Yeah, Right, No Racist Cops

29 07 2009

badCop no donut graphic

Justin Barrett, Boston police officer, suspended for calling Professor Gates a “Jungle Monkey” in e-mail

(The edible editorial graphic is from an ACLU letter decrying D.C.’s disorderly conduct ordinance, which led to yet another apparent abuse of police power — see first comment for details.)

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9 responses

30 07 2009
JJ

OTOH, this incident lends credence to my theory that it’s not so much race as it is the universal POLICE PSYCHOLOGY OF POWER:

A lawyer who moments earlier had been complaining to friends about police overreaction in the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., got a taste of the Gates treatment himself after loudly chanting “I hate the police” near a traffic stop in Northwest Washington, D.C.

. . .One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song.
“Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.

Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn’t talk to police like that.

“I didn’t curse,” Tuma said. “I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I a being arrested?”

Within minutes, the officer had cuffed Tuma. The charge: disorderly conduct — just like Gates, who was arrested after police responded to a report of a possible break-in at his home and Gates protested their ensuing behavior.

. . .Tuma spent a few hours in a holding cell and was released early Sunday morning after forfeiting $35 in collateral to the police, he said. . .

Tuma filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Police Complaints, alleging a lack of probable cause, a false arrest, and that the officer used harassing and demeaning language — Tuma alleges the officer called him a “faggot.” Tuma has retained a lawyer. . . .

30 07 2009
JJ

Apropos of my little headline for this news post, Young Son and I learned last night at bagpipes that the well-established Scottish idiom for “yeah, right” is “aye, right”. . .rhyming with pyrite. It sounds cool.
We’re practicing to switch. 😉

30 07 2009
JJ
31 07 2009
NanceConfer

So all we have to do to get a lawsuit going against a city is say we don’t like police? I think the cops better get a thicker skin if they don’t want to bankrupt their towns in these lean economic times.

Nance

31 07 2009
JJ

DH has been on a business trip and not watching. He came in last night just as the Beer Garden event had ended and Sgt Crowley’s press conference was starting, sat down and said in a curious way, “That’s him? I see it all now.”

Apparently everything about Crowley’s appearance, demeanor and how he spoke, including the scripts he apparently had playing in his head, communicated stereotypical police power of story to DH. He grew up in segregated Boston [with Irish-Catholic ancestors like many cops btw] and went to college there, began his journalism career there and went on to cover the police and politics beat in several other states. For the past 15 years, he’s worked in public fraud protection with lawyers, attorneys general investigators, expert witnesses, and a lot of sworn cops and ex-cops including FBI and state law enforcement specialists.

So that is HIS experience and world view brought to these events.

Gates is a Teaching Moment, If We’ll Listen
***

Law professor Lani Guinier too, reminds us we need some better stories in our OWN heads than the old simple sterotypical ones, if we want to be “racially literate” as a nation:

Racial literacy would help all of us understand that behind the two force fields competing for respect on that Cambridge porch is a criminal-justice system that exercises outsized control as the major urban-policy instrument for controlling the poor. We have focused our resources disproportionately on policing and criminalizing the poor.

As a result, we have too often put our police officers into the positions of legislators, prosecutors, judges, and juries—positions for which they are not qualified and that they should not be expected to fulfill—even in well-to-do neighborhoods like the one in Cambridge.

31 07 2009
JJ

Mr. Gates later told The New York Times: “When he’s not arresting you, Sergeant Crowley is a really likable guy.”

Aha!
Let’s think more about this, it is profound Power of Story!

Luke and I have been toying with the difference between the fictional lower-case character god who populates bible stories and sermons, and THE God outside of the best storytelling and most learned man’s understanding, the tree falling in the forest even though no human is there to hear, the “real” God to Rule Them All.

So I was in that mindset when I read the comment by Professor Gates about Sgt Crowley. What he’s saying is that it was two different guys! It struck me that like our heroes and villains and even our gods, we’re all fictional characters in someone else’s telling and reading, with endless imperfectly drawn variations, sometimes more or less fully dimensional and historically accurate but never Reality itself.

The person we fall in love with is a fiction of our own creation, and that character changes in our own mind, sometimes to the point that we literally and honestly say years later, “That’s a different person!” — no matter how closely a particular version at a particular time comports with Reality, it’s still incomplete and an interpretation. Heck, we’re even fictional characters in our own memories of ourselves!

Stephen Colbert did a funny bit the other night about Tim Geithner, holding two pictures of him and introducing them as two different guys who were in opposition to each other: The Regulator Tim Geithner in suit and tie, running the mortgage bailout and Regular Guy Tim Geithner in a plaid shirt, who can’t sell his own house due to the mortgage bailout. Which was the “real” guy Geithner — neither, right? But they were two fictional versions that each had much truth in Reality.

31 07 2009
JJ

More about taking fictional for the real thing, chuckle/sigh:

Can You fall in Love with Graphic Novel and Video Game Characters?

This week, the New York Times Magazine featured a fascinating piece on the growing subculture of “2-D Lovers”, grown adults in Japan that have found romantic love with their favorite characters from anime, manga, and video games. The article considers the possible cultural forces propelling the trend — namely, “the difficulty many young Japanese have in navigating modern romantic life.”

. . . The article was followed by a Scientific American story published a few days later, reporting on a separate yet related phenomenon: social surrogacy. The article discusses the findings of new research that suggests watching your favorite TV shows can alleviate loneliness and provide a sense of belonging just as effectively as true interpersonal interaction . . .

3 08 2009
JJ

Back to police psychology, citizen contempt and R-E-S-P-E-C-T:

Verbal disrespect is now criminal if not anti-American?

. . .there’s one thing an officer can’t allow out in the field — and that is contempt. It’s one thing if it happens in private, like, say, inside the foyer of a private residence. It’s another if the disdain spills outside and is visible by the public, such as by people standing on the sidewalk in front of a Harvard University professor’s house.

“. . . you’ve got to stand your ground. If you become weak, it could hurt you.”

Refusing to put up with disrespect and verbal assault may seem ridiculous to those of us whose jobs rarely involve sharp edges or blunt physical contact, but to a police officer, deference and the appearance of control often can mean the difference between life and death.

. . .Of course, respect works both ways and some officers, bruised by years on the streets, forget they too need to show a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Yet, so far, there’s nothing in the Gates incident to indicate the officer acted improperly. In fact, according to the police report, even as he arrested Gates, the officer continued to be concerned about the security of Gates’ home, making sure someone stayed behind to look after the property. . .

Chilling, like the rationale for beating women and children in THEIR own homes so they’ll “learn their lesson” and just obey the Man with a sweet smile. Under this mindset, the guy in shackles might look like he was being abused but really, it was for his own good and for HIS protection (respecting his property if not his person or civil liberties, and to display control over his ‘hood so the residents could sleep secure knowing who was Boss.)

Remember this?

Here at Snook we’ve talked lately about “respect” — you know, what respect means, how we manifest it, and who owes it to whom for what.

We’ve talked about respect for marriage and/or divorce;
for education choices and achievements, from charter schools to doctoral degrees to a politician educating his own children any darn way he sees fit regardless of party rhetoric;
respect for the office of the presidency and/or respect for diametrically opposed inhabitants of that office;
respect for neighbors who do or do not report criminals in their midst;
respect for world-class musicians who use pre- or post-recording technology to give us their best despite weather at its worst;
even respect for and respect shown by, personal wardrobe choices such as audacious hats, suitcoat or shirtsleeves.

Here now is a disrespectful post about human life, drawing attention from humans who seem to respect inhumane beliefs ABOUT human life more than actual human life. . .

3 08 2009
JJ

Power of Story on racism and classism and the harm of insulated local self-interest, from To Kill a Mockingbird and Malcolm Gladwell, Atticus Finch and the limits of southern liberalism:

Finch will stand up to racists. He’ll use his moral authority to shame them into silence. . . .What he will not do is look at the problem of racism outside the immediate context of Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Levy, and the island community of Maycomb, Alabama.

[Big Jim] Folsom was the same way. He knew the frailties of his fellow-Alabamians when it came to race. But he could not grasp that those frailties were more than personal—that racism had a structural dimension.”

It’s a long article and deep. Further in:

One of George Orwell’s finest essays takes Charles Dickens to task for his lack of “constructive suggestions.” Dickens was a powerful critic of Victorian England, a proud and lonely voice in the campaign for social reform.

But as Orwell points out, there was little substance to Dickens’ complaints. “He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places,” Orwell writes. “There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as ‘human nature.’ ”

Dickens sought “a change of spirit rather than a change in structure.”

Orwell didn’t think that Dickens should have written different novels; he loved Dickens. But he understood that Dickens bore the ideological marks of his time and place. His class did not see the English social order as tyrannical, worthy of being overthrown. Dickens thought that large contradictions could be tamed through small moments of justice. He believed in the power of changing hearts, and that’s what you believe in, Orwell says, if you “do not wish to endanger the status quo.”

But in cases where the status quo involves systemic injustice this is no more than a temporary strategy. Eventually, such injustice requires more than a change of heart. . .

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