When Sports and Politics Collide

People on sports sites, or the sports sections of newspapers, often complain when politics is injected into the discussion—whether by the author or one of the commenters—as if it’s somehow inappropriate to taint an otherwise diversionary topic with real-world ugliness.  I have to disagree.  I think it’s fun.  It livens things up a bit.  And besides, what’s the difference, really, between talking about sports and politics (especially of the electoral variety)?  Both involve spectators rooting for their favorite teams while on some level indulging in the fantasy that they have an actual stake in the outcome.

In this case, the topic is actually worth discussing—whether the police used excessive force while removing an unruly fan from a baseball game and whether this is part of a larger trend.  Well, some commenter going by the name “frankvzappa” dropped this flaming bag of shit on the front porch and rang the doorbell: “How dare anyone suggest that the militarized jackbooted police use too much force?”  Even better, he embedded an hour-long video of anti-cop agitprop beneath his comment.  Of course, as this kind of thing never fails to do, it brought out the apologists in full force who proceeded to accuse him of being a paranoid and, my favorite, someone who obviously thinks the U.S. is a “horrible” country and yet for some reason hasn’t left.

It’s funny, accusing someone of paranoia for pointing out something that happens all the time (and, yes, it still counts even if it’s not reported on the evening “news”).  It’s also a bit ironic to accuse somebody of hatin’ on The Land of the Free for noting the gestapo-like behavior of its cops.  If the habitual mistreatment of minorities and other fringe types by our supposed protectors isn’t enough to convince good Americans that we’re excessively policed, maybe it won’t seem like such an outlandish idea when there are drones buzzing around overhead.

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Cops and Robbers

Little is publicly known about the 28-year-old from Virginia who attended Seminole State College and aspired to become a law-enforcement officer.

What more needs to be known?  I caught a bit of Anderson Cooper last night, and he had some guy on who was defending Zimmerman, saying that if the kid had just answered the questions none of this would have happened.  Sounds like Zimmerman thought he already was a cop.  I suspect poor George is gonna find out that you have to get the badge before you can use such a lame excuse for murder.

(Via b-psycho, who points out that anyone who calls to report “suspicious activity” 50 times in a single year, in a gated community no less, is probably suffering from an overactive imagination.)

Thin Yellow Line

Speaking of assholes in uniform who apparently get their kicks by pissing on the helpless victims of their thuggery, I stumbled upon this earlier today.  You might wonder what all those fine soldiers in Afghanistan, like the ones caught urinating on dead bodies, are going to do when they come back home and have to figure out what to do with themselves in the real world.  If they’re lucky, there will be some positions open in the PA state police, where they can put the tactics they learned in the field to good use.

The Law is the Law

Who would have guessed?  Pennsylvania passes a law that allows cops to confiscate unregistered cars, or the cars of people who are driving without a license or insurance, and, in the hands of the Philadelphia police, it leads to a rash of complaints about people being left on the side of the road—in spite of a department directive prohibiting this—after having their cars taken.  In this particular case, it was a father who was stopped while driving his 8-year-old son to the emergency room because the kid had a 104-degree fever and diarrhea.  While in the process of having his car jacked by the public servants in blue, the guy asks the cops if he can take his kid to a bathroom–because, you know, the boy’s got a 104-degree fever and diarrhea–and they tell him to let the kid shit on the sidewalk.  Serving and protecting, I think this is called.

Well, this story whipped up quite a pitchfork brigade in the comments section,* full of people outraged that a public servant would treat a poor taxpayin’ citizen in such a harsh and unforgiving manner.  Haha, no, just kidding.  Yes, there was plenty of outrage, but most of it was directed at the author of the article and the few commenters who had the temerity to suggest that the cops’ behavior might have been just a tad dickish.  After all, the man was driving around on city streets without the proper paperwork in his vehicle.   If he can’t be bothered to renew his registration on time, well, then, fuck ’im—he deserves what he gets.  Such contempt for the law cannot be tolerated in a free society!  Chaos!  Anarchy!  Etc.!

If you ever need any evidence that a police state could very well exist here in the land of the free, if one isn’t already upon us, look no further than the comments section of the nearest suburban or city newspaper’s website.  Any story involving the police, pro or con, and you’ll find a virtual mob clamoring for the jackboot.

*For some reason, the link takes you to a version of the article without the comments.   But here’s a concise example of what I’m talking about:

While I feel empathy for the father(for his sick child), he WAS driving a motor vehicle without proper papers. The law IS the law.— RiversideRam

If you didn’t do anything wrong…

A 16-year-old girl was protected and served (that is, cuffed and forced to sit in the back of a police car for two hours) by two of Newark, New Jersey’s finest for the egregious crime of filming the illustrious public servants when they boarded a city bus to “deal with a man who seemed to be drunk.”  The cops erased the video, but didn’t charge the girl with any crime—probably because she didn’t commit one.

The girl’s suing the Newark PD, with the help of the ACLU, for violating her civil rights.  Good for her.  I hope she wins.  (Although, instead of forcing taxpayers to cough up more money, on top of what’s already been taken from them to pay for these piglets’ salaries, she should file criminal charges against them.)

The cops, of course, are worried that allowing people to videotape them might make their jobs more dangerous:

“They need to move quickly, in split seconds, without giving a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences for them might be,” says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“We feel that anything that’s going to have a chilling effect on an officer moving — an apprehension that he’s being videotaped and may be made to look bad — could cost him or some citizen their life,” Pasco says, “or some serious bodily harm.”

Yes, because we wouldn’t want those fearless defenders of the public weal to hesitate for a moment or two before tazing or, better yet, shooting somebody for no reason.  After all, somebody might get hurt.  And think of the children.

Meanwhile, the only “chilling effect” that matters is the one that this kind of thuggish behavior by cops might have on the willingness of people to keep tabs on the armed goons who supposedly work for them:

Khaliah Fitchette’s lawyers in New Jersey say her detention was illegal. But Fitchette still says she’d think twice before filming police in Newark again.

“It would have to be important enough to get myself in trouble for, I guess,” she says.

Never too young to get them started

Over at The Freeman, Wendy McElroy provides some useful advice about what to do, and—maybe more importantly—what not to do if the police come to question your child. The column was prompted by the recent arrest of an 11-year-old boy for a picture he drew in school. The kid’s parents made the mistake of letting him talk to the police without first contacting a lawyer.

This story reminds me of an encounter I had with the police when I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old. There was a special announcement in school that day warning us about some lick-and-stick tattoos, with pictures of Mickey Mouse or some such image on them, that were allegedly laced with LSD and being peddled to children. I have no idea if this was actually happening or if it was just one of those false rumors that causes a few easily frightened dipshits to make a big stink, but on the way home from school that day, my cousin, who lived across the street, and I went up to every kid we passed and asked them if they wanted some Mickey Mouse tattoos (of course we did; isn’t that what any normal kids would do?). We had a few laughs over our deviousness, no doubt, then parted ways for the night.

Later on, a cop showed up at my house and told me that a kid in the neighborhood said that I tried to sell him drugs. I recall standing on the front porch, with (I think) my dad standing next to me, while the cop asked me if I had any drugs. I told him no, that we had just been told about these Mickey Mouse things at school that day and I had done it as a joke. I don’t recall much else. I’m pretty sure the cop realized he was dealing with nothing more nefarious than a stupid prank and left.

This was in 1979 or so, though, before “zero tolerance” became all the rage. If it had happened today, I probably would have wound up getting cuffed and stuffed and taken down to the local doughnut station and charged with pretending to sell drugs.

“Fill out a complaint form and leave it in the box. We’ll get to it a soon as we can.”

While at the mall the other day I saw a man wearing a Philadelphia police T-shirt that said: “A city that makes an enemy of its police force is a city that will have to make friends with its criminals.”

I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be a response to a specific incident or not, but either way it’s pretty much standard fare for police propaganda, resting on the bogus assumption that without a full-time, professional, tax-funded police force criminals would run rampant and good people wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without being robbed or murdered.  Of course, people are robbed and murdered on a daily basis, in spite of the presence of our heroes in blue—in some cases, by the police themselves.

So I’m thinking maybe the residents of Philadelphia need their own T-shirt, which says: “A city whose police force makes an enemy of it will have to file a complaint with Internal Affairs.”

Two More From Philly’s Finest

  • Two cops “trained to deal with mental-health issues” kill “an 18-year-old man with mental-health problems” with a Taser.  Apparently the cops felt threatened because the man “armed himself with several sticks and tried to set them on fire.”  Oh, and they’d been called to this same house 14 times before.  According to the article: “‘The cause of Johnson’s death is under investigation,’ [Lt. Frank] Vanore said.”  I don’t know, but I’m thinking the fucking Taser may have been the cause of death.*
  • A 51-year-old woman is beaten by the police for refusing to stand outside—in the rain, at 4:00 a.m., in her pajamas—while the cops searched her house for “guns and gunmen.”  (This is after they had already searched the house, without a warrant; they wanted her to stand outside while they conducted a more thorough search.)  Instead, she suggested that they all wait inside while the cops got a warrant, and when she went to light a cigarette, one of the cops threw her against the wall and grabbed her by the hair and smashed her head against the wall several times.  They also beat the woman’s 52-year-old sister for attempting to defend her sister.  Both women were arrested for, no shit, “resisting arrest and related offenses.”  The cops, of course, dispute the sisters’ story.  They say their records show no indication of any injuries or medical treatment needed.  Case closed, I guess.**

*In a follow-up piece, the cops justify their actions by saying that the kid “lunged at them” with the sticks.  Doesn’t sound terribly life-threatening to me, but what do I know?   I don’t wear a uniform and carry an array of lethal weapons around with me, so I guess I’d have no way of knowing how frightening such a situation could be.  Even better, though, are the comments below the article.  There you’ll find the usual assortment of victim-blamers and police-abuse apologists.  The logic goes something like this: The cops shot/Tasered/beat somebody; therefore, he/she deserved it.

**During their search, the cops found and arrested the woman’s son, who was accused of being involved in some kind of incident involving a gun.  The article also mentions that the women had past connections with the mafia, and that this may have had something to do with the cops’ animosity toward them.  Also, the police claim that the women had originally been outside, and that when they were allowed to go inside to get some warmer clothes, they tried to shut the door on the police, and one of them kneed a cop in the balls.  Whatever.  I only mention this stuff because no doubt the apologists are using it to justify the cops’ actions.  Point is, though, there is no justifying their actions.  And to top it off, they wound up getting a search warrant after all.  So what was all the fuss about then?

To Serve and Protect (Themselves)

After Philly mayor Michael Nutter announced some proposed budget cuts, some of which included the police budget, the cops responded as they always do to any threat to their tax-funded gravy train: by suggesting that the decrease in money to the police, no matter how slight, will mean more crime:

The proposed cut to police overtime, about 8 percent of the department’s OT budget, was panned by John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

“You can’t plan crime,” McNesby said. “He’s trying to cut the meat to feed the fat, and it’s not going to work.”

Of course, it’s possible that fewer cops on the streets might mean less crime:

Three Philadelphia police officers have been charged with planning the theft of 300 grams of heroin from an alleged drug supplier and then selling it to another person they believed to be a drug dealer and money launderer who, in actuality, was a DEA special agent.

“I’m personally pissed off about this kind of behavior,” Mayor Nutter said at a news conference at police headquarters this afternoon. “We do not employ criminals. That’s what they are. That’s how they will be treated.”

Unfortunately, Mayor Nutter, you do employ criminals, and plenty of them.

Fuck Da Po-lice

I should probably start with a disclaimer.  I grew up in a lily-white suburb where my run-ins with cops were for the most part limited to the odd traffic stop and maybe the occasional bit of harassment for loitering at the 7-11 (with a couple of arrests for underage drinking thrown in to shake things up a little).  As a result, I tended to shy away from too-vehement denunciations of the police, and I always had to laugh at the comically absurd spectacle of some would-be suburban gangsta blasting NWA from his car speakers while rolling through the quaint burg where he lived with his parents in relative ease and comfort.

Still, I never really trusted cops.  Even now, as a responsible homeowner (and in spite of the fact that I now live in more of an off-white suburb that’s perilously close to the city), I instinctively recoil at the sight of anyone wearing a uniform and badge and carrying a gun.  As often as not, he (or she) strikes me as a petty tyrant, a bully, the kind of person who is attracted to the job simply because it gives him (or her) power over other people.  And so I’ll freely admit that when I stumble upon something like this, it tends to confirm my worst suspicions.

As you’d expect from a website devoted to the glorification of da police, the comments are legendary.  It’s hard to pick a winner, but if I had to choose one that summed up the overall attitude it would be this one from “Granite” (as in “as hard as” or “as dumb as”?):

“It amazes me when I continue to read stories of officers getting indicted on good shoots.”

Now, I realize “good shoot” is probably copspeak for legal shooting, but I don’t see how shooting an unarmed drunk guy with his pants down around his knees could possibly qualify as a “good shoot,” no matter how you define it.  I mean, is there anything that would qualify as a “bad shoot”—short of going up to a random person on the street and shooting them for no reason whatsoever?