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What’s wrong: why does America have so much trouble with its police and why are so many people in prison?

2020-05-31

photo by Wynn Pointaux courtesy of pixabay.com

I have blogged in the past about police brutality incidents, when black people have been shot dead or brutalized.  I got sick and tired of seeing the same thing happen day in and day out.  I gave up posting about it because nothing ever changed, not after Philando Castile was shot while sitting in his car after a traffic stop by a policeman who was acquitted at trial, nor after Eric Garner was suffocated for selling untaxed single cigarettes by another policeman, who was never indicted.

I have seen estimates that police shoot dead about a thousand people a year, mostly black people.  The only time a policeman was punished recently was when he shot a white woman– he went to prison for 12 years.  The United States still has a major problem with race, 400 years after the first slave was imported to the New World.

Race is a problem in other countries, but it’s worse here.  We fought a Civil War over the issue.  Five days after the North was victorious, Lincoln was assassinated, and in his place, his vice president reversed all the gains of the war.  Reconstruction was a disaster, brought on by Johnson, who was a virulent white racist, and who terminated the Northern Army’s occupation of the South under the worst possible terms.

Former slave-holders again took power to terrorize the freedmen and the promise of “forty acres and a mule” was never realized.  We are still paying the price for the encouragement of white racial domination over the freed slaves and the failure to re-integrate the former slaves into society as equals.  The gilded age was raised on the backs of blacks and poor whites.

Our prison system is packed (the most per capita in the world by several times over) with black people who were railroaded on plea bargains by overcharging into long terms for minor offenses.  They are housed and barely coexist with whites who were primarily imprisoned for extremely violent acts (as opposed to relatively lesser crimes by the blacks.)  They are warehouses for hate, with solitary confinement destroying minds and guards abusing prisoners at a disgusting rate.  With the pandemic, they are now pesthouses with no opportunity for “social distancing” and no right to wear face masks.

Now our cities are wracked with protests and rioting, six days after a black man was murdered by asphyxiation for passing a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes (which would have killed him in a few years anyway.)  I don’t believe in violence and I think that some people are using this moment to go out and destroy everything that has been built up in these neighborhoods at risk.  I think maybe right-wingers (not just the police) are using this as a reason to commit violent crimes against protesters as well.  Who knows how many (left wing) “anti-fascists” are out there breaking windows and fanning the flames?

I am deeply saddened by the brutality of our police, which persists despite major community efforts at control.  I am disgusted by the video of a policeman kneeling on the neck of an arrestee for eight minutes and forty-five seconds, including two and a half minutes after he stopped breathing and moving.

This policeman appears to have acted with willful disregard for human life, if not intent to murder, knowing that it takes a long time to effectively strangle a person to death.  How did he know to persist in his act for so long?  Did he read somewhere, or does he know from personal experience that a strangulated person can be revived if you don’t keep the pressure on long enough?  Was he trained to know that?

Half of the policemen in the US should be summarily fired, and the rest retrained and restrained.  New policemen should be hired from a group of men and women nonviolent by nature (the opposite of the current procedure) and trained from the outset in violence prevention, not “killology” (a real thing, see Milwaukee police training.)

The autopsy: as if the fact that this 46 year old black man had hypertensive heart disease and coronary artery disease could be an excuse for his strangulation.  He could have lived another ten years or more with those conditions, especially if he had been given the privilege of medical treatment (not in this country– no medical insurance!) and smoking cessation.

The coroner speculated that the effects of some drug(s) for which he had no evidence yet pending toxicology could have contributed.  No physical evidence for strangulation?  Doesn’t he know that it takes extreme violence to leave tissue hemorrhages or fracture the hyoid bone from strangulation?

Half of the $100 billion spent on local police should be slashed.  That half should be diverted to social services and mental health emergency services.  The number of people in jail should be cut in half.  Cash bail should be eliminated; those accused of violent crimes should be tried within six weeks and remain in jail until then.  Those accused of nonviolent crimes should be released on their own recognizance and again, should be tried within a short period of time unless there are exigent circumstances.

I am appalled and disgusted by this act.  Now that video of it has appeared on the nightly news for everyone to see, will anything change?  I doubt it, because a willful indifference to reality characterizes those who swear by MAGA.  The only thing that will really stop this is the dying off from old age of those born and bred to this denial of reality.

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