dutifully bust poor people for minor crimes to feed the slave system) are not so discriminatory. Nowadays being poor or just being saddled with a substance abuse or mental illness condition is enough for you to lose your freedom for a very long time or forever in some instances.
End “for-profit prisons”, defund the police AND the military, empty our prisons & replace the violent culture of the police department with those who are trained in using social skills rather than brute force to solve a situation. If we refuse to do this, we will soon find ourselves on the wrong side of the barbed wire fence. Unfortunately this latest recruitment drive for a new generation of prison slaves has barely gotten off the ground.
You wish it were a prisoner per 100 people. It is more closely to a prisoner per 35-38 people. As on top of the 2 millions in prisons, there are another 5 million in probation, parole, or other “correctional” supervision. These numbers are chilling. US has 4-5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. It rhymes with the COVID numbers, where we have 30% of the world’s cases. Number one, you see?
Spending per prisoner is between $20k - $30k per year. Imagine the society if that were used to invest in these people.
If there is one thing that should not be outsourced by a country, it is their policing techniques. Policing must respect local culture and local issues.
Thanks for the insightful view of America’s war on terror,
drugs, and democracy.
But not to forget that many American local police departments
are trained by the Israeli military; they having their experience with
suppressing the Palestinians and occupying their land.
The influence is not just on the officers on the line. This attitude goes way up the political hierarchy, and it has. It does, pretty much always. It was detained, somewhat, because legal restrictions and public elections constrained supervisors who constrained police.
The wealthy have successfully undermined this. Democrats and Republicans alike have voted for unconstitutional police powers, unconstitutional powers of surveillance, unconstitutional executive powers, outright fiat murder, outright torture, outright imprisonment without trial–right down the line.
Since we can no longer disagree at the ballot box, comments have become rougher. If police do not ease up, they will again. But most people in policing and in command positions above them retain an inordinate faith in coercion: that’s what they are doing there. SWAT squads traded for off-the-record military ammunition and supplies from soldiers returning from Vietnam back into the late 1960s, at least. But these did not see much use; they were saved for “the big one,” and probably mostly fired off at ranges when someone relented and realized that they would not likely be otherwise used.
But these cops have decided that they will violate the law while being redundantly filmed. They are indeed often people with family and mortgages and plans for long careers. Consequently, it appears very strongly that they have some assurance that they will not be prosecuted for breaking the law, for tear-gassing journalists and shooting rubber bullets into bystanders.
Why is that? Well, they have not been prosecuted, much. And, I think we can assume, they have been told that they will not. Their supervisors have apparently given them such assurance–to speak very broadly; it is not likely the same story in every precinct.
What makes the supers so certain? Because, apparently, every part of the system that they touch is similarly rotten right up and down the line.