Friday August 11, 2006

Five rubber bullets @ a peaceful demonstrator

Super-quick recap: back in 2003, Miami hosted a meeting of the Free Trade Association of the Americas (FTAA), and hilary ensued. We’ve all read the CIP’s report, so we know the outlines of what happened. I bring up the case of the lady who was hit five times with rubber bullets fired by Broward police because it so succinctly demonstrates my understanding of police mentality. Let’s recap:

Where is the apology for hitting her with rubber bullets? Wait, nevermind that; it turns out that no police officers were disciplined for anything in all of this. OK now I have some observations.

  1. No apology for the rubber bullets.
  2. No officers disciplined. Ah but of course: we “have no way of knowing which officers fired the rubber bullets.” You know why? Because the the guy standing next to the guy who fired won’t say. And the guy on his other side won’t say.
  3. . . . i.e. when police officers do fucked-up criminal shit their buddies cover for them. This utterly refutes any sort of “it’s just a few bad seeds” argument that anyone would care to attempt to make, right?
  4. And nevermind discipline. I believe we have a name for shooting at someone, and it’s actually a crime. So how about filing some charges. Oh, right: see #3, above.
  5. You know how killing a cop is a worse offense then killing a random person? OK, I understand that rule, and have no problem with it. But by the same token, the police are entrusted by us with special power. I think that when they abuse that power in committing a crime (which is precisely what this was), their punishment should be similarly more harsh.

The worst thing about all of this? For every instance of police abuse of power that gets caught on tape, there are hundreds or thousands that are never heard of. Messed up.

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  1. Rick    Fri Aug 11, 08:38 AM #  

    Oh, there’s so much here to comment on. I’ll be back later when I cool down a little.

    .



  2. Dick Cheney    Fri Aug 11, 09:30 AM #  

    What good are rubber bullets, anyway? Why didn’t they mow the whole stinking lot of these American-bashing scum down with lead and stop their lawlessness once and forever?



  3. alesh    Fri Aug 11, 09:43 AM #  

    Oh, goodie: here comes Rick to . . . defend this??

    That should be rich.



  4. mkh    Fri Aug 11, 11:42 AM #  

    When I heard this story at the start of the week I had sit sit down it made me so angry. And just when I calmed down I heard the so-called apology, which amounted to “We’re sorry we got caught.”

    You’re on the right track, Alesh, with meting out similarly harsh judgements against lawbreaking cops. Since tarring and feathering is probably cruel and unusual punishment, I say we bring back the stocks.

    [Oh, and so Rick doesn’t accuse me of favoritism, “hillary ensued”?]



  5. Lissette    Fri Aug 11, 12:05 PM #  

    That video was just sick! And to say that “she probably deserved it for being out there”!!! WTF is that about!? She had every right to protest if she truly believed in something. She wasn’t out there throwing napalm bombs, she was holding a sign! THAT’S IT! And for the BSO’s to sit there and laugh about pelting someone with rubber bullets who did absolutely nothing but exercise her constitutional right to a peaceful protest, the words just aren’t coming to mind right now. That just pissed me off.



  6. Rick    Fri Aug 11, 01:02 PM #  

    I’m not going to defend any cop that breaks the law. What I saw on video was despicable and inexcusable and the resultant yuk-yuks by the BSO officers were unprofessional. If there were any crimes committed I hope that the Dade SAO pursues them vigorously. I also hope that, civilly, the woman in red who was the victim is justly compensated.

    That being said, I refuse to paint all cops with one broad brush stroke and label them all as corrupt or violent or as criminals. Stereotyping looks ugly when it’s done to a racial or religious group and it doesn’t look that much more appealing when it’s applied to a profession. It’s true that police and firefighters share a special bond that few outside the profession really understand but if you were to spend any time with these guys when they’re not wearing their uniforms, you would find they are just like everyone else. They all have their faults and they all have their weaknesses and they’re all unique. In fact, I would be willing to bet that 90% of the time you wouldn’t even know you’re talking to a cop unless he/she told you.

    These folks do a lot of good most of the time but every now and then, like the rest of us, they trip up. When they do, they should be held accountable like we are. And if they’re found guilty, the fact that they serve in a position of public trust should be considered when they’re sentenced.

    It’s your blog, Alesh, and you can stand up and yell “F the police” all you want, but personally, I find it to be inconsistent with the otherwise measured tone of Critical Miami.



  7. alesh    Fri Aug 11, 02:25 PM #  

    I’ve spent a little time with off-duty police officers. What I generally found is that they’re not the sort of people I enjoy hanging out with. But it could be a bad sample; there may be plenty of cops that are cool.

    My point is that if you’re standing next to a guy who shoots a rubber bullet at a protester and you don’t turn him in, then you’re a contemptible asshole. When a whole crowd of cops starts shooting bullets, and nobody reports anybody, well, that opens them up to be painted with a broader brush then anything you can buy at home depot.

    Your analogy to stereotyping a racial or religious group is laughable. In fact, I think you missed the point of why a stereotype is a bad idea. The point is that the police are a self-selecting group. In fact, they are a PROFOUNDLY self-selecting group, because I’ve noticed that police officers tend to be people who feel much more strongly drawn to their chosen profession then most other professionals (exceptions might be doctors and astronauts). You can argue about the accuracy of a given generalization about cops, but the fact is that the generalization itself is no less valid then saying that college students are smarter then the general population.

    Oh, and yes, “these folks do a lot of good most of the time.” Except that that’s like saying that I do a lot of graphic design most of the time—that’s their fucking job. Sometimes a cop does something particularly heroic, and then they deserve praise, but an officer “doing good” in the line of duty is not necessarily remarkable: they get a paycheck for that.

    Having said all of that, I think we’re 90% in agreement. I appreciate you not sticking up for these particular knuckleheads criminals, and admitting that they should be held accountable when they break the law.

    But here’s a case where they are most profoundly not being held accountable, and this case also highlights that the problem is not individuals, but, to a large extent, the system.



  8. Miami Harold    Fri Aug 11, 02:32 PM #  

    Most of my experiences with cops have been lousy.
    Even on the rare occasion when they’re helpful,
    they do it their way, not the way I need it.
    It’s never exactly right. It’s cop-ified.
    But usually they’re arrogant, stupid,
    and constitutionally incapable of listening.
    They seem to enjoy tossing their weight around
    as often as they can get away with it.
    I can spot a cop out of uniform in a NY second:
    most use same sneering strut and sanctimonious attitude
    that inferior people get off on
    when they’re granted authority or power.
    Politically and culturally they’re barely descended from trees,
    a step below even professional athletes.
    And yes, they stick together like wet shit and call it “code.”
    Rick, you’re just naive, wrong, or blessed.
    Sure it’s a shitty job. And it attracts shitty people.



  9. Rick    Fri Aug 11, 03:49 PM #  

    Well, there it is.

    All cops are arrogant, stupid, shitty assholes who are expected to be professional heroes for people who consider them to be arrogant, stupid, shitty assholes, which we all should unless we’re naive, wrong or blessed.

    Sounds totally reasonable to me.

    Thanks for setting me straight.



  10. Christian    Fri Aug 11, 04:26 PM #  

    I watched the video on the Herald website and my stomach turned. I am friends with a cop in the Upper Eastside and he’s a really good egg; he’s helped rehabilitate my extremely negative feelings toward law enforcement.

    But this incident is a sad confirmation of conclusions held by more than just pedestrian stoners: Power over others, as a rule, perverts one’s mind regardless of any pretense to ‘helping people.’

    The guffaws, the back-slappery, was just another nail in the coffin of public sentiment that police officers are little more than disgruntled, poorly educated trash who get off by flexing the muscles furnished to them by the meaningless fiefdom called Law Enforcement.

    That woman should be allowed to dress those cops up in red pant-suits and blow rubber bullets into their forheads while they stand there bothering no one, as she was.



  11. gansibele    Fri Aug 11, 05:59 PM #  

    I place the blame squarely on their superiors, from Manny Diaz to Timoney and down, who made those cops into a paramilitary unit, pumped them up with macho speeches and turned them loose on civilians as if they were some enemy. I respect cops (while agreeing with Alesh that this is the job they chose and get a paycheck for) but cowards who pelt an unarmed woman with rubber bullets and then laugh at their “heroism” doesn’t deserve any. The “code” thing is bullshit, and if most people think they are power-drunk assholes is because of episodes like this. I hope that woman sues the hell out of the city and the county for this.



  12. Rick    Fri Aug 11, 08:58 PM #  

    One more confirmation that they’re all bastards.

    I’m sure there will be a post on this, too.



  13. alesh    Fri Aug 11, 11:02 PM #  

    “Miami Police along with the Alternative Program, a community based group, treated her family, including her four siblings, to an Orlando trip to SeaWorld – a place the children longed to go to.”

    HUH? What the fuck are you trying to say, Rick?? This somehow minimizes or has any fucking bearing on how a bunch of cops shot a woman with rubber bullets and another bunch of cops stood by and didnt’s say anything??

    Are you out of your mind?

    Yes! Whoop-dee-freaking-dooh... a bunch of cops each pitched in $5. All is forgiven!



  14. Rick    Sat Aug 12, 07:32 AM #  

    Alesh….most of my comments and our discussion has centered not on whether the cops in this particular incident were right or wrong (we’re in agreement on that), but whether all cops are, to put it nicely, idiots.

    What I linked to illustrates they all aren’t despite what the tone in the comments has been.

    And, no, I’m not out of my mind.

    .